Elizabeth Bowen Quotes (1)

Systematic Quotes from all Elizabeth Bowen Novel Chapters and Stories (Part One). 

But the imagination-game palled upon him earlier than usual, defeated by his returning consciousness of the room.  Here was he alone, enisled with tragedy.  The thing had crouched beside his bed at night; he had been conscious of it through the thin texture of his dreams.  He reached out again now, timidly, irresistibly to touch it, and found that it had slipped away, withdrawn into ambush, leaving with him nothing of itself, scarcely even a memory.

From ‘The Visitor’ 1926

During a strained little silence, between two gusts of wind, Mrs Vermont observed that an angel must be passing over the house; she wanted them to listen for its wings.  They listened; they thought of empty country blotted out by the darkness.

From Chapter 17 0f ‘The Last September’ 1929

Somebody who had come in late had brought him, with an apology, and had whispered an explanation into somebody else’s ear.  They had seated him, and he had sat, looking propped-up and a little dejected, like an umbrella that an absent-minded caller had brought into the drawing-room.

From ‘The Back Drawing-Room’ 1926

Something disturbed her with its insistence, some humming at the back of her mind that was not a mind.

From Chapter 15 of ‘To The North’ 1932

“And then,” Hilary Bevel was recounting, “it all changed, and we were moving very quickly through a kind of pinkish mist – running, it felt like, only all my legs and arms were somewhere else.  That was the time you came into it, Aunt Willoughby.  You were winding up your sewing machine like a motor car, kneeling down in a sort of bunching bathing dress…” She dared indelicacy, reaching out for the marmalade with a little agitated rustle to break up the silence with which her night’s amazing experiences had been received.

from “Breakfast” by EB (1923)


‘It’s really quite unnecessary to have a fire,’ she soliloquised. ‘But it makes a point in a room, I always think.  Keeps one in countenance.  Humanises things a bit. Makes a centre point for—‘

She became incoherent.  Maurice’s irritation audibly increased.  They were both conscious of the darkening, rain-loud room.

— from ‘The Confidante’ (1923)


“I can’t think what Lois can be doing.”  She peered through gaps in the shrubbery towards towards the gate of the garden.  This concern for her friend she put up and twirled like a parasol between them.  She sighed: the expansion of her thin little frame, the rise and fall of her two little points of bosom were clearly visible under her white silk jersey.  Her panama hat turned down and light tufts of hair came out in fluttering commas against her cheek bones.

From Chapter 5 of ‘The Last September’ (1929)

She had this one limitation, his darling Lois; she couldn’t look on her own eyes, had no idea what she was, resented almost his attention being so constantly fixed on something she wasn’t aware of.

From Chapter 6 of ‘The Last September’ (1929)

She thought a major proposed to her, though he seemed rather old, but he was so much confused and had such a mumbly moustache she could not be certain.

From Chapter 6 of ‘The Last September’ (1929)

“I don’t know,” said Gilda Roche. “The less of me that’s visible, the more I’m there.”

From ‘Sunday Evening’ (1923)

Rosalind flung herself into the drawing-room; it was honey-coloured and lovely in the pale spring light, another little clock was ticking in the corner, there were more bowls of primroses and black-eyed, lowering anemones.  The tarnished mirror on the wall distorted and reproved her angry face in its mild mauveness.

From ‘Coming Home’ (1923)


One could only conclude that he considered Miss Ames and Mrs Logan as part of the fittings of the shop – ‘customers’ such as every shop kept two of among the mirrors and the chairs; disposed appropriately; symbolic, like the two dolls perpetually recumbent upon the drawing-room sofa of a doll’s house.

From “Ann Lee’s” 1924

The parrot ambled slowly through the air, with, as it were the jog of a fat pony translated into flight.

