Society Quotations


The more we know about the ancients, the more we find that they were like the moderns.

Journal, 2 September 1851

I feel that my connection with and obligation to society are still very slight and transient.

“Life Without Principle”

The mind that perceives clearly any natural beauty is in that instant withdrawn from human society. My desire for society is infinitely increased — my fitness for any actual society is diminished.

Journal, 26 July 1852

Men talk to me about society as if I had none and they had some, as if it were only to be got by going to the sociable or to Boston.

Journal, 27 March 1857

The doctors are all agreed that I am suffering from want of society. Was never a case like it. First, I did not know that I was suffering at all. Secondly, as an Irishman might say, I had thought it was indigestion of the society I got.

Thoreau to H. G. O. Blake, 1 January 1859

The social condition of genius is the same in all ages. Aeschylus was undoubtedly alone and without sympathy in his simple reverence for the mystery of the universe.

Journal, 29 January 1840

I see nothing permanent in the society around me, and am not quite committed to any of its ways.

Journal, 1850

Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other.


There is a coarse and boisterous money-making fellow in the outskirts of our town who is going to build a blank-wall under the hill along the edge of his meadow. The powers have put this into his head to keep him out of mischief, and he wishes me to spend three weeks digging there with him. The result will be that he will perhaps get some more money to hoard, and leave for his heirs to spend foolishly. If I do this, most will commend me as an industrious and hard-working man; but if I choose to devote myself to certain labors which yield more real profit, though but little money they may be inclined to look on me as an idler. Nevertheless, as I do not need the police of meaningless labor to regulate me, and do not see anything absolutely praiseworthy in this fellow’s undertaking any more than in many an enterprise of our own or foreign governments, however amusing it may be to him or them, I prefer to finish my education at a different school.

“Life Without Principle”

Man is not at once born into society — hardly into the world. The world that he is hides for a time is the world that he inhabits.

Journal, 14 March 1838

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