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Previous weeks' quotations 2000


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Jan 2000

5th January 2000

Hilda hated domestic work and because she hated it she often did it passionately and thoroughly. That afternoon, as she emerged from the kitchen, her dark, defiant face was full of grim satisfaction in the fact that she had left a kitchen polished and irreproachable, a kitchen without the slightest indication that it ever had been or ever would be used for preparing human nature's daily food; a show kitchen.

Arnold Bennett, Hilda Lessways (1911)

12th January 2000

It follows that when purity is not a symbol but something lived, it must be poor and barren. It is part of our condition that the purity for which we strive and sacrifice so much turns out to be hard and dead as a stone when we get it. It is all very well for the poet to praise winter.... It is another thing to try and make over our existence into an unchanging lapidary form. Purity is the enemy of change, of ambiguity and compromise. Most of us indeed would feel safer if our experience could be hard-set and fixed in form.

Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger (1966)

19th January 2000

They suppose that there is a certain thing called a Man, and another certain thing called a Woman, and that the combination of these two forms a third quite stereotyped thing called Marriage, and there is an end of it.
But by some kind of Providential arrangement it appears that the actual facts are very different -that there are really hundreds of thousands of different kinds of men, and hundreds of thousands of different kinds of women, and consequently thousands of millions of different kinds of marriage; that there are no limits of grace or comeliness, or of character and accomplishment, or even of infirmity or age, within which love is obliged to move; and that there is no defect, of body or mind, which is of necessity a bar - which may not even (to some special other person) become an object of attraction.

Edward Carpenter, Love's Coming of Age (first published 1896)

26th Jan 2000

Chamber music is perhaps the only genre in which the paying punters regularly feel that the performers are having more fun than they are.

Erica Jeal, 'Chamber of Intimate Pleasures', The Guardian 22 Jan 2000

Feb 2000

2nd Feb 2000

It cannot be said that Flora really enjoyed taking walks with Mr Mybug. To begin with, he was not really interested in anything but sex. This was understandable, if deplorable. After all, many of our best minds have had the same weakness. The trouble about Mr Mybug was that ordinary subjects, which are not usually associated with sex even by our best minds, did suggest sex to Mr Mybug.
They used sometimes to walk through a pleasant wood of young birch trees which were just beginning to come into bud. The stems reminded Mr Mybug of phallic symbols and the buds made Mr Mybug think of nipples and virgins. Mr Mybug pointed out to Flora that he and she were walking on seeds which were germinating in the womb of the earth. He said it made him feel as if he were trampling on the body of a great brown woman. He felt as if he were a partner in some mighty rite of gestation.
And, to be fair to Mr Mybug, it must be admitted he was sometimes interested by the social problems of the day. Only yesterday, while he and Flora were walking through an alley of rhododendrons on an estate which was open to the public, he had discussed a case of arrest in Hyde Park. The rhododendrons made him think of Hyde Park. He said that it was impossible. to sit down for five minutes in Hyde Park after seven in the evening without being either accosted or arrested.
There were many homosexuals to be seen in Hyde Park. Prostitutes, too. God! those rhododendron buds had a phallic, urgent look!
So, taking it all round, Flora was pleased to have her walk in solitude.

Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm (1932)

9th Feb 2000

The degree to which you get a recognised class of mistress - well maintained by their protectors, supplied with red or white camellias according to the time of the month, all bills paid and a glittering social life - relates to the extent to which legal wives are corseted in respectability and made to stay at home being virtuous and dull. You don't get a mistress class as such when the girls men marry are the same as the ones they sleep with. An old-fashioned friend of bon vivant Cyril Ray once asked him where young men go these days for, you know, harrumph. Ray said he thought they mostly made private arrangements, to which the old boy said: "What! Fellas sleeping with other fellas' sisters?"
Mistresses exist and always will. But few nowadays will ever aspire to the sort of lavish treatment that Edward VII afforded Lillie Langtry. "I've spent enough money on you to buy a battleship!" he once grumbled. "And you've spent enough in me to float one," she demurely replied.

