The Best and Most Inspiring Jack London Quotes

Jack London was a hardworking author, journalist, and tragic celebrity of the late 1800s. One of his most notable works is The Call Of The Wild which tells the story about Buck, an abused dog who comes to love humans because they were kinder than its previous owners yet also learns that there is still good in humanity despite all their faults. London’s quotes are meant to inspire readers with hope and optimism even during times when it feels like there isn’t any light left at the end of the tunnel.,

The “jack london quotes meaning” is a collection of the best and most inspiring Jack London quotes. The quotes are about life, love, and being strong.

Plato believed that the soul of man might be likened to a chariot, and that it was made up of three parts: a dark horse representing appetites, a white horse representing thumos, and a charioteer who served to keep the two dissimilar steeds in balance.

Thumos is the most difficult of the three aspects of the soul for us moderns to fathom. It was considered important to andreia, or manliness, by the ancient Greeks, although no modern term comes close to describing it. It was a multi-faceted power that even the Greeks understood as the “seat of life.” Thumos was a wellspring of passion, especially righteous rage directed not just at one’s opponents, but also against oneself for failing to live up to one’s own beliefs and code of honor. Thumos was the elixir of action and the zeal that drove a man to battle, defend his honor, rise to the top of his profession, and leave a legacy. It was also the home of a man’s philosophical code — a discernment matrix through which he considered options and made judgments. Thumos represented a man’s zeal, his inner fire.

Though thumos is difficult to grasp in the abstract, it is simple to detect when it is embodied, and no one has personified it more than Jack London in contemporary times.

London, affectionately known as “the wolf,” would constantly remind his pals that “we are dying, cell by cell, every minute of our existence.” As a result, he was resolved to make the most of every day he had. “The captaincy of his own talents” was a source of pride for London, who believed that “satisfaction with present things is damnation.” He referred to his life’s journey as a “adventure road,” and he was always on the lookout for “the tang of living.”

As a result, London worked at a cannery, an electrical plant, and a laundry facility as a young man, learned to sail, became an oyster pirate, crossed the Pacific aboard a seal-hunting schooner, and went gold-hunting in the Klondike. He had seen and done more than 99 percent of men will in their lives by the age of 22.

London also read voraciously, undertook a comprehensive autodidactic education, taught himself to write, and went on to become a successful novelist, penning masterpieces such as Call of the Wild and White Fang, as well as 20 more novels, 200 short stories, and 400 non-fiction works.

London enjoyed both the ruggedness of his physique and the clarity of his intellect; he had “a prizefighter’s jaw and philosopher’s forehead” — the “instincts of a caveman and ambitions of a poet,” as The San Francisco Examiner described it. He was described by his wife as a “amazing creature both as a Doer and a Thinker.”

London was always on the lookout for “primordial vitality of life.” Given that his creed said that he’d “rather be ashes than dust,” it’s no surprise that he burnt out like a fiery comet and died young. Despite the fact that he never gained a good grip on his “black horse” and flogged the white one too hard, the pure intensity of his thumos might be a wonderful encouragement to contemporary men who are frequently caught in a funk and have limited access to their own thumos.

 

We’ve already published a series on how London’s existence reflected the energy of thumos, which I strongly suggest you read. Today, we’ll let London speak for himself about his fiery personality. Below is a list of Jack London’s quotations, each of which touches on a distinct facet of thumos. When you’re restless and weary of floating through life, read a handful of these books; they’ll give you a kick in the pants and a fire in your belly. 

Living with zeal

Jack london quote about romance and adventure.

“And who knows what Romance, Adventure, or Love awaits us around the next bend in the road, waiting to spring out on us if we just journey that far?” –March 26, 1914, inscription on George Sterling’s copy of The Road

“Have you made it this far?” So, what do you have to show for it? Investing in stocks and bonds, as well as homes and servants–pouf! Is that all there is to it? A healthy heart and arteries, as well as a steady hand? Have you lived only for the sake of living? Were you scared about dying? I’d rather sing one wild song and break my heart with it than watch my stomach for a thousand years and be terrified of the rain.” –Chapter V of Tasman’s Turtles

“I am conscious that I am carrying a skeleton inside this crumbling body that has been dying since I was born; that behind the shell of flesh that is my face is a skeletal, noseless death’s head.” All of this does not make me shiver. It is good to be terrified. “The fear of death is the source of life.” —Chapter XXXVI, John Barleycorn

“In a way, life is about surviving and living.” And anything that makes it possible to live and survive is good.” —Chapter XXV of The Kenpton-Wace Letters 

“The only way to understand life is to not ignore it.” –August 25, 1915, letter to Joan London

