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 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Memory

But memory... Think how determinedly it entwines itself around the past! ~Ronald A. Knox, Other Eyes Than Ours, 1926

Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic. ~Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie, Scene One, 1945

Memory is more than a dustbin of time, stuffed with yesterday's trash. Rather, memory is a glorious grab bag of the past from which one can at leisure pluck bittersweet experiences of times gone by and relive them. ~Hal Boyle, 1971

My dear, dear Friend... in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart...
~William Wordsworth, lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour, 1798 July 13th

For me, that year Christmas stopped being about tinsel and wrapping paper and started being about memory. At first that was disappointing, until I learned that memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you wish to never lose. ~The Wonder Years, "Christmas," 1988, written by Bob Brush  [S2, E3]

These were the archives of the history of his own heart. ~Max Nordau (1849–1923), "The Art of Growing Old," How Women Love and Other Tales (Soul Analysis), translated from the German by an unnamed translator, 1896  [drawers of photos, letters, and other memories —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Each time we remember something, we change it. This is the nature of the brain. I imagine my recollections like rooms in a house. I can't help but alter things when I step inside — tracking mud on the floor, moving furniture out of alignment, kicking up swirls of dust. Over time, these small alterations add up... To remember is to rewrite... The only reliable memories, I suppose, are the ones that have been forgotten. They are the dark rooms of the mind. Unopened, untouched, and uncorrupted. ~Abby Geni, The Lightkeepers, 2016

The past is past, but now I have the sweetness
Of looking back, and all my life is scented
With perfumed memories blown across the ocean
Across the seas around whose shores I wander,
Listening for ever to their wandering murmur:
The past and present are not twain, but single.
~George Moore, "The Portrait: The Triumph of the Soul," Pagan Poems, 1881

Each man's memory is his private literature, and every recollection affects us with something of the penetrative force that belongs to the work of art. ~Aldous Huxley

If recollecting were forgetting
Then I remember not.
And if forgetting, recollecting,
How near I had forgot!...
~Emily Dickinson

There are memories I choose not to live with, but we occasionally meet for a drink. ~Robert Brault,

The next best thing to the enjoyment of a good time, is the recollection of it. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Why is one day set apart from the rest when you look back into your life? What makes one day stand out vivid and arresting as if a wind blew in from the vast subconscious reaches, riffling through the old year's calendar to pin back one page before the mind's eye? ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, But the Morning Will Come, 1949

There are memories that will always make me lonesome but will never make me sad. ~Robert Brault,

It was as if some silver chime had waked a chord in his memory. ~Florence Bone (1875–1971), The Morning of To‑Day, 1907

Golden threads of imagination will always be found woven into the fabric of a human life, and it affords one of the sweetest pastimes to old age to sit down and slowly unravel them, recalling the hours when first they were spun. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

When memory goes, all that's left is emotion. ~The Good Doctor, "Disaster," 2019, written by David Shore & Tracy Taylor  [S3, E1. Said by a dementia patient's wife. –tg]

Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food. ~Austin O'Malley

Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things. ~Pierce Harris, in Atlanta Journal, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1985

We do not remember days, we remember moments. ~Cesare Pavese

      "What am I? Nothing else, if you look at the thing closely, but the sum of my past experiences, tied up together in a bundle with the string we call memory. The cells of memory are the tissues out of which the mind-life is built up. Personality, believe me, is nothing else than the harvest of our memories."
      "Then you would say," suggested the Abbé, "that a man cannot lose his memory? Or rather, that if a man loses his memory, then it is no longer the same man, but a different one?..." ~Ronald A. Knox, Other Eyes Than Ours, 1926

Many folks mistake their IMAGINATION for their memory. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague

How often do our thoughts play "hide-and-seek" with us in our memory! ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

In childhood we press our nose to the pane, looking out. In memories of childhood we press our nose to the pane, looking in. ~Robert Brault,

