Literary Quotations
Browse quotes by source | Browse quotes by author

CHARLES DICKENS QUOTES


A Christmas Carol (1843)

I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!

"Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.

"If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"

I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.

"Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough." "Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."

Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.

It is required of every man ... that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.

Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead ... but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.

God bless us every one!

Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God. to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.

It is always the person not in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done in it, and would unquestionably have done it too.

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.

Great Expectations (1860)

My fathers family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Phillip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

--Chapter 1

Ask no questions, and you'll be told no lies.

--Chapter 2

Some medical beast had revived tar-water in those days as a fine medicine, and Mrs. Joe always kept a supply of it in the cupboard; having a belief in its virtues correspondent to its nastiness. At the best of times, so much of this elixir was administered to me as a choice restorative, that I was conscious of going about, smelling like a new fence.

--Chapter 2

Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself.

--Chapter 4

I was always treated as if I had insisted on being born, in opposition to the dictates of reason, religion, and morality, and against the dissuadinig arguments of my best friends.

--Chapter 4

In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.

--Chapter 8

If you can't get to be oncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked.

--Chapter 9

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

--Chapter 9

You must be a common scholar afore you can be a oncommon one, I should hope! The king upon his throne, with his crown upon his ed, can't sit and write his acts of parliament in print, without having begun, when he were a unpromoted prince, with the Alphabet.

--Chapter 9

I kissed her cheek as she turned it to me. I think I would have gone through a great deal to kiss her cheek. But I felt that the kiss was given to the coarse common boy as a piece of money might have been, and that it was worth nothing.

--Chapter 11

It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home.

--Chapter 14

Now, I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has great expectations.

--Chapter 18

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.

--Chapter 19

Take another glass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society as a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious in emptying one's glass, as to turn it bottom upwards with the rim on one's nose.

--Chapter 21

Georgiana was ... an indigestive single woman, who called her rigidity religion, and her liver love.

--Chapter 25

I have an affection for the road yet (though it is not so pleasant a road as it was then), formed in the impressibility of untried youth and hope.

--Chapter 25

Life is made of ever so many partings welded together, and as I may say, one man's a blacksmith, one's a whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith.

--Chapter 27

So, throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.

--Chapter 27

All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers.

--Chapter 28

Estelle was the inspiration.... But, though she had taken such strong possession of me, though my fancy and my hope were so set upon her, though her influence on my boyish life and character had been all-powerful, I did not, even that romantic morning, invest her with any attributes save those she possessed.... According to my experience, the conventional notion of a lover cannot be always true. The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estelle with the love of a man, I loved her because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I loved her none the less because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection.

--Chapter 29

Love her, love her, love her! If she favors you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces--and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper--love her, love her, love her!

--Chapter 29

I'll tell you what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter.

--Chapter 29

So now, as an infallible way of making little ease great ease, I began to contract a quantity of debt.

--Chapter 34

We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us. We were always more or less miserable, and most of our acquaintance were in the same condition. There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did.

--Chapter 34

The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.

--Chapter 38

Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures ... hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?

--Chapter 38

As to what I dare, I'm a old bird now, as has dared all manner of traps since first he was fledged, and I'm not afeerd to perch upon a scarecrow. If there's Death hid inside of it, there is, and let him come out, and I'll face him, and then I'll believe in him and not afore.

--Chapter 40

Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule.

--Chapter 40

You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since - on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil.

--Chapter 44

She had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the appointed order of their Maker.

--Chapter 49

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching ... I have been bent and broken, but -- I hope -- into a better shape.

--Chapter 59

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1839)

Gold conjures up a mist about a man, more destructive of all his old senses and lulling to his feelings than the fumes of charcoal.

The sun does not shine upon this fair earth to meet frowning eyes, depend upon it.

The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.

Dreams are the bright creatures of poem and legend, who sport on earth in the night season, and melt away in the first beam of the sun, which lights grim care and stern reality on their daily pilgrimage through the world.

He had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favor of two.

Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you've conquered human nature.

Although a man may lose a sense of his own importance when he is a mere unit among a busy throng, all utterly regardless of him, it by no means follows that he can dispossess himself, with equal facility, of a very strong sense of the importance and magnitude of his cares.