From ‘The Parrot’ 1925

Was she now to be clapped down under an adjective, to crawl round lifelong inside some quality like a fly in a tumbler?
From Chapter 7 of ‘The Last September’ 1929

Square cattle moved in the fields like saints, with a mindless certainty. Single trees, on a rath, at the turn of the road, drew up light at their roots.  Only the massed trees – spread like a rug to dull some keenness, break some contact between self and senses perilous to the routine of living – only the trees of the demesne were dark, exhaling darkness.  Down among them, dusk would stream up the paths ahead, lie stagnant over the lawns, would mount in the tank of garden, heightening the walls, dulling the borders like a rain of ashes.  Dusk would lie where one looked as though it were in one’s eyes, as though the fountain of darkness were in one’s own perception.  Seen from above, the house in its pit of trees seemed a very reservoir of obscurity; from the doors one must come out stained with it. And the kitchen smoke, lying over the vague trees doubtfully, seemed to be the very fume of living.

From Chapter 8 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


There was something so very experienced about the tip of her nose that Lois felt went flat.  She felt that she herself must be like a cake in which the flour had been forgotten.

From Chapter 9 of ‘The Last September’ 1929

They met the white stare of a cottage, stared and turned.

From Chapter 10 of ‘The Last September’ 1929

But she was his lovely woman: kissed.  He shone at her, she helpless. She looked out at the hopeless rain.

From Chapter 11 of ‘The Last September’ 1929

But the imagination-game palled upon him earlier than usual, defeated by his returning consciousness of the room.  Here was he alone, enisled with tragedy.  The thing had crouched beside his bed at night; he had been conscious of it through the thin texture of his dreams.  He reached out again now, timidly, irresistibly to touch it, and found that it had slipped away, withdrawn into ambush, leaving with him nothing of itself, scarcely even a memory.

From ‘The Visitor’ 1926

“This is very nice,” said Mr Barlow, looking at the Contessina.  She had on a dress of heliotrope organdie, with a fichu folded across the bosom with that best discretion for the display of pretty curves.  Her skin was very dark against the heliotrope, as fresh as a young petal, as brown as old, old ivory.

From ‘The Contessina’ 1924

The third day was nearly all wet, though it cleared towards evening and a fine sunset crimsoned the canal.  Today it had come on about lunch time, a different rain; finer, gentler, more inexorable, that made the air woolly, left a muddy taste in one’s mouth and dulled everything.

From ‘Human Habitation’ 1926

Over the mottled carpet curled strange pink fronds: someone dead now, buying this carpet, had responded to an idea of beauty.  Lois thought how in Marda’s bedroom, when she was married, there might be a dark blue carpet with a bloom on it like a grape, and how this room, this hour would be forgotten.  Already the room seemed full of the dusk of oblivion.  And she hoped that instead of fading to dust in summers of empty sunshine, the carpet would burn with the house in a scarlet night to make one flaming call upon Marda’s memory.

From chapter 12 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


The dining-room was dark red, with a smoky ceiling, and Gerald said afterwards he had felt like a disease in a liver.  When the blancmange came in it lay down with a sob and Miss Thompson frowned at it.

From chapter 13 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


The day was featureless, a stock pattern day of late summer, blandly insensitive to their imprints.  The yellow sun – slanting in under the blinds on full bosomed silver, hands balancing Worcester, dogs poking up wistfully from under the cloth – seemed old, used, filtering from the surplus of some happy fulfilment; while, unapproachably elsewhere, something went by without them.

From chapter 14 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


With all that Miss Selby scarcely ever went out: wasn’t it funny? She had not ‘done’ any of the places; she was ‘keeping’ Rome.  For when, for whom, was she keeping it?  One didn’t like to ask.  That was Miss Selby’s secret, which, like a soap-bubble at the end of a pipe, would bulge, subside, waver, wobble iridescently, and subside again.  Later, among the trees of the Pincio it transpired that she was keeping Rome for Somebody.  Ah, really?  Miss Phelps found this beautiful.  Miss Selby interrupted her sight to confess that she allowed herself daily small rations; she would stand looking, for instance, through the railings of the Forum without going in.

