I Can’t Wait to Get This Book

I love a good quotation as much if not more than the next guy. But whenever I dig deeply into who really said what, a lot of the quotations are either made up entirely or misattributed. (Was it really Stella Adler, for instance, who upon entering a theater had a younger, prettier woman open the door for her and say “Age before beauty” — prompting Adler (or someone) to march right through the door and say, “Pearls before swine”?) Furthermore, it seems that half of all quotations in the world these days are attributed to Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde. In something I was writing just the other day, I wanted to cite the old maxim about the weather — that everyone talks about it but no one does anything about it — which is commonly attributed to Twain. But at least according to Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, it was Charles Dudley Warner — a collaborator of Twain’s, and a fellow resident of Hartford, Conn. — who wrote that line in an 1897 editorial in the Courant. (By the way, if you are a fan of Twain you should tour his house in Hartford; it still has the original silver, e.g., which this guy once tried to steal.)

Now comes along The Yale Book of Quotations, edited by Fred R. Shapiro. It aims to suss out the reality behind a great many famous quotations. I ordered it from Amazon the minute I read the article linked above. The article makes it sound as though Shapiro and his colleagues worked hard to find original sourcing for all the quotes, which I’m sure must have been a lot of work and fabulously fun. I would like to know how their methodology differs, if significantly, from the folks who put out Bartlett’s.

No matter how good the new Yale book is, I promise not to clog up this website with pithy quotes of the day from various clever people. The market for that is already way flooded.


Don Robertson

"Following the Equator" a two volume trip around the world made by Twain (Sam Clemens) is something I picked up and dusted off last year, and much to my surprise it is easily Twain's most important work, being as it is a subtle philosophical treatise that uses the whole world as its stage.

It's astounding the comment Twain makes about today's lessons left unlearned, though Twain clearly saw straight through a millenium before they vexed us.

After reading it, I declared myself to be a Twainist.

Don Robertson, The American Philosopher.
Homepage: http://www.geocities.com/donaldwrobertson/index.html

Brian S.

Similar book is called "They Never Said It", about false quotations. Includes lots of false quotes of Lincoln, mostly proclaiming him a Christian, some proclaiming him an atheist.

Good book, although I haven't read it in years.

Snopes.com is a decent website source for tracking false quotes.

shapiro

I appreciate this nice posting about my book. For a thorough response to the question about how my methods differ from those of Bartlett's, see the Yale University Press blog:

http://yalepress.typepad.com/yalepresslog/

Fred R. Shapiro

3612

If you find yourself in Hartford touring the Mark Twain House, be sure to also walk through the Harriet Beecher Stowe house (25 yards away) to compare the opulence of these two contemporary writers. No way that Stowe could keep up with the Jonses.// Interesting to note that 100+ years on, it's Twain quotes all over the internet, with a mere smattering of Stowe. "Tom Sawyer" is still taught but not "Uncle Tom's Cabin" Good literature wins out over melodrama.

stan152

Recommended reading for a Freakonomic philosophy of equitable, fair. and rational taxation. Does it sound familar albeit almost one hundred years old?

(synopsis: Father Mael has taken on the mission of civilizing the Penguins. from Paganism to Modern Times circa the Dreyfuss Affair.)

From Penguin Island,,by Anatole France 1909; chapter IV The First Assembly of the Estates of Penguinia

... The richest of the penguins rose up and said;

"....I think each should contribute to the public expenses and the support of the Church (sic State). For my part I am ready to give up all that I possess in the interest of my brother Penguins, and if it were necessary I would even cheerfully part with my shirt. All the elders of the people are ready, like me, to sacrifice their goods, and no one can doubt their absolute devotion to their country and their creed. We have, then only to consider the public interest, and to do what it requires, Now Father, what it requires, what it demands, is not to ask much from those who possess much, then the rich would be less rich and poor still poorer. The poor live on the wealth of the rich and that is the reason why wealth is so sacred. Do not touch it, to do so would be an uncalled for evil. You will get no great profit by taking from the rich, for they are very few in number; on the contrary you will strip yourself of all your resources and plunge the country into misery. Whereas if you ask a little from each inhabitant without regard to his wealth, you will collect enough for the public necessities and you will have no need to enquire into each citizens resources, a thing that would be regarded by all as a most vexatious measure. By taxing all equally and easily you will spare the poor, for you will leave then the wealth of the rich. And how could you possibly proportion taxes to wealth. Yesterday I had two hundred oxen, today I have sixty, and tomorrow, I shall have one hundred.... The signs of opulence are deceitful.What is certain is that everyone eats and drinks. Tax according to what they consume. That would be wisdom and justice."

