Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

J. B. Priestly, fully John Boynton Priestly

English Novelist, Playwright, Author, Broadcaster, Scriptwriter, Social Commentator and Man of Letters

"Almost all propaganda is designed to create fear. Heads of governments and their officials know that a frightened people is easier to govern, will forfeit rights it would otherwise defend, is less likely to demand a better life, and will agree to millions and millions being spent on “Defense.”"

"The more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate."

"We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish."

"We pay when old for the excesses of youth. "

"Living in an age of advertisement, we are perpetually disillusioned. The perfect life is spread before us every day, but it changes and withers at a touch. "

""Orthodoxy, my Lord," said Bishop Warburton, in a whisper, - "orthodoxy is my doxy, - heterodoxy is another man's doxy.""

"A novelist who writes nothing for 10 years finds his reputation rising. Because I keep on producing books they say there must be something wrong with this fellow."

"A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours."

"A lot of men who have accepted - or had imposed upon them in boyhood - the old English public school styles of careful modesty in speech, with much understatement, have behind their masks an appalling and impregnable conceit of themselves."

"A synopsis is a cold thing. You do it with the front of your mind. If you're going to stay with it, you never get quite the same magic as when you're going all out."

"Accidents, try to change them -it's impossible. The accidental reveals man."

"As we read the school reports on our children, we realize a sense of relief, that can rise to delight, that, thank Heaven, nobody is reporting in this fashion on us."

"Already we Viewers, when not viewing, have begun to whisper to one another that the more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate."

"But the point is, now, at this moment, or any moment, we're only cross-sections of our real selves. What we really are is the whole stretch of ourselves, all our time, and when we come to the end of this life, all those selves, all our time, will be us - the real you, the real me. And then perhaps we'll find ourselves in another time, which is only another kind of dream."

"But some of us are beginning to pull well away, in our irritation, from... the exquisite tasters, the vintage snobs, the three-star Michelin gourmets. There is, we feel, a decent area somewhere between boiled carrots and Beluga caviar, sour plonk and Chateau Lafitte, where we can take care of our gullets and bellies without worshipping them."

"Britain, which in the years immediately before this war was rapidly losing such democratic virtues as it possessed, is now being bombed and burned into democracy."

"Any fool can be fussy and rid himself of energy all over the place, but a man has to have something in him before he can settle down to do nothing."

"Be yourself is about the worst advice you can give to some people."

"Comedy, we may say, is society protecting itself - with a smile."

"Depending upon shock tactics is easy, whereas writing a good play is difficult. Pubic hair is no substitute for wit."

"During dinner at the Dersinghams in Angel Pavement... Do you ever watch rugger, Golspie? Mr Dersingham demanded down the table. What, rugby? Haven't see a match for years, replied Mr Golspie. Prefer the other kind when I do watch one. Major Trape raised his eyebrows, What, you a soccah man? Not this professional stuff? Don't tell me you like that. What's the matter with it? Oh, come now! I mean, you can't possibly --I mean it's a dirty business, selling fellahs for money and so on, very unsporting."

"Have you not a moist eye, a dry hand, a yellow cheek, a white beard, a decreasing leg, an increasing belly? Is not your voice broken, your wind short, your chin double, your wit single, and every part about you blasted with antiquity?"

"I can't help feeling wary when I hear anything said about the masses. First you take their faces from 'em by calling 'em the masses and then you accuse 'em of not having any faces."

"God can stand being told by Professor Ayer and Marghanita Laski that He doesn't exist."

"I never read the life of any important person without discovering that he knew more and could do more than I could ever hope to know or do in half a dozen lifetimes."

"I know only two words of American slang, 'swell' and 'lousy'. I think 'swell' is lousy, but 'lousy' is swell."

"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning."

"I sometimes wish they would swagger more now, buy bigger overcoats and wilder hats, and retain those traces of make-up that put them outside respectability and keep them rogues and vagabonds, which is what, at heart - bless 'em - they are."

"If there was a little room somewhere in the British Museum that contained only about twenty exhibits and good lighting, easy chairs, and a notice imploring you to smoke, I believe I should become a museum man."

"If there is one thing left that I would like to do, it's to write something really beautiful. And I could do it, you know. I could still do it."

"It had the old double keyboard, an entirely different set of keys for capitals and figures, so that the paper seemed a long way off, and the machine was as big and solid as a battle cruiser. Typing was then a muscular activity. You could ache after it. If you were not familiar with those vast keyboards, your hand wandered over them like a child lost in a wood. The noise might have been that of a shipyard on the Clyde. You would no more have thought of carrying one of those grim structures as you would have thought of travelling with a piano."

"Like its politicians and its wars, society has the teenagers it deserves."

"Many a man is praised for his reserve and so-called shyness when he is simply too proud to risk making a fool of himself."

"Marriage is like paying an endless visit in your worst clothes."

"Most writers enjoy two periods of happiness - when a glorious idea comes to mind and, secondly, when a last page has been written and you haven't had time to know how much better it ought to be."

"If you are a genius, you'll make your own rules, but if not - and the odds are against it - go to your desk no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper - write."

"If we openly declare what is wrong with us, what is our deepest need, then perhaps the death and despair will by degrees disappear."

"I'm in the business of providing people with secondary satisfactions. It wouldn't have done me much good if they had all written their own plays, would it?"

"In spite of recent jazzed-up one-day matches, cricket to be fully appreciated demands leisure, some sunny warm days and an understanding of its finer points."

"In plain words; now that Britain has told the world she has the H-Bomb, she should announce as early as possible that she has done with it, that she proposes to reject, in all circumstances, nuclear warfare. This is not pacifism. There is no suggestion here of abandoning the immediate defence of this island...No, what should be abandoned is the idea of deterrence-by-threat-of-retaliation. There is no real security in it, no decency in it, no faith, hope, nor charity in it."

"One of the delights known to age, and beyond the grasp of youth, is that of Not Going."

"Nearly everything possible has been done to spoil this game: the heavy financial interests... the absurd publicity given to every feature of it by the Press... but the fact remains that it is not yet spoilt, and it has gone out and conquered the world."

"Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with successive difficult deliveries."

"One of the delights beyond the grasp of youth is that of Not Going. Not to have an invitation for the dance, the party, the picnic, the excursion is to be diminished. To have an invitation and then not to be able to go -- oh cursed spite! Now I do not care the rottenest fig whether I receive an invitation or not. After years of illusion, I finally decided I was missing nothing by Not Going. I no longer care whether I am missing anything or not."

"No matter how piercing and appalling his insights, the desolation creeping over his outer world, the lurid lights and shadows of his inner world, the writer must live with hope, work in faith."

"Our trouble is that we drink too much tea. I see in this the slow revenge of the Orient, which has diverted the Yellow River down our throats."

"Our great-grandchildren, when they learn how we began this war by snatching glory out of defeat . . . may also learn how the little holiday steamers made an excursion to hell and came back glorious."

"Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write."

"No people were ever better than their laws, though many have been worse."

"Our dourest parsons, who followed the nonconformist fashion of long extemporary prayers, always seemed to me to be bent on bullying God."