Witty Quotes

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A witty saying proves nothing.
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
Proverbs 8:12
• King James Version of the Bible originally published in 1611. Full KJV Authorized Book Name: The Proverbs; Common Book Name: Proverbs; Chapter: 8; Verse: 12.
• The data for the years individual books were written is according to Dating the Bible on Wikipedia.
Those wits that think they have thee, do very oft prove fools; and I, that am sure I lack thee, may pass for a wise man; for what says Quinapalus? "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit."
• William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (c. 1601-02), Act I, scene 5, line 37.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Wit" (Quotes)
Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.
Pretty witty Nell.
One cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.
Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor.
I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.
For such is the nature of men, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; Yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves: For they see their own wit at hand, and other men's at a distance.
A witty woman is a treasure; a witty beauty is a power.
Conquered people tend to be witty.
You can pretend to be serious but you can't pretend to be witty.
Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings, This painted child of dirt, that stinks and stings; Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys, Yet wit ne'er tastes, and beauty ne'er enjoys.
At all events, the next best thing to being witty one's self, is to be able to quote another's wit.
Comedy has to be done en clair. You can't blunt the edge of wit or the point of satire with obscurity. Try to imagine a famous witty saying that is not immediately clear.
Grace, honour, praise, delight,
Here sojourn day and night.

Sound bodies lined
With a good mind,
Do here pursue with might
Grace, honour, praise, delight.

Here enter you, and welcome from our hearts,
All noble sparks, endowed with gallant parts.
This is the glorious place, which bravely shall
Afford wherewith to entertain you all.
Were you a thousand, here you shall not want
For anything; for what you'll ask we'll grant.
Stay here, you lively, jovial, handsome, brisk,
Gay, witty, frolic, cheerful, merry, frisk,
Spruce, jocund, courteous, furtherers of trades,
And, in a word, all worthy gentle blades.

Your wit makes others witty.
Catherine II of Russia
• Letter to Voltaire, as quoted in Short Sayings of Great Men : With Historical and Explanatory Notes (1882) by Samuel Arthur Bent, and Hoyt's New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1922) revised and enlarged by Kate Loise Roberts
• Source: Wikiquote: "Catherine II of Russia" (Quotes)
Grave authors say, and witty poets sing, That honest wedlock is a glorious thing.
• Alexander Pope, January and May, line 21.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Marriage" (Quotes, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 495-500.)
She is pretty to walk with, And witty to talk with, And pleasant too, to think on.
• Sir John Suckling, Brennoralt, Act II, scene 1.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Women" (Quotes, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 886-97.)
Silence in love bewrays more woe Than words, though ne'er so witty; A beggar that is dumb, you know, May challenge double pity.
• Sir Walter Raleigh, The Silent Lover, Stanza 9.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Silence" (Quotes, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 707-10.)
Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, - very momentous to us in these times.
• Thomas Carlyle (1859), On Heroes, Hero-worship, and the Heroic in History: Six Lectures: Reported pages: 147, Lect. V: "The Hero as Man of Letters", publisher: Wiley & Halsted
• Source: Wikiquote: "Journalism" (Sourced)
Quick, shrewd and witty, he was a brilliant specialist in operational and training matters and the son of a distinguished general. He supported Beck's resistance to Hitler, but when it came to a crunch was no real help. Flirt as he did, in September, with those opposed to Hitler, he toed the party line when extreme pressure was exerted for the return of the Sudetenland and its German nationals by the Czechs to Germany.
A French critic cleverly wrote that "with Autumn Sonata Bergman does Bergman." It is witty but unfortunate. For me, that is. I think it is only too true that Bergman (Ingmar, that is) did a Bergman... I love and admire the filmmaker Tarkovsky and believe him to be one of the greatest of all time. My admiration for Fellini is limitless. But I also feel that Tarkovsky began to make Tarkovsky films and that Fellini began to make Fellini films. Yet Kurosawa has never made a Kurosawa film. I have never been able to appreciate Buñuel. He discovered at an early stage that it is possible to fabricate ingenious tricks, which he elevated to a special kind of genius, particular to Buñuel, and then he repeated and varied his tricks. He always received applause. Buñuel nearly always made Buñuel films.
There's many witty men whose brains can't fill their bellies.
Nowadays three witty turns of phrase and a lie make a writer.
Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more reverend than plausible, and more advised than confident. Above all things, integrity is their portion and proper virtue.
Rex Stout's witty, fast-moving prose hasn't dated a day, while Wolfe himself is one of the enduringly great eccentrics of popular fiction. I've spent the past four decades reading and re-reading Stout's novels for pleasure, and they have yet to lose their savor.
The Moral is that gardeners pine, Whene'er no pods adorn the vine. Of all sad words experience gleans, The saddest are: "It might have beans." (I did not make this up myself: 'Twas in a book upon my shelf. It's witty, but I don't deny It's rather Whittier than I).
• Guy Wetmore Carryl, Haw Jack found that Beans may go back an a Chap.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Words" (Quotes, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 902-07.)
I remember being moved to tears when Peter said: "I know I was funny but I know I won't improve, I won't get any better". I was lucky to be around when he was at his peak. Verbally he was the most witty man that I have ever come across and strangely inventive.
HENRY: Now it is necessary to court her, and win her, and put on this clean dressing gown, and cut my various nails, and drink something that will kill the millions of germs in my mouth, and say something flattering, and be witty and bonny, and hale and kinky, all just to ease this wrinkle in the groin. It seems a high price.
The discovery of the good taste of bad taste can be very liberating. The man who insists on high and serious pleasures is depriving himself of pleasure; he continually restricts what he can enjoy; in the constant exercise of his good taste he will eventually price himself out of the market, so to speak. Here Camp taste supervenes upon good taste as a daring and witty hedonism. It makes the man of good taste cheerful, where before he ran the risk of being chronically frustrated. It is good for the digestion.
