Sinclair Lewis Quotes
- "Fortune has dealt with me rather too well. I have known
little struggle, not much poverty, many generosities. Now and
then I have, for my books or myself, been somewhat warmly
denounced — there was one good pastor in California who upon
reading my Elmer Gantry desired to lead a mob and lynch me,
while another holy man in the state of Maine wondered if there
was no respectable and righteous way of putting me in jail."
- "Every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe,
polite, obedient, and sterile. In protest, I declined election
to the National Institute of Arts and Letters some years ago,
and now I must decline the Pulitzer Prize."
About Sauk Centre
- To me, forever, ten miles will not be a distance in the
mathematical tables, but slightly more than the distance from
Sauk Centre to Melrose. To me, forever though I should live to
be ninety, the division west will have nothing in particular to
do with California or the Rockies; it will be that direction
which is to the left-towards Hoboken Hill, if you face the house
of Dr. E. J. Lewis.
- If I seem to have criticized prairie villages, I have
certainly criticized them no more than I have New York, or
Paris, or the great universities. I am quite certain that I
could have been born and reared in no place in the world where I
would have had more friendliness. Indeed, as I look at these
sons of rich men in New England with their motor cars and their
travel, it seems to me that they are not having one-tenth the
fun which I had as a kid, swimming and fishing in Sauk Lake, or
cruising its perilous depths on a raft (probably made of stolen
logs) tramping out to Fairy Lake for a picnic, tramping then
miles on end, with a shotgun, in October, sliding on Hoboken
Hill, stealing melons, listening to the wonders of an
elocutionist at the G.A.R. Hall. It was a good time, a good
place, and a good preparation for life.
About Sinclair Lewis
- "What was once Sinclair Lewis is buried in no ground. Even
in life he was fully alive only in his writing. He lives in
public libraries from Maine to California, in worn copies in the
bookshelves of women from small towns who, in their girlhood,
imagined themselves as Carol Kennicotts, and of medical men who,
as youths, were inspired by Martin Arrowsmith." - Dorothy
- "His central characters are the pioneer, the doctor, the
scientist, the businessman, and the feminist. The appeal of his
best fiction lies in the opposition between his idealistic
protagonists and an array of fools, charlatans, and scoundrels -
evangelists, editorialists, pseudo-artists, cultists, and
boosters." - Martin Light
Hike & The Aeroplane (1912)
- “War is a horrible thing, to be prevented as far as
- “He remembered a friend of his father’s, a brave
high-ranking officer and a good commander, who had often said
that war was a crime, which the Army ought to prevent, instead
of trying to bring it on”
- “Oh, youse guys just wait. There’ll be a million and a half
reporters here, right away. Associated Press and United Press
and all the Washington Paper and all the guys wot writes up what
they t’ink Congress oughta be doin’, for the Kalamazoo Avalanch
and the South Sauk Centre Hoop-la”
Our Mr. Wrenn (1914)
- “Minnesota's some kind of shire”
- "Her laugh had an October tang of bitterness in it.”
- “You’re exactly as tall as I am. Mouse dear, you ought to be
- “Why, I wouldn’t take this fool country for a gift”
(England) “No, sir! Me for God’s country – Sleepy Eye, Brown
County, Minnesota. You bet!”
- “But I am going to make you go to church. You’ll be a
socialist or something like that if you get to be too much of a
The Trail of The Hawk (1915)
- “Don’t forget this, son: nothing outside of you can ever
hurt you. It can chew up your toes, but it can’t reach you.
Nobody but you can hurt you.”
- “Carl was drawn… into a dance regarding which he was sure
only that it was either a waltz, a two step, or something else.”
- “No one could possibly have looked more like a person
closing a door without actually closing one.”
- “He was given to being worried and advisory and to sitting
up till midnight in his unventilated library, grinding at the
task of putting new wrong meanings into perfectly obvious
statements in the Bible.”
- “That’s a swell line of baggage, all right – one
toothbrush, a change of socks, and ninety-seven thousand books”.
- “that drawing room had the soul of a banker with
- “I live in this house and am Episcopalian – no so much High
Church as highly infrequent church.”
- “You can’t be an idealist and make money. You make the
money and then you can have all the ideals you want to, and give
away some hospitals and libraries”.
- “Any two people who have spent more than two days together
already have the material for a life-long feud, in traits which
at first were amusing or admirable.”
