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Tag Archives: EB White

“Men and women have always sought, by one means and another, to be together rather than apart. At first they were together by the simple expedient of being unicellular, and there was no conflict. Later, the cell separated, or began living apart, for reasons which are not clear even today, although there is considerable talk. Almost immediately the two halves of the original cell began experiencing a desire to unite again – usually with a half of some other cell. This urge has survived down to our time. Its commonest manifestations are marriage, divorce, neuroses, and, a little less frequently, gun-fire.”

– EB White, Is Sex Necessary?


“The subtlest change in New York is something people don’t speak much about but that is in everyone’s mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passage into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.

“All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.”

– EB White, “Here is New York”

“The quality in New York that insulates its inhabitants from life may simply weaken them as individuals. Perhaps it is healtheier to live in a community where, when a cornice falls, you feel the blow; where, when the governor passes, you see at any rate his hat.

“I am not defending New York in this regard. Many of its settlers are probably here merely to escape, not face, reality. But whatever it means, it is a rather rare gift, and I believe it has a positive effect on the creative capacities of New Yorkers – for creation is in part merely the business of forgoing the great and small distractions.

“Many people who have no real independence of spirit depend on the city’s tremendous variety and sources of excitement for spiritual sustenance and maintenance of morale. In the country there are a few chances of sudden rejuvenation – a shift in weather, perhaps, or something arriving in the mail. But in New York the chaces are endless. I think that although many persons are here from some excess of spirit (which caused them to break away from their small town), some, too, are here from a deficiency of spirit, who find in New York a protection, or an easy substitution.”

– EB White, “Here is New York”

“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter – the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is teh New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.

Of these three trembling cities the greates is the last – the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. …each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.”

– EB White, “Here is New York”

“The sound of the sea is the most time-effacing sound there is. The centuries reroll in a cloud and the earth becomes young again when you listen, with eyes shut, to the sea – a young green time when the water and the land were just getting acquainted and had known each other for only a few billion years and the mollusks were just beginning to dip and creep in the shallows; and now man the invertebrate, under his ribbed umbrella, anoints himself with oil and pulls on his Polaroid glasses to stop the glare and stretches out his long brown body at ease upon a towel on the warm sand and listens.

“The sea answers all questions, and always in the same way; for when you read in the papers the interminable discussions and the bickering and the prognostications and the turmoil, the disagreements and the fateful decisions and agreements and the plans and the programs and the threats and the counter threats, then you close your eyes and the sea dispatches one more big roller in the unbroken line since the beginning of the world and it combs and breaks and returns foaming and saying: ‘So soon?’ ”

– EB White, “On a Florida Key”

“In the kitchen cabinet is a bag of oranges for morning juice. Each orange is stamped ‘Color Added.’ The dyeing of an orange to make it orange is Man’s most impudent gesture to date. It is really an appalling piece of effrontery, carrying the clear implication that Nature doesn’t know what she is up to.

“There are two moving picture theaters in town. In one of them, colored people are allowed in the balcony. In the other, colored people are not allowed at all. I saw a patriotic newsreel there the other day that ended with a picture of the American flag blowing in the breeze, and the words: one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Everyone clapped, but I decided I could not clap for liberty and justice (for all) while I was in a theater from which Negroes had been barred. And I felt there were too many people in the world who think liberty and justice for all means liberty and justice for themselves and their friends.

“I have to laugh when I think about the sheer inconsistency of the Southern attitude about color: the Negro barred from the movie house because of color, the orange with ‘color added’ for its ultimate triumph. Some of the cities in this part of the State have fete days to commemorate the past and advertise the future, and in my mind I have been designing a float that I would like to enter in the parades. It would contain a beautiful Negro woman riding with the other bathing beauties and stamped with the magical words, Color Added.”

– EB White, “On a Florida Key”

“I think she wants a good world, as I do, but that she has retreated into the pure realm of thought, leaving the rest of us to rassle with the bear.”

– EB White, “The Wave of the Future”

“This is a day of high winds and extravagant promises, a day of bright skies and the sun on the white painted south sides of buildings, of lambs on the warm slope of the barnyard, their forelegs folded neatly and on their miniature faces a look of grave miniature content. Beneath the winter cover of spruce boughs the tulip thrusts its spear. A white hen is chaperoning thirteen little black chicks all over the place, showing them the world’s fair with its lagoons and small worms.

“My goose will lay her seventh egg today, in the nest she made for herself alongside the the feed rack in the sheep shed, and on cold nights the lambs will lie on the eggs to keep them from freezing until such time as the goose decides to sit. It is an arrangement they have worked out among themselves – the lambs enjoying the comfort of the straw nest in return for a certain amount of body heat delivered to the eggs – not enough to start the germ but enough to keep the frost out. Things work out if you leave them alone.

“At first, when I found lambs sitting on goose eggs I decided that my farm venture had got out of hand and that I had better quit before any more abortive combinations developed. ‘At least,’ I thought, ‘you’ll have to break up that nest and shift the goose.’ But I am calmer than I used to be, and I kept clear of the situation. As I say, things work out.”

– EB White, “A Shepard’s Life”