It Is the Soul’s Duty To Be Loyal To Its Own Desires

Rebecca West? George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent British author and literary critic Rebecca West once wrote about the necessity to be loyal to one’s own desires. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1913 Rebecca West published in the journal “The New Freewoman” a review of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Androcles and the Lion”. West suggested that the actions of the character Ferrovius reflected the yearnings of his soul, and she presented the following guidance. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1913 September 15, The New Freewoman: An Individualist Review, Volume 1, Number 7, Editor: Dora Marsden, “Androcles and the Lion” by Rebecca West (Review of George Bernard Shaw’s “Androcles and the Lion”), Start Page 128, Quote Page 128, Column 22, The New Freewoman, Ltd., London. (Accessed at on September 18, 2021) link [/ref]

It is the soul’s duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master-passion.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1986 an article in “The New York Tomes Book Review” reprinted some remarks from Rebecca West:[ref] 1986 May 25, New York Times, Noted With Pleasure, Quote Page BR27, Column 2, New York. (ProQuest) [/ref]

No apron and gaiters for Rebecca at twenty: she was an “Emancipated Woman.” “Life ought to be a struggle of desire towards adventures whose nobility will fertilise the soul. To avoid the ordeal of emotion that leads to the conception is the impulse of death. Sterility is the deadly sin.” Again, “It is the soul’s duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master-passion.”

In 1993 the “Washington Post” discussed Rosalie Maggio’s reference work “The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women” which included quotations from two famous women named West:[ref] 1993 January 10, The Washington Post, Hardcovers in Brief, Quote Page X13, Column 2, Washington D.C. (ProQuest)[/ref]

Those would be Rebecca and Mae West, and this compendium is well-stocked with Western pithiness. Here is the actress ringing a variation on an old saw: “When I’m good I’m very good, but when I’m bad I’m better” (from “I’m No Angel”). And here is the lady of letters on passion: “It is the soul’s duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.”

In conclusion, Rebecca West should receive credit for the statement she published in 1913.

Image Notes: Public domain image of two hands from JacksonDavid on Pixabay. Image has been resized.

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