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George Bernard Shaw Quotes

  1. A broken heart is a very pleasant complaint for a man in London if he has a comfortable income.
  2. A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic.
  3. A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.
  4. A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.
  5. A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
  6. A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
  7. A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
  8. A little learning is a dangerous thing, but we must take that risk because a little is as much as our biggest heads can hold.
  9. A man never tells you anything until you contradict him.
  10. A man who has no office to go, to I don’t care who he is, is a trial of which you can have no conception.
  11. A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.
  12. A statesman who confines himself to popular legislation – or, for the matter of that, a playwright who confines himself to popular plays – is like a blind man’s dog who goes wherever the blind man pulls him, on the ground that both of them want to go to the same place.
  13. A veteran journalist has never had time to think twice before he writes.
  14. Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.
  15. All genuinely intellectual work is humorous.
  16. All great truths begin as blasphemies.
  17. All my life affection has been showered upon me, and every forward step I have made has been taken in spite of it.
  18. Americans adore me and will go on adoring me until I say something nice about them.
  19. An Englishman thinks he is moral when he is only uncomfortable.
  20. An asylum for the sane would be empty in America.
  21. An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it.
  22. An index is a great leveller.
  23. Animals are my friends… and I don’t eat my friends.
  24. Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.
  25. Baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended.
  26. Beauty is a short-lived tyranny.
  27. Beauty is all very well at first sight; but who ever looks at it when it has been in the house three days?
  28. Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.
  29. Better never than late.
  30. Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.
  31. Beware of the man who does not return your blow: he neither forgives you nor allows you to forgive yourself.
  32. Caesar was a man of great common sense and good taste, meaning thereby a man without originality or moral courage.
  33. Capitalism has destroyed our belief in any effective power but that of self interest backed by force.
  34. Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.
  35. Choose silence of all virtues, for by it you hear other men’s imperfections, and conceal your own.
  36. Clever and attractive women do not want to vote; they are willing to let men govern as long as they govern men.
  37. Creation is a miracle of daily recurrence. ‘A miracle a minute’ would not be a bad slogan for God.
  38. Cruelty would be delicious if one could only find some sort of cruelty that didn’t really hurt.
  39. Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.
  40. Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
  41. Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.
  42. Do not do unto others as you expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
  43. Do not try to live forever. You will not succeed.
  44. Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is Poverty; what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.
  45. England and America are two countries separated by the same language.
  46. Every man over forty is a scoundrel.
  47. Every person who has mastered a profession is a skeptic concerning it.
  48. Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.
  49. Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does.
  50. Few of us have vitality enough to make any of our instincts imperious.
  51. Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.
  52. Find enough clever things to say, and you’re a Prime Minister; write them down and you’re a Shakespeare.
  53. First love is only a little foolishness and a lot of curiosity.
  54. General consultant to mankind.
  55. Give a man health and a course to steer, and he’ll never stop to trouble about whether he’s happy or not.
  56. He knows nothing and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.
  57. He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.
  58. Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.
  59. Hell is full of musical amateurs.
  60. Home life is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo.
  61. Human beings are the only animals of which I am thoroughly and cravenly afraid.
  62. I am a Christian. That obliges me to be a Communist.
  63. I am afraid we must make the world honest before we can honestly say to our children that honesty is the best policy.
  64. I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.
  65. I enjoy convalescence. It is the part that makes the illness worth while.
  66. I have a strong feeling that I shall be glad when I am dead and done for – scrapped at last to make room for somebody better, cleverer, more perfect than myself.
  67. I have to live for others and not for myself: that’s middle-class morality.
  68. I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.
  69. I never resist temptation, because I have found that things that are bad for me do not tempt me.
  70. I never thought much of the courage of a lion tamer. Inside the cage he is at least safe from people.
  71. I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
  72. I want to be all used up when I die.
  73. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.
  74. I want to destroy ownership in order that possession and enjoyment may be raised to the highest point in every section of the community.
  75. I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would be an affront to your intelligence.
  76. I’m an atheist and I thank God for it.
  77. If I own a large part of Scotland, I can turn the people off the land practically into the sea or across the sea. I can take women in child-bearing and throw them into the snow and leave them there. That has been done. I can do it for no better reason than I think it is better to shoot deer on the land than allow people to live on it.
  78. If I were a woman, I’d simply refuse to speak to any man or do anything for men until I’d got the vote.
  79. If a woman can, by careful selection of a father and nourishment of herself, produce a citizen with efficient senses, sound organs and a good digestion, she should clearly be secured a sufficient reward for that natural service to make her willing to undertake and repeat it.
  80. If all the economists were laid end to end, they’d never reach a conclusion.
  81. If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.
  82. If there was nothing wrong in the world there wouldn’t be anything for us to do.
  83. If women were particular about men’s characters, they would never get married at all.
  84. If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
  85. If you injure your neighbour, better not do it by halves.
  86. If you leave the smallest corner of your head vacant for a moment, other people’s opinions will rush in from all quarters.
  87. If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example.
  88. If you’re not producing as much as you consume, or perhaps a little more, then clearly we cannot use the big organization of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us, and it can’t be of very much use to yourself.
  89. Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.
  90. In a battle all you need to make you fight is a little hot blood and the knowledge that it’s more dangerous to lose than to win.
  91. In heaven an angel is nobody in particular.
  92. In socialism, private property is anathema, and equal distribution of income the first consideration. In capitalism, private property is cardinal, and distribution left to ensue from the play of free contract and selfish interest on that basis, no matter what anomalies it may present.
  93. In this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it.
  94. Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.
  95. It is a curious sensation: the sort of pain that goes mercifully beyond our powers of feeling. When your heart is broken, your boats are burned: nothing matters any more. It is the end of happiness and the beginning of peace.
  96. It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid.
  97. It is most unwise for people in love to marry.
  98. It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.
  99. It’s easier to replace a dead man than a good picture.
  100. It’s so hard to know what to do when one wishes earnestly to do right.
  101. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.
  102. Kings are not born: they are made by artificial hallucination.
  103. Lack of money is the root of all evil.
  104. Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.
  105. Life contains but two tragedies. One is not to get your heart’s desire; the other is to get it.
  106. Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.
  107. Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
  108. Life levels all men. Death reveals the eminent.
  109. Life would be tolerable but for its amusements.
  110. Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everybody else.
  111. Man can climb to the highest summits, but he cannot dwell there long.
  112. Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who can’t sleep with the window shut, and a woman who can’t sleep with the window open.
  113. Marriage is good enough for the lower classes: they have facilities for desertion that are denied to us.
  114. Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.
  115. Martyrdom: The only way a man can become famous without ability.
  116. Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience.
  117. Men have to do some awfully mean things to keep up their respectability.
  118. Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles.
  119. Most people do not pray; they only beg.
  120. My method of getting a play across the footlights is like a revolver shooting: every line has a bullet in it and comes with an explosion.
  121. My reputation grows with every failure.
  122. Never fret for an only son, the idea of failure will never occur to him.
  123. No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.
  124. No man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect.
  125. No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious.
  126. Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill one another if it is not done.
  127. Nothing is worth doing unless the consequences may be serious.
  128. Old men are dangerous: it doesn’t matter to them what is going to happen to the world.
  129. One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven’t and don’t.
  130. Only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue, and abiding love.
  131. Parentage is a very important profession, but no test of fitness for it is ever imposed in the interest of the children.
  132. Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.
  133. Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous.
  134. People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to them.
  135. People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.
  136. Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to the country and to mankind is to bring up a family.
  137. Political necessities sometime turn out to be political mistakes.
  138. Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.
  139. Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  140. Property is organized robbery.
  141. Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman, but believing what he read made him mad.
  142. Science never solves a problem without creating ten more.
  143. Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing.
  144. She had lost the art of conversation but not, unfortunately, the power of speech.
  145. Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn.
  146. Socialism is the same as Communism, only better English.
  147. Socialism never arises in the earlier phases of capitalism, as, for instance, among the pioneers of civilisation in a country where there is plenty of land available for private appropriation by the last comer.
  148. Socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property, and the division of the resultant public income equally and indiscriminately among the entire population.
