The Right Honourable Gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests and to his imagination for his facts.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), Irish playwright and politician, on Henry Dundas (1742-1811), British politician
The style of all pestilential filth that hath infested the state and government of this commonwealth.
Sir Harbottle Grimston, British MP, on William Laud (1573-1645), English clergyman and Archbishop of Canterbury
They inculcate the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master.
Samuel Johnson (1709-84) on Lord Chesterfield’s letters of advice to his son
They told me how Mr Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I thought served him right.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) on William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98)
This goat-footed bard, this half-human visitor to our age from the hagridden magic and enchanted woods of Celtic antiquity.
John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) on David Lloyd George (1863-1945)
Wallowing in corruption like a rhinoceros in an African pool.
E. L. Godkin (1831-1902) on James G. Elaine, American politician
We did not conceive it possible that even Mr Lincoln would produce a paper so slipshod, so loose-joined, so puerile, not alone in literary construction, but in its ideas, its sentiments, its grasp. He has outdone himself.
Chicago Times (1863) on Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (19 November 1863)
What is that fat man in such a passion about?
Lord Eversley as a child in the gallery of the House of Commons, in G.W.E. Russell, Collections and Recollections (1898) on Charles James Fox (1749-1806), British statesman
What other man within the walls of parliament, however hasty, rude and petulant, hath exhibited such manifold instances of bad manners, bad feelings, bad reasonings, bad language and bad law?
Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), British poet, on Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868), British statesman and author
Winston has devoted the best years of his life to preparing his impromptu speeches.
F. E. Smith (1872-1930) on Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
With death doomed to grapple Beneath this cold slab, he Who lied in the Chapel Now lies in the Abbey.
Lord Byron (1788-1824) on William Pitt (1759-1806)
You and I were long friends; you are now my enemy and I am Yours, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) to William Strahan
You show the bourgeoisie your behind. We, on the contrary, look them in the face.
Georgi Plekhanov, Russian Social Democrat, on Vladimir llyich Lenin (1870-1924), Soviet leader
You’ve no idea what it costs to keep the old man in poverty.
Lord Louis Mountbatten (1900-79) on Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
… a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor, whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any?
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) to George Washington
… and to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship … and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor, whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809), letter to George Washington (1732-99)
… as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-65)
… he insults the House of Lords and plagues the most eminent of his colleagues with the crabbed malice of a maundering witch.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) on the Earl of Aberdeen (1784-1860)
… only a frantic pair of moustaches.
T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935) on Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), French marshal
… was brilliant to the top of his army hoots.
David Lloyd George (1863-1945) on Douglas Haig (1861-1928), British field marshal
A cold-blooded, calculating, unprincipled usurper, without a virtue; no statesman, knowing nothing of commerce, political economy, or civil government, and supplying ignorance by bold presumption.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), American president, on Napoleon Bonaparte
A crafty and lecherous old hypocrite whose very statue seems to gloat on the wenches as they walk the States House yard.
William Cobbett (1763-1835), on Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), American statesman and scientist
A lamentably successful cross between a fox and a hog.
James G. Blaine, American politician, on Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818-93), American soldier
A retail mind in a wholesale business.
David Lloyd George (1863-1945) on Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940)
A tardy little marionette.
Randolph Churchill (1849-95) on Clement Attlee (1883-1967)
A Winston Churchill who had never been to Harrow.
H. G. Wells (1866-1946) on Huey Pierce Long, American politician
As an intellectual he bestowed upon the games of golf and bridge all the enthusiasm and perseverance that he withheld from books and ideas.
Emmet Hughes, American writer, on Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969), 34th American president
As he rose like a rocket, he fell like a stick.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809), British political philosopher, on Edmund Burke (1729-97), British author and statesman
Chamberlain is no better than a Mayor of Birmingham, and in a lean year at that.
Lord Hugh Cecil on Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940)
Dear Randolph, utterly unspoilt by failure.
Noel Coward (1899-1973) on Randolph Churchill (1849-95)
Douglas can never be president, Sir. No, Sir; Douglas never can be president, Sir. His legs are too short, Sir. His coat, like a cow’s tail, hangs too near the ground, Sir.
Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) on Stephen A. Douglas, presidential candidate
Dr Dread-Devil… said that there were no trees in Scotland. I wonder how they managed to take him around without letting him see trees. I suppose that that lick-spittle Boswell, or Mrs Piozzi, tied a bandage over his eyes when he went over the country which I have been over. I shall sweep away at this bundle of lies.
William Cobbett (1763-1835) on Samuel Johnson (1709-84)
Every drop of blood in that man’s veins has eyes that look downward.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), American philosopher and poet, on Daniel Webster, American politician
Filthy Story-Teller, Despot, Liar, Thief, Braggart, Buffoon, Usurper, Monster, Ignoramus Abe, Old Scoundrel, Perjurer, Robher, Swindler, Tyrant, Field-Butcher, Land-Pirate.
Harper’s Weekly on Abraham Lincoln
Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angleworm.
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85), 18th American president, on James A. Garfield (1831-81), 20th American president
Gladstone appears to me one of the contemptibilist men I ever looked on. A poor Ritualist; almost spectral kind of phantasm of a man.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish historian and essayist on William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98)
God damn your god damned old hellfired god damned soul to hell god damn you and god damn your god damned family’s god damned hellfired god damned soul to hell and good damnation god damn them and god damn your god damned friends to hell.
Peter Muggins, American citizen, letter to President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65)
He brings to the fierce struggle of politics the tepid enthusiasm of a lazy summer afternoon at a cricket match.
Aneurin Sevan (1897-1960) on Clement Attlee (1883-1967), British prime minister
He couldn’t see a belt without hitting below it.
Margot Asquith (1864-1945) on David Lloyd George (1863-1945), British prime minister
He did not seem to care which way he travelled, as long as he was in the driver’s seat.
Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964) on David Lloyd George (1863-1945)
He has a bungalow mind.
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), 28th American president on Warren Harding (1865-1923), 29th American president
He has all the characteristics of a dog except loyalty.
Sam Houston, American politician, on Thomas Jefferson Green (1801-63), American politician
He has committed every crime that does not require courage.
Benjamin Disraeli on Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), Irish lawyer, politician and agitator
He is a self-made man and worships his creator.
attr. John Bright on Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81)
He is like a carving knife whetted on a brickbat.
John Randolph (1773-1833) American politician, on Ben Harden, American politician
He lived a hypocrite and died a traitor.
John Foster, English historian, on Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of England
He objected to ideas only when others had them.
A. J. P. Taylor, British historian, on Ernest Bevin (1881-1951) British politician
He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.
Winston Churchill on Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947)
He only had one idea and that was wrong. Benjamin Disraeli on a now forgotten MP He is a mere cork, dancing in a current which he cannot control.
Arthur Balfour (1848-1930), British prime minister on Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908), Liberal prime minister
He slept more than any other president, whether by day or night. Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) on Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933)
He spent his whole life in plastering together the true and the false and therefrom manufacturing the plausible.
Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947) on David Lloyd George (1863-1945)
He thinks himself deaf because he no longer hears himself talked of.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (1754-1838) on Vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768-1848)
He was essentially a prig, and among prigs there is a freemasonry which never fails. All the prigs spoke of him as the coming man.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) on William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98)
He was oppressed by metaphor, dislocated by parentheses and debilitated by amplification.
Samuel Parr (1747-1825) on a speech by Edmund Burke (1729-97)
He would kill his own mother just so that he could use her skin to make a drum to beat his own praises.
Margot Asquith (1864-1945), writer and wife of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, on Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
H. L Mencken (1880-1956), American journalist and critic, on Warren G. Harding (1865-1923), American president
He’s thin, boys. He’s thin as piss on a hot rock.
Senator William E. Jenner on W. Averell Harriman (1891-1986), governor of New York
His face is ashen, gaunt his whole body, His breath is green with gall; His tongue drips poison.
Ovid (43 BC-AD 17), applied by John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) to John Randolph
His idea of getting hold of the right end of the stick is to snatch it from the hands of somebody who is using it effectively, and to hit him over the head with it.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright, on Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th American president
His impact on history would be no more than the whiff of scent on a lady’s handkerchief.
David Lloyd George (1863-1945) on Arthur Balfour (1848-1930)
His smile is like the silver fittings on a coffin.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) on Robert Peel (1788-1850)
How can they tell?
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) on hearing that American President Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) had died
I am sir, for the last time in my life, Your Humble Servant Horace Walpole.
