Three Things in Human Life Are Important. The First Is To Be Kind. The Second Is To Be Kind. And the Third Is To Be Kind

Henry James? Fred Rogers? Billy James? Leon Edel? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent American literary figure Henry James apparently crafted an expression with a three-fold repetition of the phrase “be kind”. The influential children’s television personality Fred Rogers has been credited with a similar statement. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: A landmark biography of Henry James provides substantive evidence that he did construct this saying. There is also evidence that Fred Rogers employed an instance of this remark; however, Rogers credited James. See the 2003 citation given further below for details.

Henry James died in 1916, and in 1953 Leon Edel released the first installment of his monumental five volume biography of James. The final book titled “Henry James: The Master: 1901-1916” appeared in 1972. One chapter discussed Billy James who was the second son of William James; thus, Billy was the nephew of Henry James. Billy came to England to visit with his uncle in October 1902. Years later Billy spoke directly to Leon Edel while he was composing the biography; hence, the following passage about the visit was probably based on the testimony Billy gave to Edel. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

His vision was of a short, rotund man, with a quick sensibility and a boundless capacity for affection. What he carried away from his elderly uncle was the memory of hearing him say, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Three Things in Human Life Are Important. The First Is To Be Kind. The Second Is To Be Kind. And the Third Is To Be Kind

Notes:

  1. 1978 (1972 Copyright), Henry James: The Master: 1901-1916 by Leon Edel, Book Two: The Beast in the Jungle, Chapter: Billy, Quote Page 124, A Discus Book: Avon Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

Drama Is Life with the Dull Bits Cut Out

Alfred Hitchcock? Leonard Lyons? François Truffaut? Steven Rattner? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Thrill master Alfred Hitchcock made a brilliant observation about storytelling requiring the excision of “dull bits” or “boring bits” from a narrative. Would you please help me to find a citation that presents the precise phrasing for this remark?

Quote Investigator: In 1956 Hitchcock conducted a preview of his latest film “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. Popular syndicated columnist Leonard Lyons praised the taut work and relayed a quotation from the director: 1

It’s perfect Hitchcock, full of suspense, color and constant interest. The director said after the showing: “Movies have lost a lot by this new trend towards documentary realism at the sacrifice of fantasy. After all, drama is life with the dull bits cut out.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Drama Is Life with the Dull Bits Cut Out

Notes:

  1. 1956 March 2, The Pittsburgh Press, The Lyons Den by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 19, Column 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

You Must Learn from the Mistakes of Others. You Will Never Live Long Enough to Make Them All Yourself

Hyman Rickover? Martin Vanbee? Eleanor Roosevelt? Harry Myers? Laurence J. Peter? Sam Levenson? Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.? Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: These two simple adages have a long history:

  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Learn from the mistakes of others.

Some wit crafted a hilarious addendum for the second adage:

  • You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

This construction has been attributed to U.S. Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Rickover did employ this joke during a speech in 1983, but it was circulating decades earlier.

The first close match located by QI appeared in the 1932 book “Human Engineering” by Harry Myers and Mason M. Roberts. The words were credited to an unnamed person. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

Doctor, years ago I had a foreman who taught me a great deal. He was quite a philosopher. One day he said, “William, you must learn from the mistakes of others—you will never live long enough to make them all yourself.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Must Learn from the Mistakes of Others. You Will Never Live Long Enough to Make Them All Yourself

Notes:

  1. 1932, Human Engineering by Harry Myers and Mason M. Roberts, Quote Page 213, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Based on snippet match in Google Books; the citation is not yet verified; text visible in snippet; contemporaneous book review in “Tampa Bay Times” mentions the saying)

A Newspaper Is a Device for Making the Ignorant More Ignorant and the Crazy Crazier

H. L. Mencken? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: H. L. Mencken worked as a journalist and columnist for newspapers in Baltimore, Maryland for several decades. Yet, his candid assessment of dailies was remarkably harsh. Apparently, he believed that newspapers made the crazy crazier. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1920 “The Smart Set: A Magazine of Cleverness” published a piece titled “Répétition Générale” by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. One section called “The Jazz Webster” included a set of comical definitions for a jazz-age dictionary. This was the tenth item. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Newspaper: A public organ for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Newspaper Is a Device for Making the Ignorant More Ignorant and the Crazy Crazier

Notes:

  1. 1920 March, The Smart Set: A Magazine of Cleverness, Répétition Générale by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, Start Page 47, Quote Page 48, Smart Set Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

The Aim of Education Is the Knowledge, Not of Facts, But of Values

William Ralph Inge? William S. Burroughs? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement has been attributed to two very different people: William Ralph Inge and William S. Burroughs:

The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.

