If We Could Read the Secret History of Our Enemies, We Should Find in Each Man’s Life Sorrow and Suffering Enough To Disarm All Hostility

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Ann Landers? Mary A. McIver? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Feeling empathy for an adversary is difficult to achieve when one’s mind is filled with indignation. The following intriguing statement claims that comprehensive knowledge of the past of one’s foe would yield a startling insight:

If we could read the secret history of those we would like to punish, we would find in each life enough grief and suffering to make us stop wishing anything more on them.

Apparently, the famous U.S. poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or the advice columnist Ann Landers said something like this. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1857 the two volume collection titled “Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow” appeared. The second volume included a section called “Table-Talk” listing bright remarks spoken by Longfellow. Here is a sampling of three items. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Every great poem is in itself limited by necessity,—but in its suggestions unlimited and infinite.

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

As turning the logs will make a dull fire burn, so change of studies a dull brain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If We Could Read the Secret History of Our Enemies, We Should Find in Each Man’s Life Sorrow and Suffering Enough To Disarm All Hostility

Notes:

  1. 1857, Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Volume 1 of 2, Chapter: Drift Wood: A Collection of Essays, Section: Table-Talk, Quote Page 452, Ticknor and Fields, Boston, Massachusetts. (HathiTrust Full View) link

“She Has Kept None for Herself” “Because She Is Not Hungry” “Because She Is a Mother”

Victor Hugo? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The famous French novelist Victor Hugo penned a vignette about a mother who selflessly gave food to her hungry children even though she was emaciated. An observer asked why she did this, and another observer replied: “Because she is a mother”. Would you please help me to find this passage?

Quote Investigator: Victor Hugo’s 1874 novel “Quatrevingt-Treize” (“Ninety-Three”) explored the counter-revolutionary revolts which occurred during the period of the French Revolution. A scene near the beginning of the book depicted a group of military men who encountered a woman with her baby and her two young children who were all starving. The following passage is presented in the original French. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Le sergent tira de sa poche un morceau de pain de munition et le tendit à la mère. La mère rompit le pain en deux morceaux et les donna aux enfants. Les petits mordirent avidement.
— Elle n’en a pas gardé pour elle, grommela le sergent.
— C’est qu’elle n’a pas faim, dit un soldat.
— C’est qu’elle est la mère, dit le sergent.

Hugo’s work was translated into English and published in the same year of 1874. Here is the rendered passage: 2

The sergeant took a bit of regulation bread from his pocket, and handed it to the mother. She broke the bread into two fragments, and gave them to the children, who ate with avidity.
“She has kept none for herself,” grumbled the sergeant.
“Because she is not hungry,” said a soldier.
“Because she is a mother,” said the sergeant.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “She Has Kept None for Herself” “Because She Is Not Hungry” “Because She Is a Mother”

Notes:

  1. 1874, Quatrevingt-Treize by Victor Hugo, Tome I, Le Bois de la Saudraie, Quote Page 22 and 23, Michel Lévy Frères Éditeurs, Paris, France. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 1874, Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo, Translation by Frank Lee Benedict and J. Hain Friswell, Part One, Book One, The Wood of La Saudraie, Quote Page 13, Dawson Brothers, Montreal, Canada. (HathiTrust Full View) link

It Is the Function of Art To Renew Our Perception. What We Are Familiar With We Cease To See

Anaïs Nin? Orville Clark? Barbara Rowes? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent literary figure and acclaimed modern diarist Anaïs Nin stated something like the following: When we become familiar with people and scenes we cease to see them; therefore, the true artist must shake up the commonplace. The resultant novelty will enable a renewal of perception. Would you please help me to find the precise passage in which she stated this idea?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in Anaïs Nin’s 1968 volume of analysis and criticism titled “The Novel of the Future”. Below is an image from the book followed by the text of the quotation: 1

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It Is the Function of Art To Renew Our Perception. What We Are Familiar With We Cease To See

Notes:

  1. 1968 Copyright (Third Printing 1976), The Novel of the Future by Anaïs Nin, Chapter 2: Abstraction, Quote Page 25, Collier Books: A Division of Macmillan Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

A Celebrity Works Hard For Years To Become Famous Then Wears Dark Glasses To Avoid Being Recognized

Joseph Curtin? Earl Wilson? Adolphe Menjou? Paul H. Gilbert? Danny Kaye? Fred Allen? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving great fame is a common goal, but the drawbacks of mass popularity emerge clearly whenever someone succeeds. There is a joke based on this insight that chides celebrities who wear dark glasses. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in the gossip column of Earl Wilson in July 1947. The radio actor Joseph Curtin received credit for the jibe. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

WISH I’D SAID THAT: A celebrity, said Joseph Curtin, is a guy who works all his life to become famous enough to be recognized—then goes around in dark glasses so no one’ll know who he is.

