Quotations by Connolly, Cyril


All State propaganda exalts comradeship, for it is this gregarious herd-sense and herd-smell which keeps people from thinking and so reconsiles them to the destruction of their private lives.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
“Ecce Gubernator,” The Unquiet Grave (1945)
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Added on 13-Sep-12 | Last updated 2-Jul-20
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Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
“Miscellany: Last Words,” The New Statesman (25 Feb 1933)
Added on 29-Mar-22 | Last updated 29-Mar-22
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In relation to his public, the artist of to-day […] walks at first with his companions, till one day he falls through a hole in the brambles, and from that moment is following the dark rapids of an underground river which may sometimes flow so near the surface that the laughing picnic parties are heard above, only to re-immerse itself in the solitude of the limestone and carry him along its winding tunnel, until it gushes out through the misty creeper-hung cave which he has always believed to exist, and sets him back in the sun.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
“Writers and Society, 1940-3” (1943), The Condemned Playground (1946)
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Added on 17-Jul-20 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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Always be nice to those younger than you, because they are the ones who will be writing about you.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
(Attributed)
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Comment to author, David Pryce-Jones, Cyril Connolly: Journal and Memoir (1983)
Added on 17-Sep-14 | Last updated 17-Sep-14
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The man who is master of his passions is Reason’s slave.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
(Attributed)
Added on 5-Jan-21 | Last updated 5-Jan-21
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All charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, ch. 16 (1938)
Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 16-Aug-21
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Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once, and they require separate techniques.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, Part 1, ch. 3 “The Challenge of the Mandarins” (1938)
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Added on 5-Apr-22 | Last updated 5-Apr-22
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Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first call promising. Young writers if they are to mature require a period of between three and seven years in which to live down their promise. Promise is like the mediaeval hangman who after settling the noose, pushed his victim off the platform and jumped on his back, his weight acting a drop while his jockeying arms prevented the unfortunate from loosening the rope. When he judged him dead he dropped to the ground.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, Part 2, ch. 13 “The Poppies” (1938)
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Added on 12-Apr-22 | Last updated 12-Apr-22
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Popular success is a palace built for a writer by publishers, journalists, admirers and professional reputation makers, in which a silent army of termites, rats, dry rot and death-watch beetles are tunnelling away, till, at the very moment of completion, it is ready to fall down. The one hope for a writer is that although his enemies are often unseen they are seldom unheard. He must listen for the death-watch, listen for the faint toc-toc, the critic’s truth sharpened by envy, the embarrassed praise of a sincere friend, the silence of gifted contemporaries, the implications of the don in the manger, the visitor in the small hours. He must dismiss the builders and contractors, elude the fans with an assumed name and dark glasses, force his way off the moving staircase, subject every thing he writes to a supreme critical court. Would it amuse Horace or Milton or Swift or Leopardi? Could it be read to Flaubert? Would it be chosen by the Infallible Worm, by the discriminating palates of the dead?

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, Part 2, ch. 15 “The Slimy Mallows” (1938)
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Added on 19-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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You imply our education is of no use to you in after life. But no education is. We are not an employment agency; all we can do is to give you a grounding in the art of mixing with your fellow men, to tell you what to expect from life and give you an outward manner and inward poise, an old prescription from the eighteenth century which we call a classical education, an education which confers the infrequent virtues of good sense and good taste and the benefit of dual nationality, English and Mediterranean, and which, taking into account the difficulties of modern life, we find the philosophy best able to overcome them.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, Part 3, ch. 24 “Vale” (1938)
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Speaking as a personified Eton College.
Added on 26-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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No education is worth having that does not teach the lesson of concentration on a task, however unattractive. These lessons, if not learnt early, will be learnt, if at all, with pain and grief in later life.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, Part 3, ch. 24 “Vale” (1938)
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Speaking as a personified Eton College, quoting one of the masters there.
Added on 3-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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The goal of every culture is to decay through over-civilization; the factors of decadence, — luxury, skepticism, weariness and superstition, — are constant. The civilization of one epoch becomes the manure of the next.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave (1944)
Added on 13-Feb-17 | Last updated 13-Feb-17
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The civilized are those who get more out of life than the uncivilized, and for this the uncivilized have not forgiven them.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave (1944)
Added on 20-Feb-17 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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The reward of art is not fame or success but intoxication: that is why so many bad artists are unable to give it up.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave (1944)
Added on 15-Jul-21 | Last updated 15-Jul-21
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In my religion there would be no exclusive doctrine; all would be love, poetry and doubt.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave (1945)
Added on 11-Dec-07 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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The dread of loneliness is greater than the fear of bondage, so we get married.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, “Ecce Gubernator” (1945)
Added on 9-Sep-11 | Last updated 9-Sep-11
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There are many who dare not kill themselves for fear of what the neighbors will say.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, ch. 2 “Te Palinure Petens” (1945)
Added on 22-Aug-13 | Last updated 7-May-15
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A stone lies in a river; a piece of wood is jammed against it; dead leaves, drifting logs, and branches caked with mud collect; weeds settle there, and soon birds have made a nest and are feeding their young among the blossoming water plants. Then the river rises and the earth is washed away. The birds depart, the flowers wither, the branches are dislodged and drift downward; no trace is left of the floating island but a stone submerged by the water; — such is our personality.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, Part 1 “Ecce Gubernator” (1944)
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Added on 17-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, Part 2 “Te Palinure Petens” (1944)
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Added on 31-May-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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The river of truth is always splitting up into arms that reunite. Islanded between them, the inhabitants argue for a lifetime as to which is the mainstream.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, Part 3 “La Clé des Chants” (1944)
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Often misquoted:

Truth is a river that is always splitting up into arms that reunite. Islanded between the arms, the inhabitants argue for a lifetime as to which is the main river.
Added on 14-Jun-22 | Last updated 14-Jun-22
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There is no hate without fear. Hate is crystallized fear, fear’s dividend, fear objectivized. We hate what we fear and so where hate is, fear will be lurking. Thus we hate what threatens our person, our liberty, our privacy, our income, our popularity, our vanity and our dreams and plans for ourselves.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, Part 3 “La Clé des Chants” (1944)
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Added on 28-Jun-22 | Last updated 28-Jun-22
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Our memories are card-indexes consulted and then put back in disorder by authorities whom we do not control.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, Part 3 “La Clé des Chants” (1944)
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Added on 5-Jul-22 | Last updated 5-Jul-22
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