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  • 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.

  • She was a pink, flabby, irresponsible person, adjusting comfortably the physical burden of too much flesh to the spiritual repose of too little mind. All the virtues and the vices of the 'poor white' had come to flower in her. ... As the mother of children so numerous that their father could not be trusted to remember their names, she still welcomed the yearly addition to her family with the moral serenity of a rabbit.

  • My God, how fatuous they were, Father Cheney thought, and their indulgent father with the face like a buttered scone, dripping complacency, and their stubbornly blond mother who would price everything in the gift shop after dinner.

  • ... Mr. Archer was the deep kind, like something in a dictionary that had a dozen different meanings you'd never think of.

  • [On meeting Lord Byron:] Mad, bad and dangerous to know.

    • Lady Caroline Lamb,
    • noted in her diary (1812), in Elizabeth Jenkins, Lady Caroline Lamb ()
  • A victim to certain obscure forms of gout, he was in character neither stupid, nor inhuman, but he suffered from the usual drawbacks of his class, — too much money, and too few ideas.

  • ... the long procession of girls ... was like a funeral and a caravan mixed, — 'as cheerful as hearses at both ends, and wild beasts in the middle.'

  • So many parentheses scattered about gave the look of her eyelashes having been shed upon the pages.

  • He's as finicky as the five-times-table, and about as lively.

  • The air and the sky seem to have been freshly washed and polished, and the people too.

  • He looked like a goat. He had little raisin eyes and a string beard ...

  • [Describing a woman of the British aristocracy:] Rectitude, platitude, high-hatitude.

  • [On Lord Hugh Cecil:] I saw him riding in the Row, clinging to his horse like a string of onions.

  • ... she was fat and comfortable, both in mind and body ...

  • ... they didn't believe their father had ever been young; surely even in the cradle he had been a very, very small man in a gray suit, with a little dark mustache and flat, incurious eyes.

  • He had a round face with owlish eyes and a handshake so full of good intentions it required two hands to execute.

  • He was a bit like a corkscrew. Twisted, cold and sharp.

  • ... Harry was immense, with long, drooped, pointed, brown whiskers, and he looked rather like a walrus graced by spiritual leanings ...

  • She moved like a hedgehog, Mr. Bagthorpe was fond of saying, and was about as much use about the house.

  • He'd been a ceramics major because he wanted to get dirty, a philosophy major because he wanted to be allowed to think dirty, a forestry major because he wanted to be one with the dirt, and a psychology major because he wanted to help people deal with their dirt. But nothing suited him.

  • 'He's not himself at all today,' Mr. Somerset told me. People say that about Jeremy quite often, but what they mean is that he is not like other people. He is always himself. That's what's wrong with him.

  • Mrs. Sandbo herself looked like wall paper, as if she had no sizable depth but a crisp, flat surface, the back of which would be gritty.

  • ... he was a great mimic ... Why, I've seen that man look more like a lobster than a lobster does ...

  • Just read the account of the funeral of Mary, Dowager Countess of Cork and Orrery; she died in harness, full of bitterness and good dinners.

  • He was the type who'd be any man's mirror: you couldn't help looking at him without wanting to straighten your tie and curse your tailor.

  • [On John Tunnard:] One day a marvelous man in a highly elaborate tweed coat walked into the gallery. He looked a little like Groucho Marx. He was as animated as a jazz-band leader, which he turned out to be. He showed us his gouaches, which were as musical as Kandinsky's, as delicate as Klee's, and as gay as Miró's.

  • ... her landlady, Mrs. Peebles, ... was as endearing as a poised tomahawk and just as stimulating.

  • She ... stares at me without blinking her cold yellow eyes. She has the look of a hawk, of a person who can see into the future but won't tell you about it.

  • Miss Doggett again looked puzzled; it was as if she had heard that men only wanted one thing, but had forgotten for the moment what it was.

  • Thorkild smiled, and the gold caps gleamed. Then he went back to work on an open-faced sandwich that rather frightened Larry. He doubted that everything on it was completely dead.

  • Women looked like great sea snails — the corded wood, babies, and laundry they carried were the whorls on their backs.

