Authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

84 Thought-Provoking Quotes By Robertson Davies

Famous As: One of the Most Popular Canadian Authors of All Time
Born On: August 28, 1913
Died On: December 2, 1995
Born In: Thamesville
Died At Age: 82
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. 
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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.

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.

Robertson Davies
The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.

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

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

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

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

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

Robertson Davies
I wish people weren't so set on being themselves, when that means being a bastard.

I wish people weren't so set on being themselves, when that means being a bastard.

Robertson Davies
Love affairs are for emotional sprinters; the pleasures of love are for the emotional marathoners.

Love affairs are for emotional sprinters; the pleasures of love are for the emotional marathoners.

Robertson Davies
To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser.

To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser.

Robertson Davies
Boredom and stupidity and patriotism, especially when combined, are three of the greatest evils of the world we live in.

Boredom and stupidity and patriotism, especially when combined, are three of the greatest evils of the world we live in.

Robertson Davies
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 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.

Robertson Davies
Conversation in its true meaning isn't all wagging the tongue; sometimes it is a deeply shared silence.

Conversation in its true meaning isn't all wagging the tongue; sometimes it is a deeply shared silence.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
If you don't hurry up and let life know what you want, life will damned soon show you what you'll get.

If you don't hurry up and let life know what you want, life will damned soon show you what you'll get.

Robertson Davies
It was as though she was an exile from a world that saw things her way

It was as though she was an exile from a world that saw things her way

Robertson Davies
One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.

One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.

A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
I was afraid and did not know what I feared, which is the worst kind of fear.

I was afraid and did not know what I feared, which is the worst kind of fear.

Robertson Davies
Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt.

Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
All real fantasy is serious. Only faked fantasy is not serious. That is why it is so wrong to impose faked fantasy on children....

All real fantasy is serious. Only faked fantasy is not serious. That is why it is so wrong to impose faked fantasy on children....

Robertson Davies
Nothing grows old-fashioned so fast as modernity.

Nothing grows old-fashioned so fast as modernity.

Robertson Davies
On the whole, we treat the Devil shamefully, and the worse we treat Him the more He laughs at us.

On the whole, we treat the Devil shamefully, and the worse we treat Him the more He laughs at us.

Robertson Davies
I never heard of anyone who was really literate or who ever really loved books who wanted to suppress any of them.

I never heard of anyone who was really literate or who ever really loved books who wanted to suppress any of them.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
God, youth is a terrible time! So much feeling and so little notion of how to handle it!

God, youth is a terrible time! So much feeling and so little notion of how to handle it!

Robertson Davies
You're all mad for words. Words are just farts from a lot of fools who have swallowed too many books. Give me things!

You're all mad for words. Words are just farts from a lot of fools who have swallowed too many books. Give me things!

Robertson Davies
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?

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?

Robertson Davies
...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.

...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.

Robertson Davies
There is really no such thing as a secret; everybody likes to tell, and everybody does tell.

There is really no such thing as a secret; everybody likes to tell, and everybody does tell.

Robertson Davies
He [Jesus] had a terrible temper, you know, undoubtedly inherited from His Father.

He [Jesus] had a terrible temper, you know, undoubtedly inherited from His Father.

Robertson Davies
Nothing is more dangerous to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library.

Nothing is more dangerous to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library.

Robertson Davies
A world without corruption would be a strange world indeed - and a damned bad world for lawyers, let me say.

A world without corruption would be a strange world indeed - and a damned bad world for lawyers, let me say.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
My position was a common one; I wanted to do the right thing but could not help regretting the damnable expense.

My position was a common one; I wanted to do the right thing but could not help regretting the damnable expense.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
Conversations and jokes together, mutual rendering of good services, the reading together of sweetly phrased books, the sharing of nonsense and mutual attentions.

Conversations and jokes together, mutual rendering of good services, the reading together of sweetly phrased books, the sharing of nonsense and mutual attentions.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past.

The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past.

Robertson Davies
You are like a fire: you warm me.

You are like a fire: you warm me.

Robertson Davies
You are certainly unique. Everyone is unique. Nobody has ever suffered quite like you before because nobody has ever been you before.

You are certainly unique. Everyone is unique. Nobody has ever suffered quite like you before because nobody has ever been you before.

Robertson Davies
If you cling frantically to the good, how are you to find out what the good really is?

If you cling frantically to the good, how are you to find out what the good really is?

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
What an amusing drama life is when one is not obliged to be one of the characters!

What an amusing drama life is when one is not obliged to be one of the characters!

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
Be not another if thou canst be thyself.

Be not another if thou canst be thyself.

Robertson Davies
Fanaticism is ... compensation for doubt

Fanaticism is ... compensation for doubt

Robertson Davies
How much more complicated life is than the attainment of a Ph.D. would lead one to believe!

How much more complicated life is than the attainment of a Ph.D. would lead one to believe!

Robertson Davies
Subtle wits like to refresh themselves with a whiff of mild indecency.

Subtle wits like to refresh themselves with a whiff of mild indecency.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
..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.

..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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
What had Pledger-Brown said?

What had Pledger-Brown said? "Too bad, Davey; he wanted blood and all we could offer was guts.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
To know all is to despise all.

To know all is to despise all.

Robertson Davies
...the irrational will have its say, perhaps because 'irrational' is the wrong word for it.

...the irrational will have its say, perhaps because 'irrational' is the wrong word for it.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.

Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.

Robertson Davies
How they chirped over their cups.

How they chirped over their cups.

Robertson Davies
You'll go far. How do I know? Because life is goosing you so hard you'll never stop climbing.

You'll go far. How do I know? Because life is goosing you so hard you'll never stop climbing.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
Geordie wrote a letter to Mr. Webster in which the shrieking figure of Apology was hounded through a labyrinth of agonized syntax.

Geordie wrote a letter to Mr. Webster in which the shrieking figure of Apology was hounded through a labyrinth of agonized syntax.

Robertson Davies
Nobody ever reads the same book twice.

Nobody ever reads the same book twice.

Robertson Davies
Sometimes fear could be forgotten, but never for long.

Sometimes fear could be forgotten, but never for long.

Robertson Davies
Men have this climacteric, you know, like women. Doctors deny it, but I have met some very menopausal persons in their profession.

Men have this climacteric, you know, like women. Doctors deny it, but I have met some very menopausal persons in their profession.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
...so Leola thought that a modest romance with a hero in embryo could do no harm - might even be a patriotic duty.

...so Leola thought that a modest romance with a hero in embryo could do no harm - might even be a patriotic duty.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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 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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
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?

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?

Robertson Davies
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.

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.

Robertson Davies
Of course some of us had some geography in school and had studied maps, but a school map is a terribly uncommunicative thing.

Of course some of us had some geography in school and had studied maps, but a school map is a terribly uncommunicative thing.

Robertson Davies
They were anxious to make men of us, by which they meant making us like themselves.

They were anxious to make men of us, by which they meant making us like themselves.

Robertson Davies