George Saintsbury

English literary critic (1845-1933)

George Edward Bateman Saintsbury (23 October 184528 January 1933) was a prolific and popular English historian and literary scholar.

Historians may lie, but History cannot.


  • In the sect – fairly large and yet unusually choice – of Austenians or Janites, there would probably be found partisans of the claim to primacy of almost every one of the novels.
  • [It] is the unbroken testimony of all history that alcoholic liquors have been used by the strongest, wisest, handsomest, and in every way best races of all times.
    • Notes on a Cellar-Book (1920; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008) p. 32
  • But dinner is dinner, a meal at which not so much to eat — it becomes difficult to eat much at it as you grow older — as to drink, to talk, to flirt, to discuss, to rejoice "at the closing of the day". I do not think anything serious should be done after it, as nothing should before breakfast.
    • A Scrap Book (London: Macmillan, 1922) p. 31
  • Let us also once more rejoice in, and thank God for, the fact that we know nothing about Homer, and practically nothing about Shakespeare.
    • A Last Scrap Book (London: Macmillan, 1924) p. 42
  • The Book of History is the Bible of Irony.
    • George Saintsbury: The Memorial Volume (London: Methuen, 1946) p. 120.

A History of Criticism and Literary Taste in Europe from the Earliest Texts to the Present Day

Quotations are cited from the first US edition (New York: Dodd, Meads, 1900–04).
  • We shall not busy ourselves with what men ought to have admired, what they ought to have written, what they ought to have thought, but with what they did think, write, admire.
    • Vol. 1, pp. 4–5
  • Oratory is, after all, the prose literature of the savage.
    • Vol. 1, p. 203
  • Criticism is the endeavour to find, to know, to love, to recommend, not only the best, but all the good, that has been known and thought and written in the world.
    • Vol. 3, p. 611
  • I wish that I could save myself constant repetition by printing across the dog's-ear place of these pages the warning, "Never judge a critic by your agreement with his likes and dislikes.”
    • Vol. 3, p. 644
  • So, then, there abide these three, Aristotle, Longinus, and Coleridge.
    • Vol. 3, p. 231

A Last Vintage

Quotations are cited from John W. Oliver et al. (eds.) A Last Vintage (London: Methuen, 1950).
  • Historians may lie, but History cannot.
    • p. 172.
  • Nothing is more curious than the almost savage hostility that Humour excites in those who lack it.
    • p. 172.
  • Majorities are generally wrong, if only in their reasons for being right.
    • p. 172.
  • When people cannot write good literature it is perhaps natural that they should lay down rules how good literature should be written.
    • p. 172
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