George Bernard Shaw

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If I shall sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I'm sure that, for me, there would be nothing left worth living for.
Henry David Thoreau
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You see things as they are and ask, "Why?" I dream things as they never were and ask, "Why not?"

George Bernard Shaw (1856-07-261950-11-02) was an Irish playwright, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.

See also: Man and Superman.

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The liar's punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe any one else.
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
  • The liar's punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe any one else.
    • Quintessence Of Ibsenism (1891)
  • My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.
    • Answers to Nine Questions
  • We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.
  • I'm only a beer teetotaler, not a champagne teetotaler. I don't like beer.
    • Candida, Act III
  • We don't bother much about dress and manners in England, because as a nation we don't dress well and we've no manners.
  • The great advantage of a hotel is that it's a refuge from home life.
    • You Never Can Tell, Act II
  • My specialty is being right when other people are wrong.
    • You Never Can Tell, Act IV
  • There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.
    • Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, Vol. II, preface (1898)
  • Why should you call me to account for eating decently?
    • The Vegetarian (15 January 1898)
  • The novelties of one generation are only the resuscitated fashions of the generation before last.
    • Three Plays for Puritans, Preface (1900)
  • The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
  • Martyrdom, sir, is what these people like: it is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.
    • The Devil's Disciple, Act II
  • You must not suppose, because I am a man of letters, that I never tried to earn an honest living.
    • The Irrational Knot, Preface (1905)
  • [Chess] is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever, when they are only wasting their time.
    • The Irrational Knot
  • To understand a saint, you must hear the devil's advocate; and the same is true of the artist.
    • The Sanity of Art: An Exposure of the Current Nonsense about Artists being Degenerate (1908)
  • Why was I born with such contemporaries?
    • The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, Preface (1910)
  • The word morality, if we met it in the Bible, would surprise us as much as the word telephone or motor car.
  • That proves it's not by Shaw, because all Shaw's characters are himself: mere puppets stuck up to spout Shaw.
    • Fanny's First Play, Epilogue
  • As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death.
    • Overruled (1912)
Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?
  • All great truths begin as blasphemies.
    • Annajanska (1919)
  • You'll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.
    • O'Flaherty V.C. (1919)
  • You see things as they are and ask, "Why?" I dream things as they never were and ask, "Why not?"
    • Back to Methuselah (1921)
  • Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.
    • The Rejected Statement, Pt. I
  • Scratch an Englishman and find a Protestant.
    • Saint Joan : A Chronicle Play In Six Scenes And An Epilogue (1923)
  • Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?
    • Saint Joan : A Chronicle Play In Six Scenes And An Epilogue (1923)
  • Our natural dispositions may be good; but we have been badly brought up, and are full of anti-social personal ambitions and prejudices and snobberies. Had we not better teach our children to be better citizens than ourselves? We are not doing that at present. The Russians ARE. That is my last word. Think over it.
  • One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven't and don't.
    • The Apple Cart, Act I
  • God help England if she had no Scots to think for her!
    • The Apple Cart, Act II
  • I have defined the hundred per cent American as ninety-nine per cent an idiot.
  • An American has no sense of privacy. He does not know what it means. There is no such thing in the country.
  • You in America should trust to that volcanic political instinct which I have divined in you.
  • The quality of a play is the quality of its ideas.

The Philanderer (1893)

  • It's well to be off with the Old Woman before you're on with the New.
    • Act II
  • The fickleness of the women I love is only equaled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me.
  • The test of a man or woman's breeding is how they behave in a quarrel.
    • Act IV

Mrs. Warren's Profession (1893)

  • People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.
    • Vivie, Act II
  • There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses.
    • Crofts, Act III
  • I know Miss Warren is a great devotee of the Gospel of Getting On.
    • Praed, Act IV

Caesar and Cleopatra (1898)

