Welcome to the web’s most comprehensive site of quotations by women. 44,037 quotations are searchable by topic, by author's name, or by keyword. Many of them appear in no other collection. And new ones are added continually.

See All TOPICS Available:
See All AUTHORS Available:

Search by Topic:

  • topic cats
  • topic books
  • topic moon

Find quotations by TOPIC (coffee, love, dogs)
or search alphabetically below.

Search by Last Name:

  • Quotes by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Quotes by Louisa May Alcott
  • Quotes by Chingling Soong

Find quotations by the AUTHOR´S LAST NAME
or alphabetically below.

Search by Keyword:

  • keyword fishing
  • keyword twilight
  • keyword Australie

Jessamyn West (170 items)

  • Law to her was all Greek and turkey tracks.

  • ... he landed on the French word the way a hen lands on the water, skeptical, but hoping for the best.

  • ... tea strong enough for a mouse to trot over.

  • She intended to forgive. Not to do so would be un-Christian; but she did not intend to do so soon, nor forget how much she had to forgive.

  • Knowledge of what you love somehow comes to you; you don't have to read nor analyze nor study. If you love a thing enough, knowledge of it seeps into you, with particulars more real than any chart can furnish.

  • A little money's like a little snow, Lucy. Unless it's added to, it melts away.

  • She laid her hand across her open book feeling that the words there were so strong and beautiful that they would enter her veins through her palms and so flow to her heart.

  • There were clearly two classes of people in the world: those for whom the world was magnified and enriched in words and those who could never find the beautiful world of their living and knowing on any sheet of paper.

  • ... the source of one's joy is also often the source of one's sorrow.

  • At fourteen you don't need sickness or death for tragedy.

  • It was a little like living with a cross between Martha Graham and Groucho Marx: dancing with a wisecrack.

  • Christmas, like love, was a mystery. Time and again it might disappoint, but like love only the promises of the Christmas to come, never the disappointments of those past, seemed real.

  • For love expended, one did not have to receive a return; as if love were a mortgage clapped onto the loved one and paying interest at an approved rate. Love expended, whether there were any returns or not, increased, within the loving heart, the store of love available ...

  • You're not called on to like everything in this world. Nor to speak up about all you don't like.

  • In my opinion the world has been steadily going downhill since the discovery of sugar.

  • Marriage, after the first few years, becomes more than the two people involved in it. Something emerges from their effort to live together, even from their misunderstandings and bickerings and failures, something that transcends the particular husband and wife. For a while, when you're first married, you have to protect your marriage, believe in it, even when it appears to wither, to shed all its first tender leaves. Then, if you care for it, it will take root, begin to grow, and finally, and perhaps in spite of you, outstrip you, arch over your head, and become a protection. You two small ones will find refuge and solace in it.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "Love," in Elizabeth Bragdon, ed., Women Today ()
  • The West is color ... Its colors are animal rather than vegetable, the colors of earth and sunlight and ripeness. Tawny, buff, ocher, umber, tan, beige, sienna, sorrel, bay, blood-bay, chestnut, roan, palomino: the colors of objects bleached, sun-drenched, dry, aromatic, warm; the color of stubble fields, of barley, of foothills, of sage, of ocean and desert sands; colors capable of reflecting light like a mirror.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "The West -- A Place to Hang Your Dreams," in Woman's Home Companion ()
  • Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.

  • People who keep journals have life twice.

  • If you want a baby, have a new one. Don't baby the old one.

  • Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures ...

  • A taste for irony has kept more hearts from breaking than a sense of humor — for it takes irony to appreciate the joke which is on oneself.

  • Suffering is also one of the ways of knowing you're alive.

  • Anyone with a real taste for solitude who indulges that taste encounters the dangers of any other drug-taker. The habit grows. You become an addict. ... Absorbed in the visions of solitude, human beings are only interruptions. What voice can equal the voices of solitude? What sights equal the movement of a single day's tide of light across the floor boards of one room? What drama be as continuously absorbing as the interior one?

  • I understand hermits, but not people who can't understand hermits.

  • The writer must be willing, above everything else, to take chances, to risk making a fool of himself — or even to risk revealing the fact that he is a fool.

  • We can love an honest rogue, but what is more offensive than a false saint?

  • There are two barriers that often prevent communication between the young and their elders. The first is middle-aged forgetfulness of the fact that they themselves are no longer young. The second is youthful ignorance of the fact that the middle aged are still alive.

