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Jan 2019

2nd January

Insofar as the feminism of the 1970s played on fear, exalting the independence and interdependence of women, it was playing with fire. We cried "Sisterhood is powerful!"-- and they believed us. Terrified misogynists of both sexes were howling that the house was burning down before most feminists found out where the matches were.

Ursula K Le Guin, 'A Band of Brothers, a Stream of Sisters' (November 2010), in No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters (2017)

9th January

A levelling and universalizing language may deprive us of our best chances to explain varying patterns in the historical record, and -- as the greatest single aim of a historian -- to elicit why particular changes happened in particular changes at particular times.

Ronald Hutton, The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present (2017)

16th January

I feel more drawn towards them than I should ever have believed possible. Am sorry to note that abuse and condemnation of a common acquaintance often constitutes very strong bond of union between otherwise uncongenial spirits.

EM Delafield, The Provincial Lady in Wartime (1940)

23rd January

I don't write plays with the idea of giving some great thought to the world, and that isn't just coy modesty....If I wanted to write a play with a message, God forbid, it would undoubtedly be a comedy.

Noel Coward, letter to unnamed correspondent, ?c. 1959, in The Letters of Noel Coward edited by Barry Day (2007)

30th January

The joy, once guaranteed simply by opening a cover, is now more elusive. As an adult, your tastes (and/or prejudices) are more developed and particular, your time is more precious and your critical faculties are harder to switch off. As an adult, worries are greater and it takes a more powerful page to be able to banish them for the duration. Perhaps you appreciate it all the more when it comes, but I miss the days of effortless immersion, and the glorious certainty of pleasure.

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading (2018)

Feb 2019

6th February

Neither woman was in his book, but because of them he knew more about the women in his book than he had when he started writing about them.

Noel Streatfeild, Grass in Piccadilly (1947)

13th February

What happens to the woman who accepts the forms? One possibility is deceit, evasion, slyness,. A mind in a sense too big for its material, which is (we are constantly reminded) only a romance, only a novel, only the very private, very limited lives of people who are, after all, not terribly important. And don't worry: you will meet only propriety, only the smallest, most domestic events, only the Iron Hand in the Velvet Glove, so well done (in one case) that for quite a while many saw only the glove[.]

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

20th February

Jacqueline sat patient while he talked. She was not interested in what he was saying, but she was prepared to wait for the moment when she could get him back to herself if in the meantime she might listen to the tones of his voice without paying attention to his words and could let her eyes rove over the appreciative expressions of his hearers. She thought that they admired him, and that sufficed her. It was fitting that they should do so.

Vita Sackville-West, Grand Canyon (1942)

27th February

[On] the same principle as jamming a radio wave: if you can get yourself worried enough about whether you're going to be late for an appointment, you can head off any worry about what you're going to say when you get there.

Katharine Whitehorn, 'Pack Up Your Troubles In The Right Kit Bag', View from a Column (1981)

Mar 2019

6th March

I didnít want to see helpless humans. Iíd rather see smart ones rescuing each other.

Martha Wells, Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries (2018)

13th March

'Yes, but not in the South,' with slight adjustments, will do for any argument about any place, if not about any person. It is an impossible comment to answer, And for maximum irritation, remember, the tone of voice must be 'plonking'.

Stephen Potter, Some Notes on Lifemanship (1950)

20th March

Miss Grammont had the New Statesman and the Tatler and was reading one of them. She was partial to both, which was characteristic of her attitude towards life. She was one of those who see no reason why an intelligent interest in the affairs of the world should be incompatible with a taste for Eve. She enjoyed both classical concerts and new revues. She might be called a learned worldling.

Rose Macaulay, What Not: A Prophetic Comedy (1918)

27th March

[T]he problem really is those labels around which self-defined tribes in the food and drink world huddle for reassurance and reflected glory. Frankly, I donít care if you harvest your grapes by the cycles of the moon, or according to the direction of the wind on a wet Tuesday in September, or Matt LeBlancís rising hormone levels. All that matters is whether the wine tastes nice or not.

Jay Rayner, Authentic, natural, artisan - mind your language when talking about food Guardian Food Monthly, 17 Mar 2019

Apr 2019

3rd April

At its primitive heart football is a game about knocking people down. It is also monumentally boring. There was even a time when I was foolish enough to tell people this. When I did, they would look at me sadly, start talking slower, and explain that I didn't really understand the game. After seriously weighing the possibility, I have to say that they are wrong.

Gini Hartzmark, Rough Trade (1999)

10th April

[W]hile women have, in all stages of civilization and in all historical epochs, disdained sterility, they have desired to control conception. How else can the persistence and general diffusion of sometimes painful, obnoxious, troublesome, and even dangerous expedients used by women be explained unless we posit the persistence and power of such a desire?

Norman Himes, Medical History Of Contraception (1936)

17th April

I think parents of any size family are actually doing what they want, and that none is being nobler than any other. And when you start being mean about other people's motives, there's always a first-class chance you've got it wrong.