From ‘The Secession’ 1926


She danced beautifully with her slim, balanced partners; they moved like moths, almost soundlessly, their feet hiss-hissing faintly on the parquet.  Hewson’s hand brushed across the switchboard, lights would spring up dazzlingly against the ceiling and pour down opulently on the amber floor to play and melt among the shadows of feet.

From ‘Making Arrangements’ 1925


Here was a way of escape open to her; she could pass down the long chain of rooms, link on link of frescoed emptiness with garlands duskier in the dusk, with little, bald square windows, lashless eyes, staring out on to the darkening sky.

From ‘The Storm’ 1926

…Lois entered the mill. Fear heightened her gratification; she welcomed its inrush, letting her look climb the scabby and livid walls to the frightful stare of the sky.  Cracks ran down; she expected, now with detachment, to see them widen, to see the walls peel back from a cleft – like the House of Usher’s.

From Chapter 15 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


Visitors took form gradually  in his household, coming out of a haze of rumour, and seemed but lightly, pleasantly superimposed on the vital pattern till a departure tore great shreds from the season’s texture […] There was to be no opportunity for what he must not say to be rather painfully not said.

From Chapter 16 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


Also, there is something very heroic about dangling one’s legs at a height.

From ‘Charity’ 1926

Somebody who had come in late had brought him, with an apology, and had whispered an explanation into somebody else’s ear.  They had seated him, and he had sat, looking propped-up and a little dejected, like an umbrella that an absent-minded caller had brought into the drawing-room.

From ‘The Back Drawing-Room’ 1926

Clumps of trees stretched up their branches all fretted over with green; here and there a field was ridiculous with lambs, and above them larks surcharged with song went wobbling up into the blue.

From ‘Recent Photograph’ 1926

Anna Partridge, whose brain was all shreddy with rabbit-combing and raffia, had had electric light for years, just from living in England; even the Trents talked of harnessing their waterfall.

From Chapter 20 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


But when she looked for Gerald there seemed too much of him.  He was a wood in which she counted from tree to tree – all hers – and knew the boundary wall right round.  But how to measure this unaccountable darkness between the trees, this living silence?  So she turned back to Mr Montmorency, adding a paragraph.

From Chapter 21 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


‘My dear Francie, life is too short for all this.’ (Though that was not the matter with life, really: life was too long.)

From Chapter 22 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


They were fawn kid, very clean inside (so probably new), low at the insteps, with slim red heels and a pattern in scarlet leather across the strap and over the toe-cap.  They were tiny (size three or three-and-a-half) and looked capable solely of an ineffectual, somehow alluring totter.

From ‘Shoes: An International Episode’ 1929


She was twenty-one, pretty but brittle and wax-like from steam-heated air. All day long she was just an appearance, a rhythm: in studio or ballroom she expanded into delicate shapes like a Japanese ‘mystery’ flower dropped into water.

From ‘The Dancing-Mistress’ 1929

The news crept down streets from door to door like a dull wind, fingering the nerves, pausing. […] Mr Fogarty dropped his glass and stood bent some time like an animal, chin on the mantelpiece.  Philosophy did not help; in his thickening brain actuality turned like a mill-wheel.  His wife, magnificent in her disbelief, ran out, wisps blowing, round the square and through the vindictively silent town.

From Chapter 23 of ‘The Last September’ 1929


For in February, before those leaves had visibly budded, the death – execution, rather – of the three houses, Danielstown, Castle Trent, Mount Isabel, occurred in the same night.  A fearful scarlet ate up the hard spring darkness; indeed, it seemed that an extra day, unreckoned, had come to abortive birth that these things might happen.  It seemed, looking from east to west at the sky tall with scarlet, that the country itself was burning…

From Chapter 24  of ‘The Last September’ 1929

Regarding the ‘scarlet’ quote from Chapter 24 above, please compare the earlier ‘scarlet’ quote from Chapter 12 (quotes from fiction 8).


That is the end of quotes from ‘The Last September’.  The next novel from which quotes will be taken is ‘To The North’, as requested by the first person who responded to my earlier query.


Systematic quotes from all stories will resume next time.

