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!

Thoughts on modern life

I found this passage striking and moving, perhaps putting its finger on the pulse of much contemporary malaise. It feels a valid and thoughtful statement though you can take issue...

How clever can you get?

I liked these piled up and shamelessly outrageous examples of cleverness, although of their various skills, the first is the most impressive, suggesting an astonishing level of practical competence and...

Do what a hero must

Naturally, any would-be hero or heroine needs to set sail, or how are they to prove their worth? Clive James, from whose splendid translation this and other nearby quotations come,...

The immorality of short-cuts

This imperious dismissal of short-cuts as immoral and inevitably causing confusion made me laugh. I have mixed feelings about them.

Where it's an innovative way to do something faster without...

Aquatic Englishmen

It can be fun to see ourselves as others see us. Here Donald Hall's Romanian hosts are baffled by and despair of his apparent attachment to water.

“It is no...

Maps for all comers

I wonder if such a mecca of maps exists?  A map for all seasons, all reasons.  Maps for thieves to find targets and for the police to find thieves.

'He...

A mouth filled with eat-water

Henry Williamson's slim study of otters is a masterpiece of limpid writing and of human empathy for other species. Through minute observation and honest intent, he has cleaved as closely...

Wine-tasting à l’aristocrat

One of the charms of Brideshead is the free run the two young men occasionally enjoy of this vast, rambling pile, including its copious wine supply.  Left to their...

Meat or fish?

On a delightful 20th century Odyssey to Ithaca, Golding is offered the choice of fish or meat.  He explains what prompted him to opt for the former. 

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On growing up

An interesting definition of growing up - losing your illusions.  But then humanly allowing the possibility that you will acquire new ones.

'I am growing  up,' she thought, taking her...

Living like pigs

With all due respect to our porcine friends, I loved this line by the competent, demanding and house proud farmer's wife, Mrs Poyser, who keeps her 18th century home and...

The art of living fully

And how!   May you be ever inventive in living a full life. I will find some images that merit this quotation and make cards and posters.

‘Living a full life requires...

Of sisters dissimilar

Dante meets the two sisters in Purgatory, and Leah describes, with Dantesque pithiness, the difference between them.

For other quotations concerning rather more similar sisters, see Jane Eyre, or a...

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...

Joining thought to thought

Thoreau is a vigorous soul and I found it refreshing that he associates vigour with connected thought.  As you see from the second quotation below, thinking a thought about life...

Reading as a meandering canoe

This is a beautiful metaphor for a boy discovering the magic of reading and writing, both of which were forbidden to him.

‘With his index finger, he roamed again and...

Why, Chagall, why?

According to Orlando Figes, Chagall was invited to decorate the streets of Vitebsk in celebration of the first anniversary of the October Revolution.  Bemused local officials asked the obvious question:

...

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

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