Elizabeth Bowen Quotes (3)


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

Those darkish late afternoons he was there so often, waiting for Mme Fisher to come in or be free to talk to him: when he was not really there, some shadow often deceived Karen, or she would be misled by a door ajar: uncertainty, at that special time of day, made her life pump through her furiously, uselessly.

From Part 2 (5) of ‘The House In Paris’ 1935


Looking down the garden, she saw ink-dark lines round everything, even between the roof and the blue sky: for a moment the garden looked as unbearably vivid as a garden the moment before you faint.

From Part 2 (6) of ‘The House In Paris’ 1935


The tip of a long magnetic wave from the Continent touches Victoria platform whenever a boat train starts…

From Part 2 (7) of ‘The House In Paris’ 1935


Never to lie is to have no lock to your door, you are never wholly alone. […]

The silence in culs-de-sac is the silence of not hearing the sea.  Today, the salt sunshine brought every shape nearer, as though distance had been parched out.  Doorways, cobbles, arches and stone steps looked sentient and porous in the glare.

From Part 2 (8) of ‘The House In Paris’ 1935


The sun, now too low to enter normally, was able to enter brilliantly at a point where three of the houses had been bombed away; two or three of the may trees, dark with summer, caught on their tops the illicit gold. Each side of the breach, exposed wallpapers were exaggerated into viridians, yellows and corals that they had probably never been.

From ‘In The Square’ 1941

There are degrees with being alone with someone.  It was not till they had driven down Sandgate hill – not till they were, even, clear of Sandgate itself, on that flat stretch of road above the beach, passing cream-coloured houses with gardens of tamarisks – that she saw what made them completely alone for the first time: there being no sun.  Always before, at Twickenham or Boulogne, the sun by happening to shine had been a felt presence, adding itself the whole time.  It had been insistent on the flowery pink tree, the salt quay stones.  Till today, they had not, when alone, ever been two; always either three or one. […]

Rain made the day dark for day, but till late the light did not change.  Saturday stayed late, reflected on wet roofs and straight wet paths uphill.  The west broke, the grey went white, lightening across the rain that did not stop but still veiled darkening houses and trees.   At nine they went out and stood on the canal bridge; the band pavilion was empty, the chairs stacked up.  Hearing the sea creep up on the far beach, they walked that way, along the Ladies’ Walk.  Along this tunnel of trees lights hung quenched under arching branches, rain glittering past, no June moths. On a bench back from the walk another couple of lovers were blotted out, faceless, sheltered by the unfrequented night. On the embanked sea-front a house with a tower stood up; next door, in the lodging-house terrace, someone played a piano, but then stopped. Here the sea air was washed unsalt by the rain; you only smelled tamarisks and wet grass. The sea crept on the shingle with a half-living rustle; on its far-out silence Dungeness lighthouse flashed, stopped, flashed.  At the sight of this one light Karen remembers her hand, wet with rain and for some minutes forgotten, tightening on Max’s wet india-rubber sleeve. He made her face inland, where the High Street lights rose steadily through the rain and windows studded the hill where many people would sleep tonight.

From Part 2 (9) of ‘The House In Paris’ 1935


Her night thoughts in a heavy flock had now settled at the pit of her mind. […]

…fumes of sleep seemed to creep round the windows, staling the out-of-doors.

From Part 2 (10) of ‘The House In Paris’ 1935


The dark, becoming complete, stood immovable at the windows: only when there were lights did anything fly past.  The train made a noise of tunnelling through air.  The girl opposite with the splashed stockings crossed her legs and began to smoke; the man she was with spread a newspaper over both of them, glanced primly round then began to feel for her under it: you could see he was certain of one thing.  Their intently vacant faces unnerved Karen…

From Part 2 (11) of ‘The House In Paris’ 1935

Naomi made a slight movement.  ‘Yes,’ she said.  She looked unthoughtfully, steadily at the window beside which Karen stood, and Karen again remembered Max’s saying that Naomi was like furniture or the dark.

