Last modified on 2 November 2014, at 15:20

O. Henry

Not very long ago some one invented the assertion that there were only "Four Hundred" people in New York City who were really worth noticing. But a wiser man has arisen — the census taker...

O. Henry (September 11, 1862June 5, 1910) was the pen name of William Sydney Porter, a short-story writer famous for his use of twist endings.

QuotesEdit

What is the world at its best but a little round field of the moving pictures with two walking together in it?
Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
There are a few editor men with whom I am privileged to come in contact. It has not been long since it was their habit to come in contact with me. There is a difference.
I have heard of you all my life. I know now what a scourge you have been to your country. Instead of killing fools you have been murdering the youth and genius that are necessary to make a people live and grow great.
Man is too thoroughly an egoist not to be also an egotist; if he love, the object shall know it. During a lifetime he may conceal it through stress of expediency and honour, but it shall bubble from his dying lips, though it disrupt a neighbourhood. It is known, however, that most men do not wait so long to disclose their passion.
It ain't the roads we take; it's what's inside of us that makes us turn out the way we do.
  • What is the world at its best but a little round field of the moving pictures with two walking together in it?
  • Perhaps there is no happiness in life so perfect as the martyr's.
  • Turn up the lights — I don't want to go home in the dark.
    • Last words, quoting a 1907 song by Harry Williams. (5 June 1910) Quoted in O. Henry Biography, ch. 9, Charles Alphonso Smith (1916).
  • A burglar who respects his art always takes his time before taking anything else.
    • “Makes the Whole World Kin,” Sixes and Sevens (1911)
  • A straw vote only shows which way the hot air blows.
  • Take it from me — he's got the goods.
    • "The Unprofitable Servant"

The Four Million (1906)Edit

Full text online
  • Not very long ago some one invented the assertion that there were only "Four Hundred" people in New York City who were really worth noticing. But a wiser man has arisen — the census taker — and his larger estimate of human interest has been preferred in marking out the field of these little stories of the "Four Million."
    • Preface
  • There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
    • "The Gift of the Magi"
  • The magi, as you know, were wise men — wonderfully wise men — who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
    • "The Gift of the Magi"
  • If man knew how women pass the time when they are alone, they’d never marry.
    • "Memoirs of a Yellow Dog"

The Trimmed Lamp (1907)Edit

The Trimmed Lamp And Other Stories of the Four Million - Full text online
  • Whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent from the curative power of medicines.
  • The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey.
    • "The Last Leaf"
  • Bohemia is nothing more than the little country in which you do not live. If you try to obtain citizenship in it, at once the court and retinue pack the royal archives and treasure and move away beyond the hills.
    • "The Country of Elusion"

The Voice of the City (1908)Edit

The Voice of the City : Further Stories of the Four Million - Full text online
  • There are a few editor men with whom I am privileged to come in contact. It has not been long since it was their habit to come in contact with me. There is a difference.
  • In time truth and science and nature will adapt themselves to art. Things will happen logically, and the villain be discomfited instead of being elected to the board of directors. But in the meantime fiction must not only be divorced from fact, but must pay alimony and be awarded custody of the press despatches.
    • "The Plutonian Fire"
  • He wrote love stories, a thing I have always kept free from, holding the belief that the well-known and popular sentiment is not properly matter for publication, but something to be privately handled by the alienist and the florist.
    • "The Plutonian Fire"
  • I hated Kerner, and one day I met him and we became friends. He was young and gloriously melancholy because his spirits were so high and life had so much in store for him. Yes, he was almost riotously sad. That was his youth. When a man begins to be hilarious in a sorrowful way you can bet a million that he is dyeing his hair.
    • "The Fool-Killer"
  • Kerner's father was worth a couple of millions. He was willing to stand for art, but he drew the line at the factory girl. So Kerner disinherited his father and walked out to a cheap studio and lived on sausages for breakfast and on Farroni for dinner.
    • "The Fool-Killer"
  • I know you. I have heard of you all my life. I know now what a scourge you have been to your country. Instead of killing fools you have been murdering the youth and genius that are necessary to make a people live and grow great. You are a fool yourself, Holmes; you began killing off the brightest and best of our countrymen three generations ago, when the old and obsolete standards of society and honor and orthodoxy were narrow and bigoted. You proved that when you put your murderous mark upon my friend Kerner — the wisest chap I ever knew in my life.
    • "The Fool-Killer"
  • Broadway — the great sluice that washes out the dust of the gold-mines of Gotham.
    • "From Each According to His Ability"

The Gentle Grafter (1908)Edit

Full text online
  • It was beautiful and simple as all truly great swindles are.
    • "The Octopus Marooned"
  • Busy as a one-armed man with the nettle-rash pasting on wallpaper.
    • "The Ethics of Pig"
  • She is pale but affectionate, clinging to his arm — always clinging to his arm. Any one can see that she is a peach and of the cling variety.
  • If ever there was an aviary overstocked with jays it is that Yaptown-on-the-Hudson, called New York.
    • "A Tempered Wind"

Roads of Destiny (1909)Edit

Full text online
  • History is bright and fiction dull with homely men who have charmed women.
    • "Next to Reading Matter"
  • You can't appreciate home till you've left it, money till it's spent, your wife till she's joined a women's club, nor Old Glory till you see it hanging on a broomstick on the shanty of a consul in a foreign town.
    • "The Fourth in Salvador"

Strictly Business (1910)Edit

Strictly Business: More Stories of the Four Million - Full text online
  • She plucked from my lapel the invisible strand of lint (the universal act of woman to proclaim ownership).
    • "A Ramble in Aphasia"
  • A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience.
    • "The Gold that Glittered"
  • East is East, and West is San Francisco, according to Californians. Californians are a race of people; they are not merely inhabitants of a State.
    • "A Municipal Report"
  • Take of London fog 30 parts; malaria 10 parts, gas leaks 20 parts, dewdrops gathered in a brickyard at sunrise 25 parts; odor of honeysuckle 15 parts. Mix. The mixture will give you an approximate conception of a Nashville drizzle.
    • "A Municipal Report"

Whirligigs (1910)Edit

Full text online
  • It couldn't have happened anywhere but in little old New York.
    • "A Little Local Color"
  • Man is too thoroughly an egoist not to be also an egotist; if he love, the object shall know it. During a lifetime he may conceal it through stress of expediency and honour, but it shall bubble from his dying lips, though it disrupt a neighbourhood. It is known, however, that most men do not wait so long to disclose their passion. In the case of Lorison, his particular ethics positively forbade him to declare his sentiments, but he must needs dally with the subject, and woo by innuendo at least.
    • "Blind Man's Holiday"
  • Bolivar cannot carry double
    • "The Roads We Take"
  • It ain't the roads we take; it's what's inside of us that makes us turn out the way we do.
    • "The Roads We Take"

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