One has not great hopes from Birmingham. I always say there is something direful in the sound.
—Jane Austen (1775–1817) English Novelist
Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.
—E. B. White (1985–99) American Essayist, Humorist
A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.
—Aristotle (384BCE–322BCE) Ancient Greek Philosopher, Scholar
New York is an exciting town where something is happening all the time, most unsolved.
—Johnny Carson (1925–2005) American Comedian
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.
—Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) American Author, Journalist, Short Story Writer
The immense cities lie basking on the beaches of the continent like whales that have taken to the land.
—Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) British Historian
If you would be known, and not know, vegetate in a village; if you would know, and not be known, live in a city.
—Charles Caleb Colton (c.1780–1832) English Clergyman, Aphorist
City life is millions of people being lonesome together.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) American Philosopher
As the streets that lead from the Strand to the Embankment are very narrow, it is better not to walk down them arm-in-arm. If you persist, lawyers
—Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) English Novelist
I have never felt salvation in nature. I love cities above all.
—Michelangelo (1475–1564) Italian Painter, Sculptor, Architect, Poet, Engineer
No city should be too large for a man to walk out of in a morning.
—Cyril Connolly (1903–74) British Literary Critic, Writer
There is a time of life somewhere between the sullen fugues of adolescence and the retrenchments of middle age when human nature becomes so absolutely absorbing one wants to be in the city constantly, even at the height of summer.
—Edward Hoagland (b.1932) American Essayist, Novelist
The city is an epitome of the social world.—All the belts of civilization intersect along its avenues.—It contains the products of every moral zone and is cosmopolitan, not only in a national, but in a moral and spiritual sense.
—Edwin Hubbell Chapin (1814–80) American Preacher, Poet
The crime problem in New York is getting really serious. The other day the Statue of Liberty had both hands up.
—Jay Leno (b.1950) American Comedian, TV Personality
When in Rome, do as Rome does.
—Ambrose Bierce (1842–1913) American Short-story Writer, Journalist
I have found by experience, that they who have spent all their lives in cities, contract not only an effeminacy of habit, but of thinking.
—Oliver Goldsmith (1730–74) Irish Novelist, Playwright, Poet
The city is not a concrete jungle. It is a human zoo.
—Desmond Morris (b.1928) English Ethologist, Writer
As a remedy to life in society I would suggest the big city. Nowadays, it is the only desert within our means.
—Albert Camus (1913–60) Algerian-born French Philosopher, Dramatist, Essayist, Novelist, Author
The city is loveliest when the sweet death racket begins. Her own life lived in defiance of nature, her electricity, her frigidaires, her soundproof walls, the glint of lacquered nails, the plumes that wave across the corrugated sky. Here in the coffin depths grow the everlasting flowers sent by telegraph.
—Henry Miller (1891–1980) American Novelist
I wanted to get out and walk southward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) American Novelist
Who goes to Rome a beast returns a beast.
All things atrocious and shameless flock from all parts to Rome.
—Tacitus (56–117) Roman Orator, Historian
The cities of America are inexpressibly tedious. The Bostonians take their learning too sadly; culture with them is an accomplishment rather than an atmosphere; their Hub, as they call it, is the paradise of prigs. Chicago is a sort of monster-shop, full of bustles and bores. Political life at Washington is like political life in a suburban vestry. Baltimore is amusing for a week, but Philadelphia is dreadfully provincial; and though one can dine in New York one could not dwell there.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet, Playwright
There is more sophistication and less sense in New York than anywhere else on the globe.
—Don Herold (1889–1966) American Humorist, Writer, Illustrator, Cartoonist
I look upon those pitiful concretions of lime and clay which spring up, in mildewed forwardness, out of the kneaded fields about our capital… not merely with the careless disgust of an offended eye, not merely with sorrow for a desecrated landscape, but with a painful foreboding that the roots of our national greatness must be deeply cankered when they are thus loosely struck in their native ground. The crowded tenements of a struggling and restless population differ only from the tents of the Arab or the Gipsy by their less healthy openness to the air of heaven, and less happy choice of their spot of earth; by their sacrifice of liberty without the gain of rest, and of stability without the luxury of change.
—John Ruskin (1819–1900) English Writer, Art Critic
The catalogue of forms is endless: until every shape has found its city, new cities will continue to be born. When the forms exhaust their variety and come apart, the end of cities begins.