Shakespearean language is a bizarre super-tongue, alien and plastic, twisting, turning, and forever escaping. It is untranslatable, since it knocks Anglo-Saxon root words against Norman and Greco-Roman importations sweetly or harshly, kicking us up and down rhetorical levels with witty abruptness. No one in real life ever spoke like Shakespeare's characters. His language does not "make sense," especially in the greatest plays. Anywhere from a third to a half of every Shakespearean play, I conservatively estimate, will always remain under an interpretive cloud. Unfortunately, this fact is obscured by the encrustations of footnotes in modern texts, which imply to the poor cowed student that if only he knew what the savants do, all would be as clear as day. Every time I open Hamlet, I am stunned by its hostile virtuosity, its elusiveness and impenetrability. Shakespeare uses language to darken. He suspends the traditional compass points of rhetoric, still quite firm in Marlowe, normally regarded as Shakespeare's main influence. Shakespeare's words have "aura." This he got from Spenser, not Marlowe.
A witty statesman said, you might prove anything by figures.
Hitchens is a witty thinker, but never a frivolous one.
An aphorism is a many-faceted observation: speculative and not necessarily witty.
• David Mikics (2008), A New Handbook of Literary Terms, p. 21
• Source: Wikiquote: "Aphorisms" (Quotes: listed alphabetically by author, M-N)
Every habit makes our hand more witty and our wit less handy.
Habit (psychology)
• Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), German philosopher and critic. The Gay Science (1882), Third Book, 'Habit', aphorism 247.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Habit (psychology)" (Quotes)
Who can prove Wit to be witty when with deeper ground Dulness intuitive declares wit dull?
George Eliot
A College Breakfast-party, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
• Source: Wikiquote: "George Eliot" (Quotes, Scenes of Clerical Life (1858): This volume contains three stories: "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton", "Mr Gilfil's Love Story" and "Janet's Repentance". The full text is available from Project Gutenberg. )
Unlike my subject will I frame my song, It shall be witty, and it shan't be long.
Wit is the appearance, the external flash of imagination. Thus its divinity, and the witty character of mysticism.
• Variant translation:
Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel
• Aphorism 26, as translated in Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms (1968), p. 151
 • Wit is the appearance, the external flash, of fantasy. Hence its divinity and the similarity to the wit of mysticism.
• As translated in The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics (1996) edited by Frederick C. Beiser, p. 131
• Source: Wikiquote: "Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel" (Quotes)
"I wish I'd said that" (by Wilde, to a witty remark by James McNeill Whistler), to which Whistler riposted:
He had something of the air, if one can imagine such a combination, of a witty and decadent Red Indian.
Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; morals, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.
• Francis Bacon, Of Studies.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Studying" (Quotes, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 757.)
For conversation well endued; She calls it witty to be rude; And, placing raillery in railing, Will tell aloud your greatest failing.
There is a difference between being witty – quick with the repartee and the insight – and having an aptitude for aphorism.
• James Fenton. The Guardian (UK) newspaper, 17th February 2007
• Source: Wikiquote: "Aphorisms" (Quotes: listed alphabetically by author, E-F)
Laugh not too much; the witty man laughs least: For wit is news only to ignorance. Lesse at thine own things laugh; lest in the jest Thy person share, and the conceit advance.
People who live in an age of corruption are witty and slanderous; they know that there are other kinds of murder than by dagger or assault; they also know that whatever is well said is believed...
Elgar is not manic enough to be Russian, not witty or pointilliste enough to be French, not harmonically simple enough to be Italian and not stodgy enough to be German. We arrive at his Englishry by pure elimination.
A prudent and discreet Silence will be sometimes more to thy Advantage, than the most witty expression, or even the best contrived Sincerity. A Man often repents that he has spoken, but seldom that he has held his Tongue.
2593. A prudent and discreet Silence will be sometimes more to thy Advantage, than the most witty expression, or even the best contrived Sincerity. A Man often repents that he has spoken, but seldom that he has held his Tongue.
His wiles were witty and his fame far known,
Every king's daughter sought him for her own,
Yet he was nothing to be won or lost.

All lands to him were Ithaca: love-tossed
He loathed the fraud, yet would not bed alone.
How then can the curious drawer watch, and as it were catch these lovely graces, witty smilings, and those stolen glances which suddenly like lightning pass, and another countenance taketh place, except to behold and very well note and conceit to like.
Eloquent, witty, literate, intelligent, knowledgeable, brave, erudite, hard-working, honest (who could forget his clean-through skewering of Mother Teresa's hypocrisy?), arguably the most formidable debater alive today yet at the same time the most gentlemanly, Christopher Hitchens is a giant of the mind and a model of courage.
Then old age and experience, hand in hand, Lead him to death, make him to understand, After a search so painful and so long, That all his life he has been in the wrong. Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies, Who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.
• John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, "A Satire against Reason and Mankind" (c. 1675), line 25.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Reason" (Quotes)
A father may have a child who is ugly and lacking in all the graces, and the love he feels for him puts a blindfold over his eyes so that he does not see his defects but considers them signs of charm and intelligence and recounts them to his friends as if they were clever and witty.
Well, well, perhaps I am a bit of a talker. A popular fellow such as I am — my friends get round me — we chaff, we sparkle, we tell witty stories — and somehow my tongue gets wagging. I have the gift of conversation. I’ve been told I ought to have a salon, whatever that may be.
The discreet man finds out the talents of those he converses with, and knows how to apply them to proper uses. Accordingly, if we look into particular communities and divisions of men, we may observe that it is the discreet man, not the witty, nor the learned, nor the brave, who guides the conversation, and gives measures to the society.
I am not indeed ignorant that certain over-wise people will call these legends "old wives' fables," and not worth listening to; but I think, for my part, that in such matters it is better to believe the testimony of nations than of those witty individuals, whose little soul is acute indeed, but has a clear insight into no one thing.
You think of the crimes that he committed, they're so horrific you kinda think only a madman or somebody totally evil–evil incarnate would do this but when you talked with Jeff Dahmer you did not get this idea. He could be engaging, he could be bright, witty, he could make jokes. He was able to fool a lot of people.
