Quotations by Stout, Rex


I had first noticed her in the lobby of the Churchill, because she rated a glance as a matter of principle — the principle that a man owes it to his eyes to let them rest on attractive objects when there are any around.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
“Frame-Up for Murder,” ch. 1 [Archie] (1958)
Added on 17-Apr-14 | Last updated 17-Apr-14
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The problem with an alarm clock is that what seems sensible when you set it seems absurd when it goes off.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
“The Rodeo Murder” (1960)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Sep-09
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What makes a marriage last is for a man and a woman to continue to have things to argue about.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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It’s possible to tell your mind what to do only when your mind agrees with you.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
A Family Affair, ch. 2 [Goodwin] (1975)
Added on 8-May-14 | Last updated 8-May-14
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No man should tell a lie unless he is shrewd enough to recognize the time for renouncing it, if and when it comes, and knows how to renounce it gracefully.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Before Midnight, ch. 15 [Wolfe] (1955)
Added on 1-Mar-10 | Last updated 1-Mar-10
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I would appreciate it if they would call a halt on all their devoted efforts to find a way to abolish war or eliminate disease or run trains with atoms or extend the span of human life to a couple of centuries, and everybody concentrate for a while on how to wake me up in the morning without my resenting it. It may be that a bevy of beautiful maidens in pure silk yellow very sheer gowns, barefooted, singing Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and scattering rose petals over me would do the trick, but I’d have to try it.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Before Midnight, ch. 20 [Archie] (1955)
Added on 8-Mar-10 | Last updated 8-Mar-10
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In a world that operates largely at random, coincidences are to be expected, but any one of them must always be mistrusted.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Champagne for One, ch. 5 [Wolfe] (1958)
Added on 15-Mar-10 | Last updated 15-Mar-10
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There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Death of a Doxy, ch. 9 (1966)
Added on 22-Mar-10 | Last updated 22-Mar-10
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This is a pleasant surprise, Archie. I would not have believed it. That of course is the advantage of being a pessimist; a pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Fer-de-Lance, ch. 1 [Wolfe] (1934)
Added on 14-Dec-09 | Last updated 14-Dec-09
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Remember that those of us who are both civilized and prudent commit our murders only under the complicated rules which permit us to avoid personal responsibility.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Fer-de-Lance, Nero Wolfe, chapter 16 (1934)
Added on 30-Jan-14 | Last updated 30-Jan-14
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I will ride my luck on occasion, but I like to pick the occasion.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Might As Well Be Dead, ch. 6 [Archie] (1956)
Added on 29-Mar-10 | Last updated 29-Mar-10
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If you like Anglo-Saxon, I belched. If you fancy Latin, I eructed. No matter which, I had known that Wolfe and Inspector Cramer would have to put up with it that evening, because that is always a part of my reaction to sauerkraut. I don’t glory in it or go for a record, but neither do I fight it back. I want to be liked just for myself.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Murder by the Book, ch. 2 [Goodwin] (1951)
Added on 3-Apr-14 | Last updated 3-Apr-14
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Don’t complicate matters by assuming for me a cupidity and corruption beyond the limits I have set for myself. You’re suffering from an occupational disease. When an international financier is confronted by a holdup man with a gun, he automatically hands over not only his money and jewelry but also his shirt and pants, because it doesn’t occur to him that a robber might draw the line somewhere.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Over My Dead Body, ch. 10 [Wolfe] (1940)
Added on 27-Mar-14 | Last updated 27-Mar-14
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War doesn’t mature men; it merely pickles them in the brine of disgust and dread.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Over My Dead Body, ch. 8 [Wolfe] (1940)
Added on 15-Feb-10 | Last updated 15-Feb-10
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No man was ever taken to hell by a woman unless he already had a ticket in his pocket or at least had been fooling around with timetables.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Some Buried Caesar, ch. 3 [Archie] (1939)
Added on 8-Feb-10 | Last updated 8-Feb-10
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I do not insult Marko. I pay him the tribute of speaking of him and feeling about him precisely as I did when he lived; the insult would be to smear his corpse with the honey excreted by my fear of death.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Black Mountain, ch. 2 (1954)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Sep-09
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Starving the living will not profit the dead.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Black Mountain, ch. 2 [Fritz] (1954)
Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 10-Apr-14
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Women are random clusters of vagaries.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Father Hunt, ch. 8 [Wolfe] (1968)
Added on 1-May-14 | Last updated 1-May-14
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To assert dignity is to lose it.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The League of Frightened Men, ch. 4 [Wolfe] (1935)
Added on 6-Feb-14 | Last updated 6-Feb-14
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To be broke is not a disgrace, it is only a catastrophe.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The League of Frightened Men, ch. 7 [Wolfe] (1935)
Added on 11-Jan-10 | Last updated 11-Jan-10
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To be broke is not a disgrace, it is only a catastrophe.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The League of Frightened Men, ch. 7 [Wolfe] (1935)
Added on 13-Feb-14 | Last updated 13-Feb-14
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Maintaining integrity as a private detective is difficult; to preserve it for the hundred thousand words of a book would be impossible for me, as it has been for so many others. Nothing corrupts a man so deeply as writing a book; the myriad temptations are overwhelming.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Mother Hunt, ch. 9 [Wolfe] (1963)
Added on 10-Apr-14 | Last updated 10-Apr-14
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Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Red Box, ch. 11 [Wolfe] (1937)
Added on 18-Jan-10 | Last updated 18-Jan-10
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Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Red Box, ch. 11 [Wolfe] (1937)
Added on 27-Feb-14 | Last updated 27-Feb-14
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They had Gebert down there, slapping him around and squealing and yelling at him. If you’re so sure violence is inferior technique, you should have seen that exhibition; it was wonderful. They say it works sometimes, but even if it does, how could you depend on anything you got that way? Not to mention that after you had done it a few times any decent garbage can would be ashamed to have you found in it.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Red Box, ch. 14 [Archie] (1937)
Added on 22-Feb-10 | Last updated 22-Feb-10
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They had Gebert down there, slapping him around and squealing and yelling at him. If you’re so sure violence is inferior technique, you should have seen that exhibition; it was wonderful. They say it works sometimes, but even if it does, how could you depend on anything you got that way? Not to mention that after you had done it a few times any decent garbage can would be ashamed to have you found in it.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Red Box, ch. 14 [Archie] (1937)

