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Jan 2014

1st January

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ring Out, Wild Bells from In Memoriam (1849)

8th January

It was kind of satisfying that the answers weren't simple or clear. Like all worlds, this one was no neat, finite theoretical model but the product of its own long and unique evolutionary history

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, The Long War (2013)

15th January

Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.

Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949 - 1953 in English)

22nd January

I was just in awe, and awe is a dangerous emotion, it makes you very passive

Philip Mann, The Disestablishment of Paradise (2013)

29th January

Nigel was conscious of an immediate antipathy between the two--the antipathy, perhaps, between the conversationalist, who lives by give-and-take, and the man who must have monologue or nothing.

Nicholas Blake, Thou Shell of Death (1936)

Feb 2014

5th February

The first impulse of a young and ingenuous mind is to withhold the slightest sanction from all that contains even a mixture of supposed error.

Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), letter to Sara Hennell, 1841, quoted in Oscar Browning, The Life of George Eliot (1890)

12th February

It isn't a lost masterpiece, such things don't exist except in minds conditioned by the preformed categories of convention, where everything possesses a measure of greatness as inherent and inviolable as the weight of a stone. To be a masterpiece means to be perceived as one; the work that is lost in unperceived, when found it is open to any kind of perception.

Andrew Crumey, The Secret Knowledge (2013)

19th February

[S]peaking as one who has been ageing happily since the day I was born, ageing is not a bad thing. In fact, every single woman I know looks better in her 30s and 40s than she did in her 20s and that is probably because every woman I know – myself very much included – is a lot happier as she gets older than she was in her 20s. It simply amazes me that anyone thinks women should aspire to look like they're that age because when I was in my 20s I lived in a permanent fug of hangovers, cigarette smoke, self-doubt, unrequited crushes, bad relationships, overdrafts, insomnia and self-loathing, none of which, I can tell you, is any good for the skin.

Hadley Freeman, 'The point of moisturiser is to make you feel good – not look younger', The Guardian G2, 18 Feb 2014

26th February

The truth is, that there are, at any given time, a whole lot more books I don’t want to read than books I do.

Jo Walton, 'Why I Re-read' in What Makes This Book So Great (2014)


Mar 2014

5th March

[L]ike most people who have confided on an impulse, the girl was anxious to get away, as quickly as possible, from her confidante.

Edmund Crispin, The Long Divorce (1951)

12th March

Deola learned that those obscure choruses from her childhood, like “Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” were from songs by the Stones and the Beatles. She’d grown up believing they were Nigerian folk songs.

Sefi Atta, A bit of difference (2013)

19th March

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Algernon Charles Swinburne, The Garden of Proserpine (1866)

26th March

"Don't we all in the end write about love? All literature is about love. When men do it, it's a political comment on human relations. When women do it, it's just a love story."

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, interview with Emma Brockes, The Guardian, Friday 21 March 2014

Apr 2014

2nd April

He smiled wryly. 'You know what we say about marriage? We say it's like the kitchen clock. If it goes better lying on its side or even standing on its head, keep your hands out of the works.'

Margery Allingham, The Beckoning Lady (1955)

9th April

One can be aware of terrible situations but still have personal concerns. Similarly, just because one is lucky enough to live in a country that isn't ravaged by war and famine does not mean that one's life is niggle-free. You can appreciate the comfort of your life but still get irritated when the cashpoint gives out a single £50 note instead of the far more useful combination of two £20s and a £10, and that doesn't make you Marie Antoinette. In any event, someone sneering "First-world problems!" is not going to make anyone think, "By God, they're right! I really must spend less time on asos.com and more time thinking about Syria." Rather, they'll think, "Bog off, you self-righteous numpty", and go right back to looking at Asos. So not only does the phrase make no sense, but it is also totally pointless, other than to warm the inner sanctimony of those who utter it.

Hadley Freeman, Ask Haldy: Chanel and Mulberry bag prices have soared – but why?, Guardian G2, 8 Apr 2014

16th April

For relief is indeed, at its zenith, the strongest, the most glorious of all happy emotions; stronger even than love, though love is contained within it; for it lies more sharply against the contrast of the despair and suspense which has gone before.

G B Stern, Monogram (1936)

23rd April

If this ingenuousness had been affectation, or merely arrested development, it would have been simply irritating; but it was perfectly sincere, and derived from the genuine intellectual humility of a man who has read much and in so doing has been able to contemplate the enormous spaces of knowledge which must inevitably always lie beyond his reach.