Horace Walpole (1717-97), British prime minister, ending a letter to an uncle with whom he had quarrelled
I met Curzon in Downing Street, from whom I got the sort of greeting a corpse would give to an undertaker.
attr. Stanley Baldwin on Lord Curzon (1859-1925)
I met murder on the way – he had a mask like Castlereagh.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) on Viscount Castlereagh (1769-1822), British foreign minister (1812-22)
I think Baldwin has gone mad. He simply takes one jump in the dark; looks around and then takes another.
Lord Birkenhead (1872-1930) on Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947)
I thought he was a young man of promise; but it appears he was a young man of promises.
Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930) on Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
I thought him fearfully ill-educated and quite tenth rate – pathetic. I felt quite maternal to him.
Hugh Walpole (1884-1941) on meeting Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) in 1925
If a traveller were informed that such a man was the leader of the House of Commons, he might begin to comprehend how the Egyptians worshipped an insect.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81), British prime minister and author, on Lord John Russell (1792-1878), British prime minister
If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune, and if anybody pulled him out that, I suppose, would be a calamity.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81), British prime minister, on rival prime minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98)
If he were a horse, nobody would buy him; with that eye, no one could answer for his temper.
Walter Bagehot (1826-77), British constitutional historian on Lord Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868), British statesman and author
If Kitchener was not a great man, he was at least, a great poster.
Margot Asquith (1864-1945) on Lord Kitchener (1850-1916)
It was said Mr Gladstone could convince most people of most things, and himself of anything.
Dean William R. Inge on Gladstone
Like a cushion he always bore the impress of the last man who had sat on him.
David Lloyd George on Lord Derby (1865-1948) (also attr. to Lord Haig)
Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks.
John Randolph, American politician, on Edward Livingstone (1764-1836), American politician
Listening to a speech by Chamberlain is like paying a visit to Woolworth’s; everything in its place and nothing above sixpence.
Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960) on Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940)
Mr Gladstone speaks to me as if I were a public meeting.
Queen Victoria (1819-1901) on William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98)
My one ardent desire is that after the war he should be publicly castrated in front of Nurse Cavell’s statue.
Lytton Strachey (1880-1932) on David Lloyd George
Not a gentleman. Dresses too well.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) on Anthony Eden (1895-1977)
Oh, if I could piss the way he speaks!
Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) on David Lloyd George
One could drive a schooner through any part of his argument and never scrape against a fact.
David Houston, American politician, on William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), American lawyer and politician
One could not even dignify him with the name of a stuffed shirt. He was simply a hole on the air.
George Orwell (1903-50) on Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947)
Posterity will ne’er survey A nobler grave than this; Here lie the bones of Castlereagh: Stop, traveller, and piss.
Lord Byron (1788-1824) on Viscount Castlereagh, British foreign minister (1812-22)
Reader, suppose you were an idiot; and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.
Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, on Congress
Sir Stafford has a brilliant mind until it is made up.
Lady Violet Bonham-Carter (1887-1969) on Sir Stafford Cripps (1889-1952)
Karl Marx (1818-83) to Friedrich Engels (1820-95), private correspondence, on the proletariat
That dark designing sordid ambitious vain proud arrogant and vindictive knave.
General Charles Lee (1731-83) on George Washington (1732-99)
That grand impostor, that loathsome hypocrite, that detestable traitor, that prodigy of nature, that opprobrium of mankind, that landscape of iniquity, that sink of sin, that compendium of baseness who now calls himself our Protector.
Anabaptists’ address to Charles II on Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)
The General is suffering from mental saddle sores.
Harold L. Ickes, American Secretary of the Interior, on Hugh S. Johnson (1882-1942), American soldier
The manners of a cad and the tongue of a bargee.
Herbert Asquith (1852-1928), British prime minister, on Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914), British politician
The moral character of Jefferson was repulsive. Continually puling about liberty, equality, and the degrading curse of slavery, he brought his own children to the hammer, and made money of his debaucheries.
Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), American politician, on Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd American president
The people are tired of a man who has not an idea above a horse or a cigar.
Joseph Brown on Ulysses S. Grant, 18th American president
The right honourable and learned gentleman has twice crossed the floor of this House, each time leaving behind a trail of slime.
David Lloyd George on Sir John Simon (1873-1954)