Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Evelyn Waugh, fully Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh

English Novelist, Biographer and Journalist

"Only when one has lost all curiosity about the future has one reached the age to write an autobiography."

"The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish."

"When we argue for our limitations, we get to keep them. "

"Your actions, and your action alone, determines your worth. "

"An artist must be a reactionary. He has to stand out against the tenor of the age and not go flopping along; he must offer some little opposition. Even the great Victorian artists were all anti-Victorian, despite the pressures to conform."

"A conservative is not merely an obstructionist who wishes to resist the introduction of novelties; nor is he, as was assumed by most 19th-century parliamentarians, a brake to frivolous experiment. He has positive work to do ... Civilization has no force of its own beyond what is given from within. It is under constant assault and it takes most of the energies of civilized man to keep going at all ... If [it] falls we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint-stock corporations, but of the spiritual and material achievements of our history."

"A copy of Dante's Purgatorio excited his especial disgust. "French, eh?" he said. "I guessed as much, and pretty dirty too, I shouldn't wonder. Now just you wait while I look up these here books"—how he said it!—"in my list. Particularly against books the Home Secretary is. If we can't stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stop its being brought in from outside.""

"A necklace of pearls on a white neck. We had lost the sense of discovery which had infused the anarchy of our first year. I began to settle down... the old house in the foreground, the rest of the world abandoned and forgotten; a world of its own of peace and love and beauty."

"After all, damn it, what does being in love mean if you can't trust a person."

"All day the head had been barely supportable but at evening a breeze arose in the West, blowing from the heart of the setting sun and from the ocean, which lay unseen, unheard behind the scrubby foothills. It shook the rusty fringes of palm-leaf and swelled the dry sounds of summer, the frog-voices, the grating cicadas, and the ever present pulse of music from the neighboring native huts."

"All this fuss about sleeping together. For physical pleasure I'd sooner go to my dentist any day."

"Almost all crime is due to the repressed desire for aesthetic expression."

"A typical triumph of modern science to find the only part of Randolph that was not malignant and remove it.""

"Aesthetic value is often the by-product of the artist striving to do something else."

"Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison. It is the people brought up in the gay intimacy of the slums who find prison so soul-destroying."

"And the only interest about him arises from the unusual series of events of which his shadow was witness."

"As there was no form of government common to the peoples thus segregated, nor tie of language, history, habit, or belief, they were called a Republic."

"Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction."

"At night his most frequent recurring dream was of doing The Times crossword puzzle; his most disagreeable that he was reading a tedious book aloud to his family."

"At the door of the dining-room he left us. 'Good night, Mr Jorkins,' he said. 'I hope you will pay us another visit when you next cross the herring pond.' 'I say, what did your governor mean by that? He seemed almost to think I was American.' 'He's rather odd at times."

"Aunt Fanny tells me you made great friends with Mr. Mottram. I'm sure he can't be very nice.' 'I don't think he is,' said Julia. 'I don't know that I like nice people"

"Brenda descended the great staircase step by step through alternations of dusk and rainbow."

"At Swindon we turned off the main road and, as the sun mounted high, we were among dry-stone walls and ashlar houses. It was about eleven when Sebastian, without warning, turned the car into a cart track and stopped. It was hot enough now to make us seek the shade. On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine--as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together--and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian's eyes on the leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by any wind, to the blue-green shadows of foliage, and the sweet scent of the tobacco merged with the sweet summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger's breadth above the turf and hold us suspended. Just the place to bury a crock of gold, said Sebastian. I should like to bury something precious in every place where I've been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember."

"Beware the Anglo-Catholics. They're all sodomites with unpleasant accents. --Cousin Jasper"

"But I saw today there was one thing unforgivable - like things in the school-room, so bad they were unpunishable, that only mummy could deal with - the bad thing I was on the point of doing, that I'm not quite bad enough to do; to set up a rival good to God's."

"But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city."

"'But what am I to teach them?' said Paul in sudden panic. 'Oh, I shouldn't try to teach them anything, not just yet, anyway. Just keep them quiet.'"