“Adventure is priceless.” –The Road, “Pictures”

 “Why not get started right away?” None of us would ever be younger.” –From The Cruise of the Snark’s Foreword

“Mankind is my passion, and the pursuit of potentiality and realizing it is my pastime.” –December 27, 1899, letter to Anna Strunsky

“After all, there’s nothing like life; and I, for one, have always stood, and will always stand, for the exaltation of the life that is in me above Art, or anything else.” –September 4, 1905, letter to Cloudesley Johns

“It’s often a depressing experience to sit and witness a little and petty game being played. One who not only participates in the game, but also sits outside and observes, generally views things in a little and petty manner, and is happy to suffer immediate losses in the knowledge that the final reward is his. It’s so little, so pitifully small, that it can only cause a fleeting glimmer of rage, after which pity reigns supreme, and tolerance without confidence reigns supreme. — Oh, why can’t the men and women of the world see that playing the game in little increments is a losing strategy? When they play against someone who plays in a big manner, they are always condemned to fail.” –1904 letter to Charmian Kittredge

 

“As I reflect on my life, I’ve come to one major conclusion: IT WAS MY REFUSAL TO TAKE CAUTIOUS ADVICE THAT MADE ME.” –March 7, 1907, letter to George P. Brett

“Life reaches its pinnacle when it accomplishes what it was created to do.” –Chapter IV of White Fang

“All I can say is that if my tales are ferocious, then reality is ferocious.” I believe life is powerful, not vicious, and I want to make my tales as powerful as life.” –November 17, 1915, letter to Bessie Weiner

“I promise you, in response to your inquiry, that after having gone through the whole game of life and youth, I am firmly and solemnly persuaded that the game is worth the candle at my current senior age of thirty-nine years.” I’ve had a very fortunate life; I’ve been luckier than many hundreds of millions of men in my time, and although I’ve suffered much, I’ve also lived, seen, and felt things that the typical man hasn’t. Yes, the game is well worth the candle.” –September 21, 1915, letter to Ethelda Hesser

Jack london quote about function of man is to live.

“I’d rather be dust than ashes!” I’d prefer my spark burn out in a dazzling flame than be suffocated by dry-rot. I’d rather be a spectacular meteor, with every particle of me glowing brilliantly, than a drowsy and permanent planet. Man’s purpose is to live, not to exist. I’m not going to squander my days trying to make them last longer. “I’m going to make the most of my time.”

–Jack London’s Credo, The Bulletin, December 2, 1916, San Francisco, California (buy a poster of the credo here)

Fight, Courage, and Resilience

Jack london quote about man without courage.

“To me, the most repulsive thing under the sun is a man without bravery, a travesty on the entire system of creation.” –April 30, 1899, letter to Cloudesley Johns

“As for male cowardice, I can forgive a generation of women’s mistakes much more readily than I can forgive one poltroon of the opposing gender.” –April 22, 1899, letter to Cloudesley Johns

“We won’t be able to avoid it.” It is a fact, an undeniable fact. Fighting is something we like doing. It’s in our DNA.

We are realities in a real world, and if we are to live in accord with the real world, we must accept the reality of our nature and all its thrills, and those who try to get away from these realities, who deny their existence by ukase of the will, succeed only in living in a world of illusion and misunderstanding.” —Dallas Times Herald, July 17, 1910, “Pugilism is an Instinctive Passion of Our Race”

“All evolution, all change, comes from the outside in, not the inside out.” IRRITABILITY is a basic property of all life. In other words, the ability to sense external forces. Life itself is a delicate balance of internal and external forces. When the forces shift from outside, the organism’s balance is thrown off. It may be able to adapt to the altered pressure and hence create a new equilibrium if it is irritable. If it does, it is still alive. It dies if it fails. Life is a state of balance. You would have a constant organism if all of the forces acting on it were constant. There would be no alteration. “There would be no progress.” –December 22, 1900, letter to Cloudesley Johns

 

“Every guy must be able to stand on his own two feet,” I say. –September 15, 1905, letter to Caroline Sterling

“I’d rather be the world heavyweight champion, which I’ll never be, than King of England, President of the United States, or Kaiser of Germany.” –Medford Sun article, August 19, 1911

“He was a murderer, a predator, feeding on the living, unassisted, alone, surviving gloriously in a harsh world where only the strong survive.” —Chapter VII of The Call of the Wild

“It doesn’t matter if the entire present, all I own, is washed away from me – I’ll construct a new present; if I’m left naked and hungry tomorrow – I’ll go on nude and hungry before I give in.” –April 22, 1899, letter to Cloudesley Johns

“Fear encouraged him to return, but development propelled him forward.” –Chapter IV of White Fang

Ambition and Determination 

Jack london quote about sweet spineless souls.