  • Hail, Sphinx: salutation from Julius Caesar! I have wandered in many lands, seeking the lost regions from which my birth into this world exiled me, and the company of creatures such as I myself. I have found flocks and pastures, men and cities, but no other Caesar, no air native to me, no man kindred to me, none who can do my day's deed, and think my night's thought.
  • My way hither was the way of destiny; for I am he of whose genius you are the symbol: part brute, part woman, and part God— nothing of man in me at all. Have I read your riddle, Sphinx?
  • THEODOTUS. Caesar: you are a stranger here, and not conversant with our laws. The kings and queens of Egypt may not marry except with their own royal blood. Ptolemy and Cleopatra are born king and consort just as they are born brother and sister.
    BRITANNUS (shocked). Caesar: this is not proper.
    THEODOTUS (outraged). How!
    CAESAR (recovering his self-possession). Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.
  • Again, there is the illusion of "increased command over Nature," meaning that cotton is cheap and that ten miles of country road on a bicycle have replaced four on foot. But even if man's increased command over Nature included any increased command over himself (the only sort of command relevant to his evolution into a higher being), the fact remains that it is only by running away from the increased command over Nature to country places where Nature is still in primitive command over Man that he can recover from the effects of the smoke, the stench, the foul air, the overcrowding, the racket, the ugliness, the dirt which the cheap cotton costs us.

Love Among the Artists (1900)

  • The way to deal with worldly people is to frighten them by repeating their scandalous whisperings aloud.
  • The public want actresses, because they think all actresses bad. They don't want music or poetry because they know that both are good. So actors and actresses thrive and poets and composers starve.
  • There are some men who are considered quite ugly, but who are more remarkable than pretty people. You often see that in artists.
  • All very fine, Mary; but my old-fashioned common sense is better than your clever modern nonsense.
  • If you leave your art, the world will beat you back to it. The world has not an ambition worth sharing, or a prize worth handling. Corrupt successes, disgraceful failures, or sheeplike vegetation are all it has to offer. I prefer Art, which gives me a sixth sense of beauty, with self-respect: perhaps also an immortal reputation in return for honest endeavour in a labour of love.
  • Perhaps woman's art is of woman's life a thing apart, 'tis man's whole existence; just as love is said to be the reverse - though it isn't.
  • I hate singers, a miserable crew who think that music exists only in their own throats.
  • A man's own self is the last person to believe in him, and is harder to cheat than the rest of the world.
  • Composers are not human; They can live on diminished sevenths, and be contented with a pianoforte for a wife, and a string quartet for a family.
  • Geniuses are horrid, intolerant, easily offended, sleeplessly self-conscious men, who expect their wives to be angels with no further business in life than to pet and worship their husbands. Even at the best they are not comfortable men to live with; and a perfect husband is one who is perfectly comfortable to live with.

Major Barbara (1905)

  • The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty.
    • Preface
  • The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier: the manners and habits of a duke would cost a city clerk his situation.
    • Preface
  • ...society, with all its prisons and bayonets and whips and ostracisms and starvations, is powerless in the face of the Anarchist who is prepared to sacrifice his own life in the battle with it. Our natural safety from the cheap and devastating explosives which every Russian student can make. . .lies in the fact that brave and resolute men, when they are rascals, will not risk their skins for the good of humanity, and, when they are sympathetic enough to care for humanity, abhor murder, and never commit it until their consciences are outraged beyond endurance. The remedy is, then, simply not to outrage their consciences.
    • Preface
  • I can't talk religion to a man with bodily hunger in his eyes.
    • Act II
  • You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother's milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes.
  • Undershaft: You have made for yourself something that you call a morality or a religion or what not. It doesnt fit the facts. Well, scrap it. Scrap it and get one that does fit. That is what is wrong with the world at present. It scraps its obsolete steam engines and dynamos; but it wont scrap its old prejudices and its old moralities and its old religions and its old political constitutions. Whats the result? In machinery it does very well; but in morals and religion and politics it is working at a loss that brings it nearer bankruptcy every year.
  • Cusins: Call you poverty a crime?
    Undershaft: The worst of crimes. All the other crimes are virtues beside it: all the other dishonors are chivalry itself by comparison. Poverty blights whole cities; spreads horrible pestilences; strikes dead the very souls of all who come within sight, sound or smell of it. What you call crime is nothing: a murder here and a theft there, a blow now and a curse then: what do they matter? they are only the accidents and illnesses of life: there are not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill fed, ill clothed people. They poison us morally and physically: they kill the happiness of society: they force us to do away with our own liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear they should rise against us and drag us down into their abyss. Only fools fear crime: we all fear poverty.
  • Undershaft: My religion? Well, my dear, I am a Millionaire. That is my religion.
    • Act II
  • You have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.
    • Act III
  • It is not the sale of my soul that troubles me: I have sold it too often to care about that. I have sold it for a professorship. I have sold it for an income. [...] What is all human conduct but the daily and hourly sale of our souls for trifles?

John Bull's Other Island (1907)

  • A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones. But if you break a nation's nationality it will think of nothing else but getting it set again. (Preface)
  • You can't be a hero without being a coward. (Preface)
  • What really flatters a man is that you think him worth flattering.
  • My way of joking is to tell the truth. It's the funniest joke in the world.
    • Act II

Getting Married (1908)

Full text online
  • Home life as we understand it is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo.
    • Preface
  • When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.
    • Preface
  • The whole strength of England lies in the fact that the enormous majority of the English people are snobs.
    • Hotchkiss
  • You don't learn to hold your own in the world by standing on guard, but by attacking, and getting well hammered yourself.
    • Mrs. George
  • Religion is a great force — the only real motive force in the world; but what you fellows dont understand is that you must get at a man through his own religion and not through yours. Instead of facing that fact, you persist in trying to convert all men to your own little sect, so that you can use it against them afterwards. You are all missionaries and proselytizers trying to uproot the native religion from your neighbor's flowerbeds and plant your own in its place. You would rather let a child perish in ignorance than have it taught by a rival sectary. You can talk to me of the quintessential equality of coal merchants and British officers; and yet you cant see the quintessential equality of all the religions.
    • Hotchkiss

Misalliance (1910)

  • It is more dangerous to be a great prophet or poet than to promote twenty companies for swindling simple folk out of their savings.
    • Preface
  • Optimistic lies have such immense therapeutic value that a doctor who cannot tell them convincingly has mistaken his profession.
    • Preface
  • A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of Hell.
  • I like a bit of a mongrel myself, whether it's a man or a dog; they're the best for every day.
    • Episode I
  • If parents would only realize how they bore their children!
    • Episode I

A Treatise on Parents and Children (1910)

  • When will we realize that the fact that we can become accustomed to anything, however disgusting at first, makes it necessary to examine carefully everything we have become accustomed to.
  • Death is for many of us the gate of hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in.

The Doctor's Dilemma (1911)

  • Do not try to live for ever. You will not succeed.
    • Preface
  • All professions are conspiracies against the laity.
    • Act I
  • I don't believe in morality. I'm a disciple of Bernard Shaw.
    • Act III
  • Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.
    • Act V

Pygmalion (1912)

  • It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.
    • Preface
  • The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it.
    • Preface
  • He ain't a copper just look at 'is boots!
    • Act I
  • Ah-ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo-oo!!! I ain't dirty: I washed me face and hands afore I come, I did!
    • Act II
  • Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and you're driving at another.
    • Act II
  • What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day.
    • Act II
  • I wouldn't have ate it, only I'm too lady-like to take it out of my mouth.
    • Act II
  • I don't want to talk grammar, I want to talk like a lady.
    • Act II
  • I heard your prayers Thank God it's all over!
    • Act IV
  • You see, lots of the real people can't do it at all: they're such fools that they think style comes by nature to people in their position; and so they never learn. There's always something professional about doing a thing superlatively well.
  • Time enough to think of the future when you haven't any future to think of.
  • I have to live for others and not for myself; that's middle-class morality.
    • Act V
  • Independence? That's middle-class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.
    • Act V

Androcles and the Lion (1913)

  • The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.
  • Revolutionary movements attract those who are not good enough for established institutions as well as those who are too good for them.

