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Aconfederacy of dunces essays



Men of genius are meteors destined to burn themselves out in lighting up their age.


Wisdom is of God. Genius is the decay of Wisdom. To Shakespeare, Wisdom was offered; but he did not accept it, and so he died away into Genius.

Jones Very, paraphrase from Emerson's journal, 1838


The idol of the boy had been Poe and Keats, Byron, Dowson, Chatterton—all the gifted miserable and reckless men who had burned themselves out in tragic brilliance early and with finality. Not for him the normal happy genius living to a ripe old age (genius indeed! How could a genius be happy, normal—above all, long-lived?), acclaimed by all (or acclaimed in his lifetime?), enjoying honour, love, obedience.


Genius is not purity; genius is not piety; yet it partakes of the nature of both. It is contradistinguished from every thing which is earthly, sensual, material. It is the vigour of the soul; the aspirations of a spirit struggling with its fetters, and continually peeping beyond its prison walls of flesh and blood.

Anonymous, Aphorisms; or, A Glance at Human Nature, in Original Maxims. 1820


A genius is one who shoots at something no one else can see — and hits it.


Were a person to collect all the happy thoughts he had ever had in his life, the result would be a valuable book. At least once a year everyone is a genius. It is only that the actual man of genius so-called has his good ideas at shorter intervals. We see, then, how much depends on making a note of everything.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908


Genius is more often found in a cracked pot than in a whole one.


I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

John F. Kennedy, in an address to Nobel Prize winners


Genius, by its very intensity, decrees a special path of fire for its vivid power.


I have known no man of genius who had not to pay, in some affliction or defect, either physical or spiritual, for what the gods had given him.


I am convinced all of humanity is born with more gifts than we know. Most are born geniuses and just get de-geniused rapidly.


Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others.


Talent is that which is in a man's power; genius is that in whose power a man is.


The reluctance to put away childish things may be a requirement of genius.


If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.


Every man of genius is considerably helped by being dead.


In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance," Essays. 1841


Common sense is instinct. Enough of it is genius.


Genius is a plodding intellect, incapable of dreaming up the obstacles that stop the rest of us.


Men of genius are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Kavanagh: A Tale. 1849


This is the nature of genius, to be able to grasp the knowable even when no one else recognizes that it is present.


When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.


Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.


Men of genius are rarely much annoyed by the company of vulgar people.


Genius ain't anything more than elegant common sense.


Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.


People ask how I think up my thoughts. Mostly I think them up while reading Paul Simon's lyrics.


I can't tell you if genius is hereditary, because heaven has granted me no offspring.


A harmless hilarity and a buoyant cheerfulness are not infrequent concomitants of genius; and we are never more deceived than when we mistake gravity for greatness, solemnity for science, and pomposity for erudition.


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