—Italo Calvino (1923–85) Italian Novelist, Essayist, Journalist
When a village ceases to be a community, it becomes oppressive in its narrow conformity. So one becomes an individual and migrates to the city. There, finding others like-minded, one re-establishes a village community. Nowadays only New Yorkers are yokels.
—Paul Goodman (1911–72) American Novelist, Essayist
Prepare for death, if here at night you roam, and sign your will before you sup from home.
—Samuel Johnson (1709–84) British Essayist
The conditions of city life may be made healthy, so far as the physical constitution is concerned.—But there is connected with the business of the city so much competition, so much rivalry, so much necessity for industry, that I think it is a perpetual, chronic, wholesale violation of natural law.—There are ten men that can succeed in the country, where there is one that can succeed in the city.
—Henry Ward Beecher (1813–87) American Clergyman, Writer
We do not look in our great cities for our best morality.
—Jane Austen (1775–1817) English Novelist
Towns oftener swamp one than carry one out onto the big ocean of life.
—D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930) English Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Essayist, Literary Critic
A city is a place where there is no need to wait for next week to get the answer to a question, to taste the food of any country, to find new voices to listen to and familiar ones to listen to again.
—Margaret Mead (1901–78) American Anthropologist, Social Psychologist
New York now leads the world’s great cities in the number of people around whom you shouldn’t make a sudden move.
—David Letterman (b.1947) American TV Personality, Comedian
If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.
—Alphonse de Lamartine (1790–1869) French Poet, Politician, Historian
Washington is no place for a good actor. The competition from bad actors is too great.
—Fred Allen (1894–1956) American Humorist, Radio Personality
The screech and mechanical uproar of the big city turns the citified head, fills citified ears—as the song of birds, wind in the trees, animal cries, or as the voices and songs of his loved ones once filled his heart. He is sidewalk-happy.
—Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) American Architect
A great city, whose image dwells in the memory of man, is the type of some great idea. Rome represents conquest; Faith hovers over the towers of Jerusalem; and Athens embodies the pre-eminent quality of the antique world, Art.
—Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) American Political Leader, Inventor, Diplomat
Boston is a moral and intellectual nursery always busy applying first principals to trifles.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish-American Poet, Philosopher
How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn’t love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.
—Toni Morrison (1931–2019) American Novelist, Editor, Academic
We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.
—John F. Kennedy (1917–63) American Head of State, Journalist
Thus I began my systematic though half-bewildered tour of Innsmouth’s narrow, shadow-blighted ways. Crossing the bridge and turning toward the roar of the lower falls, I passed close to the Marsh refinery, which seemed to be oddly free from the noise of industry. The building stood on the steep river bluff near a bridge and an open confluence of streets which I took to be the earliest civic center, displaced after the Revolution by the present Town Square.
—H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) American Science-fiction Writer
New York, the nation’s thyroid gland.
—Christopher Morley (1890–1957) American Novelist, Essayist
A neighborhood is a residential area that is changing for the worse.
—John Ciardi (1916–86) American Poet, Teacher, Etymologist, Translator
In the small town each citizen had done something in his own way to build the community. The town booster had a vision of the future which he tried to fulfill. The suburb dweller by contrast started with the future.
—Daniel J. Boorstin (1914–2004) American Historian, Academic, Attorney, Writer
A large city cannot be experientially known; its life is too manifold for any individual to be able to participate in it.
—Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) English Humanist, Pacifist, Essayist, Short Story Writer, Satirist
The cities of the world are concentric, isomorphic, synchronic. Only one exists and you are always in the same one. It’s the effect of their permanent revolution, their intense circulation, their instantaneous magnetism.
—Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007) French Sociologist, Philosopher
America is a nation with no truly national city, no Paris, no Rome, no London, no city which is at once the social center, the political capital, and the financial hub.
—C. Wright Mills (1916–62) American Sociologist, Academic
Just as language has no longer anything in common with the thing it names, so the movements of most of the people who live in cities have lost their connection with the earth; they hang, as it were, in the air, hover in all directions, and find no place where they can settle.
—Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) Austrian Poet
Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.
—Daniel Webster (1782–1852) American Statesman, Lawyer
Country people tend to consider that they have a corner on righteousness and to distrust most manifestations of cleverness, while people in the city are leery of righteousness but ascribe to themselves all manner of cleverness.
—Edward Hoagland (b.1932) American Essayist, Novelist