Back to Methuselah (1921)

  • You see things; and you say Why? But I dream things that never were; and I say Why not?
    • Pt. I, Act I
  • The nauseous sham goodfellowship our democratic public men get up for shop use.
    • Pt. II
  • There are no secrets except the secrets that keep themselves.
    • Pt. III
  • Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.
    • Pt. V
  • Silence is the perfect expression of scorn.
    • Pt. V
  • The worst cliques are those which consist of one man.
    • Pt. V
  • Life is not meant to be easy, my child but take courage: it can be delightful.
  • You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul.
    • Pt. V

On the Rocks (1933)

On the Rocks : A Political Comedy
  • In this play a reference is made by a Chief of Police to the political necessity for killing people: a necessity so distressing to the statesmen and so terrifying to the common citizen that nobody except myself (as far as I know) has ventured to examine it directly on its own merits, although every Government is obliged to practise it on a scale varying from the execution of a single murderer to the slaughter of millions of quite innocent persons. Whilst assenting to these proceedings, and even acclaiming and celebrating them, we dare not tell ourselves what we are doing or why we are doing it; and so we call it justice or capital punishment or our duty to king and country or any other convenient verbal whitewash for what we instinctively recoil from as from a dirty job. These childish evasions are revolting. We must strip off the whitewash and find out what is really beneath it. Extermination must be put on a scientific basis if it is ever to be carried out humanely and apologetically as well as thoroughly.
    • Preface; Extermination
    • Ignoring the satirical elements of Shaw's rhetoric, and that he is presenting many arguments of sometimes questionable sincerity for the "humane" execution of criminals, the last sentence here has sometimes been misquoted as if it as part of an argument for exterminations for the sake of eugenics, by preceding it with a selected portion of a statement later in the essay: "If we desire a certain type of civilization, we must exterminate the sort of people who do not fit into it ... Extermination must be put on a scientific basis if it is ever to be carried out humanely and apologetically as well as thoroughly."
  • In law we draw a line between the killing of human animals and non-human ones, setting the latter apart as brutes. This was founded on a general belief that humans have immortal souls and brutes none. Nowadays more and more people are refusing to make this distinction. They may believe in The Life Everlasting and The Life to Come; but they make no distinction between Man and Brute, because some of them believe that brutes have souls, whilst others refuse to believe that the physical materializations and personifications of The Life Everlasting are themselves everlasting. In either case the mystic distinction between Man and Brute vanishes; and the murderer pleading that though a rabbit should be killed for being mischievous he himself should be spared because he has an immortal soul and a rabbit has none is as hopelessly out of date as a gentleman duellist pleading his clergy. When the necessity for killing a dangerous human being arises, as it still does daily, the only distinction we make between a man and a snared rabbit is that we very quaintly provide the man with a minister of religion to explain to him that we are not killing him at all, but only expediting his transfer to an eternity of bliss.
    • Preface; The Sacredness of Human Life
  • The extermination of what the exterminators call inferior races is as old as history. "Stone dead hath no fellow" said Cromwell when he tried to exterminate the Irish. "The only good nigger is a dead nigger" say the Americans of the Ku-Klux temperament. "Hates any man the thing he would not kill?" said Shylock naively. But we white men, as we absurdly call ourselves in spite of the testimony of our looking glasses, regard all differently colored folk as inferior species. Ladies and gentlemen class rebellious laborers with vermin. The Dominicans, the watchdogs of God, regarded the Albigenses as the enemies of God, just as Torquemada regarded the Jews as the murderers of God. All that is an old story: what we are confronted with now is a growing perception that if we desire a certain type of civilization and culture we must exterminate the sort of people who do not fit into it. There is a difference between the shooting at sight of aboriginal natives in the back blocks of Australia and the massacres of aristocrats in the terror which followed the foreign attacks on the French Revolution. The Australian gunman pots the aboriginal natives to satisfy his personal antipathy to a black man with uncut hair. But nobody in the French Republic had this feeling about Lavoisier, nor can any German Nazi have felt that way about Einstein. Yet Lavoisier was guillotined; and Einstein has had to fly for his life from Germany. It was silly to say that the Republic had no use for chemists; and no Nazi has stultified his party to the extent of saying that the new National Socialist Fascist State in Germany has no use for mathematician-physicists. The proposition is that aristocrats (Lavoisier's class) and Jews (Einstein's race) are unfit to enjoy the privilege of living in a modern society founded on definite principles of social welfare as distinguished from the old promiscuous aggregations crudely policed by chiefs who had no notion of social criticism and no time to invent it.
    • Preface; Previous Attempts Miss the Point
  • There have been summits of civilization at which heretics like Socrates, who was killed because he was wiser than his neighbors, have not been tortured, but ordered to kill themselves in the most painless manner known to their judges. But from that summit there was a speedy relapse into our present savagery.
    • Preface; Cruelty's Excuses
  • I dislike cruelty, even cruelty to other people, and should therefore like to see all cruel people exterminated. But I should recoil with horror from a proposal to punish them. Let me illustrate my attitude by a very famous, indeed far too famous, example of the popular conception of criminal law as a means of delivering up victims to the normal popular lust for cruelty which has been mortified by the restraint imposed on it by civilization. Take the case of the extermination of Jesus Christ. No doubt there was a strong case for it. Jesus was from the point of view of the High Priest a heretic and an impostor. From the point of view of the merchants he was a rioter and a Communist. From the Roman Imperialist point of view he was a traitor. From the commonsense point of view he was a dangerous madman. From the snobbish point of view, always a very influential one, he was a penniless vagrant. From the police point of view he was an obstructor of thoroughfares, a beggar, an associate of prostitutes, an apologist of sinners, and a disparager of judges; and his daily companions were tramps whom he had seduced into vagabondage from their regular trades. From the point of view of the pious he was a Sabbath breaker, a denier of the efficacy of circumcision and the advocate of a strange rite of baptism, a gluttonous man and a winebibber. He was abhorrent to the medical profession as an unqualified practitioner who healed people by quackery and charged nothing for the treatment. He was not anti-Christ: nobody had heard of such a power of darkness then; but he was startlingly anti-Moses. He was against the priests, against the judiciary, against the military, against the city (he declared that it was impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven), against all the interests, classes, principalities and powers, inviting everybody to abandon all these and follow him. By every argument, legal, political, religious, customary, and polite, he was the most complete enemy of the society of his time ever brought to the bar. He was guilty on every count of the indictment, and on many more that his accusers had not the wit to frame. If he was innocent then the whole world was guilty. To acquit him was to throw over civilization and all its institutions. History has borne out the case against him; for no State has ever constituted itself on his principles or made it possible to live according to his commandments: those States who have taken his name have taken it as an alias to enable them to persecute his followers more plausibly.
    It is not surprising that under these circumstances, and in the absence of any defence, the Jerusalem community and the Roman government decided to exterminate Jesus. They had just as much right to do so as to exterminate the two thieves who perished with him.
    • Preface, Leading Case of Jesus Christ
  • All government is cruel; for nothing is so cruel as impunity.
    • Pilate, as portrayed in Preface, Difference Between Reader And Spectator
  • I am no mere chance pile of flesh and bone: if I were only that, I should fall into corruption and dust before your eyes. I am the embodiment of a thought of God: I am the Word made flesh: that is what holds me together standing before you in the image of God. ... The Word is God. And God is within you. ... In so far as you know the truth you have it from my God, who is your heavenly father and mine. He has many names and his nature is manifold. ... It is by children who are wiser than their fathers, subjects who are wiser than their emperors, beggars and vagrants who are wiser than their priests, that men rise from being beasts of prey to believing in me and being saved. ... By their fruits ye shall know them. Beware how you kill a thought that is new to you. For that thought may be the foundation of the kingdom of God on earth.
    • Jesus, as portrayed in Preface, Difference Between Reader And Spectator
  • The kingdom of God is striving to come. The empire that looks back in terror shall give way to the kingdom that looks forward with hope. Terror drives men mad: hope and faith give them divine wisdom. The men whom you fill with fear will stick at no evil and perish in their sin: the men whom I fill with faith shall inherit the earth. I say to you Cast out fear. Speak no more vain things to me about the greatness of Rome. ... You, standing for Rome, are the universal coward: I, standing for the kingdom of God, have braved everything, lost everything, and won an eternal crown.
    • Jesus, as portrayed in Preface, Difference Between Reader And Spectator
  • Law is blind without counsel. The counsel men agree with is vain: it is only the echo of their own voices. A million echoes will not help you to rule righteously. But he who does not fear you and shews you the other side is a pearl of the greatest price. Slay me and you go blind to your damnation. The greatest of God's names is Counsellor; and when your Empire is dust and your name a byword among the nations the temples of the living God shall still ring with his praise as Wonderful! Counsellor! the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
    • Jesus, as portrayed in Preface, Difference Between Reader And Spectator
  • The last word remains with Christ and Handel; and this must stand as the best defence of Tolerance until a better man than I makes a better job of it.
    Put shortly and undramatically the case is that a civilization cannot progress without criticism, and must therefore, to save itself from stagnation and putrefaction, declare impunity for criticism. This means impunity not only for propositions which, however novel, seem interesting, statesmanlike, and respectable, but for propositions that shock the uncritical as obscene, seditious, blasphemous, heretical, and revolutionary.
    • Preface, The Sacredness Of Criticism

Unsourced

  • Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.
  • Customs will reconcile people to any atrocity.
  • A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.[1]
  • America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between
    • Also attributed to Oscar Wilde and Georges Clemenceau. Earliest citation to Clemenceau by Hans Bendix, "Merry Christmas, America!" The Saturday Review of Literature, 1945-12-01, p. 9. Mentioned in Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography (1943):
      • A witty Frenchman has said of us: “The United States of America is the only nation to plunge from barbarism to degeneracy with no culture in between.
  • Animals are my friends ... and I don't eat my friends.
  • Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the airplane, the pessimist invents the parachute.
  • But what if he were to have your brains and my beauty?
    • To a woman who wrote to him that she wanted to have children with him - "think of the child with your brains and my beauty."
  • Dancing: The vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music.
  • Democracy is a system ensuring that the people are governed no better than they deserve.
  • If all the economists in the world were laid end to end, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion.
  • I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
  • I can forgive Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.
  • I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig, you get dirty; and besides, the pig likes it.
  • I often quote myself. I find it adds spice to the conversation.
  • If you have an apple and I have an apple, and we exchange apples, we both still only have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange ideas, we each now have two ideas.
  • Irish history is something no Englishman should forget and no Irishman should remember.
  • The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.
  • What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the

child.

  • Islam is the best religion, with the worst followers.
  • Medieval ecclesiastics, either through ignorance of bigotry, painted Mohammadanism in the darkest colors. They were in fact; trained to hate both the man Muhammad and his to them was anti-Christ.
    • A collection of writings of some of the Eminent Scholars' p.77, by the Working Muslim Mission, 1993 edition.
  • Europe is beginning to be enamored of the creed of Muhammad. In the next century I may go still further in recognizing the utility of that creed in solving its problems, and it is in this sense that you must understand my prediction.
    • A collection of writings of some of the Eminent Scholars' p.77, by the Working Muslim Mission, 1993 edition.
  • Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself.
  • No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.
  • Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it…
  • Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.[1]
  • The average age (life expectancy) of a meat eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and still work as hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough and I am trying to die; but I simply cannot do it. A single beefsteak would finish me; but I cannot bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with a dread of living forever. That is the only disadvantage of vegetarianism.
  • The customs of your tribe are not laws of nature.
    • A variant that seems to be derived from a statement in Antony and Cleopatra
  • The Indian way of life provides the vision of the natural, real way of life. We veil ourselves with unnatural masks. On the face of India are the tender expressions which carry the mark of the Creator's hand.
  • The longer I live the more I see that I am never wrong about anything, and that all the pains I have so humbly taken to verify my notions have only wasted my time.[1]
  • The main difference between the opposition of Islam to Hinduism and the opposition between Protestant and Catholic is that the Catholic persecutes as fiercely as the Protestant when he has the power; but Hinduism cannot persecute, because all the Gods - and what goes deeper, the no Gods - are to be found in its Temples.
  • The material of a dramatist is always some conflict of human feeling with circumstances.
  • The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school.
  • The ordinary Britisher imagines that God is an Englishman
  • The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
  • The road to ignorance is paved with good editions. Only the illiterate can afford to buy good books now.
  • The secret of success is to offend the greatest number of people.
    • Quoted in Days with Bernard Shaw by Stephen Winsten
  • The sex relation is not a personal relation. It can be irresistibly desired and rapturously consummated between persons who could not endure one another for a day in any other relation.
  • There is no love sincerer than the love of food.[1]
  • War does not decide who is right but who is left.
  • We have established what you are, madam. We are now merely haggling over the price.
  • When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.[1]
  • Youth is such a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.[1]
  • Shaw: Am reserving two seats for my show. Come bring a friend - if you have one.

Winston Churchill: Impossible to be present for the first one. Will attend the second - if there is one.

  • Consistency is the enemy of enterprise, just as symmetry is the enemy of art.
    • quoted by Michael Holroyd in Bernard Shaw: The Lure of Fantasy (1991)
  • The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
  • If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh; otherwise they'll kill you. (cited in the lead credits to the movie C.S.A. Confederate States of America; also sometimes attributed to Oscar Wilde).

Quotes about Shaw

  • Shaw knows at any moment, on any subject, what he thinks, what you will think, what others have thought, what all this thinking entails; and he takes the most elaborate pains to bring these thoughts to light in a form which is by turns abstract and familiar, conciliatory and aggressive, obvious and inferential, comic and puzzling. In a word, Shaw is perhaps the most consciously conscious mind that has ever thought — certainly the most conscious since Rousseau; which may be why both of them often create the same impression of insincerity amounting to charlatanism. Yet it is by excess of honesty that Shaw himself lent color to his representation as an inconsequential buffoon bent on monopolizing the spotlight.
    • Jacques Barzun, in "Bernard Shaw in Twilight" in The Kenyon Review (Summer 1943)
  • Seeing clearly within himself and always able to dodge around the ends of any position, including his own, Shaw assumed from the start the dual role of prophet and gadfly.
    • Jacques Barzun, in "Bernard Shaw in Twilight" in The Kenyon Review (Summer 1943)
  • Shaw does not merely decorate a proposition, but makes his way from point to point through new and difficult territory.
    • Jacques Barzun, in "Bernard Shaw in Twilight" in The Kenyon Review (Summer 1943)
  • He never invested his whole moral capital in a man, a book, or a cause, but treasured up wisdom wherever it could be picked up, always with scrupulous acknowledgment ... His eclecticism saving him from the cycle of hope-disillusion-despair, his highest effectiveness was as a skirmisher in the daily battle for light and justice, as a critic of new doctrine and a refurbisher of old, as a voice of warning and encouragement. That his action has not been in vain, we can measure by how little Shaw's iconoclasm stirs our blood; we no longer remember what he destroyed that was blocking our view.
    • Jacques Barzun, in "Bernard Shaw in Twilight" in The Kenyon Review (Summer 1943)
  • Bernard Shaw remains the only model we have of what the citizen of a democracy should be: an informed participant in all things we deem important to the society and the individual.
    • Jacques Barzun "Bernard Shaw," in A Jacques Barzun Reader : Selections from his works (2002), p. 231
  • As a teacher, as a propagandist, Mr. Shaw is no good at all, even in his own generation. But as a personality, he is immortal.
  • The writers of our century delight in the weaknesses of the human condition; the only one capable of inventing heroes was Bernard Shaw.
  • "God spare you, reader, of long prefaces". That was written by Quevedo, who, in order not to commit an anachronism that would have been found out in the long run, never read Shaw´s.
  • I never read a reply by Shaw that did not leave me in better and not worse temper or frame of mind; which did not seem to come out of inexhaustible fountains of fairmindedness and intellectual geniality; which did not savor somehow of that native largeness which the philosophers attributed to Magnanimous Man.
    • G. K. Chesterton, commenting on twenty years of debate with Shaw on political, religious and other social issues.
  • I found many men to whom I felt deeply grateful — especially Guy de Maupassant, Jack London, and H. L. Mencken — but the first man to whom I felt definitely related was George Bernard Shaw. This is a presumptuous or fatuous thing to mention, perhaps, but even so it must be mentioned. ... I myself, as a person, have been influenced by many writers and many things, and my writing has felt the impact of the writing of many writers, some relatively unknown and unimportant, some downright bad. But probably the greatest influence of them all when an influence is most effective — when the man being influenced is nowhere near being solid in his own right — has been the influence of the great tall man with the white beard, the lively eyes, the swift wit and the impish chuckle. ... I have been fascinated by it all, grateful for it all, grateful for the sheer majesty of the existence of ideas, stories, fables, and paper and ink and print and books to hold them all together for a man to take aside and examine alone. But the man I liked most and the man who seemed to remind me of myself — of what I really was and would surely become — was George Bernard Shaw.

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