We who are of mature age seldom suspect how unmercifully and yet with what insight the very young judge us.
‘He gives me such an odd impression sometimes; he gives me the impression of a sleep-walker who's suddenly wakened in a strange place and can't think where he is.‘
You could not but be conscious that their lives were a desperate struggle to maintain their fading charms. They talked with inanity in a loud, metallic voice without a moment's pause as though afraid that if they were silent for an instant the machine would run down and the artificial construction which was all they were would fall to pieces.
As any writer will tell you, people do tell a writer things that they don't tell others. I don't know why, unless it is that having read one or two of his books they feel on peculiarly intimate terms with him; or it may be that they dramatize themselves and, seeing themselves as it were as characters in a novel, are ready to be as open with him as they imagine the characters of his invention are.
A chill went down my spine as it strangely does when I am confronted with deep and genuine human emotion. I find it terrible and rather awe-inspiring.
‘I've always said that eight was the perfect number,' said Elliott, determined to look on the bright side of things. ‘It's intimate enough to permit of general conversation and yet large enough to give the impression of a party.'
One of the defects of my character is that I can never grow used to the plainness of people; however sweet a disposition a friend of mine may have, years of intimacy can never reconcile me to his bad teeth or lopsided nose: on the other hand I never cease to delight in his comeliness and after twenty years of familiarity I am still able to take pleasure in a well-shaped brow or the delicate line of a cheekbone.
‘Hasn't it struck you that when he's with us, easy as he is to get on with, friendly and sociable, one's conscious of a sort of detachment in him, as though he weren't giving all of himself, but withheld in some hidden part of his soul something I don't know what it is – a tension, a secret, an aspiration, a knowledge – that sets him apart?'
'I'm a human being and I treat them as human beings. A mother only does her children harm if she makes them the only concern of her life.'
Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premiss of our philosophy. We can none of us step into the same river twice, but the river flows on and the other river we step into is cool and refreshing too.
He is without ambition and he has no desire for fame; to become anything of a public figure would be deeply distasteful to him; and so it may be that he is satisfied to lead his chosen life and be no more than just himself. He is too modest to set himself up as an example to others; but it may be he thinks that a few uncertain souls, drawn to him like moths to a candle, will be brought in time to share his own glowing belief that ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the life of the spirit, and that by himself following with selflessness and renunciation the path of perfection he will serve as well as if he wrote books or addressed multitudes.