From Part 2 (12) of ‘The House in Paris’ 1935


‘Something unforeseen must have happened. You know, even grown-up people cannot always do what they want most.’

‘Oh! Then why grow up?’

From Part 3 (1) of ‘The House in Paris’ 1935


… he broke out suddenly: Why?

‘Why should I have iodine stung on my knees when I fall own, and see one of them on a rock the whole time I’m on the shore, and be weighed every Saturday like something to eat, and be asked about one of my ideas when their friends come, and have them whispering around when I shut my eyes in bed, and be taken away from Rome and not let drink wine even with water and told about Shelley the whole time? I’m glad he was drowned; I wish he had never been born. The servants laugh at them because they never had children, so they never let me alone, which is like finding ants in everything.  When I am angry they whisper in other rooms and when I use dirty words they look away from each other.  They show off to other people to make them think I am theirs.  They keep trying to make me be things.  Have they bought me, or what? Why should I have to kiss them when I wish every time I have to that their faces would fall off, like the outsides of onions. When they walk about in the sunset not saying anything because of the sunset, or look poetically at things, their bodies look so silly.  You can’t say, “I don’t love you” any more than you could say that to a sheep.  They make me feel like a place with sheep eating on it the whole time. They are so pleased because I cannot remember anything else but them.’

From Part 3 (2) of ‘The House in Paris’ 1935


Ray stood smoking his cigarette incisively, pinching the butt with his lips, sipping the smoke, turning to knock ash off into the marble lid.  He felt as dry as cuttlefish all through.

From Part 3 (3) of ‘The House in Paris’ 1935


‘Have you seen a tree growing out of a crack in a grave?’ […]

Silence sat in the taxi as though a stranger had got in.

From Part 3 (4) of ‘The House in Paris’ 1935 (last chapter)

The coldness had been admitted by none of the seven or eight people who, in degrees of elderly beauty, sat here full in the sun, at this sheltered edge of the lawn: they continued to master the coldness, or to deny it, as though with each it were some secret malaise. An air of fastidious, stylized melancholy, an air of being secluded behind glass, characterized for Henry these old friends in whose shadows he had grown up.

From ‘Sunday Afternoon’ 1941


The bride’s two attendants, little girls grilled to the waist, with pink knickers, had escaped from old gentlemen on to the spongy lawn. Here they were playing clock golf till the cake should be cut.

From Part I (1) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


She was to be an October bride: one could forecast chrysanthemums, a certain quality in the sunshine. Janet (though she did not clearly formulate this or any idea) personified Weather as someone feminine, tractable while perverse, agreeably subject to the dominance of some wills, upon whom Rodney could not fail to exercise a compulsion.

From Part I (2) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


…their fingers groped for each other over the chasm between the beds. A small thrill animated the tombs.

From Part I (3) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931

The skeleton clock, in daylight, was threatening to a degree its oddness could not explain.  Looking through the glass at its wheels, cogs, springs and tensions, and at its upraised striker, awaiting with a sensible quiver the finish of the hour that was in force, Clara tried to tell herself that it was, only, shocking to see the anatomy of time.    The clock was without a face, its twelve numerals being welded on to a just visible wire ring.  As she watched, the minute hand against its background of nothing made one, then another, spectral advance. […]

‘I’ll tell you something, Clara.  Have you ever SEEN a minute? Have you actually had one wriggling inside your hand?  Did you know if you keep your finger inside a clock for a minute, you can pick out that very minute and take it home for your own?’  So it is Paul who stealthily lifts the dome off. It is Paul who selects the finger of Clara’s that is to be guided, shrinking, then forced wincing into the works, to be wedged in them, bruised in them, bitten into and eaten up by the cogs.  ‘No you have got to keep it there, or you will lose the minute.  I am doing the counting – the counting up to sixty.’ . . . But there is to be no sixty.  The ticking stops.

