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Rebecca West

"There are two kinds of imperialists -- imperialists and bloody imperialists."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1911)

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"... a strong hatred [is] the best lamp to bear in our hands as we go over the dark places of life, cutting away the dead things men tell us to revere."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"Art and propaganda have this much connection, that if a propaganda makes art impossible, it is clearly damned."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"... domestic work is the most elementary form of labor. It is suitable for those with the intelligence of rabbits. All it requires is cleanlines, tidiness and quickness -- not moral or intellectual qualities at all, but merely the outward and visible signs of health."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"Hatred of domestic work is a natural and admirable result of civilization. ... The first thing a woman does when she gets a little money into her hands is to hire some other poor wretch to do her housework."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"Writers on the subject of August Strindberg have hitherto omitted to mention that he could not write. ... Strindberg, who was neither a good nor a wise man, had a stroke of luck. He went mad. He lost the power of inhibition. Everything down to the pettiest suspicion that the dog had been given the leanest mutton chop, poured out of his lips. Men of his weakness and sensuality are usually, from their sheer brutishness, unable to express themselves. But Strindberg was mad and articulate. That is what makes him immortal."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"The unsuccessful bully can always become the father of a family."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"The happy marriage, which is the only proper nursery, is indissoluble. The unhappy marriage, which perpetually tells the child a bogey-man story about life, ought to be dissolved."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"Submission to poverty is the unpardonable sin against the body. Submission to unhappiness is the unpardonable sin against the spirit."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"Olive Schreiner is less a woman than a geographical fact. Just as one thinks of Egypt as a foreground for the Pyramids, so South Africa seems the setting of that warm, attractive, aggressive personality. Her work is far inferior to her."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"Miss Heilgers belongs to that school of fiction ... who imagine that by cataloging stimuli one can produce a feeling of stimulation; as though one could convey the joys and miseries of drunkenness by enumerating the public-houses in the Harrow Road."

Rebecca West, in The Freewoman (1912)

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"Sex, which ought to be an incident of life, is the obsession of the well-fed world."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1912)

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"Anthologies are mischievous things. Some years ago there was a rage for chemically predigested food, which was only suppressed when doctors pointed out that since human beings had been given teeth and digestive organs they had to be used or they degenerated very rapidly. Anthologies are predigested food for the brain."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1912)

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"Charity is an ugly trick. It is a virtue grown by the rich on the graves of the poor. Unless it is accompanied by sincere revolt against the present social system, it is cheap moral swagger. In former times it was used as fire insurance by the rich, but now that the fear of Hell has gone along with the rest of revealed religion, it is used either to gild mean lives with nobility or as a political instrument."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1912)

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"The patriarchal system is the ideal for which he longs. He likes to dream of himself sitting on the verandah after dinner, with his wife beside him and the children in the garden, while his unmarried sisters play duets in the drawing room and his maiden aunts hand around the coffee. This maintenance of helpless, penniless, subservient womanhood is the nearest he can get in England to the spiritual delights of the harem."

Rebecca West, in Manchester Daily Despatch (1912)

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"When those of our army whose voices are likely to coo tell us that the day of sex antagonism is over and that henceforth we only have to advance hand in hand with the male, I do not believe it."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1912)

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"The choice between law and justice is an easy one for courageous minds."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1913)

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"... his literary manner is terrible. ... He does not so much split his infinitives as disembowel them."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1913)

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"... people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1913)

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"[On The Fraud of Feminism by Belfort Bax:] It is written in 'the hope that honest, straightforward men who have been bitten by feminist wiles' -- probably a misprint for wives -- 'will take a pause and reconsider their position,' and it is one of the most distressing books I have yet endured. It is like answering a call on the telephone and hearing no words but distant shrieks and groans and thuds."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1913)

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"If there is to be any romance in marriage woman must be given every chance to earn a decent living at other occupations. Otherwise no man can be sure that he is loved for himself alone, and that his wife did not come to the Registry Office because she had no luck at the Labour Exchange."

