E B White Quotes

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Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
E.B. White
I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
E.B. White
It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.
E.B. White
Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.
E.B. White
After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.
E.B. White (Letters of E. B. White)
A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people - people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book." [Letters of Note; Troy (MI, USA) Public Library, 1971]
E.B. White
A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.
E.B. White
Trust me, Wilbur. People are very gullible. They'll believe anything they see in print.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Genius is more often found in a cracked pot than in a whole one.
E.B. White
Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.
E.B. White
I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.
E.B. White
Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.
E.B. White
Never hurry and never worry!
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively, instead of skeptically and dictatorially.
E.B. White
You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
One of the most time-consuming things is to have an enemy.
E.B. White (Essays of E.B. White)
I am reminded of the advice of my neighbor. "Never worry about your heart till it stops beating.
E.B. White
The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind.
E.B. White
Writing is both mask and unveiling.
E.B. White
Be obscure clearly.
E.B. White
I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.
E.B. White
Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Semi-colons only prove that the author has been to college.
E.B. White
I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris wheel.
E.B. White (The Points of My Compass)
Don't write about Man; write about a man.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year - the days when summer is changing into autumn - the crickets spread the rumour of sadness and change.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that does not have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.
E.B. White
Wilbur didn't want food, he wanted love.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
It is quite possible that an animal has spoken to me and that I didn't catch the remark because I wasn't paying attention.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly.
E.B. White (Charlotte's Web)
A writer's style reveals something of his spirit, his habits, his capacites, his bias...it is the Self escaping into the open.
E.B. White
What do you mean less than nothing? I don't think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It's the lowest you can go. It's the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something - even though it's just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
There's no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.
E.B. White
I believe that all men, black, brown, and white, are brothers.
W.E.B. Du Bois
To achieve style, begin by affecting none.
E.B. White (The Elements of Style)
Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand.
E.B. White
You have been my friend," replied Charlotte, "That in itself is a tremendous thing.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. ...Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.
E.B. White (Here Is New York)
Safety is all well and good: I prefer freedom.
E.B. White (The Trumpet of the Swan)
Life is like writing with a pen. You can cross out your past but you can't erase it.
E.B. White
I don't understand it, and I don't like what I don't understand.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
If I can fool a bug... I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Advice to young writers wo want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don't write about Man, write about a man.
E.B. White
You're terrific as far as I am concerned.
E.B. White
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed.
E.B. White
Instead of announcing what you are about to tell is interesting, make it so.
William Strunk Jr.
I’ve got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty—everything I don’t like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever?
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing...after all, what's a life anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die...By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Too many things on my mind, said Wilbur. Well, said the goose, that's not my trouble. I have nothing at all on my mind, but I've too many things under my behind.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
A mistake is simply another way of doing things.
E.B. White
In every queen there's a touch of floozy.
E.B. White
The night seemed long. Wilbur's stomach was empty and his mind was full. And when your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it's always hard to sleep.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?" "Oh, no," said Dr. Dorian. "I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle." "What's miraculous about a spider's web?" said Mrs. Arable. "I don't see why you say a web is a miracle-it's just a web." "Ever try to spin one?" asked Dr. Dorian.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
The time not to become a father is eighteen years before a war.
E.B. White
It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.
E.B. White
Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth.... Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words and they backhand them across the net.
E.B. White
If you don't know how to pronounce a word, say it loud!" (William Strunk) ... Why compound ignorance with inaudibility?
E.B. White (The Elements of Style)
At this season of the year, darkness is a more insistent thing than cold. The days are short as any dream.
E.B. White (Essays of E.B. White)
But we have received a sign, Edith - a mysterious sign. A miracle has happened on this farm... in the middle of the web there were the words 'Some Pig'... we have no ordinary pig." "Well", said Mrs. Zuckerman, "it seems to me you're a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary spider.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
The world is full of talkers, but it is rare to find anyone who listens. And I assure you that you can pick up more information when you are listening than when you are talking.
E.B. White (The Trumpet of the Swan)
We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or doing laundry.
E.B. White
The young writer should learn to spot them: words that at first glance seem freighted with delicious meaning, but that soon burst in the air, leaving nothing but a memory of bright sound.
E.B. White
The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up.
E.B. White (The Elements of Style)
I don’t know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens.
E.B. White
A despot doesn't fear eloquent writers preaching freedom-he fears a drunken poet may crack a joke that will take hold.
E.B. White
But real life is only one kind of life—there is also the life of the imagination.
E.B. White
Well,” said Stuart, “a misspelled word is an abomination in the sight of everyone.
E.B. White (Stuart Little)
Meetings bore me.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.
E.B. White (Here Is New York)
I would really rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else
E.B. White
Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.
E.B. White
When an American family becomes separated from its toothbrushes and combs and pajamas for a few hours it considers that it has had quite an adventure.
