Elizabeth Bowen

Anglo-Irish novelist and diarist

Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen (June 7 1899February 22 1973) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.

Elizabeth Bowen in 1933


  • "What's the matter with this country is the matter with the lot of us individually— our sense of personality is a sense of outrage and we'll never get outside of it."

    But the hold of the country was that, she considered, it could be thought of in terms of oneself, so interpreted.

  • Fate is not an eagle, it creeps like a rat.
  • This is the worst of love, this unmeant mystification — someone smiling and going out without saying where, or a letter arriving, being read in your presence, put away, not explained, or: "No, alas, I can't to-night" on the telephone — that, one person having set up without knowing, the other cannot undo without the where? who? why? that brings them both down a peg. Jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies.
  • And yet in a way I would rather fail point blank. Things one can do have no value. I don't mind feeling small myself, but I dread finding the world is.
  • It is a wary business, walking about a strange house you are to know well. Only cats and dogs with their more expressive bodies enact the tension we share with them at such times. The you inside you gathers up defensively: something is stealing upon you every moment; you will never be quite the same again. These new unsmiling lights, reflections and objects are to become your memories, riveted to you closer than friends or lovers, going with you, even, into the grave: worse, they may become dear and fasten like so many leeches on your heart.
  • Experience isn't interesting until it begins to repeat itself — in fact, till it does that, it hardly is experience.
    • Part 1, chapter 1
  • Intimacies between women go backwards, beginning in revelations and ending up in small talk without loss of esteem.
  • Only in a house where one has learnt to be lonely does one have this solicitude for things. One's relation to them, the daily seeing or touching, begins to become love, and to lay one open to pain.
    • Part 2, chapter 2
  • The heart may think it knows better: the senses know that absence blots people out. We have really no absent friends.
    • Part 2, chapter 2

A Time in Rome (1960)

London: Longmans, 1960
  • [T]here is a flaw in civilization from the instant it has to admit fear.
    • Ch. I, p. 23
  • [U]ntruths are thieves, robbing us of a birthright.
    • Ch. II, p. 59
  • Cicero, in invoking the law of heaven, invoked what was by nature of heaven: law — inviolable principle, better than the vacillating gods.
    • Ch. III, p. 80
  • It is thought that women inspire by their beauty; more often they do so by their longings.
    • Ch. IV, p. 132
  • I am sick of the governessy attitude of our age, which is coming to be more genuinely presumptuous, nosier and more busybody than the Victorian.
    • Ch. V, p. 141
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