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Knowledgeable Insults

Thomas Carlyle on Lord Macaulay:

' "Literary world" (bless the mark!) much occupied of late with "Macaulay's History" the most popular history book ever written. Four editions already, within perhaps, four months. Book to which five hundred editions could not lend any permanent value, there being no depth of sense in it at all, and a very great quantity of wind and other temporary ingredients, which are the reverse of sense.'

She's the sort of woman who, when asked what she thought of Red China, would say she didn't mind it providing that it didn't clash with the decor.

On Dr. Jonathan Miller, physician, producer, performer and omniscient:

Too clever by three-quarters.'

I read somewhere that human intelligence is reckoned to be half a million years old. Listening to him you'd think it was still at the nappy stage.

The famous nineteenth-century classical scholar, Dr. W. H. Thompson, became as famous for his command of sarcasm as for his mastery of ancient wisdom. To a fellow historian who remarked to him wearily that he had so many books he didn't know what to do with them, Thompson replied:

'Why not try reading some of them.'

The nearest he'll ever get to a brainstorm is a light drizzle.

'I have the greatest contempt for Aristotle,' a colleague told Robert Lowe, after they were leaving the House of Commons following a debate in which the philosopher had been quoted.

'But not, I should imagine, that contempt which familiarity breeds,' Lowe answered*

What he lacks in intelligence he makes up for in ignorance.

When Alexander Pope set about translating the works of Homer into English verse the scheme met with considerable envy and hostility. John Dennis wrote:

The little gentleman, with a most unparalleled assurance, has undertaken to translate Homer from Greek, of which he does not know one word, into English, which he understands almost as little.'

Any serious ideas in your head must be kept in solitary confinement.

On F. E. Smith:

'Very clever, but his brains go to his head.' Margot Asquith

You can see that he's at his wit's end. You can see that it hasn't taken him long to get there either.

Richard Person, the leading eighteenth-century classicist, and Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge, was told by a fellow scholar during one discussion of Greek poetry:

'We know nothing of Greek metres.'

'If, Doctor,' Person replied, 'you will put your observation in the singular number, I believe it will be very accurate.'

If only you'd use your brains a little more you could honestly call yourself a half-wit.

The early-nineteenth-century poet laureate, Robert Southey, outlined his daily routine to a visitor in awesome detail:

'I rise at five throughout the year,' he began. 'From six until eight I read Spanish then French, for one hour: Portuguese next, for half an hour... I give two hours to poetry. I write prose for two hours. I translate it so long. I make extracts so long, and so for the rest.'

'And, tell me, when dost thou think?' asked the visitor.


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