Shakespeare? I dunno, the prose sections of his plays aren’t as good as his poetry. Dickens? Pretty darn good in spots, but he also perpetrated lots of mawkish drek. Joyce? Hemingway? Yeah, OK, sure.
I think a case could be made for P. G. Wodehouse. Andrew Sullivan points us to a site that generates random Wodehouse quotes. What a wonderful idea! Here is the first one that came up when I went there:
Rodney Spelvin was in for another attack of poetry. He had once been a poet, and a very virulent one too; the sort of man who would produce a slim volume of verse bound in squashy mauve leather at the drop of a hat, mostly on the subject of sunsets and pixies.
I really don’t see how you can write anything better than that.
Here is a sampling of his dialog:
“Have you ever seen Spode eat asparagus?”
“Revolting. It alters one’s whole conception of Man as Nature’s last word.”
Here he is in person: