Elbert Hubbard

American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher

Elbert Green Hubbard (19 June 18567 May 1915) was an American writer, publisher, artist, businessman, anarchist and libertarian socialist philosopher. He was an influential exponent of the Arts and Crafts movement, founding the Roycroft enterprises. He and his wife Alice Moore Hubbard died in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.

I believe in my own divinity — and yours.


Never explain — your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyhow.
The sea is the union of all infinite particles, and it takes the whole to make the one.
The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.
Freedom cannot be bestowed — it must be achieved.
  • Genius is often only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it — so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business sometimes prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.
    • As quoted from Electrical Review (c. 1895) without further attribution in The Search for the North Pole (1896) by Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, p. 520, this was later published as part of various works by Hubbard, including FRA Magazine : A Journal of Affirmation (1915), and An American Bible (1918) edited by Alice Hubbard. A portion of this was once misattributed to Amelia J Calver in The Manifesto (January 1896) by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (Shakers), p. 184, and more recently to Kin Hubbard at some sites on the internet.
  • Most Authors cringe and flatter and Fish for compliments. If they fail to get Applause, they say the World is a Scurvy Place and those who dwell therein a Dirty Lot: if they succeed, they give thanks to Nobody, saying they got only what their Meritt entitles them to. But I rather like the World. The Flesh is pleasing and the Devil does not trouble me.
  • Every man should have a college education in order to show him how little the thing is really worth. The intellectual kings of the earth have seldom been college-bred.
    • Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Painters‎ (1899), p. 186
  • There is something that is much more scarce, something finer far, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability. The sternest comment that can be made against employers as a class lies in the fact that men of Ability usually succeed in showing their worth in spite of their employer, and not with his assistance and encouragement.
    • The Philistine magazine, August 1901
    • "The Crying Need", in A Message to Garcia, and Thirteen Other Things (1901), p. 163
  • Never explain — your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyhow.
    • The Motto Book (1907)
  • Freedom cannot be bestowed — it must be achieved.
    • Elbert Hubbard, in his essay on Booker T. Washington in Little Journeys For 1908, p. 21; Franklin D. Roosevelt later used this line on the occasion of the 74th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: "In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved".
  • Life is just one damn thing after another.
    • Attributed in Items of Interest, Vol. 33 (1911), p. 8
  • It is not to be wondered that men have worshiped the ocean, for in his depths they have seen mirrored the image of Eternity — of Infinity. Here they have seen the symbol of God's great plan of oneness with His creatures, for the sea is the union of all infinite particles, and it takes the whole to make the one.
    • "The Sea" in The Philosophy of Elbert Hubbard (1916), p. 169
  • Anyone who idolizes you is going to hate you when he discovers that you are fallible. He never forgives. He has deceived himself, and he blames you for it.
    • An American Bible (1918) edited by Alice Hubbard
  • Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing, and you'll never be criticized.
    • "John North Willys", in Elbert Hubbard's Selected Writings, Part 2 (1922), p. 335
  • Responsibilities gravitate to the person who can shoulder them.
    • "J.B. Runs Things," Short Stories and Index: Elbert Hubbard's Selected Writings, Part 14 (1923), p. 278
  • If you want work well done, select a busy man ‚ the other kind has no time.
    • The Note Book (1927)
  • Some one has said that we are moving so fast that when plans are being made to perform some great feat, these plans are broken into by a youth who enters and says, "I have done it."
    • Heart-to-Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, The Philistine magazine, May 1913
    • Variant: The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.
      • As quoted in The Treasury of Humorous Quotations (1951) by Evan Esar, p. 103
    • Variant: In these days, a man who says a thing cannot be done is quite apt to be interrupted by some idiot doing it.
      • As quoted in More Random Walks In Science : An Anthology (1982) by Robert L. Weber, p. 109
  • Philosophy rests on a proposition that whatever is is right. Preaching begins by assuming that whatever is is wrong.
  • The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without.