“Hell is filled of sweet, spineless souls who dedicated themselves to sweetness and light… doers are unaffected by sweetness and light and the rest of the complacent soft culture of the non-doers who do not even smell when they die.” –July 19, 1913, letter to Philo M. Buck, Jr.

“You want a shortcut that, for the love of God, I have no knowledge about.” I’d leave writing for a career and go out and earn millions teaching it if I could short-cut guys to such success. If I had a magic recipe for short-cutting, I’d put all the colleges out of business. No, I’ll be damned if I can give you any advice.” –January 26, 1915, letter to Paul Unger

“Work, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK WORK AT ALL TIMES.” –”How to Get Your Book Published,” March 1903, The Editor

Jack london quote about men who act without thinking.

“Please keep in mind that I am discussing the current state of the globe. The world is shaped by guys who act without thinking and those who think and act simultaneously. The world is never molded by a man who thinks but does not act. He may believe he does, but it is only a concept, the notion of a thoughtless, actionless thinker.” –July 19, 1913, letter to Philo M. Buck, Jr.

“I am adamant. I may appear impatient at times for no apparent reason, but as anyone who has had the opportunity to get to know me well knows: things come my way, even if they take years; no one sways me, except in minor matters; I am not stubborn, but I swing to my purpose as steadily as the needle to the pole; delay, evade, oppose, secretly or openly, it makes no difference, the thing comes my way.” –August 10, 1899, letter to Cloudesley Johns

“Success is just this: preserving substance while transforming potential into kinetic.” –”The Problem of a Name,” December 1900, The Writer

Jack london quote about arise or be forever damned.

“Get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up Rather than being one of those slack-souled angels who choose to fry on the coals and not rising, I’d rather be Lucifer who commanded the fallen angels to awaken or be eternally condemned. Anyone can cook and roast, but it takes a man to rise up and fight.” – March 1, 1913, letter to Philo M. Buck, Jr. 

 

“I believe in consistent labor and never wait for inspiration.” I’m not only reckless and irregular, but also sad, but I’ve managed to overcome both. My sailor’s discipline had a significant impact on me. Perhaps my old sea days are equally to blame for my life’s regularity and restrictions. I give myself five and a half hours of sleep on average, and no condition has yet occurred in my life to keep me awake when it’s time to ‘turn in.’” —By Himself, Jack London

“Do you know what I’m doing instead of heading down to the Library to visit you this afternoon?” I’m now writing over 30 letters that have accumulated on my desk. (I don’t go to anyone’s home.) I don’t go out; I’ve turned down countless dinner invitations (where I was supposed to meet Lincoln Steffens, Riis, George Kennan, and others) — in short, I’m an unhappy stay-at-home mom. And it’s because of this that I’ve recently completed another book (my 20th).” –February 7, 1907, letter to Frederick I. Bamford

Jack london quote about mediocrity is a sin.

“There is no hope for the mediocre.” “It is a shame to be mediocre.” –War of the Classes, “The Tramp”

“Are you aware of the contradiction that progress entails?” It makes me happy and sad at the same time. When you go back over your work and see its flaws, faults, and inanities, you can’t help but be sad; and you can’t help but be happy that you’ve progressed to the point where you’re aware of them and feel capable of doing better.” –Christmas Morning, 1898, letter to Mabel Applegarth

“Don’t wait for inspiration to come to you; go for it with a club, and if you don’t get it, you’ll get something that looks very like.” –”How to Get Your Book Published,” March 1903, The Editor

“I’m attempting to master this land and the crops and animals that grow there, just as I tried to master the sea, men and women, literature, and anything else I could stamp with my ‘will to do.’” –February 7, 1913, letter to Hartwell S. Shippey

“Anything is possible with a strong resolve…” There is no such thing as inspiration, and there isn’t much in the way of brilliance either. Dig, when given the chance, produces what looks to be the former, and surely allows for the growth of whatever initial modicum of the latter one may have. Digging is a beautiful thing, and it can move mountains faster than faith ever could. Dig, in fact, should be regarded as the true parent of all self-belief.” –March 30, 1899, letter to Cloudesley Johns

Jack london quote about stimulus of achievement.

