Considering how foolishly people act and how pleasantly they prattle, perhaps it would be better for the world if they talked more and did less.
At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too much, and talk well but not too wisely.
If forty million people say a foolish thing does not become a wise one, but the wise man is foolish to give them the lie.
In love one should exercise economy of intercourse. None of us can love for ever. Love will be stronger and will last longer if there are impediments of its gratification. If a lover is prevented from enjoying his love by absence, difficulty of access, or by the caprice or coldness of his beloved, he can find a little consolation in the thought that when his wishes are fulfilled his delight will be intense. But love being what it is, should there be no hindrances, he will pay no attention to the considerations of prudence; and his punishment will be satiety. The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned.
It is doubtless true that we owe many of our virtues to Christianity, but it is equally true that we owe to it some of our vices. The love of self is the mainspring of every man's action, it is the essence of his character; and it is fair to suppose that it is necessary for his preservation. But Christianity has made a vice of it. It has decided that man should have neither love, nor care, nor thought for himself, but only for his soul, and by demanding of him that he should behave otherwise than as his nature prompts, has forced him into hypocrisy. It has aroused a sense of guilt in him when he follows his natural instincts, and a feeling of resentment when others, even though not at his expense, follow theirs. If selfishness were not regarded as a vice no one would be more inconvenienced by it than he is by the Law of Gravity; no one would expect his fellow-men to act otherwise than according to their own interests; and it would seem reasonable to him that they should behave as selfishly as in point of fact they do.
The more intelligent a man is the more capable is he of suffering.
The Professor of Gynaecology. He began his course of lectures as follows: Gentlemen, woman is an animal that micturates once a day, defecates once a week, menstruates once a month, parturates once a year and copulates whenever she has the opportunity.
I thought it a prettily-balanced sentence.
A woman may be as wicked as she likes, but if she isn't pretty it won't do her much good.
If women exhibit less emotion at pain it does not prove that they bear it better, but rather that they feel it less.
No man in his heart is quite so cynical as a well-bread woman.
An acquaintance with the rudiments of physiology will teach you more about the feminine character than all the philosophy and wise-saws in the world.
I'm glad I don't believe in God. When I look at the misery of the world and its bitterness, I think that no belief can be more ignoble.
Or is it that the missionaries think that God will condemn to endless torment all who do not share their particular beliefs? No wonder they think you're cursing and swearing when you say, Good God!
he belief of God is not a matter of common sense, or logic, or argument, but of feeling. It is as impossible to prove the existence of God as to disprove it. I do not believe in God. I see no need of such an idea. It is incredible to me that there should be an after-life. I find the notion of future punishment outrageous and of future reward extravagant. I am convinced that when I die, I shall cease entirely to live; I shall return to the earth I came from. Yet I can imagine that at some future date I may believe in God; but it will be as now, when I don't believe in Him, not a matter of reasoning or of observation, but only of feeling.
Men, commonplace and ordinary, do not seem to me fit for the tremendous fact of eternal life. With their passions, their little virtues and their little vices, they are well enough suited to the workaday world; but the conception of immortality is much too vast for beings cast in so small a mould. I have more than once seen men die, peacefully or tragically, and never have I seen in their last moments anything to suggest that their spirit was everlasting. They die as a dog dies.
They ascribe omnipotence and omniscience to him and I don't know what else; it seems to me so strange that they never credit him with common-sense or allow him tolerance. If he knew as much about human nature as I do he'd know how weak men are and how little control they have over their passions, he'd know how full of fear they are and how pitiful, he'd know how much goodness there is even in the worst and how much wickedness in the best. If he's capable of feeling he must be capable of remorse, and when he considers what a hash he's made in the creation of human kind can he feel anything but that? The wonder is that he does not make use of his omnipotence to annihilate himself. Perhaps that's just what he has done.
But why should man be humble when he comes face to face with God? Because God is better and wiser and more powerful than man? A poor reason. No better than that my maid should humble herself before me because I'm white, have more money and am better educated than she is. I should have thought it was God who would have cause to be humble when he reflects upon what an indifferent job he has made in the creation of a human being.
Wellington is supposed to have said that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eaton. It may be that the historians of the future will say that India was lost in the public schools of England.
It is essential for a writer unceasingly to study men, and it is a fault in me that I find it often a very tedious business. It requires a great deal of patience. There are of course men of marked idiosyncrasy who offer themselves to your observation with all the precision of a finished picture, they are 'characters', striking and picturesque figures; and they often take pleasure in displaying their peculiarity, as though they amused themselves and they wanted you to share their amusement. But they are few. They stand out of the common run and have at once the advantage and disadvantage of the exceptional. What they have in vividness they are apt to lack in verisimilitude. To study the average man is an affair of quite another sort. He is strangely amorphous. There is someone there, with a character of his own, standing on his own feet, with a hundred peculiarities; but the picture is hazy and confused. Since he does not know himself, how can he tell you anything about himself? However talkative, he is inarticulate. Whatever treasures he has to offer you he conceals with all the more effectiveness that he does not know they are treasures. If you want to make a man out of these crowded shadows, as a sculptor makes a statue from a block of stone, you want time, patience, Chinese ingenuity and a dozen qualities besides. You must be ready to listen for hours to the retailing of second-hand information in order at last to catch the hint or the casual remark that betrays. Really to know men you must be interested in them for their own sake rather than for yours, so that you care for what they say just because they say it.
