THE RAZOR’S EDGE – W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM.

1. Death ends all things and so is the comprehensive conclusion of a story, but marriage finishes it very properly too and the sophisticated are ill-advised to sneer at what is by convention termed a happy ending. (p.1)

2. For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they were born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives’ tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. (p.3)

3. Gregory Brabazon, notwithstanding his name, was not a romantic creature. (p.15)

4. ‘When you’re eighteen your emotions are violent, but they’re not durable.’ (p.42)

5. ‘Am I really a traitor to my country because I want to spend a few years educating myself?’ (p.74)

6. ‘(…) because interesting people generally don’t have a lot of money.’ (p.77)

7. ‘Larry, if you love me you won’t give me up for a dream. You’ve had your fling. Come back with us to America.’

‘I can’t, darling. It would be death to me. It would be the betrayal of my soul.’ (p.79)

8. 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. (p.82)

9. (…) and she held herself with the graceful ease of a girl who has played outdoor games since childhood. (p.89)

10. She was in short sexually a very attractive young woman. Had I been her mother I should have thought it high time she was married. (p.89)

11. But the worm sometimes turns. (p.90)

12. ‘What I’m trying to tell you is that there are men who are possessed by an urge so strong to do some particular thing that they can’t help themselves, they’ve got to do it. They’re prepared to sacrifice everything to satisfy their yearning.’

‘Even the people who love them?’

‘Oh, yes.’

‘Is that anything more than plain selfishness?’

‘I wouldn’t know,’ I smiled. (p.94)

13. ‘You know, in learning there’s the lone wolf as well as the wolf who runs in the pack. I think Larry is one of those persons who can go no other way than their own.’ (p.95)

14. Legs are the undoing of many a comely woman; (…) (p. 146)

15. The same thing is true of London, but in a less marked degree; there birds of a feather flock much less together, and there are a dozen houses where at the same table you may meet a duchess, an actress, a painter, a member of Parliament, a lawyer, a dressmaker, and an author. (p.152)

16. I was slightly disconcerted by his reply. In that room, with its fine furniture, with those lovely drawings on the walls, the word fell like a plop of water that has seeped through the ceiling from an overflowing bath. (p.166)

17. ‘Because American women expect to find in their husbands a perfection that English women only hope to find in their butlers.’ (p.175)

18. ‘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.’ (p.175)

19. ‘Something like the reflection of a tree in water; it couldn’t exist without the tree, but it doesn’t in anyway affect the tree. I think it’s all stuff and nonsense to say that there can be love without passion; when people say love can endure after passion is dead they’re talking of something else, affection, kindliness, community of taste and interest, and habit. Especially habit. Two people can go on having sexual intercourse from habit in just the same way as they grow hungry at the hour they’re accustomed to have their meals. Of course there can be desire without love. Desire isn’t passion. Desire is the natural consequence of the sexual instinct and it isn’t of any more importance than any other function of the human animal. That’s why women are foolish to make a song and dance if their husbands have an occasional flutter when the time and the place are propitious.’

‘Does that apply only to men?’

I smiled.

‘If you insist I’ll admit that what is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. The only thing to be said against it is that with a man a passing connexion of that sort has no emotional significance, while with a woman it has.’

‘It depends on the woman.’ (p.181)

20. Passion is destructive. It destroyed Anthony and Cleopatra, Tristan and Isolde, Parnell and Kitty O’Shea. And if it doesn’t destroy it dies. (p.181)

21. ‘My instinct told me I’d be silly to fall in love with him, you know women are very unfortunate, so often when they fall in love they cease to be lovable, and I made up my mind to be on my guard.’ (p.200)

22. Sodden with drink as she was, she had a bold-faced shamelessness that I could well imagine appealed to all that was base in men. (p.207)

23. ‘I suppose it was the end of the world for her when her husband and her baby were killed. I suppose she didn’t care what became of her and flung herself into the horrible degradation of drink and promiscuous copulation to get even with life that had treated her so cruelly. She’d lived in heaven and when she lost it she couldn’t put up with the common earth of common men, but in despair plunged headlong into hell. I can imagine that if she couldn’t drink the nectar of the gods any more she thought she might as well drink bathroom gin.’ (p.212)

24. (…) he said as calmly as if he was going to have a second helping of potatoes. (p.220)

25. ‘She’s soused from morning till night. She goes to bed with every tough who asks her.’