"Comparisons are odious."

"Change is the only evidence of life."

"But these young people have such an intelligent, knowledgeable surface, and then the crust suddenly breaks and you look down into the depths of confusion you didn't know existed."

"Charm is the great English blight. It does not exist outside these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art; I greatly fear, my dear Charles, it has killed you."

"Chokey thinks religion is just divine."

"Conversation should be like juggling; up go the balls and the plates, up and over, in and out, good solid objects that glitter in the footlights and fall with a bang if you miss them. But when dear Sebastian speaks it is like a little sphere of soapsud drifting off the end of an old clay pipe, anywhere, full of rainbow light for a second and then - phut! vanished, with nothing left at all, nothing.'"

"CORDELIA: I hope I've got a vocation. CHARLES: I don't know what that means. CORDELIA: It means you can be a nun. If you haven't a vocation it's no good however much you want to be; and if you have a vocation, you can't get away from it, however much you hate it."

"Creative Endeavour lost her wings, Mrs. Ape."

"Dearest Charles-- I found a box of this paper at the back of a bureau so I must write to you as I am mourning for my lost innocence. It never looked like living. The doctors despaired of it from the start... I am never quite alone. Members of my family keep turning up and collecting luggage and going away gain, but the white raspberries are ripe. I have a good mind not to take Aloysius to Venice. I don't want him to meet a lot of horrid Italian bears and pick up bad habits. Love or what you will. S."

"Don't you think, said Father Rothschild gently, that perhaps it is all in some way historical? I don't think people ever want to lose their faith either in religion or anything else. I know very few young people, but it seems to me that they are all possessed with an almost fatal hunger for permanence. I think all these divorces show that. People aren't content just to muddle along nowadays ... And this word bogus they all use ... They won't make the best of a bad job nowadays. My private schoolmaster used to say, If a thing's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well. My Church has taught that in different words for several centuries. But these young people have got hold of another end of the stick, and for all we know it may be the right one. They say, If a thing's not worth doing well, it's not worth doing at all. It makes everything very difficult for them."

"Don't give your opinions about Art and the Purpose of Life. They are of little interest and, anyway, you can't express them. Don't analyze yourself. Give the relevant facts and let your readers make their own judgments. Stick to your story. It is not the most important subject in history but it is one about which you are uniquely qualified to speak."

"Don't hold your parents up to contempt. After all, you are their son, and it is just possible that you may take after them."

"EVELYN WAUGH: How do you get your main pleasure in life, Sir William? SIR WILLIAM BEVERIDGE: I get mine trying to leave the world a better place than I found it. WAUGH: I get mine spreading alarm and despondency and I get more satisfaction than you do."

"For in that city [New York] there is neurosis in the air which the inhabitants mistake for energy."

"Downstairs Peter Beste-Chetwynde mixed himself another brandy and soda and turned a page in Havelock Ellis, which, next to The Wind in the Willows, was his favourite book."

"Faster... Faster... it'll stop all right when the time comes."

"Even on that convivial evening I could feel my host emanating little magnetic waves of social uneasiness, creating, rather, a pool of general embarrassment about himself in which he floated with log-like calm."

"Every Englishman abroad, until it is proved to the contrary, likes to consider himself a traveller and not a tourist."

"Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.'"

"Free as air; that's what they say- free as air. Now they bring me my air in an iron barrel."

"From the earliest times the Welsh have been looked upon as an unclean people. It is thus that they have preserved their racial integrity. Their sons and daughters rarely mate with humankind except their own blood relations."

"Frankly, said the Doctor, I am at a loss to understand my own emotions. I can think of no entertainment that fills me with greater detestation than a display of competitive athletics, none - except possibly folk dancing."

"Had he not suffered unscathed the fearful dooms of all the offended gods, of all the histories, fire, brimstone, and yawning earthquakes, plague, and pestilence? Had he not stood, like the Pompeian sentry, while the Citadels of the Plain fell to ruin about his ears?"