Monday 1 October 2007

So They Say...

I'm sure most of you have been in this situation: you want to tell someone a funny quotation you've read, only you can't remember the book, author, page or even the quotation properly. You end up saying "and then it was something screamingly witty about chutney" and your friend fakes a smile, before changing the topic? Don't lie, I know you've been there.

Well, books of quotations are all very well in their place, and indeed can be invaluable resources, but won't have those quirky little gems you've found in a book few others will have read. That's why I started this little fellow; a wee notebook of quotations jotted down when I come across them. Haven't used it much for the past few years, but popped one in from The Go-Between today: "I was in love with the exceptional, and ready to sacrifice all normal happenings to it". What a good description of excitable delirium.

Some other favourites from there - some famous, some not so:

"People always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them"
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

"I could not say I like music, Mr. Huntley. Music is air to me. Without it, I could not live"
"H'm. I feel just the same about food, so we've something in common".
Miss Hargreaves - Frank Baker

"You can't expect a cat to know manners like a Christian"
Agnes Grey - Anne Bronte

'Most smiles express either benevolence or gaiety; but Mr. Boswell's did neither. It was a mere extension of the mouth.'
Discipline - Mary Brunton

'Simon was at the age when he imagined that everyone around him took an intense and generally malevolent interest in his doings.'
The Gypsy's Baby - Richmal Crompton

"We had some dear friends in India, who went on to Singapore once, and they liked it very much. The wife, I'm sorry to say, was drowned in a boating accident there. That rather spoiled their stay."
Mrs. Harter - E. M. Delafield

'She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post office, as something large, secure, and fixed; and though she knew the small numbers of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male.'
Dubliners - James Joyce

'The writer's art consists above all in making us forget that he uses words'.
Principles of Psychology - William James

'It is true when you are by yourself and you think about life, it is always sad. All that excitement and so on has a way of suddenly leaving you, and it's as though, in the silence, somebody called your name, and your heard your name for the first time.'
'At the Bay' - Katherine Mansfield

'Prissy felt a little cheated; as one does, for instance, when someone in a book goes out at a door on the right, whereas in one's mind the door has been all the time on the left'.
Tea With Mr. Rochester - Frances Towers

'Sam had many excellent qualities, but he did not in the least resemble a potted gernaium.'
Sam The Sudden - P. G. Wodehouse

'There were young men who read, lying in shallow arm-chairs, holding their books as if they had hold in their hands of something that would see them through; they being in torment, coming from midland towns, clergymen's sons'.
Jacob's Room - Virginia Woolf (writing about me, it seems, as a midland clergyman's son!)


  1. Great quotes. I especially like the Delafield! I should do this--keep a notebook, but I always set out to do these things (like buying those little post it tags so I can remember all the best passages in a novel) and then forget (or am just too lazy) to use whatever I've purchased!

  2. So glad to note someone else liked the Delafield quote too. It reminded me of one I wanted to share - and I did get the book out and began to thumb through it: Queen Lucia, by EFBenson. I got distracted by reading so many funny bits and laughing all over again at them that I just gave up on finding the one I started looking for.

  3. Some of your quotations have whetted my appetite for the books. Thank you, I might not have read them otherwise.

  4. I absolutely love, 'Eh bien, je jamais'. The Go-Between too. It never fails to make me laugh and, what a bonus, I always remember it.

  5. I loved your post. I have two notebooks of quotations, filled with bits I love from books or movies or even people I know. One thing I like about them being in print book form rather than on the computer, is that when I go looking for one, I come upon all these others during my search. It feels like a little reward. One of my most favorites, along with many others from P.G. Wodehouse, is "There is no time, Sir, when ties do not matter" - Jeeves in Very Good Jeeves. Don't you agree? :<)

  6. This is a brilliant idea Simon. I have bits of paper all over the place with quotations on. On the way home I shall treat myself by popping into paperchase and buying a lovely book for this very purpose. Thank you!

    I have many Delafield quotes that I simply adore. I mentioned some time ago that I would have to post about my favourites bits from favourite books and now you have spurred me on.

  7. A good idea. I keep one myself - though I haven't got any quotes half as witty as resembling (or failing to) "a potted geranium". I believe they termed this sort of journal/notebook a 'Commonplace Book' in the 19th/20th Century.


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