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Katharine Butler Hathaway

  • ... I lived in the midst of an affectionate charming family, and I am sure that there is no greater obstacle to a person who is just beginning to write.

  • ... I combined an absolutely uneventful outward personal life with a vivid life of imaginary experience.

  • Reality is unbelievably terrifying after one has done nothing but dream.

  • The sun seemed to pour down a lavish, golden, invulnerable contentment on everything, on people, houses, animals, fields — and a sweetness like the sweetness of passion.

  • Of all human relationships aunthood seemed to be the one I was born for.

  • There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.

  • Then and there I invented this rule for myself to be applied to every decision I might have to make in the future. I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear and which to creativeness, and other things being equal I would make the decision which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side. I think it must be a rule something like this that makes jonquils and crocuses come pushing through cold mud.

  • Sometimes a child has a great urge to talk what its mother calls nonsense. Sometimes even a child's worry about death and about the beginning and the end of the universe seems like nonsense to the busy mother when she knows by taking one quick animal sniff of him that there is nothing wrong with him. This is where the good maiden aunt comes in.

  • Saying 'God within me' brought me an inrush of quietness and sweetness, a feeling inside me of dignity and wholeness which was not me at all, but something greater than I was, against which the horrors were powerless.

  • I could never work with great spirit in any material unless I knew that the amount of it was limited—I had to be hedged in by a boundary of either space or material, in order to awaken the feeling of creative excitement.

  • The good aunt always gives to any kind of nieces and nephews the something extra, the something unexpected, the something which comes from outside the limits of their habitual world. She is an aviator from another country who drops leaflets out of the sky. She does not intend to start a revolution, she only wants them to learn that there are other countries besides their own.

  • ... mine was a life of failure — one thing after another — like most lives ... but that is all right, it is universal, it is the great human experience to fail.

  • Palmistry is a toy left over from the childhood of our race, which we shamefacedly hide whenever anyone is looking. Although we may despise it with our superior minds, it is older and nearer to us than our minds are, like sleep or tears, as even the best of us demonstrate when we are unhappy.

  • ... I am as susceptible to houses as some people are susceptible to other human beings. Twice in my life I have fallen in love with one. Each time it was as violent and fatal as falling in love with a human being.

  • One day I found in my hands the manuscript of a poem in my father's handwriting. He had died when I was only fifteen. We had been in love with each other ever since I could remember, but he had died while our minds were still separated by my immaturity.

  • In France wine is thought of as food, so necessary to life that nobody is too poor to go without it ...

  • ... if you realize too acutely how heavenly valuable time is, you are too paralyzed to do anything.

  • Any action whose reasons and explanations can all be contained in a few smooth practical sentences, and which arouses a unanimous chorus of approval from all the family and relations, may well be suspected of not being a living, deep-rooted action at all and scarcely worth pursuing.

  • Japanese language and manners uncover a layer of consciousness we are not aware of. ... We are very sloppy and noisy and unreal. Japanese have words to express things we do not express, microscopic moods, nonbili, tea-drinker's colors. The Japanese language can teach us to see and to feel things we have not been aware of. If there is no word to express a certain mood or inpression, it scarcely exists in our consciousness. At least it doesn't exist with anything like the authority and clearness that it exists when it has been classified and given a name.

  • ... you never realize death until you realize love.

  • I feel as if I had never seen a violin before. It looks like a fabulous creature-phantom-fox spirit — wedded to the human-turned head and the left shoulder and the hands. As if something had been missing when man was created, and now he has found his needed thing — his needed voice for uttering his strangest cry by his lonely spirit.

  • There is no such thing as definite conclusion. Everything must be followed by a question mark.

  • It is only by following your deepest instinct that you can lead a rich life and if you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct, then your life will be safe, expedient and thin. ... Throw yourself away, and then you will find out that you are really alive.

  • The most beautiful thing is inevitability of events, and the most ugly thing is trying to resist inevitablity. I do not struggle.