E.B. White (One Man's Meat)
The city is like poetry; it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines.
E.B. White
I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad monotonous song. "Summer is over and gone, over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying." A little maple tree heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for the reader, the object of the writer's enthusiasm.
E.B. White (The Elements of Style)
There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer's time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer's time isn't worth the paper he is not writing anything on.
E.B. White (One Man's Meat)
Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.
William Strunk Jr. (The Elements of Style)
In a free country it is the duty of writers to pay no attention to duty. Only under a dictatorship is literature expected to exhibit an harmonious design or an inspirational tone.
E.B. White
new york provides not only a continuing excitation but also a spectacle that is continuing.
E.B. White
And then, just as Wilbur was settling down for his morning nap, he heard again the thin voice that had addressed him the night before. "Salutations!" said the voice. Wilbur jumped to his feet. "Salu-what?" he cried. "Salutations!" repeated the voice. "What are they, and where are you?" screamed Wilbur. "Please, please, tell me where you are. And what are salutations?" "Salutations are greetings," said the voice. "When I say 'salutations,' it's just my fancy way of saying hello or good morning.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
There is another sort of day which needs celebrating in song -- the day of days when spring at last holds up her face to be kissed, deliberate and unabashed. On that day no wind blows either in the hills or in the mind.
E.B. White (One Man's Meat)
I am always humbled by the infinite ingenuity of the Lord, who can make a red barn cast a blue shadow.
E.B. White
He carried a pencil that put a camera to shame.
E.B. White (Letters of E.B. White)
A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.
E.B. White (Here Is New York)
A shaft of sunlight at the end of a dark afternoon, a note of music, and the way the back of a baby’s neck smells if it’s mother keeps it tidy,” answered Henry. “Correct,” said Stuart. “Those are the important things. You forgot one thing, though. Mary Bendix, what did Henry Rackmeyer forget?” “He forgot ice cream with chocolate sauce on it,” said Mary quickly.
E.B. White (Stuart Little)
The subtlest change in New York is something people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition. (Written in 1949, 22 years before the World Trade Center was completed.)
E.B. White (Essays of E.B. White)
I have known many graduates of Bryn Mawr. They are all of the same mold. They have all accepted the same bright challenge: something is lost that has not been found, something's at stake that has not been won, something is started that has not been finished, something is dimly felt that has not been fully realized. They carry the distinguishing mark – the mark that separates them from other educated and superior women: the incredible vigor, the subtlety of mind, the warmth of spirit, the aspiration, the fidelity to past and to present. As they grow in years, they grow in light. As their minds and hearts expand, their deeds become more formidable, their connections more significant, their husbands more startled and delighted. I once held a live hummingbird in my hand. I once married a Bryn Mawr girl. To a large extent they are twin experiences. Sometimes I feel as though I were a diver who had ventured a little beyond the limits of safe travel under the sea and had entered the strange zone where one is said to enjoy the rapture of the deep.
E.B. White
Rather, very, little, pretty -- these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words. The constant use of the adjective little (except to indicate size) is particularly debilitating; we should all try to do a little better, we should all be very watchful of this rule, for it is a rather important one, and we are pretty sure to violate it now and then.
William Strunk Jr.
Templeton was down there now, rummaging around. When he returned to the barn, he carried in his mouth an advertisement he had torn from a crumpled magazine. How's this?" he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte. It says 'Crunchy.' 'Crunchy' would be a good word to write in your web." Just the wrong idea," replied Charlotte. "Couldn't be worse. We don't want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp, crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas into his head. We must advertise Wilbur's noble qualities, not his tastiness.
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.
E.B. White (Here Is New York)
A library is many things. It’s a place to go, to get in out of the rain. It’s a place to go if you want to sit and think. But particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books. If you want to find out about something, the information is in the reference books — the dictionaries, the encyclopedias, the atlases. If you like to be told a story, the library is the place to go. Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together — just the two of you. A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people — people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.
E.B. White
It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn't bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.
W.E.B. Du Bois (The Souls of Black Folk)
Clubs, fraternities, nations—these are the beloved barriers in the way of a workable world, these will have to surrender some of their rights and some of their ribs. A ‘fraternity’ is the antithesis of fraternity. The first (that is, the order or organization) is predicated on the idea of exclusion; the second (that is, the abstract thing) is based on a feeling of total equality. Anyone who remembers back to his fraternity days at college recalls the enthusiasts in his group, the rabid members, both young and old, who were obsessed with the mystical charm of membership in their particular order. They were usually men who were incapable of genuine brotherhood, or at least unaware of its implications. Fraternity begins when the exclusion formula is found to be distasteful. The effect of any organization of a social and brotherly nature is to strengthen rather than diminish the lines which divide people into classes; the effects of states and nations is the same, and eventually these lines will have to be softened, these powers will have to be generalized.
E.B. White (One Man's Meat)