Notable Quotes
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I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.

REBECCA WEST, "Mr. Chesterton in Hysterics," The Clarion, November 14, 1913

The trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths which are too complicated; he forgets truths which are too simple.

REBECCA WEST, The Meaning of Treason

Works of art feel towards human beings exactly as we do towards ghosts. The transparency of spectres, the diffuseness in space which lets them drift through doors and walls, and their smell of death, disgust us not more than we disgust works of art by our meaninglessness, our diffuseness in time which lets us drift through three score years and ten without a quarter as much significance as a picture establishes instantaneously.

REBECCA WEST, Harriet Hume

Before a war military science seems a real science, like astronomy; but after a war it seems more like astrology.

REBECCA WEST, attributed, Europe in Arms

It is always one's virtues and not one's vices that precipitate one into disaster.

REBECCA WEST, The Harsh Voice

I've never gone anywhere where the men have come up to my infantile expectations. I always have gone through life constantly being surprised by the extreme, marvelous qualities of a small minority of men. But I can't see the rest of them. They seem awful rubbish.

REBECCA WEST, The Paris Review, spring 1981

There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.

REBECCA WEST, The Harsh Voice

All gambling is the telling of a fortune, but of a monstrously depleted fortune, empty of everything save one numerical circumstance, shorn of all such richness as a voyage across the water, a fair man that loves you, a dark woman that means you harm.

REBECCA WEST, The Thinking Reed

There is no logical reason why the camel of great art should pass through the needle of mob intelligence.

REBECCA WEST, The Strange Necessity

All men should have a drop of treason in their veins, if nations are not to go soft like so many sleepy pears.

REBECCA WEST, The Meaning of Treason

A copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned things is ample.

REBECCA WEST, The Strange Necessity

Humanity is never more sphinxlike than when it is expressing itself.

REBECCA WEST, The Court and the Castle

A strong hatred [is] the best lamp to bear in our hands as we go over the dark places of life, cutting away the dead things men tell us to revere.

REBECCA WEST, The Freewoman, Mar. 7, 1912

It is sometimes very hard to tell the difference between history and the smell of skunk.

REBECCA WEST, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Journalism: an ability to meet the challenge of filling the space.

REBECCA WEST, attributed, The Literary Achievement of Rebecca West

The main difference between men and women is that men are lunatics and women are idiots.

REBECCA WEST, attributed, Men and Feminism in Modern Literature

I have often a suspicion God is still trying to work things out and hasn't finished.

REBECCA WEST, The Paris Review, spring 1981

Reason's a thing we dimly see in sleep.

REBECCA WEST, The Birds Fall Down

Everyone realizes that one can believe little of what people say about each other. But it is not so widely realized that even less can one trust what people say about themselves.

REBECCA WEST, The Sunday Telegraph, 1975

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.

REBECCA WEST, The Thinking Reed

When anything important has to be written ... I think your hand concentrates for you.

REBECCA WEST, The Paris Review, spring 1981

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.

REBECCA WEST, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

The general tendency [is] to be censorious of the vices to which one has not been tempted.

REBECCA WEST, The Thinking Reed

The point is that nobody likes having salt rubbed into their wounds, even if it is the salt of the earth.

REBECCA WEST, "The Salt of the Earth," The Harsh Voice

She did not suddenly start being disagreeable this afternoon, she was so good at it, she had evidently practised whatever are the scales and arpeggios of rudeness every day of her life.

REBECCA WEST, This Real Night

It's my profession to bring people from various outlying districts of the mind to the normal. There seems to be a general feeling it's the place where they ought to be. Sometimes I don't see the urgency myself.

REBECCA WEST, The Return of the Soldier

You must always believe that life is as extraordinary as music says it is.

REBECCA WEST, The Fountain Overflows

I've never been able to do just one draft. That seems a wonderful thing. Do you know anyone who can?

REBECCA WEST, The Paris Review, spring 1981

There is one common condition for the lot of women in Western civilization and all other civilizations that we know about for certain, and that is, woman as a sex is disliked and persecuted, while as an individual she is liked, loved, and even, with reasonable luck, sometimes worshipped.

REBECCA WEST, speech to the Fabian Society, 1928


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