Christina Stead: Quotes from a Curmudgeon

Chrinstina Stead

Christina Stead (1902 –  1983), the Australian-born  novelist and short story writer, was best known for the novel The Man Who Loved Children.  

The author of fifteen novels and numerous short stories, Stead never gained the success she felt she deserved. Viewed as  a misanthrope and curmudgeon, she was a largely unapproachable person who revealed little of herself even as she self-invented. She destroyed many of her personal papers, making it more difficult to preserve her legacy.

In her works, the main characters were often based on herself and the stories very close to her own life. Here are quotes from this talented but somewhat embittered author:

“Creation of something out of nothing is the most primitive of human passions and the most optimistic.” (“The Writers Take Sides,” report on the First International Congress of Writers, Paris, June 1935, The Left Review, 1935)

. . . . . . . . . .

“I don’t know what imagination is, if not an unpruned, tangled kind of memory.” (Letty Fox: Her Luck, 1946)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Everyone likes the obscene; that is real life.” (For Love Alone, 1945)

. . . . . . . . . .

“A woman is a hunter without a forest.” (For Love Alone, 1945)

. . . . . . . . . .

“A single girl must lead a double life don’t you think?”

. . . . . . . . . .

“A bank is a confidence trick. If you put up the right signs, the wizards of finance themselves will come in and ask you to take their money.” (House of all Nations, 1938)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Give me your honest opinion. I don’t want truth with a veil on — I like naked ladies naked.” (Miss Herbert, 1976)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Every human being is a sort of monster, if you get to know them.”

. . . . . . . . . .

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

. . . . . . . . . .

“Financiers are great mythomaniacs, their explanations and superstitions are those of primitive men; the world is a jungle to them. They perceive acutely that they are at the dawn of economic history.” (House of all Nations, 1938)

. . . . . . . . . .

“James Joyce is the new Euphues: the melting pot of the language and of present literary idiom and banality.” (A Web of Friendship: Selected Letters: 1928-1973, from a letter, to her cousin Gwen Walker-Smith, July 26 1932)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Every work of art should give utterance, or indicate, the awful blind strength and the cruelty of the creative impulse, that is why they must all have what are called errors, both of taste and style.” (A Web of Friendship: Selected Letters: 1928-1973; from a letter, to father’s wife, April 6, 1942)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Life is nothing but rags and tags and filthy rags at that. Why was I ever born?” (The Man Who Loved Children, 1940)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Behind the concept of woman’s strangeness is the idea that a woman may do anything: she is below society, not bound by its law, unpredictable; an attribute given to every member of the league of the unfortunate.” (In “About Women’s Intuition There is a Sort of Folklore We Inherit,”  Vogue, 1971)

. . . . . . . . . .

“You want to be free and break new ground, speak your mind, fear no man, have the neighbours acknowledge that you’re a good man; and at the same time you want to be a success, make money, join the country club, get the votes and kick the other man in the teeth and off the ladder.” (I’m Dying Laughing, 1987)

. . . . . . . . . .

“If all the rich people in the world divided up their money among themselves there wouldn’t be enough to go around.” (House of all Nations, 1938)

. . . . . . . . . .

“The more we know, the better our intuitions.” (In “About Women’s Intuition There is a Sort of Folklore We Inherit,” Vogue, 1971)

. . . . . . . . . .

“A lie is real; it aims at success. A liar is a realist.” (Letty Fox: Her Luck, 1946)


Christina Stead

. . . . . . . . . .

“Strange is the influence of Marx on character.” (Seven Poor Men of Sydney, 1934) 

. . . . . . . . . .

“Humorists are always pessimists. They’re reactionaries: because they see that every golden cloud has a black lining.” (I’m Dying Laughing, 1987)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Old age and youth cannot live together.” (For Love Alone, 1945)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Intuition is not infallible; it only seems to be the truth. It is a message which we may interpret wrongly.” (InAbout Women’s Intuition There is a Sort of Folklore We Inherit,” Vogue, 1971)

. . . . . . . . . .

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

Christina Stead page on Amazon

. . . . . . . . . .

“Each Australian is a Ulysses.” (For Love Alone, 1945)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Socialist writers are made of sterner stuff than those who only let their characters steeplechase through trouble in order to come out first in the happy ending of moral uplift.” (“Pro and Con on Aragon,” The New Masses, 1942)

. . . . . . . . . .

“It is a rule of creative ability that it does nothing of any value, while it is possessed by this afflatus of vanity.” (House of all Nations, 1938)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Men never believe a woman can do anything.” (House of all Nations, 1938)

. . . . . . . . . .

Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead

See also: Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead

. . . . . . . . . .

“I shall never be a dangerous woman; I can make men love, but I cannot make them suffer. It would be much better the other way about. I have seen women able to make men suffer who could not make them love. The more they suffered the more they hung around for a showdown. In the end they did better than I, for it is strange what people will do to be able to suffer and say to themselves, in the night, “I have suffered, I have lived indeed.” (Letty Fox: Her Luck, 1946)

. . . . . . . . . .

“All middle-class novels are about the trials of three, all upper-class novels about mass fornication, all revolutionary novels about a bad man turned good by a tractor.” (The Beauties and Furies, 1936)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Altruism is selfishness out with a pair of field glasses and imagination.” (House of all Nations, 1938)


*This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through, Literary Ladies Guide receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *