84 Thought-Provoking Quotes By Robertson Davies
Author and Journalist
William Robertson Davies was a Canadian author, professor, novelist, playwright and critic. Davies was born in a distinguished and educated family and he also followed suit. He studied at Queen’s University till 1935 but did not graduate and then enrolled at Balliol College at University of Oxford, from where he was awarded a BLitt degree. After his return to Canada, Davies became a prolific writer and contributed to several journals. He had also worked as the literary editor of the magazine ‘Saturday Night’ and then went on to become the general editor of ‘Peterborough Examiner’. Davies published a number of books, plays and articles throughout his life and some of the most noted ones being, ‘The Deptford Trilogy’, ‘The Salterton Trilogy’ and ‘The Cornish Trilogy’ among others. In addition to his literary exploits, he was a noted academic too and taught at Trinity College, University of Toronto for many years before going on to become the Master of Massey College. Whatever he has said or written has become quite famous as his quotes and thoughts and is quoted extensively. Here are some of the most profound quotes by William Robertson Davies that will give you a glimpse into the mind of one of Canada’s most highly regarded authors.
A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight. The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons. Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it. I wish people weren't so set on being themselves, when that means being a bastard. Love affairs are for emotional sprinters; the pleasures of love are for the emotional marathoners. To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser. Boredom and stupidity and patriotism, especially when combined, are three of the greatest evils of the world we live in. This is the Great Theatre of Life. Admission is free, but the taxation is mortal. You come when you can, and leave when you must. The show is continuous. Goodnight. This is one of the cruelties of the theatre of life; we all think of ourselves as stars and rarely recognize it when we are indeed mere supporting characters or even supernumeraries. Conversation in its true meaning isn't all wagging the tongue; sometimes it is a deeply shared silence. If you don't hurry up and let life know what you want, life will damned soon show you what you'll get. It was as though she was an exile from a world that saw things her way One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence. Money, it is often said, does not bring happiness; it must be added, however, that it makes it possible to support unhappiness with exemplary fortitude. A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life. Everything matters. The Universe is approximately fifteen billion years old, and I swear that in all that time, nothing has ever happened that has not mattered, has not contributed in some way to the totality. I was afraid and did not know what I feared, which is the worst kind of fear. Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt. To be apt in quotation is a splendid and dangerous gift. Splendid, because it ornaments a man's speech with other men's jewels; dangerous, for the same reason. All real fantasy is serious. Only faked fantasy is not serious. That is why it is so wrong to impose faked fantasy on children.... Nothing grows old-fashioned so fast as modernity. I never heard of anyone who was really literate or who ever really loved books who wanted to suppress any of them. Every man is wise when attacked by a mad dog; fewer when pursued by a mad woman; only the wisest survive when attacked by a mad notion. On the whole, we treat the Devil shamefully, and the worse we treat Him the more He laughs at us. 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. God, youth is a terrible time! So much feeling and so little notion of how to handle it! You're all mad for words. Words are just farts from a lot of fools who have swallowed too many books. Give me things! No action is ever lost - nothing we do is without result. It's obvious, of course, but how many people ever really believe it, or act as if it were so? Nothing is more dangerous to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library. A world without corruption would be a strange world indeed - and a damned bad world for lawyers, let me say. An infant is a seed. Is it an oak seed or a cabbage seed? Who knows. All mothers think their children are oaks, but the world never lacks for cabbages. My position was a common one; I wanted to do the right thing but could not help regretting the damnable expense. My lifelong involvement with Mrs Dempster began at 5:58 o'clock p.m. on 27 December 1908, at which time I was ten years and seven months old. Life itself is too great a miracle for us to make so much fuss about potty little reversals of what we pompously assume to be the natural order. Conversations and jokes together, mutual rendering of good services, the reading together of sweetly phrased books, the sharing of nonsense and mutual attentions. Education is a great shield against experience. It offers so much, ready-made and all from the best shops, that there's a temptation to miss your own life in pursuing the life of your betters. There is really no such thing as a secret; everybody likes to tell, and everybody