Ivy Compton-Burnett

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A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
George Bernard Shaw
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Dame Ivy Compton-Burnett, DBE (1884-06-051969-08-27) was an award-winning English novelist.


  • A leopard does not change his spots, or change his feeling that spots are rather a credit.
    • More Women than Men (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, [1933] 1951) p. 54.
  • "Well, of course, people are only human," said Dudley to his brother, as they walked to the house behind the women. "But it really does not seem much for them to be."
    • A Family and a Fortune (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, [1939] 1949) p. 54.
  • As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.
    • "A Conversation Between I. Compton-Burnett and M. Jourdain", in R. Lehmann et al. (eds.) Orion (London: Nicholson & Watson, 1945) vol. 1, p. 2.
  • "Appearances are not held to be a clue to the truth," said his cousin. "But we seem to have no other."
  • "Time has too much credit," said Bridget. "I never agree with the compliments paid to it. It is not a great healer. It is an indifferent and perfunctory one. Sometimes it does not heal at all. And sometimes when it seems to, no healing has been necessary."
    • Darkness and Day (London: Victor Gollancz, [1951] 1974) p. 216.


  • Pushing forty? She's clinging on to it for dear life!
    • A common misattribution first made by Nigel Rees in Quote…Unquote 3 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1983) as the result of a mishearing, and withdrawn by him in Cassell Companion to Quotations (London: Cassell, 1997) p. 179.


  • In the age of the concentration camp, when from 1935 to 1947 or so, she wrote her very best novels, no writer did more to illumine the springs of human cruelty, suffering and bravery.
  • Un des plus grands romanciers que l'Angleterre ait jamais eus.
    • One of the greatest novelists that England has ever had.
    • Nathalie Sarraute L'Ère du soupçon (Paris: Gallimard, 1956) p. 119; Maria Jolas (trans.) The Age of Suspicion (New York: George Braziller, 1963) p. 112.

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