The Job (1917)
- “His entire system of theology was comprised in the Bible,
which he never read, and the Methodist Church, which he rarely
- “Fine, large, meaningless, general terms like romance and
business can always be related. They take the place of thinking,
and are highly useful to optimists and lecturers.”
- “The reason for it all, nobody who is actually engaged in
it can tell you, except the bosses, who believe that these
sacred rites of composing dull letters and solemnly filing them
away are observed in order that they may buy the large
automobiles in which they do not have time to take the air.”
- “Mr. Wilkins came back and hemmed and hawed a good deal; he
praised the work she hadn't considered well done, and pointed
out faults in what she considered particularly clever
- “This age, which should adjudge happiness to be as valuable
as soap or munitions, would never come so long as the workers
accepted the testimony of paid spokesmen... to the effect that
they were contented and happy, rather than the evidence of their
own wincing nerves to the effect that they live in a polite
version of hell.”
The Innocents (1917)
- “... in his youth (Seth) had promised to become manager of
the shoe-store, and gave the same promise today”
- "She forgot for a moment that she was Mrs. Hartwig, now, and
had the best phonograph in Saserkopee."
- "When America becomes a military autocracy, she will be Lady
Carter or the Countess of Grimsby"
Main Street (1920)
- "She was not a Respectable Married Woman but fully a human
- "There had to be one man in town independent enough to sass
- "The outhouse was so overmodestly masked with vines and
lattice that it was not concealed at all. The greatest mystery
about a human being is not his reaction to sex or praise, but
the manner in which he contrives to put in twenty-four hours a
day. It is this which puzzles the longshoreman about the clerk,
the Londoner about the bushman."
- "It has not yet been recorded that any human being has
gained a very large or permanent contentment from meditation
upon the fact that he is better off than others."
- "There are two insults which no human being will endure: The
assertion that he hasn't a sense of humor, and the doubly
impertinent assertion that he has never known trouble."
- "He had enormous and poetic admiration, though very little
understanding, of all mechanical devices. They were his symbols
of truth and beauty. Regarding each new intricate mechanism —
metal lathe, two-jet carburetor, machine gun, oxyacetylene
welder — he learned one good realistic-sounding phrase, and used
it over and over, with a delightful feeling of being technical
- "Being a man given to oratory and high principles, he
enjoyed the sound of his own vocabulary and the warmth of his
- "Rev. Mr. Monday, the Prophet of Punch, has shown that he is
the world's greatest salesman of salvation, and that by
efficient organization the overhead of spiritual regeneration
may be kept down to an unprecedented rock-bottom basis. He has
converted over two hundred thousand lost and priceless souls at
an average cost of less than ten dollars a head."
- "I hate your city. It has standardized all the beauty
out of life. It is one big railroad station — with all the
people taking tickets for the best cemeteries."
- "What I fight in Zenith is the standardization of thought,
and, of course, the traditions of competition. The real villains
of the piece are the clean, kind, industrious Family Men who use
every known brand of trickery and cruelty to insure the
prosperity of their cubs. The worst thing about these fellows is
that they're so good and, in their work at least, so
intelligent. You can't hate them properly, and yet their
standardized minds are the enemy."
- "It came to him merely to run away was folly, because he
could never run away from himself."
- "He heard them whispering — whispering... The independence
seeped out of him and he walked the streets alone, afraid of
men's cynical eyes and the incessant hiss of whispering."
- "All of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply
any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of
thought, dress, painting, morals, and vocabulary."
- He was worried lest during his late discontent he had
imperiled his salvation. He was not quite sure there was a
Heaven to be attained, but Dr. John Jennison said there was, and
Babbitt was not going to take a chance."
- "He was permitted, without restriction, to speak of himself
as immoral, agnostic and socialistic, so long as it was
universally known that he remained pure, Presbyterian, and
- "There was much conversation, most of which sounded like the
rest of it."
- "Like all ardent agnostics, Martin was a religious man."
- "It is one of the major tragedies that nothing is more
discomforting than the hearty affection of the Old Friends who
never were friends."
- "He still had a fragment of his boyhood belief that
congressmen were persons of intelligence and importance."
- "I must say I'm not very fond of oratory that's so full of
energy it hasn't any room for facts."
