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Robertson Davies Quotes
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Robertson Davies Quote: “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



Robertson Davies Quote: “What we call luck is the inner man externalized. We make things happen to us.”

What we call luck is the inner man externalized. We make things happen to us.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “I just am a Canadian. It is not a thing which you can escape from. It is like having blue eyes.”

I just am a Canadian. It is not a thing which you can escape from. It is like having blue eyes.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Secrets are the blood of life. Every big thing is a secret, even when you know it, because you never know all of it. If you can know everything about anything, it is not worth knowing.”

Secrets are the blood of life. Every big thing is a secret, even when you know it, because you never know all of it. If you can know everything about anything, it is not worth knowing.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “You never see what you want to see, forever playing to the gallery.”

You never see what you want to see, forever playing to the gallery.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “When a man is down on his luck he seems to consume all he can get of coffee and doughnuts.”

When a man is down on his luck he seems to consume all he can get of coffee and doughnuts.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Imagination is a good horse to carry you over the ground – not a flying carpet to set you free from probability.”

Imagination is a good horse to carry you over the ground – not a flying carpet to set you free from probability.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “A great many complimentary things have been said about the faculty of memory, and if you look in a good quotation book you will find them neatly arranged.”

A great many complimentary things have been said about the faculty of memory, and if you look in a good quotation book you will find them neatly arranged.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “It is those pent-up, craving children who make all the wars and all the horrors and all the art and all the beauty and discovery in life, because they are trying to achieve what lay beyond their grasp before they were five years old.”

It is those pent-up, craving children who make all the wars and all the horrors and all the art and all the beauty and discovery in life, because they are trying to achieve what lay beyond their grasp before they were five years old.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “As the tragic writer rids us of what is petty and ignoble in our nature, so also the humorist rids us of what is cautious, calculating, and priggish – about half of our social conscience, indeed. Both of them permit us, in blessed moments of revelation, to soar above the common level of our lives.”

As the tragic writer rids us of what is petty and ignoble in our nature, so also the humorist rids us of what is cautious, calculating, and priggish – about half of our social conscience, indeed. Both of them permit us, in blessed moments of revelation, to soar above the common level of our lives.

— Robertson Davies



Robertson Davies Quote: “The critic is the duenna in the passionate affair between playwrights, actors and audiences – a figure dreaded, and occasionally comic, but never welcome, never loved.”

The critic is the duenna in the passionate affair between playwrights, actors and audiences – a figure dreaded, and occasionally comic, but never welcome, never loved.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “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


Robertson Davies Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Aristocrats need not be rich, but they must be free, and in the modern world freedom grows rarer the more we prate about it.”

Aristocrats need not be rich, but they must be free, and in the modern world freedom grows rarer the more we prate about it.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “He types his labored column – weary drudge! Senile fudge and solemn: spare, editor, to condemn these dry leaves of his autumn.”

He types his labored column – weary drudge! Senile fudge and solemn: spare, editor, to condemn these dry leaves of his autumn.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Nothing grows old-fashioned so fast as modernity.”

Nothing grows old-fashioned so fast as modernity.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Celtic civilization was tribal, but by no means savage or uncultivated. People who regarded the theft of a harp from a bard as a crime second only to an attack on the tribal chieftain cannot be regarded as wanting in cultivated feeling.”

Celtic civilization was tribal, but by no means savage or uncultivated. People who regarded the theft of a harp from a bard as a crime second only to an attack on the tribal chieftain cannot be regarded as wanting in cultivated feeling.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “The inert mind is a greater danger than the inert body, for it overlays and stifles the desire to live.”

The inert mind is a greater danger than the inert body, for it overlays and stifles the desire to live.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Be sure to choose what you believe and 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 to choose what you believe and 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


Robertson Davies Quote: “Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt.”

Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt.

— Robertson Davies



Robertson Davies Quote: “Although I am almost illiterate mathematically, I grasped very early in life that any one who can count to ten can count upward indefinitely if he is fool enough to do so.”

Although I am almost illiterate mathematically, I grasped very early in life that any one who can count to ten can count upward indefinitely if he is fool enough to do so.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “The Alexander Technique keeps the body alive, at ages when many people have resigned themselves to irreversible decline.”

The Alexander Technique keeps the body alive, at ages when many people have resigned themselves to irreversible decline.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “I think we should see whether we are wise trying to educate everybody to a high standard the way we are trying to do now. There has to be a high level of education so everybody is literate, but whether university education is necessary for everyone is open to question.”

I think we should see whether we are wise trying to educate everybody to a high standard the way we are trying to do now. There has to be a high level of education so everybody is literate, but whether university education is necessary for everyone is open to question.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “I have no skills with machines. I fear them, and because I cannot help attributing human qualities to them, I suspect that they hate me and will kill me if they can.”

I have no skills with machines. I fear them, and because I cannot help attributing human qualities to them, I suspect that they hate me and will kill me if they can.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “The clerisy are those who seek, and find, delight and enlargement of life in books. The clerisy are those for whom reading is a personal art.”

The clerisy are those who seek, and find, delight and enlargement of life in books. The clerisy are those for whom reading is a personal art.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “In India it is regarded as a good idea to dart in front of an oncoming car, for the car is sure to kill the evil spirits who are pursuing you, and all the rest of your life you will have good luck.”

In India it is regarded as a good idea to dart in front of an oncoming car, for the car is sure to kill the evil spirits who are pursuing you, and all the rest of your life you will have good luck.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “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 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.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Of course, fairies are all imported in North America. We have no native fairies. The Little People do not long survive importation unless they go to California and grow large and beautiful, but haven’t much flavour, like the fruit and the film stars.”

