- I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion, and every day I am sorely, grossly, heinously and deeply offended, wounded, mortified and injured by a thousand different blasphemies against it. When the fundamental canons of truth, honesty, compassion and decency are hourly assaulted by fatuous bishops, pompous, illiberal and ignorant priests, politicians and prelates, sanctimonious censors, self-appointed moralists and busy-bodies, what recourse of ancient laws have I? None whatever. Nor would I ask for any. For unlike these blistering imbeciles my belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.
- "Trefusis Blasphemes" radio broadcast, as published in Paperweight (1993)
- If I had a large amount of money I should certainly found a hospital for those whose grip upon the world is so tenuous that they can be severely offended by words and phrases and yet remain all unoffended by the injustice, violence and oppression that howls daily about our ears.
- The beauty of the brain is that you can still be as greedy as you like for knowledge and it doesn’t show.
- Radio Times interview (2013)
- I don't need you to remind me of my age, I have a bladder to do that for me.
- "Trefusis Returns!" in Paperweight (1993) p. 279.
- Originally printed in The Daily Telegraph circa 1990.
- [On libraries] What's great about them is that anybody can go into them and find a book and borrow it free of charge and read it. They don't have to steal it from a bookshop... You know when you're young, you're growing up, they're almost sexually exciting places because books are powerhouses of knowledge, and therefore they're kind of slightly dark and dangerous. You see books that kind of make you go 'Oh!'
- All the cold-reading clairvoyants and the nonsensical astrologers and absurd ESP merchants and other such people who talk about vibrations and energies.... God, if there’s a word that drives me mad it’s “energy” used in a nonsensical way—don’t get me started!
- "Last Chance to Think" Interview (2010) by Kylie Sturgess in Skeptical Inquirer. Vol 34 (1)
- The key word for me (my spleen isn't really big enough to explode with all the splenetic juices of fury that drive me when I consider this), but the real key word that triggers my rage is the word 'energy', when people start talking about it in terms of negative or positive types. For instance, "there's very negative energy in here." What are you talking about? What do you mean? I mean, let's think about it. What does energy mean? Well, we know what it means: energy from petrol when it's burned, it moves the car. "This room has positive energy" — well, where the fuck's it going then? It's not moving. It's covering up such woolly thinking, such pathetic nonsense. And astrology: most people will say of astrology, "Well, it's harmless fun." And I should say that for 80% of the cases it probably is harmless fun, but there's a strong way in which it isn't harmless. One, because it is so anti-science. You will hear things like, "Science doesn't know everything." Well, of course science doesn't know everything. But because science doesn't know everything, that doesn't mean science knows nothing. Science knows enough for us to be watched by a few million people now on television, for these lights to be working, for quite extraordinary miracles to have taken place in terms of the harnessing of the physical world and our dim approaches towards understanding it. And as Wittgenstein quite rightly said, "When we understand every single secret of the universe, there will still be left the eternal mystery of the human heart."
- Room 101 (2001) Season 6 Episode 10
- The powers of the placebo are so strong that it may be morally wrong to call homeopathy a lie because the moment you say it then a placebo falls to pieces and loses its power. I am a great believer in double-blind random testing, which is the basis of all drug testing. People still insist on things like holistic healing and things that have no real basis in evidence because they want it to be true—it’s as simple as that. If you’re dying of cancer or very, very ill, then you’ll cling to a straw. I feel pretty dark thoughts about the kind of people who throw straws at drowning, dying men and women, and I’m sure most of us would agree it’s a pretty lousy thing to do. Some of these people perhaps believe in the snake oil they sell or allow themselves to believe in it. That’s why James Randi is so good, because he knows what magicians know: if you do a card trick on someone, they will report that it was unbelievable, they describe the effect the magician wanted, and they miss out all the steps in between that seemed irrelevant because the magician made them irrelevant, so they didn’t notice them. People will swear that a clairvoyant mentioned the name of their aunt from nowhere, and they will be astonished if you then play a recording that shows that thirty-two names were said before the aunt’s name, none of which had any effect on them. That’s because they wanted to hear their aunt’s name; they wanted the trick to work, so they forgot all the failures in the same way as people forget all their dreams that have no relevance to their lives, but they mark when they dream of someone they haven’t met for ages that they see the next day. I would be astounded if everyone had coincidences like that—yet people say that is somehow closed-minded of me!