Edmund Crispin, The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944)

30th April

She couldn't remember having sex after 1962 - but she couldn't remember buying Malcolm's socks, either, although she must have done. Maybe it had been part of her unremarkable domestic routine that had gone on automatically.

Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency (2008)

May 2014

7th May

The eminent Mr. Gboyega, a chocolate-skinned Nigerian, educated in London, distinguished expert on the history of the British Empire, had resigned in disgust when the West African Examinations Council began talking of adding African history to the curriculum, because he was appalled that African history would even be considered a subject. Grace would ponder this story for a long time, with great sadness, and it would cause her to make a clear link between education and dignity, between the hard, obvious things that are printed in books and the soft, subtle things that lodge themselves into the soul.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 'The Headstrong Historian', in The Thing Around Your Neck (2009)

14th May

Lady Rossiter arranged the flowers herself, and did so exquisitely. She often said that flowers were literally a necessity to her -- an opinion frequently held by those whose financial situation has never compelled them to regard flowers as an alternative to, let us say, butter for breakfast.

E M Delafield, Tension (1921)

21st May

'Goodbye. Don't forget to feed the parrot!' shrieked Flora, who disliked this prolongation of the the ceremony of saying farewell, as every civilized traveller must.

'What parrot?' they all shrieked back from the fast-receding platform, just as they were meant to do.

Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm (1932)

[No quotation for 28th May]

Jun 2014

[No quotations for 4th or 11th June]

18th June

The two and two which she put together did not quite make four, but the pair of swan-like digits sitting side by side were still quite disquieting

Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy (1993)

25th June

[I]f the truly lonely in Britain are to be identified and helped, then the first step would be to stop lazily lumping them in with the contented-alone.

Barbara Ellen, Loneliness is one thing. A happy loner quite another, The Observer, 22 June 2014

Ju1 2014

2nd July

But I, if I did not grasp at illusion, could go on steadily with my task and know that, however the world mocked, I was doing the part that I could do to heal the sickness of the world.

Ruth Adam, I'm Not Complaining (1938)

9th July

In middle life she still retains all the passionate desire of youth to be wholly understood. It has never yet occurred to her that, in the majority of relationships, it is still more desirable not to be wholly understood.

E M Delafield, Mrs Harter (1924)

16th July

But the often repeated dictum that 'there is one woman in the world for you' (cf 'Wait for Mr Right) implies unequivocally that there are approximately 2, 105, 600, 000 women who are, or will when they are old enough, be wrong.

Stephen Potter, Anti-Woo: The Lifeman's Improved Primer for Non-Lovers (1965)

23rd July

But a woman in love would wear her secret raptly; Miss Julie's had a fresh and rosy complexion that accorded ill with any tender sentiment, and the certainty that her pleasure was in no wise connected with himself gave Mr Clare a distinct sense of chill.

Had it lasted longer he might have laughed to find his vanity so promptly tickled.

Helen Beauclerk, The Green Lacquer Pavilion (1926)

[No quotation for 30th July]

Aug 2014

6th August

We don’t talk enough about quiet ambition. We assume that ambition always has to be noisy and brash.... [H]ere it feels as if a bunch of talented people have a more modest ambition: to get things right.

Jay Rayner, Ben’s Cornish Kitchen: restaurant review, The Observer Magazine, 3 Aug 2014

13th August

The number of people who are really, really annoying who find themselves seeking out therapy is not tiny. What's moving is the other side of being really, really annoying is being really, really alone. If you're smart, you might reach out for some help with that.

Amy Bloom interviewed by Elizabeth Day, The Observer New Review, 10 Aug 2014

20th August

Wanting to be taken care of is one of your basic human emotions. Our job as humans is to take care of each other. But if we expect rescue as our birthright, if it's supposed to be all one-sided, we're dead. When we don't get it, we're pissed off and crazed, blinded by our own feelings of deprivation.

Cynthia Heimel, Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye (1993)

[No quotation for 27th August]

Sep 2014

3rd September

I wanted to creep up on all of that hidden life and try to surprise it somehow. I had gotten it into my mind that the tidal pools changed during the night when no one watched. This is what happens, perhaps, if you have been studying something so long that you can tell one sea anemone from another in an instant, could have picked out any denizen of those tidal pools from a lineup if it had committed a crime.