  • It is so easy for a middle-aged person, in the presence of youth, to be deluded about his own age. The young faces are so exactly like the one he saw in his own mirror — only day before yesterday, it seems.

  • No one can be taught to be a writer. But it is possible to learn to write better.

  • I am sad for people who do not like to be in the sun. It's a free intoxicant.

  • ... there is a hard clear rationality about Quakers — and, indeed, all mysticism, which, once experienced, makes other ways appear indirect, childish, and crude.

  • Our three horses are as unlike as three persons. Perhaps more so, since they don't read, listen to radio or TV ... They don't try to talk like Flicka, walk like Trigger, or eat like Silver.

  • It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own.

  • All agree that it is wrong to be bound to Hollywood; though no one has suspected that the bonds, instead of money or fleshpots or easy work, might be the joys of shared effort. I give something which, though my own, becomes part of something beyond me; and Hollywood's pull for me becomes the pull felt by the member of any order.

  • ... I thought movie making might be for the twentieth century what cathedral building was for the Middle Ages.

  • ... poetry requires two readers. They need to be read aloud, to be sung, cried, bellowed; they need to be exclaimed over. Prose can be read alone, as one can eat a sandwich alone; but poetry is an intoxicant, and solitary drinking is a vice.

  • A movie is a guess at an echo. We guess at the reverberation of its impact upon an audience.

  • There is no royal path to good writing; and such paths as exist ... lead through ... the jungles of the self, the world, and of craft.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • in Saturday Review ()
  • The emotion, the ecstasy of love, we all want, but God spare us the responsibility.

  • We find what we search for — or, if we don't find it, we become it.

  • The tragedy of our time is not that we are so eye centered, so appearance besotted. The tragedy is that we do not know what we like until we are told by our advertisers and entertainers.

  • ... it is the loving, not the loved, woman who feels lovable.

  • ... we are forever in the dark about what touch means to another. ... With touch, one enters at once a private and an ambiguous world ...

  • When Opal stepped down from the wagon, she gave Hannah a hug and Hannah, who was solid, co-operated by making herself as compressible as possible. The fun in squeezing was, she knew, that something gave.

  • He moved forward to greet his guests with that extra heartiness which the host who has had some inhospitable qualms always assumes.

  • Opal lived in her house like an egg in a shoe box, curves enhancing corners.

  • Joicey, trying to be reasonable, always melted Shel's heart — like a bird trying to plow, a baby wanting to pitch hay.

  • How anybody with one kid ever finds a chance to get another beats me. I never laid down with you in my life but some kid comes busting in.

  • ... Asa had looked into the face of many a religious man without being able to detect a thing there except a lifelong satisfaction in eating fried chicken and talking about sin.

  • It took an alert person to find anything in that house; the demands of life were not watered down by deciding once and for all where everything was to be kept. 'A place for everything and everything in its place' is a help to the tired and slow-witted. None of the Raunces were. They lived like hunters in a forest, never sure of what they would find behind the next tree.

  • A teaser is always asking for a response from somebody without having to take any responsibility for it ...

  • Dying, when you came down to it, was a job. It took planning and attention and energy — like setting up housekeeping or planting corn.

  • I don't think you ought to tell yourself too many things. You've got to listen to what things tell you once in a while.

  • Bad and good, loving and unloving, ugly and handsome are not so separated as lucky and unlucky. She felt cold around the heart. Those miserable ones for whom nothing ever went right, whose stores burned down, whose wives had female diseases, whose children whined, who were themselves stricken with kidney disease, beaten in horse trades, burdened with cows that soured and tobacco that mildewed, who got sick on good whisky, broke wind in company and were constipated in private, this was the common run of mankind, and after tomorrow morning, he, who had lived in his pride of being above such men, would be right down in their midst.

  • Character is nothing but habit. Strong when habit is strong.

  • ... in her opinion a man who made the love of God and a show of goodness his paying profession got more and more professional and less and less loving and good.

  • A jokester needs to see two things at once, appearance and reality.

  • There is nothing better than to have a daughter and to love her. She is on your side forever.

  • His own hair imitated a toupee better than any toupee ever imitated hair.

  • 'Here's Pete, Junior, your son and heir,' Doc had said, and held up something that looked like a slippery fish in a wig.

  • We want the facts to fit the preconceptions. When they don't, it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions.

  • A religious awakening which does not awaken the sleeper to love has roused him in vain.

  • ... at an age when all is known to more gifted assimilators, the plodding experiencers are still making exciting discoveries.

