Monday, 20 November 2006

MORE POISON PEN-STROKES

Following yesterday's display of vitriol by Dorothy Parker, I thought I'd share with you a few more cyanide-scented sentiments and arsenic-flavoured accolades from Jennifer Higgie's The Little Book of Venom, worthy of being savoured.

A quite excellent nosegay of nastiness, this innocent-looking little collection is one in which musicians are murdered...

Bernard Levin on the music of Frederick Delius: "The musical equivalent of blancmange"

Oscar Wilde on Richard Wagner: "I like Wagner's music better than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without people hearing what one says. That is a great advantage."

...politicians are pulverised...

Benjamin Disraeli on Robert Peel: "His smile is like the silver fittings on a coffin."

Aneurin Bevan on Clement Atlee: "He brings to the fierce struggle of politics the tepid enthusiasm of a lazy summer afternoon at a cricket match."

...historical figures are hammered...

Charles Dickens on Henry VIII: "The plain truth is that he was the most intolerable ruffian, a disgrace to human nature, and a blot of blood and grease upon the history of England."

George Bernard Shaw on Queen Victoria: "Nowadays, a parlour maid as ignorant as Queen Victoria was when she came to the throne would be classed as mentally defective."

...playwrights are poleaxed...

H G Wells on George Bernard Shaw: "An idiot child screaming in a hospital."

Queen Victoria on William Shakespeare's King Lear: "A strange, horrible business, but I suppose good enough for Shakespeare's day."

...divas are destroyed...

W B Yeats on Mrs Patrick Campbell: "An ego like a raging tooth."

George Bernard Shaw (again) on Isadora Duncan: "A woman whose face looked as if it had been made of sugar and someone had licked it."

...and authors are assassinated...

Lord Byron on John Keats: "A tadpole of the lakes."

Dame Edith Sitwell on Virginia Woolf: "Virginia Wolf's writings is no more than glamorous knitting. I believe she must have a pattern somewhere."

Finally, here's an all-purpose Arab curse that is seriously worth committing to memory for daily use in any stressful situation: "May your left ear wither and fall into your right pocket."


The Little Book of Venom: A Collection of Historical Insults, compiled by Jennifer Heggie in 1999, is published by Michael O'Mara Books Ltd.

6 comments:

lynn said...

poison pen how topical..

Cafrine said...

Ha! This is so going on someone's Christmas wish list, and I think that someone is me.

Scrooge said...

Lord Byron was so voiciferous in his rejection of those that had abused his poetry that he wrote an entire book denouncing them all by name.His comment in the introduction to it, whilst not being as venemous as the examples quoted, was certainly eloquent.He looked forward to reading more such reviews and using them to light his pipe with as he took ship over the Bosphorus !

Ian said...

There's a whole bunch of poison pen comments (rather than strokes) Abraham Lincoln made which I love and which you can find at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/abraham_lincoln.html

One of my favourites: "He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas better than any man I ever met"

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks, guys... Probably just as well Byron and Lincoln never met!!

HHGryff said...

Aha! Excellent, I know just who to buy this book for as a stocking filler. Cheers Mr S! The Arab curse is committed to memory and I imagine it coming in quite useful on the run up to Christmas...