I love quotes. I collect them like some people collect stamps, or butterflies, or rare antique coins. Quotes can be a great spark to get the fire of conversation going, and they are wonderful for after dinner speeches (not that I have ever given an after dinner speech, but if I did, I would definitely include a quote or two).
My favourite source of quotes is Oscar Wilde. I delight in his fascinating mental celerity and humorous charm, and some of his witticisms are rather apt for our modern day. Take a look at the America’s Trump administration and it is difficult not to think of Wilde’s observation that “I think that God, in creating Man, somewhat overestimated his abilities.” Wilde even had a quote that is applicable to the subject of this post – “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”
Recently, however, I came across several quotes from Winston Churchill. If ever there was a man who was a master of insults and witty comebacks, it was Winston Churchill. Take, for example, his reply when he was disturbed whilst on the toilet in the House of Commons. A messenger had been dispatched to inform him that the Lord Privy Seal wished to see him, to which Churchill replied, “Tell the Privy Seal that I am sealed in the privy and I can only deal with one shit at a time.” Yet even this remarkable retort pales in the witty glow of Churchill’s interaction with Lady Nancy Astor. The pair often came to blows, and at a dinner party at Nancy Astor’s home, a frustrated Nancy declared, “Sir, if you were my husband, I’d put rat poison in your coffee!” to which Churchill, without missing a beat, retorted, “Madam, if I were your husband, I’d drink it!”
My most favourite Churchill quote so far though has to this. While at a dinner reception in Canada, Churchill found himself seated next to a Methodist minister. At the end of the dinner, a waitress came around, bearing a tray of glasses filled with sherry. Churchill took one and then the tray was offered to the minister, who indignantly declared, “I would rather commit adultery than take an alcoholic drink!” As the waitress walked away, Churchill called to her, “Come back Miss, I didn’t realise we had a choice.”