‘That doesn’t mean she’s bad. Quite a number of highly respected citizens get drunk and have a liking for rough trade. They’re bad habits, like biting one’s nails, but I don’t know that they’re worse than that. I call a person bad who lies and cheats and is unkind.’ (p.221)

26. So easy is it to make a woman see reason if you only tell her the truth. (p.223)

27. ‘I only wanted to suggest to you that self-confidence is a passion so overwhelming that beside it even lust and hunger are trifling. It whirls its victim to destruction in the highest affirmation of his personality. The object doesn’t matter; it may be worth while or it may be worthless. No wine so intoxicating, no love so shattering, no vice so compelling. When he sacrifices himself man for a moment is greater than God, for how can God, infinite and omnipotent, sacrifice himself? At best he can only sacrifice his only begotten son.’

‘Oh, Christ, how you bore me,’ said Isabel. (p.225)

28. ‘Can anything in the world be more practical than to learn how to live to best advantage?’ (p.226)

29. ‘Believe me, my dear fellow,’ he went on after a pause, ‘there’ll be none of this damned equality in heaven.’ (p.258)

30. It made me sad to think how silly, useless, and trivial his life had been. It mattered very little now that he had gone to so many parties and had hobnobbed with all those princes, dukes, and counts. They had forgotten him already. (p.259)

31. Art is triumphant when it can use convention as an instrument of its own purpose. (p.264)

32. ‘”Our wise old Church,” he said then, “has discovered that if you will act as if you believed belief will be granted to you; if you pray with doubt, but pray with sincerity, your doubt will be dispelled; if you will surrender yourself to the beauty of that liturgy the power of which over the human spirit has been proved by the experience of the ages, peace will descend upon you.”‘ (p.273)

33. ‘A God that can be understood is no God. Who can explain the Infinite in words?’ (p.282)

34. ‘I’ve always felt that there was something pathetic in the founders of religion who made it a condition of salvation that you should believe in them. It’s as though they needed your faith to have faith in themselves. They remind you of those old pagan gods who grew wan and faint if they were not sustained by the burnt offerings of the devout.’ (p.292)

35. I have found myself in the course of my life in many strange situations. More than once I have been within a hair’s breadth of death. More than once I have touched hands with romance and known it. I have ridden a pony through Central Asia along the road that Marco Polo took to reach the fabulous lands of Cathay; I have drunk a glass of Russian tea in a prim parlour in Petrograd while a soft-spoken little man in a black coat and striped trousers told me how he had assassinated a grand duke. I have sat in a drawing-room in Westminster and listened to the serene geniality of a piano trio of Haydn’s while the bombs were crashing without; but I do not think I have ever found myself in a stranger situation than when I sat on the red-plush seats of that garish restaurant for hour after hour while Larry talked of God and eternity, of the Absolute and the weary wheel of endless becoming. (p.294)

36. ‘But endless duration makes good no better, nor white any whiter. If the rose at noon has lost the beauty it had at dawn, the beauty it had then was real. 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.’ (p.301)

37. ‘You know, the Philistines have long since discarded the rack and stake as a means of suppressing the opinions they feared: they’ve discovered a much more deadly weapon of destruction – the wisecrack.’ (p.305)

38. ‘Believe me, my dear friend, people can say what they like, but marriage still remains the most satisfactory profession a woman can adopt.’ (p.336)

39. ‘Life would be even harder for us poor women than it is if it were not for the unbelievable vanity of men.’ (p.336)

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