Towards the end of April, a breath from the north blew cold down Mlan platforms to meet the returning traveller.  Uncertain thoughts of home filled the station restaurant where the English sat lunching uneasily, facing the clock.

From Chapter 1 of ‘To The North’ 1932


A fragrant, faint impropriety, orris-dust of a century, still hangs over parts of this neighbourhood; glass passages lead in from high green gates, garden walls are mysterious, laburnums falling between the windows and walls have their own secrets.  Acacias whisper at night round airy, ornate little houses in which pretty women lived singly but were not always alone.  In the unreal late moonlight you might hear a ghostly hansom click up the empty road, or see on a pale wall the shadow of an opera cloak…  Nowadays things are much tamer: Lady Waters could put up no reasoned objection to St. John’s Wood.

From Chapter 2 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Nothing could be as dear as the circle of reading-light round her solitary pillow.

From Chapter 3 of ‘To The North’ 1932

Lunch went though with strands of talk spun out fine till they dwindled to thin little patches of silence.

From ‘Aunt Tatty’ 1929


When her head fell back in despair, while the man devoured her face horribly, one watched her forgotten arm hang down over his shoulder: the tips of the fingers twitched.  What was she thinking about, what did women think about – then?

From ‘Dead Mabelle’ 1929


The cat came nimbling back on the tips of its paws and looked at her scornfully. She climbed on a step-ladder to loop back the curtains at the top and let in more light, then she felt dizzy up there and screamed. Her husband, who happened to be passing across the kitchen, had to come in and help her down again.  He kissed her – they had been married so recently – but she struggled from his arms in a preoccupied way, like a cat, and hurried away to blow dust off a fern.

From ‘The Working Party’ 1929

The drawing-room, however, was still rich with strange cigarette-smoke; Cecilia, in black, wandered among the furniture with the air of not having yet readjusted herself to solitude.

From Chapter 4 of ‘To The North’ 1932


He suggested that they should go to a film at the Polytechnic, a film with no nonsense in it, about lions.

From Chapter 5 of ‘To The North’ 1932

The whole of Chapter 5 is shown:


Thomas proceeded conversationally like the impeccable dentist with an infinitesimally fine instrument, choosing his area, tapping within it nearer and nearer, withdrawing at a suggestion before there had been time for a wince.  He specialized in a particular kind of friendship with that eight-limbed, inscrutable, treacherous creature, the happily-married couple; adapting himself closely and lightly to the composite personality. An indifference to, an apparent unconsciousness of, life in some aspects armoured him against embarrassments.  As Janet said, he would follow one into one’s bedroom without noticing. Yet the too obvious ‘tact’, she said, was the literal word for his quality.  Thomas was all finger-tips.

From ‘Foothold’ 1929


The chocolate gates were streaked a bright green from neglect and opened reluctantly, leaving green dust on the hands.  In autumn when the new tenants arrived the drive was matted over with lime leaves that sent up a sodden odour, deadening the footsteps.

From ‘The Cassowary’ 1929

Her look drank in the blush…

From Chapter 6 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Down there, between the dreary trunks of the beeches, houses lay like a sediment in the cup of the misty valley: great gabled carcases, villas apeing the manor, belfried garages where you could feel the cars get cold.

From Chapter 7 of ‘To The North’ 1932


The straight sunny tombstones looked sociable, fresh wreaths were laid on the breasts of the graves.  You could almost see the dead sitting up holding their flowers, like invalids on a visiting-day, waiting to hear the music.  Only the very new dead, under raw earth with no tombstones, lay flat in despair…

From Chapter 7 of ‘To The North’ 1932


“But nowadays the whole incentive to motoring seems an anxiety to be elsewhere.”

From Chapter 8 of ‘To The North’ 1932


They swerved north a little at Uxbridge and spun into London by the great empty bye-pass of Western Avenue.  Small new shops stood distracted among the buttercups; in the distance aërial glassy white factories were beginning to go up among forlorn may trees, branch lines and rusty girders: here and there one was starting to build Jerusalem.  Emmeline smiled at London, where her friends still slept under the haze of shining smoke.