- "Last Chance to Think" Interview (2010) by Kylie Sturgess in Skeptical Inquirer. Vol 34 (1)
- Alternative medicine people call themselves "holistic" and say it's the "whole" approach. Well, if it's the whole approach, let it be the mind as well. Use logic, use sense, use the incredible five wits you were given by creation.
- Room 101, Season 6 Episode 10
- Well, my interpretation is no more valid than anyone else’s, but I would say in terms of medicine, people want to take control of their own lives, and ironically they seem to think that they are taking control of their lives more by using so-called complementary or alternative medicines than by using orthodox medicine. In other words, they think it’s a statement of originality and individuality. To you and me it seems self-evidently ridiculous, this homeopathic medicine. It is so preposterous, and yet some people I know and respect insist on believing it.
- Fry on the reason for the popularity of alternative medicine. "Last Chance to Think" Interview (2010) by Kylie Sturgess in Skeptical Inquirer. Vol 34 (1)
- On the subject of biblical texts and examples to why you can't do certain things with your body that you wish to, I find that absolutely absurd. I've always been extremely uncomfortable with the idea in any society that the belief is based on revealed truth, that's to say on a text like a Bible or a Qur'an, or whatever it is. It seems to me that the greatness of our culture, for all its incredible faults, is that we have grown up on the Greek ideal of discovering the truth, discovering by looking around us, by empirical experiment, by the combination of the experience of generations of ancestors who have contributed to our sum knowledge of the way the world works, and so on. And to have that snatched away and to be told what to think by a book, however great it may be in places, this is a book that says you can sell your daughter into slavery, it's a book that bans menstruating women from within miles of temples. The fact that it also says that for one man to lie with another man is an abomination, is no more made relevant or important than the fact that you can't eat shellfish.
- I don't think we should ever allow religion the trick of maintaining that the spiritual and the beautiful and the noble and the altruistic and the morally strong and the virtuous are in any way inventions of religion or particular or peculiar to religion. It's certainly true that you could say the Christ who said "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" — that's a wonderful to have said. Anyone who said that would earn a great deal of respect and interest, you'd say that's one of most beautiful phrases ever, ever uttered. But there is no, absolutely no monopoly on beauty and truth in religion, and I suppose one of the reasons that I'm so fond of the Greeks, and one of the reasons that the great radical and poet Shelley wrote his Prometheus Unbound was that he understood that if you were to compare the Genesis myth, which has, which had bedeviled our culture, the Western European culture for a very long time indeed, for two thousand years, it was essentially a myth in which we should be ashamed of ourselves. God says: who told you you were naked? What possible reason have we to believe that we are naked or that if we are naked there is something to be ashamed of, that what we are and what we do is something for which we should ever apologise, we should apologise for our dreams, our impulses, our appetites, our drives, our desires, are not things to apologise for. Our actions sometimes we do apologise for and we excoriate ourselves for and rightly, but that's the Genesis myth. The Greek myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from heaven and who gave to his favourite — his favourite mortal: man. In other words what the Greeks were saying is that we have divine fire, whatever is divine is in us, as humans. We are as good as the gods. The gods are capricious and mean and foolish and stupid and jealous and rapine and all the things that Greek mythology show us that they are, and that's a much better it seems to me — and for that the gods punished Prometheus and chained him to the Caucasus and vultures chewed away at his liver everyday as it regrew because he was immortal of course, and Shelley quite rightly understood — and interestingly his wife of course wrote Frankenstein as the modern Prometheus — understood that that mythological idea, that champion of a real humanity and a real humanism, as we've come to call it, is we are captains of our soul and masters of our destiny, and that we contain any divine fire that there is, divine fire that is fine and great. I mean it's perfectly obvious that if there were ever a God he has lost all possible taste. You've only got to look — forget the aggression and unpleasantness of the radical right or the Islamic hordes to the East - the sheer lack of intelligence and insight and ability to express themselves and to enthuse others of the priesthood and the clerisy here, in this country, and indeed in Europe, you know God once had Bach and Michelangelo on his side, he had Mozart, and now who does he have? People with ginger whiskers and tinted spectacles who reduce the glories of theology to a kind of sharing, you know? That's what religion has become, a feeble and anaemic nonsense, because we understood that the fire was within us, it was not in some idol on an altar, whether it was a gold cross or whether it was a Buddha or anything else, that we have it. The fault is in our stars, but also the glory is (correcting himself) in us not in our stars. The glory — anything — we take credit for what is great about man and we take blame for what is dreadful about man, we neither grovel or apologise at the feet of a god, or are so infantile as to project the idea that we once had a father as human beings and we therefore should have a divine one too. We have to grow up, which is partly what Christopher was saying.
- Almost the whole of my text at the moment, in my head as I fall asleep, is summed up by the word "contempt". Contempt, in politics, for the hypocrisy, the double standards, the double dealing, the corruption and the moral suasion. It's almost impossible for me to explain just how deeply I feel contempt. I want to go into detail - and I think you'll be rather shocked, and I hope rather edified, by what I have to say. So who are these terrible hypocrites? Who are these double dealers? Who are these liars and fraudulent corrupt people? Well, you're listening to one of them: that's me. And I'm talking to millions of them: that's you. It's not the politicians, God bless them. Sexless, uninteresting, graceless and very often styleless people as they may be, it is we who are the problem in politics. We expect a very high standard of living. We expect food to be cheap and available. We expect energy to be cheap and available. we also expect to be able to mouth off at parties about how terrible it is that the ozone layer is being eaten away and the glaciers are melting and how awful it is that people are starving in other countries. And we pay this group of styleless sexless people whom we call politicians a small amount of money in order to lay off our own guilt. Our own cant and hypocrisy is laid at their door. And apparently, it's they who are the hypocrites. It is they who are corrupt. It is they who refuse to solve the problems of the world. Well, it isn't. It's us. It's me, and it's you. Take this week, for example. Suppose you're prime minister, you've got all these illegal immigrants. What are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to hide the true facts? That's hardly something the public would accept, so you campaign and you say "we don't know how many there are - let's do something about it", and then you're accused of incompetence. Well, of course you don't know how many there are: they're illegal immigrants. Do we expect magic from our politicians? We're not going to get it. They're just human beings like you and me. And what about this "Let's Talk" business? Yes, it sounds like a very bad BT advert. On the other hand, what would we say if they didn't say that? We'd say that they're arrogant, and that they never listen. They can't win because they've got us to serve, and we are filth. The wheels have come off the New Labour project, everyone agrees, and so therefore it will come to pass. All aeroplanes have a certain amount of life in the sky, and then metal fatigue hits and they fall out of it. As someone who worked hard for a Labour victory in the 90s, do I regret it? Not really. It was bound to happen. And it'll happen with the next government, and the one after it. Because all governments serve us. They serve the filth.
- On the This Week programme on the BBC Website
- I should say today that it's tragic that people lose faith in what was once an honourable profession but people will lose faith in journalists. There's nothing one can do about it. People no longer trust journalists - we'll have to turn to politics instead for our belief in people. I almost mean that. Although, of course, anybody can talk about snouts in troughs and go on about it, for journalists to do so is almost beyond belief. Beyond belief. I know lots of journalists - I know more journalists than I know politicians - and I've never met a more venal and disgusting crowd of people when it comes to expenses and allowances...Not all [of them] but then not all human beings are either. I've cheated expenses. I've fiddled things. You have, of course you have. Let's not confuse what politicians get really wrong - things like wars, things where people die - with the rather tedious bourgeois obsession with whether or not they've charged for their wisteria. It's not that important, it really isn't. It isn't what we're fighting for. It isn't what voting is for and the idea that 'Oh, we've all lost faith in politics' [is] nonsense. It's a journalistic made-up frenzy. I know you don't want me to say that. You want me to say "No, it matters, it's important." It isn't it. Believe me, it isn't. It's not the big deal; it's not what we should be worrying about. I know no one's going to pay any attention and newspapers will great joy over filling yards and yards of newsprint with tiny, pointless details of this politician's or that politician's squalid and sad little life as they see it. It's not the big picture, it really isn't. You know, we get the politicians we deserve, it's our fault as much as anybody else's. This has been going on for years and suddenly because a journalist discovers it it's the biggest story ever! It's absolute nonsense, it really is.
- There’s nothing worse than the British in one of their fits of morality.
- Greasy, miserable, British and pathetic
- On the sacking of Angus Deayton from Have I Got News For You
- On the BBC Website
- He takes coke and has slept with a prostitute - but he's a TV presenter for God's sake!
- On the sacking of Angus Deayton from Have I Got News For You.
- Quoted in The Independent
- I think faith in each other is much harder than faith in God or faith in crystals. I very rarely have faith in God; I occasionally have little spasms of it, but they go away, if I think hard enough about it. I am incandescent with rage at the idea of horoscopes and of crystals and of the nonsense of 'New Age', or indeed even more pseudo-scientific things: self-help, and the whole culture of 'searching for answers', when for me, as someone brought up in the unashamed Western tradition of music and poetry and philosophy, all the answers are there in the work that has been done by humanity before us, in literature, in art, in science, in all the marvels that have created this moment now, instead of people looking away. The image to me . . . is gold does exist, and for 'gold' say 'truth', say 'the answer', say 'love', say 'justice', say anything: it does exist. But the only way in this world you can achieve gold is to be incredibly intelligent about geology, to learn what mankind has learnt, to learn where it might lie, and then break your fingers and blister your skin in digging for it, and then sweat and sweat in a forge, and smelt it. And you will have gold, but you will never have it by closing your eyes and wishing for it. No angel will lean out of the bar of heaven and drop down sheets of gold for you. And we live in a society in which people believe they will. But the real answer, that there is gold, and that all you have to do is try and understand the world enough to get down into the muck of it, and you will have it, you will have truth, you will have justice, you will have understanding, but not by wishing for it.
- From Radio 4's Bookclub
- Pathetic, naive, like small noisy tantrums.
- You cannot work too hard at poetry. People are bad at it not because they have tin ears, but because they simply don't have the faintest idea how much work goes into it. It's not as if you're ordering a pizza or doing something that requires direct communication in a very banal way. But it seems these days the only people who spend time over things are retired people and prisoners. We bolt things, untasted. It's so easy to say, 'That'll do.' Everyone's in a hurry. People are intellectually lazy, morally lazy, ethically lazy...All the time. When people get angry with a traffic warden they don't stop and think what it would be like to be a traffic warden or how annoying it would be if people could park wherever they liked. People talk lazily about how hypocritical politicians are. But everyone is. On the one hand we hate that petrol is expensive and on the other we go on about global warming. We abrogate the responsibility for thought and moral decisions onto others and then have the luxury of saying it's not good enough.
- What decent person would want to spend a life picking and cavilling? Picture this scene. A critic arrives at the gates of heaven. 'And what did you do?' asks Saint Peter. 'Well', says the dead soul. 'I criticised things'. 'I beg your pardon?' 'You know, other people wrote things, performed things, painted things and I said stuff like, "thin and unconvincing", "turgid and uninspired", "competent and serviceable,"...you know'.
- On critics, from "Paperweight", 2006. 
- It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I'm offended by that." Well, so fucking what?
- I saw hate in a graveyard - Stephen Fry, The Guardian' (2005)
- Dacre is, all those who have had the misfortune to work for him assure me, just about as loathsome, self-regarding, morally putrid, vengeful and disgusting a man as it possible to be.
- The Daily Mail and Lord Dacre appeasing again, 2013 blog post.
- I genuinely believe that the Catholic church is not, to put it at its mildest, a force for good in the world. And therefore it is important for me to try and marshal my facts as well I can to explain why I think that. But I want first of all to say that I have no quarrel, no argument and I wish to express no contempt for individual devout and pious members of that church. It would be impertinent and wrong of me to express any antagonism towards any individual who wishes to find salvation in whatever form they wish to express it. That to me is sacrosanct as much as any article of faith is sacrosanct to anyone of any church or any faith in the world. It’s very important. It’s also very important to me as it happens that I have my own beliefs. They are a belief in the Enlightenment, they’re a belief in the eternal adventure of trying to discover moral truth in the world. And there is nothing, sadly, that the Catholic church and its hierarchs likes to do more than to attack the Enlightenment. It did so at the time – reference was made to Galileo and the fact that he was tortured for trying to explain the Copernican theory of the universe. Just imagine in this square mile how many people were burned for reading the Bible in English. And one of the principle burners and torturers of those who tried to read the Bible in English here in London was Thomas More. Now, that’s a long time ago, it’s not relevant. Except, that it was only last century that Thomas More was made a saint and it was only in the year 2000 that the last pope, the Pole, he made Thomas More the Patron Saint of Politicians. This is a man who put people on the rack for daring to own a Bible in English. He tortured them for owning a Bible in their own language. The idea that the Catholic church exists to disseminate the word of the Lord is nonsense. It is the only owner of the truth for the billions that it likes to boast about. Because those billions are uneducated and poor, as again it likes to boast about. It’s perhaps unfair of me as a gay man to moan this enormous institution, which is the largest and most powerful church on earth. It has over a billion, as they like to tell us, members, each one of whom is under strict instructions to believe the dogmas of the church, but may wrestle personally with them of course. It’s hard for me to be told that I am evil, because I think of myself as someone who is filled with love. Whose only purpose in life is to achieve love and who feels love for so much of nature and the world and for everything else. We certainly don’t need the stigmatisation, the victimisation that leads to the playground bullying when people say: “You’re a disordered, morally evil individual.” That’s not nice, it isn’t nice. The kind of cruelty in Catholic education and the kind of child abuse – let’s not call it child abuse, it was child rape – the kind of child rape that went on systematically for so long... Let’s imagine that we can overlook this and say it has nothing whatever to do with the structure and nature of the Catholic church and the twisted and neurotic and hysterical way that its leaders are chosen, the celibacy, the nuns, the monks, the priesthood: this is not natural and normal, ladies and gentlemen, in 2009. It really isn’t. I have yet to approach one of the subject dearest to my heart. I’ve made three documentary films on subject of AIDS in Africa. My particular love is the country of Uganda, it’s one of the countries that I love most in the world. There was a period when Uganda had the worst incidence of HIV/AIDS in the world. But through an amazing initiative called ABC: Abstinence, Be faithful, Correct use of condoms... Those three – I am not denying that abstinence is a very good way of not getting AIDS, it really is, it works. So does being faithful, but so do condoms! And do not deny it! And this Pope not satisfied with saying: “Condoms are against our religion. Please consider first abstinence, second being faithful to your partner,” he spreads that lie that condoms actually increase the incidence of AIDS. He actually makes sure that aid is conditional on saying “no” to condoms. I have been to – there is a hospital in Bwindi in the west of Uganda where I do quite a lot of work – it is unbelievable, the pain and suffering you see. Now yes, yes it is true, abstinence will stop it. It’s the strangest thing about this church - it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now they will say we, with our permissive society and rude jokes, are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude. We like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly; because it’s a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult. It’s a bit like food in that respect, only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic church in a nutshell. Do you know who would be the last person ever to be accepted as a prince of the church? The Galilean carpenter, that Jew. They would kick him out before he tried to cross the threshold. He would be so ill at ease in the church. What would he think – what would he think of St. Peter’s? What would he think of the wealth and the power and the self-justification and the wheedling apologies? The Pope could decide that all this power, all this wealth, this hierarchy of princes and bishops and archbishops and priests and monks and nuns could be sent out in the world with money and art treasures to put the back in the countries that they once raped and violated. They could give that money away and they could concentrate on the apparent essence of their belief. And then I would stand here and say that Catholic church may well be a force for good in the world, but until that day, it is not. Thank you.
- Abridged Intelligence² debate speech: "The Catholic church is a force for good in the world", November 7th 2009
- Well I'm afraid it simply does, um, [the Catholic Church] does condemn [homosexuality], yes, it calls it a -the official word is disorder, but it was refined by the current Pontiff, Ratzinger, who called it a 'moral evil'. But on the other hand we must remember, as the point that was made is that the church is very loose on moral evils because, although they try to accuse people like me who believe in the empiricism and the enlightenment of somehow what they call moral relativism, as if it's some appalling sin where what it actually means is thought, um, they um, they for example thought that slavery was perfectly fine... absolutely okay, and then they didn't, and what is the point of the Catholic Church if it says 'oh well we couldn't know better because nobody else did'? (To the affirmative team) Then what are you for?!
- Answering a question during the Intelligence² debate: "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world", November 7th 2009
- There are a series of men and women whose whole job is to stop you from having people filmed in cars not wearing seat belts or making phone calls. It’s called compliance. Compliance with what?! Compliance with being an arsehole?! Compliance with stupidity?! Compliance with making this country a shithole!? I cannot believe that anybody would allow this to happen. I cannot believe they wouldn’t just say no, I’m gonna film it the way it should be. What is the point of having cars and backgrounds and extras, what’s the point of trying to make it realistic, why not just do it against cardboard? If you're not allowed to do it as it really would be done –because what? Because you’re setting a bad example? Well what kind of example are you setting by betraying your country, or shooting people in the face? I don’t know where to begin, and I don’t know where to end. I want to take the people who are responsible for this and I want to squeeze the life out of them! I never want them to get up again. I want them to understand how insane they are. And I have a horrible feeling that they’re shaking their head and saying something about how it’s wrong to set a bad example to children or something, whereas shooting people in the face (how many times do I have to say this?) apparently isn’t setting a bad example to children –oh my god! I want to explode with fury! And the awful thing is they win! The directors and the producers of the programme comply! Ugh, why don’t they just tell them to fuck off?!
- Stephen Fry's Podgrams, Series 1 Episode 5: Compliance Defiance, 3/9/08
- Swearing is a really important part of one's life. It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing and without enjoying swearing... There used to be mad, silly, prissy people who used to say swearing was a sign of a poor vocabulary -such utter nonsense. The people I know who swear the most tend to have the widest vocabularies and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a pretty poor vocabulary themselves... The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest or -is just a fucking lunatic... I haven't met anybody who's truly shocked at swearing, really, they're only shocked on behalf of other people. Well, you know, that's preposterous... or they say 'it's not necessary'. As if that should stop one doing it! It's not necessary to have coloured socks, it's not necessary for this cushion to be here, but is anyone going to write in and say 'I was shocked to see that cushion there, it really wasn't necessary'? No, things not being necessary is what makes life interesting -the little extras in life.
- Stephen Fry on the joys of swearing. Stephen Fry: Guilty, BBC4, September 8th 2007
- A cut glass English accent can fool unsuspecting Americans into detecting a brilliance that isn't there.
- Wit can be beautiful, because it expresses and distils an idea.
- On the subject of criteria he used to judge in The Most Beautiful Tweet contest, Hay Festival 2010
- I actually got a Ugandan Minister to say, on camera— he's the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, it's the only such ministry in the world— and I said to him, "Look, even if these three utterly false supports on which you base your homophobia are true, which they aren't, there's so much more to worry about in your country than the odd gay person going to bed with the other gay person. For example, you have almost an epidemic of child rape in this country, which is just frightening."
And he said, "Ah, but it is the right kind of child rape."
I said, "That was on camera. Do you know that was on camera?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Can you just explain what you meant?"
"Well, it is men raping girls. Which is natural."
- The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, 2013-05-22
- Recounting an exchange with Ugandan Minister Simon Lokodo.
Moab is My Washpot (autobiography, 1997)
- I have always disbelieved that Sicilian saying about revenge being a dish best served cold. I feel that--don't you?--when I see blinking, quivering octogenarian Nazi war criminals being led away in chains. Why not then? It's too late now. I want to see them taken back in time and punished then...Blame, certainly, is a dish only edible when served fresh and warm. Old blames, grudges and scores congeal and curdle and cause the most terrible indigestion.
- I have to mime at parties when everyone sings Happy Birthday . . . mime or mumble and rumble and growl and grunt so deep that only moles, manta rays and mushrooms can hear me.
- on his frustrating inability to sing
- I know that my early life was at one and the same time so common as to be unremarkable, and so strange as to be the stuff of fiction. I know of course that this is how all human lives are, but that it is only given to a few of us to luxuriate in the bath of self-revelation, self-curiosity, apology, revenge, bafflement, vanity and egoism that goes under the name Autobiography. You have seen me at my washpot scrubbing at the grime of years: to wallow in a washpot may not be the same thing as to be purified and cleansed, but I have come away from this very draining, highly bewildering and passionately intense few months feeling slightly less dirty. Less dirty about the first twenty years of my life, at least. The second twenty, now that is another story.
- It is a cliché that most clichés are true, but then like most clichés, that cliché is untrue.
- It is, I know, for I have experienced it perhaps twice in my life, an awful privilege to be too much loved and perhaps the kindest thing I ever did in my life was never to let Matthew know to what degree he had destroyed my peace and my happiness.
