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"NERO WOLFE" QUOTES


Collated by Paul Quek


The famous and phenomenally fat armchair detective genius Nero Wolfe is an updated version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

Wolfe's almost equally famous assistant Archie Goodwin is a modern, gritty and wise-cracking Dr. Watson. Archie is just as much Wolfe's as Dr. Watson's antithesis.


In the story "Fourth of July Picnic" (a.k.a. "Fourth of July Murder" and "Labor Union Murder"), Archie Goodwin described himself thus:
Born in Ohio. Public high school, pretty good at geometry and football, graduated with honor but no honors. Went to college two weeks, decided it was childish, came to New York and got a job guarding a pier, shot and killed two men and was fired, was recommended to Nero Wolfe for a chore he wanted done, did it, was offered a full-time job by Mr. Wolfe, took it, still have it.

Rex Stout (18861975) is the creator of the characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

Wolfe's live-in world-class cook is named Fritz.


      -- Some of above adapted from http://avenarius.sk/stout/#coll


  • The trouble with mornings is that they come when you're not awake.
        -- "A Window for Death"
           (a.k.a. "Nero Wolfe and the Vanishing Clue")


  • [Mr. Kearns, an irate visitor :] "I demand an explanation! I intend to hold you to account for alienating the affection of my wife."

    "Affections," Wolfe said.

    "What?"

    "Affections. In that context the plural is used." He lifted the glass and drank, and licked his lips.

    Kearns stared at him. "I didn't come here," he said, "to have my grammar corrected."

    "Not grammar. Diction."

        -- "Method Three for Murder"


  • If her property is not returned to her, or if it is damaged beyond repair, I have engaged to devote my time, energy, and talent, for as long as may be required, to ensure just and fitting requital; and she has determined to support me to the full extent of her resources. If you do not know enough of me to be aware of the significance of this engagement to your future, I advise you to inform yourself regarding my competence and my tenacity.
        -- "The Final Deduction"


  • A modern satyr is part man, part pig, and part jackass. He hasn't even the charm of the roguish; he doesn't lean gracefully against a tree with a flute in his hand. The only quality he has preserved from his Attic ancestors is lust, and he gratifies it in dark corners or other men's beds or hotel rooms, not in the shade of an olive tree on a sunny hillside. The preposterous bower of carnality you have described is a sorry makeshift, but at least Mr. Yeager tried. A pig and a jackass, yes, but the flute strain was in him too -- as it once was in me, in my youth.
        -- "Too Many Clients"


  • As between the intolerable and the merely distasteful, I must choose the latter.
        -- "Too Many Detectives"


  • Each of us finds an activity he can tolerate. The manufacturer of baby carriages, caught himself in the system's web and with no monopoly of greed, entraps his workers in the toils of his necessity. Dolichocephalic patriots and brachycephalic patriots kill each other, and the brains of both rot before their statues can get erected. A garbageman collects table refuse, while a senator collects evidence of the corruption of highly placed men -- might one not prefer the garbage as less unsavory? Only the table scavenger gets less pay; that is the real point. I do not soil myself cheaply, I charge high fees.
        -- "Too Many Cooks"


  • A guest is a jewel on the cushion of hospitality.
        -- "Too Many Cooks"


  • A schedule broken at will becomes a mere procession of vagaries.
        -- "Murder By the Book"


  • 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.
        -- "Before Midnight"


  • 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.
        -- "Before Midnight"


  • That unspeakable prepared biscuit flour! Fritz and I have tried it. Those things she calls Sweeties! Pfui! And that salad dressing abomination -- we have tried that too, in an emergency. What they do to stomachs heaven knows, but that woman is ingeniously and deliberately conspiring in the corruption of millions of palates. She should be stopped!
        -- "And Be a Villain"
            (a.k.a. "More Deaths Than One")


  • War doesn't mature men; it merely pickles them in the brine of disgust and dread. Pfui!
        -- "Over My Dead Body"


