Robertson Davies Quotations

Robertson Davies

A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.

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.

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

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, or almost all, the guaranteed Hundred Best Books. God save us from reading nothing but the best.

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.

Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt.

Few people can see genius in someone who has offended them.

Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular. But it is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are not happy you had better stop worrying about it and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness.

He was a genius -- that is to say, a man who does superlatively and without obvious effort something that most people cannot do by the uttermost exertion of their abilities.

He was one of those who thought women were lovely creatures whose sexual coals could be blown into warmth by raunchy academic chit-chat.

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

I heard his library burned down and both books were destroyed -- and one of them hadn't even been colored in yet.

I think of an author as somebody who goes into the marketplace and puts down his rug and says, "I will tell you a story," and then he passes the hat.

It is odd how all men develop the notion, as they grow older, that their mothers were wonderful cooks. I have yet to meet a man who will admit that his mother was a kitchen assassin and nearly poisoned him.

Literary critics, however, frequently suffer from a curious belief that every author longs to extend the boundaries of literary art, wants to explore new dimensions of the human spirit, and if he doesn't, he should be ashamed of himself.

Many a promising career has been wrecked by marrying the wrong sort of woman. The right sort of woman can distinguish between Creative Lassitude and plain shiftlessness.

Only a fool expects to be happy all the time.

Pornography is rather like trying to find out about a Beethoven symphony by having somebody tell you about it and perhaps hum a few bars.

Purcell! What a genius! And luck, too. Nobody has ever thought to blow him up into a God-like genius, like poor old Bach, or a misunderstood Genius, like poor old Mozart, or a Wicked and Immoral Genius, like poor old Wagner. Purcell is just a nice, simple Genius, rollicking happily through Eternity. The boobs and the gramophone salesmen and the music hucksters haven't discovered him yet and please God they never will. Kids don't peck and mess at little scraps of Purcell of examinations. Arthritic organists don't torture Purcell in chapels and tin Bethels all over the country on Sundays, while the middle classes are pretending to be holy. Purcell is still left for people who really like music.

She has been kissed as often as a police-court Bible, and by much the same class of people.

The average politician goes through a sentence like a man exploring a disused mine shaft -- blind, groping, timorous and in imminent danger of cracking his shins on a subordinate clause or a nasty bit of subjunctive.

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

The great book for you is the book that has the most to say to you at the moment when you are reading. I do not mean the book that is most instructive, but the book that feeds your spirit. And that depends on your age, your experience, your psychological and spiritual need.

The great charm of cats is their rampant egotism, their devil-may-care attitude toward responsibility, their disinclination to earn an honest dollar.

The Protestant Prayer is "God forgive me, but for God's sake keep this under your hat."

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

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.