- I remember nothing of this, no ambulance rides, nothing. Nothing between switching out the bedside lamp and the sudden indignity of rebirth: the slaps, the brightness, the tubing, the speed, the urgent insistence that I be choked back into breathing life. I have felt so sorry for babies ever since.
- On his suicide attempt at age 17
- LSD reveals the whatness of things, their quiddity, their essence. The wateriness of water is suddenly revealed to you, the carpetness of carpets, the woodness of wood, the yellowness of yellow, the fingernailness of fingernails, the allness of all, the nothingness of all, the allness of nothing. For me music gives access to every one of these essences of existence, but at a fraction of the social or financial cost of a drug and without the need to cry 'Wow!' all the time, which is one of LSD's most distressing and least endearing side-effects.
- When I had first caught sight of Matthew I saw the beauty in everything. Now I saw only ugliness and decay. All beauty was in the past. Again and again I wrote in poems, in notes, on scraps of paper. My whole life stretched out gloriously behind me. If I wrote that sick phrase once, I wrote it fifty times. And I believed it, too.
- Life, that can shower you with so much splendour, is unremittingly cruel to those who have given up.
- My vocal cords are made of tweed. I give off an air of Oxford donnishness and old BBC wirelesses.
- My first words, as I was being born... I looked up at my mother and said, "that's the last time I'm coming out one of those."
- On being gay
- Stephen Fry actually admitted this was a quote from a friend, not himself. (Moab Is My Washpot)
- On being gay
- I used many times to touch my own chest and feel, under its asthmatic quiver, the engine of the heart and lungs and blood and feel amazed at what I sensed was the enormity of the power I possessed. Not magical power, but real power. The power simply to go on, the power to endure, that is power enough, but I felt I had also the power to create, to add, to delight, to amaze and to transform.
- Didn't Woody Allen say that all literature was a footnote to Faust? Perhaps all adolescence is a dialogue between Faust and Christ. We tremble on the brink of selling that part of ourselves that is real, unique, angry, defiant and whole for the rewards of attainment, achievement, success and the golden prizes of integration and acceptance; but we also in our great creating imagination, rehearse the sacrifice we will make: the pain and terror we will take from others' shoulders; our penetration into the lives and souls of our fellows; our submission to willingness to be rejected and despised for the sake of truth and love and, in the wilderness, our angry rebuttals of the hypocrisy, deception and compromise of a world which we see to be so false. There is nothing so self-righteous nor so right as an adolescent imagination.
- On adolescence
- … but love, like all art, as Oscar said, it's quite useless. It is the useless things that make life worth living and that make life dangerous too: wine, love, art, beauty. Without them life is safe but not worth bothering with.
- Referencing Oscar Wilde from the preface of "The Picture of Dorian Gray"; "All art is quite useless".
Quotes from Twitter
- Weak watery sun, but sun nonetheless. Why does it take me nearly 2 hours just to get through the morning emails? Pah, poo and pants. . Twitter (April 18, 2009).
- I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane.
- On Jan Moir's column on the death of Stephen Gately.
- Quoted in The Huffington Post
The Kate Bush Story (2014)
- Quotes from the BBC documentary The Kate Bush Story (2014)
- I was called by my agent, who said "Would you like to record a track with Kate Bush?" To which there is only F-ing one possible answer. Unless its me singing. I said, "She does know I can't sing?" "No-no-no, it would be voicing, saying words for snow. … I still can't believe it says "Kate Bush-Stephen Fry."
- Stephen Fry, talking about his work with Kate on 50 Words for Snow, and the credits on the album.
- She has a very intense poetic mind. That's what makes it — that voice that comes in.
- While listening to 50 Words for Snow
- Quotes from Intelligence Squared (2014)
- Aquinas and Augustus of Hippo, both proposed this extraordinary idea that babies who were unbaptised would not know heaven. They also proposed the idea of purgatory which doesn’t exist in The Bible. There’s absolutely no evidence for it. However, what an extraordinary brilliant coup to imagine such a thing as purgatory. That a soul needs to be prayed for, in order to go to heaven. In order to turn left when he enters the aeroplane of heaven and get a first class seat. That, he needs to be prayed for. And many hundreds, indeed over a thousand years, you’ll be amazed what generous terms those prayers came at. Sometimes as little as two thirds of a year’s salary. Could ensure that a dead loved one would go to heaven. And money could ensure that your baby. Your dead child, your dead uncle, your dead mother, could go to heaven. And if you were rich enough, you could have a chantry built and monks would permanently sing prayers so that that existence in heaven for the child would go up and up and up until they were at the table of the Lord themselves.