Rebecca West, in The Clarion (1914)

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"[On Van Wyck Brooks:] He fails from sheer excess of the housewifely qualities. He is saving: just as in happier circumstances he would have put every scrap into the stockpot, so now he refuses to throw away the very driest bone of thought, and insists on boiling it up into his mental soup. He is hospitable: the deadest idea does not get turned away from his doorstep. He is cleanly: his bleached, scentless style suggests that he hung out the English language on the line in the dry, pure breezes of Boston before he used it."

Rebecca West, in Daily News (1915)

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"The Government should prohibit the import of literary pulp as well as wood pulp from Sweden. From that country comes the erotopriggery of Miss Ellen Key, which exhorts women to abandon all personality and creative effort and be but the damp towel to bind round the heated temples of intellectual man. And from that country comes August Strindberg, that unattractive person who was never at his ease except when he was suffering from persecution mania, and who regarded three wives and a few delusions as adequate material for hundreds of plays. And from that country Strindberg constantly comes, and continues to come."

Rebecca West, in Daily News (1916)

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"It was in dealing with the early feminist that the Government acquired the tact and skilfulness with which it is now handling Ireland."

Rebecca West, in Daily News (1916)

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"... to lovers innumerable things do not matter."

Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier (1918)

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"[On grief:] It is like a siege in a tropical city. The skin dries and the throat parches ... thoughts prick one through sleep like mosquitoes."

Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier (1918)

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"It's my profession to bring people from various outlying districts of the mind to the normal. There seems to be a general feeling it's the place where they ought to be. Sometimes I don't see the urgency myself."

Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier (1918)

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"Where there is real love one wants to go to church first."

Rebecca West, The Judge (1922)

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"The aged are terrible -- mere heaps of cinders on the grass from which none can tell how tall the flames once were or what company gathered round them."

Rebecca West, The Judge (1922)

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"She was glad that sometimes, by night, her beauty crawled out of the pit age had dug for it ..."

Rebecca West, The Judge (1922)

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"Unhappy people are dangerous."

Rebecca West, The Judge (1922)

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"To those who fall and hurt themselves one runs with comfort; by those who lie dangerously stricken by a disease one sits and waits."

Rebecca West, The Judge (1922)

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"Quite early in life they had acquired rolls of flesh at the back of their necks and round their hips, and middle age brought them a lumpish look as if they had been stuffed by an unskillful upholsterer."

Rebecca West, "On a Form of Nagging," in Time and Tide (1924)

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"All good biography, as all good fiction, comes down to the study of original sin, of our inherent disposition to choose death when we ought to choose life."

Rebecca West, in Time and Tide (1924)

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"When we choose a god we choose one as much like ourselves as possible, or even more so!"

Rebecca West, in Crystal Eastman, Equal Rights (1925)

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"Mr. Arnold Bennett feels he has ranked himself for ever as a dry wine by what he mixed with himself of Maupassant; nevertheless he has put on the market some grocer's Sauterne in the form of several novels that are highly sentimental so far as their fundamental balance of values is concerned."

Rebecca West, title essay, The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"... sentences were used by man before words and still come with the readiness of instinct to his lips. They, and not words, are the foundations of all language. ... Your cat has no words, but it has considerable feeling for the architecture of the sentence in relation to the problem of expressing climax."

Rebecca West, title essay, The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"Fido and Rover are partaking of a mystery of which, further up the table, Cézanne and Beethoven are participants also."

Rebecca West, title essay, The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"... art is at least in part a way of collecting information about the universe."

Rebecca West, title essay, The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"Art is not a luxury, but a necessity."

Rebecca West, title essay, The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"Bad art is maintained by the neurotic, who is deadly afraid of authentic art because it inspires him to go on living, and he is terrified of life."

Rebecca West, title essay, The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"I cannot see that art is anything less than a way of making joys perpetual."

Rebecca West, title essay, The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"The more lurid type of popular magazine with its pages that shine like shoulders after massage and its illustrations of ladies in evening dresses which remind us that in the sight of God we are all mammals ..."

Rebecca West, "Gallions Reach," The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"... one of Mr. [Thomas] Hardy's ancestors must have married a weeping willow. There are pages and pages in his collected poems which are simply plain narratives in ballad form of how an unenjoyable time was had by all."

