How we cite our quotes:
The energy of the Wilcoxes had fascinated her, had created new images of beauty in her responsive mind. To be all day with them in the open air, to sleep at night under their roof, had seemed the supreme joy of life, and had led to that abandonment of personality that is a possible prelude to love. She had liked giving in to Mr. Wilcox, or Evie, or Charles; she had liked being told that her notions of life were sheltered or academic; that Equality was nonsense, Votes for Women nonsense, Socialism nonsense, Art and Literature, except when conducive to strengthening the character, nonsense. One by one the Schlegel fetiches had been overthrown, and, though professing to defend them, she had rejoiced. (4.3)
Here we see the conflict between Wilcox principles and Schlegel principles begin. Helen is at first seduced by how very different the Wilcoxes are – she's so intrigued that all of her favorite issues initially fall by the wayside (as Margaret's will later).
"I've often thought about it, Helen. It's one of the most interesting things in the world. The truth is that there is a great outer life that you and I have never touched--a life in which telegrams and anger count. Personal relations, that we think supreme, are not supreme there. There love means marriage settlements, death, death duties. So far I'm clear. But here my difficulty. This outer life, though obviously horrid, often seems the real one--there's grit in it. It does breed character." (4.7)
Margaret articulates the difference between the interior Schlegel world and the world that everyone else exists in (the "outer life"). The problem of the novel is basically the need to negotiate between the interior and exterior, which proves to be extremely difficult to work out.
"Inexperience," repeated Margaret, in serious yet buoyant tones. "Of course, I have everything to learn--absolutely everything--just as much as Helen. Life's very difficult and full of surprises. At all events, I've got as far as that. To be humble and kind, to go straight ahead, to love people rather than pity them, to remember the submerged--well, one can't do all these things at once, worse luck, because they're so contradictory. It's then that proportion comes in--to live by proportion. Don't begin with proportion. Only prigs do that. Let proportion come in as a last resource, when the better things have failed, and a deadlock--Gracious me, I've started preaching!" (8.30)
Here, Margaret tries to explain her life philosophy to Mrs. Wilcox – she tries, it seems, to just be as kind and honest as possible, and to take things as they come. When she refers to proportion, she's basically rebelling against the Wilcoxian idea that one can figure everything out rationally and mathematically.