There were entertaining, impassioned, or witty lectures on Goethe, say, in which he would be depicted descending from a post chaise wearing a blue frock-coat to seduce some Strassburg or Wetzlar girl; or on Arabic culture; in all of them a number of fashionable phrases were shaken up like dice in a cup and everyone was delighted if he dimly recognized one or two catchwords.
Sir, money, money, the most charming of all things; money, which will say more in one moment than the most elegant lover can in years. Perhaps you will say a man is not young; I answer he is rich. He is not genteel, handsome, witty, brave, good-humoured, but he is rich, rich, rich, rich, rich — that one word contradicts everything you can say against him.
Groucho appeals on so many levels at once that you could go nuts trying to figure out whether it's the funny movement, the incomparable tone of voice, what he is saying, or that keenly witty face that hits you the hardest. I swear that if he never existed, we would sense a lack in the world of comedy, like that planet in the solar system that astronomers say Ought to be there. For me he is The Master.
Wait a moment, here I have it. This: 'Most men will not swim before they are able to.' Is not that witty? Naturally, they won't swim! They are born for the solid earth, not for the water. And naturally they won't think. They are made for life, not for thought. Yes, and he who thinks, what's more, he who makes thought his business, he may go far in it, but he has bartered the solid earth for the water all the same, and one day he will drown.
Now in an army nobody ever dreams of supposing that difference of rank represents a difference of moral reality. Nobody ever says about a regiment, "Your Major is very humorous and energetic; your Colonel, of course, must be even more humorous and yet more energetic." No one ever says, in reporting a mess-room conversation, "Lieutenant Jones was very witty, but was naturally inferior to Captain Smith." The essence of an army is the idea of official inequality, founded on unofficial equality. The Colonel is not obeyed because he is the best man, but because he is the Colonel.
"No man in this fashionable London of yours," friend Sauerteig would say, "speaks a plain word to me. Every man feels bound to be something more than plain; to be pungent withal, witty, ornamental. His poor fraction of sense has to be perked into some epigrammatic shape, that it may prick into me;—perhaps (this is the commonest) to be topsyturvied, left standing on its head, that I may remember it the better! Such grinning inanity is very sad to the soul of man. Human faces should not grin on one like masks; they should look on one like faces! I love honest laughter, as I do sunlight; but not dishonest: most kinds of dancing too; but the St.-Vitus kind not at all! A fashionable wit, ach Himmel, if you ask, Which, he or a Death's- head, will be the cheerier company for me? pray send not him!"
A great many people were put down as mad among us last year. And in such language! "With such original talent" ... "and yet, after all, it appears" ... "however, one ought to have foreseen it long ago." That is rather artful; so that from the point of view of pure art one may really commend it. Well, but after all, these so-called madmen have turned out cleverer than ever. So it seems the critics can call them mad, but they cannot produce any one better. The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays. In old days, once a year at any rate a fool would recognise that he was a fool, but nowadays not a bit of it. And they have so muddled things up that there is no telling a fool from a wise man. They have done that on purpose. I remember a witty Spaniard saying when, two hundred and fifty years ago, the French built their first madhouses: "They have shut up all their fools in a house apart, to make sure that they are wise men themselves." Just so: you don't show your own wisdom by shutting some one else in a madhouse. "K. has gone out of his mind, means that we are sane now." No, it doesn't mean that yet.
Aristotle said melancholy men of all others are most witty.
Aristotle said * * * melancholy men of all others are most witty.
• Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Part I, Section III. Memb. 1. Subsect. 3.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Wit" (Quotes)
A witty illustration or an apt story will accomplish more than columns of argument.
Thou art so witty, profligate and thin, At once we think thee Satan, Death and Sin.
• Edward Young, Epigram on Voltaire, who had criticised the characters of the same name in Milton's Paradise Lost.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Epigrams" (Sourced, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 227-29.)
Unlike my subject, I will make my song. It shall be witty, and it shan't be long.
• Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. See note by Croker in Boswell's Life of Johnson (July 19, 1763). (When Sir Thomas Robinson asked for an epigram on his friend Long).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Epigrams" (Sourced, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 227-29.)
This is a brutal book – sensual, rude, coarse, and cruel. However, it is timely and well-written, even witty.
Generally speaking there is more wit than talent in this world. Society swarms with witty people who lack talent.
• Comte de Rivarol, on Mme. de Staël.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Wit" (Quotes, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 883-86.)
The chance to be seen as a warm, witty guy is too good an opportunity for a politician to miss.
Unlike my subject now * * * shall be my song, It shall be witty and it sha'n't be long!
• Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Preface to Letters, Volume I.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Song" (Sourced, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 732-33.)
I absolutely adored Mary. I was transfixed by her. She was so beautiful, so witty, so much fun to talk to.
A better plan would be to head straight for Bart's Guide to London, since that's hugely entertaining and witty, i.e. written by me.
We have a pretty witty king, Whose word no man relies on; He never said a foolish thing, Nor ever did a wise one.
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
• About King Charles II of England, as quoted in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine Vol. XLIV (January - June 1857) p. 592; It is said to that this was written on the door of Charles II’s bedchamber, and that on seeing it, the king replied, “This is very true: for my words are my own, and my actions are my ministers’....”
• Source: Wikiquote: "John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester" (Quotes, Other)
Schumann's humor is rarely either witty or light: the unrealizable musical structure, the musical motto hidden and partly inaudible, must have stirred his musical fantasy.
Is this where you crack a joke? Is this where you finish me with a witty barb? My God! Do you even appreciate why we did this thing?
He words stuff with a real, I guess it's a witty, intelligent, very human [sensibility]. I would like to grab some of those qualities...I wish he was my friend.
I've played Bach since I was a little girl. I can't let a day go by without playing him. He's so witty and secretive and funny and mathematical and brilliant.
An ambiguity,in ordinary speech,means something very pronounced,and as a rule witty or decetful....any verbal nuance,however slight,which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language. (From the Preface)
His Nature's a glass of champagne with the foam on 't, As tender as Fletcher, as witty as Beaumont; So his best things are done in the flash of the moment.
• James Russell Lowell, Fable for Critics (1848), line 834.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Character" (Quotes, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 97-106.)