  • I carry this fat to insulate my feelings. They got too strong for me once or twice and I had that idea. If I had stayed lean and kept moving around I would have been dead long ago.
        -- "Over My Dead Body"


  • I resent your tone, your diction, your manners, and your methods; and only a witling would call a man with my conceit a liar.
        -- "Immune to Murder"


  • I am indifferent to what you call it, blackmail or brigandage, but it would be childish for you to suppose I would perform so great a service for you as a benefaction. My spring of philanthropy is not so torrential.
        -- "Invitation to Murder"
           (a.k.a. "Will to Murder")


  • ...Mr. Goodwin's professional reputation and competence have been challenged, and by extension my own. You invoked respondeat superior; I will not only answer, I will act.
        -- "Champagne For One"


  • Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth.
        -- "The Red Box"
            (a.k.a. "The Case of the Red Box")


  • I am not unmoveable but my flesh has a constitutional reluctance to sudden, violent or sustained displacement.
        -- "The Red Box"
            (a.k.a. "The Case of the Red Box")


  • Remember that physically and financially you are well worth some fuss. Mentally you are -- well -- in the pupa stage.
        -- "The Red Box"
            (a.k.a. "The Case of the Red Box")


  • I am atrociously uncomfortable. It is sufficiently annoying to deal with inadequate information, which is what one usually has, but to sit thus while surmises, the mere ghosts of facts, tumble idiotically in my brain, is next to insupportable.
        -- "The Rubber Band"
            (a.k.a. "To Kill Again")


  • I don't answer questions containing two or more unsupported assumptions.
        -- "The Rubber Band"
            (a.k.a. "To Kill Again")


  • I cannot agree that mountain climbing is merely one manifestation of man's spiritual aspirations. I think instead it is a hysterical paroxysm of his infantile vanity.
        -- "The Cop-Killer"


  • Confound it, am I suggesting a gambol for my refreshment? Do you think I welcome an invasion of my premises by platoons of policemen herding a drove of scared and suspected citizens?
        -- "The Zero Clue"
        (a.k.a. "Scared to Death")


  • Subtlety chases the obvious in a never-ending spiral and never quite catches it.
        -- "The Silent Speaker"


  • It was an appalling failure of intellect which has sometimes been known to function satisfactorily.
        -- "The Silent Speaker"


  • I was aware that Wolfe could move without delay when he had to, and, knowing what his attitude was toward anybody's hand touching him, I had prepared myself for motion when I saw Ash grab his arm, but the speed and precision with which he slapped Ash on the side of his jaw were a real surprise, not only to me but to Ash himself.
        -- "The Silent Speaker"


  • Fritz was standing there, four feet back from the door to the office, which was standing open, staring wide-eyed at me. When he saw I was looking at him he beckoned me to come, and the thought popped into my mind that, with guests present and Wolfe making an oration, that was precisely how Fritz would act if the house was on fire.
        -- "The Silent Speaker"


  • In all ordinary circumstances Wolfe's cocky and unlimited conceit prevents the development of any of the tender sentiments, such as compassion for instance, but that afternoon I felt sorry for him. He was being compelled to break some of his most ironclad rules. He was riding behind strange drivers, walking in crowds, obeying a summons from a prospective client, and calling upon a public official, urged on by his desperate desire to find a decent place to sit down.
        -- "Some Buried Caesar"
            (a.k.a. "The Red Bull")


  • I presume you know, since I've told you, that my distrust and hatred of vehicles in motion is partly based on my plerophory that their apparent submission to control is illusory and that they may at their pleasure, and sooner or later will, act on whim. Very well, this one has, and we are intact. Thank God the whim was not a deadlier one.
        -- "Some Buried Caesar"
            (a.k.a. "The Red Bull")


  • It was nothing new for Wolfe to take steps, either on his own, or with one or more of the operatives we used, without burdening my mind with it. His stated reason was that I worked better if I thought it all depended on me. His actual reason was that he loved to have a curtain go up revealing him balancing a live seal on his nose.
        -- "Too Many Women"


