(‘The proper basis of marriage is a mutual misunderstanding’. Oscar Wilde)

Many mention Oscar’s wit but few praise his courage.

Oscar Wilde was far too clever for his own good.

Homosexuality adds to the gaiety of nations.

You can’t have your cake and eat it. That’s why it’s better to buy biscuits.

We live in an age where the court jester has become more important than the monarch.

Necessity is the smother of intention.

Brevity is the sole of wit but levity is the whole of it.

Alliteration is the lowest form of lit with assonance the higher half of it.

Every man has his vice.

Fortune favours the fortunate.

Familiarity breeds contentment.

Least read, soonest lended.

Only begin winnable wars and try not to fight on too many fronts simultaneously.

We know our neighbours well. We’ve got the scars to prove it.

Having good or bad neighbours is the difference between heaven and hell.

Sworn enemies meet in narrow streets.

The only useful advice my father ever gave me was  ‘Present a moving target and keep the buggers guessing.’

Don’t let the bastards wind you up!

A cyber spider is someone who spends their life on the world wide web.

Genius is relatively common. My gardener is one.

Geniuses often live in poverty and die in squalor. Their only recompense is immortality.

Baudelaire’s mother wished that he had been a nice well-adjusted boy who had never become a poet. Being the parent of a genius is seldom easy.

‘What’s it like living with a genius?’  ‘I don’t know. You tell me.’

People who always tell the truth usually lack imagination.

People who always lie usually lack moral fibre.

Some of my best friends are Americans.

Since the advent of colour, Hollywood films have become more black and white than ever.

In America the system is brutal but the people are kind. In Britain it’s the opposite.

To a certain extent we are hard-wired to be xenophobic. Historically strangers rarely represented good news.

Colonialism gets a bad rap these days but East Africa (to name only one region) was far better governed by the British than it has been since.

Gandhi said that self-government was more important than good government. He was wrong.

I hesitate to criticize Gandhi but unlike the pope, he was not infallible.

Perfectionists are admirable but impossible to live with.

She played the computer keyboard exquisitely.

She taught me Schubert, the trout.

I don’t really believe in organ transplantation. We tend to need most of the organs we’ve been given.

Everybody knocks marriage but where would we be without it?  Life without women would be unendurable.

Many so-called spouses are actually life-support systems.

Marriage is like learning the same lesson over and over again.

Men who can’t cook or keep house tend to get married.

Women who can’t cook or keep house tend to stay single.

Why keep a frog and croak yourself? (Zen haiku)

Working-class childhoods are often happier than middle-class ones.

I used to be religious but I’ve grown out of it, thank God.

Thank God also for Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins who have shown me the way, the truth and the light.

Life is a bowl of cherries. Stone me!

Heaven is a happy childhood.

The colours of heaven are burgundy, gold and green.

The colours of paradise are pink, white and blue.

Hell is inside ourselves.

The colours of hell are black, brown and crimson.

Time could be an illusion. It’s too early to say.

The turtle of time hurtles towards extinction.

The index finger of time points at nothing.

The adder of time slithers towards oblivion.

The javelin of time flies nowhere.

The arrow of time sits in the quiver of eternity.

Heaven exists – if only in Norway.

Hell exists – if only in Zimbabwe.

Angels exist – if only in Los Angeles.

Fairies exist – if only in San Francisco.

The devil exists – if only in Las Vegas.

Unicorns do not exist – except when one is really drunk.

UFO’s and extra-terrestrials exist. Successive US governments have expended considerable money and energy trying to conceal this fact.

Human beings were probably genetically engineered by aliens. The fossil record does not support a theory of evolution.

Humans know next to nothing. Socrates admitted that he knew nothing and we know far less than he did.

His ignorance was encyclopedic.

It is possible to be intelligent without being clever and vice versa.

We are, essentially, our brains. Everything else is secondary.

The human brain is the ultimate black box. We understand stars better than our own brains. Even simpletons have complex brains.

Pascal’s wager is still valid. If we believe in God and are wrong, we have lost nothing but if we don’t believe in God and are wrong, we are in deep trouble.

Golf is basically outdoor billiards on a grander scale.

Cricket is not a spectator sport.

Football: Hull stumbled but Newcastle fell.

When people love hunting, shooting, fishing and Formula One, you just know that they vote Conservative.