Akhmatova's seeming successor as the best living Russian poet is Voznesensky. His talent is dazzling. He has the gift of fresh, witty perception, works with unusual images and modern rhythms. His poetry is marvelously dynamic.
(Man at bar) You know the kind of woman I could really go for? . . . Someone intelligent, witty, passionate about her work, totally involved in life, and willing to give it all up for me.
Huey: I don't get it. What's the significance of the name change? What's "P.Diddy" supposed to mean?
Ceasar: Well... what can it rhyme with? "P.Diddy"... Let's see... Witty... Kitty... City... Biddy... Doesn't seem clear.
Huey: What about sh-
Ceasar: Stop that.
Her life among the lions on both sides of the Atlantic is not only witty but wise as she brings into focus one husband Kenneth Tynan, one Orson Welles, the one and only Elvis Presley, and not least of all, the lioness herself, surviving all.
Apollo has peeped through the shutter, And awaken'd the witty and fair; The boarding-school belle's in a flutter, The twopenny post's in despair; The breath of the morning is flinging A magic on blossom and spray, And cockneys and sparrows are singing In chorus on Valentine's day.
Valentine's Day
• Winthrop Mackworth Praed, Song for 14th of February.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Valentine's Day" (Sourced, Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations: Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 828-29.)
John Roecker's Everything You Wanted to Know About Gay Porn Stars *but were afraid to ask, is an intimate, brave and frequently witty exploration inside the heads of 16 male erotic video performers, many with well-known nom de porns: Johnny Hazzard, Brad Benton, Nick Capra and Jason Ridge.
About John Roecker
• Lamble, David (December 4, 2008), Erotic superstars, up-close & personal: here!TV's 'Everything You Wanted to Know About Gay Porn Stars' work: The Bay Area Reporter, publisher: Benro Enterprises, Inc.
• Source: Wikiquote: "John Roecker" (About)
John Trott was desired by two witty peers To tell them the reason why asses had ears. "An 't please you," quoth John, "I'm not given to letters; Nor dare I pretend to know more than my betters: Howe'er, from this time I shall ne'er see your graces, As I hope to be saved! without thinking on asses."
• Oliver Goldsmith, The Clown's Reply; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 45.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Donkeys" (Quotes)
Most of my script-writing friends – I never had more than a handful—took eagerly to the bottle or the analyst’s couch, filled their extravagant ménages with threats of suicide, hurled themselves into hysterical amours. And some of them actually died in their forties and fifties. Among these were the witty Herman Mankiewicz and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the fine novelist.
(Devil describes Hell) It's like you go to a Van Halen concert and you're the oldest one there, and there's a mix-up in the tickets, and you have to stand for the whole thing and it's hot and the kid next to you loses his lunch on your shoe. . . . I know. You thought it was going to be witty and Noel Cowardish.
A recent profile in The New York Times Magazine depicted Ms. July — a quiet figure on the screen and a thoughtful, witty presence on the page — as an improbably polarizing filmmaker, as likely to be scorned for her supposed preciosity as celebrated for her ingenuity. And the first part of The Future seems, quite deliberately, to test the spectrum of audience response. Are you curious? Enchanted? Frustrated? All of the above?
Beware of getting involved with people who seem to be able to feel good but have no close friends. They may be witty and fun to be around, but their humor is all put-downs and hostility. If you marry such a person, you will soon be the recipient of that hostile humor and may regret it for the rest of your marriage....Someone who does not have good friends does not know how to love.
While on TV Brown downplays his role in proceedings – which may be a sleight of hand in itself – here his personality is to the fore, helped by a witty script and some unobtrusive direction. And what comes across strongest, aside from the unfailingly impressive feats of memory and suggestion, is a wryly self-aware sense of humour. Here he knocks the ponderous, self-aggrandising stunts of closest peer David Blaine’s into a cocked hat. – The Stage
No true reader who has read as much as a single story by Raphael Aloysius Lafferty needs to be told that he is our most original writer. … Just about everything Lafferty writes is fun, is witty, is entertaining and playful. But it is not easy, for it is a mingling of allegory with myth, and of both with something more ... In fact, he may not be just ours, but the most original writer in the history of literature.
About R. A. Lafferty
• Gene Wolfe, in the introduction to Episodes of the Argo (1990), later published in Castle of Days (1995)
• Source: Wikiquote: "R. A. Lafferty" (Quotations about Lafferty: Alphabetically by author or source)
Robert Lynn revelled in the forums, which he called the University of Life. They certainly had their moments. I remember one exemplary SPGB graduate speaking mounting the platform, drawing a ten-shilling note from his pocket and holding it dangling from his thumb and forefinger for a quarter of an hour or so while delivering a devastatingly witty attack on money. The audience of thirty or so were spellbound. There was not a single heckler, until he set fire to it.
..Auspex was the cleverest imaginable man for jokes and chit-chat, for despising all mankind, gratifying his friends, and making reprisals upon his enemy. Many bitter and witty epigrams of his spoken to various people are reported, and many to Severus himself. Here is one of the latter. When the emperor was enrolled in the family of Marcus, Auspex said: "I congratulate you, Caesar, upon having found a father." This implied that up to this time his obscure origin had made him as good as fatherless.
The witty Dean Swift once wrote: "So Nat'ralists observe, a Flea "Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey. "And these have smaller Fleas to bite 'em, "And so proceed ad infimitum. An ox might worry about a flea of ordinary size—a small creature of the first order of smallness. But he would probably not trouble himself about a flea's flea, being of the second order of smallness, it would be negligible. Even a gross of fleas' fleas would not be of much account to the ox.
In the high carrels of theoretical physics, where intelligence is taken for granted, Witten is regarded as preternaturally, almost forbiddingly, smart. ...he wears the habitual small smile of the theoretician for whom sustained mathematical thinking has something like the emotional qualities that mystics associate with meditation. He speaks in a soft, high-pitched voice, floating short, precise sentences punctuated by witty little silences—the speech pattern of a man who has learned that he thinks too fast to otherwise be understood. Though he is the son of a theoretical physicist, he came to science in a roundabout fashion.
