AN ERROR OF JUDGEMENT – PAMELA HANSFORD JOHNSON (BARONESS SNOW)

1. The thought was displeasing and smacked of treachery. (p.9)

2. He wanted to talk, and it would be easy. Neither of us had anything to do with the earth below or the people upon it, only, for the moment, with each other. (p.28)

3. It seems to me that although no decent person does like himself much, or rather, admire himself much, most of us manage to achieve quite good relations with the man within. After all, I have a good many friends of whom I am fond, whose admirable qualities seem to me practically non-existent. We do not love for virtue’s sake. Virtue is fine, but it is not, and has never been, an awakener of affection. About virtue (and about vice, too) there is nothing cuddlesome. (p.29)

4. (…) stopwatch patience, as of a mother who has drawn the bath ten minutes ago and is waiting for her snail-like infant to put his toys away. (p.36)

5. I asked if there were any common denominator, besides a general air of ill-health and dinginess. (p.49)

6. He bounced up and down on his pouffe, looking like a gleeful ape. (p.50)

7. She felt the fear of the flesh. (p.50)

8. He was as insulated as the mercury in a thermometer. (p.58)

9. In any discovery of this sort we are tormented doubly: first, because out trust has been laid in ruins, second, because we are made utterly ridiculous. We stand alone: and the one who stood, we believed, at our side, is now apart from us, across a great river, laughing at us with her friend behind her hand. Our side is laid naked from shoulder to knee. We were clothed by the body who stood at our right hand. Now we are horribly cold, and the wind goes through us, and everybody is laughing like hell, all the wise people who know, who knew, who have always known. When we see them next time they will be very, very nice to us, and modestly lower their eyelids. (p.77)

10. She turned to him the dark, tragic olive of her eyes. (p.82)

11. It was the measure of my failure, that she dared to kiss me, knowing I was powerless as a gelded tomcat. (p.113)

12. If a man is going to be romantic in one way, he will be in all the others. (p.117)

13. London enclosed me like the womb, liver-coloured, restrictive, gentle in its deplorable suction. (p.119)

14. (…) we had an infinite number of things to talk about. Down-to-earth things, which are the tentpegs of a potentially rebellious life. (p.119)

15. All the world didn’t love a lover: it hated a lover. Jealousy crawled in the world’s intestines whenever some besotted maverick laid claim to personal happiness. (p.121)

16. She was peering into my face, as if it were a newspaper. (p.124)

17. Silence ticked in the room like a grandfather clock. (p.127)

18. After an exhausting hour of real and fake emotions, tears, smiles, rages, Lake District calms, I had to agree, of course, to forget about the whole thing. (p.127)

19. We sat in the limey, grainy dust of his room, in the sadness of all that is beyond repair, books whose covers are torn, ceilings that stain at the corners, and I heard the thinly romantic limp of the second movement, talking, I thought, about the sadness of rooms such as Setter’s but with only half the mind given to it, the other half being given to dead infantas. (p.139)

20. (…) and his little blue eyes were Russian and vague. (p.139)

21. His adam’s apple rose and fell like the indicator of a life. (p.145)

22. Alone, he went away from me, vaguely purposeful as a policeman pounding a beat, left me standing as though we had quarrelled. (p.150)

23. Hope, that sickener, rose in me again. I never do learn. I never learn anything. (p.155)

24. (…) and the air is close and brown. (p.155)

25. At one in the morning we walked through the brown and blazing night, past the laurels, the crumbling steps, the odorous dustbins, (…) (p.157)

26. The majority of lives, however, fade gently away without a noticeable peroration or a final curtain. With the excitements wrung out of them, they just go on and on and on. (p.159)

27. In my masochistic dreams, I saw myself in a frilly apron. (p.159)

28. And his enemy was not the tools of harm, but the harm he fancied within himself, built into his own being, as much part of the total structure as rib-cage or spinal column. (p.161)

29. It was a mild, dampish day wth an oysterlike sun in the sky, (…) (p.165)

30. Fortunately for us, evil never happens on the day of its premonition, or joy on the day we wake up certain of it. (p.168)

31. In the icy street, still gaudy with the light of the dead shops, I realized that he, too, was somewhat the worse for wear. He was walking carefully, with the precision of a sidesman carrying a bounteous plate to the altar rails. A little more dignified than usual, Setter was: a little more grave. I have often thought, in my own cunning, drunken moments, when I have hoped to evade comment, that it is by the ‘little more’ that we betray ourselves. We have to relax, even to slouch; but never to be slightly more of our natural selves than we naturally are. (p.183)

32. A snaggle of prostitutes on a corner had greetings for us. (p.183)

33. The hour was dangerous: we knew the intoxication of borrowed time. (p.188)

34. She raised her head, confronting me and herself in the mirror, a drowned girl, sickly as a beached mermaid. (p.192)

35. Horrible mornings of strife, of weeping, of rapid patchings-up because there was a train to catch. No, I saw nothing wrong with Jenny’s neck, Jenny’s midriff. (It struck me how boring women could be with their worries about beauty vanishing. As if a husband cares! Boring, boring… Men are terribly bored by women, more often than women like to think, and it is always because women set such store by physical brightness, physical tautness, physical skills. I think they are encouraged in this by all the younger American novelists and a good many of the old ones. This mania for flesh comme il faut, for the adolescent image! It is hardly ever a reality in women after the age of twenty.) I loved Jenny. To me, an ounce extra on the waistline was a precious ounce more of Jenny. Could she really not see it? (p.193)

36. The sky was like milk left a bit too long in the fridge, not curdled exactly, but not fresh either. (p.194)

37. Work, work! Work was pure, creamy, dairy-pure, uncomplicated, joyful. (p.194)

38. His own eyes, at that moment, were opaque, the eyes of a clever child who has settled a problem in trigonometry. If you look into the eyes of the very clever, I think you will find that they are pretty pebbly: certainty breeds opacity, as well it might. At the end of all things is the stone, the certainty. But if you look into the eyes of the medium-clever, the hopefully-clever, the aspiring, then you will see clear waters in which all sorts of organisms may breed, all sorts of tiddlers become apparent, ripe for the jam-jar. (p.200)

39. – to sit at this beer-slopped table in this featureless pub (…) (p.203)

40. Bernard was pleasing, amusing, empty. (p.208)

41. These boring record and some boring colour films of Bernard and Emily like seals on rocks and like tourists in flower-markets, holding hands with the infant population, concluded a boring evening. (p.209)

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