Inge was a professor at Cambridge and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Burroughs was a member of the Beat Generation best known for authoring “Naked Lunch”. Should either of these figures receive credit for this remark?

Quote Investigator: In 1917 the collection “Cambridge Essays on Education” appeared. Inge wrote a piece titled “The Training of the Reason” which included the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The ideal object of education is that we should learn all that it concerns us to know, in order that thereby we may become all that it concerns us to be. In other words, the aim of education is the knowledge not of facts but of values. Values are facts apprehended in their relation to each other, and to ourselves. The wise man is he who knows the relative values of things. In this knowledge, and in the use made of it, is summed up the whole conduct of life.

William S. Burroughs was born in 1914; hence, he clearly did not coin this expression. He died in 1997, and he implausibly received credit in 2005 as indicated further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Aim of Education Is the Knowledge, Not of Facts, But of Values

Notes:

  1. 1917, Cambridge Essays on Education, Edited by A. C. Benson (Master of Magdalene College), The Training of the Reason by W. R. Inge (Dean of St. Paul’s), Start Page 12, Quote Page 12, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. (Google Books Full View) link

Old Eyesore Gone At Last

Robert J. Casey? Bennett Cerf? Grady Clay? Dwight Marvin? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Misprints and incorrect headlines in major periodicals have caused havoc in the past. One egregious tale shared by journalists is about a caption containing the word “eyesore” that was transposed with another caption. Are you familiar with this story? Is it genuine or apocryphal?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in the 1943 book “Such Interesting People” by Robert J. Casey who worked for the “Chicago Daily News” for many years. Casey stated that large newspapers employed lawyers to help minimize the damage from the publication of garbled news stories. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Some of these experts earn their fees as, for instance, in the case of the Fort Smith (Arkansas) newspaper that went to press hurriedly on the day that the mayor’s wife died and the old ice house burned. The lady’s portrait was two columns wide on the first page and over it was a startling tribute: “Old Eyesore Gone At Last.”

QI has been unable to locate the newspaper front page displaying this text over a portrait. Electronic databases remain incomplete, and this tale might still be authentic. Alternatively, Casey might have transmitted a tall-tale concocted or embellished by colleagues. A 1995 citation presented further below states that the unfortunate headline appeared in “The Record” newspaper of Troy, New York instead of an Arkansas paper.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Old Eyesore Gone At Last

Notes:

  1. 1943, Such Interesting People by Robert J. Casey, Chapter 3: Fantasy Among the Magnolias, Quote Page 47, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified with hardcopy)

That You Have Enemies, You Must Not Doubt, When You Reflect That You Have Made Yourself Eminent

Creator: Thomas Jefferson, Statesman, U.S. President

Context: Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter dated November 26, 1782 to George Rogers Clark, and he discussed the unavoidability of facing enemies when one’s actions are momentous enough to be recorded in history books. Emphasis added to this excerpt: 1

That you have enemies you must not doubt, when you reflect that you have made yourself eminent. If you meant to escape malice you should have confined yourself within the sleepy line of regular duty. When you transgressed this and enterprized deeds which will hand down your name with honour to future times, you made yourself a mark for malice and envy to shoot at.

Related Article 01: You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed. Victor Hugo

Image Notes: Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale circa 1805; accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Notes:

  1. U.S. National Archives: Founders Online, Letter From: Thomas Jefferson, Letter To: George Rogers Clark, Letter Date: November 26, 1782, Description of Document Source: “Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 6, 21 May 1781–1 March 1784, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952, pp. 204–205.”, Description of Website: “Founders Online is an official website of the U.S. government, administered by the National Archives and Records Administration through the NHPRC, in partnership with the University of Virginia Press, which is hosting this website.” (Accessed at founders.archives.gov in September 10, 2018) link

You Have Enemies? Why, It Is the Story of Every Man Who Has Done a Great Deed or Created a New Idea

Creator: Victor Hugo, French poet and novelist; author of “Les Misérables” and “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”

Context: Victor Hugo kept a diary for several decades during the 1800s. He published a volume titled “Choses Vues” (“Things Seen”) in 1887 based on portions of his diary. A section dated 1845 described Hugo’s meeting with educator and politician Abel François Villemain. Hugo discussed the harsh criticism that Villemain and others faced. Here is an English rendition. Emphasis added to excerpt: 1

You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud which thunders around everything which shines. Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats. Do not bother yourself about it; disdain. Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear. Do not give your enemies the satisfaction of thinking that they cause you grief or pain. Be happy, be cheerful, be disdainful, be firm.”

