But half the things in life people never know. Thank God for that.

It was the same when they sat in his office, a stupendous apartment designed in that modernist style which represents the last attempt of bad taste to escape the criticisms of good taste.

Yes, said Mamma, this is the worst of life, that love does not give us common sense but is a sure way of losing it. We love people, and we say that we are going to do more for them than friendship, but it makes such fools of us that we do far less, indeed sometimes what we do could be mistaken for the work of hatred.

Nobody likes having salt rubbed into their wounds, even if it is the salt of the earth.

Their faces were clay-coloured and featureless, yet not stupid; they might have been shrewd turnips.

Isabelle had not come to this dinner party to give her lower nature an opportunity to rejoice in the oddity of her fellow creatures; but now she was there it seemed ridiculous not to listen.

I gripped her small shoulders with my large hands and shook her till her jewels rattled and she scratched my fingers and gasped for breath. But I did not mind so long as she was silent.

We were not specially accomplished or sensible children, but, with Papa and Mamma and Kate in the house, we were propelled along the groove of a competent tradition.

We all drew on the comfort which is given out by the major works of Mozart, which is as real and material as the warmth given up by a glass of brandy.

Through this evening of sentences cut short because their completed meaning was always sorrow, of normal life dissolved to tears, the chords of Beethoven sounded serenely.

Every event of any magnitude changes life unpredictably.

We had very often been sharply warned against sentimentality, and though we might have been able to define it only vaguely as the way one should not play Bach, we recognized it.

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

I hate the corpses of empires, they stink as nothing else. They stink so badly that I cannot believe that even in life they were healthy.

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

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.

Because hypocrisy stinks in the nostrils one is likely to rate it as a more powerful agent for destruction than it is.

The Psalms do twaddle on.

I could not say anything, because I so vehemently wanted to kill Mrs Morpurgo.

Thought that is worth calling thought has no mercy on itself, that is the dreadful proof of its quality.

Writing has nothing to do with communication between person and person, only with communication between different parts of a person's mind.

The fall of Constantinople must have been very disagreeable.

It's the soul's duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.

If one is unhappy and one's hands are really wet it is a bother to dry them.

There is in every one of us an unending see-saw between the will to live and the will to die.

It seemed certain that Mrs Morpurgo must be kind and noble, for her husband said she was beautiful, and no beautiful woman would have married such an ugly man, had she not valued goodness above everything.

Evil men have created confusion, but God will one day make all things plain.

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

She supposed she would have to get married, but she could not imagine herself getting to know a man well enough for that. She did not believe there was much in men to know.

The moment ached, as if music were being played somewhere on an instrument whose strings had some connexion with her heart.

Just how difficult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs.

It was one of those autumn mornings which are devoid of melancholy, when the weather seems to be cleaning its house. A broom of wind sent the clouds above flying briskly and kept the fallen leaves scudding along the pavements, the trees looked as if they were being stripped to let the rains get at them better.

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

The cut end of an ugliness was lying in my mind, it lay loose, it was something to be thrown into the waste paper basket.

I write books to find out about things.

I wonder if we are all wrong about each other, if we are just composing unwritten novels about the people we meet?

I was like a sea pulled by two moons. This must mean a boiling of the waters, tides that rushed up and carried away structures meant for living in, and then receded till earth that should be covered lay naked.

Any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience.

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

We more or less forgot about the enigmatic incident when we were out for our walk and at our practice, for we never would have succeeded in getting through our childhood if we had not cultivated the art of ignoring the unpleasant till it was forced on our attention.

But this is only a story,' I said.

Remembering her state, she held up her hand and looked at the blue veins in her wrist.

International relationships are preordained to be clumsy gestures based on imperfect knowledge.

Behind it was that vast suspension bridge which always troubles me because it reminds me that in this mechanized age I am as little able to understand my environment as any primitive woman who thinks that a waterfall is inhabited by a spirit, and indeed less so, for her opinion might from a poetical point of view be correct.

Man is a political animal. But seeing what the animal is, what may politics become? His door closed on us.

This is the new barbarism.

Every now and then he used to give us counsels of this sort, which might have been relevant to his childhood, but were not to ours, and I think, from my recollections of his bearing at such moments, that he then felt pride because for once he was properly discharging his duties as a father.

For a long time we watched her as she went along the drive, her yellowish raincoat looking sick and bright in the sharp sunshine, her black plumes nodding like the pines above, her cheap boots making her walk on her heels, a spreading stain on the fabric of our life.

She had treated her life as a room that had to be completely refurnished.