Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

George Bernard Shaw

Irish Playwright, Critic, Social Reformer and Political Activist

"A learned man is an idler, who kills time with study."

"A man's interest in the world is only an overflow from his interest in himself."

"A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth."

"A miracle, my friend, is an event which creates faith. that is the purpose and nature of miracles... Frauds deceive. An event which creates faith does not deceive: therefore it is not a fraud, but a miracle."

"[Hatred]... the coward's revenge for being intimidated."

"As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death."

"An honest man feels that he must pay heaven for every hour of happiness with a good spell of hard unselfish work to make others happy. We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it."

"All capital... is nothing but spare subsistence. It is the superfluous part of a man’s income - that which he is content not to consume, or can easily be persuaded to forego for the present for the sake of some future advantage. Thus capital has been called “the reward of abstinence.”"

"Beware of the man who does not return your blow: he neither forgives you nor allows you to forgive yourself."

"Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world."

"Do you know what a pessimist is? A man who thinks everybody as nasty as himself and hates them for it."

"Economy is the art of making the most of life. The love of economy is the root of all virtue."

"Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby."

"Disobedience, the rarest and most courageous of virtues, is seldom distinguished from neglect, the laziest and commonest of vices."

"Haven’t you noticed that people always exaggerate the value of things they haven’t got? The poor think they need nothing but riches to be quite happy and good. Everybody worships truth, purity, unselfishness, for the same reason: because they have no experience of them. Oh, if they only knew!"

"Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same."

"If a man cannot look evil in the face without illusion, he will never know what it really is, or combat it effectually."

"It is not belief that is dangerous in our society: it is belief."

"I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is not “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."

"Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity."

"Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience."

"Man can climb the highest summits, but he cannot dwell there long."

"Morality is not respectability."

"Men cannot serve two masters."

"Self-denial is not a virtue; it is only the effect of prudence on rascality."

"No sooner had Jesus knocked over the dragon of superstition than Paul boldly set it on its legs again in the name of Jesus."

"No man is good enough to be another man's master."

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."

"Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing."

"The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else."

"The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is."

"The man who listens to reason is lost: reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her."

"The only service a friend can render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself."

"The open mind never acts - when we have done our utmost to arrive at a reasonable conclusion, we still, when we can reason and investigate no more, must close our minds for the moment with a snap, and act dogmatically on our own conclusion. The man who wants to make an entirely reasonable will dies intestate."

"The vile abortionist is he who attempts to mould a child's character."

"The worst cliques are those which consist of one man."

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

"There is only one universal passion: fear."

"There are many paths to knowledge already discovered; and no enlightened man doubts that there are many more waiting to be discovered. Indeed, all paths lead to knowledge; because even the vilest and stupidest action teaches us something about vileness and stupidity and may accidentally teach us a good deal more."

"There are two great tragedies in life: one is to lose your heart's desire, the other is to gain it."

"Titles distinguish the mediocre, embarrass the superior, and are disgraced by the inferior."

"Truth telling is not compatible with the defense of the realm."

"To be in hell is to drift: to be in heaven is to steer."

"Vice is waste of life. Poverty, obedience, and celibacy are the canonical vices."

"What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumption on which he habitually acts."

"What I mean by a religious person is one who conceives himself or herself to be the instrument of some purpose in the universe which is a high purpose, and is the motive of evolution - that is, of a continual ascent in organization and power and life, and extension of life."

"What is morality? Gentility."

"Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it."

"What really flatters a man is that you think him worth flattering."