From Chapter 8 of ‘To The North’ 1932

They none of them wanted Terry to feel how his movements were sneaking movements: when they met him creeping about by himself they would either ignore him or say: “Where are you off to?” jocosely and loudly, to hide the fact of their knowing he didn’t know.

From ‘Telling’ 1929


Emerald’s children looked up at her out of a coloured earthquake-city.  Unnerved by her manner they turned to retreat; gilt, flowered and brightly pictorial boxes scrunched with the unresistance of cardboard under their wildly placed feet.  They evacuated, with shaken majesty, an empire of chocolate boxes.

From ‘Mrs Moysey’ 1929


Emmeline’s world, that had hung shining throughout the week like a bubble on some divine breath, contracted suddenly to this room – staring, positive, full of shelves and tables – the scene of some terror from which she had lately fled.

From Chapter 9 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Julian suggested that they should take the whole day out and lunch in the country. But Cecilia said no: Buckinghamshire was too small, not many times the length of his car; they would soon overshoot the school and run out of the county; they most not overshoot the school.

From Chapter 10 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Perplexed, Cecilia lighted a cigarette: indicating a notice the waitress asked her firmly to put it out again. Julian said Indian tea disagreed with him: the waitress said there was no China. “Ridiculous!” cried Cecilia, and all the mothers turned around. Cecilia, smouldering like a Siamese cat at a show, was glad to find their strawberry punnets left stains on the table-cloth.

From Chapter 10 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Gerda edged, breathlessly, round the door.  “Only me,” she said, and sank with a puff of billowing skirts into the white fur rug at her patron’s feet.  “I’ve had such a time; you must have thought I was lost!  It made that buzzing, gone-away noise at me every time I dialled: you know how a telephone makes one feel, Lady Waters, quite in disgrace!…”

From Chapter 11 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Now into the hall Mrs Tommy Cran came swimming from elsewhere, dividing with curved little strokes the festive air – hyacinths and gunpowder.  Her sleeves, in a thousand ruffles, fled from her elbows.  She gained Uncle Archer’s lapels and, bobbing, floated from this attachment.  Uncle Archer, verifying the mistletoe, loudly kissed her face of a delicate pink sugar. […] The room where they all sat seemed to be made of glass, it collected the whole daylight; the candles were still waiting. Over the garden, day still hung like a pink flag; over the trees like frozen feathers, the enchanted icy lake, the lawn.  The table was in the window. As Herbert was brought in a clock struck four; the laughing heads all turned in a silence brief as a breath’s intake.  The great many gentlemen and the rejoicing ladies leaned apart; he and Nancy looked at each other gravely. […] Now Nancy, standing up very straight to cut the cake, was like a doll stitched upright into its box, apt, if you should cut the string at its back, to pitch right forward and break its delicate fingers.

From ‘The Tommy Crans’ 1934


Judas and almond trees frivolled among the austere cedars; cypresses marched to the lake from terrace to terrace, and wax-yellow freesias sweetened the April twilight.

From ‘The Good Girl’ 1934


After dark – where once there was silence,  a tree’s shadow drawn slowly across the grass by the moon, or no moon, an exhalation of darkness – rows of windows come out like lanterns in pink and orange; boxed in bright light hundreds of lives repeat their pattern; wireless picks up a tune from street to street.

From Chapter 12 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Cecilia, indignant, still webbed-up in dreams, rolled round to stare at Emmeline in the yellow dusk of drawn curtains.

From Chapter 13 of ‘To The North’ 1932


She wanted a massage after her journey, a fitting at her corsetière’s, a new silver saucepan to boil milk in her bedroom, a chat with her specialist and one of those mackintosh coats she had just seen advertised for her dog. She decided to visit her hat shop, which concealed itself upstairs in Mayfair with a discretion so sinister one might expect to rap three times on a panel or be regarded narrowly through a grille.

