Elizabeth von Arnim · 207 pages
Rating: (2K votes)
“Who can begin conventional amiability the first thing in the morning?”
“When I got to the library I came to a standstill, - ah, the dear room, what happy times I have spent in it rummaging amongst the books, making plans for my garden, building castles in the air, writing, dreaming, doing nothing.”
“I love tulips better than any other spring flower; they are the embodiment of alert cheerfulness and tidy grace, and next to a hyacinth look like a wholesome, freshly tubbed young girl beside a stout lady whose every movement weighs down the air with patchouli. Their faint, delicate scent is refinement itself; and is there anything in the world more charming than the sprightly way they hold up their little faces to the sun. I have heard them called bold and flaunting, but to me they seem modest grace itself, only always on the alert to enjoy life as much as they can and not be afraid of looking the sun or anything else above them in the face.”
“September 15th. - This is the month of quiet days, crimson creepers, and blackberries; of mellow afternoons in the ripening garden; of tea under acacias instead of too shady beeches; of wood fires in the library in chilly evenings.”
“If your lot makes you cry and be wretched, get rid of it and take another; strike out for yourself; don't listen to the shriek of your relations...don't be afraid of public opinion in the shape of the neighbours in the next house, when all the world is before you new and shining, and everything is possible, if you will only be energetic and independent and seize opportunity by the scruff of the neck.”
“The passion for being for ever with one's fellows, and the fear of being left for a few hours alone, is to me wholly incomprehensible. I can entertain myself quite well for weeks together, hardly aware, except for the pervading peace, that I have been alone at all.”
“What a happy woman I am living in a garden, with books, babies, birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them! Yet my town acquaintances look upon it as imprisonment, and I don't know what besides, and would rend the air with their shrieks if condemned to such a life. Sometimes I feel as if I were blest above all my fellows in being able to find my happiness so easily. I believe I should always be good if the sun always shone, and could enjoy myself very well in Siberia on a fine day. And what can life in town offer in the way of pleasure to equal the delight of any one of the calm evenings I have had this month sitting alone at the foot of the verandah steps, with the perfume of young larches all about, and the May moon hanging low over the beeches, and the beautiful silence made only more profound in its peace by the croaking of distant frogs and hooting of owls?”
“She belongs to the winter that is past, to the darkness that is over, and has no part or lot in the life I shall lead for the next six months. Oh, I could dance and sing for joy that the spring is here! What a ressurection of beauty there is in my garden, and of brightest hope in my heart.”
“Sometimes callers from a distance invade my solitude, and it is on these occasions that I realize how absolutely alone each individual is, and how far away from his neighbour; and while they talk (generally about babies, past, present, and to come), I fall to wondering at the vast and impassable distance that separates one's own soul from the soul of the person sitting in the next chair.”
“Oh, my dear, relations are like drugs, - useful sometimes, and even pleasant, if taken in small quantities and seldom, but dreadfully pernicious on the whole, and the truly wise avoid them.”
“Not the least of my many blessings is that we have only one neighbour. If you have to have neighbours at all, it is at leaset a mercy that there should be only one; for with people dropping in at all hours and wanting to talk to you, how are you to get on with your life, I should like to know, and read your books, and dream your dreams to your satisfaction?”
“..all forms of needlework of the fancy order are inventions of the evil one for keeping the foolish from applying their hearts to wisdom.”
“...so I took it out with me into the garden, because the dullest book takes on a certain saving grace if read out of doors, just as bread and butter, devoid of charm in the drawing-room, is ambrosia eaten under a tree.”
“I was for ever making plans, and if nothing came of them, what did it matter? The mere making had been a joy.”
“The passion of being forever with one's fellows, and the fear of being left for a few hours alone, is to me wholly incomprehensible.”
“My dream, even now, is to walk for weeks with some friend that I love, leisurely wandering from place to place, with no route arranged and no object in view, with liberty to go on all day or to linger all day, as we choose; but the question of luggage, unknown to the simple pilgrim, is one of the rocks on which my plans have been shipwrecked, and the other is the certain censure of relatives, who, not fond of walking themselves, and having no taste for noonday naps under hedges, would be sure to paralyse my plans before they had grown to maturity by the honest horror of their cry, "How very unpleasant if you were to meet any one you know!" The relative of five hundred years back would have said "How Holy!”
“Where the trees thicken into a wood, the fragrance of the wet earth and rotting leaves kicked up by the horses' hoofs fills my soul with delight. I particularly love that smell, -- it brings before me the entire benevolence of Nature, for ever working death and decay, so piteous in themselves, into the means of fresh life and glory, and sending up sweet odours as she works.”
“Humility, and the most patient perseverance, seem almost as necessary in gardening as rain and sunshine, and every failure must be used as a stepping-stone to something better.”
“This radiant weather, when mere living is a joy, and sitting still over the fire out of the question, has been going on for more than a week.”
“I never could see that delicacy of constitution is pretty, either in plants or women. No doubt there are many lovely flowers to be had by heat and constant coaxing, but then for each of these there are fifty others still lovelier that will gratefully grow in God's wholesome air and are blessed in return with a far greater intensity of scent and colour.”
“But while admiring my neighbour, I don't think I shall ever try to follow in her steps, my talents not being of the energetic and organising variety, but rather of that order which makes their owner almost lamentably prone to take up a volume of poetry and wander out to where the kingcups grow, and, sitting on a willow trunk beside a little stream, forget the very existence of everything but green pastures and still waters, and the glad blowing of the wind across the joyous fields.”
