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Jessica Mitford

  • Things on the whole move much faster in America; people don't stand for election, they run for office.

  • He greeted us with that extra degree of kindness and hospitality which I had noticed in so many Americans; it always gave me the uncomfortable feeling that, no matter how long I lived among them, I should never quite be able to rise to their level of genuine cordiality with strangers.

  • We were like ill-assorted animals tied to a common tethering post.

  • Knowing few children of my age with whom to compare notes, I envied the children of literature to whom interesting things were always happening ...

  • Funeralese has had its ups and downs. The word 'morticians,' first used in Embalmers Monthly for February, 1895, was barred by the Chicago Tribune in 1932, 'not for lack of sympathy with the ambition of undertakers to be well regarded, but because of it. If they haven't the sense to save themselves from their own lexicographers, we shall not be guilty of abetting them in their folly.'

  • Gracious dying is a huge, macabre and expensive joke on the American public.

  • Alas, poor Yorick! How surprised he would be to see how his counterpart of today is whisked off to a funeral parlor and is in short order sprayed, sliced, pierced, pickled, trussed, trimmed, creamed, waxed, painted, rouged and neatly dressed — transformed from a common corpse into a Beautiful Memory Picture.

  • O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Where, indeed. Many a badly stung survivor, faced with the aftermath of some relative's funeral, has ruefully concluded that the victory has been won hands down by a funeral establishment — in disastrously unequal battle.

  • I have nothing against undertakers personally. It's just that I wouldn't want one to bury my sister.

    • Jessica Mitford,
    • in Saturday Review ()
  • The character and mentality of the keepers may be of more importance in understanding prisons than the character and mentality of the kept.

  • Prison walls are meant not only to keep convicts in, but to keep the would-be investigator out.

  • When is conduct a crime, and when is a crime not a crime? When Somebody Up There — a monarch, a dictator, a pope, a legislature — so decrees.

  • Society created the prison in its own image; will history, with its penchant for paradox, reverse those roles?

  • ... the prison system, inherently unjust and inhumane, is the ultimate expression of injustice and inhumanity in the society at large.

  • Those of us on the outside do not like to think of wardens and guards as our surrogates. Yet they are, and they are intimately locked in a deadly embrace with their human captives behind the prison walls. By extension so are we.

  • [On the United States:] A nation which does not appreciate that the simple elocution exercise 'Merry Mary married hairy Harry' contains not one but three vowel sounds.

    • Jessica Mitford,
    • in Observer ()
  • ... the whole point of muck-raking, apart from all the jokes, is to try to do something about what you've been writing about. You may not be able to change the world but at least you can embarrass the guilty.

  • Enemies are, to me, as important as friends in my life, and when they die I mourn their passing.

  • ... lifelong enemies are, I think, as hard to make and as important to one's well-being as lifelong friends.

  • Philip Toynbee had an unfortunate disposition to collapse under drink as though a sniper had picked him off.

  • In childbirth, as in other human endeavors, fashions start with the rich, are then adopted by the aspirant middle class with an assist from the ever-watchful media, and may or may not eventually filter down to the poor.

  • [Response to sister Nancy's 'Sisters are a shield against life's cruel adversity':] But sisters are life's cruel adversity!

    • Jessica Mitford,
    • in Mary S. Lovell, The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family ()

Jessica Mitford, English-born U.S. journalist, writer, social critic

(1917 - 1996)

Full name: Jessica Lucy Mitford Romilly Treuhaft.