Cecily:  I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn't write them down, I should probably forget all about them.
Miss Prism:  Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.
Cecily:  Yes, but it usually chronicles the things that have never happened...
~Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life. The rich colours of grass and earth were intensified by the mellow light of a sun almost warm enough for spring... ~P.D. James, A Taste for Death

Jewels of love-lit days and nights—
Gems cut by the moon and polished by the sun;
Sapphires of midnight skies,
Fire-opals of sunsets, beryls of verdant twilights,
Moonstones of misty summer eyes,
Tourmalines of dawn—
Since I may not wear these royal hours more than once
I fling them in the placid pool of Memory
That she may wear them, veiling each one
Glamorously in the shadow-ripples of her dreams.
~S. F., "Hours of Love," Poems by Three Friends, 1924

We are all, in the course of a lifetime, a half dozen different people, bound together by memories of the same childhood. ~Robert Brault,

My recollectest thoughts are those
      Which I remember yet;
And bearing on, as you'd suppose,
      The things I don't forget...
~Charles Edward Carryl, "My Recollectest Thoughts"

Whoever snatched my formerly reliable, sharp short-term memory: I'd like it back now, please. ~Dr. SunWolf, 2016 September 2nd tweet,

And I am happy, for my love is perfect:
I drank with you the life of every passion;
My memories are their disembodied spirits.
~George Moore, "The Portrait: The Triumph of the Soul," Pagan Poems, 1881

I feel like I got that French disease that makes stuff happen to you twice. ~My Name Is Earl, "Sweet Johnny,"2008, written by Kat Likkel & John Hoberg  [S4, E5, Earl. Déjà vu. —tg]

Years fold their mantles
Round those dead blisses...
~J.J. Britton (1832–1913), "Long Ago"

Point is, you hardly remember the perfect things. But when perfect goes wrong, those are the memories that last forever. ~Steven White and Yamara Taylor, black‑ish, "Just Christmas, Baby" [S3, E10, 2016, Dre narrating]

All that I have lost I find at every step and remember that I have lost it. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

Sweet are the tales of the years that have vanished,
Beautiful years that can never return;
Beautiful hopes that cannot be banished,
In the heavens of the soul their fires will burn;
Soul speaks to soul through years long departed,
Distance is swept by sweet mem'ry aside,
A word resurrects the long silent-hearted,
We walk once again by dear ones who died.
~Josephine Butterfield Walcott (1840–1906), "Reveries," World of Song, 1878

I enjoy, occasionally, a day with my memories — these paintings hanging on the walls of my mind. ~Robert Brault,

Notice how your memories nest, one inside another — so close-fitting that you can't peel one free without releasing others. ~Dr. SunWolf,

The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the circle of the hearth everything is good, but reminiscences are best of all. I sometimes think all life is valuable merely as an opportunity to accumulate reminiscences, and I am sure that the precious horde can be seen to best advantage by firelight. Then is the time for the miser to spread out his treasure and admire it. ~Elisabeth Woodbridge, "In the Firelight," 1909

What things are these that pass me by—
On fairy wings they seem to fly—
      All clothed in shrouds of gray?
Ah, yes, they're memories of old,
By time pursued o'er path of gold—
      The Road to Yesterday.
~W. Dayton Wegefarth (1885–1973), "Forgotten Memories," Smiles and Sighs, 1910

A happy childhood can't be cured. Mine'll hang around my neck like a rainbow, that's all, instead of a noose. ~Hortense Calisher, Queenie, 1971

I wonder if it is a blessing or a curse to have a photographic mind, for I remember every word you wrote, and some I am trying to forget. ~Laura L. Livingstone (Herbert Dickinson Ward), Lauriel: The Love Letters of an American Girl, 1901

The summer will bloom into roses,
      And laughter will follow your tears;
      I linger alone in the shadows
      That fell from the beautiful years.
The autumn will shine into harvests,
      The grapes will hang purple with wine,
      The lark will sing high in the meadow;
      The shadow forever is mine...
~Josephine Butterfield Walcott (1840–1906), "Destiny," World of Song, 1878