  • Don't be obsessed with the idea that there is only one possibility. If you think so, there is only one.

  • There are days of oldness, and then one gets young again. It goes backward and forward, not in one direction.

  • It is such a bewildered, scared feeling to go for the first time to a place and not know where to call out to the driver to stop.

  • To me, money is alive. It is almost human. If you treat it with real sympathy and kindness and consideration, it will be a good servant and work hard for you, and stay with you and take care of you. If you treat it arrogantly and contemptuously, as if it were not human, as if it were only a slave and could work without limit, it will turn on you with a great revenge and leave you to look after yourself alone.

  • I feel as if the moment of ripeness had arrived, and I must busy myself picking up the fruit and polishing it and heaping it up in beautiful pyramids.

  • I am amazed by the sayings of Christ. They seem truer than anything I have ever read. And they certainly turn the world upside down.

  • [On Maine:] In this state there are more different kinds of religion than in any other, I believe. These long cold solitudes incline one to meditation.

    • Katharine Butler Hathaway,
    • on Maine (1936), The Journals and Letters of the Little Locksmith ()
  • We go down to the mouth of our brook with flashlights and catch the fish in our hands, very silvery and mysterious, like a poem by W.B. Yeats.

  • There are times when solitude, like starvation, is necessary to get rid of one's poisons.

  • The true aunt is the one who is unmarried ... she is different from other people — very different from mothers. Very different from other unmarried ladies who have no nieces and nephews — certainly different from a person who has nieces and nephews and doesn't like them. That kind of an aunt is an aunt in name only — not an aunt at all.

  • It is easy enough to sympathize with and sponsor in another person thoughts and feelings which are like our own — it is like approving of one's self — but giving your sympathy and your understanding and your love to a person who is in the throes of thoughts and feelings that are different from yours, and different from anything that you personally have ever experienced, that is another thing ...

  • Thank goodness for people courageous enough to be ridiculous, if they must be, in order to balance their lives.

  • Like a daughter of joy, the maiden aunt belongs to everybody and to nobody.

  • A person needs at intervals to separate himself from family and companions and go to new places. He must go without his familiars in order to be open to influences, to change.

  • Writing is unsocial, solitary work and the one safety-valve sort of reaction from it is contact with people. Otherwise the writing and the writer both suffer from lack of aeration and contact with material of art.

  • Aunthood was the relationship I liked best among those which were possible for me.

  • The so-called selfishness of moderns is partly due to the tremendous amount of stimulation received. They are aroused and drawn into experience by theaters, books, automobiles, great cities. The current is quick and strong.

  • The age of the Aunt is passing—the unmarried, virgin aunt who puts so much of her suppressed desire, passion, gift into stimulating and encouraging nephews and nieces.

  • Writers and artists [are] to be themselves with dignity, not to be always feeling apologetic toward the normal people and trying to explain and adapt themselves.

  • The change of life is the time when you meet yourself at a crossroads and you decide whether to be honest or not before you die.

  • The unconscious is like a black dog. And psychoanalysis simply teaches the human being that his happiness and success depend upon his attitude toward the black dog — his beast, his property — his dog. It teaches that the best way is to make friends with the dog and to understand his nature, to conciliate him, not to be ashamed of him, not brutal to him, nor overindulgent to him. But most of all, to know him.

  • Language is so stale, I have to keep pruning, cutting out deadness, letting it lie for a while, then pick it up again and see where it is dead, prune it and prune it, let it grow, then let it lie.

  • Clichés are like a cat's fleas. The work in progress is the cat, a living, beautiful creature, but the fleas hop automatically onto its body, and there must be a constant warfare against them. Nothing less than a catlike biting hunt can rid a piece of my writing of its clichés.

  • As there is design and symmetry in nature, I believe there is also design and symmetry in human experience if we will learn to yield ourselves to our destinies.

  • The support of one's personality is friends.

    • Katharine Butler Hathaway

Katharine Butler Hathaway, English writer

(1890 - 1942)