They and I by Jerome K. Jerome

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

• I wonder to myself sometimes, Is literature to the general imagesreader ever anything more than a fairy-tale? We write with our heart’s blood, as we put it. We ask our conscience, Is it right thus to lay bare the secrets of our souls? The general reader does not grasp that we are writing with our heart’s blood: to him it is just ink. He does not believe we are laying bare the secrets of our souls: he takes it we are just pretending

• A farmer has a way of standing on one leg and looking at a thing that isn’t there. It sounds simple, but there is knack in it. The farmer is not surprised it is not there. He never expected it to be there. It is one of those things that ought to be, and is not. The farmer’s life is full of such. Suffering reduced to a science is what the farmer stands for

• He is tall and thin, with a sensitive, mobile face, and a curious trick of taking his head every now and again between his hands, as if to be sure it is still there

• To pay your dividend—to earn your two thousand—you have to do work that brings you no pleasure in the doing. Content with five hundred, you could afford to do only that work that does give you pleasure

• In the perfect world the thinker would be worth more than the mere jester. In the perfect world the farmer would be worth more than the stockbroker

• never minds what happens to him, and is equally contented if it doesn’t

• The influences that make for reformation in human character are subtle and unexpected

• Hers is that type of beauty that escapes attention by its own perfection. It is the eccentric, the discordant, that arrests the roving eye. To harmony one has to attune oneself

• She had a temper—a woman without a temper is insipid; but it was that kind of temper that made you love her all the more

• Subjects that I feel will never be of the slightest interest or consequence to me have been insisted upon with almost tiresome reiteration

• the writer of books is, generally speaking, an exceptionally moral man. That is what leads him astray: he is too good

• In the book, you, not he, would have tumbled over the mat. In this wicked world it is the wicked who prosper

• That will be our chief pleasure—making them good and happy. It won’t be their pleasure, but that will be owing to their ignorance

• We will let them play games—not stupid games, golf and croquet, that do you no good and lead only to language and dispute—but bears and wolves and whales; educational sort of games that will aid them in acquiring knowledge of natural history. We will show them how to play Pirates and Red Indians and Ogres—sensible play that will help them to develop their imaginative faculties

• But we, of course, must choose their friends for them—nice, well-behaved ladies and gentlemen, the parents of respectable children

• I’m not quite sure what fool it was who described a bore as a man who talked about himself. As a matter of fact it is the only subject the average man knows sufficiently well to make interesting

• “When our desires leave us, says Rochefoucauld,” I remarked, “we pride ourselves upon our virtue in having overcome them.”

• The screech-owl in the yew-tree emitted a blood-curdling scream. He perches there each evening on the extreme end of the longest bough. Dimly outlined against the night, he has the appearance of a friendly hobgoblin. But I wish he didn’t fancy himself as a vocalist. It is against his own interests, I am sure, if he only knew it. That American college yell of his must have the effect of sending every living thing within half a mile back into its hole

• A lover does not point out his mistress’s shortcomings to her

• Our modern morality! Why, compared with the teachings of nature, it is but a few days old

• It will not be me that he will want: only my youth, and the novelty of me, and the mystery. And when that is gone—

• when Love’s frenzy is faded, like the fragrance of the blossom, like the splendour of the dawn; there will remain to you, just what was there before—no more, no less

• If passion was all you had to give to one another, God help you. You have had your hour of madness. It is finished. If greed of praise and worship was your price—well, you have had your payment. The bargain is complete

• What remains to you will depend not upon what you THOUGHT, but upon what you ARE

• If behind the lover there was the man—behind the impossible goddess of his love-sick brain some honest, human woman, then life lies not behind you, but before you

• Life is giving, not getting

• The lover’s delight is to yield, not to claim

• Life is doing, not having

• The passion passes to give place to peace. The trembling lover has become the helper, the comforter, the husband

• the whole art of marriage is the art of getting on with the other fellow. It means patience, self- control, forbearance. It means the laying aside of our self-conceit and admitting to ourselves that, judged by eyes less partial than our own, there may be much in us that is objectionable, that calls for alteration. It means toleration for views and opinions diametrically opposed to our most cherished convictions. It means, of necessity, the abandonment of many habits and indulgences that however trivial have grown to be important to us. It means the shaping of our own desires to the needs of others

• They cry with one voice, “Give us back our Youth with its burdens, and a heart to bear them! Give us back Life with its mingled bitter and sweet!”

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