This quip can be expressed in many ways; hence, it is difficult to trace. Earlier citations may be discovered by future researchers.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Celebrity Works Hard For Years To Become Famous Then Wears Dark Glasses To Avoid Being Recognized

Notes:

  1. 1947 July 12, The Times Recorder, Big Town Heat by Earl Wilson, Quote Page 4, Column 5, Zanesville, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

There Are Only Two Tragedies. One Is Not Getting What One Wants, and the Other Is Getting It

Oscar Wilde? George Bernard Shaw? Oliver Onions? Anonymous?

Quote Investigator: The psychology of human desire is paradoxical. The failure to achieve a goal can lead to unhappiness and ever despair. Yet, attaining an objective can produce an aftermath of uncertainty and lassitude. The following adage is humorous and poignant:

There are two tragedies in life—not getting what you want, and getting it.

This notion has been credited to the famous wit Oscar Wilde and the prominent playwright George Bernard Shaw. Did either of these Irishmen really employ this saying? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Both Wilde and Shaw used versions of this adage, but Wilde deserves credit for coinage. Oddly, the version in Shaw’s 1903 play “Man and Superman” changed over time as shown in the citations given further below.

The earliest close match known to QI appeared in the 1892 play “Lady Windermere’s Fan: A Play About a Good Woman” by Oscar Wilde. The minor character Mr. Dumby asked the character Lord Darlington whether the love he felt for Lady Windermere had ever been reciprocated. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

DUMBY
She doesn’t really love you then?

LORD DARLINGTON
No, she does not!

DUMBY
I congratulate you, my dear fellow. In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst, the last is a real tragedy! . . .

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Are Only Two Tragedies. One Is Not Getting What One Wants, and the Other Is Getting It

Notes:

  1. 1893 Copyright, Lady Windermere’s Fan: A Play About a Good Woman by Oscar Wilde, (Performed at St. James Theatre in London on February 22, 1892), Third Act, Quote Page 94, Elkin Mathews and John Lane, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Some Cause Happiness Wherever They Go; Others Whenever They Go

Oscar Wilde? Success Magazine? Olin Miller? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Individuals with energetic, warm, and joyful personalities are welcome at most gatherings, but individuals with sullen and mean-spirited dispositions are often unwelcome. This observation accords with the following insight:

Some people bring happiness wherever they go, and others whenever they leave.

This statement is usually attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde, but I am skeptical because I have never seen a good citation. Would you please trace this remark?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900, and QI has found no substantive evidence that he employed this saying.

The earliest close match found by QI appeared in “Success Magazine” in May 1908. The phrasing was a bit odd. The magazine printed a short item with the title “Others Whenever”: 1

Others Whenever
Some people make happiness wherever they go.

The joke was presented with an inverted ordering, To decode the humor the reader must understand the sentence after the title and then reflect back on the meaning of the title. No attribution was given for the joke.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Some Cause Happiness Wherever They Go; Others Whenever They Go

Notes:

  1. 1908 May, Success Magazine, Volume 11, Pleasantry, Quote Page 303, Column 2, The Success Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

In the Beginning, There Was Nothing. The Lord Said, ‘Let There Be Light.’ Then There Was Still Nothing, But You Could See It Much Better

Ellen DeGeneres? Woody Allen? Joe Doyle? The Flying Karamazov Brothers? George Burns? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a joke based on the biblical creation story that contains the famous line “Let there be light”. The punch line of the gag is:

There was still nothing. But you could see it a whole lot better.

Two prominent comedians have received credit for this humor: Ellen DeGeneres and Woody Allen. Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: Ellen DeGeneres began performing as a comedian in 1980 according to the biography “Ellen: The Real Story of Ellen DeGeneres” by Kathleen Tracy. This joke was included in her stand-up act circa 1983. Yet, interestingly, the jest was circulating during the previous decade.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a 1978 newspaper article about a touring company of the “The Second City” improvisational comedy organization. The company was visiting Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan to perform and give a workshop. Joe Doyle was a member of the comedy troupe, and he delivered a version of the joke: 1

Now Joe Doyle was an Irish priest, using rich brogue to read from First Chrysanthemums:

“In the beginning, there was nothing. The Lord said, ‘Let there be light.’ Then there was still nothing. But you could see it.”

