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Beryl Markham

  • ... the sun is as dispassionate as the hand of a man who greets you with his mind on other things.

  • ... all the science of flying has been captured in the breadth of an instrument board, but not the religion of it.

  • Life had a different shape; it had new branches and some of the old branches were dead.

  • [Elephants] are less agile and physically less adaptable than ourselves — Nature having developed their bodies in one direction and their brains in another, while human beings, on the other hand, drew from Mr. Darwin's lottery of evolution both the winning ticket and the stub to match it. This, I suppose, is why we are so wonderful and can make movies and electric razors and wireless sets — and guns with which to shoot the elephant, the hare, clay pigeons, and each other.

  • ... there are many Africas.

  • Africa is less a wilderness than a repository of primary and fundamental values, and less a barbaric land than an unfamiliar voice.

  • You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself.

  • Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer's paradise, a hunter's Valhalla, an escapist's Utopia. It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just 'home.' It is all these things but one thing — it is never dull.

  • Success breeds confidence.

  • ... memory is a drug. Memory can hold you against your strength and against your will ...

  • But the soul of Africa, its integrity, the slow inexorable pulse of its life, is its own and of such singular rhythm that no outsider, unless steeped from childhood in its endless, even beat, can ever hope to experience it, except only as a bystander might experience a Masai war dance knowing nothing of its music nor the meaning of its steps.

  • I could never tell where inspiration begins and impulse leaves off. I suppose the answer is in the outcome. If your hunch proves a good one, you were inspired; if it proves bad, you are guilty of yielding to thoughtless impulse.

  • [The lion] began to contemplate me with a kind of quiet premeditation, like that of a slow-witted man fondling an unaccustomed thought.

  • Who thinks it just to be judged by a single error?

  • I know animals more gallant than the African warthog, but none more courageous. He is the peasant of the plains — the drab and dowdy digger in the earth. He is the uncomely but intrepid defender of family, home, and bourgeois convention, and he will fight anything of any size that intrudes upon his smug existence. ... His eyes are small and lightless and capable of but one expression — suspicion. What he does not understand, he suspects, and what he suspects, he fights.

  • I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesterdays are buried deep — leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead.

  • What a child does not know and does not want to know of race and colour and class, he learns soon enough as he grows to see each man flipped inexorably into some predestined groove like a penny or a sovereign in a banker's rack.

  • In Africa people learn to serve each other. They live on credit balances of little favours that they give and may, one day, ask to have returned.

  • She had long since forgotten the meaning of a smile, but the physical ability to make the gesture remained.

  • Africa is never the same to anyone who leaves it and returns again. It is not a land of change, but it is a land of moods and its moods are numberless. It is not fickle, but because it has mothered not only men, but races, and cradles not only cities, but civilizations — and seen them die, and seen new ones born again — Africa can be dispassionate, indifferent, warm, or cynical, replete with the weariness of too much wisdom.

  • In the family of continents, Africa is the silent, the brooding sister, courted for centuries by knight-errant empires — rejecting them one by one and severally, because she is too sage and a little bored with the importunity of it all.

  • If a man has any greatness in him, it comes to light, not in one flamboyant hour, but in the ledger of his daily work.

  • ... she wore her beauty with a shrug as if it were an ermine wrap of which she could say, 'I suppose it is lovely, but then I've had it so long!'

    • Beryl Markham,
    • "The Quitter" (1946), The Splendid Outcast ()
  • Conformation ... but not much else. Breeding, but too small a heart. You saw it everywhere — in men, in horses, and in women.

    • Beryl Markham,
    • "The Quitter" (1946), The Splendid Outcast ()
  • Flight is but momentary escape from the eternal custody of earth.

Beryl Markham, Africa-based English writer, aviator

(1902 - 1986)