  • Summer on the desert dies like a snake. You think it's done for, dead as a doornail, then there comes another fierce burst of life. And even that violent lashing may not be final.

  • Everett was chiefly a romanticist, and I chiefly a sentimentalist. One looks to the future; the other to the past; and the present, on the unlikely chance that both ever happen to be in it at the same time, is, under such circumstances, foredoomed to be disappointing.

  • Applause is nothing compared with laughter. Anyone can clap hands, and the mind be miles away. A laugh comes right from the center. No wonder comedians love their audiences.

  • None but the lonely heart, they say, keeps a diary. None but a lonelier heart, perhaps, reads one. The diary keeper has no one to speak to; the diary reader has no one who speaks to him. The diary writer is at least talking to himself. The diary reader is listening to a man talking to himself.

  • The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future.

  • Sometimes you don't know that the house you live in is glass until the stone you cast comes boomeranging back. Maybe that's the actual reason you threw it. Something in you was yelling, 'I want out.' The life you saved, as well as the glass you shattered, was your own.

  • ... an autumn day on the desert contains every season. ... Before dawn it was bitter winter, with the stars sparkling in the black desert sky. At six there was a short spring. The mountains were rosy and suddden thunderstorms moving down from Snow Peak dampened the sand and set loose the scents of all the countless flowers that had blossomed and perished there. By noon it was blazing summer. ... Sundown would bring the day and the season into some congruity. Dusk brought not only nightfall, but the year's fall as well, a real autumn of an hour's duration.

  • ... the mind needs room to turn around in, and when the future doesn't provide this dimension, one chooses of necessity whatever spaciousness the past affords.

  • She is a gray cat, but around her eyes the fur is black, so that she looks a little like those fifteen-year-olds who believe that being Cleopatra is mostly a matter of mascara.

  • July was the month when summer, like bread in the oven, might change color, but it would rise no higher. It was at its height.

  • You can no more put a sense of time into a man who doesn't have it than you can put tides in a pond.

  • Kissing was like death from lightning. If it happened, you didn't know it. And vice versa.

  • Her frame and features when moving, talking, feeling were like the pebbles at the bottom of the branch: not worth a glance without the living water that flowed over them.

  • They were always reading the law to her at home, which might not have been so bad if her father and mother had read from the same book.

  • If God had made a woman before he made a man, that might've been the end of creation. A woman, used to having the run of the Garden, and all of its say-so to herself, might've raised Jesse with God if she'd been roused up one morning to find a rib missing, and a man there to spoil the quiet and mess up the neatness and to pounce on her in the one-flesh act.

  • Some folk are always thirsting for water from other people's wells.

  • A good time for laughing is when you can.

  • She had less rise to her than a buckwheat cake. After an evening with Emily he began to appreciate the merits of disorder and hard cider.

  • Victory is a matter of chance; but truth, if a man so elects, he can have at any time.

  • The prohibition against solitude is forever. A Carry Nation rises in every person when he thinks he sees someone sneaking off to be alone. It is not easy to be solitary unless you are also born ruthless. Every solitary repudiates someone.

  • Alone, alone, oh! We have been warned about solitary vices. Have solitary pleasures ever been adequately praised? Do many people know that they exist?

  • Solitude, like a drug, can be addictive. The more you have it, the more you want it.

  • ... when the opportunity for solitude must be stolen, as for the most part it must in large families or even in small families of one husband and one wife, it is, like stolen fruits, very sweet.

  • I understand why one wants to know the names of what he loves ... Naming is a kind of possessing, of caressing and fondling.

  • ... the superhighway is our true sacrificial altar.

  • Was Thoreau never lonely? Certainly. Where do you think writing like his comes from? Camaraderie?

  • She believed in excess. How can you tell whether or not you have had enough until you've had a little too much?

  • One man's enough is another's privation.

  • Mama enjoyed bandying words. In fact, there was scarcely anything she enjoyed more. She made up words from scratch, by combining words, by turning them upside down, by running them backward. She built word palaces. Structures came out of her mouth like Steinberg pictures: wobbly, made of material fabricated on the spot, and no more useful than a poem.

  • I seem to be the only person in the world who doesn't mind being pitied. If you love me, pity me. The human state is pitiable: born to die, capable of so much, accomplishing so little; killing instead of creating, destroying instead of building, hating instead of loving. Pitiful, pitiful.

  • Writing my name I raise an edifice / Whose size and shape appear to me / As homelike as the hexagon the bee / Builds for his own and honey's use.

