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Historical put downs

Put downs are irresistible, especially those of the greats. It's like watching the gods of Olympus scrapping like toddlers over pieces of Lego. Of course it's stating the obvious that people envy success. Whether its writers, poets, artists, or musicians, criticism comes easily - particularly if the victim is dead.

Tolstoy - apparently finding his talent challenged by a long dead Shakespeare - had this to say about the Bard of Avon:

"The undisputed fame enjoyed by Shakespeare as a writer is, like every other lie, a great evil."

But if your target did not happen to be an author, but an accomplished host, the put down smarts even more:

"This was a good dinner enough, to be sure. But it was not a dinner to ask a man to." Thundered Samuel Johnson, whose choleric temperament extended to publishing in general:

"No one - but a blockhead - ever wrote, except for money."

William Faulkner also had an interesting take on writing:

"If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate. The 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of old ladies." Which is a point of view, albeit ruthless.

As for musicians, they were not exempted from bile.

Oscar Wilde found this to say about Wagner:

"I like his music better than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without people hearing what one says."


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