Rebecca West, "Two Kinds of Memory," The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"... we arrive, shaken as if we had been traveling on a springless cart, at the final sentence, which is as reelingly off the perpendicular of accuracy as all the rest."

Rebecca West, "The Long Chain of Criticism," The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"[On Jane Austen:] To believe her limited in range because she was harmonious in method is as sensible as to imagine that when the Atlantic Ocean is as smooth as a mill-pond it shrinks to the size of a mill-pond."

Rebecca West, "The Long Chain of Criticism," The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"[On Frances Newman:] ... she employs Matthew Arnold's trick of using a phrase again and again and again, till it accumulates significance like a snowball."

Rebecca West, "Battlefield and Sky," The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"A work of art may be simple, though that is not necessary. There is no logical reason why the camel of great art should pass through the needle of mob intelligence ..."

Rebecca West, "Battlefield and Sky," The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"... whatever a work of art may be, the artist certainly cannot dare to be simple. He must have a nature as complicated and as violent, as totally unsuggestive of the word innocence, as a modern war."

Rebecca West, "Battlefield and Sky," The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide."

Rebecca West, "The Tosh Horse," The Strange Necessity (1928)

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"... chaperons dozed in their corsets like jellies left overnight in their molds ..."

Rebecca West, Harriet Hume (1929)

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"It is astonishing how the human animal survives its misfortunes."

Rebecca West, "The Dutch Exhibition," Ending in Earnest (1931)

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"Most works of art, like most wines, ought to be consumed in the district of their fabrication."

Rebecca West, "'Journey's End' Again," Ending in Earnest (1931)

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"Siegried Sassoon's book is a true work of art. It is an analysis of experience and a synthesis of the findings into a unity that excites the reader."

Rebecca West, "'Journey's End' Again," Ending in Earnest (1931)

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"The childhood of the individual and the race is full of fears, and panic-stricken attempts to avert what is feared by placating the gods with painful sacrifices."

Rebecca West, "'Journey's End' Again," Ending in Earnest (1931)

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"The French use cooking as a means of self-expression, and this meal perfectly represented the personality of a cook who had spent the morning resting her unwashed chin on the edge of a tureen, pondering whether she should end her life immediately by plunging her head into her abominable soup ..."

Rebecca West, "Increase and Multiply," Ending in Earnest (1931)

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"Lunch was not good. ... There was trout beside which I felt young and innocent; veal the condition of which was inexplicable unless it had spent its lifetime competing in six-day bicycle races; the spinach was a dark offense. Apart from the culinary malpractices, there was that in the restaurant which gave me a temporary dislike for life."

Rebecca West, "Increase and Multiply," Ending in Earnest (1931)

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"She had something of the stance of a Spanish fighting bull, and I felt a nervous impulse, as I retreated rapidly before her, to make it quite clear that I had never been a matador and had, indeed, always felt a peculiar affection and regard for bulls."

Rebecca West, "Formidable," Ending in Earnest (1931)

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"[On Emmeline Pankhurst:] She did not neglect her children, but the stream of affairs flowed through her home and the children bobbed like corks on the tide of adult life."

Rebecca West, "A Reed of Steel," The Post-Victorians (1933)

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"... she's a real woman, the kind that can't look after herself ..."

Rebecca West, "Life Sentence," The Harsh Voice (1935)

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"There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all."

Rebecca West, "There Is No Conversation," The Harsh Voice (1935)

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"It is queer how it is always one's virtues and not one's vices that precipitate one into disaster."

Rebecca West, "There Is No Conversation," The Harsh Voice (1935)

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"I do not think women understand how repelled a man feels when he sees a woman wholly absorbed in what she is thinking, unless it is about her child, or her husband, or her lover. It ... gives one gooseflesh."

Rebecca West, "There Is No Conversation," The Harsh Voice (1935)

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"... nobody likes having salt rubbed into their wounds, even if it is the salt of the earth."