“This is dissatisfaction, but not pessimism’s dissatisfaction. The key of advancement is noble dissatisfaction. The pusillanimous are the only ones who are happy. Divine discontents are the cravings of the heart. Things are only done by the dissatisfied. Satisfied people do nothing. Unhappiness is the catalyst for accomplishment. “Satisfaction is destruction, and it leads to the death chamber.” –San Francisco Sunday Examiner Magazine, November 10, 1901, review of “Lincoln and Other Poems”

“Life is short…there should be no time for dithering.” –December 21, 1899, letter to Anna Strunsky

 

“No, God does not penalize faith; but he grinds all those with little faith and small heart between the higher and lower millstones, and he grinds them extremely fine.” Of course, you’ll succeed if you work hard enough, and you surely seem to have an excess of energy. If you use this energy correctly and consistently, the world will open its arms to you.” –May 2, 1900, letter to Anna Strunsky

“‘But the work is enormous,’ you say, ‘and I don’t have time.’ Others haven’t been put off by its size. You have complete control over the years of your life. You won’t be able to master everything, but the more you master it, the more efficient you will be and the more attention you will demand from your peers. Time! When you say it’s lacking, you’re referring to a lack of economy in its use.” –The Editor, October 1899, “The Writer’s Life’s Philosophy”

Philosophy of Life

Jack london quote thinking about the philosophy of life.

“Learn about this planet, this cosmos, this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up from the magnet to Godhead via force and matter.” And by all of this, I mean WORK for a life philosophy.” –”How to Get Your Book Published,” March 1903, The Editor

“One must have a functional philosophy, a synthesis of things, to be fully equipped for the tragedy of living.” –March 15, 1900, letter to Cloudesley Johns 

“The only way to get [a life] philosophy is to seek it out, to gather the components that make it up from the world’s knowledge and culture. What do you know about the world underneath the surface’s boiling effervescence? … you need to study. You must learn to see the face of life with clarity… You need to keep an eye on the inner workings of things. All of this will combine to form your working philosophy, which you will use to measure, weigh, balance, and interpret the world. Individuality is defined as “a imprint of personality, a unique point of view.” –”The Writer’s Life Philosophy,” October 1899, The Editor

“Good health, work, and a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE are the three main things in life.” A fourth word comes to mind, indeed, must come to mind: SINCERITY. The other three are useless without it, and with it, you may aspire to greatness and sit among giants.” –”How to Get Your Book Published,” March 1903, The Editor

“I Like is the ultimate word. It is entwined around the core of life and lies behind philosophy. When philosophy has been pondering for a month, telling the individual what he must do, the person responds, “I Like,” and walks off to do something else, and philosophy fades away. It is I Like that causes the alcoholic to drink and the martyr to wear a hair garment; it is I Like that causes one man to revel and another to anchor; it is I Like that causes one man to seek fame, riches, love, and God. Many times, philosophy is a man’s method of expressing his own I LIKE.” –From The Cruise of the Snark’s Foreword

 

Honor and a sense of personal conviction

Jack london quote about truth never squeals.

“Truth has no regard for age or young…” Remember that anything less than the whole truth is a falsehood and a deceit on your part.

You can’t play games with the truth. Any deception involving Truth is a lie and a fraud. Truth advises that if you want to deal properly with her, you must be as pure as the sky, as honest as snow, and as straight as the edge of the sharpest-bladed sword in your dealings.

Let me tell you something: Truth never squeals… It takes a lot of bravery to summon Truth and then scream in terror at what you’ve conjured.

… it is so marvelously simple to speak the truth in this society that I am sometimes astounded that so many people are so insanely idiotic, so wretchedly stupid, that they conceal the truth. The best policy isn’t always the truth. It’s the only policy we have.” –September 5, 1913, letter to Joan London

“I live for what I think of myself, not what the world thinks of me.” –August 21, 1903, letter to Charles Warren Stoddard

“I feel like a fish out of water.” Conventionality makes me uneasy and defiant. I’m accustomed to speaking exactly what I believe, no more and no less. Soft equivocation is not in my vocabulary.” –December 27, 1899, letter to Anna Strunsky

“A last remark, to give you a sense of my character: All of my actions in this world have been in direct accordance with my greatest notions of proper behavior.” –August 4, 1905, letter to Minnie Maddern Fiske

“I am a dumb truthseeker with a nerve of logic exposed, raw, and screaming, as you have deduced ere this.” Maybe it’s just my specific kind of madness. I sift through the muck of popular knowledge. I fight like a wolf and a hyena at the same time. And I don’t mean anything other than what I say.” –March 22, 1911, letter to Blanche Partington

“I’ve always been a warrior,” she says. I have never spoken or written anything that I haven’t been able to back up afterwards. I’ve never spoken anything, written something, or published something, only to later deny saying it, writing it, or publishing it. At the end of the day, I’ll walk into the darkness, standing firm in my convictions and fighting for them.” –Army and Navy Journal, June 22, 1914, Letter to the Editor

