Robertson Davies


Canadian Novelist, Playwright, Critic, Journalist and Professor

Author Quotes

When a man has become a great figure in society as a physician, we must not be surprised if he regards the laws of society as the laws of Nature

When I was born good fairies clustered round my cradle, showering me with wit, beauty, grace, freedom from dandruff, natural piety and other great gifts, but the Wicked Fairy Carabosse (who had not been invited to the party) crept to my side and screamed Let him be cursed with Inability To Do Little Jobs Around The House, and so it has always been.

Well, I haven't got wealth or fame, but I really think I might say, and I know how dangerous it is to say this

What might we profitably do on Halloween? Look backward, and consider those who went before us. The road ahead is inevitably dark, but to see where we have been may offer unexpected hints about who we are, and where we should be heading. Triviality about the past leads certainly toward a trivial future.

We wanted to meet him, for though we were neither of us naive people we had not wholly lost our belief that it is delightful to meet artists who have given us pleasure.

We live in a world where bulk is equated with quality.

We mistrust anything that too strongly challenges our ideal of mediocrity.

We all have slumbering realms of sensibility which can be coaxed into wakefulness by books.

We are approaching a millennium; the year 2000 draws on apace. The last time mankind had this experience a chaos comparable to our own was observable in many parts of the world; monsters and portents were reported from all quarters of the globe. We need not believe in these monsters and portents as actualities any more than we need believe the reports of flying saucers today; what is significant is that men yielded to an inner compulsion to fancy such things, and in this sense they were artistic creations rooted in fear much as are the pictures and images which we have been discussing.

We have educated ourselves into a world from which wonder, and he fear and dread and splendor and freedom of wonder have been banished. Of course wonder is costly. You couldn't incorporate it into a modern state, because it is the antithesis of the anxiously worshiped security which is what a modern state is asked to give. Wonder is marvelous but it is also cruel, cruel, cruel. It is undemocratic, discriminatory and pitiless.

Was driving through the countryside today with some people who insisted upon frequent recourse to a roadmap in order to discover, as they put it, Just where they were. Reflected that for my part I generally have a pretty shrewd idea of just where I am; I am enclosed in the somewhat vulnerable fortress which is my body, and from that uneasy stronghold I make such sorties as I deem advisable into the realm about me. These people seemed to think that whizzing through space in a car really altered the universe for them, but they were wrong; each one remained right in the centre of his private universe, which is the only field of knowledge of which he has any direct experience.

Too much traffic with a quotation book begets a conviction of ignorance in a sensitive reader. Not only is there a mass of quotable stuff he never quotes, but an even vaster realm of which he has never heard.

Try some Symbolic Logic on your little Couch Potato when you go home, and see what happens.

Very often when I am introduced to women, I think, What is she really like behind the disguise which she wears? And very often I discover that she is pleasant enough, and probably would expand and glow if she received enough affection.

To which god must I sacrifice in order to heal? To which of the warring serpents should I turn with the problem that now faces me? It is easy, and tempting, to choose the god of Science. Now I would not for a moment have you suppose that I am one of those idiots who scorns Science, merely because it is always twisting and turning, and sometimes shedding its skin, like the serpent that is its symbol. It is a powerful god indeed but it is what the students of ancient gods called a shape-shifter, and sometimes a trickster.

Today I live in the gray, muffled, smelless, puffy, tasteless half-world of those who have colds.

To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser.

To be apt in quotation is a splendid and dangerous gift. Splendid, because it ornaments a man's speech with other men's jewels; dangerous, for the same reason.

Thought and reason, unless matched by feelings, are empty, delusive things.

To ask an author who hopes to be a serious writer if his work is autobiographical is like asking a spider where he buys his thread. The spider gets his thread right out of his own guts, and that is where the author gets his writing.

This was a distilled essence of life; this was the way people behaved when they took off the masks which all adults seemed to me to wear; this was noble. A veil had been rent between the greatness of mankind and myself, and I knew that I would never be the same again. Nor was I. Since that night I have made some progress in my attempt to understand mankind, but I have never made another such giant leap.

This is the Great Theater of Life. Admission is free but the taxation is mortal. You come when you can, and leave when you must. The show is continuous. Goodnight.

This strengthens a belief which I have long cherished, that in a few centuries women will be the larger, stronger sex, admired for their biceps and superfluous hair, and that men will be their toys and domestic comforters, exciting tenderness in the female breast by their small feet, pretty soft hands, and general helplessness. I do not think I have a heart, for I have never been able to locate my pulse, or any other symptom of a circulatory system, but I am willing to share any of the benefits of male delicacy.

This is an age of groups, clubs, associations, and whatnot; most members of the clerisy belong to enough of these already. It is within the groups to which they already belong that they can best assert the values of the humanist

They live and laugh who know the better part

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Canadian Novelist, Playwright, Critic, Journalist and Professor