Book Excerpt - Collected Short Stories of Somerset Maugham (Volume 4)

Book Excerpt - Collected Short Stories of Somerset Maugham (Volume 4)

So, here is the list of 30 quotes which I hope, as you read, will soothe your sore heart, warm your vulnerable soul, heal your past wounds and throw a fresh perspective in approaching and dealing with people in your life. 

1. But human beings are incalculable and he is a fool who tells himself that he knows what a man is capable of.

2. ‘Look at me, my friend,’ he said, ‘I who lie here on a hospital bed, the object of charity, have been monarch of all I surveyed. Yes, it is something to say that I have been a king.’

3. He saw his life as a problem in higher mathematics, the working-out of which had required intense application of all his powers, but of which the result had not the least practical consequence. Its interest lay in its intricacy and its beauty in its solution.

4. ‘Oh, my dear boy, one mustn’t expect gratitude. It’s a thing that no one has a right to. After all, you do good because it gives you pleasure. It’s the purest form of happiness there is. To expect thanks for it is really asking too much. If you get it, well, it’s like a bonus on shares on which you’ve already received a dividend; it’s grand, but you mustn’t look upon it as your due.’

5. but if to look truth in the face and not resent it when it’s unpalatable, and take human nature as you find it, smiling when it’s absurd and grieved without exaggeration when it’s pitiful, is to be cynical, then I suppose I’m a cynic. Mostly human nature is both absurd and pitiful, but if life has taught you tolerance you find in it more to smile at than to weep.

6. Why did people make themselves unhappy? Let them weep for the death of those they loved, death was terrible always, but for the rest, was it worth while to be wretched, to harbour malice, to be vain and uncharitable?

7. I have been foolish and unreasonable. I think we should allow those we care for to be happy in their own way, and we should care for them enough not to let it make us unhappy.

8. I suppose we all attach a sort of importance to ourselves, and it is humiliating to realize that we have left no impression at all upon the persons we have associated with.

9. Real life more often ends things with a whimper than with a bang.

10. And yet to me his life was a success. The pattern is good and complete. He did what he wanted, and he died when his goal was in sight and never knew the bitterness of an end achieved.

11. ‘Leisure,’ he said. ‘If people only knew! It’s the most priceless thing a man can have and they’re such fools they don’t even know it’s something to aim at. Work? They work for work’s sake. They haven’t got the brains to realize that the only object of work is to obtain leisure.’ Wine has the effect on some people of making them indulge in general reflections.

12. The will needs obstacles in order to exercise its power; when it is never thwarted, when no effort is needed to achieve one’s desires, because one has placed one’s desires only in the things that can be obtained by stretching out one’s hand, the will grows impotent. If you walk on a level all the time the muscles you need to climb a mountain will atrophy.

13. It is vain to torment oneself over sufferings that one cannot alleviate.

14. …one can never know everything there is to be known about human nature. One can be sure only of one thing, and that is that it will never cease to have a surprise in store for you.

15. I love you enough to let you be happy in your own way.

16. But sometimes love comes after marriage and not before, and then it is better. It lasts longer

17. The fact is that in a marriage of convenience you expect less and so you are less likely to be disappointed. As you do not make senseless claims on one another there is no reason for exasperation. You do not look for perfection and so you are tolerant to one another’s faults. Passion is all very well, but it is not a proper foundation for marriage. Voyez-vous, for two people to be happy in marriage they must be able to respect one another, they must be of the same condition, and their interests must be alike; then if they are decent people and are willing to give and take, to live and let live, there is no reason why their union should not be as happy as ours.’

18. The habitual borrower always asks twice what he expects to get and it only dissatisfies him to give him what he has asked since then he is vexed with himself for not having asked more.

19. Every transaction in life is a risk, he truly observes, and involves the question of loss and gain. ‘To retire to rest at night is a practice that is fortified by countless precedents, and it is generally regarded as prudent and necessary. Yet it is surrounded by risks of every kind.’ He enumerates them and finally sums up his argument with these reasonable words: ‘If social circles welcome the banker and merchant who live by taking fair risks for the sake of profit, there is no apparent reason why they should not at least tolerate the man who at times employs himself in giving and taking fair risks for the sake of amusement.’

20. Lost money is never recovered. After losing you may win, but the losing does not bring the winning.

21. He will thus feel a constant sense of security amid all possible fluctuations that occur, and he will also abstain from pressing an ignorant or an intellectually weak opponent, beyond what may be necessary either for the purpose of playing the game correctly, or of punishing presumption.

22. For we must take human nature as it is.

23. Of course it is only if you have a passion for the business by which you earn your living that you can make a success of it.

24. She must always have been a cold, self-possessed woman, but it is just with people like that that nature at times plays strange tricks.

25. What is there more moving than young love? The walks together of that handsome pair in one of the parks in the warm evenings of early summer, the dances they went to where he held her in his arms, the enchantment of the secret they shared when they exchanged glances across a dinner-table, and the passionate encounters, hurried and dangerous, but worth a thousand risks, when at some clandestine meeting-place they could give themselves to the fulfilment of their desire. They drank the milk of Paradise.

26. The fact is, I think, he didn’t want to be helped. I think he just wanted to go to hell in his own way and be as quick as he could about it.

27. I know nothing more shattering than to love with all your heart, than not to be able however hard you try to break yourself of it, someone who you know is worthless.

28. He was a happy accident of nature…She was too beautiful to be real.

29. And these two young things, she was sixteen and he was twenty, fell in love with one another at first sight. That is the real love, not the love that comes from sympathy, common interests, or intellectual community, but love pure and simple. That is the love that Adam felt for Eve when he awoke and found her in the garden gazing at him with dewy eyes. That is the love that draws the beasts to one another, and the Gods. That is the love that makes the world a miracle. That is the love which gives life its pregnant meaning.

30. The tragedy of love is not death or separation. How long do you think it would have been before one or other of them ceased to care? Oh, it is dreadfully bitter to look at a woman whom you have loved with all your heart and soul, so that you felt you could not bear to let her out of your sight, and realize that you would not mind if you never saw her again. The tragedy of love is indifference.


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