Vera Brittain

English writer (1893-1970)

Vera Mary Brittain (December 29, 1893March 29, 1970) was an English writer, feminist and pacifist, best remembered as the author of the best-selling 1933 memoir Testament of Youth, recounting her experiences during World War I and the growth of her ideology of pacifism.

Meek wifehood is no part of my prodession
Buxton Vera Brittain plaque (46655984384)

Quotes edit

  • Meek wifehood is no part of my profession; / I am your friend, but never your possession.
    • "Married Love", Poems of the War and After (1934)
  • All that a pacifist can undertake — but it is a very great deal — is to refuse to kill, injure or otherwise cause suffering to another human creature, and untiringly to order his life by the rule of love though others may be captured by hate.
    • "What Can We Do In Wartime?", in Forward (Scotland, September 9, 1939)
  • It is probably true to say that the largest scope for change still lies in men’s attitude to women, and in women’s attitude to themselves.
    • Lady into Woman (1953), Chapter 15
  • Politics are usually the executive expression of human immaturity.
    • The Rebel Passion (1964), Chapter 1
  • I know one husband and wife who, whatever the official reasons given to the court for the break up of their marriage, were really divorced because the husband believed that nobody ought to read while he was talking and the wife that nobody ought to talk while she was reading.
    • Quoted in Jilly Cooper and Tom Hartman, Violets and Vinegar, "The Battle Done," (1980)

Testament of Youth (1933) edit

(For a larger collection of quotations, see a page dedicated to this book)

  • I have tried to write the exact truth as I saw and see it about both myself and other people, since a book of this kind has no value unless it is honest... It is not by accident that what I have written constitutes, in effect, the indictment of a civilisation.
    • Foreword
  • "Long ago there lived a rich merchant who, besides possessing more treasures than any king in the world, had in his great hall three chairs, one of silver, one of gold, and one of diamonds. But his greatest treasure of ail was his only daughter, who was called Catherine. One day Catherine was sitting in her own room when suddenly the door flew open, and in came a tall and beautiful woman... 'Catherine... which would you rather have a happy youth or a happy old age?... Then Catherine thought... ‘If I say a happy youth, then I shall have to suffer all the rest of my life. No, I will bear trouble now, and have something better to look forward to.’ So she looked up and said : ‘ Give me a happy old age.’...‘ So be it,’ said the lady...
  • When the Great War broke out, it came to me not as a superlative tragedy, but as an interruption of the most exasperating kind to my personal plans. To explain the reason for this egotistical view of history’s greatest disaster, it is necessary to go back a little... p. 17
    • Chapter I.Forward from Newcastle
  • The fact that his highly respected old friend regarded the presence of women at Oxford as in no way remarkable undoubtedly caused him to revise his opinion on the whole subject of the higher education of daughters.
    • Chapter II. Provincial Young-Ladyhood
  • I am writing this in front of an open casement window overlooking the sea. The sky is cloudless, and the russet sails of the fishing smacks flame in the sun. It is summer but it is not war; and I dare not look at it. It only makes me angry with myself for being here — and with the others for being content to be here. When men whom I have once despised as effeminate are being sent back wounded from the front, when nearly everyone I know is either going or has gone, can I think of this with anything but rage and shame?
    • Chapter III. Oxford versus War
  • It is harder now the spring days are beginning to come... to keep the thought of war before one’s mind - especially here, where there is always a kind of dreamy spell which makes one feel that nothing poignant and terrible can ever come near. Winter departs so early here... ”
    • Chapter III. Oxford versus War
  • Sometimes... I’ve wished I’d never met you — that you hadn’t come to take away my impersonal attitude towards the War and make it a cause of suffering to me as it is to thousands of others. But if I could choose not to have met you, I wouldn’t do it — even though my future had always to be darkened by the shadow of death....[He asked me] "Would you like me any less if I was, say, minus an arm?..." My reply need not be recorded. It brought the tears so near to the surface again that I picked up the coat which I had thrown off, and abruptly said I would lake it upstairs which I did the more promptly when I suddenly realised that he was nearly crying too.
    • Chapter III. Oxford versus War
  • It is still difficult to realise that the moment has actually come at last when 1 shall have no peace of mind any more until the War is over.
    • Chapter III. Oxford versus War
  • How fortunate we were who still had hope, I did not then realise; I could not know how soon the time would come when we should have no more hope, and yet be unable to die. Roland’s letters—the sensitive letters of the newly baptised young soldier, so soon to be hardened by the protective iron of remorseless indifference to horror and pain — made the struggle to concentrate no easier, for they drove me to a feverish searching into fundamental questions to which no immediate answers were forthcoming.
    • Chapter IV. Learning versus Life
  • When I think how suddenly, instantly, a chance bullet may put an end to that brilliant life, may cut it off in its youth and mighty promise, faith in the ‘increasing purpose’ of the ages grows dim.
    • Chapter IV. Learning versus Life
  • We should never be at the mercy of Providence if only we understood that we ourselves are Providence.
    • Chapter X
  • “Oh, life!” I silently petitioned the future... if I do finally decide to marry G. and have a family — and I’m not absolutely certain, yet, that I really want to do either — please grant that I have only daughters; I’m afraid, in the world as it is, to have a son. Our generation is condemned, condemned, and the League, and all that it stands for, is only a brittle toy in the hands of ruthless, primeval forces!”
    • Chapter XII 'Another Stranger'
  • To rescue mankind from that domination by the irrational which leads to war could surely be a more exultant fight than war itself, a fight capable of enlarging the souls of men and women...niting them in one dedicated community whose common purpose transcends the individual.
    • Chapter XII 'Another Stranger'

External links edit