Rebecca West, "The Salt of the Earth," The Harsh Voice (1935)

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"It struck her that the difference between men and women is the rock on which civilization will split before it can reach any goal that could justify its expenditure of effort."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"Money is poison."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"There was a definite process by which one made people into friends, and it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"There is nothing more frightening than the faces of people whom one does not know but who seem to know one, and be amused by one."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"He gazed on her thoughtfully, like a cook who has been brought an unfamiliar kind of game and wonders if she ought to prepare it like quail or like plover."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"... he belonged to the vast order of human beings who cannot be loyal to their beloved if a stranger jeers."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"Her friends represented the cast of a legitimate play, which hardly ever exceeds a moderate number, since a theme cannot be crisply expounded by too many mouths, but his friends represented the cast of a Follies show, which, debating no particular point, but stirring certain large loose fantasies of delight in the lower levels of the mind, can be as numerous as the hosts of a dream."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"If the poor ever feel poor as the rich do, we will have a most bloody revolution."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"He spoke with the innocent wonder of a farmer in whose byre a two-headed cow has been born."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"... she drooped her eyelids and put on an expression that made her face look like an unmade bed ..."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"There was too much hatred in the world; it was manifestly as dangerous as gunpowder, yet people let it lie about, in the way of ignition."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"She met the adoring impertinence in his eyes with the despair a mother feels when she comes in after some hours' absence and finds her little boy still playing with his tin trumpet."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"... time spent in a casino is time given to death, a foretaste of the hour when one's flesh will be diverted to the purposes of the worm and not of the will."

Rebecca West, The Thinking Reed (1936)

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"I take it as a prime cause of the present confusion of society that is it too sickly and too doubtful to use pleasure as a test of value."

Rebecca West, in Clifton Fadiman, ed., I Believe (1939)

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"I have no faith in the sense of comforting beliefs which persuade me that all my troubles are blessings in disguise."

Rebecca West, in Clifton Fadiman, ed., I Believe (1939)

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"We think in youth that our bodies are identical with ourselves and have the same interests, but discover later that they are heartless companions who have been accidentally yoked with us, and who are as likely as not, in our extreme sickness or old age, to treat us with less mercy than we would have received at the hands of the worst bandits."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"Idiocy is the female defect ... It is no worse than the male defect, which is lunacy ..."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"Art is not a plaything, but a necessity, and its essence, form, is not a decorative adjustment, but a cup into which life can be poured and lifted to the lips and be tasted."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"It is sometimes very hard to tell the difference between history and the smell of skunk."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"History sometimes acts as madly as heredity, and her most unpredictable performances are often her most glorious."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"It had fervent sherry-colored eyes and was the very dog for a miraculous shrine, for it had such a rich capacity for emotional life that it could hardly have retained any critical sense of evidence. If the dog had a fault, it lay in giving to God's creatures too much of the feelings that it should have reserved for the Creator. It greeted the boatman, who could not have been away from it more more than half an hour, and offered us its friendship, as it might have broken an alabaster box of ointment over our feet and washed them with its hair. It had a baroque excessiveness ... I blushed a little for the dog's abandonment, and was glad that no cat was by to sneer."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"... the air of luxury in Sarajevo has less to do with material goods than with the people. They greet delight here with unreluctant and sturdy appreciation, they are even prudent about it, they will let no drop of pleasure run to waste."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"On their faces lay that plastered, flattened look of loyalty to a cause ... "

