August Classics Discussion: Quotations

Katherine at November's Autumn has a new monthly question up:

I love coming across such a beautiful passage my eyes go back to linger once more on the words. Sometimes its deep and thought provoking other times a witty phrase that made me smile.

Rather than a question this month's prompt is to share a memorable


... or a few of them from what you're currently reading. Try to select one that are not so well-known but, of course, if you can't help yourself share it too!

I have just finished Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, and so here are two quotations from that:

    ...Newland Archer mounted thoughtfully to his own study. A vigilant hand had, as usual, kept the fire alive and the lamp trimmed; and the room, with its rows and rows of books, its bronze and steel statuettes of “The Fencers” on the mantelpiece and its many photographs of famous pictures, looked singularly home-like and welcoming.
    As he dropped into his armchair near the fire his eyes rested on a large photograph of May Welland, which the young girl had given him in the first days of their romance, and which had now displaced all the other portraits on the table. With a new sense of awe he looked at the frank forehead, serious eyes and gay innocent mouth of the young creature whose soul’s custodian he was to be. That terrifying product of the social system he belonged to and believed in, the young girl who knew nothing and expected everything, looked back at him like a stranger through May Welland’s familiar features; and once more it was borne in on him that marriage was not the safe anchorage he had been taught to think, but a voyage on uncharted seas.
    The case of the Countess Olenska had stirred up old settled convictions and set them drifting dangerously through his mind. His own exclamation: “Women should be free—as free as we are,” struck to the root of a problem that it was agreed in his world to regard as non-existent. “Nice” women, however wronged, would never claim the kind of freedom he meant, and generous-minded men like himself were therefore—in the heat of argument—the more chivalrously ready to concede it to them. Such verbal generosities were in fact only a humbugging disguise of the inexorable conventions that tied things together and bound people down to the old pattern...

    “I want—I want somehow to get away with you into a world where words like that—categories like that—won’t exist. Where we shall be simply two human beings who love each other, who are the whole of life to each other; and nothing else on earth will matter.”
    She drew a deep sigh that ended in another laugh. “Oh, my dear—where is that country? Have you ever been there?” she asked; and as he remained sullenly dumb she went on: “I know so many who’ve tried to find it; and, believe me, they all got out by mistake at wayside stations: at places like Boulogne, or Pisa, or Monte Carlo—and it wasn’t at all different from the old world they’d left, but only rather smaller and dingier and more promiscuous.”
    He had never heard her speak in such a tone, and he remembered the phrase she had used a little while before.
    “Yes, the Gorgon has dried your tears,” he said. 
    “Well, she opened my eyes too; it’s a delusion to say that she blinds people. What she does is just the contrary—she fastens their eyelids open, so that they’re never again in the blessed darkness. Isn’t there a Chinese torture like that? There ought to be. Ah, believe me, it’s a miserable little country!”

And here is Lara speaking from Doctor Zhivago, which I am enjoying so much I don't want it to end:

   "Is it for me, a weak woman, to explain to you, who are so intelligent, what is now happening with life in general, with human life in Russia, and why families fall apart, yours and mine among them?  Ah, as if it's a matter of people, of similarities and dissimilarities of character, of loving and not loving.  All that's productive, settled, all that's connected with habitual life, with the human nest and its order, all of it went to rack and ruin along with the upheaval of the whole of society and its reorganization. All everyday things were overturned and destroyed.  What remained was the un-everyday, unapplied force of the naked soul, stripped of the last shred, for which nothing has changed, because in all times it was cold and trembling and drawing towards the one nearest to it, which is just as naked and lonely.  You and I are like Adam and Eve, the first human beings, who had nothing to cover themselves with when the world began, and we are now just as unclothed and homeless at its end.  And you and I are the last reminder of all those countless great things that have been done in the world in the many thousands of years between them and us, and in memory of those vanished wonders, we breathe and love, and weep, and hold each other, and cling to each other."

And finally, I'm not sure if this book counts as a classic, but I'm liking it right now.  This is Carlos Ruiz Zafon's book In the Shadow of the Wind, which is one of those stories about the mystery of books.  Here is a summary of a book, which sounded to me as if it would have to be illustrated in Gorey prints:

    The Red House tells the story of a mysterious, tormented individual who breaks into toyshops and museums to steal dolls and puppets. Once they are in his power, he pulls out their eyes and takes them back to his lugubrious abode, a ghostly old conservatory lingering on the misty banks of the Seine. One fateful night he breaks into a sumptuous mansion on Avenue Foch determined to plunder the private collection of dolls belonging to a tycoon who, predictably, had grown insanely rich through devious means during the industrial revolution. As he is about to leave with his loot, our voleur is surprised by the tycoon's daughter, a young lady of Parisian high society named Giselle, exquisitely well read and highly refined but cursed with a morbid nature and naturally doomed to fall madly in love with the intruder. As the meandering saga continues through tumultuous incidents in dimly lit settings, the heroine begins to unravel the mystery that drives the enigmatic protagonist (whose name, of course, is never revealed) to blind the dolls, and as she does so, she discovers a horrible secret about her own father and his collection of china figures. At last the tale sinks into a tragic, darkly perfumed gothic denouement....

    ...She added that, since its publication, The Red House had sold exactly seventy-seven copies, most of which had presumably been acquired by young ladies of easy virtue and other regulars of the club where the author churned out nocturnes and polanaises for a few coins. The remaining copies had been returned and pulped for printing missals, fines, and lottery tickets.

I mean, you can only imagine that in Gorey, right?  I love that last random touch about missals and lottery tickets.  The rest of the book is not quite like that, but it is Gothic and dark and so on.


  1. I keep a notebook for favourite poems and I have a quote from a poem called 'August' by Esta Spalding:

    You said, there are women
    I know whose presence
    changes the quality of air.

    I am not one of those.

    It's so short, but says so much, don't you think?

    My first choice for The Classics Club is 'North and South' by Elisabeth Gaskell. I'm only a few chapters in, but there's a description of Margaret's aunt,Mrs Shaw, that caught my eye:

    '...Mrs Shaw welcomed him in her gentle kindly way, which had always something plaintive in it, arising from the long habit of considering herself a victim to an uncongenial marriage. Now that, the General being gone, she had every good of life, with as few drawbacks as possible, she had been rather perplexed to find an anxiety, if not a sorrow. She had, however, of late settled upon her own health as a source of apprehension; she had a nervous little cough whenever she thought about it; and some complaisant doctor ordered her just what she desired, - a winter in Italy. Mrs Shaw had as strong wishes as most people, but she never liked to do anything from the open and acknowledged motive of her own good will and pleasure; she preferred being compelled to gratify herself by some other person's command or desire. She really did persuade herself that she was submitting to some hard external necessity; and thus she was able to moan and complain in her soft manner, all the time she was in reality doing just what she liked.'

    Such a good character sketch!

  2. Wow, I remember that from when I read North and South a few years ago. A very vivid sketch!


Post a Comment

I'd love to know what you think, so please comment!

Popular posts from this blog

The Four Ages of Poetry

A few short stories in Urdu