Thus spoke Morio amid the applause of the Elders.

" I ask that this speech be graven in bronze," cited the Monk, Bullich. "It is spoken for the future, in fifteen hundred years the best of the Penguins will not speak otherwise."

The Elders were still applauding when Greatauk, his hand upon the pommel of his sword, made this brief declaration;

" Being noble, I shall not contribute; for to contribute is ignoble. It is for the rabble to pay."

After this warning the Elders separated in silence.

As in Rome a new census was taken every five years; and by this measure it was observed that the population increased rapidly. Although children died in marvelous abundance and plagues and famines came with perfect regularity to devestate entire villages, new Penguins, in continually greater numbers, contributed by their private misery to the public prosperity.

Read more...

Don Robertson

"Following the Equator" a two volume trip around the world made by Twain (Sam Clemens) is something I picked up and dusted off last year, and much to my surprise it is easily Twain's most important work, being as it is a subtle philosophical treatise that uses the whole world as its stage.

It's astounding the comment Twain makes about today's lessons left unlearned, though Twain clearly saw straight through a millenium before they vexed us.

After reading it, I declared myself to be a Twainist.

Don Robertson, The American Philosopher.
Homepage: http://www.geocities.com/donaldwrobertson/index.html

Brian S.

Similar book is called "They Never Said It", about false quotations. Includes lots of false quotes of Lincoln, mostly proclaiming him a Christian, some proclaiming him an atheist.

Good book, although I haven't read it in years.

Snopes.com is a decent website source for tracking false quotes.

shapiro

I appreciate this nice posting about my book. For a thorough response to the question about how my methods differ from those of Bartlett's, see the Yale University Press blog:

http://yalepress.typepad.com/yalepresslog/

Fred R. Shapiro

3612

If you find yourself in Hartford touring the Mark Twain House, be sure to also walk through the Harriet Beecher Stowe house (25 yards away) to compare the opulence of these two contemporary writers. No way that Stowe could keep up with the Jonses.// Interesting to note that 100+ years on, it's Twain quotes all over the internet, with a mere smattering of Stowe. "Tom Sawyer" is still taught but not "Uncle Tom's Cabin" Good literature wins out over melodrama.

stan152

Recommended reading for a Freakonomic philosophy of equitable, fair. and rational taxation. Does it sound familar albeit almost one hundred years old?

(synopsis: Father Mael has taken on the mission of civilizing the Penguins. from Paganism to Modern Times circa the Dreyfuss Affair.)

From Penguin Island,,by Anatole France 1909; chapter IV The First Assembly of the Estates of Penguinia

... The richest of the penguins rose up and said;

"....I think each should contribute to the public expenses and the support of the Church (sic State). For my part I am ready to give up all that I possess in the interest of my brother Penguins, and if it were necessary I would even cheerfully part with my shirt. All the elders of the people are ready, like me, to sacrifice their goods, and no one can doubt their absolute devotion to their country and their creed. We have, then only to consider the public interest, and to do what it requires, Now Father, what it requires, what it demands, is not to ask much from those who possess much, then the rich would be less rich and poor still poorer. The poor live on the wealth of the rich and that is the reason why wealth is so sacred. Do not touch it, to do so would be an uncalled for evil. You will get no great profit by taking from the rich, for they are very few in number; on the contrary you will strip yourself of all your resources and plunge the country into misery. Whereas if you ask a little from each inhabitant without regard to his wealth, you will collect enough for the public necessities and you will have no need to enquire into each citizens resources, a thing that would be regarded by all as a most vexatious measure. By taxing all equally and easily you will spare the poor, for you will leave then the wealth of the rich. And how could you possibly proportion taxes to wealth. Yesterday I had two hundred oxen, today I have sixty, and tomorrow, I shall have one hundred.... The signs of opulence are deceitful.What is certain is that everyone eats and drinks. Tax according to what they consume. That would be wisdom and justice."

Thus spoke Morio amid the applause of the Elders.

" I ask that this speech be graven in bronze," cited the Monk, Bullich. "It is spoken for the future, in fifteen hundred years the best of the Penguins will not speak otherwise."

The Elders were still applauding when Greatauk, his hand upon the pommel of his sword, made this brief declaration;

" Being noble, I shall not contribute; for to contribute is ignoble. It is for the rabble to pay."

After this warning the Elders separated in silence.

As in Rome a new census was taken every five years; and by this measure it was observed that the population increased rapidly. Although children died in marvelous abundance and plagues and famines came with perfect regularity to devestate entire villages, new Penguins, in continually greater numbers, contributed by their private misery to the public prosperity.

Read more...