  • "There is nothing in the world," he said, glaring at me as if I had sent him an anonymous letter, "as indestructible as human dignity. That woman makes money killing time for fools. With it she pays me for rooting around in mud. Half of my share goes for taxes which are used to make bombs to blow people to pieces. Yet I am not without dignity."
        -- "Cordially Invited to Meet Death"


  • 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.
        -- "The Black Mountain"


  • Besides, in this century of the overwhelming triumph of science, the appeal of the cause of human freedom is no longer that it is great and noble; it is essential. It is no greater than the cause of edible food or the cause of effective shelter. Man must have freedom or he will cease to exist as man.
        -- "The Black Mountain"


  • "She's a philanthropist," I told Wolfe. "She donates dough to the cause of equine genetics."
        -- "The Next Witness"
            (a.k.a. "The Last Witness")


  • "The whole performance," Nero Wolfe was saying, "is based on an idiotic assumption, which was natural and indeed inevitable, since Mr. Rowcliff is your champion ass -- the assumption that Mr. Goodwin and I are both cretins."
        -- "Prisoner's Base"
            (a.k.a. "Out Goes She")


  • "Mr. Cramer," he [Wolfe] said coldly, "your talent for making yourself offensive is extraordinary. Presumably investigating a charge of murder, you invade my privacy in my home with the preposterous intent of involving me in the theft of a bunch of flowers."
        -- "Easter Parade"


  • [Wolfe responds to Inspector Cramer's claim that the office must be sealed as a matter of routine.] "No, Mr. Cramer. I'll tell you what it is. It is the malefic spite of a sullen little soul and a crabbed and envious mind. It is the childish rancour of a primacy too often challenged and offended."
        -- "Disguise for Murder"
            (a.k.a. "Affair Of The Twisted Scarf")


  • [Inspector Cramer:] "And when I come and ask what you sent Goodwin there for, ask you plainly and politely, you say that you will -- What are you laughing at?" ....

    [Wolfe:] "It escaped me, Mr. Cramer. Your choice of adverbs. Your conception of politeness."
        -- "Murder is No Joke"


  • He pushed back his chair and was on his feet. "You say I'm lying. Prove it. But for less provocation than you have given me by your uncivilized conduct in my dining room, I would lie all day and night. Regarding this murder of a bearded stranger, where do I fit, or Mr. Goodwin? Pah. Connect us if you can! Should you be rash enough to try to constrain us as material witnesses, we would teach you something of the art of lying, and we wouldn't squeeze out on bail; we would dislocate your nose with a habeas corpus ad subjiciendum."
        -- "Man Alive"


  • [Wolfe:] "I promise you, Mr. Cramer, that I will never plead your sanction to justify my conduct."
        -- "Plot It Yourself"


  • [Archie about Wolfe:] "He never puts off til tomorrow what I can do today."
        -- "Plot It Yourself"


  • [Interview between Nero Wolfe and Pete Drossos, age 12):] "Take Mr. Goodwin. It would be difficult for me to function effectively without him. He is irreplaceable. Yet his actions are largely governed by impulse and caprice, and that would of course incapacitate him for any important task if it were not that he has somewhere concealed in him -- possibly in his brain, though I doubt it -- a powerful and subtle governor."

    [Archie interjects:] "Nero Wolfe is investigating the murder ... with his accustomed vigor, skill, and laziness. He will not rest until he gets the bastard or until bedtime, whichever comes first."
        -- "The Golden Spiders"


  • Archie. I submit to circumstances. So should you.
        -- "Booby Trap"


  • "The trouble is," he [Wolfe] murmured, "that as usual you are so engrossed in the fact that you are oblivious to its environment. You stick to it, Archie, like a leech on an udder."
        -- "Fer-de-lance"
            (a.k.a. "Point of Death"; a.k.a. "Meet Nero Wolfe")


