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Sylvia Townsend Warner

"Autumn is an unkindly thing / In a town."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "Country Thought From a Town," The Espalier (1925)

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"The blossom rifled, / With laden thighs / Further each willing / Eunuch plies: / A dull way to fertilize."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "Honey for Tea," The Espalier (1925)

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"Blest are the poor, whose needs enable / The rich but timely charitable / To take the Kingdom of Heaven by force. / The poor are also saved, of course."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "Grace and Good Works," The Espalier (1925)

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"... there was no reliance upon Hester's kindness. It was too much like the kindness of a mother cat who will wash her kitten's face whether the kitten wishes it or no."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "The Democrat's Daughter," More Joy in Heaven (1935)

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"Sneezes ... always sound much louder to the sneezer than to the hearers. It is an acoustical peculiarity."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "The Democrat's Daughter," More Joy in Heaven (1935)

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"To one who has led a virtuous life, to sin is the easiest thing in the world. No experience of unpleasant consequences grits that smooth sliding fall, no recollection of disillusionment blurs that pure desire."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "The Property of a Lady," More Joy in Heaven (1935)

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"... the advantages of being a postman seemed more and more dubious. It is not a congenial profession for anyone who is at all sensitive, for people visit upon the postman all their first annoyance at receiving a couple of bills when they looked for a love-letter, and if a packet is insufficiently stamped they hand over the pennies as though to a despicable bandit, too outrageous to be denied, too groveling to be feared."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "The Property of a Lady," More Joy in Heaven (1935)

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"Belligerents always abolish war after a war."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "Poor Mary," The Museum of Cheats (1947)

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"All encounters with children are touched with social embarrassment."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "View Halloo," The Museum of Cheats (1947)

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"But no one would possibly listen to her. No one ever listened to one unless one said the wrong thing."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "Fenella," A Stranger With a Bag, and Other Stories (1966)

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"You are only young once. At the time it seems endless, and is gone in a flash; and then for a very long time you are old."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, title story, Swans on an Autumn River (1966)

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"Children driven good are apt to be driven mad. "

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Scenes of Childhood (1981)

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"There is a period in one's life -- perhaps not longer than six months -- when one lives in two worlds at once ... It is the time when one has freshly learned to read. The Word, till then a denominating aspect of the Thing, has suddenly become detached from it and is perceived as a glittering entity, transparent and unseizable as a jellyfish, yet able to create an independent world that is both more recondite and more instantaneously convincing than the world one knew before."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Scenes of Childhood (1981)

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"... cooking is the most succulent of human pleasures."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Scenes of Childhood (1981)

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"... she had discovered that the food you eat out of its saucepan tastes infinitely better than ever it does by the time it has been conveyed to a dining-room and withered under a conversational host."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Scenes of Childhood (1981)

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"His expression was at once ravenous and demure; he had a profile as accurate as though it had been snipped out of a piece of paper ..."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Scenes of Childhood (1981)

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"... he wore a glittering brass helmet much too large for him and looked, so my mother said, like a weevil in a nut."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Scenes of Childhood (1981)

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"... once, when I was a young lady and on a night express ... I was awakened by a man coming in from the corridor and taking hold of my leg ... Quite as much to my own astonishment as his, I uttered the most appalling growl that ever came out of a tigress. He fled, poor man, without a word: and I lay there, trembling slightly, not at my escape but at my potentialities."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1961, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"I wish I could write librettos for the rest of my life. It is the purest of human pleasures, a heavenly hermaphroditism of being both writer and musician. No wonder that selfish beast Wagner kept it all to himself."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1955, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"My grandmother was unsurpassable at sitting. She would sit on tombstones, glaciers, small hard benches with ants crawling over them, fragments of public monuments, other people's wheelbarrows, and when one returned one could be sure of finding her there, conversing affably with the owner of the wheelbarrow."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1948, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"A story demanded to be written, and that is why I have not answered your letter before: a wrong-headed story, that would come blundering like a moth on my window, and stare in with small red eyes, and I the last writer in the world to manage such a subject. One should have more self-control. One should be able to say, Go away. You have come to the wrong inkstand, there is nothing for you here. But I am so weakminded that I cannot even say, Come next week."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1951, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"... about ten days ago I got started on a new book, and am completely, brazenly devoted to it: my hair is uncut, my letters are unwritten, the house is a shambles, and I sit here as happy as Mrs. Jellaby, though I am in 1836, not Africa. It won't go on like this, I shall fall over some obstacle, and wake out of my dreams with a black eye and broken shins: but while it does last, I daren't interrupt it. I haven't had such a spell of writing for nearly three years."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1951, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"We managed to arrive at San Lorenzo fuori le Mura at the same moment as a funeral ... a fat priest in his vestments came out of the first coach like an overgrown dahlia, and roared his way through the service with a speed only to be matched by the speed of the organist, who kept on tripping him over with the first chord of the responses, like a rugby tackle. "

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1955, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"It [the bat] allowed me to pick it up and admire its fine mackintosh wings and furious fairy face. And since it was a day of ruthless sunlight I put it into a cupboard to meditate in dusk till sundown."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1934, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Of all damnable offenses preaching prudence to the young is the most damnable."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1940, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Is it the realization that people recently psychoanalyzed tend to be dreadful bores which makes the U.S.A. army reject them for the draft?"