Of course, fairies are all imported in North America. We have no native fairies. The Little People do not long survive importation unless they go to California and grow large and beautiful, but haven’t much flavour, like the fruit and the film stars.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Women always think that if they tell a man not to be pompous that will shut him up, but I am an old hand at that game. I know that if a man bides his time his moment will come.”

Women always think that if they tell a man not to be pompous that will shut him up, but I am an old hand at that game. I know that if a man bides his time his moment will come.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Never harbor grudges; they sour your stomach and do no harm to anyone else.”

Never harbor grudges; they sour your stomach and do no harm to anyone else.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Female beauty in an important Minor Sacrament which cannot be received too often; I am no sure at all that the neglect of it does not constitute a sin of some kind.”

Female beauty in an important Minor Sacrament which cannot be received too often; I am no sure at all that the neglect of it does not constitute a sin of some kind.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Only a fool expects to be happy all the time.”

Only a fool expects to be happy all the time.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “The problem for a Paracelsian physician like me is that I see diseases as disguises in which people present me with their wretchedness.”

The problem for a Paracelsian physician like me is that I see diseases as disguises in which people present me with their wretchedness.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Although there may be nothing new under the sun, what is old is new to us and so rich and astonishing that we never tire of it. If we do tire of it, if we lose our curiosity, we have lost something of infinite value, because to a high degree it is curiosity that gives meaning and savour to life.”

Although there may be nothing new under the sun, what is old is new to us and so rich and astonishing that we never tire of it. If we do tire of it, if we lose our curiosity, we have lost something of infinite value, because to a high degree it is curiosity that gives meaning and savour to life.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “The result of a single action may spread like the circles that expand when a stone is thrown into a pond, until they touch places and people unguessed at by the person who threw the stone...”

The result of a single action may spread like the circles that expand when a stone is thrown into a pond, until they touch places and people unguessed at by the person who threw the stone...

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Moderation, the Golden Mean, the Aristonmetron, is the secret of wisdom and of happiness. But it does not mean embracing an unadventurous mediocrity; rather it is an elaborate balancing act, a feat of intellectual skill demanding constant vigilance. Its aim is a reconciliation of opposites.”

Moderation, the Golden Mean, the Aristonmetron, is the secret of wisdom and of happiness. But it does not mean embracing an unadventurous mediocrity; rather it is an elaborate balancing act, a feat of intellectual skill demanding constant vigilance. Its aim is a reconciliation of opposites.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “To ask an author who hopes to be a serious writer if his work is autobiographical is like asking a spider where he buys his thread. The spider gets his thread right out of his own guts, and that is where the author gets his writing.”

To ask an author who hopes to be a serious writer if his work is autobiographical is like asking a spider where he buys his thread. The spider gets his thread right out of his own guts, and that is where the author gets his writing.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Whether you are really right or not doesn’t matter; it’s the belief that counts.”

Whether you are really right or not doesn’t matter; it’s the belief that counts.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Childhood may have periods of great happiness, but it also has times that must simply be endured. Childhood at its best is a form of slavery tempered by affection.”

Childhood may have periods of great happiness, but it also has times that must simply be endured. Childhood at its best is a form of slavery tempered by affection.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “I saw corpses, and grew used to their unimportant look, for a dead man without any of the panoply of death is a desperately insignificant object.”

I saw corpses, and grew used to their unimportant look, for a dead man without any of the panoply of death is a desperately insignificant object.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular.”

Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “In my collection, to me at least, the theatre of the past lives again and those long-dead playwrights and actors have in me an enthralled audience of one, and I applaud them across the centuries.”

In my collection, to me at least, the theatre of the past lives again and those long-dead playwrights and actors have in me an enthralled audience of one, and I applaud them across the centuries.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Happiness is a by-product. It is not a primary product of life. It is a thing which you suddenly realize you have because you’re so delighted to be doing something which perhaps has nothing whatever to do with happiness.”

Happiness is a by-product. It is not a primary product of life. It is a thing which you suddenly realize you have because you’re so delighted to be doing something which perhaps has nothing whatever to do with happiness.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Energy and curiosity are the lifeblood of universities; the desire to find out, to uncover, to dig deeper, to puzzle out obscurities, is the spirit of the university, and it is a channelling of that unresting curiosity that holds mankind together.”

Energy and curiosity are the lifeblood of universities; the desire to find out, to uncover, to dig deeper, to puzzle out obscurities, is the spirit of the university, and it is a channelling of that unresting curiosity that holds mankind together.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “It is in this matter that I fall foul of so many American writers on writing; they seem to think that writing is a confidence game by means of which the author cajoles a restless, dull-witted, shallow audience into hearing his point of view. Such an attitude is base, and can only beget base prose.”

It is in this matter that I fall foul of so many American writers on writing; they seem to think that writing is a confidence game by means of which the author cajoles a restless, dull-witted, shallow audience into hearing his point of view. Such an attitude is base, and can only beget base prose.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “In too many modern churches there is no emphasis on theology at all. There is a kind of justification by works or by keeping up with modern trends anything that will drag in a few more people.”

In too many modern churches there is no emphasis on theology at all. There is a kind of justification by works or by keeping up with modern trends anything that will drag in a few more people.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “The book forces itself into my mind when I am lugging furniture, or pulling weeds.”

The book forces itself into my mind when I am lugging furniture, or pulling weeds.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “Anybody who has had experience of poetesses knows that they may forgive a punch on the jaw, but never a suggestion that they would be wiser to give up versifying.”

Anybody who has had experience of poetesses knows that they may forgive a punch on the jaw, but never a suggestion that they would be wiser to give up versifying.

— Robertson Davies


Robertson Davies Quote: “The art of the quoter is to know when to stop.”

The art of the quoter is to know when to stop.

— Robertson Davies

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