Terry Eagleton is a deft, witty summarizer of other people's ideas. Applied Marxism is, oddly, his weakest point. He also goes limply soft on academic feminism, whose bourgeois prudery, moralism, and Protestant word-fetishism he does not see. Eagleton'e thought-provoking arguments against the [literary] canon are unfortunately vitiated by the fact that he seems to have little feeling for art. Is education to be gutted merely because Terry Eagleton wandered into a profession for which he discovered too late that he had minimal talent? Like Foucault, Eagleton continues to push into one new field after another, restlessly searching for success in something.
A Parisian thinks he has a knowledge of men and he knows only Frenchmen; his town is always full of foreigners, but he considers every foreigner as a strange phenomenon which has no equal in the universe. You must have a close acquaintance with the middle classes of that great city, you must have lived among them, before you can believe that people could be at once so witty and so stupid. The strangest thing about it is that probably every one of them has read a dozen times a description of the country whose inhabitants inspire him with such wonder.
In whatever he has written he has affected something which has been intended to strike his readers as uncommon and therefore grand. Because he has been bright and a man of genius, he has carried his object as regards the young. He has struck them with astonishment and aroused in their imagination ideas of a world more glorious, more rich, more witty, more enterprising, than their own. But the glory has been the glory of pasteboard, and the wealth has been a wealth of tinsel. The wit has been the wit of hairdressers, and the enterprise has been the enterprise of mountebanks.
I had written a beautiful piece for today. It was a rant about how much I despise Halloween. It was witty, well-written and a shining example of a writer at the top of his form. Then I tried to save it, and my computer crashed. So I guess you won't get to read it. Out of all the people in the world, I am the only one who had the opportunity to read my brilliant Halloween article, and now the text is already fading from my cruel, cruel short-term memory, the paragraphs lost in a whirling sea of data, never to be seen again. (31 October 2002)
The middle and lower orders of London can sincerely, though not perhaps safely, admire the health and grace of the English aristocracy. And this for the very simple reason that the aristocrats are, upon the whole, more healthy and graceful than the poor. But they cannot honestly admire the wit of the aristocrats. And this for the simple reason that the aristocrats are not more witty than the poor, but a very great deal less so. A man does not hear, as in the smart novels, these gems of verbal felicity dropped between diplomatists at dinner. Where he really does hear them is between two omnibus conductors in a block in Holborn.
Stout was almost as witty as Raymond Chandler. His detective had splendid putdown lines almost as good as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And his mysteries were constructed a lot more smoothly than Agatha Christie's. But you do not expect Chandlerian wit from Conan Doyle, or Conan Doyle's superbly breathless sense of atmosphere and melodrama from Christie, or Christie's scathingly clear, unblinking vision of the monstrous crimes that average human nature is capable of all from the same pen. Stout gives you all of it. He is the Willie Mays or Derek Jeter of the mystery genre: a brilliant all-rounder more talented in each area than any single writer should ever dream of being.
Certain Laodiceans, and lukewarm persons, think they may accommodate points of religion, by middle way, and taking part of both, and witty reconcilements; as if they would make an arbitrament between God and man. Both these extremes are to be avoided; which will be done, if the league of Christians, penned by our Savior himself, were in two cross clauses thereof, soundly and plainly expounded: He that is not with us, is against us; and again, He that is not against us, is with us; that is, if the points fundamental and of substance in religion, were truly discerned and distinguished, from points not merely of faith, but of opinion, order, or good intention.
Master Payne: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen-to a show like no other. It is true that we bring you the usual amusments--sleight of hand, thrills, jokes both cheap and witty--but these can be had from any ragtag troupe of twopenny dreadful, and I can see that you are an audience that demands more! And we shall provide it! For tonight, we bring you a story of the Heterodynes! A story of brave heroes, dastardly villans, and monsters both human and non, all set against a background of blood and thunder, tragedy, subterfuge, revelations and true love, laughter and tears, science and magic! For before you tonight is the glittering company known throughout the world as MASTER PAYNE'S CIRCUS OF ADVENTURE!
When I mentioned to friends that I was heading to Philadelphia to meet Camille Paglia, I realized the degree of animosity she provokes. She was contemptuously dismissed, often by people who had never read her work. Others seemed torn by her … Some praised her as fresh and profound, but even more dismissed her as outrageous and repugnant. … Despite such opinions, in person and in context instead of in sound bites, Paglia is often reasonable, witty and likable … She is also correct in at least one of her assessments — that she, like such loudmouths as Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern and Ross Perot, helps to encourage discourse and free speech in a country that needs all it can get.
A culture is no better than its woods,” Auden writes. Fortunately for him, a book of poetry can be better than its poems. Two-thirds of The Shield of Achilles is non-Euclidean needlepoint, a man sitting on a chaise longue juggling four cups, four saucers, four sugar lumps, and the round-square: this is what great and good poets do when they don’t even bother to write great and good poems, now that they’ve learned that—it’s Auden’s leitmotif, these days—art is essentially frivolous. But a little of the time Auden is essentially serious, and the rest of the time he’s so witty, intelligent, and individual, so angelically skillful, that one reads with despairing enthusiasm, and enjoys Auden’s most complacently self-indulgent idiosyncrasy almost as one enjoys Sherlock Holmes’s writing Victoria Rex on the wall in bullet holes.
I liked Charentz straight off, but more important than this was the feeling that I had that he was a truly great man. Human greatness is a rather difficult thing to account for, and more often than not one is mistaken in one's hunches about somebody one has met. Charentz seemed great to me, I think, because he was made of a mixture of proud virtues and amusing flaws. On the one hand, his independence of spirit was balanced by a humorous worldliness, his acute intelligence by a curiosity that frequently made him seem naive, his profoundly gentle manners by a kind of mocking mischievousness which might easily be mistaken for rudeness. But he was never rude, he was witty, and the purpose of his wit was to keep himself from the terrible condition of pomposity.