He shook his head sadly. “That is easy for you to say, Victor Hugo. As for me, I am weak. Oh! I know myself. I know my limitations.

Below is the original French version of the passage above: 2

Vous avez des ennemis? Mais c’est l’histoire de tout homme qui a fait une action grande ou créé une idée neuve. C’est la nuée qui bruit autour de tout ce qui brille. Il faut que la renommée ait des ennemis comme il faut que la lumière ait des moucherons. Ne vous en inquiétez pas; dédaignez! Ayez la sérénité dans votre esprit comme vous avez la limpidité dans votre vie. Ne donnez pas à vos ennemis cette joie de penser qu’ils vous affligent et qu’ils vous troublent. Soyez content, soyez joyeux soyez dédaigneux soyez fort.

Il hocha la tête tristement:— Cela vous est facile à dire à vous, Victor Hugo! Moi je suis faible. Oh! je me connais bien. Je sais mes limites.

Related Article 01: That you have enemies, you must not doubt, when you reflect that you have made yourself eminent. Thomas Jefferson

Image Notes: Portrait of Victor Hugo painted by Leon Joseph Florentin Bonnat circa 1879. Image has been cropped.

Notes:

  1. 1887, Things Seen (Choses Vues) by Victor Hugo, Volume 1, 1845 Villemain, Start Page 82, Quote Page 88 and 89,George Routledge and Sons, Glasgow and New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 1887, Oeuvres Inédites de Victor Hugo: Choses Vues by Victor Hugo, Sixième Edition, Section: Villemain – 1845 Décembre 7, Start Page 87, Quote Page 94, J. Hetzel & Cie, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link

You Are One of My Nicest Thoughts

Georgia O’Keeffe? Roxana Robinson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The influential American modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe applied a lovely expression to a close friend. She called the person “one of my nicest thoughts”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Georgia O’Keeffe had a close relationship with her sister Catherine O’Keeffe Klenert. On December 25, 1928 the artist sent a letter to her sibling containing the target expression. The missive was retained by Catherine, and many years later it was examined by the biographer Roxana Robinson who published “Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life” in 1989. Catherine had married and given birth to a daughter by 1928, and Georgia was proud of her honesty and self-reliance: 1

“She thought Catherine was the only one who had made a success of her life,” said a friend. Georgia felt more than respect for Catherine: though she offered everyone else a handshake, Georgia put her arm around Catherine. As she wrote her sister, “You are one of my nicest thoughts.”

One additional citation and the conclusion are below.

Continue reading You Are One of My Nicest Thoughts

Notes:

  1. 1989 Copyright, Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life by Roxana Robinson, Part IV: 1929-1946: A Fair Division: New York and New Mexico, Chapter 27, Quote Page 440 and 603, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

Strong People Always Have Strong Weaknesses Too

Peter Drucker? Wess Roberts? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: When selecting the head of an organization it is tempting to search for the perfect applicant who excels in everything, i.e., the mythical candidate without flaws. The following two statements provide a counterpoint perspective:

  • Strong people have strong weaknesses,
  • Strong chieftains always have strong weaknesses.

This adage is attributed to management guru Peter Drucker. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Peter F. Drucker’s 1967 book “The Effective Executive” included an anecdote in which President Abraham Lincoln was told that General Ulysses S. Grant was a flawed leader because he imbibed too much. Yet, Lincoln believed Grant was his most effective military man. According to legend Lincoln mischievously asked the detractors to tell him Grant’s favorite whiskey, so he could send a barrel to each of his other generals. QI investigated this entertaining yarn here.

Lincoln’s recognition that a powerful chief may have blemishes illustrated the point made by Drucker in the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The idea that there are “well-rounded” people, people who have only strengths and no weaknesses . . . is a prescription for mediocrity if not for incompetence. Strong people always have strong weaknesses too. Where there are peaks, there are valleys.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Strong People Always Have Strong Weaknesses Too

Notes:

  1. 1967, The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker, Chapter 4: Making Strength Productive, Quote Page 72, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)