Describing a police interrogation.
Added on 6-Mar-14 | Last updated 6-Mar-14
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We are all vainer of our luck than of our merits.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Rubber Band ch. 18 [Wolfe] (1937)
Added on 20-Feb-14 | Last updated 20-Feb-14
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Nothing is simpler than to kill a man; the difficulties arise in attempting to avoid the consequences.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Too Many Cooks, ch. 3 [Wolfe] (1938)
Added on 13-Mar-14 | Last updated 13-Mar-14
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I wouldn’t use physical violence even if I could, because one of my romantic ideas is that physical violence is beneath the dignity of a man, and that whatever you get by physical aggression costs more than it is worth.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Too Many Cooks, ch. 30 [Wolfe] (1938)
Added on 20-Mar-14 | Last updated 20-Mar-14
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To me the relationship of host and guest is sacred. The guest is a jewel resting on the cushion of hospitality.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Too Many Cooks, ch. 6 [Wolfe] (1938)
Added on 1-Feb-10 | Last updated 1-Feb-10
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The only difference between me and most people is that I’m perfectly aware that all my important decisions are made for me by my subconscious. My frontal lobes are just kidding themselves that they decide anything at all. All they do is think up reasons for the decisions that are already made.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
In “Author Rex Stout vs. the FBI,” Interview with Sandra Schmidt, Life (10 Dec 1965)
Added on 9-Jan-14 | Last updated 9-Jan-14
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A person who does not read cannot think. He may have good mental processes, but he has nothing to think about. You can feel for people or natural phenomena and react to them, but they are not ideas. You cannot think about them.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
In “Author Rex Stout vs. the FBI,” Interview with Sandra Schmidt, Life (10 Dec 1965)
Added on 16-Jan-14 | Last updated 16-Jan-14
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Any man who undertakes to write a play is either a damn fool or a hero, I don’t know which. When you write a book, you pull it out of the typewriter and that’s that. When you write a play you’ve got to go on with the producer and the director and the actors and the rehearsals and the …

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
In “Author Rex Stout vs. the FBI,” Interview with Sandra Schmidt, Life (10 Dec 1965)
Added on 23-Jan-14 | Last updated 23-Jan-14
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I think the detective story is by far the best upholder of the democratic doctrine in literature. I mean, there couldn’t have been detective stories until there were democracies, because the very foundation of the detective story is the thesis that if you’re guilty you’ll get it in the neck and if you’re innocent you can’t possibly be harmed. No matter who you are. There was no such conception of justice until after 1830. There was no such thing as a policeman or a detective in the world before 1830, because the modern conception of the policeman and detective, namely, a man whose only function is to find out who did it and then get the evidence that will punish him, did not exist. … In Paris before the year 1800 — read the Dumas stories — there were gangs of people whose business was to go out and punish wrongdoers. But why? Because they had hurt De Marillac or Richelieu or the Duke or some Huguenot noble, not just because they had harmed society. It is only the modern policeman that is out to protect society.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
On “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” Invitation to Learning Radio Show, hosted by Mark Van Doren (Jan 1942)

Transcribed in Mark Van Doren, The New Invitation to Learning: The Essence of the Great Books of All Times (1942).
Added on 2-Jan-14 | Last updated 2-Jan-14
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I think the detective story is by far the best upholder of the democratic doctrine in literature. I mean, there couldn’t have been detective stories until there were democracies, because the very foundation of the detective story is the thesis that if you’re guilty you’ll get it in the neck and if you’re innocent you can’t possibly be harmed. No matter who you are. There was no such conception of justice until after 1830. There was no such thing as a policeman or a detective in the world before 1830, because the modern conception of the policeman and detective, namely, a man whose only function is to find out who did it and then get the evidence that will punish him, did not exist. … In Paris before the year 1800 — read the Dumas stories — there were gangs of people whose business was to go out and punish wrongdoers. But why? Because they had hurt De Marillac or Richelieu or the Duke or some Huguenot noble, not just because they had harmed society. It is only the modern policeman that is out to protect society.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Roundtable discussion of Sherlock Holmes, on Mark Van Doren’s Invitation to Learning (Jan 1942)

Transcribed in M. Van Doren, The New Invitation to Learning: The Essence of the Great Books of All Times (1942)

Added on 7-Dec-09 | Last updated 7-Dec-09
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