The Work of Art. When I watch the audience at a concert or the crowd in the picture gallery I ask myself sometimes what exactly is their reaction towards the work of art. It is plain that often they feel deeply, but I do not see that their feeling has any effect, and if it has no effect its value is slender. Art to them is only a recreation or a refuge. It rests them from the work which they consider the justification of their existence or consoles them in their disappointment with reality. It is the glass of beer which the labourer drinks when he pauses in his toil or the peg of gin which the harlot takes to snatch a moment's oblivion from the pain of life. Art for art's sake means no more than gin for gin's sake. The dilettante who cherishes the sterile emotions which he receives from the contemplation of works of art has little reason to rate himself higher than the toper. His is the attitude of the pessimist. Life is a struggle or a weariness and in art he seeks repose or forgetfulness. The pessimist refuses reality, but the artist accepts it. The emotion caused by a work of art has value only if it has an effect on character and so results in action. Whoever is so affected is himself an artist. The artist's response to the work of art is direct and reasonable, for in him the emotion is translated into ideas which are pertinent to his own purposes, and to him ideas are but another form of action. But I do not mean that it is only painters, poets and musicians who can respond profitably to the work of art; the value of art would be much diminished; among artists I include the practitioners of the most subtle, the most neglected and the most significant of all the arts, the art of life.
My native gifts are not remarkable, but I have a certain force of character which has enabled me in a measure to supplement my deficiencies. I have common-sense. Most people cannot see anything, but I can see what is in the front of my nose with extreme clearness; the greatest writers can see through a brick wall. My vision is not so penetrating. For many years I have been described as a cynic; I told the truth. I wish no one to take me for other than I am, and on the other hand I see no need to accept others' pretences.
I made up my mind long ago that life was too short to do anything for myself that I could pay others to do for me. I would now except shaving. I am amazed when I see busy men, who tell you their time is valuable, expose themselves on six days a week to the long, tedious and elaborate operation that American barbers have made of it.
There is no need for the writer to eat a whole sheep to be able to tell you what mutton tastes like. It is enough if he eats a cutlet. But he should do this.
Plumbing. When you consider how indifferent Americans are to the quality and cooking of the food they put into their insides, it cannot but strike you as peculiar that they should take such pride in the mechanical appliances they use for its excretion.
Gushing, she said to me: 'What does it feel like to be famous?'
I suppose I've been asked the question twenty times and I never could think how to answer, but to-day, too late, it suddenly occurred to me.
'It's like having a string of pearls given you. It's nice, but after a while, if you think of it at all, it's only to wonder if they're real or cultured.'
And now that I have my reply ready I don't expect anyone will ever put the question to me again.
I wonder that the people who are concerned for the survival of democracy are not anxious at the inordinate power it gives to oratory. A man may be possessed of a disinterested desire to serve his country, he may have wisdom and prudence, courage and a knowledge of affairs, he will never achieve a political position in which he can exercise his powers unless he has also the gift of the gab. [...] ...but is it not frightening that the indispensable qualification a politician needs to conduct the complicated business of a modern nation is a voice that sounds well over the air or the knack of inventing striking phrases? It is only a happy accident if he combines these gifts with common-sense, integrity and foresight. The appeal of oratory is not to reason, but to emotion; one would have thought that when measures that may decide fate of a nation are under consideration it was pure madness to allow opinion to be swayed by emotion rather than guided by reason. Democracy seldom had a ruder shock than when a phrase - you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold - nearly put an ignorant and conceited fool in the White House.
Humility is a virtue that is enjoined upon us. So far as the artist is concerned, with good reason; indeed, when he compares what he has done with what he wanted to do, when he compares his disappointing efforts with the great masterpieces of the world, he finds it the easiest of virtues to practice. Unless he is humble he cannot hope to improve. Self-satisfaction is fatal to him. The strange thing is that we are embarrassed by humility in others. We are ill at ease when they humble themselves before us. I don't know why this should be unless it is that there is something servile in it which offends our sense of human dignity. When I was engaging two coloured maids to look after me the overseer of the plantation who produced them, as a final recommendation, said: 'They're good niggers, they're humble.' Sometimes when one of them hides her face with her fingers to speak to me or with a little nervous giggle asks if she can have something I've thrown away, I'm inclined to cry: 'For heaven's sake don't be so humble.'
Or is it that humility in others forces upon us the consciousness of our own unworthiness?