A Message to Garcia (1899)Edit

"A Message to Garcia", first published 22 February 1899, in the March 1899 issue of Philistine
  • The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter & did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing — "Carry a message to Garcia!"
  • If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all?
  • Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds — the man who, against great odds, has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there's nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes. I have carried a dinner pail and worked for day's wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous. My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off" nor has to go on a strike for higher wages.
  • Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals.
    Anything such a man asks shall be granted. He is wanted in every city, town and village — in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed and needed badly — the man who can "Carry a Message to Garcia."

Credo (1901)Edit

As published in A Message to Garcia, and Thirteen Other Things (1901), p. 6
I believe in the Blessed Trinity of Father, Mother and Child.
I believe the only way we can reach the Kingdom of Heaven is to have the Kingdom of Heaven in our hearts.
  • I believe in the Motherhood of God.
    I believe in the Blessed Trinity of Father, Mother and Child.

    I believe that God is here, and that we are as near Him now as ever we shall be.
    I do not believe He started this world a-going and went away and left it to run by itself.
    I believe in the sacredness of the human body, this transient dwelling place of a living soul, And so I deem it the duty of every man and every woman to keep his or her body beautiful through right thinking and right living.
    I believe that the love of man for woman, and the love of woman for man is holy; And that this love in all its promptings is as much an emanation of the Divine Spirit as man's love for God, or the most daring hazards of the human mind.
    I believe in salvation through economic, social, and spiritual freedom.

    I believe John Ruskin, William Morris, Henry Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Leo Tolstoy to be Prophets of God, who should rank in mental reach and spiritual insight with Elijah, Hosea, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.
    I believe that men are inspired to-day as much as ever men were.
    I believe we are now living in Eternity as much as ever we shall.
    I believe that the best way to prepare for a Future Life is to be kind, live one day at a time, and do the work you can do best, doing it as well as you can.

    I believe we should remember the Week-day, to keep it holy.
    I believe there is no devil but fear.
    I believe that no one can harm you but yourself.
    I believe in my own divinity — and yours.
    I believe that we are all sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.
    I believe the only way we can reach the Kingdom of Heaven is to have the Kingdom of Heaven in our hearts.
    I believe in every man minding his own business.
    I believe in sunshine, fresh air, friendship, calm sleep, beautiful thoughts.
    I believe in the paradox of success through failure.
    I believe in the purifying process of sorrow, and I believe that death is a manifestation of life.
    I believe the Universe is planned for good.
    I believe it is possible that I shall make other creeds, and change this one, or add to it, from time to time, as new light may come to me.

The Better Part (1901)Edit

All good men are anarchists. All cultured, kindly men; all gentlemen; all just men are anarchists. Jesus was an anarchist.
"The Better Part" in A Message to Garcia and Thirteen Other Things (1901), pp. 147-155; also in Jesus Was An Anarchist (1910)
The true Anarchist decries all influences save those of love and reason. Ideas are his only arms.
Being an Anarchist I am also a Socialist.
  • I AM an Anarchist.
    All good men are Anarchists.

