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Quotations From HERMAN MELVILLE


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  • Let America first praise mediocrity even, in her children, before she praises ... the best excellence in the children of any other land.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. "Hawthorne And His Mosses," Literary World (August 17-24, 1850).

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  • Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has to do with aught that looks like death.
    Herman Melville (1819-91), U.S. author. Moby Dick, ch. 29 (1851).

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  • There is sorrow in the world, but goodness too; and goodness that is not greenness, either, no more than sorrow is.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. The Confidence-Man (1857), ch. 5, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 10, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1984). Spoken by the man with a weed.

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  • Some dying men are the most tyrannical; and certainly, since they will shortly trouble us so little for evermore, the poor fellows ought to be indulged.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Moby Dick, ch. 110 (1851).

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  • We are idiot, younger-sons of gods, begotten in dotages divine; and our mothers all miscarry.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Mardi (1849), ch. 180, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 3, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1970). Spoken by Babbalanja, the philosopher.
  • The grand points in human nature are the same to-day they were a thousand years ago. The only variability in them is in expression, not in feature.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. The Confidence-Man (1857), ch. 14, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 10, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1984).

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  • The retaliation is apt to be in monstrous disproportion to the supposed offense; for when in anybody was revenge in its exactions aught else but an inordinate usurer?
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Billy Budd, Sailor (posthumous), ch 13, eds. Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Sealts, Jr. (1962).
  • There is a touch of divinity even in brutes, and a special halo about a horse, that should forever exempt him from indignities.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Redburn (1849), ch. 40, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 4, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1969).

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  • They were in the jelly of youth.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. White-Jacket (1850), ch. 83, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 5, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1969). Referring to adolescent boys.
  • To be a born American citizen seems a guarantee against pauperism; and this, perhaps, springs from the virtue of a vote.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Redburn (1849), ch. 41, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 4, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1969).
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