Katharine Whitehorn, 'Sweet on Sugar Daddies', The Guardian 3 Feb 2000

16th February 2000

Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.... Take it away and man may die, like the drug fiend deprived of his cocaine.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1928)

23rd February 2000

Absinthe makes the tart grow fonder.

Ernest Dowson (1868-1900)

(contributed in honour of his centenary - today - by David Doughan)

Mar 2000

1st March 2000

Moaning has always been a British national pastime and should be enshrined in a Bill of Rights if we ever have one. How would most of us get through life if we weren't allowed to moan about the weather, about the traffic, about the railways, about the postal service, about the inland revenue, about everything in fact, and especially about the people who give us our living?

Alexander Chancellor, 'A Right Good Moan', The Guardian 5 Feb 2000

8th March 2000

Remember, when the nuns tell you to beware of the deceptions of men who make love to you, that the mind of man is on the whole less tortuous when he is love-making than at any other time. It is when he speaks of governments and armies that he utters strange and dangerous nonsense to please the bats at the back of his soul. This is all to your disadvantage, for in love-making you might meet him with lies of equal force, but there are few repartees that the female governed can make to the male governors.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

15th March 2000

Our incomes being added together we are liable for supertax which we are refusing to pay on the grounds of morality as I consider in a Christian country it is an immoral and outrageous act to tax me because I am living in Holy matrimony instead of as my husband's mistress.

Marie Stopes, letter to George Bernard Shaw, 29 June 1925

22nd March 2000

Very often do we see this: people acknowledging every source of their inspiration but the most important one. I think the reason for this is not a reluctance to give acknowledgements where they are due, as much as that the originating impression is so strong it becomes a part of the inspired one.

Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade: Volume Two of my Autobiography, 1949-1962 (1997)

29th March 2000: no quote

Apr 2000

5th April 2000

Truth has fantastically little to do with what people believe about themselves and what other people believe about them.

G. B. Stern, ...and did he stop and speak to you?(1957)

[12th April 2000: no quote]

19th April 2000

'They say, though, that men only want one thing - that's the truth of the matter.' 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.

Barbara Pym, Jane and Prudence (1953)

26th April 2000

Most people are weak when they come in contact with a really strong-willed woman. No-one liked Mrs Duff-Whalley, but few, if any, withstood her advances. It was easier to give in, and be on calling and dining terms, than to repulse a woman who never noticed a snub, and who would never admit the possibility that she might not be wanted.

O. Douglas (pseudonym of Anna Buchan), Penny Plain (1920)

May 2000

3rd May 2000

Escape is not necessarily a form of retreat or failure. Escape can mean freedom and the trying out of new possibilities after imprisonment.

Gillian Beer, Arguing with the Past: essays in narrative from Woolf to Sidney (1989)

10th May 2000

But the fundamental thing is that women are more like men than anything else in the world. They are human beings.... This is the equality claimed and the fact that is persistently evaded and denied.

Dorothy L Sayers, 'The Human-not-quite-Human', Unpopular Opinions (1946)

17th May 2000

But gratitude is such an uncomfortable emotion - for most of us - that we resent being made to feel it, and when it comes to a tug against dreams, desire, vanity and general sloppiness, gratitude can't pull very hard.

Stella Gibbons, A Pink Front Door (1959)

24th May 2000

Any given system of classification must give rise to anomalies, and any given culture must confront events which seem to defy its assumptions. It cannot ignore the anomalies which its scheme produces, except at risk of forfeiting confidence.

Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger (1966)

31st May 2000

And women are fantastic. Around 40, women blossom. Women are a work-in-progress. Men burn out.

Interview with Susan Sontag, The Guardian, 27 May 2000

Jun 2000

7th June 2000

The true literary fanatic, the primeval reader, is looking for anything but a mirror - for an escape route, for an expanding horizon, for receding starscapes, for unimaginable monstrosities and incomprehensible (strictly) beauties.