“Remember that the best thing in the world is truth. You will be true if you are wonderful. If you repress the truth, if you hide the truth, if you don’t get up and speak out in meetings, if you speak out in meetings but don’t tell the complete truth, then you are less true than truth and less than magnificent.” –August 29, 1913, letter to Joan London

Pride and Prestige for the Sake of Pride and Prestige

“My collection of values is made up of the things I like. Personal success — not achievement for the sake of the world’s approval, but achievement for my own pleasure — is what I enjoy the most. It’s the old “I did it! I did it!” routine. ‘I did it with my own hands!’ —Chapter I of The Snark’s Cruise

 

Wildness

“I discovered myself in the Klondike.” Nobody speaks in the room. Everyone is debating something. You have your point of view. “I got mine,” she says. —Jack London, on his own  

“But particularly in the deep twilight of summer midnights, he liked to run, listening to the quiet and drowsy whispers of the forest, interpreting signals and noises as a man could read a book, and seeking the enigmatic mystery that beckoned – called, awake or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.” –Chapter VII of The Call of the Wild

“However, he remained distinct from other dogs.” He understood the code better than the dogs who had never known anything other, and he followed it more strictly; yet there was still a hint of lurking savagery about him, as if the Wild still remained in him and the wolf in him only slept.” –Chapter IV of White Fang

“With the aurora borealis blazing coldly overhead, or the stars leaping in the frost dance, and the land numb and frozen beneath its pall of snow, this song of the huskies might have been a defiance of life, but it was pitched in minor key, with long-drawn wailings and half-sobs, and was more the pleading of life, the articulate travail of existence.” It was an ancient song, as old as the breed – one of the earliest songs of the younger world at a time when songs were depressing. This plaint, by which Buck was so profoundly affected, was imbued with the woes of untold generations. When he groaned and wailed, it was with the anguish of life, which had been his wild fathers’ suffering in the past, and the dread and mystery of the cold and dark, which had been their fear and mystery. And the completeness with which he harked back through the centuries of fire and roof to the raw origins of existence in the wailing ages was characterized by his being aroused by it.” — Chapter III of The Call of the Wild

“However, he isn’t always alone. He can be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack, when the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys.” —Chapter VII of The Call of the Wild

“There is an euphoria that marks the pinnacle of existence, beyond which it is impossible to aspire.” Yet there is the paradox of living: ecstasy occurs when one is most alive, and it occurs as a total oblivion of one’s own existence. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of life, comes to the artist caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on the stricken field and refusing quarter; and it comes to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and flew swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was plunging back into the tidal wave of existence, the exquisite delight of each solitary muscle, joint, and sinew, in that it was all that wasn’t death, that it was aglow and wild, expressing itself in movement, soaring exultantly beneath the stars and over the face of lifeless matter that didn’t move.” — Chapter III of The Call of the Wild

 

The desire to leave a lasting impression

“The earth is littered with the dust of self-proclaimed and purported sane folks who made no imprint on life and are completely forgotten.” Always, please remember that passion and passionate expression are the most important things.” –March 1, 1913, letter to Philo M. Buck, Jr. 

“‘The present is enough for simple souls, who, never looking forward, are truly mere clay, in which the footprints of their age are petrified eternally.’

–March 1, 1913, letter to Philo M. Buck, Jr. 

“That guy among us who makes his century imperishable is imperishable.” That one among us who seizes the main aspects of our lives, who explains what we believed, what we were, and for what we stood — that man shall be the centuries’ spokesman, and he shall continue as long as they listen.” “These Bones Shall Rise Again,” says the song. Essays on Revolution and Other Topics

“That guy among us who makes his century imperishable is imperishable.” That one among us who seizes the main aspects of our lives, who explains what we believed, what we were, and for what we stood — that man shall be the centuries’ spokesman, and he shall continue as long as they listen.” “These Bones Shall Rise Again,” says the song. Essays on Revolution and Other Topics

These quotations came from our readings of London’s books and biographies, as well as from The Wit and Wisdom of Jack London, which provides many more London quotes on a range of topics for those who are interested. 

 

 

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.” – Jack London. Reference: jack london quote the proper function.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most inspiring quote ever?

A: If you can dream it, you can do it.

What is the most famous quote?

A: The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.

What are the top 10 quotes?

A: I am the light of the world. -Jesus Christ, John 8:12. Rejoice and be glad for I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people.-The Gospel according to Luke 2:10.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.-John 15:12. To thine own self be true! -Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1 Line 452

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