  • ... I met an appalling woman called Madeleine Caron Rock, extremely fat and exuding a glutinous hysteria from every pore. I sat beside her on the sofa, and became (much against both our wills) embedded in her exuberance like a very sharp battle-axe. Whenever anyone mentioned living, dying, eating, sleeping, or any other of the occurrences which beset us, Miss Rock would allow a gelatinous cube-like tear, still warm from her humanity, to fall upon my person, and would then leave the room in a marked manner. A moment afterwards, the flat would be shaken by a canine species of howling, and after an interval, Miss Rock would return and beg all our pardon with great insistency ... She is rather a good poet, all the same.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1919, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • She is a good-natured soul, phlegmatic, law-abiding, and totally devoid of nerves or imagination. She could sleep on a clothes-line suspended by pegs from the ears ...

  • He moved, she noticed, frail as trailing smoke on soft autumn days, and she feared she would soon lose him, like smoke rising through the trees, not as a ripping flash of summer lightning, but softly one evening.

  • Timidity cut the flow of his phrases. He got on with his story like an automobile that is always stalling. One wanted to come to his rescue by finishing his sentences for him.

    • Georgette Leblanc,
    • in Janet Flanner, trans., Souvenirs: My Life With Maeterlinck ()
  • The mole goes down the slow dark personal passage — / a haberdasher's sample of wet velvet moving / on fine feet through an earth that only / the gardener and the excavator know.

    • P.K. Page,
    • "The Mole," As Ten As Twenty ()
  • ... she was delivering a household harangue, which, in its style, imitated very closely some of our distinguished poets, being, like their rhymes, diffusive and digressive, a bundle of words concealing the idea, if any there were, as effectually as the covering of the cocoa-nut conceals the kernel.

  • She wore a crisp red blouse, silk, and a high-waisted Lycra skirt that could be worn only by a woman who was a stranger to childbirth and chocolate.

  • Gray hair, glasses, and an expression that made Sader suspect her husband gambled or drank, and that she forgave him for it.

  • ... at a sidewalk table outside a crummy café facing the station, I gulped down a patch of lasagna. It was clammy-cold and looked like something that should be bandaged.

  • ... he somehow managed to look both stately and overworked.

  • [Bertholt] Brecht looked very thin, like a herring with very sensitive hands.

  • Fat overflowed not only from her jowl to her neck, but from her ankles to her shoes. She looked like a pudding that had risen too high and run down the sides of the dish.

  • ... this little mop of a woman came in scooting across the tiles ...

  • His wife was thin as a splinter and as annoying.

  • ... young Plotnik [looked] not only peculiarly clammy, but as though someone had put him together and then forgotten to tighten the screws.

  • His eyes were narrow and black, his nose sharp, and his lips thin as a new thought.

  • Aunt Octavia was sitting in the front parlor, her hands working a pair of knitting needles like she meant to kill the sweater instead of knit it.

  • The place looked like the kind of bar that Nina usually tried to avoid. There were a couple of hard-core alkies attached to their stools and a bartender that looked like he had peaked in his junior year of high school.

  • With her skin deeply tanned by constant exposure to the sun, she had the shriveled appearance of a wind-dried shrimp.

  • [On Rachmaninoff:] He was the most Russian of them all, like a cathedral in the snow. Holy, wintry, infinite, he was all the Russias.

  • Her piercing blue eyes danced with trouble, and her deep, gravelly voice was rich with cigarettes and experience.

  • .. the dolphins stitch sky to sea.

  • He was thirty-six years old, and six foot three. He spoke English to people and French to cats, and Latin to the birds. He had once nearly killed himself trying to read and ride a horse at the same time.

  • The set of her chin suggested she might have slain a dragon before breakfast. The look in her eyes suggested she might, in fact, have eaten it.

  • ... her face, a visitor had once said, was built on the blueprint used for snow leopards and saints.

  • It looked like the kind of place where people were shot over the rent money.

  • Early widowhood had forced her to weave a life from other people's remnants, and she had baked and minded and knitted herself into a glow of indispensability.