You will be amused when you see that I have more than once deceived without the slightest qualm of conscience, both knaves and fools. As to the deceit perpetrated upon women, let it pass, for, when love is in the way, men and women as a general rule dupe each other. But on the score of fools it is a very different matter. I always feel the greatest bliss when I recollect those I have caught in my snares, for they generally are insolent, and so self-conceited that they challenge wit. We avenge intellect when we dupe a fool, and it is a victory not to be despised for a fool is covered with steel and it is often very hard to find his vulnerable part. In fact, to gull a fool seems to me an exploit worthy of a witty man.
• Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs of J. Casanova de Seingalt (1894).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Fools" (Quotes: Alphabetized by author or source )
Thirty years of struggle and sacrifice have left their mark. Each year has taken away something of the warmth, gaiety and outgoing charm … The brown eyes that were ever ready to sparkle at some witty sally often hold an expression now of hard defiance or weary frustration. His face is that of a tired man who seems to be driven by some internal force which never relents, never lets go. His smile today is the smile of a self-possessed man, a polite Prime Minister, fully aware of his power, defying any criticism... In the eyes of the world, he is undoubtedly the only man in India who can guide and control her destiny in these difficult times. Nevertheless, there is danger for him and for India if he is spoiled too much with adulation. In his own words, "It must be checked. We want no Caesars!"
I read all the movie reviews, especially those of Ebert, a graceful and witty prose stylist with profound erudition, whose reviews are worth reading just for themselves, whether or not I have any intention of viewing the movie … Ebert, the smart and handsome one, gave thumbs up to my first movie [Garfield: The Movie], but [Richard] Roeper, the other one, gave thumbs down and was particularly unkind. He went on forever attacking Ebert for liking Garfield. This from a man with enough taste to praise Duma. How very disappointing. One of Roeper's complaints was that I was animated and all of the other characters in the movie were "real." Do you have any idea how a statement like that hurts an actor who has worked all of his life as a media cat? Yes, Richard Roeper, I was animated. Read my lips: I am a character in a comic strip.
The readers of this space know Paul Samuelson as a witty, informed and often acerbic commentator on current affairs, as a “liberal” supporter of the economic policies of the Kennedy and Johnson years, and as a critic of current Nixon economic policy. Millions of college graduates know Paul Samuelson for his economics textbook, which has been the leading elementary text in the United States for two decades, has sold nearly 3 million copies, and is almost surely the best-selling book on economics ever published in the Western world. Professional economists know Paul Samuelson as a mathematical economist who has ranged widely and deeply, who has helped to reshape and improve the theoretical foundations of our subject. This is the work for which this remarkably versatile man won the Nobel Prize. In the words of the announcement, the prize was awarded “for the scientific work through which he has developed static and dynamic economic theory and actively contributed to raising the level of analysis in economic science.”
All schizophrenia patients are mad, and none are sane. Their behaviour is incomprehensible. It tells us nothing about what they do in the rest of their lives, gives no insight into the human condition and has no lesson for sane people except how sane they are. There's nothing profound about it. Schizophrenics aren't clever or wise or witty — they may make some very odd remarks but that's because they're mad, and there's nothing to be got out of what they say. When they laugh at things the rest of us don't think are funny, like the death of a parent, they're not being penetrating, and on other occasions they're not wryly amused at at the simplicity and stupidity of the psychiatrist, however well justified that might be in many cases. They're laughing because they're mad, too mad to be able to tell what's funny any more. The rewards for being sane may not be very many but knowing what's funny is one of them. And that's an end of the matter.
The truth is, that it is quite an error to suppose that absence of definite convictions gives the mind freedom and agility. A man who believes something is ready and witty, because he has all his weapons about him. He can apply his test in an instant. The man engaged in conflict with a man like Mr. Bernard Shaw may fancy he has ten faces; similarly a man engaged against a brilliant duellist may fancy that the sword of his foe has turned to ten swords in his hand. But this is not really because the man is playing with ten swords, it is because he is aiming very straight with one. Moreover, a man with a definite belief always appears bizarre, because he does not change with the world; he has climbed into a fixed star, and the earth whizzes below him like a zoetrope. Millions of mild black-coated men call themselves sane and sensible merely because they always catch the fashionable insanity, because they are hurried into madness after madness by the maelstrom of the world.
My father was as proud of his eloquence as MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO could be for his life, and and for aught I am convinced of to the contrary at present, with as much reason: it was indeed his strength — and his weakness, too. — His strength — for he was by nature eloquent — and his weakness — for he was hourly a dupe to it; and provided an occasion in life would but permit him to shew his talents, or say either a wise thing, a witty, or a shrewd one — (bating the case of a systematic misfortune)— he had all he wanted.— A blessing which tied up my father's tongue, and a misfortune which let it loose with a good grace, were pretty equal: sometimes, indeed, the misfortune was the better of the two; for instance, where the pleasure of the harangue was as ten, and the pain of the misfortune was as five — my father gained half in half, and consequently was as well again off, as if it had never befallen him.
The sixteenth century transformed Middle English into modern English. Grammar was up for grabs. People made up vocabulary and syntax as they went along. Not until the eighteenth century would rules of English usage appear. Shakespearean language is a bizarre super-tongue, alien and plastic, twisting, turning, and forever escaping. It is untranslatable, since it knocks Anglo-Saxon root words against Norman and Greco-Roman importations sweetly or harshly, kicking us up and down rhetorical levels with witty abruptness. No one in real life ever spoke like Shakespeare’s characters. His language does not “make sense,” especially in the greatest plays. Anywhere from a third to a half of every Shakespearean play, I conservatively estimate, will always remain under an interpretive cloud. Unfortunately, this fact is obscured by the encrustations of footnotes in modern texts, which imply to the poor cowed student that if only he knew what the savants do, all would be as clear as day. Every time I open Hamlet, I am stunned by its hostile virtuosity, its elusiveness and impenetrability. Shakespeare uses language to darken. He suspends the traditional compass points of rhetoric, still quite firm in Marlowe, normally regarded as Shakespeare’s main influence. Shakespeare’s words have “aura.” This he got from Spenser, not Marlowe.
