25 Literary Quotes About Luck


As we’ve already noted, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, and while it may have originated as a holiday commemorating the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, it’s now commonly observed as a celebration of Irish culture as a whole. The Irish are famed for their luck – although, if we look at the history of the people, “lucky” may be a questionable takeaway – and the phrase “luck of the Irish” comes from the relatively large number of highly successful miners of Irish ancestry during the gold rush. So to help you fill your pockets with gold, or just celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by expounding on the nature of luck, Irish or otherwise, we’ve compiled some literary quotes about luck for every occasion and personality. Click through to read our list, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your own literary explorations of luck in the comments.

For the unlucky:

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” — Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

For the habitually unimpressed:

“I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?” — Jean Cocteau

For those who need a new rabbit’s foot:

“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don’t help.” -– Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

For the compulsively prepared:

“But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” — Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

For the deep:

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

For the discontented:

“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.” — Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon USA

For those who view luck as a type of matter:

“There’s always the same amount of good luck and bad luck in the world. If one person doesn’t get the bad luck, somebody else will have to get it in their place. There’s always the same amount of good and evil, too. We can’t eradicate evil, we can only evict it, force it to move across town. And when evil moves, some good always goes with it. But we can never alter the ratio of good to evil. All we can do is keep things stirred up so neither good nor evil solidifies. That’s when things get scary. Life is like a stew, you have to stir it frequently, or all the scum rises to the top.” – Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

For the hard worker:

“Luck is not chance- It’s Toil- Fortune’s expensive smile Is earned-” — Emily Dickinson

For those of strong convictions:

“Luck is believing you’re lucky.” – Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

For seeing the big picture:

“All the luck in the world has to come every year, in every part of every year, or there is not a harvest and then the luck, the bad luck will come and everything we are, all that we can ever be, all the Einsteins and babies and love and hate, all the joy and sadness and sex and wanting and liking and disliking, all the soft summer breezes on cheeks and first snowflakes, all the Van Goghs and Rembrandts and Mozarts and Mahlers and Thomas Jeffersons and Lincolns and Ghandis and Jesus Christs, all the Cleopatras and lovemaking and riches and achievements and progress, all of that, every single damn thing that we are or ever will be is dependent on six inches of topsoil and the fact that the rain comes when it’s needed and does not come when it is not needed; everything, every…single…thing comes with that luck.” — Gary Paulsen, Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass

For the patient:

“Luck affects everything; let your hook always be cast; in the stream where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” – Ovid

For the happily mutable:

“The only sure thing about luck is that it will change.” – Bret Harte

For waiting for the right moment:

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

For the independent gambler:

“Above all, he liked it that everything was one’s own fault. There was only oneself to praise or blame. Luck was a servant and not a master. Luck had to be accepted with a shrug or taken advantage of up to the hilt. But it had to be understood and recognized for what it was and not confused with a faulty appreciation of the odds, for, at gambling, the deadly sin is to mistake bad play for bad luck. And luck in all its moods had to be loved and not feared.” – Ian Fleming, Casino Royale

For the fair-minded:

“Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.” – Orson Welles

For hoping for a better tomorrow:

“Each misfortune you encounter will carry in it the seed of tomorrow’s good luck.” — Og Mandino

For the deaf, the blind, and the crippled:

“I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business: Beethoven’s deafness, Goya’s deafness, Milton’s blindness, that kind of thing.” – John Berryman

For the manipulative:

“In short, they were gambling on their luck, and luck is not to be coerced.” – Albert Camus, The Plague

For the foolish:

“Fortune, seeing that she could not make fools wise, has made them lucky.” – Michel de Montaigne

For the proud:

“Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” – E.B. White

For the envious:

“Nothing is as obnoxious as other people’s luck.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

For the secular:

“Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place. Good for her.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick

For being humbled by the world:

“It is the mark of an inexperienced man not to believe in luck.” – Joseph Conrad

For the well-formed:

“Luck is the residue of design.” – John Milton

For shrugging your shoulders:

“That’s all your life amounts to in the end: the aggregate of all the good luck and the bad luck you experience. Everything is explained by that simple formula. Tot it up – look at the respective piles. There’s nothing you can do about it: nobody shares it out, allocates it to this one or that, it just happens.” – William Boyd, Any Human Heart