Thomas Mann was once introduced to an American novelist who spent most of their brief conversation apologizing for his own worthlessness in the presence of so great a literary figure. The man claimed that he was only a hack compared to Mann, which was far from being the case, but after their conversation Mann commented:
'That man has no right to make himself so small. He is not that big.'
That man's like a windscreen wiper — wet, flaccid, moving from side to side and bowing and scraping when you look at him.
A stranger who met the Duke of Wellington for the first time told him that it was the proudest moment of his life. All the Duke said in reply was:
'Don't be a fool, sir.'
His doctor said that he needn't worry that he was suffering from an inferiority complex. Apparently he is just inferior.
When Boswell and Johnson met for the first time, Boswell apologized for his ancestry:
'Mr. Johnson, I do indeed come from Scotland,' he said, 'but I can't help it.'
That, sir, is what I find a great many of your countrymen cannot help,' answered the Doctor.
That oily tongue of his could only come with his slick mind.
A gushing female admirer cornered W. S. Gilbert at a party and started to sing the praises of his work with 'dear Sir Arthur'.
'How wonderful,' she said, 'to think of your collaborator composing and composing just like Bach.'
'Sullivan may be composing, madam,' Gilbert told her, 'but Bach is decomposing.'
When in doubt he stoops to concur.
Dr. Johnson once found himself in the company of a man whose admiration for the great man was such that he followed everything the Doctor said with a loud outburst of laughter and noisy appreciation. This became so infuriating that after one particularly raucous outburst, Johnson turned on the man and asked:
'Pray, sir, what is the matter? I hope I've not said anything that you can comprehend.'
He's the sort of man who's always willing to help you get what's coming to him.
James Joyce was pounced on by a fan one day. The woman grabbed his hand and asked:
'May I kiss the hand that wrote Ulysses?' 'No,' said Joyce. 'It did other things too.'
He's a pastmaster at worming his way out of people's confidences.
'You must get a great deal of praise from all sides,' a friend said to the cartoonist Ding.
'No more than I need,' he replied.