"In history, so-called Great Men are but labels serving to give a name to historical events, and like labels they have the least possible connection with the event itself. Every action of theirs that seems to them an act of their own free will is, in an historical sense, not free at all but in bondage to the whole course of previous history, and predestined from all eternity."
— Leo Tolstoy
In War and Peace
"It is not histories I am writing, but lives; the most glorious deeds do not always indicate virtue or vice, but a small thing like a phrase or a jest often reveals more of a character than the bloodiest battles."
In Parallel Lives
"I never did write a biography, and I don't exactly know how to set about it; you see I have to be accurate and keep to the facts, a most difficult thing for a writer of fiction."
— Elizabeth Gaskell
Referring to her Life of Charlotte Brontë in a letter to Harriet Anderson, 15 March 1856
"Just how difficult it is to write a biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the truth about his or her love affairs."
— Rebecca West
In Vogue, 1 November 1952
"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
— Alexander Hamilton
In The Farmer Refuted, published 1775
"Most people today still believe, perhaps unconsciously, in the heliocentric universe ... every newspaper in the land has a section on astrology, yet few have anything at all on astronomy."
— Hannes Alfvén
Quoted by Anthony Peratt in The World & I, May 1988, pp. 190–197.
"The world is fast learning that of all forms of slavery there is none that is so harmful and degrading as that form of slavery which tempts one human being to hate another by reason of his race or color. One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him."
— Booker T. Washington
In An Address on Abraham Lincoln before the Republican Club of New York City, February 12, 1909
"From without, no wonderful effect is wrought within ourselves, unless some interior, responding wonder meets it. That the starry vault shall surcharge the heart with all rapturous marvelings, is only because we ourselves are greater miracles, and superber trophies than all the stars in universal space."
— Herman Melville
In Pierre: or, The Ambiguities, 1852
"When are you people going to learn? It's not about who's right or wrong. No denomination's nailed it yet, and they never will because they're all too self-righteous to realize that it doesn't matter what you have faith in, just that you have faith. Your hearts are in the right place, but your brains need to wake up. I have issues with anyone who treats faith as a burden instead of a blessing. You people don't celebrate your faith; you mourn it."
— Kevin Smith
Said by the character Serendipity in Dogma
"For millions of years mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen."
— Stephen Hawking
BT Group television advertisement (1993)
"…life will not perish! It will begin anew with love; it will start out naked and tiny; it will take root in the wilderness, and to it all that we did and built will mean nothing—our towns and factories, our art, our ideas will all mean nothing, and yet life will not perish! Only we have perished. Our houses and machines will be in ruins, our systems will collapse, and the names of our great will fall away like dry leaves. Only you, love, will blossom on this rubbish heap and commit the seed of life to the winds."
— Karel Čapek
In R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), 1921
"Know that however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful...
... the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken."
— Robinson Jeffers
In The Answer, 1936
"I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul."
— Émile Zola
In "J'accuse…!", L'Aurore 13 January 1898
"Not one of us knows what effect his life produces, and what he gives to others; that is hidden from us and must remain so, though we are often allowed to see some little fraction of it, so that we may not lose courage."
— Albert Schweitzer
In The Spiritual Life, 1947
"If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching
Or cool one pain
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again
I shall not live in vain."
— Emily Dickinson
"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
— Isaac Newton
Quoted in Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton by Sir David Brewster, 1855