Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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Fate laughs at probabilities.

Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (25 May 180318 January 1873) was an English novelist, playwright, and politician.

Quotes[edit]

  • Two lives that once part, are as ships that divide
    When, moment on moment there rushes between
       The one and the other, a sea,—
    Ah, never can fall from the days that have been
       A gleam on the years that shall be.
    • "A Lament", in The Poetical and Dramatic Works of Sir Edward Bulmer Lytton, Bart, Vol. III (London: Chapman & Hall, 1853), p. 226
    • Compare "Ships that pass in the night", Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863), Part III, "The Theologian's Tale: Elizabeth", IV.

The Disowned (1828)[edit]

  • There is no society, however free and democratic, where wealth will not create an aristocracy.
    • Chapter III
  • A good heart is better than all the heads in the world.
    • Chapter XXXIII
  • The easiest person to deceive is one’s own self.
    • Chapter XLII
  • It is not Wisdom, but Ignorance, which teaches men presumption; Genius may be sometimes arrogant, but nothing is so diffident as Knowledge.
    • Chapter LXII

Paul Clifford (1830)[edit]

  • He is certainly a man who bathes and "lives cleanly," (two especial charges preferred against him by Messrs. the Great Unwashed).
    • Dedicatory Epistle
    • This is the origin of the rather derogatory phrase, "the great unwashed".
  • It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
  • Repent!—that is the idlest word in our language.
    • Book I, Chapter XVIII

Eugene Aram (1832)[edit]

  • Poverty makes some humble, but more malignant.
    • Book I, Chapter VII
  • The magic of the tongue is the most dangerous of all spells.
    • Book I, Chapter VII
  • Love is a very contradiction of all the elements of our ordinary nature: it makes the proud man meek,—the cheerful, sad,—the high-spirited, tame; our strongest resolutions, our hardiest energy, fall before it. Believe me, you cannot prophesy of its future effect in a man from any knowledge of his past character.
    • Book I, Chapter X
  • Fate laughs at probabilities.
    • Book I, Chapter X.

The Last Days of Pompeii (1834)[edit]

  • Buy my flowers—O buy—I pray!
    The blind girl comes from afar;
    If the earth be as fair as her children say,
    These flowers her children are!
    • "The Blind Flower-Girl's Song", in Book I, Chapter II
  • He who has loved often has loved never.
    • Book I, Chapter II
  • Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm; it is the real allegory of the tale of Orpheus—it moves stones, it charms brutes. Enthusiasm is the genius of sincerity, and truth accomplishes no victories without it.
    • Book I, Chapter VIII
  • There is no tongue that flatters like a lover's; and yet, in the exaggeration of his feelings, flattery seems to him commonplace.
    • Book III, Chapter IX

Ernest Maltravers (1837)[edit]

  • The mind profits by the wrecks of every passion, and we may measure our road to wisdom by the sorrows we have undergone.
    • Book I, Chapter XIV
  • Books are waste paper unless we spend in action the wisdom we get from thought.
    • Book I, Chapter XV
  • There is no anguish like an error of which we feel ashamed.
    • Book II, Chapter III
  • When stars are in the quiet skies,
     Then most I pine for thee;
    Bend on me, then, thy tender eyes,
     As stars look on the sea!
    • "Night and Love", in Book III, Chapter I

Alice, or The Mysteries (1838)[edit]

  • Beauty, thou art twice blessed; thou blessest the gazer and the possessor; often at once the effect and the cause of goodness! A sweet disposition—a lovely soul—an affectionate nature—will speak in the eyes—the lips—the brows—and become the cause of beauty. On the other hand, they who have a gift that commands love, a key that opens all hearts, are ordinarily inclined to look with happy eyes upon the world—to be cheerful and serene—to hope and to confide. There is more wisdom than the vulgar dream of in our admiration of a fair face.
    • Book II, Chapter I
  • There is an old age which has more youth of heart than youth itself!
    • Book V, Chapter I
  • When the People have no other tyrant, their own public opinion becomes one.
    • Book VI, Chapter V

The Lady of Lyons (1838)[edit]

  • Castles in the air cost a vast deal to keep up.
    • Act I, Scene III
  • Rank is a great beautifier.
    • Act II, Scene I
  • Curse away!
    And let me tell thee, Beauseant, a wise proverb
    The Arabs have,—"Curses are like young chickens,
    And still come home to roost!"
    • Act V, Scene II

Richelieu (1839)[edit]

  • You speak
    As one who fed on poetry.
    • Act I, Scene I
  • Love hath no need of words.
    • Act I, Scene II
  • Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
    The pen is mightier than the sword.
    • Act II, Scene II
    • This is the origin of the much quoted phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword". Compare: "Hinc quam sic calamus sævior ense, patet. The pen worse than the sword", Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part i. Sect. 2, Memb. 4, Subsect. 4.
  • Ambition has no risk.
    • Act III, Scene I
  • Take away the sword;
    States can be saved without it.
    • Act III, Scene I
  • In the lexicon of youth, which fate reserves
    For a bright manhood, there is no such word
    As "fail".
    • Act III, Scene I
  • Our glories float between the earth and heaven
    Like clouds which seem pavilions of the sun,
    And are the playthings of the casual wind.
    • Act V, Scene III

Night and Morning (1841)[edit]

  • When a person's down in the world, I think an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching.
    • Book I, Chapter VI
  • The man who smokes, thinks like a sage and acts like a Samaritan.
    • Book I, Chapter VI
  • Little minds give importance to the man who gives importance to nothing.
    • Book IV, Chapter VII

Zanoni (1842)[edit]

