The Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature

atkins-bookshelf-literatureWhile the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest recognizes the worst sentences in the world, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the editors of BuzzFeed recently asked their readers to share what they consider to be the most beautiful sentences in literature. Here is a selection of entries from authors old and new (in no particular order):

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)”

At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.” (Willa Cather, My Antonia)

“In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.” (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich)

“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.” (Kate Chopin, The Awakening)

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” (J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”)

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart; I am, I am, I am.” (Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar)

“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” (Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

“The curves of your lips rewrite history.” (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray)

“A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” (John Steinbeck, East of Eden)

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (William Shakespeare, Hamlet)

“Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” (T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)

“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.” (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner)

“We cross our bridges as we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and the presumption that once our eyes watered.” (Tom Stoppard, Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead)

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Most Famous Quotations in British Literature
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For further reading:

Most Famous Quotations in British Literature

Charles Dickens wrote over 34 books and hundreds of articles for his magazines. Many of his novels are major works — 11 of them exceed 800 pages in length — but he is more recognized for the shorter novels: A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations. Because most of his novels have never been out of print, many of the lines spoken by his colorful and memorable characters have become some of the most recognized quotations in British literature:

1. “God bless us, everyone” from A Christmas Carol

2. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” from A Tale of Two Cities

3. “Please, sir, I want some more” from Oliver Twist

For further reading: A Dab of Dickens and a Touch of Twain by Elliot Engel, Pocket Books (2002).