There are only two styles of portrait painting; the serious and the smirk.

A man in public life expects to be sneered at—it is the fault of his elevated sitiwation, and not of himself.

Quadruped lions are said to be savage, only when they are hungry; biped lions are rarely sulky longer than when their appetite for distinction remains unappeased.

Miss Knag still aimed at youth, although she had shot beyond it, years ago.

Thus, cases of injustice, and oppression, and tyranny, and the most extravagant bigotry, are in constant occurrence among us every day. It is the custom to trumpet forth much wonder and astonishment at the chief actors therein setting at defiance so completely the opinion of the world; but there is no greater fallacy; it is precisely because they do consult the opinion of their own little world that such things take place at all, and strike the great world dumb with amazement.

May not the complaint, that common people are above their station, often take its rise in the fact of uncommon people being below theirs?

There are not a few among the disciples of charity who require, in their vocation, scarcely less excitement than the votaries of pleasure in theirs.

When I speak of home, I speak of the place where -- in default of a better -- those I love are gathered together; and if that place were a gypsy's tent, or a barn, I should call it by the same good name notwithstanding.

That sort of half sigh, which, accompanied by two or three slight nods of the head, is pity’s small change in general society.

How can you capture the sympathies of the audience unless you have a small man, fighting against a bigger one?

Love ... is very materially assisted by a warm and active imagination: which has a long memory, and will thrive, for a considerable time, on very slight and sparing food.

For nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy, that we can scarcely mark their progress.

Although a skillful flatterer is a most delightful companion if you can keep him all to yourself, his taste becomes very doubtful when he takes to complimenting other people.

Some of the craftiest scoundrels that ever walked this earth . . . will gravely jot down in diaries the events of every day, and keep a regular debtor and creditor account with heaven, which shall always show a floating balance in their own favour.

Natural affections and instincts, my dear sir, are the most beautiful of the Almighty's works, but like other beautiful works of His, they must be reared and fostered, or it is as natural that they should be wholly obscured, and that new feelings should usurp their place, as it is that the sweetest productions of the earth, left untended, should be choked with weeds and briers. I wish we could be brought to consider this, and remembering natural obligations a little more at the right time, talk about them a little less at the wrong one.

It is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get in.

Memory, however sad, is the best and purest link between this world and a better.

It is a pleasant thing to reflect upon, and furnishes a complete answer to those who contend for the gradual degeneration of the human species, that every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last.

Young men not being as a class remarkable for modesty or self-denial, especially when there is a lady in the case, when, if they colour at all, it is rather their practise to colour the story, and not themselves.

Mystery and disappointment are not absolutely indispensable to the growth of love, but they are, very often, its powerful auxiliaries.

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues — faith and hope.

There are many pleasant fictions of the law in constant operation, but there is not one so pleasant or practically humorous as that which supposes every man to be of equal value in its impartial eye, and the benefits of all laws to be equally attainable by all men, without the smallest reference to the furniture of their pockets.

When men are about to commit, or sanction the commission of some injustice, it is not uncommon for them to express pity for the object either of that or some parallel proceeding, and to feel themselves, at the time, quite virtuous and moral, and immensely superior to those who express no pity at all. This is a kind of upholding of faith above works, and is very comfortable.

Oliver Twist (1838)

As he spoke, he pointed hastily to the picture above Oliver's head; and then to the boy's face. There was its living copy. The eyes, the head, the mouth; every feature was the same. The expression was, for an instant, so precisely alike, that the minutest line seemed copied with startling accuracy.

The persons on whom I have bestowed my dearest love, lie deep in their graves; but, although the happiness and delight of my life lie buried there too, I have not made a coffin of my heart, and sealed it up, forever, on my best affections. Deep affliction has but strengthened and refined them.

The memories which peaceful country scenes call up, are not of this world, nor of its thoughts and hopes. Their gentle influence may teach us how to weave fresh garlands for the graves of those we loved: may purify our thoughts, and bear down before it old enmity and hatred; but beneath all this, there lingers, in the least reflective mind, a vague and half-formed consciousness of having held such feelings long before, in some remote and distant time, which calls up solemn thoughts of distant times to come, and bends down pride and worldliness beneath it.

