Sharing thousands of sparkling, moving, entrancing quotations amassed over decades of slow-savoured reading, to refresh the mind and spirit and invigorate flagging thought and flaccid prose. Dive in!

A quotation is not an excerpt.  A quotation is a cicada.  It is part of its nature never to quiet down.  Once having got hold of the air, it does not release it. 

Source: Osip Mandelstam, ‘Conversation about Dante’ (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p. 108

I have discovered that, with the passing of the years, my ignorance in countless areas… has become increasingly perfected while, at the same time, a lifelong practice of haphazard readings has left me with a sort of commonplace book in whose pages I find my own thoughts put into the words of others.   

Source: Alberto Manguel, The City of Words, CBC Massey Lecture Series (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2007), p. 3

Of hate and misery

Of hate and misery

Bronte has a sometimes arresting pithiness, and here she provides an explanation for the hatred underlying riots and machine wrecking in the early decades of the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution was picking up pace.  The novel captures a period when...

Whatever is splendid in humanity

Whatever is splendid in humanity

This lovely phrase about sums up what motivated me to create this and other websites, to celebrate some of 'whatever is splendid in humanity'. It is part of a description by Aldous Huxley of why he so likes Piero della Francesca, and it made me warm to him too.  And...

A quotation is a cicada

A quotation is a cicada

Having built this ever expanding website partly as a way to share the thousands of quotations captured over decades of reading, I like Mandelstam's strong assertion.  And poet as he is, he uses irresistibly original similes - a quotation as an ever-chirruping cricket...

Putting everything right

Putting everything right

Grossman's capacity to capture, with simplicity and delicacy, the nature and strength of love in many contexts is always touching.  Here he conveys something of the closeness of a long marriage.  I am not yet grey-haired and haven't been married long, but we have been...

A load of old bull

Here Patrick Leigh Fermor tests the veracity of a much touted myth about Maniots in the Peloponnese being bull wrestlers.  I liked the progressive debunking of the myth, starting out...

A dream hotel

What more could a host do for travelling guests?   If any hotel chain is clever enough to adopt this as their charter, please let me know; I will go...

Running away to sea

At least in his imagination, this boy runs away to sea after being banished to the nursery or lifted by the scruff of the neck or otherwise humiliated by the...

The merry mind

The actress Ingrid Bergman had a short relationship with the photographer Robert Capa. I love this quotation from a letter he sent her, with its idea of a ‘merry mind’.  I...

The claptrap of monarchy

According to the photographer Robert Capa, museums were the churches of the Soviet Union, where he spent a month in 1946 with John Steinbeck. Here they traipse around the royal...

Those interfering newbies

From Rory Stewart's trek across the Marches, the region of Britain aligned with Hadrian's Wall.  One of the charms of his account is that he takes the time to talk...

Tenderness vs severity

This encouragement to err on the side of tenderness is typical of George Eliot, who quietly, gently pleads for greater kindness and humanity in our dealings with one another.  See...

Treading water

Tarka's mother cleverly entices her cubs into the water, first by putting the food she has caught close to the water, then teaching them to hunt for themselves by various...

A wooden sword

Little Lord Fauntleroy is born knowing how to treat people, and in treating them equally regardless of status, and always with kindness and sympathy, he is more of a natural...

The past as a concertina of time

I collect comments on and perceptions of time.  This one is striking and I am as guilty of it as anybody.  While we allow significant differences between recent centuries (the...

Call him Titus

Baby Titus, born into a crumbling, rambling pile of stone, with parents of a warmth and tenderness approximately equivalent to the building material of their castle. Here is his mother,...

Me too

And sometimes I'm not even sure I know what I think because it's been so long since I was invited to express it.

'I am surprised as well as delighted...

An empire of leftovers

Simon Winder has a politically incorrect style of presenting history, which makes it a refreshing, thought-provoking read.  I loved his book about Germany, which I read on the eve of...

What’s the difference?

On his long trek across some of the remoter regions of Afghanistan, Rory Stewart found himself being presented as having a range of professions. Here the man introducing him is...

Time as landscape

How many of us live day to day doling out time fretfully!  I liked this alternative, easy, generous, striding engagement with time, allowing you to traverse other vastnesses confidently.

'If...

Sign of the clime

A ready way to reckon with the weather, according to an old boy Thoreau knew.  Can't really go wrong with this formula.

Old John Nutting used to say, "when it...

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