George Bernard Shaw quotes on the Arts

George Bernard Shaw is one of Ireland’s most famous playwrights. He was a lover of the arts and understood the way in which the industry worked. When he first started writing novels he couldn’t get them published anywhere, but later in his life, when he was a recognised and respected writer he laughed that he could get anything published as long as it has his name on it.

Here are some of Shaw’s best quotes on the arts:

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George Bernard Shaw quote. Merit in authorship. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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The chief objection of playing wind instruments is that it prolongs the life of the player.
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Style is a sort of melody that comes into my sentences by itself. If a writer says what he has to say as accurately and effectively as he can, his style will take care of itself.
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If more than ten percent of the population likes a painting it should be burned, for it must be bad.
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George Bernard Shaw quote. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous: and it did not get into print until, fifty years later; publishers would publish anything that had my name on it.
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Syllables govern the world.
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The quality of a play is the quality of its ideas.
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George Bernard Shaw quote. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman, but believing what he read made him mad.
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Find enough clever things to say, and you’re a Prime Minister; write them down and you’re a Shakespeare.
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That is what all the poets do: they talk to themselves out loud and the world overhears them. But it’s horribly lonely not to hear someone else talk sometimes.
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George Bernard Shaw quote. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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An author who gives a manager or publisher any rights in his work except those  immediately and specifically required for its publication or performance is for business purposes an imbecile.
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In order to fully realize how bad a popular play can be, it is necessary to see it twice.
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Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.

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A book is like a child: it is easier to bring it into the world than to control it when it is launched there.
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Let a short Act of Parliament be passed, placing all street musicians outside the protection of the law, so that any citizen may assail them with stones, sticks, knives, pistols, or bombs without incurring any penalties.
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I try to follow his example, not to imitate him.
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Only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue, and abiding love.
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George Bernard Shaw quote. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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Reviewing has one advantage over suicide: in suicide you take it out on yourself; in reviewing you take it out on other people.
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The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for a living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.
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Why, except as a means of livelihood, a man should desire to act on the stage when he has the whole world to act in, is not clear to me.
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George Bernard Shaw quote. A dramatic critic is a man who leaves no turn unstoned. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.
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George Bernard Shaw quote. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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Nobel prize money is a lifebelt thrown to a swimmer who has already reached the shore in safety.
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Hell is full of musical amateurs: music is the brandy of the damned. May not one lost soul be permitted to abstain?

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Read about George Bernard Shaw’s life and career

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Quotes Cartoon illustration of shamrocks. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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