Labour MP’s fiddle their expenses for wide-screen TV’s; Tories for moats, swimming pools, tennis courts and helipads.

When a minority has so much and the majority have so little, you would need to be a moral cripple to believe that the status quo was remotely acceptable.

I prefer to live in a society where the strong help the weak rather than one in which they help to destroy them.

Those who believe in inequality are invariably on the right side of the equation.

One way to reduce global warming would be to ban Formula One plus all other petrol processions.

There is no activity so pointless that someone somewhere isn’t doing it.

I have found both Chinese and Western astrology to be true.

Reality is an illusion caused by corporations.

In Britain we are individually clever but collectively stupid which is why our grands projets usually fail and why London is so much uglier than Paris.

France is the most civilized nation on earth. Where else would you get a mandatory two-hour lunch-break?

When they enter a bar or a restaurant, the French generally say ‘Bonjour’ to everyone which immediately breaks the social ice.

The French are heavily into exhibitionism. Even their urinals are on public display.

It is amazing how many right-wing Britons have settled happily in France conveniently forgetting that it is, at heart, a socialist state.

It is astonishing how many famous writers have died in heir forties.  From Poe, Baudelaire and Maupassant to Bruce Chatwin and Douglas Adams, the list is endless.

A fascinating book could be written (preferably not by me) on the number of French writers who have succumbed to syphilis.

Fortunately condoms have now increased the average life-expectancy of French writers – at least those who ignore the advice of the pope.

The three countries that have contributed most to world literature are Britain, France and Russia.

Does War and Peace lose anything in translation?  Yes, incomprehensibility.

Britain is broke and broken whereas France is solvent and civilized. Yet in many ways Britain is still the more important country.

The archetypal city of the nineteenth century is Paris, of the twentieth, New York and of the twenty-first, Dubai.

Very few people are stupid where their own personal interests are concerned.

Consistency can be the hallmark of a narrow mind.

Inconsistency can be the hallmark of senility.

An original mind is a dangerous thing.

Terrorists have tiny minds.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s neighbour.

The aim of terrorism is to kill one and frighten a million. Because fear is highly contagious it is a surprisingly successful strategy.

It is far worse to lose your life to terrorism than to an avalanche or an earthquake. The latter are merely acts of God whereas the former reeks of human agency and human evil.

Bullies, like bad wines, don’t travel well and usually only manage to poison their local neighbourhoods.

Attempts to correct old injustices often simply create new ones.

Achieving a simple life is seldom easy and achieving an easy life is seldom simple.

We can all coin original cliches but even if accepted as legal tender, they soon become devalued.

I attended Oxbridge whereas my brother left school at fifteen with no qualifications. Guess who’s the millionaire? I’ll give you a clue – it’s not me.

Mantra of a self-made millionaire: School’s for fools and Uni’s for loonies.

Money doesn’t make you happy – so the rich constantly reassure us.

Mediocrities are generally much richer than geniuses.

Moderation never killed anyone but why take the risk?

If  I won the lottery I’d start working.

I have nothing to declare but my debts.

If debt is slavery then most of us are slaves.

The only people crying at my funeral will be my creditors.

Anybody can be a celebrity.

Thanks to ghostwriters, celebrities are acquiring a reputation for literacy, even eloquence.

Many celebrities claim to have had miserable childhoods so they can gain our sympathy as well as our money.

If it wasn’t for the tabloids, celebrities would never be exposed for the shameless hypocrites most of them are.

‘He’s got a way with words.’ ‘ He’s also got away with murder!’

A critic is someone who knows the value of everything and the price of nothing.

In Britain a poet with contacts but no talent will get published whereas a poet with talent but no contacts will not. This has not gone unnoticed by the British public who no longer buy contemporary poetry.

The British Poetry Establishment is a cesspit of cronyism.

The British Poetry Establishment gives corruption a bad name.

The British Poetry Establishment manages to be both racist and politically correct simultaneously. Quite a feat!

The British Poetry Establishment treats struggling poets like lepers.

If Tony Blair’s mantra was ‘education’, the British Poetry Establishment’s is ‘exclusion’.

To what shall I liken the British Poetry Establishment?  It is like unto a jar of scorpions who, when they aren’t mounting each other, are trying to sting each other to death.

British poetry is like golf or tennis in that a tiny handful of people win all the prizes.

A rejection slip is like a rich man saying to a beggar  ‘I personally am not going to help you but I sincerely hope that someone else will.’