From ‘The Inherited Clock’ 1944


A child running past the window in a scarlet tunic made happiness concrete, the lawns stood solid in sunshine, a piano-study issuing from a floor above built up a diligent self-rewarding pattern over this shining silence of application and still trees. […]

Considine – something came alive, she could perfectly see him: disengaged, blasé, rucking a tiger-skin, backed by the major feline masks, almost visibly shredded – like a fine, upgrowing thistle on a cobwebby morning – with feminine reputations.

From Part I (4) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


He seemed likeable, a scrupulous, slow young man, without the disengagedness of Considine, that light-hearted, light-handed seducer who (Edward had come to believe) even shot lions negligently.

From Part I (5) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


For this unhappy mother of Edward’s – now so contentedly tracing her cat’s spine – was for himself and Janet a major, almost a tragic, coincidence. Bearing down, spectacular as an iceberg over the sunny waters of their engagement, she had so nearly wrecked them.

From Part I (5) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


She made her first impression on Jenna, who collected tortures. Theodora knew of two new ones, one Chinese, something to do with a rat, and one Italian, with weights. Jenna went green, became quite friendly and asked Theodora if she had ever been into a used vault. Neurosis had quite a value at Mellyfield; the third night Theodora shrieked with confidence when a bat came into the dormitory.

From Part I (7) of ‘Friends and Relations’ 1931


Feeling his way from switch to switch he turned on all the lights.  He blinked; the darkness gone from the room seemed to inhabit him. […]

They must get back somehow. She, however, not looking again at him, allowed two clocks to tick and the last outgoing traffic – lorries, what sounded like a removal in furniture vans of entire London – to drag its slow irn chain down the Brompton Road.

From Part I (8) of ‘Friends and Relations’ 1931


‘So then what did you do?’

‘I took it off,’ said Considine.  The children hugged themselves, squatting lower. ‘Does a black man’s arm go blacker when it goes bad, or does it go blue? Describe.’ […]

Some telescope brought her up to Lewis’s eye, distinct but unforgettably distant.  His view of her was unique: he could not account or this. Then he understood; solitude is in its nature invisible; he had never looked for so long at anyone who was alone.

From Part II (1) of ‘Friends and Relations’ 1931


But the house was once again not on fire. Nothing had stopped, either; she could hear a train round off its curve of sound in the hollow distance. The night was fixed: she just saw the windows, Hermione’s low little oval mirror.  The white glossy curtains moved now and then, like someone taking a step forward then standing still. Anna had heard of fear but marvelled at it. She sat up now to stare, vigorous as a crocus in her little sheath of assurance.

From Part II (2) of ‘Friends and Relations’ 1931


I put my rations down on the table and was, dumbfounded, preparing to turn away, when a white paper on the white wood caught my eye.  This paper, in an inexpert line of block-printing, bore the somewhat unnecessary statement: I AM NOT HERE.  To this was added, in brackets: ‘Look in the fish kettle.’ Though this be no affair of mine, could I fail to follow it up? Was this some new demonstration of haybox cookery; was I to find our dinner snugly concealed? I identified the fish kettle, a large tin object (about the size, I should say, of an infant’s bath) that stood on a stool half-way between the sink and the range. It wore a tight-fitting lid, which came off with a sort of plop: the sound in itself had an ominous hollowness.  Inside, I found again, only a piece of paper.  This said: ‘Mr & the 2 Misses Rangerton-Karney can boil their heads.  This holds 3.’

From ‘The Cheery Soul’ 1941

The country below us looked all colours, and was washed over in the most reckless way with light; going on and on into the distance the clumps of trees and the roofs of villages and the church towers had quivering glimmers round them; but most of all there was space, sort of moulded space, and the blue of earth ran into the blue of sky.

My father’s face was turned away from me, propped up on his hand.  I finally said to him, “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” he said, startled.

“What we’re looking at.”

“England,” he said “that’s England.  I thought I’d like to see her again.”

“But don’t we live in England?”

