Childhood Impressions

Constantin Stanislavki, My Life in Art: ‘Of my infancy I remember most clearly only the very best and the very worst. If I am not to reckon my memories of my own christening, which I created after the stories of my nurse so clearly in my mind that even until now I consider myself a conscious witness of that ceremony– my remotest recollection begins with my first stage appearance.’ 

Agatha ChristieAgatha Christie, An Autobiography: ‘My mother had gone to school in her own youth, in Cheshire. She sent my sister Madge to boarding school but was now entirely converted to the view that the best way to bring up girls was to let them run wild as much as possible; to give them good food, fresh air, and not to force their minds in any way (None of this, of course, applied to boys: boys had to have a strictly conventional education). As I have already mentioned, she had a theory that no child should be allowed to read until it was eight. This having been frustrated, I was allowed to read as much as I pleased, and took every opportunity to do so. The schoolroom, as it was called, was a big room at the top of the house, almost completely lined with books.’ 

Edward W. Said, Out of Place: ‘From the moment I became conscious of myself as a child, I found it impossible to think of myself as not having both a discrediting past and an immoral future in store; my entire sense of self during my formative years was always experienced in the present tense, as I frantically worked to keep myself from falling back into an already established pattern, or from falling forward into certain perdition. Being myself meant not only never being quite right, but also never feeling at ease, always expecting to be interrupted or corrected, to have my privacy invaded and my very unsure person set upon. Permanently out of place, the extreme and rigid regime of discipline and extracurricular education that my father would create and in which I became imprisoned from the age of nine left me no respite or sense of myself beyond its rules and patterns.’ 

Mona Lisa StolenDiana Vreeland, D.V. : On Wednesday, Miss Neff would take us to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa . Always the black dress, the Louvre, the Mona Lisa. One day for the hundred-and-tenth time we were shown the Mona Lisa. We had to stand here and then there, here, here, and here, because, as Miss Neff used to explain to us every time, “she is always looking at you…”My sister and I always did as we were told, so we did get to know the Mona Lisa rather well. This particular Wednesday afternoon, we saw it from so many angles that the guard had to come and tell us to get out because we were the last people in the Louvre. I can remember our hollow little footsteps as we walked through deserted marble rooms trying to get outside. The next morning it was in all the newspapers that the Mona Lisa had been stolen during the night. I think they eventually found the poor old girl in a trashcan in the  dank bathroom of a poor artist, cut out of her frame and rolled up. For two years she hadn’t been unrolled. Don’t forget, it was the most famous painting in the world, and don’t forget how small the world was in those days. It was a total tragedy.’ 

Quentin Crisp, The Naked Civil Servant: ‘All the games I played with these little girls were really only one game. We dressed up in their mothers’ or even grandmothers’ clothes, which we found in box rooms and attics, and trailed about the house and garden describing in piercing voices the splendours of the lives that in our imaginations we were leading. “This wheelbarrow is my carriage. I gather up my train as I get in. Get in the other side, you fool. I nod to the servants as I leave. No. I ignore them. I am very proud and very beautiful. ” This kind of monologue I could keep up for whole afternoons.’