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Jan 2015

7th January

Lord Bedlow had declared at Whites that Lady G-- "was of all women the most sympathetic." Her intelligence, said he, was of the highest order, ranking second only to Minerva's own. It appeared, upon investigation, that the lady had listened for one hour and a half while Lord Bedlow delivered himself of an address on the iniquity of the Duke of Marlborough's Combination Government. She herself had not spoken a single word.

Helen Beauclerk, The Green Lacquer Pavilion (1926)

14th January

The thing was, Brits actually thought that subtext was plain text. To a Brit, the modern English language was vested with hundreds of years of unbroken history and cultural nuance, so that every single word had a host of implications depending on who said it to whom, when, and how.

Nick Harkaway, Tigerman (2014)

21st January

There are moments in your life, not of massive importance, not determining your future this way or that, elusive to catch, and still more elusive to describe, which are nevertheless so complete in their utter rightness -- every small accessory settling down into its place without hitch or angularity -- that you feel, remembering such moments, a glow of gratitude.

G B Stern, Bouquet: Travels in the wine-producing regions of France (1927)

28th January

[I]t struck me that though weíre all familiar with the infuriating things that can make us morose for hours even if they donít really matter, we donít - at least I donít - recognise often enough that the same thing can work the other way round.

'Oh good, it actually stopped raining before I had to go out'; 'No, he said he wasnít bringing his dog after all'; 'She said sheíd leave enough food out.' When something unimportant suddenly comes right, the relief is wonderful and can last for an absurd length of time.

Katharine Whitehorn, We should be more grateful for lifeís pleasant surprises Observer Magazine, 25 Jan 2015

Feb 2015

4th February

Many of the benefits we get from belonging to social networks, it transpires, come not from our strongest bonds, but weaker ones.... And it makes you wonder how many marriages and friendships might be saved by not demanding that they fulfil every possible function of a relationship.

Oliver Burkeman, This column will change your life: Why we tell strangers our secrets Observer Magazine,1 February 2015

11th February

Her aim was to wrest order, beauty and happiness from life; and every time she wrested a little piece she smiled mockingly in the face of that lack of interest manifested by the creative power, and she thought, Done you again!

Stella Gibbons, Enbury Heath (1935)

18th February

Nervous, uncertain, her mother had tried to understand. She embarrassed Grace by calling it 'this missionary feeling of yours', but it was nothing like that. It was not noble or self-sacrificing. It was merely obeying the compulsion of what her genuine deep-down self, stripped of the cautious refinements of background and upbringing, wanted to do.

Monica Dickens, The Heart of London (1961)

25th February

'The reason, they say, that women novelists can't write about men, is because they don't know that they're like when they're alone together, what they talk about and so on. But I can't think why they don't know. I seem to hear them booming away all the time.'

Elizabeth Taylor, The Wedding Group (1968)

Mar 2015

4th March

Arun Mehta enjoyed explaining things, and did not like having things explained to him. He enjoyed giving the impression to others that he knew whatever was worth knowing, and he had virtually succeeded in giving himself the same impression

Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy (1993)

11th March

There are things we can't undo, but perhaps there is a kind of constructive remorse that could transform regrettable acts into something of service to life.

Gail Godwin, Flora (2013)

18th March

Complacent natures are certainly contented, because whatever (or whoever) they have chosen in life automatically becomes the right course of action, the right career, the right dwelling place, the right husband, identified with themselves from the moment they choose it and thus insulated from adverse criticism; complacence, therefore, puts contentment on the throne. Contentment, however, does not necessarily depend on complacence, and can exist without it.

G B Stern, A Name to Conjure With (1953)

25th March

She knows they meant well. But they always mean well in such a high-handed, officious, controlling way that it makes her want to scream.

Susan Palwick, Mending the Moon (2013)

Apr 2015

1st April

Yes, there's a narrow parameter for a woman that public, but I don't feel that inside of Hillary Clinton there's a Jane Birkin waiting to get out. I don't think she cares. I don't think she is interested in how her house looks, where her furniture is from - I don't think she has any visual interests. And there's nothing wrong in not caring. A man who doesn't care about what he looks like, he's applauded. We say, 'Oh, he's not superficial!'

Fran Lebowitz, 'Yoga Pants are Ruining Women' and Other Style Advice, Elle, Mar 24, 2015

8th April

She had done a good deal for Oliver and stood a good deal from Oliver, because she liked his father and mother and indeed liked him too in many ways. That he should not have read her books was reasonable, nor did she expect his parents to have read them, but that because she had told him she wrote books he should at once make even larger demands on her time and her typewriter seemed unreasonable.

