A. P. Herbert

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Sir Alan Patrick Herbert (1890-09-241971-11-11) was an English humorist in many literary forms, a law-reform activist, and an independent M.P. representing Oxford University.


  • The Farmer will never be happy again;
    He carries his heart in his boots;
    For either the rain is destroying his grain
    Or the drought is destroying his roots.
    • "The Farmer", Tinker, Tailor (1922)
  • For I must write to The Times tonight, and save the world from sin.
    • "The Saviours", Laughing Ann (1925)
  • Don't let's go to the dogs tonight,
    For mother will be there.
    • "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight", She-Shanties (1926)
  • As my poor father used to say
    In 1863,
    Once people start on all this Art
    Goodbye, moralitee!
    • "Lines for a Worthy Person", Ballads for Broadbrows (1930)
  • Let's stop somebody from doing something!
    Everybody does too much.
    • "Let's Stop Somebody from Doing Something", Ballads for Broadbrows (1930)
  • Nobody's wrong but England – and England's always wrong,
    Too late – or else too early – too soft – or else too strong.
    And when for once the wide world begins to praise her name
    Her own sons crowd and hurry to shout her back to shame.
    • "Poor Old Britain", Leave My Old Morale Alone (1948).
  • There's alcohol in plant and tree.
    It must be Nature's plan
    That there should be in fair degree
    Some alcohol in Man.
    • Number Nine ([1951] 1952) p. 151.
  • The portions of a woman which appeal to man's depravity
    Are constructed with considerable care.
    • "Lines on a Book Borrowed from the Ship's Doctor", A. P. H.: His Life and Times (1970).

Uncommon Law (1935)

  • Citizens who take it upon themselves to do unusual actions which attract the attention of the police should be careful to bring these actions into one of the recognized categories of crimes and offences, for it is intolerable that the police should be put to the pains of inventing reasons for finding them undesirable.
    • "Is It a Free Country?"
  • It is like the thirteenth stroke of a crazy clock, which not only is itself discredited but casts a shade of doubt over all previous assertions.
    • "Is It a Free Country?"
  • It cannot be too clearly understood that this is not a free country, and it will be an evil day for the legal profession when it is.
    • "Is It a Free Country?"
  • People must not do things for fun. We are not here for fun. There is no reference to fun in any Act of Parliament.
    • "Is It a Free Country?"
  • A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.
    • "Is 'Highbrow' Libellous?"
  • A man who has made up his mind on a given subject twenty-five years ago and continues to hold his political opinions after he has been proved to be wrong is a man of principle; while he who from time to time adapts his opinions to the changing circumstances of life is an opportunist.
    • "Which Is the Liberal Party?"
  • The critical period in matrimony is breakfast-time.
    • "Is Marriage Lawful?"
  • The Englishman never enjoys himself except for a noble purpose. He does not play cricket because it is a good game, but because it creates good citizens. He does not love motor-races for their own sake, but for the advantages they bring to the engineering firms of his country. And it is common knowledge that the devoted persons who conduct and regularly attend horse-races do not do so because they like it, but for the benefit of the breed of the English horse.
    • "Is Fox-Hunting Fun?"
  • Justice should be cheap but judges expensive.
    • "What Is a Judge?"
  • The whole Constitution has been erected upon the assumption that the King not only is capable of doing wrong but is more likely to do wrong than other men if he is given the chance.
    • "What Is the Crown?"

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