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1941, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"... when the German propaganda tries to be winsome it is like a clown with homicidal mania -- ludicrous and terrifying both at once."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1941, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"... for the last six weeks I have found myself pestered by some characters in search of an author ..."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1941, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"... I feel domesticity just slipping off me. It is a choice. Either one can let it go or one can intensify it. The people who intensify it seem to get quite a lot of interest out of that, too, and are as preoccupied as pirates."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1942, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"General de Gaulle is again pictured in our newspapers, looking as usual like an embattled codfish."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1948, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"I cannot love people in the country, I discover, because there is always this danger that they may be acquaintances, with all the perils and choleras of acquaintance implicit in them; but in London they seem as charming as rabbits."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1950, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"To think of losing is to lose already."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1951, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Proust goes on. I love him as much as ever -- but between ourselves he is not a very impressive critic. Rather like Valentine's intelligent poodle with grapes. She adores grapes, and can do everything with them except bite them."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1955, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"... I don't think four thousand copies such a wretched sale. You should try to take a longer view of it. If you had sold four thousand female tortoiseshell kittens, for instance, you would think you had done marvels."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1956, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"... yesterday ... was a very queer and alarming day: classically still and brooding, and both our cats with staring coats, and slinking about at my heels in the most woe-begone way. They have a wonderful talent for being Cassandras, only unfortunately they cannot prophesy with any explicit detail, so we never know whether to expect floods, lightning, or visitors."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1957, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"He looks at trees with an astonishing degree of love and trust and penetration; almost as though he were exiled from being a tree himself."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1958, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"... Rembrandt is not a painter at all. He is a creator, who creates his beings, three dimensional living beings, on a two-dimensional flat surface which acts as a mute, and enforces silence on them."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1959, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Anticipation of pleasure is a pleasure in itself."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1960, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Oh, I am all for singing. If I had had children I should have hounded them into choirs & choral societies, and if they weren't good enough for that, I would have sent them out, to sing in the streets."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1960, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Valentine's tiresome sister has lost her job. And created over this as if she had lost her hair, her teeth, her legs, her good name, and her latchkey."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1961, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"We are also rather concerned about our moorhen who went mad while we were in Italy and began to build a nest in a tree. ... she walks about in the tree, looking as uneasy yet persevering as a district visitor in a brothel."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1962, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"I do apologize for writing by hand -- and so badly. I shall soon be like Helen Thomas, notoriously illegible. In her last letter only two words stood out plain: 'Blood pressure.' Subsequent research demonstrated that what she had actually written was 'Beloved friends.'"

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1963, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"I wish you could see the two cats, drowsing side by side in a Victorian nursing chair, their paws, their ears, their tails complementally adjusted, their blue eyes blinking open on a single thought of when I shall remember it's their suppertime. They might have been composed by Bach for two flutes."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1965, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Death transfigured her. In a matter of minutes I saw the beauty of her young days reassert itself on her blurred careworn face. It was like something in music, the re-establishment of the original key, the return of the theme. Don't think I am unhappy and alone, dear William. I am not. I am in a new country and she is the compass I travel by."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1969, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Reason is a poor hand at prophecies."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1973, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Inflation is the senility of democracies."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1973, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Can you suggest any suitable aspersions to spread abroad about Mrs. Thatcher? It is idle to suggest she has unnatural relations with Mrs. Barbara Castle; what is needed is something socially lower: that she eats asparagus with knife and fork, or serves instant mash potatoes."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1976, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"One reason why my memory decays is that I have three cats, all so loving and insistent that they play cat's-cradle with every train of thought. They drove me distracted while I was having influenza, gazing at me with large eyes and saying: O Sylvia, you are so ill, you'll soon be dead. And who will feed us then? Feed us now!"

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1977, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"There are not enough poems in praise of bed ..."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1974, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"You aren't the only one to mislay. Objects have got so bold about it in this house that they mislay themselves in front of my eyes and remain in front of my eyes, mislaid. I put it down to pollution."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1972, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"I seem to use this word 'kind' very frequently. When one is unhappy or anxious it is a quality one dwells on."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1968, in William Maxwell, ed., Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

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"Happiness is an immunity."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, "But at the Stroke of Midnight," Selected Stories (1988)

