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Quotations about Genius

Wisdom is of God... Genius is the decay of Wisdom. To Shakespeare, Wisdom was offered; but he did not accept it, and so he died away into Genius. ~Jones Very, paraphrase from Emerson's journal, 1838

The world is always ready to receive talent with open arms. Very often it does not know what to do with genius. Talent is a docile creature, patient of the bit and the whip. But genius is always impatient of its harness; its wild blood makes it hard to train. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes [a little altered –tg]

Works of talent are accidental; they might not have happened, or might be other than they are, without seriously affecting the issues of life. But works of genius seem a necessity of nature, — as if they could not be other than they are, and could not but have been. ~Frederic Henry Hedge, "Genius," 1868

The idol of the boy had been Poe and Keats, Byron, Dowson, Chatterton—all the gifted miserable and reckless men who had burned themselves out in tragic brilliance early and with finality. Not for him the normal happy genius living to a ripe old age (genius indeed! How could a genius be happy, normal—above all, long-lived?), acclaimed by all (or acclaimed in his lifetime?), enjoying honour, love, obedience... ~Charles R. Jackson, The Lost Weekend, 1944

Genius is not purity; genius is not piety; yet it partakes of the nature of both. It is contradistinguished from every thing which is earthly, sensual, material. It is the vigour of the soul; the aspirations of a spirit struggling with its fetters, and continually peeping beyond its prison walls of flesh and blood. ~Anonymous, Aphorisms; or, A Glance at Human Nature, in Original Maxims, 1820

Were a person to collect all the happy thoughts he had ever had in his life, the result would be a valuable book. At least once a year everyone is a genius. It is only that the actual man of genius so-called has his good ideas at shorter intervals. We see, then, how much depends on making a note of everything. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908

Genius is more often found in a cracked pot than in a whole one. ~E. B. White

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined here alone. ~John F. Kennedy, 1962

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. ~Max Beerbohm

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others. ~Mark Twain

Talent is that which is in a man's power; genius is that in whose power a man is. ~James Russell Lowell

What somnambulism is to ordinary sleep... genius is to ordinary waking, — a conscious clairvoyance... It is a higher waking... ~Frederic Henry Hedge, "Genius," 1868

If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses... ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life, translated by John Oxenford

It may be said that every man of genius is considerably helped by being dead. ~Robert Lynd

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

Genius is the higher self, and common to all men. What, then, distinguishes men of genius, so called, from the rest of mankind? We may suppose that the higher self is more active in some than in others, or that it finds more docile subjects. Or we may suppose that its quality differs with different individuals. I only contend that genius as an intellectual phenomenon is not a special faculty which he who has it employs at all, as the painter his brush or the sculptor his chisel, but the higher nature, the man of the man.... its great and distinguishing characteristic is originality. ~Frederic Henry Hedge, "Genius," 1868  [a little altered —tg]

Genius is a plodding intellect, incapable of dreaming up the obstacles that stop the rest of us. ~Robert Brault,

Men of genius are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Kavanagh: A Tale, 1849

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

People ask how I think up my thoughts. Mostly I think them up while reading Paul Simon's lyrics. ~Robert Brault,

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