Emily Dickinson only published a handful of poems during her entire lifetime which is why she was a true poet.

Emily Dickinson wrote poems like a pear tree produces pears.

Poets tend to die far younger than novelists or non-fiction writers mainly because they either starve or drink themselves to death.

The greatest poem ever written was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. I must have read it a thousand times and yet it still fills me with delight. Most modern poetry is abject rubbish in comparison.

Most contemporary poets are ludicrously overrated.

Poets write ‘above themselves’. Otherwise we would be able to produce poetry at will.

True poetry bubbles up from the subconscious mind. The right-handed poet writes with his left hand and vice versa.

Early fame is the worst thing that can happen to a poet. The limelight distracts them.

A poet is without honour in his own country. That’s why Auden went to America and Eliot came to England.

Poet, prophet, priest, philosopher, psychologist are all fingers of the same questing hand.

Proverb, aphorism, adage, maxim and epigram are all fingers of the matching hand.

Schopenhauer said you could tell whether a writer was worth reading within a couple of pages. Most fail the test.

Tolstoy thought that Shakespeare was overrated and I’m strongly inclined to disagree with him.

If Shakespeare were alive today he probably wouldn’t be able to get published.

The most fertile century for British poetry was the nineteenth; the most futile the twenty-first.

Earth is an angiogram of heart.

The two most useful words in the English language are and and but.

For the hard of hearing, a pair of socks is a paradox.

For an American, parity is a parody.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

Nightmares are the brain’s way of percolating the body’s poison.

We have much less time than we think.

In Life as in Art it is not quantity that matters but quality.

The artist who doesn’t please himself rarely pleases anybody else.

We are all in the gutter but some of us are prone and others supine.

We fear death but we often fear life more.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that the human condition is essentially tragic should visit a hospital or an old people’s home.

When we see a beautiful child we know that they will gradually grow old, ugly, hairless, toothless and eventually die of a debilitating disease.

He:  ‘Read it out, I’m not wearing my glasses.’  She:  ‘I can’t, I haven’t got my teeth in.’

Anyone who thinks that life isn’t essentially a comedy has no sense of humour and has never read Balzac.

Life is a series of concentric circles and eccentric people.

Nietzsche philosophized with a hammer but would have been better off using a file. I philosophize with wise saws and modern instruments.

Schopenhauer thought he was being a realist but others called him a pessimist.

Schopenhauer was an existentialist a century before Sartre.

Sartre didn’t marry De Beauvoir because he was unattractive.

Sartre was a frog who looked like a toad.

Heard compliments are sweet but those unheard are sweeter.

Death-bed conversions are invariably futile – or so we believe!

Being born again is no stranger than being born once.

Reincarnation is no weirder than deincarnation (otherwise known as death).

We only live once. We live forever but we only live once.

If the Buddhists are right, we have already been judged thousands of times.

People have committed murder to escape ennui.

People have committed suicide to escape debt.

I am not a catholic so I have to confess to my wife. The spare room is surprisingly comfortable.

Religions that permit contraception tend to have smaller congregations.

Wars will continue until we get our population under control. Wars are nature’s way of decimating humankind.

There would be fewer wars if we were more lethargic. Most of the world’s trouble is caused by energetic types.

The christian church has caused much more misery than happiness during the last two thousand years.

Greed, selfishness and envy are the salient characteristics of human beings.

You can’t advantage one ethnic minority without disadvantaging another.

The only thing worse than the tyranny of the majority is the tyranny of a minority which is what usually happens.

The only ethnic group that it is perfectly legal to discriminate against are White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. I should know as I am one.

Although I am very sympathetic towards Aboriginals and Native Americans, no one has ever offered me free land on the grounds that my ancestors were pauperized by William the Conqueror.

Most people are economically conservative and socially liberal. Conversely, I am economically socialist and socially conservative.

The Buddhists believe that ultimately we all get exactly what we deserve. I sincerely hope they’re right.

Champagne and caviar create more human happiness than most things.

Rose and roe are excellent substitutes for champagne and caviar.

Few things provide as much pleasure as a full English breakfast.

A pullover is a woollen trap cunningly designed to catch all the food that falls from one’s fork.

Why is it more socially acceptable to be dependent on caffeine than alcohol?  Logically speaking, dependency on alcohol should be no more shameful than dependency on oxygen.

