T. H. White, fully Terence Hanbury White

T. H.
White, fully Terence Hanbury White

English Author best known for Arthurian novels including "The Once and Future King"

Author Quotes

If a boy steals sweets, he said, and his parents punish him, he may be very sorry and good afterwards. But that doesn’t entitle him to steal more sweets, does it? Nor does it mean that he must be given sweets. God was not punishing me by letting the black knight knock me down—he was only withholding the special gift of victory which it had always been within his power to bestow.

It was at the outskirts of the world that the Old Things accumulated, like driftwood round the edges of the sea. (The Troll)

Might does not make right! Right makes right!

The best thing for being sad, replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then-to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.

The word feral has a kind of magic potency which allied itself to two other words, ferocious and free. To revert to a feral state!

War is like a fire. One man may start it, but it will spread al over. It is not about one thing in particular.

If God is supposed to be merciful,' [Arthur] retorted, 'I don't see why He shouldn't allow people to stumble into heaven, just as well as climb there

It was called a tribute before a battle and a ransom afterwards.

Morals are difficult things to talk about, but what has happened is that we have invented a moral sense, which is rotting now that we can’t give it employment. And when a moral sense begins to rot it is worse than when you had none.

The bishops assured both sides that they were going to win, because God was with them, but King Arthur’s men knew that they were outnumbered by three to one, so they thought it was best to get shriven. King Lot’s men, who also knew the odds, spent the night dancing, drinking, dicing and telling each other dirty stories. This is what the chronicles say, at any rate.

Their mother is Athene, the goddess of wisdom, and, although they are often ready to play the buffoon to amuse you, such conduct is the prerogative of the truly wise.

Wars are never fought for one reason, he said. They are fought for dozens of reasons, in a muddle. It is the same with revolts. But there must have been a main reason, said Kay. Not necessarily.

If I were to be made a knight,' said the Wart, staring dreamily into the fire, 'I should insist on doing my vigil by myself, as Hob does with his hawks, and I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it.' That would be extremely presumptuous of you,' said Merlyn, 'and you would be conquered, and you would suffer for it.' I shouldn't mind.' Wouldn't you? Wait till it happens and see.' Why do people not think, when they are grown up, as I do when I am young?' Oh dear,' said Merlyn. 'You are making me feel confused. Suppose you wait till you are grown up and know the reason?' I don't think that is an answer at all,' replied the Wart, justly. Merlyn wrung his hands. Well, anyway,' he said, 'suppose they did not let you stand against all the evil in the world?' I could ask,' said the Wart. You could ask,' repeated Merlyn. He thrust the end of his beard into his mouth, stared tragically into the fire, and began to munch it fiercely.

It was Christmas night, the eve of the Boxing Day Meet. You must remember that this was in the old Merry England of Gramarye, when the rosy barons ate with their fingers, and had peacocks served before them with all their tail feathers streaming, or boars' heads with the tusks stuck in again—when there was no unemployment because there were too few people to be unemployed—when the forests rang with knights walloping each other on the helm, and the unicorns in the wintry moonlight stamped with their silver feet and snorted their noble breaths of blue upon the frozen air. Such marvels were great and comfortable ones. But in the Old England there was a greater marvel still. The weather behaved itself.

Morals, said Lionel, are a form of insanity. Give me a moral man who insists on doing the right thing all the time, and I will show you a tangle which an angel couldn’t get out of.

The bravest people are the ones who don’t mind looking like cowards.

Ther days may come,/Ther days may go,/But still the light of Mem'ry weaves/Those gentle dreams/Of long ago

We begin to forget, as we go stolidly balancing along, that there could have been a time when we were young bodies flaming with the impetus of life. It is hardly consoling to remember such a feeling, and so it deadens in our minds.

He was like a distracted man doing two things at once, one of them important and the other unimportant. He felt a duty to the unimportant one.

If it takes a million years for a fish to become a reptile, has Man, in our few hundred, altered out of recognition?

It was not exactly that they were afraid of being beaten if she came up. They adored her dumbly and uncritically, because her character was stronger than theirs. Nor had they been forbidden to talk after bedtime. It was more as if she had brought them up—perhaps through indifference or through laziness or even through some kind of possessive cruelty—with an imperfect sense of right and wrong. It was as if they could never know when they were being good or when they were being bad.

Mordred and Agravaine thought Arthur hypocritical—as all decent men must be, if you assume that decency can’t exist.

The destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.

There is a thing about Time and Space which the philosopher Einstein is going to find out. Some people call it Destiny. But both sides always say that the other side started them.

We cannot build the future by avenging the past.

Author Picture
First Name
T. H.
Last Name
White, fully Terence Hanbury White
Birth Date
Death Date

English Author best known for Arthurian novels including "The Once and Future King"