Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Rebecca West, pen name of Mrs. Cicily Maxwell Andrews, born Fairfield, aka Dame Rebecca West

English Novelist, Critic, Essayist, Journalist and Travel Writer

"The trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths which are too complicated; he forgets truths which are too simple."

"Art is nothing less than a way of making joys perpetual."

"Existence in itself, taken at its least miraculous, is a miracle."

"A copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned things is ample."

"A good cause has to be careful of the company it keeps."

"A strong hatred is the best lamp to bear in our hands as we go over the dark places of life, cutting away the dead things men tell us to revere."

"After any disturbance (such as two world wars coinciding with a period of growing economic and monetary incomprehensibility) we find our old concepts inadequate and look for new ones. But it unfortunately happens that the troubled times which produce an appetite for new ideas are the least propitious for clear thinking."

"All good biography, as all good fiction, comes down to the study of original sin, of our inherent disposition to choose death when we ought to choose life."

"All men should have a drop of treason in their veins, if nations are not to go soft like so many sleepy pears."

"All our Western thought is founded on this repulsive pretense that pain is the proper price of any good thing."

"Allowed to cast themselves for great tragic roles, they were experiencing the exhilaration felt by great tragic actors. It was not lack of control, lack of taste, lack of knowledge that accounted for permission of what was not permitted in the West. Rather was it the reverse. Our people could not have handled patients full of the dangerous thoughts of death and love; these people had such resources that they did not need to empty their patients of such freight."

"Any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience."

"As we passed by on the stony causeway, women looked up at us from the fields, their faces furrowed with all known distresses. By their sides, lambs skipped in gaiety and innocence, and goats skipped in gaiety but without innocence, and at their feet the cyclamens shone mauve; the beasts and flowers seemed fortunate because they are not human, as those who have passed within the breath of a plague and have escaped it."

"At the top of a hill our automobile stuck in a snowdrift. Peasants ran out of a cottage nearby, shouting with laughter because machinery had made a fool of itself, and dug out the automobile with incredible rapidity. They were doubtless anxious to get back and tell a horse about it."

"Because hypocrisy stinks in the nostrils one is likely to rate it as a more powerful agent for destruction"

"Before a war, military science seems a real science, like astronomy. After a war it seems more like astrology."

"Behind it was that vast suspension bridge which always troubles me because it reminds me that in this mechanized age I am as little able to understand my environment as any primitive woman who thinks that a waterfall is inhabited by a spirit, and indeed less so, for her opinion might from a poetical point of view be correct."

"But there are other things than dissipation that thicken the features. Tears, for example."

"Economists are like Aeolian harps, and the sounds that issue from them are determined by the winds that blow."

"Embraces do not matter; they merely indicate the will to love and may as well be followed by defeat as victory. But disregard means that now there needs to be no straining of the eyes, no stretching forth of the hands, no pressing of the lips, because theirs is such a union that they are no longer aware of the division of their flesh."

"Everyone realizes that one can believe little of what people say about each other. But it is not so widely realized that even less can one trust what people say about themselves."

"Fiction and poetry are the only way one can stop time and give an account of an experience and nail it down so that it lasts forever."

"For the sake of my country, and perhaps a little for the sake of my soul, I have given up the deep peace of being in opposition."

"God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide."

"Great music is in a sense serene; it is certain of the values it asserts."

"Humanity is never more sphinxlike than when it is expressing itself."

"I have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist when I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute."

"I cannot see that art is anything less than a way of making joys perpetual."

"I cannot think that espionage can be recommended as a technique for building an impressive civilization. It's a lout's game."

"I do not myself find it agreeable to be ninety, and I cannot imagine why it should seem so to other people. It is not that you have any fears about your own death; it is that your upholstery is already dead around you."

"I wonder if we are all wrong about each other, if we are just composing unwritten novels about the people we meet?"

"I always have beauty around me, for I have but to go to my piano, and trace one of the million designs that have been made by my masters."

"I write books to find out about things."

"If it be ungentlemanly to kiss and tell, it is still further from gentlemanliness to pray and tell."

"If the whole human race lay in one grave, the epitaph on its headstone might well be: 'It seemed like a good idea at the time.'"

"If there is a God, I don't think He would demand that anyone bow down or stand up to Him. I often have a suspicion that God is still trying to work things out and hasn't finished."

"It appears that even the different parts of the same person do not converse among themselves, do not succeed in learning from each other what are their desires and their intentions."

"International relationships are preordained to be clumsy gestures based on imperfect knowledge."

"It is always one's virtues and not one's vices that precipitate one into disaster."

"In these pages your imaginations, your desires, your passions are given life; Thoughts take shape that turn into dreams and our aspirations all start with a dream. Reading is where those dreams really can come true over and over again."

"It is not possible that a just God should forgive people who are wicked because another person who was good endured agony by being nailed to a cross."

"It is a great pity that every human being does not, at an early stage of his life, have to write a historical work. He would then realize that the human race is in quite a jam about truth."

"It's an absurd error to put modern English literature in the curriculum. You should read contemporary literature for pleasure or not at all. You shouldn't be taught to monkey with it."

"It's my profession to bring people from various outlying districts of the mind to the normal. There seems to be a general feeling it's the place where they ought to be. Sometimes I don't see the urgency myself."

"It's queer how it is always one's virtues that precipitate one into disaster."

"It isn't only living people who die, it is great stretches of living, which can die even when the people who lived there still exist."

"It is queer how it is always one's virtues and not one's vices that precipitate one into disaster."

"It is sometimes very hard to tell the difference between history and the smell of skunk."

"It is the soul's duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion."

"It's the soul's duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion."