One New Year's Eve at London's Garrick Club, British dramatist Frederick Lonsdale was
asked by Symour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarreled in the past
and never restored their friendship. "You must," Hicks said to Lonsdale.
"It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy
New Year." So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. "I wish you a
happy New Year," he said, "but only one."
Today in the Word, July 5, 1993.
Churchill, the grand master of the rejoinder, made a habit of hoisting people by their
own petards. He did it with his legendary response to Bernard Shaw, who had invited
the opening-night performance of one of his plays. Shaw sent two tickets, "one for
yourself and one for a friend--if you have one." Churchill could not attend but asked
if he could have tickets for the second-night performance--"if there is one."
An English duke, annoyed by the slow service at his London club, called a waiter over
and harrumphed, "Do you know who I am?" The waiter replied coolly, "No, sir,
I do not. But I shall make inquiries and inform you directly."
In American lore no volley quite compares with the one between Dorothy Parker and Clare
Boothe Luce, who approached a doorway at the same time. Luce stepped aside, saying,
"Age before beauty." Parker swept through the door riposting, "Pearls
When Lord Sandwich offered the opinion that John Wilkes, an 18th century British
journalist and politician would die "either of the pox or on the gallows,"
Wilkes shot back, "That will depend on whether I embrace your lordship's mistress or
your lordship's principles."
Noel Coward once encountered Edna Ferber, who was wearing a tailored suit. "You
look almost like a man," said Coward. "So do you," said Ferber.
An envious actress congratulated another actress on a book she had recently written.
"I enjoyed it," she purred, "who wrote it for you?" Came the answer:
"I'm so glad you liked it. Who read it to you?"
Kick-Back & Relax, April, 1992.
From a theater review: "The big trouble was that the seats faced the stage."
Joey Adams, Readers Digest, Oct, 1991.
During the filming of Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, actress Mary Anderson asked the
famed director what he thought was her best side. "My dear," he replied,
"you're sitting on it."
Donald Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred
Many have heard of the painting that hangs in the Louvre in Paris commonly known as
"Whistler's mother." A model failed to show up one day, and the elderly lady
patiently sat while her son worked on the canvas. When the painting was shown at the Royal
Academy, Whistler simply titled it an "Arrangement in Grey and Black."
James Whistler was known for his piercing wit and fiery personality. He complained that
people didn't appreciate his paintings and once sued a critic who had accused the artist
of "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face." He constantly criticized the
British, sometimes dressed outlandishly, quarreled frequently and even mistreated his
subjects. "You can't call that a great work of art," one man protested after
sitting for a portrait. "Perhaps not, " Whistler replied, "But then you
can't call yourself a great work of nature."
G. Collins, The Magnificent Mind, p. 95.
On occasion I do free-lance photography for local newspapers and magazines, and I take
great pride in my work. At a party one evening, I was introduced to an extremely pompous
gentleman who writes a weekly piece for a publication that had just used one of my
pictures. After telling me how he liked the "rather interesting" composition and
tones I had used in my latest work, he said, "You must have a good camera." I
then mentioned that I had enjoyed his most recent article, and added, "You must have
a good typewriter."
Alexander Buiel II, in Reader's Digest.
James Whistler, the Victorian artist, showed scant respect for the hierarchy of any
profession. When his poodle fell ill with a throat infection, he sent immediately for the
country's leading ear, nose, and throat specialist, Sir Morell Mackenzie. The great man
was not amused when he was shown his patient, but he conducted a thorough examination,
wrote out a prescription, and left with his fee. The next day Whistler received a message
asking him to call on Mackenzie without delay. Fearing some development in the poodle's
condition, Whistler hurried to the doctor's house. "So good of you to come, Mr.
Whistler," said Mackenzie as his visitor was shown in. "I wanted to see about
having my front door painted."
Graeme Garden, The Best Medicine.
Of Thomas Carlyle, by Samuel Butler; "It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another and so make only
two people miserable instead of four."
Nancy McPhee, Book of insults, Ancient and Modern.
Churchgoer to pastor, "Your sermon reminded me of the mercies of God. I thought it would endure forever.
Dennis Fakes, Points With Punch.
Charles H. Spurgeon was emphasizing to his class the importance of making the facial
expression harmonize with the speech. "When you speak of Heaven," he said,
"let your face light up, let it be irradiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes
shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of Hell--well, then your ordinary face will
Willard Scott of "The Today Show" remembers his radio days when he received
his all-time favorite letter from a fan: "Dear Mr. Scott--I think you're the best
disc jockey in Washington. You play the best music and have the nicest voice of anyone on
the air. Please excuse the crayon--they won't let us have anything sharp in here."
Willard Scott, Willard Scott's Down Home Stories.
God created Adam master and Lord of all living creatures, but Eve spoiled it all.
I have always thought that every woman should marry, and no man.
20,000,000 young women rose to their feet with the cry, "We will not be dictated
to" and promptly became stenographers.
I know why the sun never sets on the British Empire: God wouldn't trust an Englishman
in the dark.
Of course America had been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed
They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.
Rep. Thomas Reed, Speaker of the House, of two fellow
Your manuscript is both original and good. But the parts that are original are not
good, and the parts that are good are not original.
"How can you tell?" Dorothy Parker, on hearing that Calvin Coolidge was dead.
Quotes From Unknown Sources
Lady Astor: "Winston, if you were my husband I should flavor your coffee with
poison." Churchill: "Madam, if I were your husband, I should drink it."
Bessie Braddock, M.P.: "Winston, you're drunk." Churchill: "Bessie,
you're ugly, and tomorrow morning I'll be sober."
Earl Warren (Supreme Court Justice): "I'm pleased to see such a dense crown here
tonight." Heckler: "Don't be too pleased, Governor; we ain't all dense."
Congressman John Randolf and Henry Clay met on a sidewalk in Washington. Clay: "I,
sir, do not step aside for a scoundrel." Randolf: "On the other hand, I always
Lincoln of Steven Douglas: "His argument is as thin as the homeopathic soup made
by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death."