This is the merit and distinction of art: to be more real than reality, to be not nature but nature’s essence.
In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud: Under the bludgeoning of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed.
It is the artist’s function not to copy but to synthesise: to eliminate from that gross confusion of actuality which is his raw material whatever is accidental, idle, irrelevant, and select for perpetuation that only which is appropriate and immortal.
There are two men in Tolstoy. He is a mystic and he is also a realist. He is addicted to the practice of a pietism that for all its sincerity is nothing if not vague and sentimental; and he is the most acute and dispassionate of observers, the most profound and earnest student of character and emotion.
To be a good Briton, a man must trade profitably, marry respectably, live cleanly, avoid excess, revere the established order, and wear his heart in his breeches pocket or anywhere but on his sleeve.
Men there have been who have done the essayist’s part so well as to have earned an immortality in the doing; but we have had not many of them, and they make but a poor figure on our shelves. It is a pity that things should be thus with us, for a good essayist is the pleasantest companion imaginable.
Now, to read poetry at all is to have an ideal anthology of one’s own, and in that possession to be incapable of content with the anthologies of all the world besides.
When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.
The life of Dumas is not only a monument of endeavour and success, it is a sort of labyrinth as well. It abounds in pseudonyms and disguises, in sudden and unexpected appearances and retreats as unexpected and sudden, in scandals and in rumours, in mysteries and traps and ambuscades of every kind.