Come, Oliver! Wipe your eyes with the cuffs of your jacket, and don't cry into your gruel; that's a very foolish action, Oliver.

Noah writhed and twisted his body into an extensive variety of eel-like positions; thereby giving Mr. Bumble to understand that, from the violent and sanguinary onset of Oliver Twist, he had sustained severe internal injury and damage, from which he was at that moment suffering the acutest torture.

But even if he has been wicked ... think how young he is, think that he may never have known a mother's love, or the comfort of a home; and that ill-usage and blows, or the want of bread, may have driven him to herd with men who have forced him to guilt. Aunt, dear aunt, for mercy's sake, think of this, before you let them drag this sick child to a prison, which in any case must be the grave of all his chances of amendment.

Surprises, like misfortunes, seldom come alone.

Joy and grief were mingled in the cup; but there were no bitter tears: for even grief itself arose so softened, and clothed in such sweet and tender recollections, that it became a solemn pleasure, and lost all character of pain.

As he glided stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved: crawling forth, by night, in search of some rich offal for a meal.

When ladies as young, and good, and beautiful as you are ... give away your hearts, love will carry you all lengths--even such as you, who have home, friends, other admirers, everything, to fill them. When such as I, who have no certain roof but the coffin lid, and no friend in sickness or death but the hospital nurse, set our rotten hearts on any man, and let him fill the place that has been a blank through all our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us?

Tears were not the things to find their way to Mr. Bumble's soul; his heart was waterproof.

There is a drowsy state, between sleeping and waking, when you dream more in five minutes with your eyes half open, and yourself half conscious of everything that is passing around you, than you would in five nights with your eyes fast closed, and your senses wrapt in perfect unconsciousness. At such time, a mortal knows just enough of what his mind is doing, to form some glimmering conception of its mighty powers, its bounding from earth and spurning time and space, when freed from the restraint of its corporeal associate.

There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.

Although Oliver had been brought up by philosophers, he was not theoretically acquainted with the beautiful axiom that self-preservation is the first law of nature.

Men who look on nature, and their fellow-men, and cry that all is dark and gloomy, are in the right; but the sombre colours are reflections from their own jaundiced eyes and hearts. The real hues are delicate, and need a clearer vision.

A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!

I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.

But indeed, at that time, putting to death was a recipe much in vogue with all trades and professions, and not least of all with Tellson's. Death is Nature's remedy for all things, and why not Legislation's? Accordingly, the forger was put to Death; the utterer of a bad note was put to Death; the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death; the purloiner of forty shillings and sixpence was put to death; the holder of a horse at Tellson's door, who made off with it, was put to Death; the coiner of a bad schilling was put to Death; the sounders of three-fourths of the notes in the whole gamut of Crime, were put to Death. Not that it did the least good in the way of prevention--it might almost have been worth remarking that the fact was exactly the reverse--but, it cleared off (as to this world) the trouble of each particular case, and left nothing else connected with it to be looked after.

If you hear in my voice any resemblance to a voice that once was sweet music in your ears, weep for it, weep for it! If you touch, in touching my hair, anything that recalls a beloved head that lay on your breast when you were young and free, weep for it, weep for it! If, when I hint to you of a Home that is before us, where I will be true to you with all my duty and with all my faithful service, I bring back the remembrance of a home long desolate, while your poor heart pined away, weep for it, weep for it!

I have sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by and by into our lives.

Detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low.

Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend, will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof shuts out the sky.

You cannot control the mincing vanities and giddiness of empty-headed girls; you must not expect to do it, or you will always be disappointed.

It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a particular delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied.

Tell the Wind and Fire where to stop, but don't tell me.

As a whirlpool of boiling water has a centre point, so, all this raging circled around Defarge's wine-shop, and every human drop in the caldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex where Defarge himself, already begrimed with gunpowder and sweat, issued orders, issued arms, thrust this man back, dragged this man forward, disarmed one to arm another, laboured and strove in the thickest of the uproar.

Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death;-- the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!

I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long long to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

More Charles Dickens Quotes