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Elizabeth Hardwick

  • ... the laughter of adults was always very different from the laughter of children. The former indicated a recognition of the familiar, but in children it came from the shock of the new.

  • She was alone in the way that one can only be when pain is involved.

  • Houses of evil similarity appeared like rows of disciplined, humiliated orphans.

  • Like a peddler whose wares have been turned down all day, he waited, with a look of patient expectation, for contradiction.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "The Purchase," in Edward Joseph Harrington and Martha Foley, eds., The Best American Short Stories and the Yearbook of the American Short Story ()
  • In letters we can reform without practice, beg without humiliation, snip and shape embarrassing experiences to the measure of our own desires ...

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Anderson, Millay and Crane in Their Letters" (1953), A View of My Own, ()
  • Art is a profession, not a shrine.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Memoirs, Conversations and Diaries" (1953), A View of My Own ()
  • Sometimes one has the feeling of an almost supernatural character to the shifts and changes in our national mood. They appear beyond the prose of cause and effect ...

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Riesman Considered," A View of My Own ()
  • I have come to the belief that there is not merely an accidental relationship between bad writing and routine sociological research, but a wonderfully pure, integral relationship; the awkwardness is necessary and inevitable.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Riesman Considered," A View of My Own ()
  • Boston — wrinkled, spindly-legged, depleted of nearly all her spiritual and cutaneous oils, provincial, self-esteeming — has gone on spending and spending her inflated bills of pure reputation, decade after decade.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Boston," A View of My Own ()
  • History ... with its long, leisurely, gentlemanly labors, the books arriving by post, the cards to be kept and filed, the sections to be copied, the documents to be checked, is the ideal pursuit for the New England mind.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Boston," A View of My Own ()
  • Harvard (across the river in Cambridge) and Boston are two ends of one mustache. ... Without the faculty, the visitors, the events that Harvard brings to the life here, Boston would be intolerable to anyone except genealogists, antique dealers, and those who find repletion in a closed local society.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Boston," A View of My Own ()
  • This photographer felt deeply the stab of professional insult common to people who have lived in a foreign country for a few years and still find their opinions not asked for at home.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "A Florentine Conference" (1951), A View of My Own ()
  • [On sociability in Italy:] You may be a hermit or an innkeeper.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Living in Italy: Reflections on Bernard Berenson," A View of My Own ()
  • ... memory — the very skin of life ...

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Living in Italy: Reflections on Bernard Berenson," A View of My Own ()
  • Biology is destiny only for girls.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • title essay, Seduction and Betrayal ()
  • A letter is not a dialogue or even an omniscient exposition. It is a fabric of surfaces, a mask, a form as well suited to affectations as to the affections. The letter is, by its natural shape, self-justifying; it is one's own evidence, deposition, a self-serving testimony. In a letter the writer holds all the cards, controls everything about himself and about those assertions he wishes to make concerning events or the worth of others. For completely self-centered characters, the letter form is a complex and rewarding activity.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • title essay, Seduction and Betrayal ()
  • This is the unspoken contract of a wife and her works. In the long run wives are to be paid in a peculiar coin — consideration for their feelings. And it usually turns out this is an enormous, unthinkable inflation few men will remit, or if they will, only with a sense of being overcharged.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • "Amateurs," Seduction and Betrayal ()
  • When you travel your first discovery is that you do not exist.

  • Of course these things are not mine. I think they are usually spoken of as ours, that tea bag of a word which steeps in the conditional.

  • The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.

    • Elizabeth Hardwick,
    • in The Paris Review ()

Elizabeth Hardwick, U.S. critic, novelist, educator

(1916 - 2007)