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- The smell of the library was always the same – the musty odour of old clothes mixed with the keener scent of unwashed bodies, creating what the chief librarian had once described as "the steam of the social soup".
- Chatterton (London: Abacus,  1991), ch. 5, p. 72.
- No poet is ever completely lost. He has the secret of his childhood safe with him, like some secret cave in which he can kneel. And, when we read his poetry, we can join him there.
- Chatterton (London: Abacus,  1991), ch. 10, p. 151.
- London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It contains every wish or word ever spoken, every action or gesture ever made, every harsh or noble statement ever expressed. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London.
- London: The Biography (London: Vintage,  2001) p. 779.
Quotations are cited from the first edition (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1983).
- What captivity has been to the Jews, exile has been to the Irish. For us, the romance of our native land begins only after we have left home; it is really only with other people that we become Irishmen.
- Page 7.
- The English can laugh and at the same time strike you down, without the least compunction. It is the secret of their success as a nation.
- Page 25.
- He had the satisfied countenance of a man who has never succeeded in boring himself.
- Page 45.
- One can forgive Shakespeare anything, except one's own bad lines.
- Page 46.
- Only those with great ambitions know what great fears drive them forward.
- Page 52.
- I believe that the gods themselves are frightened of the world which they have fashioned.
- Pages 128-9.