The Quotable Robertson Davies: The Wit and Wisdom of the Master

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9780771080883: The Quotable Robertson Davies: The Wit and Wisdom of the Master
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Ten years after the Master’s death, we proudly publish this hypnotic little book for those who love witty quotations — especially if they come from Robertson Davies.

James Channing Shaw’s brief Preface explains this delightful book:

“From the time of discovery of Robertson Davies’s writing, some of my greatest pleasures in reading Davies’s work have come from his quotable aphorisms, opinions, and general advice for living. The quotations, usually no more than one sentence in length, address women, art, literature, life itself. Some quotation-worthy phrases are mere descriptions beautifully composed, or opinions about Canadian life, or a humorously irreverent insult. In Davies’s novels and plays there is an abundance of these passages, with many more in his critical writing and in the Samuel Marchbanks books.

“This collection of approximately eight hundred quotations was selected from Davies’s written works. Those expressed in the spoken words of Davies’s characters are labelled with the character’s name in parentheses. Some are identified as the thoughts of the narrator. The quotations from Samuel Marchbanks, the fictional alter ego of Robertson Davies, are labelled by book title. All are quintessential Robertson Davies. Enjoy!”

A very short selection from this book, where every page will lure the reader in:

“Biography at its best is a form of fiction.”

“Too many doctors are deeply interested in disease, but don’t care much for people.”

“There is more to marriage than four bare legs in a blanket.”

“Never harbour grudges; they sour your stomach and do no harm to anyone else.”

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About the Author:

Robertson Davies (1913—1995) was one of Canada’s most distinguished men of letters, with over thirty books to his credit. He achieved worldwide fame with Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders and with his five later novels, The Rebel Angels, What’s Bred in the Bone, The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther and Walking Spirits, and The Cunning Man.

James Channing Shaw is a lifelong admirer of the works of Robertson Davies. He teaches at the University of Toronto, and is publishing this selection with the help of the Davies family.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


Who really knows his father, or his mother? In our personal dramas they play older, supporting roles, and we are always centre stage, in the limelight.
— (Conor Gilmartin, narr.) Murther & Walking Spirits

One’s family is made up of supporting players in one’s personal drama. One never supposes that they starred in some possibly gaudy and certainly deeply felt show of their own. — (Hugh McWearie) Murther & Walking Spirits

Nobody is so ready to belittle you as your own family.
— (Apollo) A Masque of Aesop

Nothing grows old-­fashioned so fast as modernity.
High Spirits

There are fashions in anxiety and even in degradation.
A Voice from the Attic

The condition of a vulgarian is that he never expects anything good or bad that happens to him to be the result of his own personality; he always thinks it’s Fate, especially if it’s bad. The only people who make any sense in the world are those who know that whatever happens to them has its roots in what they are. — (Solomon Bridgetower) Tempest-­Tost

A man’s fate is his own, more than he knows. We attract what we are. — The Lyre of Orpheus

If you ­don’t drink your tea while it’s hot, you may expect a cold fortune. — (Benoni Richards) A Jig for the Gypsy

There is no armour against Fate. — One Half of Robertson Davies

Alas, how puny are our best efforts to avert a foreordained event! — One Half of Robertson Davies

One must not quarrel with one’s fate.
The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks

Prophecy consists of carefully bathing the inevitable in the eerie light of the impossible, and then being the first to announce it. — Samuel Marchbanks’ Almanack


Many fine things are written about friendship, and there’s a general superstition that everybody is capable of friendship, and gets it, like love. But lots of people never know love, except quite mildly; and most of them never know friendship, except in quite a superficial way. Terribly demanding thing, friendship. Most of us have to put up with acquaintanceship. — (Sir Benedict Domdaniel) A Mixture of Frailties

He’s an old friend. And we ­don’t always choose our old friends, you know; sometimes we’re just landed with them. — (Professor Clement Hollier) The Rebel Angels

Geniuses are not people to make a woman happy.
— (Amy Nelson) A Mixture of Frailties

He was a genius — that is to say, a man who does superlatively and without obvious effort something that most people cannot do by the uttermost exertion of their abilities. — (Dunstan Ramsay, narr.) Fifth Business
Genius is the only true aristocracy.
— (Dr. Gunilla Dahl-­Soot) The Lyre of Orpheus

Good taste is, after all, a thing that any donkey can learn; the effects of genius are not so easily mastered.
Renown at Stratford

A recognition of the guilt in oneself is a necessity to psychological wholeness — not goodness, but wholeness, which is a larger concept. And the ambiguity of guilt — the apparent good deed that brings an evil consequence, and the seeming evil deed that bears good fruit — presents a philosophical problem that few of us are able to meet and vanquish. — The Mirror of Nature

Hypocrisy is fertile soil for guilt. — The Mirror of Nature

Happiness. It is a catlike emotion; if you try to coax it, happiness will avoid you, but if you pay no attention to it, it will rub against your legs and spring unbidden into your lap. Forget happiness, and pin your hopes on understanding.
One Half of Robertson Davies

Happiness often gives an effect of shallowness.
A Voice from the Attic

Unhappiness of the kind that is recognized and examined and brooded over is a spiritual luxury.
— (Magnus Eisengrim, narr.) World of Wonders

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James Channing Shaw
Published by Douglas Gibson Books (2005)
ISBN 10: 0771080883 ISBN 13: 9780771080883
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Irish Booksellers
(Portland, ME, U.S.A.)

Book Description Douglas Gibson Books, 2005. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0771080883

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