- Anyone ordained here will know they are, er, they have this extraordinary power to change the molecules of wine into blood, literally to change the molecules of paste bread into flesh, literally and to forgive the sins of the peasants and the poor whom they routinely exploit around the planet. Only this church has this extraordinary principle that it is through these male priests. And only male priests. That this is given. It is a doctrinal fact. It is more than a doctrinal fact, it is a dogma.
- “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.” "Outside the church, there is no salvation." That is a dogma that has been used to excuse all the missionary zeal. All the rape and torture of the Aztecs and the Incas. All the horrors of South America and Africa and The Phillipines. And the rest of the world. To which other churches and other cultures have also their guilt to admit. It’s not unique to the Catholic Church and I never said it was.
- Just imagine in this square mile how many people were burned for reading The Bible in English. And one of the principle burners and torturers of those who tried to read The Bible in English here in London, was Thomas More. You may know if you’ve read the novel, Wolf Hall, which one the Man Booker Prize just the other day. Now, that’s a long time ago, it’s not relevant, except that it was only last century that Thomas More was made a saint, and it was only in the year 2000. That the last pope, the Pole, he made Thomas More the patron saint of politicians. This is a man who put people on the rack for daring to own a Bible in English. He tortured them for owning a Bible in their own language. The idea that the Catholic Church exists to disseminate the word of the Lord is nonsense. It is the only owner of the truth for the billions that it likes to boast about ’cause those billions are uneducated and poor as again, it likes to boast about. But they are the ones it can tell and bully and domineer.
- So, Ratzinger, in 2003 he was..he was prefect…(I’m not making this up). He was Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. And it was his job to deal with child abuse scandal the was brewing. His first act was to write a letter to the Catholic bishops, ordering them on “pain of excommunication”. NOT to talk to the police or anyone else. ” Investigations should be handled…he wrote and I’m quoting that letter…in the most secretive way restrained by perpetual silence”. The Mexican founder of The Legion of Christ Movement, [Marcial] Maciel Degollado was protected from his own catalogue of child abuse. Which is horrific, “one cannot put on trial so close a friend of the Pope” said Ratzinger. When the allegations could no longer be denied, Marcial was “sentenced” (SENTENCED) to a life of prayer and penitence. And Ratzinger described the whole affair and that of Bernard Law of Boston to which my colleague also referred as ”causing suffering for the Church and for me personally”. He also said that the answer would be to “stop homosexuals from being allowed into the Church”. Now, it’s perhaps unfair of me, as a gay man.
- It’s…it’s hard for me to be told, to be told that I’m evil, because I think of myself as someone who is filled with love, whose only purpose in life was to achieve love, and who feels love for so much of nature and the world and for everything else and who like anybody decent and with education realizes that in order, to achieve and receive love, it’s a struggle.
- It’s the strangest thing about this Church- it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we, with our permissive society and our rude jokes, are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude, we like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly; because it’s a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult. It’s a bit like food in that respect only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell.
- Do you know who would be the last person ever to be accepted as a Prince of the Church? The Galilean carpenter. That Jew. They would kick him out before he tried to cross the threshold. He would be so ill-at-ease in the Church. That simple and remarkable man, if he said the things that he was said to have said. What would he think...what would he think of St. Peter’s? What would he think of the wealth, and the power, and the self-justification, and the wheedling apologies? (Applause) What would he think of a man who calls himself “the Father”, a celibate, who dares to lecture people on what family values are? What would he think of any of that? He would be horrified.
- But there is a solution, there is an answer, there is redemption available for all of us and any one of us, and to the Catholic Church, funny enough I think it is a novel by Morris West, The Pope could decide that all this power, all this wealth, this hierarchy of princess, bishops, archbishops, priests, monks, and nuns could be sent out in the world with money and art treasures, to put them back in the countries that they once raped and violated, whose original systems of animism and belief in simplicity they told them would (tell them) take them straight to hell. They could give that money away, and they could concentrate on the apparent essence of their belief. Then, I would stand here and say the Catholic Church may well be a force for good in the world. But until that day, it is NOT.