Famous first lines of novels and poems

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Whilst the majority of famous quotations come from a huge variety of sources, whether books, popular media, or perhaps are records of speeches, many famous quotations are the first, or indeed last, line of books. Here we list some of the most famous first lines which have been immortalised over time:

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The primroses were over.
- Richard Adams, Watership Down

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
- Jane Austen, Emma

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.
- Louis de Bernieres, Corelli's Mandolin

It was a pleasure to burn.
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I have just returned from a visit to my landlord--the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society.
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights.

If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is forever England.
- Rupert Brooke, The Soldier

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?'
- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

In a village of La Mancha the name of which have no desire to recall, there lived not so long ago one of those gentlemen who always have a lance in the rack, an ancient buckler, a skinny nag, and a greyhound for the chase.
- Cervantes (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra) Don Quixote

The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and the victor was not yet in sight.
- Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Midway in our life's journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.
- Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno

I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
- Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and though about life and death.
- Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.
- Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd

It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Achilles' cursed anger sing, O goddess, that son of Peleus, which stated a myriad sufferings for the Achaeans.
- Homer, The Iliad

It is this day three hundred and forty-eight years six months and nineteen days that the good people of Paris were awakened by a grand pealing from all the bells in the three districts of the Cite, the Universite, and the Ville.
- Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
- Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains My sense.
- John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale

Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.
- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.
- A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden.
- John Milton, Paradise Lost

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.
- George Orwell, 1984

On they went, singing 'Eternal Memory', and whenever they stopped, the sound of their feet, the horses and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.
- Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were - Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.
- Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

I began this disorderly and almost endless collection of scattered thoughts and observations in order to gratify a good mother who knows how to think.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.
- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: NB, in America called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as it was felt by the publishers the term Philosopher's Stone would not be understood

Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book about the jungle called True Stories.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.
- Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe

Who's there?
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet Prince of Denmark

When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black.
- Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
- J.R.R. Tolkien (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien), The Hobbit

"Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist - I really believe he is Antichrist - I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my 'faithful slave,' as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you - sit down and tell me all the news."
- Leo Tolstoy (Count Lev Tolstoi), War and Peace

"Well, Piotr, not in sight yet?" was the question asked on May the 20th, 1859, by a gentleman of a little over forty, in a dusty coat and checked trousers, who came out without his hat on to the low steps of the posting station at S-----. He was addressing his servant, a chubby young fellow, with whitish down on his chin, and little, lack-lustre eyes.
- Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

The year 1866 was signalized by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.
- Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.
- H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

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