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Poor Leonard's Almanack

Quotations and Original Thoughts

by Leonard Roy Frank
Street Spirit February 2005

Standard text version


On Genius

1. The individuals who seem to us most outstanding, who are honored with the name of genius, are those who have proposed to enact the fate of all humanity in their personal existences.
SIMONE de BEAUVOIR (French philosopher), The Second Sex, 1950, translated by H. M. Parshley, 1952

2. I have known no man of genius who had not to pay, in some affliction or defect either physical or spiritual, for what the gods had given him.
SIR MAX BEERBOHM (English writer), "No. 2, The Pines," And Even Now, 1920

3. The difference between genius and stupidity is that even genius has its limits.
RITA MAE BROWN (writer), Bingo, 1988

4. Since when was genius found respectable?
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (English poet), Aurora Leigh, 1857

5. You may have heard people repeat what I have said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." Yes, sir, it's mostly hard work.
THOMAS ALVA EDISON (inventor, 1847-1931), remark to M. A. Rosanoff, "Edison in His Laboratory," Harper's, September 1932

6. When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (philosopher), "The Method of Nature," address, Waterville (later Colby) College (Maine), 11 August 1841

7. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON, "Self-Reliance," Essays: First Series, 1841

8. The true romance which the world exists to realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical power.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON, "Experience" (closing sentence), Essays: Second Series, 1844

9. Genius without Education is like Silver in the Mine.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Poor Richard's Almanack, August 1750

10. If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.
GOETHE (German poet and playwright, 1749-1832), quoted in Norman Lockridge, editor, World's Wit and Wisdom, 1936

11. An occasional genius, by extremely dexterous and willful actions, may achieve a historical mutation.
CARL G. GUSTAVSON (historian), A Preface to History, 1955

12. Constant effort and frequent mistakes are the stepping stones of genius.
ELBERT HUBBARD (editor and writer, 1856-1915), The Philosophy of Elbert Hubbard, edited by Elbert Hubbard II, 1930

13. Genius means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.
WILLIAM JAMES (philosopher), The Principles of Psychology, 1890

14. What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left.
OSCAR LEVANT (pianist, actor and public wit, 1906-1972), quoted in Fred Metcalf, editor, The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations,1986

15.The man who early on regards himself as a genius is lost.
GEORG CHRISTOPH LICHTENBERG (German scientist and drama critic, 1742-1799), Aphorisms, 1806, translated by R. J. Hollingdale, 1990

16. Towering genius disdains a beaten path.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions," address to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield (Illinois), 27 January 1838

17. A profound dislike for merely absorbing knowledge and a compulsion to learn by doing are among the most reliable signs of genius.
SYLVIA NASAR (writer), "A Beautiful Mind," Vanity Fair, June 1998

18. The concept of genius as akin to madness has been carefully fostered by the inferiority complex of the public.
EZRA POUND (poet, 1885-1972), quoted in Rhoda Thomas Tripp, editor, The International Thesaurus of Quotations, 1970

19. His mere personal life [is] something subordinate, serving only to advance ends higher than itself.
ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER (German philosopher), "The Art of Literature: On Genius," Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer, translated by T. Bailey Saunders, 1851

20. It is necessary for the welfare of society that genius should be privileged to utter sedition, to blaspheme, to outrage good taste, to corrupt the youthful mind, and, generally, to scandalize its uncles.
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW (Irish-born British playwright), preface (1908) to The Sanity of Art, 1895

21. It takes a lot of time to be a genius; you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.
GERTRUDE STEIN (writer), Everybody's Autobiography, 1937

22. When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
JONATHAN SWIFT (Irish writer), "Thoughts on Various Subjects," 1727

23. The persecution of genius fosters its influence.
TACITUS (Roman historian, 1st century A.D.), Annals, translated by Alfred J. Church and William J. Brodribb, 1964

24. The emergence of a superman or a great mystic or a genius or a superior personality inevitably precipitates a social conflict. The conflict will be more or less acute, according to the degree in which the creative individual happens to rise above the average level of his former kin and kind. But some conflict is inevitable, since the social equilibrium which the genius has upset by the mere fact of his personal emergence has eventually to be restored either by his social triumph or by his social defeat.
ARNOLD J. TOYNBEE (English historian), A Study of History, 1934

25. The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.
OSCAR WILDE (Irish-born British playwright), "The Critic as Artist," Intentions, 1891

26. Divorced from each other, neither genius nor talent go very far.

27. Genius finds a way - when there is no way.

28. Struggle is the whetstone on which genius sharpens itself.

Leonard Roy Frank is the editor of Random House Webster's Quotationary. Last year Random House published his Freedom: Quotes and Passages from the World's Greatest Freethinkers and 5 gift books titled Inspiration, Love, Money, Wisdom, and Wit.



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