E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1952)

We read a news story the other day telling about the withdrawal of a group of young atomic scientists from the world. …they vanished into the swirling mists of secrecy. It gave us quite a turn, secrecy being the slow death of science, purity its most debilitating quality. Science can’t possibly serve people well till it belongs openly to all and associates itself with wisdom and sense—those contaminating but healthful influences.

“Hot Pipes”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1969)

Like every great river and every great sea, the moon belongs to none and belongs to all. … What a pity that in our moment of triumph we did not forswear the familiar Iwo Jima scene and plant instead a device acceptable to all: a limp white handkerchief, perhaps, symbol of the common cold, which, like the moon, affects us all, unites us all.

“Moon Landing”


E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1959)

Being the friend of writers, artists, and scientists has its tense moments, but on the whole it has been a good life, and I have no regrets. I think probably it’s more fun being a friend of writers and artists in America than in the Soviet Union, because you don’t know in advance what they’re up to. It’s such fun wondering what they’re going to say next.

“Khrushchev and I”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1937)

Somewhere a peasant saves his broken spade for the government collector; somewhere a bride melts down her wedding ring for God and country; somewhere someone’s old family sedan goes to its great adventure. The iron we could not quite destroy will serve destruction yet. Scrap iron, scrap steel, scrap gold. Scrap life.

“Scrap Iron”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1953)

Our private feeling about newspapers is a mixed one. Surely ninety per cent of all so-called news is old stuff–some of it two and three thousand years old. And surely ninety per cent of everything we read today is discouraging stuff, whether newsy or not. So the breakfast hour is the hour when we sit munching stale discouragement along with fresh toast. Except for one thing, we could take a newspaper or leave it alone. If we felt confident that liberty was secure and that democracy would remain in good health without assistance from its many admirers, we could do without a newspaper quite handily. … Nothing much happens from day to day. … But city dwellers without newspapers breathe an ominous air, as though the smog were descending. Liberty is not secure. Democracy does not thrive unassisted. And so, for love of these, we all swallow our bulletins at breakfast along with our marmalade.

“Newspaper Strike”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1948)

Halfway down the shaft of light is a caption that says, “And a voice was heard in the land.” The question that naturally arises, of course, is whether this land wants a voice. …

Mr. Wallace has had a great deal to say about the infirmities and the unfairness of the American press, and we have taken most of his remarks lying down. He keeps saying that you can’t learn the truth from the papers. We agree. You can’t learn the truth from the papers. You can, however, buy at any newsstand a ten-cent assortment of biassed and unbiassed facts and fancies and reports and opinions, and from them you are allowed to try to assemble something that is a reasonable facsimile of the truth. And that’s the way we like it, too. … We think it entirely fair to remind the Businessmen of the most recent case where a voice was heard in a land. The voice was heard, the light came straight down from above, you could learn the Truth from the papers–and the land is now under a four-power military government.

“A Voice Heard in the Land”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1948)

The liberal holds that he is true to the republic when he is true to himself. (It may not be as cozy an attitude as it sounds.) He greets with enthusiasm the fact of the journey, as a dog greets a man’s invitation to take a walk. And he acts in the dog’s way, too, swinging wide, racing ahead, doubling back, covering many miles of territory that the man never traverses, all in the spirit of inquiry and the zest for truth. … When the two of them get home and flop down, it is the liberal–the wide-ranging dog–who is covered with burdocks and with information of a special sort on out-of-the-way places. Often ineffective in direct political action, he is the opposite of the professional revolutionary, for, unlike the latter, he never feels he knows where the truth lies, but is full of rich memories of places he has glimpsed it in. He is, on the whole, more optimistic than the revolutionary, or even the Republican in a good year.