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation (2014)

10th September

I often felt astonished - astonished that I should be allowed to live here alone, to drive my own car, and sit up all night if I wanted to. Was I the only woman in the world who, at my age - and after a lifetime of quite rampant independence - still did not feel quite grown up?

Dodie Smith, The Town in Bloom (1965)

[No quotation for 17th September]

24th September

She went away, and Grant blessed her that she had not plagued him with the question that must have been crowding her mind. She was a woman who not only appreciated good food and good drink but was possessed of that innate good sense that is half-way to kindness

Josephine Tey, To Love and Be Wise (1950)

Oct 2014

1st October

The ego wants to arrive at places safely and on time.... It wants to find a room ready, warm, cool, hangers, the right voltage, an ashtray and enough clean towels.... It wants to be soothed, reassured, attended to, left in peace.

Sybille Bedford, 'The Quality of Travel: France and Italy, 1961' inPleasures and Landscapes (2014)

8th October

I don’t write to join in. I write to make sense of my own thoughts, then publish them in the hope they make a connection with the mind of a reader. I can’t speak for my generation, my class, my gender, my country, my race, my historical era, or even for writers.

From this somewhat self-sabotaging stance, the hope is that what I write might be unique. The fear is that it might be irrelevant.

Dickon Edwards, Monday 15th September 2014, Diary at the Centre of the Earth

15th October

Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him, it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt.

Emily St John Mandel, Station Eleven (2014)

[No quotation for 22nd October]

29th October

But if you're just a stranger to everybody on earth, then that's what you are and there's no end to it. You don't know the words to say.

Marilynne Robinson, Lila (2014)

Nov 2014

5th November

For Zainab - who saw elegance, subtlety, etiquette and family culture as qualities to be prized in their own right - the world of the the zenana was a complete world, even if a constrained one. She did not believe that because her aunts had met no men other than those of the family since they were young, and had been to very few rooms other than their own, they were as a result lacking in perspicacity about the world or understanding of human nature.

Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy (1993)

12th November

How can you possibly understand feminism if you don't personally recollect the quietly touching scene in which good, wise Mrs March (known as 'Marmee') advises her justly furious daughter 'Never let the sun go down on your anger'? Generations of young female readers have felt so exasperated at this point that they immediately chained themselves to railings or resolved to set fire to something.

Lynne Truss, Making the Cat Laugh:One Woman's Journal of Single Life on the Margins (1995)

19th November

Surely being a governess was no great pinnacle to have reached? She studied Miss Crosby more intently, as flushed with enthusiasm she dilated on the education of women, and suddenly realised the surprising truth, that your actual niche in the world isn't what matters, it's how you see yourself in relation to life that counts.

Noel Streatfeild, Parson's Nine (1932)

26th November

Whilst Major Palgrave proceeded with the somewhat uninteresting recollections of a lifetime, Miss Marple peacefully pursued her own thoughts. It was a routine with which she was well acquainted. The locale varied.... But the pattern was essentially the same. An elderly man who needed a listener so that he could, in memory, relive days in which he had been happy.... Miss Marple had bestowed on all of them the same gentle charity.

Agatha Christie, A Caribbean Mystery (1964)

Dec 2014

[No quotation for 3rd December]

10th December

I was so overwhelmed by the sight of my first nude male that my mind went blank and I can't remember drawing anything. I had been told the facts of life when I was fourteen. It must have been agony for Mother to instruct me in them: I passionately refused to believe her. The final horror was when she murmured apologetically, 'You'll get to like it'.

Kathleen Hale, A Slender Reputation: An autobiography (1994)

17th December

I was young. I thought in terms of abstract principle. I hadn't learned there are times, crucial times, when you find yourself doing in good faith something you have scorned in others on principle.

Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Face to Face: a reader in the world (2000)

24th December

For more than twenty years now Valentine had been answering with gentle and polite phrases that meant nothing at all, most of the remarks addressed to her. She had been trained from babyhood to think politeness of the utmost importance, and she had never outgrown, nor sought to outgrow, the habit of it. But she was sometimes conscious that her own good manners afforded her a sense of superiority and of that she was slightly ashamed.

E M Delafield, Late and Soon (1943)

31st December

There may be trouble ahead
But while there's moonlight and music
And love and romance
Let's face the music and dance

Irving Berlin, Let's Face the Music and Dance (1936)


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History of Sexuality Women's History Stella Browne Archival matters Books
Interwar Progressives Science Fiction and Fantasy Random Links of Interest
Victoriana Quirky Stuff