W. Somerset Maugham Quotes


English short-story writer, novelist and playwright, 1874-1965



A man marries to have a home, but also because he doesn't want to be bothered with sex and all that sort of thing.


A woman can forgive a man for the harm he does her...but she can never forgive him for the sacrifices he makes on her account.The Moon and Sixpence


A woman may be as wicked as she likes, but if she isn't pretty it won't do her much good.


An unfortunate thing about this world is that the good habits are much easier to give up than the bad ones.


Any nation that thinks more of its ease and comfort than its freedom will soon lose its freedom; and the ironical thing about it is that it will lose its ease and comfort too.


Anyone can tell the truth, but only very few of us can make epigrams.


Art is merely the refuge which the ingenious have invented, when they were supplied with food and women, to escape the tediousness of life."Of Human Bondage", 1915


At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.


Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.


Considering how foolishly people act and how pleasantly they prattle, perhaps it would be better for the world if they talked more and did less.


Death doesn't affect the living because it has not happened yet. Death doesn't concern the dead because they have ceased to exist.


Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.


D'you call life a bad job? Never! We've had our ups and downs, we've had our struggles, we've always been poor, but it's been worth it, ay, worth it a hundred times I say when I look round at my children."Of Human Bondage", 1915


Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul.


Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.


Few misfortunes can befall a boy which bring worse consequence than to have a really affectionate mother.


Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the corner."Of Human Bondage", 1915


Habits in writing as in life are only useful if they are broken as soon as they cease to be advantageous.


Have common sense and stick to the point.


He had heard people speak contemptuously of money: he wondered if they had ever tried to do without it."Of Human Bondage", 1915


Human sorrow is like a child born in the night who sees the sun rise and thinks that yesterday never existed.


Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit. It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole-time job.


I daresay one profits more by the mistakes one makes off one's own bat than by doing the right thing on somebody's else advice."Of Human Bondage", 1915


I do not believe they are right who say that the defects of famous men should be ignored. I think it is better that we should know them. Then, though we are conscious of having faults as glaring as theirs, we can believe that that is no hindrance to our achieving also something of their virtues.


I do not confer praise or blame: I accept. I am the measure of all things. I am the centre of the world."Of Human Bondage", 1915


I don't know why it is that the religious never ascribe common sense to God.


I don't think of the past. The only thing that matters is the everlasting present.The Moon and Sixpence


I look into my empty heart and shrink dismayed: My soul is like a desert, and the wild wind blows In its silent, barren spaces.


I made up my mind long ago that life was too short to do anything for myself that I could pay others to do for me.


I would sooner read a time-table or a catalogue than nothing at all. They are much more entertaining than half the novels that are written.


If you don't change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?


If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts.


I'll give you my opinion of the human race in a nutshell... their heart's in the right place, but their head is a thoroughly inefficient organ.


Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.


Impropriety is the soul of wit.


In Hollywood, the women are all peaches. It makes one long for an apple occasionally.


In the country the darkness of night is friendly and familiar, but in a city, with its blaze of lights, it is unnatural, hostile and menacing. It is like a monstrous vulture that hovers, biding its time.


It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded."Of Human Bondage", 1915


It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it.


It is cruel to discover one's mediocrity only when it is too late."Of Human Bondage", 1915.


It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive.


It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one's dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent."Of Human Bondage", 1915.


It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one's dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.


It is salutary to train oneself to be no more affected by censure than by praise.


It is unsafe to take your reader for more of a fool than he is.


It seems that the creative faculty and the critical faculty cannot exist together in their highest perfection.


It was such a lovely day I thought it was a pity to get up."Our Betters", 1923


It wasn't until late in life that I discovered how easy it is to say "I don't know."


It's a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.


It's asking a great deal that things should appeal to your reason as well as your sense of the aesthetic."Of Human Bondage", 1915


It's no good trying to keep up old friendships. It's painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it.


It's very hard to be a gentleman and a writer.


Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.