    All cultured, kindly men; all gentlemen; all just men are Anarchists.
    Jesus was an Anarchist.
    A Monarchist is one who believes a monarch should govern. A Plutocrat believes in the rule of the rich. A Democrat holds that the majority should dictate. An Aristocrat thinks only the wise should decide; while an Anarchist does not believe in government at all. Richard Croker is a Monarchist; Mark Hanna a Plutocrat; Cleveland a Democrat; Cabot Lodge an Aristocrat; William Penn, Henry D. Thoreau, Bronson Alcott and Walt Whitman were Anarchists. An Anarchist is one who minds his own business. An Anarchist does not believe in sending warships across wide oceans to kill brown men, and lay waste rice fields, and burn the homes of people who are fighting for liberty. An Anarchist does not drive women with babes at their breasts and other women with babes unborn, children and old men into the jungle to be devoured by beasts or fever or fear, or die of hunger, homeless, unhouseled and undone.
    Destruction, violence, ravages, murder, are perpetrated by statute law.
  • I believe that brutality tends to defeat itself. Prizefighters die young, gourmands get the gout, hate hurts worse the man who nurses it, and all selfishness robs the mind of its divine insight, and cheats the soul that would know. Mind alone is eternal. He, watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps. My faith is great: out of the transient darkness of the present the shadows will flee away, and Day will yet dawn. I am an Anarchist.
  • No man who believes in force and violence is an Anarchist. The true Anarchist decries all influences save those of love and reason. Ideas are his only arms.
    Being an Anarchist I am also a Socialist.
    Socialism is the antithesis of Anarchy. One is the North Pole of Truth, the other the South. The Socialist believes in working for the good of all, while Anarchy is pure Individualism. I believe in every man working for the good of self; and in working for the good of self, he works for the good of all. To think, to see, to feel, to know; to deal justly; to bear all patiently; to act quietly; to speak cheerfully; to moderate one's voice — these things will bring you the highest good. They will bring you the love of the best, and the esteem of that Sacred Few, whose good opinion alone is worth cultivating. And further than this, it is the best way you can serve Society — live your life. The wise way to benefit humanity is to attend to your own affairs, and thus give other people an opportunity to look after theirs.
    If there is any better way to teach virtue than by practicing it, I do not know it.
    Would you make men better — set them an example. The millenium will never come until governments cease from governing, and the meddler is at rest. Politicians are men who volunteer the task of governing us, for a consideration. The political boss is intent on living off your labor. A man may seek an office in order to do away with the rascal who now occupies it, but for the most part office-seekers are rank rogues. Shakespeare used the word politician five times, and each time it is synonymous with knave. That is to say, a politician is one who sacrifices truth and honor for policy. The highest motive of his life is expediency — policy. In King Lear it is the "scurvy politician," who through tattered clothes beholds small vices, while robes and furred gowns, for him, covers all.
  • Mankind is governed by the worst — the strongest example of this is to be seen in American municipalities, but it is true of every government. We are governed by rogues who hold their grip upon us by and through statute law. Were it not for law the people could protect themselves against these thieves, but now we are powerless and are robbed legally. One mild form of coercion these rogues resort to is to call us unpatriotic when we speak the truth about them. Not long ago they would have cut off our heads. The world moves. Governments cannot be done away with instantaneously, but progress will come, as it has in the past by lessening the number of laws. We want less governing, and the ideal government will arrive when there is no government at all.
    So long as governments set the example of killing their enemies, private individuals will occasionally kill theirs. So long as men are clubbed, robbed, imprisoned, disgraced, hanged by the governing class, just so long will the idea of violence and brutality be born in the souls of men.

A Thousand & One Epigrams: Selected from the Writings of Elbert Hubbard (1911)Edit

Full text online, East Aurora, The Roycrofters, 1911'
  • It takes brains to make money, but any dam fool can inherit. P.S.: I never inherited any money.
    • p. 10
  • The happiest mortals on earth are ladies who have been bereaved by the loss of their husbands.
    • p. 10
  • The sad thing about the optimist is his state of mind concerning himself.
  • Literary people of the opposite sex do not really love each other. All they really desire is to read their manuscript aloud to a receptive listener.
    • p. 11
  • If men could only know each other, they would never either idolize or hate.
    • p. 13
  • Too often the reformer has been one who caused the rich to band themselves against the poor.
    • p. 14
  • And the worst part about making a soldier of a man is not that a soldier kills brown men or white men, but that the soldier loses his own soul.
    • p. 15
  • Good people are only half as good, and bad people only half as bad, as other people regard them.
    • p. 16
  • If we ever damned it will not be because we have loved too much, but because we have loved too little.
    • p. 16
  • Every spirit makes his own house, but as afterwards the house confines its spirit, you had better build well.
    • p. 16
  • "Should we have an Eleventh Commandment?" asked a youth of the Greatest Living Actress. "Most assuredly, no - we have ten too many now!" answered the divine Sara.
    • p. 17
  • I believe more in the goodness of bad people than i do in the badness of good people.
    • p. 18
  • A Miracle: An event described by those to whom it was told by men who did not see it.
    • p. 30; this has also appeared in recent years in paraphrased form as "A miracle is an event described by those to whom it was told by people who did not see it."
  • Life is a compromise between fate and free will.
    • p. 36
  • It is the weak man who urges compromise—never the strong man.
    • p. 52
  • Do not take life too seriously – you will never get out of it alive.
    • p. 74
  • One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
    • p. 151

Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great (1916)Edit

There have always existed three ways of keeping the people loving and loyal. One is to leave them alone, to trust them and not to interfere. This plan, however, has very seldom been practised…
Full text online
  • There have always existed three ways of keeping the people loving and loyal. One is to leave them alone, to trust them and not to interfere. This plan, however, has very seldom been practised, because the politicians regard the public as a cow to be milked, and something must be done to make it stand quiet.
    So they try Plan Number Two, which consists in hypnotizing the public by means of shows, festivals, parades, prizes and many paid speeches, sermons and editorials, wherein and whereby the public is told how much is being done for it, and how fortunate it is in being protected and wisely cared for by its divinely appointed guardians. Then the band strikes up, the flags are waved, three passes are made, one to the right and two to the left; and we, being completely under the hypnosis, hurrah ourselves hoarse.
    Plan Number Three is a very ancient one and is always held back to be used in case Number Two fails. It is for the benefit of the people who do not pass readily under hypnotic control. If there are too many of these, they have been known to pluck up courage and answer back to the speeches, sermons and editorials. Sometimes they refuse to hurrah when the bass-drum plays, in which case they have occasionally been arrested for contumacy and contravention by stocky men, in wide-awake hats, who lead the strenuous life. This Plan Number Three provides for an armed force that shall overawe, if necessary, all who are not hypnotized. The army is used for two purposes — to coerce disturbers at home, and to get up a war at a distance, and thus distract attention from the troubles near at hand. Napoleon used to say that the only sure cure for internal dissension was a foreign war: this would draw the disturbers away, on the plea of patriotism, so they would win enough outside loot to satisfy them, or else they would all get killed, it really didn't matter much; and as for loot, if it was taken from foreigners, there was no sin.
    A careful analyst might here say that Plan Number Three is only a variation of Plan Number Two — the end being gained by hypnotic effects in either event, for the army is conscripted from the people to use against the people, just as you turn steam from a boiler into the fire-box to increase the draft. ...

The Roycraft Dictionary and Book of Epigrams (1923)Edit

  • Experience is the name everyone gives to his mistakes.
  • Wealth: A cunning device of Fate whereby men are made captive, and burdened with responsibilites from which only Death can file their fetters.
  • A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in the experience.
  • An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.
  • If your religion does not change you, then you had better change your religion.
  • Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes a day. Wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit.

