Favourite Lymond Quotes

Perhaps the hardest part of this week’s Top 5 Tuesday prompt, Top 5 Quotes, was choosing a single quote from Dorothy Dunnett’s historical fiction epic The Lymond Chronicles.

There have been many posts written about Ms. Dunnett’s influence on other writers, including this recent article in The Guardian. Among the factors that make The Lymond Chronicles such a captivating read are the main character himself, a sharp-tongued polyglot with a purpose, who I’m often torn between wanting to hug or slap, the author’s masterful use of tension to heighten the stakes, and, of course, the prose.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are ten of my favourite Lymond quotes, organized by book. To avoid spoiling any friends or followers who may read this series in the future, I’ve left out a certain pair of scenes from The Ringed Castle, so Dunnett fans will note the absence of ‘Languish locked in ‘L”, and I’ve eliminated names from a passage that occurs in the last book of the series. Enjoy!

112077“You are the only person here who might discover he has something to gain by selling out. You are the only person who, whatever he does, is sure of a warm, moneyed niche waiting for him on the right side of the law. You are the only person with a shaky interest in ethics and the emotional stability of a quince seed in a cup of lukewarm water. Either you keep the oath you so dashingly pronounced last year, or I deal with you accordingly. I don’t propose to sit here like a pelican in her piety, wondering what you’re doing next.”
The Game of Kings

“Lucent and delicate, Drama entered, mincing like a cat.”
The Game of Kings

“It also brought him the admiration of Mr. Jonathan Crouch, whose temporary career as a prisoner of war, or a sort of promissary note on two legs, had brought him finally to lodge with Sir Andrew.

With Mr. Crouch came his tongue, his teeth, his lips, his hard and soft palate, his maxillary muscles, larynx, epiglottis and lungs: all the apparatus which enabled him, ne plus ultra, to talk. Like the enchanted garden of Jannes, tenanted by daemons, the keep of Ballaggan encased the ceaseless drone of Mr. Crouch’s voice. He droned through September until it and his captors were exhausted; then pounced on October with undimmed vigour and worried the blameless days for a fortnight.”
The Game of Kings

Queens' Play“Considering Lymond, flat now on the bed in wordless communion with the ceiling, Richard spoke. “My dear, you are only a boy. You have all your life still before you.”

On the tortoise-shell bed, his brother did not move. But there was no irony for once in his voice when he answered. “Oh, yes, I know. The popular question is, For what?”
Queens’ Play

The Disorderly Knights“As the soporific sunlight began to embrace his chair, Francis Crawford leaped to his feet with such force that the seat crashed to the floor behind him. He said, ‘Sorry Kate!’ without stopping  and flung away from her, the full length of the room.

There he halted, fighting for equanimity, and after a long difficult silence turned, with obvious reluctance. Kate, standing, had been going to speak. Instead she stared at him, thinking numbly about hot milk and blankets, and saying nothing at all.

His misread her face. He said quickly, ‘Don’t be frightened. You look as if you expected me to strike you …’ And then, his eyes widening with tired shock, ‘Did you? Did you Kate? Oh God, what does it matter then?’ he said, and dropping to his knees beside the stifling windowseat, pressed both hands hard over his eyes, his elbows buried in Kate’s old flock cushions.

Above the white voile of his shirt a pulse was beating, very fast, under the fair skin. After a moment he said, without moving, ‘Would you give me a bed if I asked for one?’

‘My dear, my dear,” said Kate but to herself, ‘I would give you my soul in a blackberry pie; and a knife to cut it with.'”
The Disorderly Knights

“‘Today,’ said Lymond, ‘if you must know, I don’t like living at all. But that’s just immaturity boggling at the sad face of failure. Tomorrow I’ll be bright as a bedbug again.’”
The Disorderly Knights

360455“Francis Crawford’s face in this fleeting moment of privacy was filled with ungovernable feeling: of shock and of pain and of a desire beyond bearing: the desire of the hart which longs for the waterbrook, and does not know, until it sees the pool under the trees, for what it has thirsted.”
Pawn in Frankincense

351198“What he wanted was very near. It was typical of the monstrous, egregious, laughable irony which dominated his life that with every dragging lift of his arms, he should be saying over and over, ‘Not yet.’”
The Ringed Castle

“I wish,’ said Lymond, ‘it would try a major key sometimes.’
‘Wind,’ Chancellor said, ‘is a melancholy creature.”
The Ringed Castle

Checkmate“‘As you say, I’m inexperienced. On the other hand, you are not always right. Please listen. Please think. Are you sure, when it matters so much, that you know my feelings better than I do?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘I’m not infallible. You might, without my crediting it, fall deeply in love and for ever, with some warped hunchback whelped in the gutter. I should equally stop you from taking him.’

She couldn’t speak. Her breath wheezed in and out. With extreme deliberation, and indeed restraint and moderation as well, [she] raised her glass and dashed it on the parquet. Crystals frosted the carpet between them, and the wine lay like blood.

Speech came back. ‘God in heaven,’ [she] said. ‘Do you think that I care?’

He looked up from the mess. ‘I know you don’t,’ Lymond said. His eyes were black, not blue; and there were red splashes on the white velvet. ‘But you must excuse the hunchback, who does.’”


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