  • There is no danger in me to the innocent.
        -- "Fer-de-lance"
            (a.k.a. "Point of Death"; a.k.a. "Meet Nero Wolfe")


  • Any spoke will lead an ant to the hub.
        -- "Fer-de-lance"
            (a.k.a. "Point of Death"; a.k.a. "Meet Nero Wolfe")


  • "Look," I said, "evidently you came to get Mr. Wolfe to help you. He can't stand hysterical women, and in another four seconds he would have been out of the room and would have refused to see you again. That's one angle of it. I am going on talking to give both you and Mr. Wolfe a chance to calm down. Another angle is that if you think it's undesirable to be kissed by me I am willing to submit it to a vote by people who ought to know."
        -- "When a Man Murders"


  • The requisitions of the income tax have added greatly to the attractions of mercenary crime.
        -- "This Won't Kill You"
            (a.k.a. "This Will Kill You";
            "The World Series Murder")


  • Wolfe shrugged. "Confronted with omniscience, I bow. My motives are often obscure to myself, but you know all about them. Your advantage."
        -- "Home to Roost"
            (a.k.a. "Nero Wolfe and The Communist Killer";
            "Nero Wolfe Devises a Strategem")


  • He dehydrated me with a look. "If true, boorish. If false, inane."
        -- "Omit Flowers"


  • Use your brains, but give up the idea of renting mine.
        -- "Help Wanted, Male"


  • I repeat. I am not interested, not involved, and not curious.
        -- "Help Wanted, Male"


  • I can give you my word, but I know what it's worth and you don't.


  • Wolfe shook his head. "You're expecting a good deal of yourself. I'm more than twice your age, and up with you in self-esteem, but I'm afraid of someone. Don't overdo it. There are numerous layers of honesty, and the deepest should not have a monopoly."
        -- "The Second Confession"


  • [Psychologist Andrew Hibbard:] "In these eleven days I have learned that psychology, as a formal science, is pure hocus-pocus. All written and printed words, aside from their function of relieving boredom, are meaningless drivel. I have fed a half-starved child with my own hands. I have seen two men batter each other with their fists until the blood ran. I have watched boys picking up girls. I have heard a woman tell a man, in public and with a personal application, facts which I had dimly supposed were known, academically, only to those who have read Havelock Ellis. I have seen a tough boy of the street pick up a wilted daffodil from the gutter. It is utterly amazing, I tell you, how people do things they happen to feel like doing. And I have been an instructor in psychology for seventeen years! ..."
        -- "The League of Frightened Men"
            (ak.a. "Frightened Men")


  • It is surprising that Mr. Gould lived as long as did, in view of his character.
        -- "Black Orchids"
            (a.k.a. "The Case of the Black Orchids";
            "Death Wears an Orchid")


  • You are to act in the light of experience as guided by intelligence.
        -- "In the Best Families"
            (a.k.a. "Even in the Best Families")


  • [Lily Rowan:] "I'm the only woman in America who has necked with Nero Wolfe. Nightmare, my eye. He has a flair."
        -- "In the Best Families"
            (a.k.a. "Even in the Best Families")


  • [Ex-GI Joe Groll, to Archie:] "Gosh, one lousy civilian funeral makes more fuss than a thousand dead men over there did."
    I nodded. "Sure, the retail business always has more headaches than the wholesale."
        -- "Instead of Evidence"


  • What good is an obscenity trial except to popularize literature?"


  • Wolfe frowned at her. He hated fights about wills, having once gone so far as to tell a prospective client that he refused to engage in a tug of war with a dead man's guts for a rope.
        -- "Where There's a Will"
            (a.k.a. "Sisters in Trouble")


  • [Gus:] "I don't know why -- when a man starts turning gray why don't he realize the whistle has blowed and concentrate on something else? Take you, you show some gray. I'll bet you don't dash around crowing and flapping your arms." I tittered without meaning to. Wolfe gave me a withering glance.
        -- "Door to Death"






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