From ‘Songs My Father Sang Me’ (1944)


Today this surely was the wettest village in the world: the poor late lilac was sodden; its leaves ran like gutters.  Rain fell over dark doorways; the plaster cottages were distraught with it; the brick cottages sullen. Smoke from the dinner fires hung heavy, clotting the trees, and where under dark eaves the old woman still did not die, geraniums stifled, pressing close to the panes. The International Stores, full of cocoa, stood over its red reflection. No one crossed the street o even came to a door: a quenched, drenched day, thought Janet.  And in the village, something suspended, perhaps finally over: evening brightly dissolving the roofs, the hourless blank of sunshine, dark lamplight, the bucket swinging up bright from the cold well. There would be worse days here, some better; none, you had to believe, final. To be consoled it was better to live indoors, without spectacle.

From Part II (3) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


The lake, bending round the contour of the rise, had a rushing sluice at each end; the stream released from artifice went its way in curves through the shallow valley with a glad air of being its narrow self again. Over these flat meadows, pricked with budding flags and dark orchises, and over the mild ascent beyond, hung the whole bloom of June.  Sky and earth married in light; blue on the trees and grass, a gold obscurity, like pollen, over the sky. […]

‘And of course,’ went on Theodora, ‘Lady Elfrida does bore me. She’s the most tiresome kind of cathédrale engloutie, full of backwashes and large drowned bells.’

From Part II (4) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931

It was late August; it had been a steamy, showery day: at the moment the trees down the pavement glittered in an escape of humid yellow afternoon sun. Against the next batch of clouds, already piling up ink-dark, broken chimneys and parapets stood out. In her once familiar street, as in any unused channel, an unfamiliar queerness had silted up; a cat wove itself in and out of railings, but no human eye watched Mrs Drover’s return.  Shifting some parcels under her arm, she slowly forced round her latchkey in an unwilling lock, then gave the door, which had warped, a push with her knee.  Dead air came out to meet her as she went in. […]

Now and then – for it felt, from not seeing him at this intense moment, as though she had never seen him at all – she verified his presence for these few moments longer by putting out a hand, which he each time pressed, without very much kindness, and painfully, on to one of the breast buttons of his uniform.  That cut of the button on the palm of her hand was, principally what she was to carry away.

From ‘The Demon Lover’ 1941


At such an hour, similes were postprandial; like gooseberry fool the silence closed in behind them; their speed soon jumbled the brightness of afternoon, turning it like a salad . . . But she had the town-dweller’s love of going to town: Considine beside her was all complaisance, a panama and a chin.  He could digest anywhere.  Hedges crisp with budding wild roses, banks in a high foam of cow-parsley soon gave way to allotments. Hoardings rushed up eager for their attention; scarlet and yellow petrol pumps, like a civic procession, marched out to meet them more than a mile from the town.  […]

A cat’s yawn gave the note of the afternoon.  Pavements sleepily glared; over the butcher’s a piano played in its sleep.  All down the streets the lettered awnings were low, and women, girls for the day in brief cotton dresses, crossed from shadow to shadow.  The town did not know itself; it became a seaside town high and dry; in contradiction to nature some bright shadow, some idea of unreal pleasure trailed over it.  Bow-fronted houses bulged here and there from the flat stucco; in shadow, the Gothic bank was cut out in slate on the glare; opposite, the brick ‘Plough’ flushed in a bacchic dream.

From Part II (5) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931

Eric was now at the War Office, and Joanna, who had not seen him in uniform before, looked at him naively, twice. He reminded her of one of the pictures arrived at in that paper game when, by drawing on folded-over paper, you add to one kind of body an intriguingly wrong kind of head.

From ‘Careless Talk’ 1941


The cold, mounting excitement under her manner communicated itself to Edward and’ like fever, effected a disembodiment. So that his thought, detaching itself from the self in anguish, ranged with delirious boldness; hardly thought at all, detached from feeling. And as when in fever the freed, weightless thought going down street after street or penetrating a forest, halts, finds one house or one tree and fuses with this utterly, becoming the house or tree past hope of escape, Edward’s thought stopped and flared at a point where dread and desire ran round the circle to meet.