To get to know and love the heart that beat within the breast of Marx the scholar you had to see him when he had closed his books and notebooks and was surrounded by his family, or again on Sunday evenings in the society of his friends. He then proved the pleasantest of company, full of wit and humour, with a laugh that came straight from the heart. His black eyes under the arches of his bushy brews sparkled with pleasure and malice whenever he heard a witty saying or a pertinent repartee.
He was a loving, gentle and indulgent father. “Children should educate their parents,” he used to say. There was never even a trace of the bossy parent in his relations with his daughters, whose love for him was extraordinary. He never gave them an order, but asked them to do what he wished as a favour or made them feel that they should not do what he wanted to forbid them. And yet a father could seldom have had more docile children than he. His daughters considered him as their friend and treated him as a companion; they did not call him “father”, but “Moor” — a nickname that he owed to his dark complexion and jet-black hair and beard.
How easie is it to call Rogue and Villain, and that wittily! But how hard to make a Man appear a Fool, a Blockhead, or a Knave, without using any of those opprobrious terms! To spare the grossness of the Names, and to do the thing yet more severely, is to draw a full Face, and to make the Nose and Cheeks stand out, and yet not to employ any depth of Shadowing. This is the Mystery of that Noble Trade, which yet no Master can teach to his Apprentice: He may give the Rules, but the Scholar is never the nearer in his practice. Neither is it true, that this fineness of Raillery is offensive. A witty Man is tickl'd while he is hurt in this manner, and a Fool feels it not. The occasion of an Offence may possibly be given, but he cannot take it. If it be granted that in effect this way does more Mischief; that a Man is secretly wounded, and though he be not sensible himself, yet the malicious World will find it for him: yet there is still a vast difference betwixt the slovenly Butchering of a Man, and the fineness of a stroke that separates the Head from the Body, and leaves it standing in its place.
I have discovered that our great favourite, Miss Austen, is my countrywoman; that mamma knew all her family very intimately; and that she herself is an old maid (I beg her pardon – I mean a young lady) with whom mamma before her marriage was acquainted. Mamma says that she was then the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembers; and a friend of mine, who visits her now, says that she has stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of “single blessedness” that ever existed, and that, till ‘Pride and Prejudice’ showed what a precious gem was hidden in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a poker or a fire-screen, or any other thin upright piece of wood or iron that fills its corner in peace and quietness. The case is very different now; she is still a poker – but a poker of whom every one is afraid. It must be confessed that this silent observation from such an observer is rather formidable. Most writers are good-humoured chatterers – neither very wise nor very witty: – but nine times out of ten (at least in the few that I have known) unaffected and pleasant, and quite removing by their conversation any awe that may have been excited by their works. But a wit, a delineator of character, who does not talk, is terrific indeed!
About Jane Austen
• Mary Russell Mitford, letter to Sir William Elford, 1st Baronet (1815-04-03), The Life of Mary Russell Mitford, vol. 1 (1870)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jane Austen" (About Jane Austen)
“My readers,” said Pillsbury, “need, nay, require reassurance as to whether the throne is, in this century, still a viable institution.” “King,” said Arthur, “king, king, king. Fundamentally an absurd idea, that one chap has better blood than another chap. Has to do with dogs, dog breeding, really, dogs and horses. Oh, it’s no great thing to be a king. On the other hand, I’ve never not been a king, so I’ve no idea what that’s like. Might be quite grand. The pleasure of being inconspicuous, a fudge in the crowd. Can’t imagine it. “Can’t imagine what it would be like to be a churl. The country’s full of them, yet I have no idea how they think. It’s not good for a king to have no idea how people think. By the same token, the people have no idea how I think. When I address them, it’s in the language of a proclamation, isn’t it? And the language of a proclamation is hardly cozy, is it? I could even be witty, and the people would never know. Pity. “In the same universe of discourse,” said Arthur, “the question of leadership, with accompanying subsections, such as statesmanship, generalship, gamesmanship, rabble-rousing, and the like. The king’s sceptre, the marshal’s baton, the conductor’s baton, the physician’s caduceus, the magician’s wand—a stick of some kind, with which one must animate a mass. In your case, Mr. Pillsbury, a pencil. But one must know how to operate the stick, eh? One can’t just wave the damned thing around to no purpose. All in the wrist, eh, Mr. Pillsbury?”
Because he practiced justice he gained an easy access to the ears of the Gods; so much so that he had a multitude of disciples, and those who desired learning flocked to him from all parts. And it is hard to decide who among them was the most distinguished, for Sopater the Syrian was of their number, a man who was most eloquent both in his speeches and writings; and Aedesius and Eustathius from Cappadocia; while from Greece came Theodorus and Euphrasius, men of superlative virtue, and a crowd of other men not inferior in their powers of oratory, so that it seemed marvelous that he could satisfy them all; and indeed in his devotion to them all he never spared himself. Occasionally, however, he did perform certain rites alone, apart from his friends and disciples, when he worshipped the Divine Being. But for the most part he conversed with his pupils and was unexacting in his mode of life and of an ancient simplicity. As they drank their wine he used to charm those present by his conversation and filled them as with nectar. And they never ceased to desire this pleasure and never could have too much of it, so that they never gave him any peace; and they appointed the most eloquent among them to represent them, and asked: "O master, most inspired, why do you thus occupy yourself in solitude, instead of sharing with us your more perfect wisdom? Nevertheless a rumor has reached us through your slaves that when you pray to the Gods you soar aloft from the earth more than ten cubits to all appearance; that your body and your garments change to a beautiful golden hue; and presently when your prayer is ended your body becomes as it was before you prayed, and then you come down to earth and associate with us." Iamblichus was not at all inclined to laughter, but he laughed at these remarks. And he answered them thus: "He who thus deluded you was a witty fellow; but the facts are otherwise. For the future however you shall be present at all that goes on."