A S Byatt, The Biographer's Tale (2000)

14th June 2000

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute.

Rebecca West, 'Mr Chesterton in Hysterics: A Study in Prejudice', first published in The Clarion, 14 Nov 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca (1982)

21st June 2000

'Oh, she did set store by that bowl, till one of the girls broke it. (She came to me with the bits of it in her hand, smiling away she was. "Another little bit of life gone, Matchett," she said. But she never spoke a cross word to the girl--oh no, she liked herself far too well.)'

Elizabeth Bowen The Death of the Heart (1938)

28th June 2000

Had woman been able to impose her secret wish on man as blandly as he upon her, had she been the first to capture that advantageous arrangement whereby she could accede to all the pleasures of being free, gay and attractive, all the convenience of evading responsibility, and gain in addition all the credit of being 'Just a little girl at heart', then we would have had the comic predicament of the Peter Pan instinct equally rampant in both sexes.

G B [Gladys Bertha] Stern, Monogram (1936)

Jul 2000

5th July 2000

So Dorothy said we might as well go out to Fountainblo with Louie... if Louie would take off his yellow spats that were made out of yellow shammy skin with pink pearl buttons. Because Dorothy said 'Fun is fun but no girl wants to laugh all the time'.... but when he took off his spats we saw his socks and when we saw his socks we saw that they were Scotch plaid with small size rainbows running through them. So Dorothy looked at them a little while and she really became quite discouraged and she said 'Louie, I think you had better put your spats back on'.

Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925)

12th July 2000

'One saying of Radclyffe Hall's often comes back to me: "A great many women can feel and behave like men. Very few of them can behave like gentlemen".'

Naomi Jacob in Arena Three 3(4), April/May 1965
[Thanks to David Doughan for this contribution]

19th July 2000

Judith's breath came in long shudders. She thrust her arms deeper into her shawl. The porridge gave an ominous leering heave; it might have been endowed with life, so uncannily did its movements keep pace with the human passions that throbbed above it.
'Cur,' said Judith, levelly, at last. 'Coward! Liar! Libertine! Who were you with last night? Moll at the mill or Violet from the vicarage? Or Ivy, perhaps, at the ironmongery? Seth - my son...' Her deep, dry voice quivered, but she whipped it back, and her next words flew out at him like a lash.
'Do you want to break my heart?'
'Yes.' said Seth, with an elemental simplicity.
The porridge boiled over.

Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm (1932)

26th July 2000

She had reached the stage through which many artists pass, when they feel themselves lone beasts persecuted by the herd and take such fierce defensive measures that presently the herd itself feels like a lone beast persecuted by a monster.

Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows (1957)

Aug 2000

2nd August 2000

While it is vital for those of us who violate the norms of Judeo-Christian morality to understand that we are not alone, not some recent hiccup of the dangerously secular twentieth century... once that is established, is it not even more interesting to discover how little is absolute about human sexuality?

Pat Califia, Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism (1997)

9th August 2000

I saw that, up close, the outrageousness of the most unacceptable sexual practice vanishes into the ordinariness of the human being who engages in it.

Eurydice, Satyricon: a journey across the new sexual frontier (1999)

16th August 2000

Danger lies in transitional states, simply because transition is neither one state nor the next, it is undefinable.

Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger (1966)

[23rd August no quotation]

30thth August 2000

I realized I had been made privy to one of life's small secrets, which is that there are objects that mean nothing to most people, but everything to some.

Jonathan Carroll, The Marriage of Sticks (1999)

Sep 2000

6th September 2000

If a person has earned their living in London for twenty-one years, they acquire a kind of rat-like neatness of behaviour. They can skip quickly from place to place, pop in and out of tea shops, board buses and make sharp little plans which are carried out rat! tat! as deftly as an automatic ticket machine pops out a ticket at Leicester Square tube station. The more obscure and ordinary the person, the more necessary it is that they should acquire this rat-like deftness.

Stella Gibbons, Bassett (1934)

13th September 2000

I realize more and more how instinctively pessimistic I am of all human kindness--since I am always so bowled over by it--and am never surprised by injustice, malice or personal attack.

