Here are more quote authors and origins Shapiro’s tracked down recently.
Quotes Uncovered: Death and Statistics
A while back, I invited readers to submit quotations for which they wanted me to try to trace the origins, using The Yale Book of Quotations and more recent research by me. Hundreds of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a few per week.
Marc Lange asked:
I have seen something like this quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes: “In English law, everything is permissible that is not expressly forbidden. In Prussian law, everything is forbidden that is not expressly permitted.”
I have never found its source in Holmes’s work or in any other, equally venerable place, only in some relatively recent court decisions. Help.
The Yale Book of Quotations quotes English judge Robert Megarry as follows:
“Whereas in England all is permitted that is not expressly prohibited, it has been said that in Germany all is prohibited unless expressly permitted and in France all is permitted that is expressly prohibited. In the European Common Market no-one knows what is permitted and it all costs more.” “Law and Lawyers in a Permissive Society” (lecture), March 22, 1972.
I am sure that Megarry did not originate the England-Germany-France triad.
Bev Smith asked:
“One death is a tragedy. A million deaths are a statistic.” I’ve seen both Charlie Chaplin and Stalin credited with this.
The YBQ, which tries to trace all famous quotations back to their earliest findable source, has:
“A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” Attributed to Josef Stalin in New York Times Book Review, September 28, 1958.
Alex W. asked:
I think there was a NY Times article for the following prayer; not sure if I recall the originator (Reinhold Niebuhr): “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This is usually said to have been written by the great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943, but last year The New York Times ran a front-page article about my discovery that very similar formulations appeared in various newspapers as early as January 1936. I concluded that Niebuhr may have unconsciously picked the prayer up from earlier sources. Niebuhr’s daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, strongly disagrees with my conclusion, saying that “the great masterpiece prayers don’t materialize in some random, bubble-up way, either: their power comes from a distillation of complex spiritual truths, and for this we need authors, we need the tradition’s most gifted practitioners.” It seems to me that there is much great art, such as folk-songs, that originate in precisely this kind of “random, bubble-up way.”
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?