About Iamblichus
Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists, as translated in Philostratus and Eunapius : The Lives of the Sophists (1922) by William Cave Wright.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Iamblichus" (Quotes about Iamblichus)
In spite of a good foundation of sound morals, the natural offspring of the Divine principles which had been early rooted in my heart, I have been throughout my life the victim of my senses; I have found delight in losing the right path, I have constantly lived in the midst of error, with no consolation but the consciousness of my being mistaken. Therefore, dear reader, I trust that, far from attaching to my history the character of impudent boasting, you will find in my Memoirs only the characteristic proper to a general confession, and that my narratory style will be the manner neither of a repenting sinner, nor of a man ashamed to acknowledge his frolics. They are the follies inherent to youth; I make sport of them, and, if you are kind, you will not yourself refuse them a good-natured smile. You will be amused when you see that I have more than once deceived without the slightest qualm of conscience, both knaves and fools. As to the deceit perpetrated upon women, let it pass, for, when love is in the way, men and women as a general rule dupe each other. But on the score of fools it is a very different matter. I always feel the greatest bliss when I recollect those I have caught in my snares, for they generally are insolent, and so self-conceited that they challenge wit. We avenge intellect when we dupe a fool, and it is a victory not to be despised for a fool is covered with steel and it is often very hard to find his vulnerable part. In fact, to gull a fool seems to me an exploit worthy of a witty man. I have felt in my very blood, ever since I was born, a most unconquerable hatred towards the whole tribe of fools, and it arises from the fact that I feel myself a blockhead whenever I am in their company. I am very far from placing them in the same class with those men whom we call stupid, for the latter are stupid only from deficient education, and I rather like them. I have met with some of them — very honest fellows, who, with all their stupidity, had a kind of intelligence and an upright good sense, which cannot be the characteristics of fools. They are like eyes veiled with the cataract, which, if the disease could be removed, would be very beautiful.
Giacomo Casanova
• Source: Wikiquote: "Giacomo Casanova" (Quotes, Memoirs of J. Casanova de Seingalt (1894): This work exists in two French editions and translations: The "Laforgue edition" (1826-1838), heavily rewritten and censored: translated as Memoirs of J. Casanova de Seingalt (trans. Machen 1894) and The "Brockhaus-Plon edition" (1960-1962), the original text translated as History of My Life (trans. Trask 1967), and as the digest The Story of My Life (trans. Sartarelli/Hawkes 2001), 500pg of excerpts from the 4000pg text. These quotes are primarily from the Full text online as translated by Arthur Machen in 1894, with additional material discovered by Arthur Symons. This was translated from the heavily rewritten and censored edition established by Jean Laforgue, the only version available until the original French text was published in 1960. )
There is no moment that exceeds in beauty that moment when one looks at a woman and finds that she is looking at you in the same way that you are looking at her. The moment in which she bestows that look that says, “Proceed with your evil plan, sumbitch.” The initial smash of glance on glance. Then, the drawing near. This takes a long time, it seems like months, although only minutes pass, in fact. Languor is the word that describes this part of the process. Your persona floats toward her persona, over the Sea of Hesitation. Many weeks pass before they meet, but the weeks are days, or seconds. Still, everything is decided. You have slept together in the glance. She takes your arm and you leave the newspaper stand, walking very close together, so that your side brushes her side slightly. Desire is here a very strong factor, because you are weak with it, and the woman is too, if she has any sense at all (but of course she is a sensible woman, and brilliant and witty and hungry as well). So, on the sidewalk outside the newsstand, you stand for a moment thinking about where to go, at eleven o’clock in the morning, and here it is, in the sunlight, that you take your first good look at her, and she at you, to see if ether one has any hideous blemish that has been overlooked, in the first rush of good feeling. There are none. None. No blemishes (except those spiritual blemishes that will be discovered later, after extended acquaintance, and which none of us are without, but which are low latent? dormant? in any case, not visible on the surface, at this time). Everything is fine. And so, with renewed confidence, you begin to walk, and to seek a place where you might sit down, and have a drink, and talk a bit, and fall into each other’s eyes, temporarily, and find some pretzels, and have what is called a conversation, and tell each other what you think is true about he world, and speak of the strange places where each of you has been (Surinam, in her case, where she bought the belt she is wearing, Lima in your case, where you contracted telegraph fever), and make arrangements for your next meeting (both of you drinking Scotch and water, at eleven in the morning, and you warm to her because of her willingness to leave her natural mid-morning track, for you), and make, as I say, arrangements for your next meeting, which must be this very night! or you both will die—
Why should we care about Feynman? What was so special about him? Why did he become a public icon, standing with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking as the Holy Trinity of twentieth-century physics? The public has demonstrated remarkably good taste in choosing its icons. All three of them are genuinely great scientists, with flashes of true genius as well as solid accomplishments to their credit. But to become an icon, it is not enough to be a great scientist. There are many other scientists, not so great as Einstein but greater than Hawking and Feynman, who did not become icons. ...
Scientists who become icons must not only be geniuses but also performers, playing to the crowd and enjoying public acclaim. Einstein and Feynman both grumbled about the newspaper and radio reporters who invaded their privacy, but both gave the reporters what the public wanted, sharp and witty remarks that would make good headlines. Hawking in his unique way also enjoys the public adulation that his triumph over physical obstacles has earned for him. I will never forget the joyful morning in Tokyo when Hawking went on a tour of the streets in his wheelchair and the Japanese crowds streamed after him, stretching out their hands to touch his chair. Einstein, Hawking, and Feynman shared an ability to break through the barriers that separated them from ordinary people. The public responded to them because they were regular guys, jokers as well as geniuses.
The third quality that is needed for a scientist to become a public icon is wisdom. Besides being a famous joker and a famous genius, Feynman was also a wise human being whose answers to serious questions made sense. To me and to hundreds of other students who came to him for advice, he spoke truth. Like Einstein and Hawking, he had come through times of great suffering, nursing Arline through her illness and watching her die, and emerged stronger. Behind his enormous zest and enjoyment of life was an awareness of tragedy, a knowledge that our time on earth is short and precarious. The public made him into an icon because he was not only a great scientist and a great clown but also a great human being and a guide in time of trouble. Other Feynman books have portrayed him as a scientific wizard and as a storyteller. This collection of letters shows us for the first time the son caring for his father and mother, the father caring for his wife and children, the teacher caring for his students, the writer replying to people throughout the world who wrote to him about their problems and received his full and undivided attention.

End Witty Quotes