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"... Mozart eliminates the idea of haste from life. His airs could not lag as they make their journey through the listener's attention; they are not the right shape for loitering. But it is as true that they never rush, they are never headlong or helter-skelter, they splash no mud, they raise no dust."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"... his smile bore the same relation to a real smile as false teeth do to real teeth ..."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"No Westerner ever sees an Albanian for the first time without thinking that the poor man's trousers are just about to drop off. They are cut in a straight line across the loins, well below the hip-bone, and have no visible means of support; and to make matters psychologically worse they are of white or biscuit homespun heavily embroidered with black wool in designs that make a stately reference to the essential points of male anatomy. The occasion could not seem more grave, especially as there is often a bunch of uncontrolled shirt bulging between the waistcoat and these trousers. Nothing, however, happens."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"... the reward for total abstinence from alcohol seems, illogically enough, to be the capacity for becoming intoxicated without it."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"If ever peace is to be imposed on the world it will only be because a large number of men who could have taken part in the drill display by the Guards or Marines or at the Royal Tournament turn that strength and precision to the service of life."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"... a good oyster cannot please the palate as acutely as a bad one can revolt it, and a good oyster cannot make him who eats it live for ever though a bad one can make him dead for ever."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"There is no escape from mystery. It is the character of our being."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"... like all people who have lived long in exile, she sometimes felt that everything peculiar to the strange place where she found herself was a spreading sore, bubo of a plague that will infect and kill if there is not instant flight to the aseptic."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"She moved with a slowness that was a sign of richness; cream does not pour quickly."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"An audience proves its discipline by its capacity for stillness. Those who have never practiced continuous application to an exacting process cannot settle down to simple watching; they must chew gum, they must dig the peel off their oranges, they must shift from foot to foot, from buttock to buttock."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"Destiny is another name for humanity's half-hearted yet persistent search for death. Again and again peoples have had the chance to live and show what would happen if human life were irrigated by continual happiness; and they have preferred to blow up the canals and perish of drought."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"... Ibsen cried out for ideas for the same reason that men call out for water, because he had not got any."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its dark night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"There is nothing rarer than a man who can be trusted never to throw away happiness, however eagerly he sometimes grasps it. In history we are as frequently interested in our own doom."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"What is art? It is not decoration. It is the re-living of experience."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"The mind is its own enemy, that fights itself with the innumerable pliant and ineluctable arms of the octopus."

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

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"Here lies the real terror in the international war of ideologies; that a city knows not whom it entertains."

Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason (1947)

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"To make laws is a human instinct that arises as soon as food and shelter have been ensured, among all peoples, everywhere."

Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason (1947)

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"... the law, like art, is always vainly racing to catch up with experience."

Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason (1947)

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"Human beings are mercifully so constituted as to be able to conceal from themselves what they intend to do until they are well into the doing of it."

Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason (1947)

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"To every man in the world there is one person of whom he knows little: whom he would never recognize if he met him walking down the street, whose motives are a mystery to him. That is himself."

Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason (1947)

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"Neurotics, who cause less distress to themselves and their neighbours than those in the other category, are at war with their own natures. Their right hands are in conflict with their left. Psychotics, and it is those who commit purposeless crimes and prefer death to life, are at war with their environment. Right and left hands strike against the womb that carries them."

Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason (1947)

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"The trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths which are too complicated; he forgets truths which are too simple."

Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason (1947)

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"All men should have a drop of treason in their veins, if the nations are not to go soft like so many sleepy pears."

Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason (1947)

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"I see the main problem of my life, and indeed anybody's life, as the balancing of competitive freedoms ... a sense of mutual obligations that have to be honored, and a legal system which can be trusted to step in when that sense fails."

Rebecca West, "Goodness Doesn't Just Happen," in Edward P. Morgan, ed., This I Believe (1952)

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"Nothing succeeds like failure."

Rebecca West, in Agnes de Mille, Dance to the Piper (1952)

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"Just how difficult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs."

Rebecca West, "The Art of Scepticism," in Vogue (1952)

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"Nobody ever wrote a good book simply by collecting a number of accurate facts and valid ideas."

Rebecca West, "The Art of Scepticism," in Vogue (1952)

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"It is a great pity that every human being does not, at an early stage of his life, have to write a historical work. He would then realize that the human race is in quite a jam about truth."

Rebecca West, "The Art of Scepticism," in Vogue (1952)

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"My scepticism long ago led me to the belief that writers write for themselves and not for their readers and that art has nothing to do with communication between person and person, only with communication between different parts of a person's mind."

Rebecca West, "The Art of Scepticism," in Vogue (1952)

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"... Miss Beevor had made her playing at once much better and much worse, by giving her resolute fingers greater power to express her misunderstanding of sound."

Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows (1956)

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"But art is so much more real than life. Some art is much more real than some life, I mean."

Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows (1956)

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"But that is journalism -- an ability to meet the challenge of filling space."

Rebecca West, in The New York Herald Tribune (1956)

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"... any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience."

Rebecca West, The Court and the Castle (1957)

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"The delight we find in art amounts to recognition of a saving grace, to an acknowledgment that the problem of life has a solution implicit in its own nature, though not yet formulated by the intellect."

Rebecca West, The Court and the Castle (1957)

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"... humanity is never more sphinxlike than when it is expressing itself."

Rebecca West, The Court and the Castle (1957)

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"Motherhood is neither a duty nor a privilege, but simply the way that humanity can satisfy the desire for physical immortality and triumph over the fear of death."

Rebecca West, in The New York Times (1960)

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"... she was wilting, withering, diminishing, though she still spelt magnificence, as a word retains the same meaning even if it be printed in smaller and smaller type."

Rebecca West, The Birds Fall Down (1966)

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"... he opens his friends' mind like jewel-boxes and brings the enclosed treasures out into the light."

Rebecca West, The Birds Fall Down (1966)

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"... every human activity, whether it be love, philosophy, art, or revolution, is carried on with a special intensity in Paris."

Rebecca West, The Birds Fall Down (1966)

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"Which is it, I wonder, do I talk too much or does it merely seem to people that I talk too much? And which of those alternatives is the most disagreeable?"

Rebecca West, The Birds Fall Down (1966)

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"All disgrace smells alike. Differences in ruin are only matters of degree."

Rebecca West, The Birds Fall Down (1966)

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"If the whole human race lay in one grave, the epitaph on its headstone might well be: 'It seemed a good idea at the time.'"

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, "Talk With Rebecca West," The New York Times Book Review (1977)

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"I am not so repelled by Communism: an element of Communism in politics is necessary and inevitable. In any involved society there must be a feeling that something must be done about poverty -- which is the basis of communism."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, "Talk With Rebecca West," The New York Times Book Review (1977)

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"Domesticity is essentially drama, for drama is conflict, and the home compels conflict by its concentration of active personalities in a small area. The real objection to domesticity is that it is too exciting."

Rebecca West, c. 1912, in Jane Marcus, ed., The Young Rebecca (1982)

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"No great thing happens suddenly."

Rebecca West, in Jane Marcus, ed., The Young Rebecca (1982)

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"Before a war, military science seems a real science, like astronomy. After a war it seems more like astrology."

Rebecca West, in Jonathon Green, Morrow's International Dictionary of Contemporary Quotations (1982)

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"I really write to find out what I know about something and what is to be known about something."

Rebecca West, in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work, 6th series (1984)

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"My memory is certainly in my hands. I can remember things only if I have a pencil and I can write with it and I can play with it. ... I think your hand concentrates for you. I don't know why it should be so."

Rebecca West, in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work, 6th series (1984)

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"I write books to find out about things."

Rebecca West, in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work, 6th series (1984)

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"... I read a Finnish novel. It was all about people riding bicycles."

Rebecca West, in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work, 6th series (1984)

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"The day was so delightful that I wished one could live slowly as one can play music slowly."

Rebecca West, This Real Night (1985)

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"A child is an adult temporarily enduring conditions which exclude the possibility of happiness."

Rebecca West, This Real Night (1985)

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"... music is a missionary effort to colonize earth for imperialistic heaven."

Rebecca West, This Real Night (1985)

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"What, did St. Francis preach to the birds? Whatever for? If he really liked birds he would have done better to preach to cats."

Rebecca West, This Real Night (1985)

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"You went on and on at it, you wouldn't leave it alone. When one thought the thing was safely thrown out of doors you reappeared at the window with the thing in your mouth."

Rebecca West, This Real Night (1985)

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"It is the soul's duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master-passion."

Rebecca West, in A.L. Rowse, Glimpses of the Great (1985)

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"I have never been able to write with anything more than the left hand of my mind; the right hand has always been engaged in something to do with personal relationships. I don't complain, because I think my left hand's power, as much as it has, is due to its knowledge of what my right hand is doing."

