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50 Best Literary Insults

As a nipper growing up our dear old Mum would beseech of us many things: Always wash behind your ears; Never eat three Shredded Wheat; and Never marry a lady taller than our good selves.

But there was one other maxim that haunted our very being: If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.

We’d like to say that we maintain this mantra, but unfortunately we love nothing more than a particular cutting quip or insult. Our excuse for such verbal volleys? If it’s good enough for literature then it’s good enough for us.

To that end, allow us to present the 50 greatest literary putdowns of all time…

Click on each image for the full quote

  • 50 Best Literary Insults

    A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

    “This liberal doxy must be impaled upon the member of a particularly large stallion!”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 1

    A Pair of Blue Eyes, Thomas Hardy

    "You ride well, but you don't kiss nicely at all."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 2

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

    "Well, Ben Rogers, if I was as ignorant as you I wouldn't let on."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 3

    King Lear, William Shakespeare

    “Thou art a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mungril bitch.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 4

    Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell

    “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 5

    The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

    “I told him he didn’t even care if a girl kept all her kings in the back row or not, and the reason he didn’t care was because he was a goddam stupid moron. He hated it when you called him a moron. All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 6

    Matilda, Roald Dahl

    “You blithering idiot! … You festering gumboil! You fleabitten fungus! … You bursting blister! You moth-eaten maggot!”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 7

    A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

    “Well, well, well, well. If it isn’t fat, stinking billygoat Billy-Boy in poison. How art thou, thy globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip-oil? Come and get one in the yarbles, if you have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 8

    Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut

    “If your brains were dynamite there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 9

    As You Like It, William Shakespeare

    “I desire that we be better strangers.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 10

    The Lion and the Unicorn, George Orwell

    “He is simply a hole in the air.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 11

    The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

    “Don’t fool yourself, my dear. You’re much worse than a bitch. You’re a saint. Which shows why saints are dangerous and undesirable.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 12

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling

    "She is nuttier than squirrel poo."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 13

    Loss of Breath, Edgar Allan Poe

    "Thou wretch! - thou vixen! - thou shrew!" said I to my wife on the morning after our wedding, "thou witch! - thou hag! - thou whipper-snapper! - thou sink of iniquity - thou fiery-faced quintessence of all that is abominable! - thou - thou-"

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 14

    Janet's Repentance (taken from Scenes of Clerical Life), George Eliot

    “A deistical prater, fit to sit in the chimney-corner of a pot-house, and make blasphemous comments on the one greasy newspaper fingered by beer-swilling tinkers.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 15

    Macbeth, William Shakespeare

    "You should be women and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 16

    Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Edward Albee

    “In my mind, Martha, you are buried in cement right up to your neck. No… right up to your nose… that’s much quieter.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 17

    Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen

    “You are the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 18

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde

    “I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 19

    The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer

    “Thou woldest make me kisse thyn old breech, And swere it were a relyk of a saint, Though it were with thy fundement depeint!… I wolde I hadde thy coillons in myn hond… Lat kutte hem of”

    (“You’d have me kiss your old trousers and swear they were the relic of a saint, even though they’re stained with your s—… I wish I had your balls in my hand… I’d cut them off.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 20

    Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Truman Capote

    “It should take you about four seconds to walk from here to the door. I’ll give you two.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 21

    The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

    “She’s not leaving me. Certainly not for a common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on her finger.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 22

    The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

    "Without your art you are nothing. I would have made you famous, splendid, magnificent. The world would have worshipped you, an you would have borne my name. What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 23

    The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

    “I misjudged you… You’re not a moron. You’re only a case of arrested development.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 24

    Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

    “You’re not worth the trouble it’d take to hit you. You’re not worth the powder it’d take to blow you up. You’re an empty, hollow f*****g shell of a woman…”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 25

    Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

    "Your hair wants cutting"

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 26

    Ulysses, James Joyce

    “If you see kay

    Tell him he may

    See you in tea

    Tell him from me.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 27

    Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

    “Critic!”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 28

    Kim, Rudyard Kipling

    “Thy aunts have never had a nose for seven generations!”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 29

    The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens

    “He would make a lovely corpse”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 30

    Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck

    "I could get you strung up in a tree so easy it ain't even funny."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 31

    The Rules of Attraction, Bret Easton Ellis

    “I only had sex with her because I'm in love with you.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 32

    Another Country, James Baldwin

    "People don't have any mercy. They tear you limb from limb, in the name of love. Then, when you're dead, when they've killed you by what they made you go through, they say you didn't have any character. They weep big, bitter tears - not for you. For themselves, because they've lost their toy."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 33

    The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

    "He was a tool of the boss, without brains or backbone.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 34

    Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

    “You teach me now how cruel you've been—cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; and wring out my kisses and tears: they'll blight you—they'll damn you.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 35

    The Stand, Stephen King

    “I think you're a taker. You've always been one. It's like God left some part of you out when He built you inside of me.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 36

    No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

    "You keep runnin’ that mouth and I'm goin’ to take you back there and screw you."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 37

    The Ginger Man, J.P. Donleavy

    "Some day you’ll show up when I’m back where I belong in this world. When I have what I ought to have. My due. And when you do. My gamekeepers will drive you out and away for good. Out. Away. Out."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 38

    A Happy Death, Albert Camus

    "I feel like getting married, or committing suicide, or subscribing to L'Illustration. Something desperate, you know.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 39

    The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler

    "You talk too damn much and too damn much of it is about you."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 40

    A Scandal In Bohemia, Arthur Conan Doyle

    “You see, but you do not observe.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 41

    Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

    "He liked fishing and seemed to take pride in being able to like such a stupid occupation."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 42

    A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin

    “The man is as useless as nipples on a breastplate.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 43

    Skippy Dies, Paul Murray

    “As Jesus said to me once, Greg, what's your secret? And I said, Jesus--study your notes! Get to class! Shave that beard! You show up to your first day on the job dressed like a hippie, of course they're going to crucify you, I don't care whose son you are . . ."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 44

    Engleby, Sebastian Faulks

    "What a pair of frauds."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 45

    Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami

    "Don't feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 46

    The Dying Animal, Philip Roth

    "Stop worrying about growing old. And think about growing up."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 47

    Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

    “You bloody old towser-faced boot-faced totem-pole on a crap reservation.”

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 48

    Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    "He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animated abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarize it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely."

  • 50 Best Literary Insults 49

    Lord of the Flies, William Golding

    "You're a beast and a swine and a bloody, bloody thief!"