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Self-Portrait, 1977?, ink



During our courtship (what an inappropriate word for such a tense and unhappy period!) she’d come out with statements that simply cut through knots and opened up new possibilities.

“What makes you think you ought to be happy?” (when I had been complaining that I wasn’t feeling the looked-for happiness).

“We deserve one another!” (Said while we were holding each other at night at a doorway of the building where we both worked. So marvellously ambiguous. And so heartening.)

“If only you liked me a little” (apropos of some statement by me about my not knowing whether I loved her, or if I could love her, or something like that).

“I have no personality, but lots of character.”

“You’re a feminine man and I’m a masculine woman” (heartening again).

“The English have no souls.” (Not so heartening, though it didn’t seem to bother her. Years later, when I prepared some lectures for the University of Toronto, and read a fair amount of German stuff, I hoped that the talks might make her acknowledge that I did too have one, but I never found out what she thought.)

“He’s a terrible intellectual snob, but with a high level of tolerance.” (Said of me, as reported to me at the time, with amusement, by Dorothy Bruhl.)


A few more:

“They wrecked the country, but they had a great time doing it.” (Said in a movie theatre on an early date, when we saw a newsreel clip of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford being shirt-sleeve genial together at Edison’s summer place. It was this that first made me realize that there was an unusual intelligence there in the conventional sense—the incisiveness of the first judgment, the ability to hold a second clear perception in mind without either of them wiping out the other.)

“Auntie [my stepmother] thinks that men are messy creatures and women are here to clean them up.”

“Hands are such strange things.” (looking at her own spread in front of her).

“It’s… very… interesting.” (said to a friend a day or two before she died)

“I’ve lost forty pounds… and I’ve still got a pot belly” (also around that time.)

“Canadians can be so corny sometimes” (said to a student of mine who reported that there was a Museum of the Human Race, or some such name, in Ottawa).

“It’s a religion for Christians who don’t believe in God” (said when I asked her what Unitarianism was).

“Nasty dirty Man” (i.e. humankind)

“An Art Deco cigar-box” (said of the new Halifax Metro Centre).

“Humankind/Cannot bear very much reality” (a favourite quotation from T.S. Eliot)

“Don’t fret so.”


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