From Part II (6) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


Proximity was their support; like walls after an earthquake they could fall no further for they had fallen against each other. […]

But Lady Elfrida and the children, hopefully waving, saw Edward swerve off through the trees, like wild life away from the camera; one shadow more in the shadowy net.

From Part II (7) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


She looked beyond him steadily at the old branching sin that like the fatal apple-tree in a stained-glass window had in its shadow, at each side, the man and woman, Considine and Elfrida, related only in balance for the design.  And in her confused thought this one painted tree associated itself, changed to another, the tree of Jesse; that springing – not, you would think, without pain somewhere – from a human side, went on up florescent with faces, perplexed similar faces, to some bright crest or climax or final flowering to which they all looked up, which was out of Janet’s view. If you felled the tree, or made even a vital incision, as Elfrida impatient of all this burden now seemed to desire (for if her heart were the root, it had contracted, if hers were the side, it ached), down they all came from the branches and scattered, still green at the core like July apples, having no more part in each other at all: strangers.

From Part II (8) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931

Yet as Mrs Bowles’ story continued, gathering years of such talk on its vigorous dullness as on a running-thread, Laurel’s nostalgia for girlhood became acute. Her ‘teens – their exposure to stingless boredom, their extravagant reverie; a home that gave her life colour, taking none of her life’s; the cool ball-dress slipping over her arms; her impatient stitching of summer dresses, their lyric wearing. Janet and Mother tacking roses on her bodice (it would be a wonder if someone did not popose tonight), Mrs Bowles’ voice ran on. So the trees drowsed (a dull London sycamore cossed the window now) while Mrs Bowles talked and Laurel’s reel of pink cotton rolled away underneath the piano; Laurel had to go flat on her stomach: Mrs Bowles, on a visit, talked on: Laurel getting up bumped her head on the underneath of the keyboard and thought suddenly of Edward: Mrs Bowles’ words like rather old dulled fish gently tipped from a barrow went on slipping and slipping.

from Part III (1) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


These weeks, a grotesque, not quite impossible figure, had come to interpose between herself and Laurel.  A woman, an unborn shameful sister, travestying their two natures, enemy to them both. Against her Laurel’s derision, Janet’s pride was powerless. She resembled each for the other, and pressing in between them since they had permitted themselves to part a little interposed a preposterous profile that to each, at the very edge of her vision, was somehow darkly familiar. ‘Surely Laurel could not take her for me or I for her Laurel?’ Where had the three met, how did the two, innocent, recognise the third? We know of her, we do not know her.  Never overt, less than a sinner, worlds apart from Elfrida, she was the prey of all speculation, the unpitiable quarry of talk.  Laurel once said: ‘Do you notice, it’s always the same woman whose letters are read in court?’ This ever-presence in profile had, for each of the sisters, the Egyptian effective defect: from Janet’s side or from Laurel’s – could either have seen her, she was so close, or, faced her, she was so dreadful – two eyes were visible, focused elsewhere with an undeviating intentness.  The look directed upon Edward its whole darkness.

For Janet, used to a small range of thought and great clarity, this horrible illusory figure had materialized on the upward train journey. The porter shutting the door shut Janet in with it; while the train ran down through a cutting they shared darkness; while the carriage crossing the downs became a running box of light the figure, feeding on day itself, enlarged, took Janet within its outlines, occupied finally her own corner place.

from Part III (2) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


There was a look like velvet in darker parts of the air; sombre window draperies let out gushes of lace; the music on the piano-forte bore tender titles, and the harp though unplayed gleamed in a corner, beyond sofas, whatnots, armchairs, occasional tables that all stood on tottering little feet. At any moment a tinkle might have been struck from the lustres’ drops of the brighter day, a vibration from the musical instruments, or a quiver from the fringes and ferns.  But the towering vases upon the consoles, the albums piled on the tables, the shells and figurines on the flights of brackets, all had, like the alabaster Leaning Tower of Pisa, an equilibrium of their own.  Nothing would fall or change.  And everything in the drawing-room was muted, weighted, pivoted by Mamma.

from ‘The Happy Autumn Fields’ 1944

And lighting a cigarette she became lost in gloomy reflection.  ‘Did you hear,’ she said suddenly, ‘we’ve had a green china bath put in? It’s square; the water runs in from the bottom; I must show you.  It makes such a difference to life…’ […]

‘But we would rather go to the pictures.’

