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A Writer's Notebook

W. Somerset Maugham

Top 10 Best Quotes

“In love one should exercise economy of intercourse. None of us can love for ever. Love will be stronger and will last longer if there are impediments of its gratification. If a lover is prevented from enjoying his love by absence, difficulty of access, or by the caprice or coldness of his beloved, he can find a little consolation in the thought that when his wishes are fulfilled his delight will be intense. But love being what it is, should there be no hindrances, he will pay no attention to the considerations of prudence; and his punishment will be satiety. The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned.”

“It is quite as difficult to fit one's practice to one's precepts as to fit one's precepts to one's practice. Most people act in one way and preach in another. When the fact is brought to their notice, they assert that it is their weakness, and that their desire is to act up to their principles. That is pretence. People act according to their inclinations and adopt principles; because these are generally at variance with their inclinations they are ill-at-ease and unstable. But when they force themselves to act up to their principles and suppress their inclinations, there is no hope for them - but in heaven.”

“How ugly most people are! It's a pity they don't try to make up for it by being agreeable.”

“My native gifts are not remarkable, but I have a certain force of character which has enabled me in a measure to supplement my deficiencies. I have common-sense. Most people cannot see anything, but I can see what is in the front of my nose with extreme clearness; the greatest writers can see through a brick wall. My vision is not so penetrating. For many years I have been described as a cynic; I told the truth. I wish no one to take me for other than I am, and on the other hand I see no need to accept others' pretences.”

“The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned. It”

“How the gods must have chuckled when they added Hope to the evils with which they filled Pandora's box, for they knew very well that this was the cruellest evil of them all, since it is Hope that lures mankind to endure its misery to the end.”

“They ascribe omnipotence and omniscience to him and I don't know what else; it seems to me so strange that they never credit him with common-sense or allow him tolerance. If he knew as much about human nature as I do he'd know how weak men are and how little control they have over their passions, he'd know how full of fear they are and how pitiful, he'd know how much goodness there is even in the worst and how much wickedness in the best. If he's capable of feeling he must be capable of remorse, and when he considers what a hash he's made in the creation of human kind can he feel anything but that? The wonder is that he does not make use of his omnipotence to annihilate himself. Perhaps that's just what he has done.”

“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.”

“How happy life would be if an undertaking retained to the end the delight of its beginning, if the dregs of a cup of wine were as sweet as the first sip.”

“There are men whose sense of humour is so ill developed that they still bear a grudge against Copernicus because he dethroned them from the central position in the universe. They feel it a personal affront that they can no longer consider themselves the pivot upon which turns the whole of created things.”

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