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Jan 2022

5th January

Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
It is not the effort nor the failure tires.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.
Not to have fire is to be a skin that shrills.
The complete fire is death. From partial fires
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

It is the poems you have lost, the ills
From missing dates, at which the heart expires.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

William Empson Missing Dates (1937)

12th January

The feminism I know began as politics, not rules for living. To call X a feminist issue did not then mean that there was a good way to do X and a bad way, and that we were trying to replace the bad way with the good way. X was a feminist issue because it was the locus of various social pressures (which it made visible) and those social pressures were what feminism was all about.

Joanna Russ, 'News from the Front' in Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts: Feminist Essays (1985)

19th January

["]We women canít go in search of adventure--to find out the North-West Passage or the source of the Nile, or to hunt tigers in the East. We must stay where we grow, or where the gardeners like to transplant us. We are brought up like the flowers, to look as pretty as we can, and be dull without complaining. That is my notion about the plants; they are often bored, and that is the reason why some of them have got poisonous. What do you think?" Gwendolen had run on rather nervously[.]

George Eliot, Daniel Deronda (1876)

26th January

I read what I feel inclined to read, and I am conscious of no duty to finish a book that I donít care to finish. I read in my leisure, not from a sense of duty, not to improve myself, but solely because it gives me pleasure to read.... I want to have lots of books on my shelves because I know they are good, because I know they would amuse me, because I like to look at them, and because one day I might have a caprice to read them.

Arnold Bennett, Mental Efficiency, and Other Hints to Men and Women (1911)

Feb 2022

2nd February

They pulled down all the houses where the children used to crowd
And built expensive blocks of flats where children weren't allowed;
So if father got a job there wasn't anywhere to dwell,
And everybody wondered why the population fell.
Five hundred brand-new motor cars each morning rode the roads,
And flashed about like comets or sat motionless as toads;
Whichever course they took they made the public highway hell,
And everybody wondered why the population fell.
The world, in short, which never was extravagantly sane,
Developed all the signs of inflammation of the brain;
The past was not encouraging, the future none could tell,
But the Minister still wondered why the population fell.

AP Herbert, MP, Population (Statistics) Bill: Second Reading (29 November 1937)

9th February

There seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. "I am no novel-reader - I seldom look into novels - Do not imagine that I often read novels - It is really very well for a novel." Such is the common cant. "And what are you reading, Miss - ?" "Oh! It is only a novel!" replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. "It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda"; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1803)

16th February

[T]o suggest that you have the artistically awakened eye and can form your own opinion in perfect independence of the kind of judgement which the lay-out and emphssis of the exhibition seem to demand, pause a long time before some object which has nothing to do with the exhibits - say a fire extinguisher or a grating in the floor through which warmed-up museum air rises[.]

Stephen Potter, 'A Note on Exhibitionship', in One-Upmanship (1959)

23rd February

"Water under the bridge"... he said this with the air of one who spent a lot of time on bridges, waiting for the bodies of his enemies to float past.

Mick Herron, Real Tigers (2016)

Mar 2022

2nd March

We have an elegant sufficiency of women novelists and they give us a great deal of evidence which will enable us to make up our minds whether the feminist pioneers have been disappointed in their hope that if women were admitted to the universities and the professions and commerce and industry and exercised the vote and were eligible for both Houses of Parliament they would not only be able to earn their own livings and develop their minds and live candidly but might also be luckier in love than their mothers and grandmothers and would take it better if they were unlucky. But this evidence is not forthcoming. After a course of study in Contemporary Women Novelists it is as if one heard a massed female choir singing 'Early one morning just as the sun was rising I heard a maid sing in the valley below, "Oh don't deceive me, oh never leave me, how could you use a poor maiden so?"'

