Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Vita Sackville-West, fully The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson

English Novelist, Author, Poet and Gardener, Awarded Hawthornden Prize

"Serenity of spirit and turbulence of action should make up the sum of a man's life."

"A flowerless room is a soulless room, to my way of thinking; but even one solitary little vase of a living flower may redeem it."

"A man and his land make a man and his creed… A man and his tools make a man and his trade… A man and his loves make a man and his life."

"All craftsmen share a knowledge. They have held reality down fluttering to a bench."

"All her lovers have passed, her beautiful lovers have passed, the young and eager men that fought for her arrogant hand, and the only voice which endures to mourn for her at the last"

"All her youth is gone, her beautiful youth outworn, daughter of tarn and tor, the moors that were once her home no longer know her step on the upland tracks forlorn where she was wont to roam."

"Ambition, old as mankind, the immemorial weakness of the strong"

"Among the many problems which beset the novelist, not the least weighty is the choice of the moment at which to begin his novel."

"And what have I to give my friends in the last resort? An awkwardness, a shyness, and a scrap."

"Authority has every reason to fear the skeptic, for authority can rarely survive in the face of doubt"

"Darling, I thought of nothing mean; I thought of killing straight and clean. You're safe; that's gone, that wild caprice, but tell me once before I cease, which does your Church esteem the kinder role, to kill the body or destroy the soul?"

"Days I enjoy are days when nothing happens, when I have no engagements written on my block, when no one comes to disturb my inward peace, when no one comes to take me away from myself and turn me into a patchwork, a jig-saw puzzle, a broken mirror that once gave a whole reflection, being so contrived that it takes too long a time to get myself back to myself when they have gone."

"Every garden-maker should be an artist along his own lines. That is the only possible way to create a garden, irrespective of size or wealth."

"Flowers really do intoxicate me."

"Forget not bees in winter, though they sleep."

"Gardening is a luxury occupation: an ornament, not a necessity, of life. . . Fortunate gardener, who may preoccupy himself solely with beauty in these difficult and ugly days! He is one of the few people left in this distressful world to carry on the tradition of elegance and charm. A useless member of society, considered in terms of economics, he must not be denied his rightful place. He deserves to share it, however humbly, with the painter and poet."

"I always thought it was better like a lot for one person, a little for everyone."

"I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this —But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don’t really resent it."

"I came from nowhere, and shall be strong, steadfast, swift, eternally: I am a lion, a stone, a tree, and as the Polar star in me is fixed my constant heart on thee. Ah, may I stay forever blind with lions, tigers, leopards, and their kind."

"I cannot love your weeping poets..."

"I have come to the conclusion, after many years of sometimes sad experience, that you cannot come to any conclusion at all."

"I like muddling things up; and if a herb looks nice in a border, then why not grow it there? Why not grow anything anywhere so long as it looks right where it is? That is, surely, the art of gardening."

"I look back as through a telescope, and see, in the little bright circle of the glass, moving flocks and ruined cities."

"I loved you when love was Spring, and May, Loved you when summer deepened into June, and now when autumn yellows all the leaves."

"I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal."

"I saw within the wheelwright’s shed the big round cartwheels, blue and red; a plough with blunted share; a blue tin jug; a broken chair; and paint in trial patchwork square slapping up against the wall; the lumber of the wheelwright’s trade, and tools on benches neatly laid, the brace, the adze, the awl."

"I sing the cycle of my country's year, I sing the tillage, and the reaping sing, classic monotony, that modes and wars leave undisturbed, unbettered, for their best"

"I suppose the pleasure of country life lies really in the eternally renewed evidences of the determination to live."

"I suppose the pleasure of the country life lies really in the eternally renewed evidences of the determination to live. That is a truism when said, but anything but a truism when daily observed. Nothing shows up the difference between the thing said or read, so much as the daily experience of it."

"I worshipped dead men for their strength, forgetting I was strong."

"If I had only loved your flesh and careless damned your soul to Hell, I might have laughed and loved afresh, and loved as lightly and as well, and little more to tell."

"In February, if the days be clear, the waking bee, still drowsy on the wing, will sense the opening of another year and blunder out to seek another spring."

"It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan't make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can't be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don't love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don't really resent it."

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? for the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. Growth is exciting; growth is dynamic and alarming. Growth of the soul, growth of the mind; how the observation of last year seems childish, superficial; how this year — even this week — even with this new phrase — it seems to us that we have grown to a new maturity. It may be a fallacious persuasion, but at least it is stimulating, and so long as it persists, one does not stagnate."

"It is no good my telling you. One never believes other people's experiences and one is only very gradually convinced by one's own."

"It is quite true that you have had infinitely more influence on me intellectually than anyone, and for this alone I love you."

"It is very necessary to have markers of beauty left in a world seemingly bent on making the most evil ugliness."

"It isn't that I don't like sweet disorder, but it has to be judiciously arranged."

"It was a real event in my life and my heart to be with you the other day. We do matter to each other, don't we? however much our ways may have diverged. I think we have got something indestructible between us, haven't we?… It has been a very strange relationship, ours; unhappy at times, happy at others; but unique in its way, and infinitely precious to me and (may I say?) to you. What I like about it is that we always come together again however long the gaps in our meetings may have been. Time seems to make no difference."

"Leopards on the gable-ends, leopards on the painted stair, stiff the blazoned shield they bear, or and gules, a bend of air, leopards on the gable-ends, leopards everywhere."

"Man loves a little, and for long shall die."

"Men of my age live in a state of continual desperation."

"My heart and teach myself to feel only a sober tenderness where once was passion's loveliness."

"No thing that's truly me, a bootless waste, a waste of myself and them, for my life is mine and theirs presumably theirs, and cannot touch."

"Not seeing is half-believing."

"Nothing shows up the difference between the things said or read, so much as the daily experience of it."

"Of course I have no right whatsoever to write down the truth about my life involving as it naturally does the lives of so many other people, but I do so urged by a necessity of truth-telling, because there is no living soul who knows the complete truth; here, may be one who knows a section; and there, one who knows another section: but to the whole picture not one is initiated."

"Often on the painted stair, as I passed abstractedly, velvet footsteps, two and three, padded gravely after me. — There was nothing, nothing there, nothing there to see."

"One must be businesslike, although the glass is falling."

"Remembrance clamored in him: 'She was wild and free, magnificent in giving; she was blind"