  149. Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive.
  150. Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.
  151. Syllables govern the world.
  152. Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get.
  153. The British soldier can stand up to anything except the British War Office.
  154. The Nazi movement is in many respects one which has my warmest sympathy.
  155. The Old Testament God is a person with body parts and passions. The Church of England God has neither body, parts nor passions, and is therefore not a person.
  156. The art of government is the organisation of idolatry.
  157. The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.
  158. 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.
  159. The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier.
  160. The fickleness of the women I love is only equalled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me.
  161. The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.
  162. The frontier between hell and heaven is only the difference between two ways of looking at things.
  163. The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.
  164. The great advantage of a hotel is that it is a refuge from home life.
  165. The heretic is always better dead. And mortal eyes cannot distinguish the saint from the heretic.
  166. The idea of personal salvation is intensely repugnant to me when it is not absurd. Imagine Roosevelt, the big brute, preserving his personality in a future state and swaggering about as a celestial Rough Rider!
  167. The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.
  168. The love of economy is the root of all virtue.
  169. The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and about all time.
  170. The man with a toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound. The poverty-stricken man makes the same mistake about the rich man.
  171. The minority is sometimes right; the majority always wrong.
  172. The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.
  173. The natural term of the affection of the human animal for its offspring is six years.
  174. The only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man.
  175. The only secrets are the secrets that keep themselves.
  176. The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself.
  177. The only way to avoid being miserable is not to have enough leisure to wonder whether you are happy or not.
  178. 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.
  179. The perfect love affair is one which is conducted entirely by post.
  180. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.
  181. The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
  182. The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation.
  183. The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people.
  184. The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
  185. The test of a man or woman’s breeding is how they behave in a quarrel.
  186. The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business.
  187. The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.
  188. The truth is, hardly any of us have ethical energy enough for more than one really inflexible point of honor.
  189. The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.
  190. There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses.
  191. There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.
  192. There is no satisfaction in hanging a man who does not object to it.
  193. There is no sincerer love than the love of food.
  194. There is no subject on which more dangerous nonsense is talked and thought than marriage.
  195. There is nothing more dangerous than the conscience of a bigot.
  196. There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.
  197. Those who do not know how to live must make a merit of dying.
  198. Until the men of action clear out the talkers we who have social consciences are at the mercy of those who have none.
  199. Use your health, even to the point of wearing it out. That is what it is for. Spend all you have before you die; do not outlive yourself.
  200. Very few people can afford to be poor.
  201. Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it.
  202. Virtue is insufficient temptation.
  203. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.
  204. We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
  205. We are the only real aristocracy in the world: the aristocracy of money.
  206. We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
  207. We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.
  208. We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience.
  209. We must always think about things, and we must think about things as they are, not as they are said to be.
  210. We should all be obliged to appear before a board every five years and justify our existence… on pain of liquidation.
  211. What Englishman will give his mind to politics as long as he can afford to keep a motor car?
  212. What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.
  213. What is the use of writing plays, what is the use of writing anything, if there is not a will which finally moulds chaos itself into a race of gods.
  214. What is virtue but the Trade Unionism of the married?
  215. What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.
  216. When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.
  217. When a man says money can do anything, that settles it: he hasn’t got any.
  218. When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him he calls it ferocity.
  219. When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.
  220. Which painting in the National Gallery would I save if there was a fire? The one nearest the door of course.
  221. While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered animals, how can we expect any ideal living conditions on this earth?
  222. Why should we take advice on sex from the pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldn’t!
  223. Why, except as a means of livelihood, a man should desire to act on the stage when he has the whole world to act in, is not clear to me.
  224. Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.
  225. You are going to let the fear of poverty govern you life and your reward will be that you will eat, but you will not live.
  226. You can always tell an old soldier by the inside of his holsters and cartridge boxes. The young ones carry pistols and cartridges; the old ones, grub.
  227. You cannot be a hero without being a coward.
  228. You have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.
  229. You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’
  230. You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.
  231. You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.
  232. Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.
  233. Youth is wasted on the young.

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