  • Almost all travel is lost on teen-agers. ... The young do not discover the world. They discover themselves, and travel only interrupts their trips to the interior.

  • Perhaps burglars are solitaries, and theft is only a sideline with them. The real high comes not from the money or the tape recorders, but from being alone where they ought not to be.

  • Why do men resist putting gas in their cars until the last minute? ... There's not much left in life for men to gamble about. They can gamble about the gas.

  • Sex and religion are bordering states. They use the same vocabulary, share like ecstasies, and often serve as a substitute for one another.

  • Visitors to Los Angeles, then and now, were put out because the residents of Los Angeles had the inhospitable idea of building a city comfortable to live in, rather than a monument to astonish the eye of jaded travelers.

  • Cry for joy in April, / Cry for death in fall. / Birth's an open gateway, / But death's a solid wall.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "For Every Fallen Thing," The Secret Look ()
  • Why is pain / Durable / Beyond love and poetry?

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "To Dull by Anticipation," The Secret Look ()
  • Love is all things / Both high and low / And nothing else / Can hurt you so.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "Counting Out Rhyme," The Secret Look ()
  • All darkness is a beauty. / All lightness is a duty.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "All Darkness Is a Beauty," The Secret Look ()
  • Cold is a tooth of silver / that bites like crimson flame, / a savage tooth of silver / that only June can tame.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "Cold," The Secret Look ()
  • Justice is a terrible but necessary thing.

  • Bandying words with Jud Clasby would be like trying to outgrunt a pig.

  • His mouth was as thin as the cutting edge of an axe and it turned down at the corners in the same way.

  • She had a plump little mouth like a buttonhole worked with a heavy satin stitch.

  • But February was like a snake with a broken back. It could still bite.

  • Winter could drop down out of a clear sky, sharp as an icicle, and, without a sound, pierce your heart.

  • Reason to the lovesick was fire to the feverish. It sent them clean out of their minds.

  • The words a man speaks are always more comforting than the words he hears.

  • Lawyers' work required sharp brains, strong vocal chords, and an iron butt.

  • He thinks he's finer than frog hair.

  • What's too much for the law to see is too much for the law to require.

  • The sick soon come to understand that they live in a different world from that of the well and that the two cannot communicate.

  • Sleeplessness is a desert without vegetation or inhabitants.

  • Dying is a short horse and soon curried. Living is a horse of another color and bigger.

  • Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely necessary.

  • Both Grace and I 'took on' when in pain. We were Irish. We didn't wait for the wake to wail. We wailed while we were still hurting, not leaving all the work for others after we were past helping.

  • Groan and forget it.

  • Sister, dear sister, come home and help me die.

  • When death threatens, when a good-bye is faced, how one searches the past for images, begins to shoal up the past for future use.

  • It may be more blessed to give than to receive, but there is more grace in receiving than giving. When you receive, whom do you love and praise? The giver. When you give, the same holds true.

  • The body's language is stronger than sounds shaped by the tongue and teeth.

  • A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.

  • I never meet anyone nowadays who admits to having had a happy childhood.

  • Abel was a dog poisoner. It sometimes works out that way. A man wants to have some direct connection with life. If he can't bring life into being, he'll put an end to it. In that way he's not completely powerless. Some men can start it. Others can end it.

  • In their sympathies, children feel nearer animals than adults.

  • We love those we feed, not vice versa; in caring for others we nourish our own self esteem. Children are dependent upon adults. It's a craven role for a child. It's very natural to want to bite the hand that feeds you.

  • I was no more musical than a muskrat ...

  • A rattlesnake that doesn't bite teaches you nothing ...

  • And if kissing and being engaged were this inflammatory, marriage must burn clear to the bone. I wondered how flesh and blood could endure the ecstasy. How did married couples manage to look so calm and unexcited?

  • Teaching is the royal road to learning.

  • Round, gray, plump-jowled like a grandmother, she washed, ate, and saw to it that she and her offspring went outside for calls of nature as regularly as any privy-bound housewife. With a recipe written in cat language, she could have baked cookies or fried a chicken.

  • Pleasure in irony, either in your own life or in what you read, is an ego trip. 'I know what others do not.'

  • You make what seems a simple choice: choose a man or a job or a neighborhood — and what you have chosen is not a man or a job or a neighborhood, but a life.

  • Memory is a magnet. It will pull to it and hold only material nature has designed it to attract.