It is a trick of the passing years to imagine choices we never had and alternatives that never existed. ~Robert Brault,

There's nothing in the world that clings
As does a memory that stings...
~Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson (1880–1966), "Inevitably," The Heart of a Woman and Other Poems, 1918

Happy moments for which I hope no longer, but whose precious memory death alone can take from me! ~Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798)

Recalling days of sadness, memories haunt me. Recalling days of happiness, I haunt my memories. ~Robert Brault,

Much of the best fiction nowadays appears in the form of reminiscences. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, George Horace Lorimer, editor, as reprinted in Poor Richard Jr's Almanack, 1906

As we turn down the light each night... May we have some little memory to mark the day. ~Charles F. Raymond, "A Desire," Just Be Glad, 1907

Memories of my childhood swept over me like swallows in autumn flight. ~Laura L. Livingstone (Herbert Dickinson Ward), Lauriel: The Love Letters of an American Girl, 1901

I look back on it as if through rainbows, the bit of sunshine hers, the tears my own. ~Thomas Carlyle, 1866

And though where home hath been, you stand
To-day in alien loneliness;
Through you may clasp no brother's hand,
And claim no sister's tender kiss;
Though with no friend or lover nigh,
The past is all your company —
Thank God for friends your life has known,
For every dear, departed day;
The blessed past is safe alone —
God gives, but does not take away;
He only safely keeps above
For us the treasures that we love.
~Phoebe Cary, "Thanksgiving," 1881

What we remember from childhood we remember forever — permanent ghosts, stamped, imprinted, eternally seen. ~Cynthia Ozick, 1985

"If you ask me," said Miss Rostead (though nobody had, and nobody was likely to), "I think that's about the most cheering account of a future life I ever heard. Who'd want to go on always remembering a rotten old world like this? People talk about the pleasures of memory; but what does one get out of memory if one stops to consult it? One's unpaid bills, the endorsements on one's driving license, and the men one danced with last season! No, I'm for the present; and if there is any future present (if you see what I mean), by all means let 'em get on with it. That's what I say." ~Ronald A. Knox, Other Eyes Than Ours, 1926

There is a road to yesterday,
      And each one knows its start—
The portal to this wondrous way
      Is held within the heart;
From there the pleasant courses lead
      As far as one can see—
It rests on many a golden deed
      And many a memory.
~Wilbur D. Nesbit, "The Road to Yesterday," c.1903

Memory's time-worn — a crumbling wall. ~Terri Guillemets, 2018, blackout poetry created from Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, 1850, page 55

Tonight, as I looked out my window
At the snowflakes, lovely and white,
I thought of the days of my girlhood
Long past, all so happy and bright!
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "The First Snow of the Season," 1940s

The happiest memories are of moments that ended when they should have. ~Robert Brault,

The rapidity with which ideas grow old in our memories is in a direct ratio to the squares of their importance. Their apparent age runs up miraculously, like the value of diamonds, as they increase in magnitude. A great calamity, for instance, is as old as the trilobites an hour after it has happened. It stains backward through all the leaves we have turned over in the book of life, before its blot of tears or of blood is dry on the page we are turning. For this we seem to have lived; it was foreshadowed in dreams that we leaped out of in the cold sweat of terror... all omens pointed to it; all paths led to it. After the tossing half-forgetfulness of the first sleep that follows such an event, it comes upon us afresh, as a surprise, at waking; in a few moments it is old again, — old as eternity. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Serene as October's sunset skies,
The land of childhood about us lies.
~Mary Clemmer (1831–1884), "An October Picture"

Memory is second sight. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

The Day that died in the golden west
      Still flings its marvelous glory;
The eagle that swung from the mountain crest
      Has tinted a poet's story...
The friend that vanished through mist and tears,
      With a love that faltered never,
Will crown the life of the weary years,
      The beautiful, vast forever.
~Josephine Butterfield Walcott (1840–1906), "Beautiful Links," World of Song, 1878

