Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Phyllis McGinley

American Essayist, Writer of Light Verse and Books for Children

"We might as well give up the fiction that we can argue any view. For what in me is pure Conviction is simple Prejudice in you."

"It is the leisured, I have noticed, who rebel the most at an interruption of routine."

"Sticks and stones are hard on bones, aimed with angry art, words can sting like anything. But silence breaks the heart."

"Ah, snug lie those that slumber beneath conviction's roof. Their floors are sturdy lumber, their windows weatherproof. But I sleep cold forever, and cold sleep all my kind, for I was born to shiver in the draft from an open mind. Born nakedly to shiver in the draft of an open mind. "

"The human animal needs a freedom seldom mentioned, freedom from intrusion. He needs a little privacy quite as much as he wants understanding or vitamins or exercise or praise."

"God know that a mother need fortitude and courage and tolerance and flexibility and patience and firmness and nearly every other brave aspect of the human soul."

"Praise is warming and desirable. But it is an earned thing. It has to be deserved, like a hug from a child."

"Compromise, if not the spice of life, is its solidity. It is what makes nations great and marriages happy"

"Women are the fulfilled sex. Through our children we are able to produce our own immortality, so we lack that divine restlessness which sends men charging off in pursuit of fortune or fame or an imagined Utopia. That is why we number so few geniuses among us. The wholesome oyster wears no pearl, the healthy whale no ambergris, and as long as we can keep on adding to the race, we harbor a sort of health within ourselves."

"I do not know who first invented the myth of sexual equality. But it is a myth willfully fostered and nourished by certain semi-scientists and other fiction writers. And it has done more, I suspect, to unsettle marital happiness than any other false doctrine of this myth-ridden age. "

"Those wearing tolerance for a label call other views intolerable."

"Nothing fails like success; nothing is so defeated as yesterday's triumphant Cause."

"God knows that a mother needs fortitude and courage and tolerance and flexibility and patience and firmness and nearly every other brave aspect of the human soul. But because I happen to be a parent of almost fiercely maternal nature, I praise casualness . It seems to me the rarest of virtues. It is useful enough when children are small. It is important to the point of necessity when they are adolescents."

"Gardening has compensations out of all proportions to its goals. It is creation in the pure sense."

"A bit of trash now and then is good for the severest reader. It provides the necessary roughage in the literary diet."

"A lady is smarter than a gentleman, maybe, she can sew a fine seam, she can have a baby, she can use her intuition instead of her brain, but she can't fold a paper in a crowded train."

"A mother's hardest to forgive. Life is the fruit she longs to hand you ripe on a plate. And while you live, relentlessly she understands you."

"A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away."

"But the kitchen will not come into its own again until it ceases to be a status symbol and becomes again a workshop. It may be pastel. It may be ginghamed as to curtains and shining with copper like a picture in a woman's magazine. But you and I will know it chiefly by its fragrances and its clutter. At the back of the stove will sit a soup kettle, gently bubbling, one into which every day are popped leftover bones and vegetables to make stock for sauces or soup for the family. Carrots and leeks will sprawl on counters, greens in a basket. There will be something sweet-smelling twirling in a bowl and something savory baking in the oven. Cabinet doors will gape ajar and colored surfaces are likely to be littered with salt and pepper and flour and herbs and cheesecloth and pot holders and long-handled forks. It won't be neat. It won't even look efficient. but when you enter it you will feel the pulse of life throbbing from every corner. The heart of the home will have begun once again to beat."

"For little boys are rancorous when robbed of any myth, and spiteful and cantankerous to all their kin and kith. But little girls can draw conclusions and profit from their lost illusions."

"Children are forced to live very rapidly in order to live at all. They are given only a few years in which to learn hundreds of thousands of things about life and the planet and themselves."

"Deluded people that we are, we do not realize how mediocre it all seems. We will eat our undistinguished meal, probably without even a cocktail to enliven it. We will drink our coffee at the table, not carry it into the living room. If a husband changes for dinner here it is into old trousers and more comfortable shoes. The children will then go through the childhood routine ? complain about their homework, grumble about going to bed, and finally accomplish both ordeals. Perhaps later the Gerard Joneses will drop in. We will talk a great deal of unimportant chatter and compare notes on food prices; will discuss the headlines and disagree. We will all have one highball and the Joneses will leave early. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow the pattern will be repeated. This is Suburbia. But I think that someday people will look back on our Spruce Manor way of life with nostalgia and respect. In a world of terrible extremes it will stand out as the important medium. Suburbia, of thee I sing!"

"For the wonderful thing about saints is that they we're human. They lost their tempers, got angry, scolded God, we're egotistical or testy or impatient in their turns, made mistakes and regretted them. Still they went on doggedly blundering toward heaven."

