Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robertson Davies

Canadian Novelist, Playwright, Critic, Journalist and Professor

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

"When a man has become a great figure in society as a physician, we must not be surprised if he regards the laws of society as the laws of Nature "

"When I was born good fairies clustered round my cradle, showering me with wit, beauty, grace, freedom from dandruff, natural piety and other great gifts, but the Wicked Fairy Carabosse (who had not been invited to the party) crept to my side and screamed Let him be cursed with Inability To Do Little Jobs Around The House, and so it has always been."

"When irony first makes itself known in a young man's life, it can be like his first experience of getting drunk; he has met with a powerful thing which he does not know how to handle."

"When religion abandons poetic utterance, it cuts its own throat."

"When the book appeared, a few reviewers found this plot incredible; they accused Professor O'Neal of having too little art to persuade them to suspend their disbelief in his assertion that Shakespeare was a precocious girl. Perhaps this was because they knew that the life of literary people is usually devoid of exciting external incident."

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

"Whoever declares a child to be delicate thereby crowns and anoints a tyrant."

"Why are so many people ashamed of having intelligence and using it? There is nothing democratic about such an attitude. To pretend to be less intelligent that one is deceives nobody and begets dislike, for intelligence cannot be hidden; like a cough, it will out, stifle it how you may. No man has ever won commendation for standing at less than his full height, either physically, morally, or intellectually."

"Why do people all over the world, and at all times, want marvels that defy all verifiable facts? And are the marvels brought into being by their desire or is their desire an assurance rising from some deep knowledge, not to be directly experienced and questioned, that the marvelous is indeed an aspect of the real?"

"Wisdom is a variable possession. Every man is wise when pursued by a mad dog, fewer when pursued by a mad woman; only the wisest survive when attacked by a mad notion."

"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 tell men things that men are not very likely to find out for themselves."

"You have to come to terms with yourself and your place in the scheme of life "

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

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

"The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to an idealized past."

"A man must be obedient to the promptings of his innermost heart."

"Canada was settled, in the main, by people with a lower middle-class outlook, and a respect, rather than an affectionate familiarity, for the things of the mind."

"I see Canada as a country torn between a very northern, rather extraordinary, mystical spirit which it fears and its desire to present itself to the world as a Scotch banker."

"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."

"Men who look young, act young, and everlastingly harp on the fact that they are young-but who nevertheless think and act with a degree of caution what would be excessive in their grandfathers-are the curses of the world."

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

"Never marry your childhood sweetheart; the reasons that make you choose her will all turn into reasons why you should have rejected her."

"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 people of the United States, perhaps more than any other nation in history, love to abase themselves and proclaim their unworthiness, and seem to find refreshment in doing so... That is a dark frivolity, but still frivolity."

"We always undervalue what we have never been without."