My preferred places are beds, baths and bars.

I can resist everything except chocolate.

Eating regularly is the best revenge.

Although other animals sometimes suffer boredom and restlessness, they never seem to experience guilt, shame or even embarrassment.

Our lives are so dominated by trivia that it’s a wonder we ever achieve anything at all.

Sex is very strange. We frequently find ourselves making love with people we dislike.

We can desire someone we don’t like and vice-versa. That’s why honey-traps and gold-diggers are often successful.

Newsreaders should be easy on the eye as well as the ear.

Like many men I have a thing about female newsreaders.  My favourites are Carrie Gracie, Mary Nightingale and Anjali Rao.

Like many men I have a thing about female tennis players.  My favourites are Steffi Graf, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams.

Like many men I have a thing about lesbians.  My favourites are Sandi Toksvig, Alice Arnold and Peggy Reynolds.

For the want of a nail, the beauty pageant was lost.

Women inspire men to works of genius and then make them do the washing-up.

Love is never wrong.

Why do so many positive words begin with L?  Lucky lovers luxuriate in laughter, life and light.

Why do so many negative words begin with P?  Paranoid, pockmarked, plague-ridden, poverty-stricken peasants plead pathetically.

Why do so many royal words begin with H?  Harry Henry Hewitt haphazardly hunted hundreds of hen harriers.

I have never been able to resist taking the piss from a safe distance.

Every solution has its problems.

Minor problems tend to go unmended.

Less is more and more is less.

The Chinese are interesting but the Japanese are fascinating.

Sweden was the most boring country in the world even before they made prostitution illegal. Now it has no competitors.

Prostitutes understand men better than professors of psychology.

Renting your body can lead to selling your soul.

Society is an organized hypocrisy and nowhere more so than in Britain.

To be born British is to win the booby prize of life. Everybody else feels they have the right to hate us. The Germans are carefree in comparison.

The British are obsessed by the weather because it spares us the embarrassment of more intimate intercourse.

Tony Blair apologised for the Irish potato famine but he never said sorry for the war in Iraq.

Morally capitalism is like leaving everything you have to your oldest child and letting the others starve. There is nothing wrong with capitalism if you don’t mind starving.

Life is not fair. The rich have made sure of that.

If the fates dictated that we could die famous at forty or anonymous at eighty, most of us would choose the latter.

If love of money is the root of all evil, then love of fame is the root of all folly.

I’ve no desire to be famous but on the other hand I don’t want to be completely ignored either.

I’m not competitive – I just like winning.

The proportion of the world’s population that genuinely prefers giving to receiving is probably less than one per cent. For every giver there are over a hundred takers.

Watching the naturally selfish attempting to be altruistic is a bit like watching a monkey trying to drive a car.

We reserve our best wine for visitors but fortunately don’t receive many.

I don’t have any children, my wife doesn’t drink and we don’t get many visitors so my cellar should be reasonably safe.

I can’t see the point of having children. They only grow up and criticize you – often from quite a young age.

John Updike said the disappointing thing about having children is that they just turn into other people.

Although he broke several commandments, I can’t believe that a man who gave the world so much could be anywhere other than in heaven.

Parricide and matricide are the ultimate ingratitude. You are removing life from the very people who gave it to you.

I have no money or children. All I have are my poems.

My father enjoyed writing poetry whereas I enjoy having written it. There is a huge difference.

(Three from my father:)

‘My dear boy, one has to remember that salesmen, although individually invertebrate, do represent the backbone of the market economy.’

(When his boss promised to ‘clear out all the dead wood’)

‘Speaking on behalf of the dead wood, I’m not very happy about this.’

‘Some yob yelled out “corduroy suit!” which didn’t seem to me to rank very highly on a scale of vituperation.’

Poetry is prose that rhymes and scans – or not as the case may be.

Prose is plain speech whereas poetry is closer to song – or vice-versa.

Poetry is a frog and prose is a toad.

Prose is an oak and poetry is a rowan tree.

The distinction between poetry and prose is now so blurred that most modern poetry is really prose under a pseudonym.

Words matter. Sometimes they are healing hands and sometimes hand grenades.

When it comes to prose, clarity is everything.

Attractive ideas are often dressed in rags.

If a book were a building, a brick would be a paragraph.

We must build our lives with the materials to hand.

It is remarkable how many prose writers wrongly believe they are poets.  Some even become poet laureate.