"Frigidity is largely nonsense. It is this generation's catchword, one only vaguely understood and constantly misused. Frigid women are few. There is a host of diffident and slow-ripening ones."

"It's this no-nonsense side of women that is pleasant to deal with. They are the real sportsmen."

"Gossip is the tool of the poet, the shoptalk of the scientist and the consolation of the housewife, wit, tycoon and intellectual. It begins in the nursery and ends when speech is past."

"Gossip isn't scandal and it's not merely malicious. It's chatter about the human race by lovers of the same. Gossip is the tool of the poet, the shop-talk of the scientist, and the consolation of the housewife, wit, tycoon and intellectual. It begins in the nursery and ends when speech is past."

"Getting along with men isn't what's truly important. The vital knowledge is how to get along with a man, one man."

"In Australia, not reading poetry is the national pastime."

"Not reading poetry amounts to a national pastime here."

"Kindness is a virtue neither modern nor urban. One almost unlearns it in a city. Towns have their own beatitude; they are not unfriendly; they offer a vast and solacing anonymity or an equally vast and solacing gregariousness. But one needs a neighbor on whom to practice compassion."

"Marriage was all a woman's idea and for man's acceptance of the pretty yoke, it becomes us to be grateful."

"Of one thing I am certain, the body is not the measure of healing, peace is the measure."

"Of course we women gossip on occasion. But our appetite for it is not as avid as a mans. It is in the boys gyms, the college fraternity houses, the club locker rooms, the paneled offices of business that gossip reaches its luxuriant flower."

"Our bodies are shaped to bear children, and our lives are a working out of the processes of creation. All our ambitions and intelligence are beside that great elemental point."

"Oh, high is the price of parenthood, and daughters may cost you double. You dare not forget, as you thought you could, that youth is a plague and a trouble."

"Say what you will, making marriage work is a woman's business. The institution was invented to do her homage; it was contrived for her protection. Unless she accepts it as such ? as a beautiful, bountiful, but quite unequal association ? the going will be hard indeed."

"Sin has always been an ugly word, but it has been made so in a new sense over the last half-century. It has been made not only ugly but pass‚. People are no longer sinful, they are only immature or underprivileged or frightened or, more particularly, sick."

"Seventy is wormwood, Seventy is gall But it?s better to be seventy, Than not alive at all."

"Sometimes I have a notion that what might improve the situation is to have women take over the occupations of government and trade and to give men their freedom. Let them do what they are best at. While we scrawl interoffice memos and direct national or extra-national affairs, men could spend all their time inventing wheels, peering at stars, composing poems, carving statues, exploring continents -- discovering, reforming, or crying out in a sacramental wilderness. Efficiency would probably increase, and no one would have to worry so much about the Gaza Strip or an election."

"The East is a montage. It is old and it is young, very green in summer, very white in winter, gregarious, withdrawn and at once both sophisticated and provincial."

"Sisters are always drying their hair. Locked into rooms, alone, they pose at the mirror, shoulders bare, trying this way and that their hair, or fly importunate down the stair to answer the telephone."

"The East is the hearthside of America. Like any home, therefore, it has the defects of its virtues. Because it is a long-lived-in house, it bursts its seams, is inconvenient, needs constant refurbishing. And some of the family resources have been spent. To attain the privacy that grown-up people find so desirable, Easterners live a harder life than people elsewhere. Today it is we and not the frontiersman who must be rugged to survive."

"The Enemy, who wears her mother's usual face and confidential tone, has access; doubtless stares into her writing case and listens on the phone."

"The wonderful thing about saints is that they were human. They lost their tempers, got hungry, scolded God, were egotistical or impatient in their turns, made mistakes and regretted them. Still they went on doggedly blundering toward heaven."

"The thing to remember about fathers is, they're men. A girl has to keep it in mind: They are dragon-seekers, bent on improbable rescues. Scratch any father, you find someone chock-full of qualms and romantic terrors, believing change is a threat ? like your first shoes with heels on, like your first bicycle it took such months to get."

"The system -- the American one, at least -- is a vast and noble experiment. It has been polestar and exemplar for other nations. But from kindergarten until she graduates from college the girl is treated in it exactly like her brothers. She studies the same subjects, becomes proficient at the same sports. Oh, it is a magnificent lore she learns, education for the mind beyond anything Jane Austen or Saint Theresa or even Mrs. Pankhurst ever dreamed. It is truly Utopian. But Utopia was never meant to exist on this disheveled planet."

"This is the gist of what I know: Give advice and buy a foe."

"The trouble with gardening is that it does not remain an avocation. It becomes an obsession."

"To be a housewife is... a difficult, a wrenching, sometimes an ungrateful job if it is looked on only as a job. Regarded as a profession, it is the noblest as it is the most ancient of the catalogue. Let none persuade us differently or the world is lost indeed."