The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927)Edit

The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard: Mottoes, Epigrams, Short Essays, Passages, Orphic Sayings and Preachments (1927)
It is only life and love that give love and life.
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.
The ineffable joy of forgiving and being forgiven forms an ecstasy that might well arouse the envy of the gods.
  • If you err it is not for me to punish you. We are punished by our sins not for them.
    • p. 12
    • in The Note Book, Kessinger Publishing (reprint 1998) ISBN 0766104168, 9780766104167
  • It is only life and love that give love and life.
    • p. 40
  • Young women with ambitions should be very crafty and cautious, lest mayhap they be caught in the soft, silken mesh of a happy marriage, and go down to oblivion, dead to the world.
    • p. 54
  • I have no perfect panacea for human ills. And even if I had I would not attempt to present a system of philosophy between the soup and fish, but this much I will say: The distinctively modern custom of marital bundling is the doom of chivalry and death of passion. It wears all tender sentiment to a napless warp, and no wonder is it that the novelist, without he has a seared and bitter heart, hesitates to follow the couple beyond the church door. There is no greater reproach to our civilization than the sight of men joking the boy whose heart is pierced by the first rays of a life-giving sun, or of our expecting a girl to blush because she is twice God's child today she was yesterday.
    • p. 57
  • The great Big Black Things that have loomed against the horizon of my life, threatening to devour me, simply loomed and nothing more. The things that have really made me miss my train have always been sweet, soft, pretty, pleasant things of which I was not in the least afraid.
    • p. 61
  • To supply a thought is mental massage; but to evolve a thought of your own is an achievement. Thinking is a brain exercise — and no faculty grows save as it is exercised.
    • p. 64
  • Do not go out of your way to do good whenever it comes your way. Men who make a business of doing good to others are apt to hate others in the same occupation. Simply be filled with the thought of good, and it will radiate — you do not have to bother about it, any more than you need trouble about your digestion.
    • p. 71
  • Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.
    • p. 112
  • The newspapers print what the people want, and thus does the savage still swing his club and flourish his spear.
    • p. 142
  • I am not sure just what the unpardonable sin is, but I believe it is a disposition to evade the payment of small bills.
    • p. 146
  • Do not dump your woes upon people — keep the sad story of your life to yourself. Troubles grow by recounting them.
    • p. 156
  • Men who marry for gratification, propagation or the matter of buttons or socks, must expect to cope with and deal in a certain amount of quibble, subterfuge, concealments, and double, deep-dyed prevarication.
    • p. 159
  • When you see a tomcat with his whiskers full of feathers, do not say "Canary!" — he'll take offense.
    • p. 159
  • Academic education is the act of memorizing things read in books, and things told by college professors who got their education mostly by memorizing things read in books.
    • p. 160
  • Literature is the noblest of all the arts. Music dies on the air, or at best exists only as a memory; oratory ceases with the effort; the painter's colors fade and the canvas rots; the marble is dragged from its pedestal and is broken into fragments.
    • p. 170
  • A pessimist is a man who has been compelled to live with an optimist.
  • Life without absorbing occupation is hell — joy consists in forgetting life.
  • Making men live in three worlds at once — past, present and future has been the chief harm organized religion has done.
  • Our admiration is so given to dead martyrs that we have little time for living heroes.
  • Perfume; Any smell that is used to drown a worse one.
  • Respectability is the dickey on the bosom of civilization.
  • There is no such thing as success in a bad business.
  • The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.
  • The ineffable joy of forgiving and being forgiven forms an ecstasy that might well arouse the envy of the gods.
  • The way to learn to earn a living is to go at it and earn a living.
  • To remain on earth you must be useful, otherwise Nature regards you as old metal, and is only watching for a chance to melt you over.
  • Why not be a top-notcher? A top-notcher is simply an individual who works for the institution of which he is a part, not against it.
  • Woman's inaptitude for reasoning has not prevented her from arriving at truth; nor has man's ability to reason prevented him from floundering in absurdity.

Quotes about HubbardEdit

Well, Jack, they have got us. They are a damn sight worse than I ever thought they were.
There does not seem to be anything to do.
  • I can not say specifically where your father and Mrs. Hubbard were when the torpedoes hit, but I can tell you just what happened after that. They emerged from their room, which was on the port side of the vessel, and came on to the boat-deck.
    Neither appeared perturbed in the least. Your father and Mrs. Hubbard linked arms — the fashion in which they always walked the deck — and stood apparently wondering what to do. I passed him with a baby which I was taking to a lifeboat when he said, "Well, Jack, they have got us. They are a damn sight worse than I ever thought they were."
    They did not move very far away from where they originally stood. As I moved to the other side of the ship, in preparation for a jump when the right moment came, I called to him, "What are you going to do?" and he just shook his head, while Mrs. Hubbard smiled and said, "There does not seem to be anything to do."
    The expression seemed to produce action on the part of your father, for then he did one of the most dramatic things I ever saw done. He simply turned with Mrs. Hubbard and entered a room on the top deck, the door of which was open, and closed it behind him.
    It was apparent that his idea was that they should die together, and not risk being parted on going into the water.
    • Ernest C. Cowper, a survivor of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, in a letter to Hubbard's son Elbert Hubbard II (12 March 1916), published in Selected Writings of Elbert Hubbard : His Mintage of Wisdom, Coined from a Life of Love, Laughter and Work (1922)
  • I think of what Elbert Hubbard said. It struck me rather strangely the other day. He said: "If you are going to reform the world you had better begin with yourself, and there will be one rogue less in the world." Of course, I did not want to apply that to myself, but I would not object to applying it to you.

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