Saturday, August 19, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Robertson Davies (1913 – 1995)


Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist and professor.
Robertson Davies
They [say] everybody's creative. Well, everybody is. But any real creativity has to rest on a basis of an acquired technique and an acquired knowledge; you can't be creative in a void, or you just get a mess.
Davies quotes
Great drama, drama that may reach the alchemical level, must have dimension and its relevance will take care of itself. Writing about AIDS rather than the cocktail set, or possibly the fairy kingdom, will not guarantee importance. . . . The old comment that all periods of time are at an equal distance from eternity says much, and pondering on it will lead to alchemical theatre while relevance becomes old hat.
Davies
Among the most graceful of birds, they have the ugliest faces; in the countenance of a seagull we observe all the bitter hatred and malignance which we usually associate with the faces of money-lenders or book censors.




Davies Robertson quotes
When John Ryder, for instance, writes "I utter valediction to the author of my being," he means simply that he said goodbye to his mother.
Davies Robertson
This was a distilled essence of life; this was the way people behaved when they took off the masks which all adults seemed to me to wear; this was noble. A veil had been rent between the greatness of mankind and myself, and I knew that I would never be the same again. Nor was I. Since that night I have made some progress in my attempt to understand mankind, but I have never made another such giant leap.
Robertson Davies quotes
I literally never meet anybody who ever talks about God as something other than a kind of big man. I think God is a wondrous spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, but only interested in men as part of a giant creation which is pulsing with life.
People say, when a relative dies: "Oh, how could God have taken her away so young and with so much before her?" God doesn't give a bugger about how young she is. He probably isn't noticing particularly. That's just the way a lot of things happen. A lot gets spilled, you know, in nature. When you look at what's going on out there now, those trees are dropping seeds by literally the hundreds of thousands and millions, and one or two of them may take on. I think that that is the way that God functions. He doesn't care nearly as much about individuals and individual fates as we would like to suppose. But by trying to ally ourselves with the totality of things, we may get into Tao as they say in the East and be part of it, really take part in it, and not just regard ourselves as a kind of miraculous creation and the rest just sort of stage scenery against which we perform.
Robertson Davies
Now, very few [physicians] are men of science in any very serious sense; they're men of technique.
Davies Robertson quotes
I once had a dispute with a group of Swedish professors at the University of Uppsala as to which country, Sweden or Canada, was the dullest in the world. It was a draw; they claimed superiority because of their long history, and I claimed it because of Canada's immense land mass, which gives us space for tremendous expansion, even of such things as dullness.
Davies
I am a Democrat. All of my family have been persons of peasant origin, who have wrung a meagre sufficiency from a harsh world by the labour of their hands. I acknowledge no one my superior merely on grounds of a more fortunate destiny, a favoured birth. I did what any such man would do when confronted with Queen Victoria; I fell immediately to my knees.
Davies Robertson
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
The novels and poems which proceed from writers in the grip of this barren pessimism are of the kind which make narrow moralists fume, and use words like "decadence"; the writers rejoice, because making narrow moralists (who are usually frightened people) hop with rage is a sign that they have hit a mark, and they do not understand how poor and easy a mark it is.




Robertson Davies quotes
I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves.
Robertson Davies
Naked anger may sometimes be seen in priests of the Church of Rome, but the Church of England prefers the icy smile, the false bonhomie, the sword concealed in the palm-branch.
Davies quotes
It would certainly be better if a writer like Leacock knew always what was best to do and what would look best in the eyes of posterity, but such unnatural foresight cannot be required of any man.
Davies Robertson
My curiosity was in no way cruel. Deviations from the commonplace attracted me strongly, as they still do; and to me the hermaphrodite and the living skeleton were interesting for the same reason as was Creatore, or the resplendent Guardsmen of the bands because such people did not often come my way, and I hoped that they might impart some great revelation to me, some insight which would help me to a clearer understanding of the world about me.
Davies Robertson quotes
An old friend of mine who died recently at a great age was, in infancy, held on the knee of an elderly godmother who had been, in her infancy, held on the knee of yet another godmother who had been held on the knee of Queen Anne, who died in 1714. Viewed unsympathetically, this is nothing, a chance association-by-knees; yet if we cherish life, and are not mere creatures of death and sepulcher, deluded by the notion that only our own experience is real and our demise the end of the world, we see in it a reminder that we are all beads on a string separate yet part of a unity.
Robertson Davies
I think we're living in an age which despises humanity and despises bravery and doesn't need bravery because modern warfare has rather gone beyond bravery. It is a kind of warfare where people are fighting enemies they never see, killing people of whom they know nothing.
Robertson Davies quotes
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
It is particularly displeasing to hear professional critics using the term "layman" to describe people who are amateurs and patrons of those arts with which they are themselves professionally concerned. The fact that the critic gets money for knowing something, and giving public expression to his opinion, does not entitle him to consider the amateur, who may be as well informed and as sensitive as himself, an outsider.
Davies Robertson
The ironist is not bitter, he does not seek to undercut everything that seems worthy or serious, he scorns the cheap scoring-off of the wisecracker. He stands, so to speak, somewhat at one side, observes and speaks with a moderation which is occasionally embellished with a flash of controlled exaggeration. He speaks from a certain depth, and thus he is not of the same nature as the wit, who so often speaks from the tongue and no deeper. The wit's desire is to be funny; the ironist is only funny as a secondary achievement.


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