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Ivy Compton-Burnett

  • A leopard does not change his spots, or change his feeling that spots are rather a credit.

  • I am ill at ease with people whose lives are an open book.

  • We do not discuss the members of our family to their faces ...

  • Our desires have a way of getting bigger with our incomes.

  • People don't resent having nothing nearly as much as too little.

  • It is not for us to hold ourselves above the position of grateful people. We have to be able to accept. Anything else shows an unwillingness to grant someone else the superior place.

  • ... some people always have a touch of youth about them.

  • That is the worst of kindness; people take advantage of it.

  • People's weaker side is not necessarily their truer self.

  • 'I should not like Aubrey to die,' said Dudley. 'I only nearly died, and it would give him the immediate advantage.'

  • It will be a beautiful family talk, mean and worried and full of sorrow and spite and excitement.

  • 'She still seems to me in her own way a person born to command,' said Luce ... 'I wonder if anyone is born to obey,' said Isabel. 'That may be why people command rather badly, that they have no suitable material to work on.'

  • 'I don't know that I know much of the subject,' said Fulbert, with a suggestion that further knowledge would hardly add to him.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • Parents and Children
    • ()
  • Magnifying a matter is not the way to mend it.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • Parents and Children
    • ()
  • I wonder the human race has been so fond of migrations, when the young take so hardly to traveling ...

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • Parents and Children
    • ()
  • Dear, dear, the miniature world of the family! All the emotions of mankind seem to find a place in it.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • Parents and Children
    • ()
  • You should not want to know the things in people's minds. If you were meant to hear them, they would be said.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • Parents and Children
    • ()
  • People have never lost what they think they have.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • Parents and Children
    • ()
  • A person who can really be called an unselfish person, has no place in life.

  • It is no good to think that other people are out to serve our interests.

  • As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • "A Conversation Between Ivy Compton-Burnett and M. Jourdain," in Orion ()
  • A plot is like the bones of a person, not interesting like expression, or signs of experience, but the support of the whole.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • "A Conversation Between Ivy Compton-Burnett and M. Jourdain," in Orion ()
  • Appearances are not held to be a clue to the truth ... But we seem to have no other.

  • Parents have too little respect for their children, just as the children have too much for the parents.

  • We can build upon foundations anywhere if they are well and firmly laid.

  • If I were not a child with my parents, they would be more unloving toward me ...

  • Truth is so impossible. Something has to be done for it.

  • Time ... is not a great healer. It is an indifferent and perfunctory one. Sometimes it does not heal at all. And sometimes when it seems to, no healing has been necessary.

  • Most of the pleasure of making a book would go if it held nothing to be shared by other people. I would write for a few dozen people, and sometimes it seems that I do so, but I would not write for no-one.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • in Elizabeth Proctor, "The Quip Modest and the Smashing Return," in Harper's Bazaar ()
  • Many people misjudge the permanent effect of sorrow, and their capacity to live in the past.

  • I never know why self-sacrifice is noble. Why is it better to sacrifice oneself than someone else?

  • We must use words as they are used, or stand aside from life.

  • There is more difference within the sexes than between them.

  • There is probably nothing like living together for blinding people to each other.

  • My youth is escaping without giving me anything it owes me.

  • ... charm should be on the surface. It has no hidden use.

  • ... it is in our minds that we live much of our life.

  • We are always children to our mothers.

  • Ah, we have to be generous to be grateful ... One has oneself to be a giver.

  • We none of us talk to people as we do behind their backs.

  • What concerns anyone so much as the time he has to live?

  • To young people the future is still long.

  • Civilized life exacts its toll.

  • Duty is seldom liked either by the doer or the object ... And why should it be? It is not often of advantage to either.

  • Never is a long word.

  • When I die, people will say it is the best thing for me. It is because they know it is the worst. They want to avoid the feeling of pity. As though they were the people most concerned!

  • There are different kinds of wrong. The people sinned against are not always the best.

  • I think I feel on the whole that something's there trying to get out ... It's sort of trying to get out and wants help.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • in Kay Dick, Ivy and Stevie ()
  • There is danger in courage. Cowardice is a power for good. We hardly know what it prevents.

  • Anyone who picks up a Compton-Burnett finds it hard not to put it down.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • in Elizabeth Sprigge, The Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett ()
  • It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • 1969, in Hilary Spurling, Ivy ()
  • Real charity and a real ability never to condemn — the one real virtue — is so often the result of a waking experience that gives a glimpse of what lies beneath things.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • letter (1913), in Hilary Spurling, Ivy ()
  • [On writing:] What a difficult kind of work to choose! But of course one did not choose it. There was no choice.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • letter (1962), in Hilary Spurling, Ivy ()
  • The plot is not very important to me, though a novel must have one, of course. It's just a line to hang the washing on.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • in Hilary Spurling, Ivy ()

Ivy Compton-Burnett, English writer

(1884 - 1969)

Full name: Dame Ivy Compton-Burnett, DBE.