‘Oh, Anna, this lovely day!’

‘But the weather is always the same inside the pictures.’

from Part III (3) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


In the glass, she saw Edward’s eyes on the pink flounce, resolutely expressionless. To his reflection stole her long tender look that her looking-glass only received and perhaps recorded.  Too shy to make herself known, she stood smiling in contemplation of her pretty feminine envelope; as though Edward were someone to whom she had already said goodbye, who had left her then slipped back for something forgotten; someone in haste, unwilling to be detained, impossible to accost, so that she must only secretly watch through the crack of a door or over the banisters his ghostly coming and going. […]

Edward took Janet in his arms. He felt her face cold against his; her life unextended, deep in the compass of the moment, at a dark standstill and past astonishment.

from Part III (4) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


She could not sleep, she was ashamed to be lying here. Ruled through her thought that was no thought, the unseen skyline behind those billowing curtains sustained the enormous day.  She was the earth, hooped round with roads and netted with railways, intolerable to itself, afflicted by movement, nightless.

from Part III (5) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


Propped upright against his pillows, gripping his glass of milk, he replied: ‘I am never frightened.’

‘But, lonely – what makes you lonely, then?’

‘I don’t know. I suppose, thoughts.’

‘Oh, but why,’ she said, ‘don’t you like them?’

‘When I am here the night seems a sort of waste, and I don’t like to think what a waste it is.’

from ‘Ivy Gripped the Steps’ 1945

‘And when, my dear, did you come to the end of history?’

‘The year I put up my hair. It had begun to be not so bad from the time we started catching up with the present; and I was glad I had stayed at school long enough to be sure that it had all ended happily. But oh, those unfortunate people in the past! It seems unkind to say so, but can it have been their faults?…’

from ‘Ivy Gripped the Steps’ 1945

First she found herself dreading each step, each taxi for its deception, then she longed for any step, any taxi for its very deception’s sake, the stirring of hope. At half-past-four – by the stroke of three clocks imperfectly synchronised, so that the moment was in itself protracted, deformed – Laurel ceased to expect him. […]

A portrait had crashed down leaving, worse than a blank of wall, a profound recess in which there might or might not be eyes. […] While her house fell like Usher’s cracked through the heart, through the hearth; with where there had been fires the stare of a cold unsuspected moon.

from Part III (6) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


Laurel lay lightly on the surface of his mind, a skeleton leaf too frail to disturb water.  His silence, his cruelty to her were transparencies, casting no shadow.

from Part III (7) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931


Mrs Studdart, never confidential to friends, had a confidante, an intimate always present, who did not exist. [….] This intimate was informed as to Mrs Studdart’s sciatica, those qualms in the night, her mistakes at bridge, Colonel Studdart’s habit of clicking his teeth while he read. She pressed Mrs Studdart’s hand when a silence occurred at a dinner party. What could not be explained to her Mr Studdart refused to recognise, what could not be described she did not observe. Any sense of guilt became a sense of complicity.  Perhaps if she had been a religious woman…? She wondered sometimes about Roman Catholics, whether the Virgin Mary…

from Part III (8) of ‘Friends & Relations’ 1931 (End of novel)


At the far side of the road, dusk set the Regency buildings back at a false distance: against the sky they were colourless silhouettes, insipidly ornate, brittle and cold. The blackness of windows not yet lit or curtained made the houses look hollow inside. […]

‘She was a scrap of a widow, ever so plucky, just back from China, with damp little hands, a husky voice, and defective tear-ducts that gave her eyes always rather a swimmy look.  She had a prostrated way of looking up at you, and that fluffy, bird’s-nesty hair that hairpins get lost in.’ […]

‘Bad luck to watch a train out.’ After that he bumped back into his seat. Thomas did watch the train out, and he said its blank end looked quite wretchedly futureless.

from Part I (1) of ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938

The belt slid down her thin hips, and she nervously gripped at it, pulling it up. Short sleeves showed her very thin arms and big delicate elbow joints. Her body was all concave and jerkily fluid lines; it moved with sensitive looseness, loosely threaded together: each movement had a touch of exaggeration , as though some secret power kept springing out.