- "He is the only real revolutionary, the authentic scientist,
because he alone knows how liddle he knows. He must be
heartless. He lives in a cold, clear light. Yet dis is a funny
t'ing: really, in private, he is not cold nor heartless — so
much less cold than the Professional Optimists."
Elmer Gantry (1927)
- "Elmer Gantry was drunk. He was eloquently drunk, lovingly
and pugnaciously drunk."
- "He was born to be a senator. He never said anything
important, and he always said it sonorously."
- "He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday
School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and
kindness and reason."
- "The grateful savants had accepted, and they were spending
the rest of their lives reading fifteenth-hand opinions, taking
pleasant naps, and drooling out to yawning students the anemic
and wordy bookishness which they called learning."
- "Even if some details of dogma aren't true — or even all of
'em — think what a consolation religion and the church are to
- "To one who had never made more than five thousand a year
himself, it was inspiring to explain before dozens of popeyed
and admiring morons how they could make ten thousand — fifty
thousand — a million a year, and all this by the Wonder Power of
Suggestion, by Aggressive Personality, by the Divine Rhythm, in
fact by merely releasing the Inner Self-shine."
- "What is Love — the divine Love of which the—the great
singer teaches us in Proverbs? It is the rainbow that comes
after the dark cloud. It is the morning star and it is also the
evening star, those being, as you all so well know, the
brightest stars we know. It shines upon the cradle of the little
one and when life has, alas, departed, to come no more, you find
it still around the quiet tomb. What is it inspires all great
men—be they preachers or patriots or great business men? What is
it, my brethren, but Love? Ah, it fills the world with melody,
with such sacred melodies as we have just indulged in together,
for what is music? What, my friends, is music? Ah, what indeed
is music but the voice of Love!" - Elmer Gantry's famous speech
- "He was still not at all certain that he was doing any good,
aside from providing the drug of religious hope to timorous folk
frightened of hell-fire and afraid to walk alone."
- "I was brought up to believe that the Christian God wasn't a
scared and compromising public servant, but the creator of the
whole merciless truth, and I reckon that training spoiled me — I
actually took my teachers seriously!"
- "A proper school should teach nothing but bookkeeping,
agriculture, geometry, dead languages made deader by leaving out
all the amusing literature, and the Hebrew Bible as interpreted
by men superbly trained to ignore contradictions, men
technically called "Fundamentalists"."
It Can't Happen Here (1935)
- "Under a tyranny, most friends are a liability. One quarter
of them turn "reasonable" and become your enemies, one quarter
are afraid to speak, and one quarter are killed and you die with
them. But the blessed are the final quarter keep you alive."
- "So debated Doremus, like some hundreds of thousands of
other craftsmen, teachers, lawyers, what-not, in some dozens of
countries under a dictatorship, who were aware enough to resent
the tyranny, conscientious enough not to take its bribes
cynically, yet not so abnormally courageous as to go willingly
to exile or dungeon or chopping-block — particularly when they
'had wives and families to support.'"
The God-Seeker (1949)
- "Aaron was uncomfortable and a little afraid. This, he
thought, is how God might pray to his God."
- "Aaron had learned … from Mr. Fairlow's two-hour sermons on
"The Jealousy of an Angry Jehovah Who Hath Weighed Sinners
in the Balance and Found Them Wanting",...that God was a
torturer who punished small boys for sins they might commit
- "Good sense from a child was not necessarily contemptible
beside foolishness from a grown-up."
- "When you think that most of us are doomed by divine grace
to roast in hell, to say nothing of mortgages and hail and bad
crops and extravagant womenfolks, 'tain't any laughing matter!"
- "It might be the doing of Satan, in whom Aaron anxiously
believed with all of his being except, perhaps, his mind."
- "Hours then of blasphemy and fury and debate, all in the
theological terms that seem shocking to the literate citizens
today, who believe in God but just don't care to mention him or
any of the other lowly friends they knew before they went to
- "Now we got a lawyer, we got civilization, which I
understand to mean that a man has a chance to get rich without
- "He prayed, 'Lord God, let us be the kind of Christians that
you would be if you were a Christian'."
- "I don't believe in fear of divine vengeance, and I do
believe in justice and equality..."
- "I have faith in Faith, I have reverence for all true
"There had to be one man in town independent enough to sass the
Sinclair Lewis - Main Street