  • Nothing ruins a face so fast as double-dealing. Your face telling one story to the world. Your heart yanking your face to pieces, trying to let the truth be known. One eyelid'll hang down lower than the other, one side of your mouth'll stay stiff while the other smiles. I know a dozen cases like that.

  • I've done more harm by the falseness of trying to please than by the honesty of trying to hurt.

  • Nothing is so dear as what you're about to leave.

  • Did California cause any of this? No, though it does seem to draw to it people with unusual inclinations.

  • Delay breeds fear.

  • Every arrival foretells a leave-taking: every birth a death. Yet each death and departure comes to us as a surprise, a sorrow never anticipated. Life is a long series of farewells; only the circumstances should surprise us.

  • Letters tell you what the writer thinks of the recipient; journals tell you who the writer is.

  • You travel to discover yourself. At home there is known to you only the girl you remember. Who you really have become, you do not know. When you travel, that person emerges: she is mirrored in the faces of people you meet.

  • The middle-aged bring to the idea of travel the romanticism with which they once gilded the idea of meeting a new man. Something will happen, they know not what.

  • I'm a reader, not a listener. But apart from that, I do believe that what is written to be read tends to be better than what is written to be spoken.

  • The born traveler shouldn't be a besotted reader. Traveling interrupts reading.

  • Letters are a cross between saying what you can't keep quiet about and what you think the recipient would like to hear.

  • If I had been told that Hemingway was seated at the next table, I would certainly have stared my eyes out. And perhaps been disappointed in what I saw. The best of a good writer — and Hemingway was a great one — goes into his writing. What's left over may be less than an eyeful.

  • Something else I don't understand — Paris traffic. ... First, I waited for ten minutes on the curb. Then I discovered how to cross a street. You look an approaching taxi driver in the eye; with your unwavering glance, you mesmerize him as you would a wild animal. Then, with your glance never wavering, you continue in front of his now slowing car. He stops. He dares not run over anyone who looks him straight in the eye; should your glance waver, he'd run you down in a minute.

  • I have always been better able to confront the disaster that is real than the one I imagine.

  • I think that it is terrible to want to have your cake and eat it, too. So I put my cake on a very high shelf; always being careful, however, that a tall stool is nearby.

  • I am always jumping into the sausage grinder and deciding, even before I'm half ground, that I don't want to be a sausage after all.

  • We travel not to discover new lands or new people, but new selves.

  • Letters strike me as an attempt to tell others how you are. Journals are an attempt to discover who you are.

  • ... my story, as Mama would have said, was a short horse and soon curried.

  • The conversation of two people remembering, if the memory is enjoyable to both, rocks on like music or lovemaking. There is a rhythm and a predictability to it that each anticipates and relishes.

  • Love is like the measles. It's catching.

  • Birdeen fainted the way other people took a nap. She wouldn't take a rest of her own free will. Nature gave her a rest by letting her lie down unconscious for a few minutes.

  • Writing fiction is an almost certain way of making a fool of yourself.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • introduction, Collected Stories of Jessamyn West ()
  • It takes all kinds, I understand. Some want to live dangerously and some want to live.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "Foot-Shaped Shoes," Collected Stories of Jessamyn West ()
  • I believe, in spite of everything, we all half expected to escape. More than half expected, believed completely. Thought it would come to everyone else, but pass us by. Without us, without me, how's anything else to exist?

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "The Linden Trees," Collected Stories of Jessamyn West ()
  • You can only write about what you don't know, and find out about it in the writing.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "Breach of Promise," Collected Stories of Jessamyn West ()
  • Miss McManaman had gazed at Ada's face. It had every appurtenance faces have, yet it seemed primitive: an early, trial face to which, century after century, endearing and humanizing details would be added. It was a small granite face, made by a hurried man with a sharp chisel.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "The Singing Lesson," Collected Stories of Jessamyn West ()
  • ... it is worse to have a good thing that is not true believed about you, than a bad.

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "Reverdy," Collected Stories of Jessamyn West ()
  • ... pity can bind you closer than love. You feel that you owe more to pity than you do to love. Love gives you joy; pity, pain. And isn't what pain says more to be trusted than what joy says?

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "Up a Tree," Collected Stories of Jessamyn West ()
  • If you like a book, maybe you'd better not meet the writer because she's only what's left over; most of her has gone into the book.

    • Jessamyn West

Jessamyn West, U.S. novelist, poet, librettist, screenwriter

(1902 - 1984)

Full name: Mary Jessamyn West McPherson.