From Chapter 14 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Something disturbed her with its insistence, some humming at the back of her mind that was not a mind.

From Chapter 15 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Jocelyn’s bedroom curtains swelled a little over the noisy window.  The room was stuffy and – insupportable, so that she did not know where to turn.  The house, fingered outwardly by the wind that dragged unceasingly past the walls, was, within, a solid silence: silence heavy as flesh.  Jocelyn dropped her wrap to the floor, then watched how its feathered edges crept a little.  A draught came in, under her bathroom door.

From ‘The Cat Jumps’ 1934


Annabelle heard him.  Wild with affront, she scrambled heavily to her feet with a cowlike movement and dashed down the naked stairs.  ‘Mother, mother’ she wailed.  Her mother came out of the library.  ‘Oh, mother, John said “Damn” to me!’

From ‘The Last Night in the Old Home’ 1934


This first phase of autumn was lovely; decay first made itself felt as an extreme sweetness: with just such a touch of delicious morbidity a lover might contemplate the idea of death. […] His hand with the twitching pen went rushing from line to line at a fever-high pace.  He did not once pause.  The pen rushed the hand along under some terrific compulsion, as though something, not thought, vital, were being drained out o him through the point of the pen.  Words sprang to their places with deadly complicity, knowing each other too well . . . Once or twice when a clinker fell in the stove, or the outside staircase unaccountably creaked as though a foot were upon it, he looked up, the tyrannic pen staggered, he looked round the room with its immutable fixtures as though he were a ghost –

From ‘The Disinherited’ 1934

A very long story with many quotable quotes, reminding me of a conflux of ‘Twin Peaks’, Robert Aickman, DH Lawrence and James Joyce!

Miss Fitzgerald hurried out of the Hotel into the road. Here she stood still, looking purposelessly up and down in the blinding sunshine and picking at the fingers of her gloves.  She was frightened by an interior quietness and by the thought that she had for once in her life stopped thinking and might never begin again.

From Chapter 1 of ‘The Hotel’ 1927


In the cupboards her dresses hung bosom to bosom coldly, as though they had never been worn.  She ran down like a clock whose hands falter and point for too long at one hour and minute: the clock stops dead.  She dissolved like breath on a mirror and trailed away like an echo when nobody speaks again.

From Chapter 16 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Emmeline met Markie at Croydon: he was so very late she feared he would miss the plane.  In her thin grey coat and skirt she sat waiting under the skylight on that sexagonal seat round the little pharos of clocks.  A huge blue June day filled the aerodrome and reflected itself in the hall: she heard a great hum from the waiting plane hungry for flight.

From Chapter 17 of ‘To The North’ 1932


Maria was forbearingly swamped by the family; she felt as if she were trying to box an eiderdown.  […]  But rudeness to Mrs Dosely was like dropping a pat of butter on to a hot plate – it slid and melted away.

From ‘Maria’ 1934


Coming down early for dinner, red satin dress cut low, she attacked the silence with loud laughter before he had spoken.  He recollected having heard that she was abnormal – at twenty-five, of statuesque development, still detained in childhood.  […] She let the lantern out of her skirts and waved.  Her fine arm with bangles went up and down, up and down, with the staggering light; the trees one by one jumped up from the dark, like savages.

From ‘Her Table Spread’ 1930


To-day the houses seemed taller and farther apart; the street wider and full of bright, clear light that cast no shadows and was never sunshine.  Under archways and between the houses the distances had a curious transparency, as though they had been painted upon glass.  Against the luminous and indeterminate sky the Abbey tower rose distinct and delicate.

from ‘Daffodils’ 

 CONTINUED: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/elizabeth-bowen-quotes-2/

All parts:











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4 responses to “Elizabeth Bowen Quotes (1)

  1. You can buy all these entrancing Elizabeth Bowen fiction quotes in print.
    Volume Three here contains them: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/contents-of-real-time-reviews-books/

  2. Pingback: Towards the Drogulus | Elizabeth Bowen

  3. Pingback: Towards the Drogulus | Elizabeth Bowen

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