Life isn't long enough for love and art.The Moon and Sixpence


Life wouldn't be worth living if I worried over the future as well as the present."Of Human Bondage", 1915


Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind."Of Human Bondage", 1915


Love is only a dirty trick played on us to achieve continuation of the species.


Love is what happens to a man and woman who don't know each other.


Marriage is a very good thing, but I think it's a mistake to make a habit out of it.


Men have an extraordinarily erroneous opinion of their position in nature; and the error is ineradicable.


Men seek but one thing in life - their pleasure."Of Human Bondage", 1915


Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five."Of Human Bondage", 1915


Money is the string with which a sardonic destiny directs the motions of its puppets.


No gray hairs streak my soul, no grandfatherly fondness there! I shake the world with the might of my voice, and walk -handsome, twenty-two year old.


Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth.


Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long.


Only a mediocre person is always at his best.


People ask for criticism, but they only want praise.


Perfection has one grave defect: it is apt to be dull.


Perfection is a trifle dull. It is not the least of life's ironies that this, which we all aim at, is better not quite achieved.

Sentimentality is the only sentiment that rubs you the wrong way.


She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit.


She plunged into a sea of platitudes, and with the powerful breast stroke of a channel swimmer made her confident way towards the white cliffs of the obvious.


Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.The Moon and Sixpence


The artist produces for the liberation of his soul. It is his nature to create as it is the nature of water to run down the hill.


The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant and kind.


The crown of literature is poetry.


The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.


The great American novel has not only already been written, it has already been rejected.


The great critic must be a philosopher, for from philosophy he will learn serenity, impartiality, and the transitoriness of human things.


The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.


The important thing was to love rather than to be loved."Of Human Bondage", 1915

The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned.


The most useful thing about a principle is that it can always be sacrificed to expediency.


The rain fell alike upon the just and upon the unjust, and for nothing was there a why and a wherefore."Of Human Bondage", 1915


The trouble with young writers is that they are all in their sixties.


The world in general doesn't know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger.


The world is quickly bored by the recital of misfortune, and willing avoids the sight of distress.


The writer is more concerned to know than to judge.


The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.


There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.


There are two good things in life: freedom of thought and freedom of action.


There is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror.


There is no explanation for evil. It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order of the universe. To ignore it is childish, to bewail it senseless.


There is only one thing about which I am certain, and that is that there is very little about which one can be certain.


There was an immeasurable distance between the quick and the dead: they did not seem to belong to the same species; and it was strange to think that but a little while before they had spoken and moved and eaten and laughed. "Of Human Bondage", 1915


There's always one who loves and one who lets himself be loved."Of Human Bondage", 1915


Things were easier for the old novelists who saw people all of a piece. Speaking generally, their heroes were good through and through, their villains wholly bad.


Tolerance is another word for indifference.


Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.


We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.


We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.


We have long passed the Victorian Era when asterisks were followed after a certain interval by a baby.


We know our friends by their defects rather than by their merits.


We learn resignation not by our own suffering, but by the suffering of others.


We seek pitifully to convey to others the treasures of our heart, but they have not the power to accept them, and so we go lonely, side by side but not together, unable to know our fellows and unknown by them.


What has influenced my life more than any other single thing has been my stammer. Had I not stammered I would probably... have gone to Cambridge as my brothers did, perhaps have become a don and every now and then published a dreary book about French literature.


What makes old age hard to bear is not the failing of one's faculties, mental and physical, but the burden of one's memories.


When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me."Of Human Bondage", 1915


When things are at their worst I find something always happens."Of Human Bondage", 1915 


When you are young you take the kindness people show you as your right.


When you choose your friends, don't be short-changed by choosing personality over character.


When you have loved as she has loved, you grow old beautifully.


Writing is the supreme solace.


You are not angry with people when you laugh at them. Humor teaches tolerance.


You are unlikely to have a startling adventure if you never take a more hazardous journey than a tram ride from your house to the office. It is the same with the soul.


You can do anything in this world if you are prepares to take the consequences.


You know that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct.


You know what the critics are. If you tell the truth they only say you're cynical and it does an author no good to get a reputation for cynicism.


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