Archive for ‘correspondence’



The world is governed more by appearance than reality, and therefore it is fully as necessary to seem to know something, as to know it in reality.

Daniel Webster, letter to Mr. Fuller (1803)


keep on

I keep on making what I can’t do yet in order to learn to be able to do it.

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Theo (1885)



Don’t judge the value of higher education in terms of careermanship. Judge it for what it is – a priceless opportunity to furnish your mind and enrich the quality of your life. My father was a failure in business, but he read Horace in the loo until he died, poor but happy… You have a first-class mind. Stretch it. If you have the opportunity to go to a university, don’t pass it up. You would never forgive yourself.

David Ogilvy, letter to his nephew, Harry (1984)



All happiness depends on courage and work.

Honoré de Balzac, letter to M. Laurent-Jan (1849)



One must regard the hyphen as a blemish to be avoided wherever possible.

Winston Churchill, in a letter to Eddie Marsh (1934)


public opinion

…that great compound of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy, and newspaper paragraphs which is called public opinion.

Robert Peel, letter to John Wilson Croker (1820)


keep it well

Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Gen. John A. Logan, General Order No. 11; Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic (1868)



Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.

Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo (1888)


the sword

I shall constantly bear in mind that as the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first thing laid aside when those liberties are firmly established.

George Washington, letter to Congress (1776)



A people unused to restraint must be led, they will not be drove.

George Washington, in a letter, quoted in David McCullough’s 1776. (1776)



From one casual of mine he picked this sentence. ‘After dinner, the men moved into the living room.’ I explained to the professor that this was Ross’s way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up. There must, as we know, be a comma after every move, made by men, on this earth.

James Thurber, memo to The New Yorker (1959);

Note: This is a variant of a similar quote Thurber used in The Years with Ross (1957). Harold Ross was the editor of The New Yorker at the time and well-known for his overuse of commas.


particular care

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams (1776)



I cannot desert a man…who has deserted everything to defend his country, and whose chief misfortune, among ten thousand others, is that a large part of it wants spirit to defend itself.

Colonel William Tudor, referring to George Washington in letter to his wife (1776)


some lucky chance

I agree with you that it is in vain to ruminate upon, or even reflect upon the authors of our present misfortune. We should rather exert ourselves, and look forward with hopes, that some lucky chance may yet turn up in our favor.

George Washington, in a letter to Robert Morris just before the Delaware crossing (1776)

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