Rebecca West, in A.L. Rowse, Glimpses of the Great (1985)

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"Motherhood is the strangest thing, it can be like being one's own Trojan horse."

Rebecca West, letter (1959), in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"Everyone realizes that one can believe little of what people say about each other. But it is not so widely realized that even less can one trust what people say about themselves."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"[On Michael Arlen:] Every other inch a gentleman."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning (1928), Rebecca West (1987)

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"If I do not do sensible things about investments I shall spend my old age in a workhouse, where nobody will understand my jokes."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"... the bad is more easily perceived than the good. A fresh lobster does not give such pleasure to the consumer as a stale one will give him pain."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"I don't believe that to understand is necessarily to pardon, but I feel that to understand makes one forget that one cannot pardon."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"I bought Henry a beautiful Daimler coupé, the first new car we have ever had, a tender antelope of a car."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"[Evelyn Waugh] made drunkenness cute and chic, and then took to religion, simply to have the most expensive carpet of all to be sick on."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"All our Western thought is founded on this repulsive pretence that pain is the proper price of any good thing."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"I find to my astonishment that an unhappy marriage goes on being unhappy when it is over."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"There is, of course, no reason for the existence of the male sex except that one sometimes needs help with moving the piano."

Rebecca West, 1970, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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"... it is necessary that we should all have a little of the will to die, because otherwise we would find the performance of our biological duty of death too difficult."

Rebecca West, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

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" Without doubt cats are intellectuals who have been, by some mysterious decree of Providence, deprived of the comfort of the word."

Rebecca West, "Pounce," The Essential Rebecca West: Uncollected Prose (2010)

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"His flat face looked as if it were pressed against a window, except there was no window."

Rebecca West

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"Music is part of human life and partakes of the human tragedy. There is much more music in the world than is allowed to change into heard sounds and prove its point."

Rebecca West, Family Memories (1987)

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"Why must you always try to be omnipotent, and shove things about? Tragic things happen sometimes that we just have to submit to."

Rebecca West, "The Salt of the Earth," The Harsh Voice (1935)

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"[On Robert Graves:] I didn't like him and his wife -- they're like very bad weather."

Rebecca West, 1922, in Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., Selected Letters of Rebecca West (2000)

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"A lady once longed to be wild / But kept herself quite undefiled -- / By thinking of Jesus / And veneral diseases -- / And the danger of having a child."

Rebecca West, 1925, in Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., Selected Letters of Rebecca West (2000)

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"[To Jonathan Cape:] Alas that I was snatched away from your arms on Friday night by Lord Castlerosse's necessity to confide to me the secrets of his heart -- which were extensive and peculiar."

Rebecca West, 1928, in Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., Selected Letters of Rebecca West (2000)

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"[To Stoyan Pribicevic on his review of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon in the Nation:] The trouble about you, my lad, is that you are beautiful but dumb. Your review shows that you did not understand a page of my book."

Rebecca West, 1945, in Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., Selected Letters of Rebecca West (2000)

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"I am suffering to a degree that I wouldn't have thought possible from grief over my poor old marmalade cat, Ginger Pounce. ... He thought I was neurotic and apt to be intrusive, and was always very careful not to make a fuss of me, but in a cagey way let me know that he knew I was doing pretty well for him and there were no hard feelings. He had a very reserved, reluctant way of licking my hand in a way that suggested he was saying to himself, 'I hope to God the woman won't start to think I want to marry her.'"

Rebecca West, 1952, in Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., Selected Letters of Rebecca West (2000)

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"[On Dorothy Thompson:] Even if I hadn't liked her, I would have liked her, if you know what I mean."

Rebecca West, 1952, in Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., Selected Letters of Rebecca West (2000)

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"I wonder if we are all wrong about each other, if we are just composing unwritten novels about the people we meet?"

Rebecca West, 1970, in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West: A Life (1987)

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Rebecca West, English novelist, journalist, essayist, critic, feminist
(1892 - 1983)

Dame Rebecca West’s full name: Cicely Isabel Fairfield Maxwell Andrews West. She sometimes used the pseudonym Rachel East.