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When Insults Had Class

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

–Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”

–Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

–William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

—Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”

–Groucho Marx

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

–Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”

–Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend... if you have one.”

–George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one.”

–Winston Churchill’s response to George Bernard Shaw

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.”

–Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”

–John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”

–Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.”

–Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”

–Paul Keating

“He had delusions of adequacy.”

–Walter Kerr

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”

–Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”

–Mae West

“Winston, if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee!”

–Lady Astor to Winston Churchill at a dinner party

“Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it!”

–Winston Churchill’s response to Lady Astor

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."

—Moses Hadas

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."

—Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt."

—Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."

—Thomas Brackett Reed

"He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them."

—James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."

—Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."

—Forrest Tucker

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any one I know."

—Abraham Lincoln

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts — for support rather than illumination."

—Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."

—Billy Wilder

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”

–Oscar Wilde

"You, Mr. Wilkes, will die either of the pox or on the gallows."

–The Earl of Sandwich

"That depends, my lord, whether I embrace your mistress or your principles."

–John Wilkes's response to The Earl of Sandwich

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."

—Winston Churchill