“To me this out-of-the way corner was always a wonderful and a mysterious place, where my castles in the air stood close together in radiant rows, and where the strangest and most splendid adventures befell me; for the hours I passed in it and the people I met in it were all enchanted.”
“Submission to what people call their "lot" is simply ignoble. If your lot makes you cry and be wretched, get rid of it and take another; strike out for yourself; don't listen to the shrieks of your relations, to their gibes or their entreaties; don't let your own microscopic set prescribe your goings-out and comings-in; don't be afraid of public opinion in the shape of the neighbor in the next house, when all the world is before you new and shining, and everything is possible, if you will only be energetic and independent and seize the opportunity by the scruff of the neck.”
“These women accept their beatings with a simplicity worthy of all praise, and far from considering themselves insulted, admire the strength and energy of the man who can administer such eloquent rebukes. In Russia, not only may a man beat his wife, but it is laid down in the catechism and taught all boys at the time of confirmation as necessary at least once a week, whether she has done anything or not, for the sake of her general health and happiness."
I thought I observed a tendency in the Man of Wrath rather to gloat over these castigations.
"Pray, my dear man," I said, pointing with my whip, "look at that baby moon so innocently peeping at us over the edge of the mist just behind that silver birch; and don't talk so much about women and things you don't understand. What is the use of your bothering about fists and whips and muscles and all the dreadful things invented for the confusion of obstreperous wives? You know you are a civilised husband, and a civilised husband is a creature who has ceased to be a man.
"And a civilised wife?" he asked, bringing his horse close up beside me and putting his arm round my waist, "has she ceased to be a woman?"
"I should think so indeed,--she is a goddess, and can never be worshipped and adored enough.”
“I have always had a liking for pilgrimages, and if I had lived in the Middle Ages would have spent most of my time on the way to Rome. The pilgrims, leaving all their cares at home, the anxieties of their riches or their debts, the wife that worried and the children that disturbed, took only their sins with them, and turning back on their obligations, set out with that sole burden, and perhaps a cheerful heart.”
“...the place I was bound for on my latest pilgrimage was filled with living, first-hand memories of all the enchanted years that lie between two and eighteen. How enchanted those years are is made more and more clear to me the older I grow. There has been nothing in the least like them since; and though I have forgotten most of what happened six months ago, every incident, almost every day of those wonderful long years is perfectly distinct in my memory.”
“Well, trials are the portion of mankind, and gardeners have their share, and in any case it is better to be tried by plants than persons, seeing that with plants you know that it is you who are in the wrong, and with persons it is always the other way about—and who is there among us who has not felt the pangs of injured innocence, and known them to be grievous?”
“It is a beautiful spot, endless
forest stretching along the shore as far as the eye
can reach ; and after driving through it for miles
you come suddenly, at the end of an avenue of
arching trees, upon the glistening, oily sea, with
the orange-coloured sails of distant fishing-smacks
shining in the sunlight.”
“Oh, my dear, this is worse than I expected! A strange girl is always a bore among good friends, but one can generally manage her. But a girl who writes books - why, it isn't respectable! And you can't snub that sort of people; they're unsnubbable.”
“Oh, I thought of calling it Journeyings in Germany. It sounds well, and would be correct. Or Jottings from German Journeyings--I haven't quite decided yet... (Minora)”
“Some people use bullfights, some the Mass, some art in order to ritualize or transform death into life or at least meaning. But my terror is that life itself is a ritual transforming everything into death.”
“I should say I am far more cleverer than any of the people who put me here. As a matter of fact, I could leave any time I wanted. It's only a doll house after all. Anyway, I don't mind. I like dolls.
Particularly the live ones.”
“Romance is a universally unspoken language understood by all living organism on this planet except heterosexual men.”
“If it makes you feel any better, he’s been all sad doll lately too.”
“What are you talking about, Chels?”
Chelsea stopped walking and stared at Violet.
“Jay. I’m talking about Jay, Vi. I thought you might want to know that you’re not the only one who’s hurting. He’s been moping around school, making it hard to even look at him. He’s messed up . . . bad.” Just like the other night in Violet’s bedroom, something close to . . . sympathy crossed Chelsea’s face.
Violet wasn’t sure how to respond.
Fortunately sympathetic Chelsea didn’t stick around for long. She seemed to get a grip on herself, and like a switch had been flipped, the awkward moment was over and her friend was back, Chelsea-style: “I swear, every time I see him, I’m halfway afraid he’s gonna start crying like a girl or ask to borrow a tampon or something. Seriously, Violet, it’s disgusting. Really. Only you can make it stop. Please make it stop.”
Violet didn’t want to, but she couldn’t help smiling at the absurd picture that Chelsea painted of Jay. And even though she knew it wasn’t very mature to feel smug at a time like this, especially over the delusional image concocted by her mentally unhinged friend, she couldn’t help herself; she laughed anyway.
Still, she didn’t want to talk about it with Chelsea. Not even the kinder, more sensitive Chelsea. “I’m sure he’s fine, Chels. And if he’s not, he’ll get over it.”
“So the researcher’s central dilemma exists in an especially acute form in psychology: either the animal is not like us, in which case there is no reason for performing the experiment; or else the animal is like us, in which case we ought not to perform on the animal an experiment that would be considered outrageous if performed on one of us. Another”
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