Quotes by Enid Bagnold, the Complicated Author of National Velvet

Enid Bagnold - National Portrait Gallery London

Enid Bagnold, the British author and playwright is best known for the classic 1935 children’s novel National Velvet and The Chalk Garden, a dramatic play that opened on Broadway in 1955. Regarded as prickly and perplexing, she left behind a modest yet significant body of work. Here we’ll look at a selection of quotes by Enid Bagnold, a complicated and perplexing woman.

Bagnold at first pursued her studies in art, but then changed direction when she went to work as a journalist for a magazine in 1911. During the first World War, Bagnold served in the British Women’s Services as a nurse’s aide, attending to the non-medical needs of wounded British soldiers at a hospital not far from London. She recorded her experiences, some horrific, in her first published book,  A Diary Without Dates.

In 1920, Bagnold married Sir Roderick Jones, making her Lady Jones. That compelled her to become a society hostess, a role she wasn’t comfortable with. She continued to write under her original name, and though she was known to be somewhat of a crank, she was a devoted mother to her four children.

Her colleagues were never sure what to make of Bagnold. Virginia Woolf called her “a scalawag who married a very rich man” and “a disagreeable chit.” Though she’s no longer widely read, one could make a case for her literary reputation, especially as the author of National Velvet

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“Who wants to become a writer? And why? … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower of life, even if it’s a cactus.”

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“If I had my life over again,  I’d have thought more about words. And thought about them earlier.” (The Loved and Envied)

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“The pleasure of one’s effect on other people still exists in age — what’s called making a hit. But the hit is much rarer and made of different stuff.”

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“I don’t like people … I only like horses.” (National Velvet)

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National Velvet 1944 film

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1944 Film Version of National Velvet

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“It’s not till sex has died out between a man and a woman that they can really love. And now I mean affection. Now I mean to be fond of (as one is fond of oneself) — to hope, to be disappointed, to live inside the other heart. When I look back on the pain of sex, the love like a wild fox so ready to bite, the antagonism that sits like a twin beside love, and contrast it with affection, so deeply unrepeatable, of two people who have lived a life together (and of whom one must die) it’s the affection I find richer. It’s that I would have again. Not all those doubtful rainbow colors.”

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“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. To Why am I here? To uselessness. It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”

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“When a man goes through six years training to be a doctor he will never be the same. He knows too much.”

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Enid Bagnold

You might also like: A Diary Without Dates by Enid Bagnold

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“As for death one gets used to it, even if it’s only other people’s death you get used to.”

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“The theatre is a gross art, built in sweeps and over-emphasis. Compromise is its second name.”

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“If a dog doesn’t put you first where are you both? In what relation? A dog needs God. It lives by your glances, your wishes. It even shares your humor. This happens about the fifth year. If it doesn’t happen you are only keeping an animal.”

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“The pleasure of one’s effect on other people still exists in age – what’s called making a hit. But the hit is much rarer and made of different stuff.”

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“In marriage there are no manners to keep up, and beneath the wildest accusations no real criticism. Each is familiar with that ancient child in the other who may erupt again. We are not ridiculous to ourselves. We are ageless. That is the luxury of the wedding ring.”

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“I know I feel like Gulliver sometimes, weighed down by little men. There are so many people in this house, I’m a queen bee, with every muscle dragging. I’m the heart of a cluster, black, dripping, sucking, hanging.”

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“The pain of one creature cannot continue to have a meaning for another. It is almost impossible to nurse a man well whose pain you do not imagine. A deadlock!”

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