Quotes from The French Lieutenant's Woman

John Fowles ·  470 pages

Rating: (40.8K votes)


“We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“I am infinitely strange to myself.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“There is only one good definition of God: the freedom that allows other freedoms to exist.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“The supposed great misery of our century is the lack of time; our sense of that, not a disinterested love of science, and certainly not wisdom, is why we devote such a huge proportion of the ingenuity and income of our societies to finding faster ways of doing things - as if the final aim of mankind was to grow closer not to a perfect humanity, but to a perfect lightning-flash.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman



“You do not even think of your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild it or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it...fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf - your book, your romanced autobiography. We are all in the flight from the real reality. That is the basic definition of Homo sapiens.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“We are all in flight from the real reality. That is the basic definition of Homo Sapiens.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“There are some men who are consoled by the idea that there are women less attractive than their wives; and others who are haunted by the knowledge that there are more attractive.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“They looked down on her; and she looked up through them.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“You may think novelists always have fixed plans to which they work, so that the future predicted by Chapter One is always inexorably the actuality of Chapter Thirteen. But novelists write for countless different reasons: for money, for fame, for reviewers, for parents, for friends, for loved ones; for vanity, for pride, for curiosity, for amusement: as skilled furniture makers enjoy making furniture, as drunkards like drinking, as judges like judging, as Sicilians like emptying a shotgun into an enemy's back. I could fill a book with reasons, and they would all be true, though not true of all. Only one same reason is shared by all of us: we wish to create worlds as real as, but other than the world that is. Or was. This is why we cannot plan. We know a world is an organism, not a machine. We also know that a genuinely created world must be independent of its creator; a planned world (a world that fully reveals its planning) is a dead world. It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman



“Yet this distance, all those abysses unbridged and then unbridgeable by radio, television, cheap travel and the rest, was not wholly bad. People knew less of each other, perhaps, but they felt more free of each other, and so were more individual. The entire world was not for them only a push or a switch away. Strangers were strange, and sometimes with an exciting, beautiful strangeness. It may be better for humanity that we should communicate more and more. But I am a heretic, I think our ancestors' isolation was like the greater space they enjoyed: it can only be envied. The world is only too literally too much with us now.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“The best wines take the longest to mature.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“His statement to himself should have been 'I possess this now,therefore I am happy' , instead of what it so Victorianly was: 'I cannot possess this forever, therefore I am sad.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“Duty is but a pot. It holds whatever is put in it, from the greatest evil to the greatest good.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“That's the trouble with provincial life. Everyone knows everyone and there is no mystery. No romance.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman



“Sometimes I almost pity them. I think I have a freedom they cannot understand. No insult, no blame can touch me. Because I have set myself beyond the pale. I am nothing, I am hardly human any more. I am the French Lieutenant’s Whore.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“We can sometimes recognize the looks of a century ago on a modern face; but never those of a century to come.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“I say "her," but the pronoun is one of the most terrifying masks man has invented; what came to Charles was not a pronoun, but eyes, looks, the line of the hair over a temple, a nimble step, a sleeping face.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“For him the tragedy of Homo sapiens is that the least fit to survive breed the most.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“He knew the world and its absurdities as only an intelligent Irishman can; which is to say that where his knowledge or memory failed him, his imagination was always ready to fill the gap.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman



“You may wonder how I had not seen it before. I believe I had. But to see something is not the same as to acknowledge it.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“You will see that Charles set his sights high. Intelligent idlers always have, in order to justify their idleness to their intelligence.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“You do not even think of your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild it or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it ... fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf - your book, your romanced autobiography. We are all in flight from the real reality. That is a basic definition of Homo sapiens.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“… if you knew the mess my life was in … the waste of it … the uselessness of it. I have no moral purpose, no real sense of duty to anything. It seems only a few months ago that I was twenty-one – full of hopes … all disappointed.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“Thus it had come about that she had read far more fiction, and far more poetry, those two sanctuaries of the lonely, than most of her kind.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman



“the freedom that allows other freedons to exist”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“I said earlier that we are all poets, though not many of us write poetry; and so are we all novelists, that is, we have a habit of writing fictional futures for ourselves, although perhaps today we incline more to put ourselves into a film. We screen in our minds hypotheses about how we might behave, about what might happen to us; and these novelistic or cinematic hypotheses often have very much more effect on how we actually do behave, when the real future becomes the present, than we generally allow.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“Sarah turned on her, and shook her head. "You may keep them. And if it is possible with so small a sum of money, I suggest you purchase some instrument of torture. I am sure Mrs. Fairly will be pleased to help you use it upon all those wretched enough to come under your power.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“I am Mrs. Poulteney. I have come to take up residence. Kindly inform your Master."
"His Infinitude has been informed of your decease, ma'am. His angels have already sung a Jubilate in celebration of the event."
"That is most proper and kind of Him." And the worthy lady, pluming and swelling, made to sweep into the imposing white hall she saw beyond the butler's head. But the man did not move aside. Instead, he rather impertinently jangled some keys he chanced to have in his hand.
"My man! Make way. I am she. Mrs. Poulteney of Lyme Regis."
"Formerly of Lyme Regis, ma'am. And now of a much more tropical abode."
With that, the brutal flunkey slammed the door in her face.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman


“The silence was terrible then, as tense as a bridge about to break, a tower to fall; unedurable in its emotion, its truth bursting to be spoken.”
― John Fowles, quote from The French Lieutenant's Woman



About the author

John Fowles
Born place: in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, The United Kingdom
Born date March 31, 1926
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