Angela Thirkell, County Chronicle (1950)

15th April

She spoke pleasantly enough, and people said that she and her husband were kindly souls who wouldn't hurt a fly, and yet daily they practised on their daughter the fake honesty of speech that goes beyond tactlessness into brutality.

Monica Dickens, The Heart of London (1961)

[W]e might be losing the crucial differentiation between 'something that seems benign enough and just isnít aimed at me' and 'something that isnít aimed at me and therefore must have been invented solely to bring about my destruction'.

Sophie Heawood, Why is David Cameron so afraid of single parents? Guardian Weekend, 18 April 2015

29th April

'[A]uthentic' really is not the same as 'good'.

Jay Rayner, Jinjuu: restaurant review Observer Magazine, 26 April 2015

May 2015

6th May

Laura... had felt that her behaviour was unlike that of other people, and, curiously enough, although she was perfectly ready to suppose herself utterly different to every other woman on earth in disposition, outlook, and mentality, she intensely disliked the thought of diverging from the normal in her conduct of life.

E M Delafield, The Way Things Are (1927)

13th May

It is a curious policy to combat evils due to economic inequality by perpetuating that inequality.

J B S Haldane, Possible Worlds and other essays (1927)

[no quotations for 20th or 27th May]

Jun 2015

3rd June

That is a moment of joy, when a sufficiently large number of people are galvanized by a social explanation of how their lives have taken shape and are gathered together in the same place at the same time, speaking the same language, making the same analysis.

Vivian Gornick, Approaching Eye Level (1996)

10th June

Women will quickly recognise the warning sign of Deep Voice. It will go on, morning or late, always deep, always confident, at the same level tempo whether ordering drinks or sympathizing with news of the death of a beloved old governess.

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

17th June

I defy anybody to say where any story that is about life had its beginning. One has to choose some arbitrary point and begin from there when relating a series of events like this.

Jane Duncan, My Friend Sandy (1961)

[No quotation for 24th June]

Ju1 2015

[No quotation for 1st July]

8th July

There is a particular word I could use here, but I refuse to denigrate the honest pleasures of self-abuse purely to make a point.

Jay Rayner, review of the Buddha Bar, 23 Nov 2008, reprinted in My Dining Hell : Twenty Ways To Have a Lousy Night Out (2015)

15th July

[S]he knew now with absolute certainty that these things were true and right, because a man like Mr Neilson rejected them.

Monica Dickens, The Heart of London (1961)

[No quotation for 22nd July]

29th July

A wise man once said that a woman deserved no credit for her beauty at sixteen, but beauty at sixty was her own soul's doing.

Marie Stopes, Married Love (1918)

Aug 2015

5th August

Hazel sighed. The Revolution. "Well, I have two responses to that," she said. "First, it's petty if you devote your entire existence to obtaining such things or worrying about, say, which beer is the best. But I don't accept the argument that if you enjoy something you should give it up strictly because it's a materialistic pleasure.

L: Timmel Duchamp, Stretto: Book Five of the Marq'ssan Cycle (2008)

12th August

'But not all the gods do that. And humans can,' I said. 'Humans can make art.'

His eyes were precisely as blue as the sky, and his expression wasnít human at all. 'They can. But they have such a brief span to do it. And a lot of their life is misery, and while thatís a productive subject for art, itís a limited one.'

Jo Walton, The Philosopher Kings (2015)

19th August

It is not hunger and nakedness that worst afflict the poor, for a very little thieving or a small alms can remedy that. No, the wretchedness of the poor lies below hunger and nakedness. It consists in their incessant incertitude and fear, the drudging succession of shift and scheme and subterfuge, the labouring in the quicksand where every step that takes hold of the firm ground is also a step into the danger of condemnation. Not cold and hunger but Law and Justice are the bitterest affliction of the poor

Sylvia Townsend Warner, The Corner That Held Them (1948)

26th August

Everyday I get some more of the book done. It's hopeless, almost incoherent, but that doesn't matter: one never regrets writing anything. The jungle is being cleared.

Christopher Isherwood, diary entry for 6 Jan 1974, Liberation: Diaries, Volume Three: 1970-1983 (2012)

Sep 2015

2nd September

[N]othing can be more interesting, especially from the point of view of a woman, than the freedom and frequency with which men write about women. Sometimes they write whole novels, showing life from a feminine standpoint -- sometimes they just describe, very minutely and subtly, what women feel about falling in love, or having a baby, or other things of aan even more intimate and personal nature. There is nothing, so far as we know, at which men writers have jibbed....

Well, these books that men write about women are all very nice indeed as far as they go... but they do remain open to the question: Do the writers really know so much about women as all that, and if so, how?

E M Delafield, 'Man and Personal Relations', in Mabel Ulrich (ed), Man, Proud Man (1932)

9th September

To blossom just 'anywhere' one must be either distinguished enough to create one's own environment or humble enough to merge with the one at hand. If one is neither, a critical mass of like-minded spirits is required.

Vivian Gornick, Approaching Eye Level (1996)

[No quotation for 16th September]

23rd September

He liked to look at women's legs and whistle, and could exchange story for story with other men, but it did not mean anything. He had been the kind of man who likes to talk as if he were a mass of sex, but never does anything about it.

Monica Dickens, The Winds of Heaven (1955)

30th September

It was possible, he knew, to esteem and admire people and enjoy their company and dislike them heartily. It was also possible to be irritated, maddened and bored by people whom one loves.

Iris Murdoch, The Book and the Brotherhood (1987)

Oct 2015

7th October

[I]t is the very height of pride for the proud man to have a few people before whom he humbles himself--as much as to say, behold, even I, in all my greatness, am bowing down[.]

Christopher Isherwood, diary entry for 3 June 1971, Liberation: Diaries, Volume Three: 1970-1983 (2012)

14th October

What we are, in fact, is a pair of solitary travelers slogging through the country of our lives, meeting up from time to time to give each other border reports.

Vivian Gornick, The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir (2015)

21st October

He had accepted that if you were a bookish person the events in your life took place in your head.

Jane Smiley, Golden Age (Last Hundred Years Trilogy 3) (2015)

28th October

Amit was probably, and perhaps even undiagnosed by himself, lonely. He had no friends - either men or women - in Calcutta; and the fact that this was the fault of his own lack of effort and sociability didn't mitigate his resultant mood: a sort of jocular weariness, and even at times plain if private despondency.

Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy (1993)

Nov 2015

4th November

But the lettres that are not belles, which are, in fact, not letters at all, but an escape into happiness by the oldest swiftest route in the world, the story-book route--on these we usually keep a guilty silence unless confident of being among our fellow escapists.... Only the truly big writers... can retrieve some wilder, truer message than the comfort and fun to be scattered by a small book about small people in small gatherings. For there are other things to be done about the narrow earth than to bestride it.

G B Stern, Benefits Forgot (1949)

11th November

They both described the Brooklyn marathon, which they took part in.... They gave us a vivid impression of this great folk migration, through all the boroughs of New York, which was really moving and only horrible when one imagined oneself taking part in it.

Christopher Isherwood, diary entry for 5 November 1978, Liberation: Diaries, Volume Three: 1970-1983 (2012)

18th November

His own taste was for the minor classic, a type of book that has perhaps given more pure pleasure to more readers than any other kind.

Stella Gibbons, My American (1939)

25th November

My impulse is to think that religion is often too self-regarding. That the question is not whether Iím living a good life, but whether Iím doing well toward other people, whether Iím apprehending the sacredness of someone who is perhaps very unlike me. Iím very oriented towards the experience of living in the world in those terms, rather than thinking of whether youíre adding up tokens that will finally allow you to say I was really very good.

Marilynne Robinson, interviewed by Alex Clark. The Observer New Review, 15 Nov 2015

Dec 2015

2nd December

Query: Cannot many of our moral lapses from Truth be frequently charged upon the tactless persistence of others?

E M Delafield, Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930)

9th December

The details are just details. And the story is always the same: the younger woman idolizes the older woman; she stalks her; the older woman takes her up; the younger woman finds the older woman is only human; the story ends.

If the younger woman is a writer, she eventually writes something about the older woman.

Nora Ephron, 'Pentimento', in I Remember Nothing and other reflections (2010)

16th December

Like all Londoners, they were desperately loyal about any threat to traditional features, but once they were gone, they accepted the new circumstance with surprising speed.

Monica Dickens, The Heart of London (1961)

23rd December

[T]he kind of love which young people feel for old figurehead people like me is perfectly healthy, beautiful indeed, not in the least silly and woe unto young people who are incapable of feeling it; they are emotionally lame. But it is so important for the old figureheads not to take this love personally; to understand that it is simply an effect of the interaction between age groups--to understand this makes it more beautiful, not less.

Christopher Isherwood, diary entry for 18 November 1977, Liberation: Diaries, Volume Three: 1970-1983 (2012)

30th December

I was not able to find myself interesting without intelligent response. I required the company of minds attuned to my own, but no one around gave me back the words I needed to hear.

Vivian Gornick, The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir (2015)


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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