- A popular speaker, however unpopular and insignificant, has only to wind up his speech with half-a-dozen lines of Shakespeare (and to make it clearly understood that they are Shakespeare's) and he will sit down amid thunders of applause.
- "Unappreciated Shakespeare", Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Christmas Number, 9 December 1882
- from such a face and form as mine, the noblest sentiments sound like the black utterances of a depraved imagination! It's human nature! I'm resigned.
- Things are seldom what they seem;
Skim milk masquerades as cream.
- What, never? No never! What never? Well, hardly ever!
- I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable. I can’t help it. I was born sneering.
- …in the first place, self decapitation is an extremely difficult, not to say dangerous, thing to attempt; and, in the second, it’s suicide, and suicide is a capital offence.
- Pooh Bah: This professional conscientiousness is highly creditable to you, but it places us in a very awkward position.
- Koko: Your position is grace itself compared to that of a man in the act of chopping off his own head!
- To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!
- (Koko is negotiating the terms by which he can behead Nanki-Poo in his place, and they involve letting the latter be married to his fiance until he is executed)
- Koko: But my position during the next month will be most unpleasant.
- Nanki-Poo: Not nearly so unpleasant as mine at the end of it.
- I have a left shoulder-blade that is a miracle of loveliness. People come miles to see it. My right elbow has a fascination that few can resist.
- Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.
- It's a bad old world, and virtue is triumphant only in theatrical productions.
- The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this and every country but his own.
If someday it should happen that a victim must be found
I've got a little list, I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
Who never would be missed - who never would be missed!
- The Law is the true embodiment
Of everything that’s excellent.
It has no kind of fault or flaw,
And I, my Lords, embody the Law.
- The House of Peers, thoughout the war
Did nothing in particular
And did it very well.
Trial by Jury
- She may very well pass for forty three
In the dusk with the light behind her.
- Art stopped short at the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine.
- Yes, I am the Apostle of Simplicity. I am called Archibald the All-Right, for I am infallible.
Archibald: To understand this, it is not necessary to think of anything at all. Saphir: Let us think of nothing at all!
- I know what love is. There was a happy time when I didn't, but bitter experience has taught me.
- I can tell a woman's age in half a minute -- and I do!
- ...a Man, however well-behav’d,
At best is only a monkey shav’d!
- When everyone is somebody, then no one's anybody.
- Oh! my name is John Wellington Wells,
I'm a dealer in magic and spells,
In blessings and curses
And ever-filled purses,
In prophecies, witches, and knells.
If you want a proud foe to "make tracks"--
If you'd melt a rich uncle in wax--
You've but to look in
On our resident Djinn,
Number seventy, Simmery Axe!
- Mr Wells' song, Act I
- "Simmery Axe" is the traditional pronunciation of "St. Mary Axe", a road in the City of London. In Gilbert's day, the last building was number 68, though number 70 was built later.
- Either you or I must yield up his life to Ahrimanes. I would rather it were you.
- Humour is a drug which it's the fashion to abuse.
- I suppose he expected to see me kissing all the carpenters
- Comment on a (possibly apocryphal) conversation between Gilbert and a French designer during the first night of Princess Ida
- No one can have a higher opinion of him than I have--and I think he is a dirty little beast.
- Take my daughters, most of whom are beauties
- Modified libretto for the finale of Act II of The Pirates of Penzance in response to his not choosing the female chorus for a revival
- Beautiful Mabel, I'd sing if I could but I am not able!
- Shouted from the stalls during rehearsals for The Pirates of Penzance when the actor playing Frederic was not present
- (During the period after the debut of Ruddigore, which was far less successful at the box office than its predecessor The Mikado)
- Gentleman: How is Bloodygore doing?
- Gilbert: The title is Ruddigore.
- Gentleman: Surely that's the same thing.
- Gilbert: Then it is the same to say "I admire your ruddy countenance" -- which I do -- as "I like your bloody cheek" -- which I don't.