English Playwright, Novelist and Short Story Writer
W. Somerset Maugham, fully William Somerset Maugham
English Playwright, Novelist and Short Story Writer
The wise always use a number of ready-made phrases (at the moment I write ?nobody?s business? is the most common), popular adjectives (like ?divine? or ?shy-making?), verbs that you only know the meaning of if you live in the right set (like ?dunch?), which give a homely sparkle to small talk and avoid the necessity of thought. The Americans, who are the most efficient people on the earth, have carried this device to such perfection and have invented so wide a range of pithy and hackneyed phrases that they can carry on amusing and animated conversation without giving a moment?s reflection to what they are saying and so leave their minds free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication.
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
There was an immeasurable distance between the quick and the dead: they did not seem to belong to the same species; and it was strange to think that but a little while before they had spoken and moved and eaten and laughed.
Thinking of Cronshaw, Philip remembered the Persian rug which he had given him, telling him that it offered an answer to his question upon the meaning of life; and suddenly the answer occurred to him: he chuckled: now that he had it, it was like one of the puzzles which you worry over till you are shown the solution and then cannot imagine how it could ever have escaped you. The answer was obvious. Life had no meaning. On the earth, satellite of a star speeding through space, living things had arisen under the influence of conditions which were part of the planet?s history; and as there had been a beginning of life upon it so, under the influence of other conditions, there would be an end: man, no more significant than other forms of life, had come notas the climax of creation but as a physical reaction to the environment.
To write simply is as difficult as to be good.
We can only guess at the thoughts and emotions of our neighbors. Each one of us is a prisoner in a solitary tower and he communicates with the other prisoners, who form mankind, by conventional signs that have not quite the same meaning for them as for himself.
What d'you suppose I care if I'm a gentleman or not? If I were a gentleman I shouldn't waste my time with a vulgar slut like you.
When I was young I was amazed at Plutarch's statement that the elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long.
Why should you think that beauty, which is the most precious thing in the world, lies like a stone on the beach for the careless passer-by to pick up idly? Beauty is something wonderful and strange that the artist fashions out of the chaos of the world in the torment of his soul. And when he has made it, it is not given to all to know it. To recognize it you must repeat the adventure of the artist. It is a melody that he sings to you, and to hear it again in your own heart you want knowledge and sensitiveness and imagination.
Writing is the supreme solace.
You know, my dear child, that one cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one's soul.
You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh. They do not know how mean it makes you. It exposes you to endless humiliation, it cuts your wings, it eats into your soul like a cancer. It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one's dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank, and independent.
The sad Don Quixote of a worthless purpose.
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.
There are times when I look over the various parts of my character with perplexity. I recognize that I am made up of several persons and that the person that at the moment has the upper hand will inevitably give place to another. But which is the real one? All of them or none?
There was neither good nor bad there. There were just facts. It was life.
This love was a torment, and he resented bitterly the subjugation in which it held him; he was a prisoner and he longed for freedom. Sometimes he awoke in the morning and felt nothing; his soul leaped, for he thought he was free; he loved no longer; but in a little while, as he grew wide awake, the pain settled in his heart, and he knew that he was not cured yet.
Tolerance is another word for indifference.
We didn't think much in the air corps of a fellow who wangled a cushy job out of his C.O. by buttering him up. It was hard for me to believe that God thought much of a man who tried to wangle salvation by fulsome flattery. I should have thought the worship most pleasing to him was to do your best according to your lights.
What has influenced my life more than any other single thing has been my stammer. Had I not stammered I would probably... have gone to Cambridge as my brothers did, perhaps have become a don and every now and then published a dreary book about French literature.
When I've seen you go into an empty room I've sometimes wanted to open the door suddenly, but I've been afraid to in case I found nobody there.
With infinite patience she prepared to snare and bind me. She wanted to bring me down to her level; she cared nothing for me, she only wanted me to be hers. She was willing to do everything in the world for me except the one thing I wanted: to leave me alone.
Ye cannot find out the depth of the heart of man, neither can ye perceive the things that he thinketh; then how can ye search out God, that hath made all these things, and know His mind, or comprehend His purpose?
You know, of course, that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct.
You're a deeply religious man who does not believe in God. God will look for him.