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"I wish I could be a grandmother. It is wanton extravagance to have had a youth with no one to tell of it to when one grows old."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1928, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"Spring is strictly sentimental, self-regarding; but I burn more careless in the autumn bonfire."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1929, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"After tea Bridget appeared and romped on my lap like a short stout salmon. It is not a person one feels moving when one holds a baby: it is life, compact, darting, incalculable."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1929, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"In the morning I had decided that henceforth I only cared for easy loves. It is so degrading to have to persuade people into liking one, or one's works."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1929, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"As for the slow movement, I thought it would never end. It was like being in such a slow train with so many stops that one becomes convinced that one has passed one's station."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1929, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"... I lay awake jumping like a newly-killed trout till 5 or six, when out of the dark I suddenly heard the comforting noises of the milk being set down on the door-step."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1930, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"The Church has lost a great religious poet in me; but I have lost an infinity of fun in the church, so the loss is even."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1930, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"... Mrs. Moxon lit our first fire, with a gimelled prayer cum incantation of good-will upon us. It burned merrily, the room began to live, like a ship getting under way."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1930, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"One need not write in a diary what one is to remember for ever."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1930, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"The body, after all, older and wiser than soul, being first created, and, like a good horse, if given its way would go home by the best path and at the right pace."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1931, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"We read some Coventry Patmore, who is better than one thinks, but not as good as he thinks himself."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1931, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"Happy is the day whose history is not written down."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1934, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"It is a pity but seems true, that bearing children reduces women to extremes of potential nobility or potential baseness in anything like a crisis. But robs them of the impulse to behave with reason and decency. I suppose a birth is such a shock to the nerves that one never gets over it."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1937, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"The air is darkened with sins coming home to roost."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1942, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"And another day is tucked under my wing."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1949, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"Nora's small purple coffin coming out of the hearse; the one bunch of brilliant spring flowers on it. Out of such bare material, out of mere birth and death, we spin the intricate web of love, we distill it from these poor bones and ashes, and with it conceive the tale that is told and ended when we die."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1950, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"But what are wishes, compared with longings?"

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1952, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"Violet walked first with Valentine, then with me, pouring out her anxious heart, clinging, like a heavy butterfly, to my arm."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1953, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"One cannot overestimate the power of a good rancorous hatred on the part of the stupid. The stupid have so much more industry and energy to expend on hating. They build it up like coral insects."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1954, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"... no one wants to be praised for possibilities when one has submitted performances."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1954, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"When I die, I hope to think I have annoyed a great many people."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1957, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"Idleness is righteous if it is comfortable. Uncomfortable idleness is sin & sinful waste."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1962, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"I realize that it is as one ages and loses one's natural force that one is at the mercy of heredity. The young are themselves: the aging, their parents' children."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1968, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"Total grief is like a minefield. No knowing when one will touch the tripwire."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1969, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"One cannot revoke a true happiness."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1970, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"... my mother didn't cherish me. For my first seven years she did, though doing her duty by me impeded the cherishing. Doing one's duty by hardens the heart against. Insensibly, we repudiate our good deeds, our filthy rags of righteousness."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1971, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"... noise is a pollution."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1971, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"Only two things are real to me: my love and my death. In between them, I merely exist as a scatter of senses."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1971, in Claire Harman, ed., The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995)

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"Love amazes, but it does not surprise."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"Rouen shone in dark sunlight and a storm swept it away from my eyes and churned up the broad river with waves which pounced up like cats as our train drew out of the arches of the bridge. "

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1931, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"... possessiveness cannot accept; it cannot even strike a fair bargain; it has to confer."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"Love is the only real patriation, and without one's dear one sits in a dreary and boring exile."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1936, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"His voice is like embattled mice, small and shrill ..."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"... I have an idea that conscience impedes quite as many merits as faults, is a sort of alloy, a nickel which may prevent silver from bending but also prevents it from shining."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1937, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"Elizabeth ... had the prerogative of the rich that she could be generous with large sums and niggardly over small ones ..."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"Happiness cannot fly on one wing, I cannot be happy while you are not."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1940, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"The blackthorn blossoms are coming out, all along the lane. The buds seem to be frowning on the bough as the winds bang them. They look as furious as smacked kittens, they lower. I went to feed Mrs. H.E's. hens this afternoon ... The hens looked much too large for the garden; they seemed to be spreading as one looked at them, like ink-blots."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1948, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland (1998)

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"I wasn't educated. I was very lucky."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1977, in Peter Tolhurst, ed., With the Hunted: Selected Writings (2012)

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"[John Craske] painted like a man giving witness under oath to a wild story."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Peter Tolhurst, ed., With the Hunted: Selected Writings (2012)

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"[On an anarchist acquaintance:] Everything in appearance the most alarmist aunt could wish."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Peter Tolhurst, ed., With the Hunted: Selected Writings (2012)

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"Nine people out of ten (in Germany and England, perhaps ten people) would rather wait for their rights than fight for their rights."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Peter Tolhurst, ed., With the Hunted: Selected Writings (2012)

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"Those who spend their strength in field and factory would rather hear that their emancipation is bound to come than that it is something to be hazardously purchased by struggle and sacrifice."

Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Peter Tolhurst, ed., With the Hunted: Selected Writings (2012)

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Sylvia Townsend Warner, English writer
(1893 - 1978)