Quotations From WILLA CATHER

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  • Only the stupid and the phlegmatic should teach.
    Willa Cather (1873-1947), U.S. novelist. Myra Henshawe, in My Mortal Enemy, part II, ch. I (1926). The poorand embittered but still charismatic old woman offers up an opinion to the narrator, Nellie Birdseye, on her profession.
  • It does not matter much whom we live with in this world, but it matters a great deal whom we dream of.
    Willa Cather (1873-1947), U.S. novelist. Kitty Ayrshire, in "A Gold Slipper," Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920). Spoken by the opera singer to the conservative businessman Marshall McKann, at the end of their heated debate over art and values.

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  • The qualities of a second-rate writer can easily be defined, but a first-rate writer can only be experienced. It is just the thing in him which escapes analysis that makes him first-rate.
    Willa Cather (1873-1947), U.S. novelist. Originally published in The Borzoi 1925 (1925). "Katherine Mansfield," repr. In Willa Cather on Writing, University of Nebraska Press (1988).
  • In the course of twenty crowded years one parts with many illusions. I did not wish to lose the early ones. Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.
    Willa Cather (1873-1947), U.S. novelist. Jim Burden, in My Antonia, book V, ch. 1 (1918; rev. 1926). The narrator explains why he feared seeing Antonia again after twenty years.
  • Beautiful women, whose beauty meant more than it said ... was their brilliancy always fed by something coarse and concealed? Was that their secret?
    Willa Cather (1873-1947), U.S. novelist. Niel Herbert, in A Lost Lady, part I, ch. VII (1923). The disillusioned protagonist reflects bitterly on the treacheries of women after discovering (through eavesdropping) that Marian Forrester, whom he has idealized, is having an affair.

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  • The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.
    Willa Cather (1873-1947), U.S. author. One of Ours, bk. 2, ch. 6 (1922).
  • From the time the Englishman's bones harden into bones at all, he makes his skeleton a flagstaff, and he early plants his feet like one who is to walk the world and the decks of all the seas.
    Willa Cather (1876-1947), U.S. novelist. Willa Cather in Europe, ch. 14 (1956). Written on September 16, 1902.

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  • ...we were at last in Monte Cristo's country, fairly into the country of the fabulous, where extravagance ceases to exist because everything is extravagant, and where the wildest dreams come true.
    Willa Cather (1876-1947), U.S. novelist. Willa Cather in Europe, ch. 12 (1956). Written on September 6, 1902, on her first trip to Marseilles, France, upon seeing the Chateau d'If off the coast. This was a prison site made famous by Alexandre Dumas (1802- 1870) in his novel, The Count of Monte Cristo (1844), which Cather and her brother had loved when they were children.
  • Paris is a hard place to leave, even when it rains incessantly and one coughs continually from the dampness.
    Willa Cather (1876-1947), U.S. novelist. Willa Cather in Europe, ch. 11 (1956). Written on September 3, 1902.

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  • A work-room should be like an old shoe; no matter how shabby, it's better than a new one.
    Willa Cather (1873-1947), U.S. novelist. Godfrey St. Peter, in The Professor's House, book I, ch. IV (1925). The protagonist explains his fondness for a worn-out study in an old house.

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