Aperçus de Maugham

I would much sooner spend a month on a desert island with a veterinary surgeon than with a prime minister.

There is a sort of man who pays no attention to his good actions, but is tormented by his bad ones. This is the type that most often writes about himself.

It is a relief to me when I can get away and read a book.

People are hard to know. It is a slow business to induce them to tell you the particular thing about themselves that can be of use to you. They have the disadvantage that often you cannot look at them and put them aside, as you can a book, and you have to read the whole volume, as it were, only to learn that it had nothing much to tell you.

As a matter of practice it is good to be on your guard against the Englishman who speaks French perfectly; he is very likely to be a card-sharper or an attaché in the diplomatic service.

I ventured once to suggest that the liberation of women and their new-won sexual freedom had so altered men’s views of the importance of chastity that jealousy was no longer a theme for tragedy, but only for comedy.…

What added to my growing distaste for the theatre was not that directors were sometimes incompetent, but that they were necessary at all.

The writer’s only safety is to find satisfaction in his own performance. If he can realize that…he is amply rewarded for his labours, he can be indifferent to the outcome.

The conclusion I came to about men I put in the mouth of a man I met on board ship in the China Seas. “I’ll give you my opinion of the human race in a nutshell, brother,” I made him say. “Their heart’s in the right place but their head is a thoroughly inefficient organ.”

They tell me that Professor Whitehead has the most ingenious brain of anyone who is now engaged in philosophic thought. It seems to me a pity that he should not always take pains to make his sense clear. It was a good rule of Spinoza’s to indicate the nature of things by words whose customary meanings should not be altogether opposed to the meanings he desired to bestow upon them.

Schrödinger…has stated that a final and comprehensive judgment on the matter [of reality] is at present impossible. The plain man is justified in sitting on the fence, but perhaps he is prudent in keeping his legs dangling on the side of determinism.

Man has always sacrificed truth to his vanity, comfort and advantage. He lives not by truth but by make-believe, and his idealism…is merely his effort to attach the prestige of truth to the fictions he has invented to satisfy his self-conceit.

W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up