does tell. He [Jesus] had a terrible temper, you know, undoubtedly inherited from His Father. But I was a lonely creature, and although I would have been very happy to have a friend I just never happened to meet one. The clerisy are those who read for pleasure, but not for idleness; who read for pastime but not to kill time; who love books, but do not live by books. ...one's family is made up of supporting players in one's personal drama. One never supposes that they starred in some possibly gaudy and certainly deeply felt show of their own. To marry was to take a hand in a dangerous game where the stakes are the highest - a fuller life or a life diminished and confined. It was a game for adult players. The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past. You are like a fire: you warm me. You are certainly unique. Everyone is unique. Nobody has ever suffered quite like you before because nobody has ever been you before. If you cling frantically to the good, how are you to find out what the good really is? Be sure you choose what you believe and know why you believe it, because if you don't choose your beliefs, you may be certain that some belief, and probably not a very credible one, will choose you. What an amusing drama life is when one is not obliged to be one of the characters! The only people who make any sense in the world are those who know that whatever happens to them has its roots in what they are. There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity. Be not another if thou canst be thyself. Fanaticism is ... compensation for doubt How much more complicated life is than the attainment of a Ph.D. would lead one to believe! Subtle wits like to refresh themselves with a whiff of mild indecency. Before she continued her search she sat in his revolving desk chair, and wept for the passing of time, and the necessary death of the well-loved, wise old man. The recognition of oneself as a part of nature, and reliance on natural things, are disappearing for hundreds of millions of people who do not know that anything is being lost. ..but when one human creature dies a whole world of hope and memory and feeling dies with him. To be robbed of the dignity of a natural death is a terrible deprivation. The house stank; a stench all its own pervaded every corner. It was a threnody in the key of Cat minor, with a ground-bass of Old Dog, and modulations of old people, waning lives, and relinquished hopes. What had Pledger-Brown said? "Too bad, Davey; he wanted blood and all we could offer was guts. Having me in the dining-room was almost the equivalent of having a Raeburn on the walls; I was classy, I was heavily varnished, and I offended nobody. To know all is to despise all. ...the irrational will have its say, perhaps because 'irrational' is the wrong word for it. But what I knew then was that nobody-- not even my mother-- was to be trusted in a strange world that showed very little of itself on the surface. Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire. How they chirped over their cups. You'll go far. How do I know? Because life is goosing you so hard you'll never stop climbing. If you are determined on the religious life, you have to toughen up your mind. You have to let it be a thouroughfare for all thoughts, and among them you must make choices. But what I knew then was that nobody-not even my mother-was to be trusted in a strange world that showed very little of itself in the surface. Geordie wrote a letter to Mr. Webster in which the shrieking figure of Apology was hounded through a labyrinth of agonized syntax. Nobody ever reads the same book twice. Sometimes fear could be forgotten, but never for long. Men have this climacteric, you know, like women. Doctors deny it, but I have met some very menopausal persons in their profession. I seemed to be the only person I knew without a plan that would put the world on its feet and wipe the tear from every eye. ...so Leola thought that a modest romance with a hero in embryo could do no harm - might even be a patriotic duty. I learned later that the former operator of Abdullah had been a dwarf who cannot have been fastidious about his person, and there was a strong whiff of hot dwarf as I grew hotter myself. Wisdom may be rented...on the experience of other people, but we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it our own forever.
He became an unimaginative woman's creation. Delilah had shorn his locks and assured him he looked much neater and cooler without them. He gave her his soul, and she transformed it into a cabbage.
He gave me this advice one time: Never marry your childhood sweetheart, he said; the reasons that make you choose her will all turn into reasons why you should have rejected her.
And why should it not be terrifying? A little terror, in my view, is good for the soul, when it is terror in the face of a noble object.
Myself: But wasn't the decision a right one? Am I not here? What more could Feeling have achieved than was brought about by Reason?
Are you New World or Old?'
'Sounds like a novel by Henry James.'
'Never read him.'
'Don't. But that was his question and he plumped for the Old.
Of course some of us had some geography in school and had studied maps, but a school map is a terribly uncommunicative thing. They were anxious to make men of us, by which they meant making us like themselves.