From Part I (2) of ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938


But during the conversation about Pidgeon, Anna had felt those dark eyes with a determined innocence steal back again and again to her face. Anna, on the sofa in a Récamier attitude, had acted, among all she had had to act, a hardy imperviousness to this. Had the agitation she felt throughout her body sent out an aura with a quivering edge, Portia’s eyes might be said to explore this line of quiver, round and along Anna’s reclining form. Anna felt bound up with her fear, with her secret, by that enwrapping look of Portia’s: she felt mummified.  So she raised her voice when she said what time it was.

From Part I (3) of ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938


One or two weeping willows and tombs like stone pavilions give it a prettily solemn character, but the gravestones are all ranged round the walls like chairs before a dance, and half way across the lawn a circular shelter looks like a bandstand.

From Part I (4) of ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938


‘And whatever was in my bedroom must have been in my bedroom for some time. I thought, “A wind has come up and got into that damned chintz!” Any draughts always fidgets me; somehow it gets me down. So I got out of my bath and wrapped the big towel round me and went through to shut the windows in my room. But I was surprised when I caught sight of the may trees – all their branches were standing perfectly still. That seemed queer. At the same time, the door I’d come though from the bathroom blew shut, and the lid fell of one of my jars of face cream on to the dressing-table, which had a glass top. No, I didn’t see what it was.  The point was, whatever it was saw me.’

From ‘Pink May’ 1944?

She got up from the sofa and went to lean on the mantelpiece, where she tinkled a lustre.  She could stay so still, and she so greatly disliked other people to fidget, that to fidget herself was almost an act of passion –

From Part I (5) of ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938


Immediately, Portia shut her eyes, set her mouth, and lay stiff on the pillow, as though so much light dug into a deep wound. She felt it must be very late, past midnight: that point where the river of night flows underneath time, that point at which occurs the mysterious birth of tomorrow.

From Part I (6) of ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938


The most stubbornly or darkly drawn-in man has moments when he likes to impose himself, to emerge and be a bully. The diversion of a raindrop from its course down the pane, the frustration of a pet animal’s will in some small way all at once become imperative, if the nature is to fulfil itself.

From Part I (7) of ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938


They were having tea, or rather their tea was ordered, at Madame Tussaud’s. Portia, who had not been here before, had been disappointed to find all the waitresses real: there were no deceptions of any kind – all the waxworks were in some other part.

From Part I (8) of ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938


The ghost hesitated in the familiar corridor. Her visibleness, even on Christmas Eve, was not under her own control; and now she had fallen in love again her dependence upon it began to dissolve in patches. This was a concentration of every feeling of the woman prepared to sail downstairs en grande tenue. Flamboyance and agitation were both present. But between these, because of her years of death, there cut an extreme anxiety: it was not merely a matter of, how was she? but of, was she – tonight – at all? Death had left her to be her own mirror; for into no other was she able to see.

From ‘Green Holly’ 1944



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2 responses to “Elizabeth Bowen Quotes (3)

  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. I suppose you’ve seen the televisation of The Demon Lover in the old ATV series, Shades of Darkness? The series included a version of Edith Wharton’s Afterwards.

    I found the entire series complete on YouTube last year. There is a DVD collection of course, and it purports to be complete, but lacks the recording of Walter De La Mare’s Seaton’s Aunt. Fortunately, I found that episode too on YT, albeit with slightly distracting large subtitles in Dutch and picture quality inferior to the others.

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