The Autumn Garden dramaturgy: quotes

Table of Contents

Quotes from Lillian Hellman

It’s a sad day when you find out that it’s not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself that kept things from you.

Nobody outside of a baby carriage or a judge’s chamber believes in an unprejudiced point of view.

The past with its pleasures, its rewards, its foolishness, it punishments, is there for each of us forever, and it should be.

Nothing, of course, begins at the time you think it did.

Lillian Hellman, An Unfinished Woman, 1969

I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.

Lillian Hellman, letter to Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives, May 19, 1952

Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth.

Lillian Hellman, The Little Foxes, 1939

There are people who eat earth and eat all the people on it like in the Bible with the locusts. And other people who stand around and watch them eat. –Little Foxes

Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth. –Little Foxes

For every man who lives without freedom, the rest of us must face the guilt. The Watch on the Rhine (1941)

Lonely people, in talking to each other can make each other lonelier. The Autumn Garden (1951)

  • I am ready and willing to testify before the representatives of our Government as to my own opinions and my own actions, regardless of any risks or consequences to myself.
    But I am advised by counsel that if I answer the committee’s questions about myself, I must also answer questions about other people and that if I refuse to do so, I can be cited for contempt. My counsel tells me that if I answer questions about myself, I will have waived my rights under the fifth amendment and could be forced legally to answer questions about others. This is very difficult for a layman to understand. But there is one principle that I do understand: I am not willing, now or in the future, to bring bad trouble to people who, in my past association with them, were completely innocent of any talk or any action that was disloyal or subversive. I do not like subversion or disloyalty in any form and if I had ever seen any I would have considered it my duty to have reported it to the proper authorities. But to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group.

A man should be jailed for telling lies to the young. Candide (1956) a comic operetta based upon the satire by Voltaire.

We will not think noble because we are not noble. We will not live in beautiful harmony because there is no such thing in this world, nor should there be. We promise only to do our best and to live out our lives. Dear God, that’s all we can promise in truth. Candide (1956)

Nothing, of course, begins at the time you think it did. An Unfinished Woman (1969)

I do not believe in recovery. The past with its pleasures, its rewards, its foolishness, its punishments, is there for each of us forever, and it should be. Scoundrel Time (1976)

Old paint on a canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman’s dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter “repented,” changed his mind. Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and then seeing again. That is all I mean about the people in this book. The paint has aged and I wanted to see what was there for me once, what is there for me now. Introduction to Pentimento

[On her own writing] I am a moral writer, often too moral a writer, and I cannot avoid, it seems, the summing-up. I think that is only a mistake when it fails to achieved its purpose, and I would rather make the attempt and fail, than fail to make the attempt.

• For every man who lives without freedom, the rest of us must face the guilt. [Watch on the Rhine, 1941]

• Since when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?

• Fashions in sin change. [Watch on the Rhine, 1941]

• What a word is truth. Slippery, tricky, unreliable. I tried in these books to tell the truth. [Three, 1979]

• Truth made you a traitor as it often does in a time of scoundrels. [Scoundrel Time, 1976]

• If I had to give young writers advice, I’d say don’t listen to writers talk about writing.

• If you believe, as the Greeks did, that man is at the mercy of the gods, then you write tragedy. The end is inevitable from the beginning. But if you believe that man can solve his own problems and is at nobody’s mercy, then you will probably write melodrama.

• Cocaine isn’t habit-forming. I should know – I’ve been using it for years. [Pentimento, 1973]

• People change and forget to tell each other. [Toys in the Attic, 1960]

• My father was often angry when I was most like him.

• I like people who refuse to speak until they are ready to speak.

[About Tallulah Bankhead] Tallulah was sitting in a group of people, giving the monologue she always thought was conversation.

[About her relationship with Dashiell Hammett] It was an unspoken pleasure, that having come together so many years, ruined so much and repaired a little, we had endured.

People change and forget to tell each other.

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One Response

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