Very strange... like going back to the house you grew up in, but no one's home — except phantoms of the past. ~Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Battle," 1987, teleplay by Herbert Wright  [S1, E8, Jean-Luc Picard]

Her hand in my hand,
      Soft as the south wind,
      Soft as a colt's nose,
      Soft as forgetting;
Her cheek to my cheek,
      Red as the cranberry,
      Red as a mitten,
      Red as remembering...
~Mark Van Doren, "Dunce Songs," 1959

When Memory rings her bell, let all the thoughts run in. ~Emily Dickinson

The man with a clear conscience probably has a poor memory. ~Author unknown

...Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies...
~William Wordsworth, lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour, 1798 July 13th

There are memories I choose not to live with, but we hang out at the same bar. ~Robert Brault,

I wish you enough good memories to see you through the bad times. ~Pam Brown, To Someone Special, Wishing You Happiness, 2008,

Memory is time folding back on itself. ~Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain, 2008

Indeed, let us not forget,
But also let us not dwell.
~Terri Guillemets

The two offices of memory are collection and distribution. ~Samuel Johnson

Adulthood is when the ghosts of childhood appear. ~Terri Guillemets

The world shrieks and sinks talons into our hearts. This we call memory. ~Tim O'Brien, Tomcat in Love, 1998

Hmmm, how to "can a day?" You know, those days that seem just perfect you want access to them whenever the need arises. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson

What are memories but dreams of a better past. ~Robert Brault,

Memory is us. ~Ronald A. Knox, Other Eyes Than Ours, 1926

Life is a rough biography. Memories smooth out the edges. ~Terri Guillemets

You can be sad recalling sad times, but if you really want to be sad, recall happy times. ~Robert Brault,

...and torture myself with happy thoughts... ~Terri Guillemets

Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories. ~An Affair to Remember, written by Delmer Daves, Leo McCarey, Donald Ogden Stewart, & Mildred Cram, 1957

It's surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Hold, hold, my heart!
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee?
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee?
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!
~William Shakespeare, Hamlet, c.1600  [I, 5, Hamlet]

But when it finally happens... the affair, the financial impropriety, the boredom, the midlife crisis, whatever it is that ends the marriage... Now you look at the marriage, even the things that were formerly characterized as good memories, as tainted and rotted from the start: That adorable argument on the honeymoon was actually foreshadowing... Even the purely good memories are now haunted... ~Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Fleishman Is in Trouble, 2019,

memories of long ago
burst into dust...
~Terri Guillemets

You can accept a falling out that changes your plans, but it's hard to accept a betrayal that changes your memories. ~Robert Brault,

One lives in the hope of becoming a memory. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), c.1968

No Such Thing As Forgetting...

Memory only slumbers—never dies. ~Thomas Paine (1737–1809) + Chambers's Journal, 1868  [mash-up quotation —tg]

There is no such thing as forgetting possible to the mind; a thousand accidents may, and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the secret inscriptions on the mind; accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains for ever; just as the stars seem to withdraw before the common light of day, whereas, in fact, we all know that it is the light which is drawn over them as a veil — and that they are waiting to be revealed, when the obscuring daylight shall have withdrawn. ~Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, 1821

Of this, at least, I feel assured, that there is no such thing as ultimate forgetting; traces once impressed upon the memory are indestructible; a thousand accidents may and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the secret inscription on the mind. Accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil. But alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains for ever... ~Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, 1856

The existence of forgetfulness has never been proved. All we know is that recollection may not be within our power. Up to the present we have filled that gap in our power with the word "forget," just as if it were another addition to our list of faculties. ~Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, 1881

Your memory is a monster; you forget — it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you — and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you! ~John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany, 1989

The brain remembers and recalls everything that's happened to us, something that comes out under hypnosis and brain stimulation. While we may not immediately recall some bit of information, that particular memory isn't lost; it's merely inaccessible and may be triggered later by some sight, smell, sound, or other stimulus. ~Peter Russell, 1979

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published 1999 Aug 15
revised 2021 Mar 13
last saved 2023 Mar 25