Quotations from Robertson Davies

Robertson Davies was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist and man of letters who studied at Oxford and worked in theatre in London before returning to Canada to write. His most well known novels include the The Deptford Trilogy and The Cornish Trilogy. Below are some of his observations.

Do not suppose, however, that I intend to urge a diet of classics on anybody. I have seen such diets at work. I have known people who have actually read all the guaranteed hundred best books. God save us from reading nothing but the best.

When irony first makes itself known in a young man’s life, it can be like his first experience of getting drunk; he has met with a powerful thing which he does not know how to handle

Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt

A truly great book should be read in youth, in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight

The world is burdened with young bogies. Old men with ossified minds are easily dealt with. But men who look young, act young and everlastingly harp on the fact that they are young, but who nevertheless act with a degree of caution that would be excessive in their grandfathers, are the curse of the world. Their conservatism is second hand, and they don’t know what they are conserving.

Authors like cats because they are such quiet, loveable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.

Perhaps God made cats so that man might have the pleasure of fondling the tiger.

Marriage is a framework to preserve friendship. It is valuable because it gives much more room to develop than just living together. It provides a base from a person can work at understanding himself and another person

Few people can see genius in someone who has offended them

Happiness is a by-product. It is a matter of temperament. For anything I know it may be glandular;   but is is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are unhappy you had better do something about and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness.

The love that will not speak its name has become the love that will not shut up.

I do not really like vacations. I much prefer an occasional day off when I do not feel like working. When I am confronted with a whole week in which I have nothing to but enjoy myself I do not know where to begin. To me enjoyment comes fleetingly and unheralded; I cannot determinedly enjoy myself for a whole week at a time.

But what I knew then was that nobody—not even mother—was to be trusted in a strange world that showed very little on the surface.

Too much traffic with a quotation book begets a conviction of ignorance in a sensitive reader. Not only is there a mass of quotable stuff he never quotes, but an even vaster realm of which he has never heard.

Aristocrats need not be rich, but they must be free, and in the modern world freedom grows rarer the more we prate about it.

Noone has a corner on depression but housewives are working on it,

The eye sees only what the the mind is prepared to comprehend

There is absolutely no point in sitting down to write a book unless you feel that you must write that book, or else go mad, or die.

A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life

Some countries you love. Some countries you hate. Canada is a country you worry about.

Attwood: “Anything you can writer I can writer better”

Davies: “I can write anything better than you.”

Canada is not really a place where you are encouraged to have large spiritual adventures.

If we seek the pleasures of love, passion should be occasional, and common sense continual.

I was not sure I wanted to issue orders to life; I rather liked the Greek notion of allowing chance to take a formative hand in my affairs.

Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it.

The love of truth lies at the foot of much humour.

The result of a single action may spread like the circles that expand when a stone is thrown into a pond, until they touch people and places unguessed at by the people who threw the stone.

As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time enjoying it,

Canada has one of the highest rates of insanity in any civilised country and one reason might be that in many places it is so desperately dull.

One can always tell it’s summer when one sees school teachers hanging about the streets like cannibals during a shortage of missionaries.

I don’t suppose God laughs at the people who think he doesn’t exist. He’s above jokes. But the devil isn’t. That’s one of his most endearing qualities.

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