Rebecca West. 'And They All Lived Unhappily Ever After' in Rebecca West, A Celebration (1977) (first published in 'Women and Literature - 1', Times Literary Supplement, 16 July 1974)

9th March

Society is a curious affair. There are no fixed rules for it. It makes its own as it goes along, never put into words but somehow recognized by all well-thinking people. Let us give an example of its curious workings. Mrs. Brandon, who was nobody in particular, her parents having been quiet well-to-do people in another county, had married, many years ago now, Mr. Brandon who was also nobody in particular, but well off and the owner of that charming place Stories at Pomfret Madrigal. Here his wife had settled down quite happily, for if you do not notice quite how dull your husband is and he is kind to you and provides you with a charming house, money for plenty of pretty clothes, a good well-trained staff, a very rich aunt from whom he has expectations and two very nice children, you can lead a very pleasant contented life, as Lavinia Oliver when she became Mrs. Brandon undoubtedly did. And if, just as your wife is beginning gently to realize how uninteresting you are, you very obligingly die of a chill on the Riviera and are buried there so that no one has to visit your grave, leaving her very comfortably off, it seems to us that no one can say a word against you.

Angela Thirkell, Happy Return (1952)

16th March

[W]omen, whose lives are professionally successful, and who have all they want of life's material blessings and furnishings, often find themselves overcome by a desire for something--risk, adventure, a new challenge--they know not exactly what. And today's proliferation of the romantic story stands ready to anser that craving for need. But how can a fiction writer name another resolution, when our culture offers none?

Carolyn G Heilbrun, 'Sex and Romance' in The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty (1997)

23rd March

What was most exciting about this "re-reading" in those early years was that I--and many others like me--experienced feminist consciousness as a persepctive through which the sense of world and being was immeasurably enriched. To think in feminist terms was to feel intellectual promise and emotional discovery quickening to new life.... The mere act of understanding my life again in historical terms induced in me a sense of human kinship.

And then the unthinkable happened to the women's movement: feminist consciousness gave way to feminist dogma.

Vivian Gornick, 'To End With', The Romance of American Communism (1977, 2020)

30th March

Often before Sarah had infuriated her colleagues by suggesting remedies instead of grievances. She had not yet recognised the human preference for complaint

Winifred Holtby, South Riding (1936)

Apr 2022

6th April

People thought it was silly, almost wrong to look at the end of a book. But if it spoilt a book, there was something wrong about the book. If it was finished and the interest gone when you know who married who, what was the good of reading at all? It was a sort of trick, a sell. Like a puzzle that was no more fun when you had found it out. There was something more in books than that[.]

Dorothy Richardson, Honeycomb: Pilgrimage Volume 3 (1917)

13th April

Claude wasn't a vindictive man, but this was largely because the opportunity to be one had rarely presented itself.

Mick Herron, London Rules (2018)

For keeping the trim gardens full of choice flowers without a weed to speck them; for frightening away little boys who look wistfully at the said flowers through the railings; for rushing out at the geese that occasionally venture in to the gardens if the gates are left open; for deciding all questions of literature and politics without troubling themselves with unnecessary reasons or arguments; for obtaining clear and correct knowledge of everybodyís affairs in the parish; for keeping their neat maid-servants in admirable order; for kindness (somewhat dictatorial) to the poor, and real tender good offices to each other whenever they are in distress, the ladies of Cranford are quite sufficient. 'A man,' as one of them observed to me once, 'is so in the way in the house!'

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Cranford (1853)

27th April

[T]he growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)

May 2022

4th May

She chattered. Evelyn lent herself amiably to the chatter; it seemed to her that she was always lending herself amiably to somebody or something, till she ceased to have any existence of her own at all. Would she ever turn round on the whole of her acquaintance, and in a moment of harshness send them all packing? She knew that the necessary harshness lurked somewhere within her; in fact, she was rather frightened of it.

Vita Sackville-West, Family History (1932)

11th May

As the only person with whom man can compare himself is woman, it is desirable that she should do worse. In fact, by the Lord Harry, she shall do worse.... The woman who forgets this, who does not realise that by reason of her sex she lives in a beleaguered city, is a fool who deserves to lose (as she certainly will) all the privileges that have been won for her by her more robustly-minded sister.

Rebecca West, 'On a Form of Nagging', published in Time and Tide 31 Oct 1924, reprinted in Dale Spender (ed.), Time and Tide Wait for No Man (1984)

Jun 2022

Ju1 2022

Aug 2022

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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