This jest can be phrased in many different ways which makes it difficult to trace; hence, future researchers may uncover earlier instances. Nevertheless, based on current evidence QI tentatively gives credit to Joe Doyle.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading In the Beginning, There Was Nothing. The Lord Said, ‘Let There Be Light.’ Then There Was Still Nothing, But You Could See It Much Better

Notes:

  1. 1978 October 19, Lansing State Journal, Second City troupe: patient wait for stardom by Mike Hughes (Staff Writer), Quote Page C3, Column 2, Lansing, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)

The Opposite of Courage Is Not Cowardice; It Is Conformity

Rollo May? Earl Nightingale? Jim Hightower? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Uncommon or unconventional thoughts and behaviors can elicit hostility. To avoid estrangement many people consciously or unconsciously conform to societal expectations. Pursuing an individual path requires bravery and determination. Consider the following adage:

The opposite of courage isn’t cowardice; it’s conformity.

This notion has been attributed to psychologist Rollo May, motivational speaker Earl Nightingale, and political commentator Jim Hightower. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1953 book “Man’s Search for Himself” by Rollo May. The vocabulary and thought were present in the following passage, but the expression was not compact. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The opposite to courage is not cowardice: that, rather, is the lack of courage. To say a person is a coward has no more meaning than to say he is lazy: it simply tells us that some vital potentiality is unrealized or blocked. The opposite to courage, as one endeavors to understand the problem in our particular age, is automaton conformity.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Opposite of Courage Is Not Cowardice; It Is Conformity

Notes:

  1. 1953, Man’s Search for Himself by Rollo May Ph.D., Chapter 7: Courage, The Virtue of Maturity, Quote Page 225, W. W. Norton & Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Statistics Are No Substitution for Judgment

Henry Clay Sr.? Henry Clay? Sar A. Levitan? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: This is the era of big data, and organizations are performing myriad statistical calculations; however, this surfeit of numbers can be misleading. Thoughtful discernment is required to see beyond current information as suggested by the following adage:

Statistics are no substitute for judgement.

This saying has been credited to Henry Clay Sr., a prominent Kentucky politician who served in the U.S. House and Senate. Yet, I am skeptical of this ascription because he died in 1852, and I have only found citations starting in the 1900s. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Over the years many different people shared the name Henry Clay. One mechanism that produces misquotations is the confusion of names. An ascription can jump from one person to another who shares a similar name.

The earliest match for this saying located by QI appeared in 1930 within the pages of the “Evening Sentinel” of Staffordshire, England which reported on a speech delivered to a business group by a Professor of Economics named Henry Clay who was an adviser to the Bank of England. This initial version used the word “substitution”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The difference between a successful and an unsuccessful business man lies often in the greater accuracy of the former’s guesses. Statistics are no substitution for judgment. Their use is to check and discipline the judgments on which in the last resort business decisions depend.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Statistics Are No Substitution for Judgment

Notes:

  1. 1930 October 13, Evening Sentinel (Staffordshire Sentinel), Production Prices and Depression: Professor Clay on the Trade Outlook, Quote Page 5, Column 5, Staffordshire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)

Wear a Smile and Have Friends; Wear a Scowl and Have Wrinkles

George Eliot? Mary Ann Evans? F. O. Hamilton? Lillie Langtry? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following adage encourages sociability and the projection of happiness:

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.

This statement has been credited to George Eliot, a popular Victorian era novelist whose real name was Mary Ann Evans. I am skeptical of this ascription because I have been unable to find a solid citation. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that George Eliot who died in 1880 spoke or wrote this quotation. The earliest close match located by QI appeared in a 1938 article about friendship by F. O. Hamilton. The statement was adjacent to a remark attributed to George Eliot. Shortly afterward the two statements from the essay were quoted together, and both were mistakenly attributed to Eliot. The details are given further below.

The notion that smiling will help a person to gain friends has a long history. In 1871 a newspaper in Yorkville, South Carolina printed the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

It is just as easy to smile as it is to frown. A smile will make you friends, and a frown will make you enemies.

The above statement partially matched the quotation, but it referred to frowning instead of scowling.

Continue reading Wear a Smile and Have Friends; Wear a Scowl and Have Wrinkles

Notes:

  1. 1871 January 12, Yorkville Enquirer, Children’s Department: How To Be a Man, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Yorkville, South Carolina. (Newspapers_com)