50 Great Sourced Author Quotes

What follows are the best sourced quotes (or, if you will, quotations) from writers down the ages, 50 of the most awesome, moving, and inspiring things that writers have ever said in literature. At least, that’s what we here at Interesting Literature reckon – we hope you agree.

Remember that quote from Abraham Lincoln, ‘The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity.’ That joke is a reminder that we should be on our guard about internet quotes – so, although we haven’t cited chapter and page numbers, we have given the title of the text in which each quote can be found. (If you know better and think we’ve still misattributed any of the following, do get in touch.)

If you enjoy these quotes, you might also like our 10 great quotes from Oscar Wilde and our 10 great quotes about poetry.

Live all you can – it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. – Henry James, The Ambassadors 

I avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward. – Charlotte Brontë, 15 January 1849, quoted in Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1870)

God may reduce you on Judgment Day to tears of shame, reciting by heart the poems you would have written, had your life been good. – W. H. Auden, ‘Thanksgiving for a Habitat’

Some folks are wise and some are otherwise. – Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random

Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name: Call it hope. – Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature. – P. G. Wodehouse, ‘Strychnine in the Soup’

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own


Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. – Cyril Connolly, The New Statesman, 1933

Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie … a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion. – George Orwell, ‘The Art of Donald McGill’, Horizon, 1941

Hour by hour, day by day, life becomes possible. – Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath

Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes to make bears dance when what we really want is to move the stars. – Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

The house of delusions is cheap to build, but draughty to live in. – A. E. Housman, UCL Inaugural Lecture, 1892

Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down. – Ray Bradbury, Brown Daily Record, 1995

It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won’t save us any more than love did. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, Notebooks

A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good. – Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson

Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one. – Terry Pratchett, ‘Foreword’ to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1998)

It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. – J. K. Rowling, Harvard address, 2008

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame. – Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Wilde4All life is just a progression toward, and then a recession from, one phrase – ‘I love you.’ – F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The Offshore Pirate’

In real life, the hardest aspect of the battle between good and evil is determining which is which. – George R. R. Martin, interview with Infinity Plus (2001)

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. – Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Eleonora’

Parents should leave books lying around marked ‘forbidden’ if they want their children to read. – Doris Lessing, interview with Amanda Craig, The Times, 2003

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. – Ray Bradbury, interview by Misha Berson, The Seattle Times, 1993

I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it. – Edith Sitwell, The Last Years of a Rebel

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. – Henry David Thoreau, Journals, August 1851

I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere I needed to be. – Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

To live at all is miracle enough. – Mervyn Peake, ‘To Live is Miracle Enough’

I would rather dance as a ballerina, faultily, than as a flawless clown. – Margaret Atwood, Lady Oracle

May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect. – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. – Tennyson, ‘Locksley Hall’

To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life. – T. S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism

Austen2Not all those who wander are lost. – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

You cannot save people, you can only love them. – Anaïs Nin, Diary, volume 2

In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. – Albert Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. – Jane Austen, Emma

Life begins on the other side of despair. – Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

What we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope. – George Eliot, Middlemarch

There is only one dream worth having … to live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. – Arundhati Roy, speech titled ‘Come September’

Do not consider yourself deprived because your dreams were not fulfilled; the truly deprived have never dreamed. – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Aphorisms

You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, most beautiful person I have ever known, but even that is an understatement. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter to Zelda Fitzgerald, 1939

Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing, interview with Amanda Craig, The Times, 2003

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. – Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

After all there is but one race – humanity. – George Moore, The Bending of the Bough

I am a man; I count nothing human foreign to me. – Terence, The Self-Tormenter

Our true nationality is mankind. – H. G. Wells, The Outline of History

Literature can train, and exercise, our ability to weep for those who are not us or ours. – Susan Sontag, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches

The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you. – Rainer Maria Rilke, Turning Point

If you enjoyed these quotes, do feast your eyes on our 10 great quotes from Oscar Wilde and our 10 great quotes about poetry.

Images (top to bottom): Lord Byron, by Thomas Phillips, 1824, public domain; Oscar Wilde (author unknown, public domain); Jane Austen (author unknown, 1873).


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  5. Not going to lie, some of these gave me the shivers! I’m at the point in my life where I’m about to take a huge step into the unknown. You just armed me with some quotes to take on the journey!

  6. Nice! Thanks for this!

  7. Reblogged this on InkMagic and commented:
    If you love quotes the way I do then you will love these quotes .

  8. Reblogged this on theaspiringcaffeinatedlibrarian and commented:
    I will write my own entry very soon! But for now Happy New Year!

  9. This is a wonderful post, thank you. Rose

  10. These were quite fascinating, indeed. Thank you for sharing them. May your new year be filled with joy, good health, and prosperity in every way.


  11. I loved these. Thanks and happy new year!

  12. These are great–thanks!

  13. Wonderful quotes to start the New Year!

  14. Pingback: 50 great sourced author quotes –

  15. Some great quotes. The Flaubert one rang out particularly potently for me

  16. Thanks for compiling and posting these!

  17. Writer’s of wisdom, for sure. The Ray Bradbury quote is especially vital.

  18. Reblogged this on The Sophisticated Reader Book Poem and commented:
    What a fabulous way to start the New (Year’s) Day

  19. This blog earned a Bean Pat as blog pick of the day. Check it out at:

  20. Here’s one from Colin Wilson: Mystical experiences are not experiences of another order of reality, but insights into this order.

  21. This is a great list! I love finding new author quotes so thank you. And happy new year :)

  22. Reblogged this on ♥TBT and commented:
    Fifty quotes to start off the year. I especially love the Terry Pratchett one. So snarky :)

  23. Loved the Terry Pratchett one :) Reblogging! :)

  24. These are great quotes, and at risk of sounding like a spammer, I’m going to bookmark this. I love that Lincoln quote, he sure was ahead of his time. ;-) Happy New Year!