Katharine Whitehorn, 'Suffer How Many of the Little Children?' in Observations (1986)

24th April

[A]nyway, I was a private eye and this was the sort of thing private eyes do. I've never admitted it to anyone, but I still have to cheer myself on that way.

Amanda Cross, Honest Doubt (2000)

May 2019

1st May

I also know, darling, that the best way I can serve my country is not by sitting in it with a head-cold grumbling at the climate and the telephone service, but by living further away where I can really get on with my primary job which is to become a better and better writer and a more tolerant and compassionate human being.

Noel Coward, to ''Darling Larryboy' [Laurence Olivier], 12 January 1957, in The Letters of Noel Coward edited by Barry Day (2007)

8th May

[T]hose who regard life as a variety entertainment do not really get on; they forget that life is real, life is earnest, and departing leave behind them no footprints on the sands of time. They do not make a career; they do not make good; they do not, in the long run, even make much money, though that rolls in by fits and starts, and at times plentifully. They do not so much hide their talents in napkins as play ball with them.

Rose Macaulay, What Not: A Prophetic Comedy (1918)

15th May

[M]any urbanites, myself included, adore the city precisely because they donít have to live among busybodies who know their business. Instead, they design their own communities of friends: people they actually like and want to spend time with.

Steven Poole, The Right Life by Remo H Largo: review The Guardian Saturday Review, 11 May 2019

[No quotations for 22nd and 29th May]

Jun 2019

[No quotation for 5th June]

12th June

No critical display is more offensive than that which praises one author only by damning another, as though critical judgement were a seesaw on which one reputation cannot rise unless another is lowered.

Carolyn G Heilbrun, 'Virginia Woolf and James Joyce: Ariadne and the Labyrinth' (1982), in Hamlet's Mother and Other Women (1990)

19th June

She didnít say anything, but I could feel her watching me, so I picked up my pace crossing the grass, as if I had a solid plan. No matter where you are, home or the strangest of places, everyone wants to look like they know where theyíre going.

Sarah Dessen, The Rest of the Story (2019)

26th June

Alas, one begins to discover even as an undergraduate that manís most violent innovations turn almost at once into a sort of archaic ritual.

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, Memories of the Future: Being Memoirs of the Years 1915-1972, Written in the Year of Grace 1988 by Opal, Lady Porstock (1923)

Ju1 2019

3rd July

She stood for several more minutes looking at the vases that covered the tabletop and sat riotously on the cold floor. They were more beautiful than any others she had ever done. She thought so every time but now she was sure. The flowers were wild and passionate, staid, demure, in a language that spoke only for Nan herself, with epigrams, with small practical jokes, with now-and-then malicious undertones.

MFK Fisher, The Theoretical Foot (2016)

10th July

"When youíre doing something like this," I said, "the odds are irrelevant. You donít need to know the odds. You need to know how to do the thing youíre trying to do. And then you need to do it. What comes next" -- I gestured, the tossing of a handful of omens -- "isnít something you have any control over."

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy (2015)

17th July

Colette, whom Kate enormously admired, had said that friendship, like love, naturally speaks its true language only in a duet. It occurred to her that one of the problems she had begun to encounter in recent years arose from the impossibility of such conversation in the ordinary routine of life. Everyone was either too busy, if they were worth talking to, or too dull, if they were available.

Amanda Cross, The Question of Max (1976)

24th July

Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

31st July

An alternative to denying female agency in art is to pollute the agency--that is, to promulgate the idea that women make themselves ridiculous by creating art, or that writing or painting is immodest (just as displaying oneself on the stage is immodest) and hence impossible for any decent woman, or that creating art shows a woman up as abnormal, neurotic, unpleasant and hence unlovable. She wrote it all right--but she shouldn't have.

Joanna Russ, How To Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

Aug 2019

7th August

The service was that special kind of bad, the type that slips easily into hilarious without ever quite going through infuriating.

Jay Rayner, review of The Rajput, Harrogate, 8 Aug 2009, reprinted in My Dining Hell : Twenty Ways To Have a Lousy Night Out (2015)

14th August

To force a unity from a quarrel, a high continuum from a sequence of defeats and petty disasters, to live on the level of the heart rather than the level of the slipping petticoat, this is what we spend our life on, and this is what wears us out.

Margaret Drabble, A Summer Birdcage (1963)

21st August

It is the legend of a gentleman named Brown, able and determined to support his wife, in body and spirit, to come between her and the world, the keeper of his flock, the provider.... I think that there is no doubt that 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)

28th August

[L]ooking as she did, and given the status of aging women in our society, she always found that no one sought her out until they knew who she was, a policy she scorned.

Amanda Cross, Sweet Death, Kind Death (1984)

Sep 2019

4th September

Now, lying on my own in the silent house, I felt I'd lost control of everything. All I could decide was whether or not to have sex with Nick; I couldn't decide how to feel about it, or what it meant.

Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends (2017)

11th September

All I have to do, Nan thought with a certain amount of complacent cunning, is to be wide-eyed and funny. All I have to do is say, Oh yes! and open my eyes wide and pretend to need people. That makes them feel important. I've always known this.

MFK Fisher, The Theoretical Foot (2016)

18th September

This notion of book-as-object rather than mass-of-content was new to me. I considered it with interest, and rejected it entirely. There was, I reasoned, a finite amount of cash and number of opportunities for acquisition in this world and neither should be wasted on getting a book that was beautiful but that you didnít want to read. Quantity of content over quality of livery has been the philosophy I have clung to ever since[.]

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading (2018)

25th September

[T]he more did my thoughts go back regretfully to my gentle and yielding first wife. Sometimes, I recollect, those twenty years with her had seemed long; but that was because, firstly, twenty years are long, and secondly, because we are none of us perfect, and thirdly, because a wife, unless she is careful, is apt to get on to oneís nerves. But how preferable is gentleness to an aggressive activity of mind and body. How annoying to see oneís wife striding on ahead with an ease I could not imitate and therefore in itself a slight on her husband. A man wants a wife who sits still, and not only still but on the same chair every day so that he knows where to find her should he happen to want anything. Marie-Luise was a very calm sitter; she never moved, except to follow the then Clothilde about. Only her hands moved, in a tireless guiding of the needle through those of my undergarments which had become defective.

Elizabeth von Arnim, The Caravaners (1909)

Oct 2019

2nd October

Once it's admitted that art need not be 'unified,' 'comprehensive,' and 'big,' in order to be 'great' (some confusion here between 'big' and 'great,' no?), what treasures may we not find?

Joanna Russ, How To Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

[No quotation for 9th October]

16th October

Whether she was getting anywhere was unclear, but she certainly had the sense of accomplishment that comes from busyness and a full appointment calendar, particularly when these occur on top of one's ordinary professional day, not exactly empty to begin with.

Amanda Cross, A Trap for Fools (1989)

[No quotations for 23rd and 30th October]

Nov 2019

6th November

The problem is... to persuade men to afford a reasonable support to women. That is to say, to be ready with support when it is needed and in the right kind and manner, and to stand aside when the offer of support would be an insult to a free spirit. Not to assume, because a woman is capable of supporting herself and, at need, her husband, that she wishes to spend a lifetime making the double effort. Nor, on the other hand, because she is sometimes--which of us is not?--in a mood to be cherished, to pop her into chancery for her life.

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

13th November

I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,
Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:
Unostentatious and respectful, there
He stood, and offered up the following prayer.
'Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial
Means; their discredited ideas revive;
Breed new belief that War is purgatorial
Proof of the pride and power of being alive;
Men's biologic urge to readjust
The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;
Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;
And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.'
The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph
Bowed. As he walked away I heard him laugh.

Siegfried Sassoon, 'At The Cenotaph', in The Road to Ruin (1933)

20th November

As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware.

Jo Freeman aka Joreen, 'The Tyranny of Structurelessness' (1973)

27th November

I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing. For, as I found, directly I put pen to paper, you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own, without expressing what you think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex. And all these questions, according to the Angel of the House, cannot be dealt with freely and openly by women; they must charm, they must conciliate, they must - to put it bluntly - tell lies if they are to succeed. Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. She was always creeping back when I thought I had despatched her. Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning Greek grammar; or in roaming the world in search of adventures. But it was a real experience; it was an experience that was bound to befall all women writers at that time. Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.

Virginia Woolf, 'Professions for Women' (1931), published in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942)

Dec 2019

4th December

[R]emaining still avid for something that could wear out her marvellous brain and superb body... at times she felt more weariness for lack of battle than defeat could ever have brought in its train.

G. B. Stern, Twos and Threes (1916)

11th December

[S]he did wish sometimes that people would remember that she also was a human being with possible troubles of her own, instead of accepting her as an automaton for helping them with theirs. She wondered why it was. She always kept very quietly to her own corner, never seeking people out or inviting their confidences, yet they always ended by coming her way.

Vita Sackville-West, Grand Canyon (1942)

18th December

The new forces did not emerge. The obsolete party did not mean to yield power. On the contrary, it gripped the nation's throast with a tenacity that was terrifying, because it pertained to another realm than life. For the grip of a living man must relax if he grow tired; it is only ghostly hands that, without term, can continue to clench. But these were not honest ghosts[.]

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

25th December

The three paused on the threshold, staring at the little tree, their faces solemn with pleasure.

'Oh, isn't it pretty! I'ts so little! It's like those little ones we saw growing near Barnet,' said the red beret, 'Daddy told us they were going to be Christmas trees when they got bigger. Oh, what pretty bell-things. Oh, look, Jane, a norange! all made of glass!

'Pretty!' said Jane intensely. 'It's the littlest tree I ever saw. May I touch it? Who is it for?'

Stella Gibbons, 'The Little Christmas Tree' in Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm (1940)


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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