"Youth Is Like Spring, An Over-praised Season"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Butler examines the domestic situation he considers rather typical of the nineteenth century, in which the family is dominated by a tyrannical father who sustains himself with a mixture of self-righteousness and self-pity, while keeping his children bowed beneath a calculated persecution. His example early in the novel is the family of George Pontifex, who never tires of impressing his sons with the contrast between his own merits and their worthlessness. Inasmuch as so many young people, he feels, are reared in such harsh and unhealthy emotional climates, Butler asserts that youth is not the idyllic time many believe it.

To me it seems that youth is like spring, an over-praised season–delightful if it happen to be a favoured one, but in practice very rarely favoured and more remarkable, as a general rule, for biting east winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits. Fontenelle at the age of ninety, being asked what was the happiest time of his life, said he did not know that he had ever been much happier than he then was, but that perhaps his best years had been those when he was between fifty-five and seventy-five, and Dr. Johnson placed the pleasures of old age far higher than those of youth.