  • Real philosophy seeks rather to solve than to deny.
    • Book II, Chapter VI
  • Man is arrogant in proportion to his ignorance.
    • Book IV, Chapter IV
  • We commenced research where modern conjecture closes its faithless wings. And with us, those were the common elements of science which the sages of to-day disdain as wild chimeras, or despair of as unfathomable mysteries.
    • Book V, Chapter X, Letter I
    • Quoted by H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Part One, Science, Ch. 1 (1877)
  • Remorse is the echo of a lost virtue.
    • Book VII, Chapter XVI

The Last of the Barons (1843)[edit]

  • Happy the man who hath never known what it is to taste of fame—to have it is a purgatory, to want it is a hell!
    • Book V, Chapter I
  • Though Hope be a small child, she can carry a great anchor!
    • Book VIII, Chapter IV
  • Night, to the earnest soul, opens the Bible of the Universe, and on the leaves of Heaven is written,—"God is everywhere!"
    • Book IX, Chapter V
  • "It is destiny!"—phrase of the weak human heart! "It is destiny!"—dark apology for every error! The strong and virtuous admit no destiny! On earth, guides Conscience—in heaven, watches God. And destiny is but the phantom we invoke to silence the one—to dethrone the other!
    • Book X, Chapter VI

Lucretia (1846)[edit]

  • Light literature,—that grace and flower of human culture, that best philosophy of all, humanizing us with gentle art, making us wise through the humours, elevated through the passions, tender in the affections of our kind.
    • Part I, Epilogue
  • The most useless creature that ever yawned at a club, or counted the vermin on his rags under the suns of Calabria, has no excuse for want of intellect. What men want is not talent, it is purpose,—in other words, not the power to achieve, but the will to labour.
    • Part II, Chapter XII
  • Why should the soul ever repose? God, its Principle, reposes never. While we speak, new worlds are sparkling forth—suns are throwing off their nebulae—nebulae are hardening into worlds. The Almighty proves His existence by creating.
    • Part II, Chapter XII

The New Timon (1846)[edit]

  • The brilliant chief, irregularly great,
    Frank, haughty, rash,— the Rupert of debate!
    • Part I, Section III
    • In April, 1844, Benjamin Disraeli thus alluded to Lord Stanley: “The noble lord is the Rupert of debate.”
  • Alone!—that worn-out word,
    So idly spoken, and so coldly heard;
    Yet all that poets sing, and grief hath known,
    Of hope laid waste, knells in that word ALONE!
    • Part II, Section II
  • Love gains the shrine when Pity opes the door.
    • Part III, Section II
  • He never errs who sacrifices self.
    • Part IV, Section III

The Caxtons (1849)[edit]

  • Childhood and genius have the same master-organ in common—inquisitiveness. Let childhood have its way, and as it began where genius begins, it may find what genius finds.
    • Part I, Chapter IV
  • Master books, but do not let them master you. Read to live, not live to read.
    • Part II, Chapter I
  • It is not study alone that produces a writer; it is Intensity.
    • Part III, Chapter V
  • We cannot think or act, but the soul of some man, who has lived before, points the way. The dead never die.
    • Part IV, Chapter I
  • Earnest men never think in vain, though their thoughts may be errors.
    • Part IV, Chapter II
  • It is an inevitable law that a man, in spite of himself, should live for something higher than his own happiness. He cannot live in himself or for himself, however egotistical he may try to be. Every desire he has links him with others.
    • Part VI, Chapter I

A Strange Story (1850)[edit]

  • The heart loves repose and the soul contemplation, but the mind needs action.
    • Chapter LX
  • Believe me that the happiest act of intellect, however lofty, is that which enables it to be cheerfully at home with the Real!
    • Chapter LXXIII
  • Be prepared for either wisdom through joy, or wisdom through grief. Enough that, looking only through the mechanism by which this mortal world is impelled and improved, you know that cruelty is impossible to wisdom.
    • Chapter LXXIX

Caxtoniana (1862)[edit]

  • The man who succeeds above his fellows is the one who, early in life, clearly discerns his object, and towards that object habitually directs his powers. Even genius itself is but fine observation strengthened by fixity of purpose. Every man who observes vigilantly and resolves steadfastly grows unconsciously into genius.
  • In science, read, by preference, the newest works; in literature, the oldest. The classic literature is always modern.
    • Essay X. Hints on Mental Culture
  • Truth makes on the ocean of nature no one track of light—every eye looking on finds its own.
    • Essay XIV. On Essay-writing in General, and these Essays in Particular

The Coming Race (1870)[edit]

  • My father died shortly after I was twenty-one; and being left well off, and having a taste for travel and adventure, I resigned, for a time, all pursuit of the almighty dollar, and became a desultory wanderer over the face of the earth.
    • Chapter I
    • This is the origin of the phrase "pursuit of the almighty dollar". Washington Irving coined the expression almighty dollar itself.

Kenelm Chillingly (1873)[edit]

  • A fresh mind keeps the body fresh. Take in the ideas of the day, drain off those of yesterday. As to the morrow, time enough to consider it when it becomes to-day.
    • Book I, Chapter VIII
  • Life consists in the alternate process of learning and unlearning; but it is often wiser to unlearn than to learn.
    • Book IV, Chapter VII
  • There are times when the mirth of others only saddens us, especially the mirth of children with high spirits, that jar on our own quiet mood.
    • Book V, Chapter IV
  • Memory, no less than hope, owes its charm to "the far-away."
    • Book V, Chapter IV
  • The good man does good merely by living.
    • Book VIII, Chapter VIII

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