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LITTLE FOXES

by: Harriet Beecher Stowe


Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is life's undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room, from which we go forth to more careful and guarded intercourse, leaving behind us much debris of cast-off and everyday clothing.

--Chapter 1

You may build beautiful, convenient, attractive houses--you may hang the walls with lovely pictures and stud them with gems of Art; and there may be living there together persons bound by blood and affection in one common interest, leading a life common to themselves and apart from others; and these persons may each one of them be possessed of good and noble traits; there may be a common basis of affection, of generosity, of good principles, of religion; and yet, through the influence of some of these perverse, nibbling, insignificant little foxes, half the clusters of happiness on these so promising vines may fail to come to maturity.

--Chapter 1

If you wish to keep your friend, don't go and live with him.

--Chapter 1

We are all human and imperfect; and the nearer you get to any human being, the more defects you see. The characters that can stand the test of daily intimacy are about as numerous as four-leaved clovers in a meadow.

--Chapter 1

A man and woman come together from some affinity, some partial accord of their nature which has inspired mutual affection. There is generally very little careful consideration of who and what they are--no thought of the reciprocal influence of mutual traits--no previous chording and testing of the instruments which are to make lifelong harmony or discord--and after a short period of engagement, in which all their mutual relations are made as opposite as possible to those which must follow marriage, these two furnish their house and begin life together.

--Chapter 1

There is a great life-giving, warming power called Love, which exists in human hearts dumb and unseen, but which has no real life, no warming power, till set free by expression.

--Chapter 3

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

--Chapter 3

I am speaking now of the highest duty we owe our friends, the noblest, the most sacred — that of keeping their own nobleness, goodness, pure and incorrupt.... If we let our friend become cold and selfish and exacting without a remonstrance, we are no true lover, no true friend.

--Chapter 3

Little foxes are the little pet sins of us educated good Christians, who hope that we are above and far out of sight of stealing, lying, and those other gross evils against which we pray every Sunday, when the Ten Commandments are read. They are not generally considered of dignity enough to be fired at from the pulpit; they seem to us too trifling to be remembered in church; they are like the red spiders on plants--too small for the perception of the naked eye, and only to be known by the shrivelling and dropping of leaf after leaf that ought to be green and flourishing.

--Chapter 4

The obstinancy of cleverness and reason is nothing to the obstinancy of folly and inanity.

--Chapter 4

A little reflection will enable any person to detect in himself that setness in trifles which is the result of the unwatched instinct of self-will and to establish over himself a jealous guardianship.

--Chapter 4

People are apt to talk as if all the intolerance in life were got up and expended in the religious world; whereas religious intolerance is only a small branch of the radical, strong, all-pervading intolerance of human nature.

--Chapter 5

Now, if the principle of toleration were once admitted into classical education — if it were admitted that the great object is to read and enjoy a language, and the stress of the teaching were placed on the few things absolutely essential to this result, if the tortoise were allowed time to creep, and the bird permitted to fly, and the fish to swim, towards the enchanted and divine sources of Helicon — all might in their own way arrive there, and rejoice in its flowers, its beauty, and its coolness.

--Chapter 5

The evils of domestic intolerance increase with the birth of children. As parents come together out of different families with ill-assorted peculiarities, so children are born to them with natures differing from their own and from each other.

--Chapter 5

Every human being has some handle by which he may be lifted, some groove in which he was meant to run; and the great work of life, as far as our relations with each other are concerned, is to lift each one by his own proper handle, and run each one in his own proper groove.

--Chapter 5

I think one of the greatest destroyers of domestic peace is Discourtesy. People neglect with their dearest friends, those refinements and civilities which they practice with strangers.

--Chapter 6

We men are a sort of stupid, blind animals: we know when we are pleased, but we don't know what it is that pleases us.

--Chapter 6

Many worthy women, who would not for the world be found wanting in the matter of personal neatness, seem somehow to have the notion that any study of the arts of personal beauty in family-life is unmatronly; they buy their clothes with simple reference to economy, and have them made up without any question of becomingness; and hence marriage sometimes transforms a charming, trim, tripping young lady into a waddling matron whose every-day toilette suggests only the idea of a feather-bed tied round with a string.

--Chapter 6

Parents would do well to remember in time when their children have grown up into independent human beings, and use with a wise moderation those advisory and admonitory powers with which they guided their earlier days. Let us give everybody a right to live his own life, as far as possible, and avoid imposing our own personalities on another.

--Chapter 6

If I were to picture a perfect family, it should be a union of people of individual and marked character, who through love have come to a perfect appreciation of each other, and who so wisely understand themselves and one another that each may move freely along his or her own track without jar or jostle--a family where affection is always sympathetic and receptive, but never inquisitive--where all personal delicacies are respected--and where there is a sense of privacy and seclusion in following one's own course, unchallenged by the watchfulness of others, yet withal a sense of society and support in a knowledge of the kind dispositions and interpretations of all around.

--Chapter 6

But while attainment in everything is endless, circumstances forbid the greater part of human beings from attaining in any direction the half of what they see would be desirable; and the difference between the miserable idealist and the contented realist often is, not that both do not see what needs to be done for perfection, but that, seeing it, one is satisfied with the attainable, and the other forever frets and wears himself out on the unattainable.

--Chapter 7

ideality often becomes an insidious mental and moral disease, acting all the more subtly from its alliances with what is highest and noblest within us. Shall we not aspire to be perfect? Shall we be content with low measures and low standards in anything? To those inquiries there seems of course to be but one answer; yet the individual driven forward in blind, unreasoning aspiration becomes wearied, bewildered, discontented, restless, fretful, and miserable.

--Chapter 7

An unhappy person can never make others happy.

--Chapter 7