A. Wyatt Tilby


Below is a selection of memorable quotes from A Stiff-Necked Generation:

"If ever I founded a new religion, and required a symbol of the merciless judge, I should set up the image of a child of ten in the temple of penitence"

“...reticence is only another word for putting your head in a bag and pretending it isn’t there. English people, particularly in our class of life, are too fond of putting their heads in bags, but they taught me better than that in France. In France you say what you mean; in England the highest virtue is that you don’t say what you don’t mean”.

"His unspoken generalisation, that hasty assumption of the immature male, that a girl’s brain is necessarily inferior to a boy’s, was instantly divined by Henrietta and properly rebuked; “Little boys think women are inferior to men — that’s ignorance. Young men think women are superior to men — that’s folly or love or both. Grown men know that women are neither superior nor inferior to men, but altogether different, in mind as well an in body — that’s wisdom.”

"They say of some trivial expense that it neither makes one or breaks one. But I think that by the middle of our life the world has either made or broken most of us, and although we may not know it, some small trial or triumph reveals it to us in a flash. One man is successful, and begins to ease his stroke at the oar and look about him, another less fortunate already thinks of life as something to be got through. Perhaps there comes a time to nearly all of us when life is for a while no longer a thing to be enjoyed but to be endured, when the ordered monotony of existence seems an unending banality, and circumstance hedges us about with an impregnable wall. Mostly this does not happen until the fifties; if it comes when one is still young it makes for revolution and disorder in the State; but if one is already middle-aged it turns to — what does it not turn to? It leads some of us to religion, some to a fantastic philosophy, some to the study of an abstruse hobby, some, and those the weaker ones, to mere dull acquiescence. These last are the only hopeless cases; the rest of us get over this silent tragedy of middle life, and regain our interest as the pace quickens and we go downhill."

"It was a very old and musty little drama that Cyril had played in, and millions of couples before him have acted the parts in their day. But these time-worn amateur theatricals differ from all professional mumming in this, that what is undiluted tragedy at the time becomes mild comedy in the retrospect. Only, as the actors are always new, they imagine the drama is new too, and the spectators in the stalls smile — or go to sleep. They recognise this sorry stuff for what it is worth."