The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965, 2 Feb 1933

20th September 2000

I am drowning in historical research but its a pleasant enterprise.... it so beautifully mixes gossip with the beginning of a good detective story that never ends.

Emanie Arling (Sachs) to Rebecca West, ?1938

27th September 2000

And it is that word 'hummy', my darlings... at which Tonstant Weader fwowed up.

Dorothy Parker, 'Far from Well' (1928)

Oct 2000

4th October 2000

Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on top of the Forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing.

A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner(1928)

Miss Jenkyns... altogether had the appearance of a strong-minded woman; although she would have despised the modern idea of women being equal to men. Equal indeed! she knew they were superior.

Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford (1853)

18th October 2000

I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1928)

25th October 2000

Necessity compelled Char to work twelve hours a day some two evenings a week... but on the remaining days, when work was comparatively light and over early in the evening, she did not choose to spoil the picture which she carried always in her mind's eye of the indefatigable and overtaxed Director of the Midland Supply Depot.

E M Delafield, The War Workers (1918)

Nov 2000

1st November 2000

After my experience in the Suffrage movement I think that causes can be very merciless things and that many fine workers are ruined in health quite unnecessarily in them. It is so difficult to find the right point where sacrifice is furthering the propaganda and beyond which it becomes useless.

Edith How Martyn to Margaret Sanger, 19 Jul 1915

8th November 2000

A woman can hardly marry a person of tone inferior to her own without some deterioration of judgment, beneficial and elevating as her influence may be in the main.

Charlotte Yonge, Hopes and Fears (1860)

[no quotation for 15th November]

22nd November 2000

If there were some way of legalizing friendship, of compelling confidences by law, of waving a contract at the sulking friend, saying, "Look here, you can't leave me this way, it's against the law. You can't turn cold and hostile as simply as all that, ah no, indeed." But there is no binding of friends, no redress when one vanishes into new circles or into quiet sulks, the deserted companion can wait in vain at the accustomed rendezvous, can burst with curiosity over the withheld secrets, there is no compelling the desired one's presence or confidence, no guarantee of the ten-, twenty-, thirty~year-old bond being credited one more minute. It's not fair, you scream, he cannot do this, we've been friends too long, quarrelled, revealed ourselves in every horrid light to each other, there is no justice in his suddenly breaking off forever be cause I called him - what was it I called him - a "dumb reactionary," perhaps, in last night's argument?

Dawn Powell, Turn, Magic Wheel (1936)

29th November 2000

In her own unanalytic fashion Mrs Brown realised that there was only one way to hold her husband in the manly pose--this was to lean on him. She leaned. He remained upright.

Storm Jameson, 'Man the Helpmate', in Mabel Ulrich (ed.), Man, Proud Man (1932)

Dec 2000

6th December 2000

There is a tendency to consider anything in human behavior that is unusual, not well known, or not well understood, as neurotic, psychopathic, immature, perverse, or the expression of some other sort of psychologic disturbance.

Alfred C Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953)

13th December 2000

All women believe that some day something supremely agreeable will happen, and that afterwards the whole of life will be agreeable. All men believe that some day they will do something supremely disagreeable, and that afterwards life will move on so exalted a plane that all considerations of the agreeable and disagreeable will prove superfluous. The female creed has the defect of passivity, but is surely preferable.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

20th December 2000

I had a man for fifteen years
Give him his room and board
Once he was like a Cadillac
Now he's like an old worn out Ford
He never brought me a lousy dime
And put it in my hand
So there'll be some changes from now on
According to my plan

He's got to get it, bring it, and put it right here
Or else he's gonna keep it out there
If he must steal it, beg it, or borrow it somewhere
Long as he gets it, I don't care

Porter Granger, 'Put it right there' as sung by Bessie Smith

27th December 2000

You may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it -- in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all -- I need not say it -- she was pure.

Virginia Woolf, 'Professions for Women', in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942)


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