Oxford University seems to have found itself up a well-known creek without a Padel.

You don’t need discipline to write poetry. You just need a drink.

Plagiarism is a tax that the barren exact from the fertile.

Plagiarism is the literary equivalent of child abduction.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then plagiarism is the sincerest form of theft.

Stop riding on my rainbow!

I have written down less than one per cent of what I have seen in the watches of the night.

Half of my dreams actually happen. The trouble is I never know which half.

The one person we can never get away from is ourselves.

I love the way cats exit a room, leaving their tails behind momentarily.

Dogs don’t contradict us but cats do.

Dogs bark; cats mark.

Dogs demur; cats purr.

Dogs crap; cats nap.

Dogs dawdle; cats cradle.

Dogs are dogmatic; cats are categoric.

Dogs are macho; cats are camp.

Dogs are straight; cats are great.

Dogs are New Labrador; cats are Conservative.

Dogs are Protestants; cats are Catholic.

Dogs are right-pawed; cats are left-footed.

Dogs are Hindus; cats are Buddhists.

Dogs are sunny; cats are moony.

Dogs are funny; cats cost money.

Dogs are legal; cats are regal.

Dogs are loyal; cats are royal.

I don’t have any pets but my wife does.

Brains tend to outlast beauty.

In Britain brains still play second fiddle to brawn.

The criminal lacks all virtues save courage.

Crime pays if you don’t get caught.

Many a family fortune is due to criminal ancestors.

Wilde says that we regret what we haven’t done far more than what we have. Many prisoners would disagree with him.

If people genuinely feared incarceration we would have far fewer criminals.

Prison is a clumsy solution to an intractable problem.

Intelligent people tend to have few children which is why society is inexorably deteriorating.

Pontius Pilate was a liberal.

Oscar Wilde was a genius.

Energy is eternal effort.

Energy is consciousness and consciousness is energy.

I owe that observation to Einstein and Joseph Campbell.

Common misconceptions:

There is no God.

God is a mass of contradictions.

Religion is nonsense.

Philosophy is a waste of time.

Travel broadens the mind.

French cuisine is the best in the world.

British cuisine is the worst in the world.

Swedish women are always beautiful.

Spanish men are always handsome.

Men are more intelligent than women.

Women are more sensitive than men.

Men and women are the same.

Women and men are radically different.

Men are better chefs than women.

Women are worse chauffeurs than men.

Men are more logical than women.

Women are less licentious than men.

A sex-change will improve your life.

Country folk are nicer than townies.

The earth is four and a half billion years old.

The universe is thirteen and a half billion years old.

Anybody can become an artist.

Anybody can become a painter.

Anybody can become a poet.

Anybody can become a musician.

Anybody can become a mathematician.

Anybody can become an athlete.

Anybody can become an actor.

America embodies the future.

Russia represents the past.

Hollywood films are worth watching.

There are three classes of aphorism: original, derivative and downright copies.

My favourite aphorists are Samuel Johnson, Arthur Schopenhauer and, of course, Oscar.

Wilde was heavily influenced by Johnson who was heavily influenced by Shakespeare who was heavily influenced by Chaucer who was heavily influenced by the Bible.

Oscar didn’t like women much; I do.

Teaching is ninety per cent personality.

Listening to someone is very different from hearing them.

Talent is no longer considered necessary for success in the arts.

It is the Arts Council that creates the intellectual atmosphere of our age.

We should support the arts by voting with our wallets.

The supreme vice is selfishness.

Getting exactly what one wants often proves fatal.

Experience is a euphemism for our errors.

Regrets, I’ve had plenty.

Religion is the last refuge of the desperate.

Christianity is the last refuge of the confused.

Re-reading is usually a waste of time.

Science is necessarily amoral.

Criticism is far easier than creation.

Charity rhymes with clarity but does not resemble it.

The main aim of charity is to ease the conscience of the rich.

You can’t choose your family – or your friends.

For an aphorism to have any real force it needs to be true or at least feasible.

Every form has its traditions: limericks are sexist, satire is reactionary and aphorisms are cynical.

Aphorisms depend on pith, paradox and plausibility.

Untrue aphorisms fade like cut crysanthemums.

An aphorism is a memorable saying.

Aphorisms are addictive.

Aphorisms are the written record of a wasted life.

Copyright   Simon R. Gladdish   2009

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