You Think Your Pain and Your Heartbreak Are Unprecedented in the History of the World, But Then You Read

James Baldwin? Jane Howard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Reading about other lives and cultures can replace a narrow self-involved vision with a wide open vista. The pains and afflictions of one’s own life are placed into a larger perspective when one reads about the harrowing travails of others. The prominent novelist and playwright James Baldwin once made this point. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In May 1963 journalist Jane Howard published a profile of James Baldwin in “LIFE” magazine. He spoke about his early experiences. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1963 May 24, LIFE, Volume 54, Number 21, ‘Doom and glory of knowing who you are’ by Jane Howard, Start Page 86B, Quote Page 89, Column 1, Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) … Continue reading

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was Dostoevsky and Dickens who taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who ever had been alive. Only if we face these open wounds in ourselves can we understand them in other people. An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian.

In 1964 James Baldwin provided a narrative describing his life for a television broadcast. “The New York Times” printed excerpts from the program. Baldwin employed a slightly different version of the quotation with “Dostoevsky and Dickens” replaced by the word “books”:[2] 1964 May 31, New York Times, James Baldwin Recalls His Childhood, Quote Page X11, Column 2 and 3, New York. (ProQuest)

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Think Your Pain and Your Heartbreak Are Unprecedented in the History of the World, But Then You Read

References

References
1 1963 May 24, LIFE, Volume 54, Number 21, ‘Doom and glory of knowing who you are’ by Jane Howard, Start Page 86B, Quote Page 89, Column 1, Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1964 May 31, New York Times, James Baldwin Recalls His Childhood, Quote Page X11, Column 2 and 3, New York. (ProQuest)

I Have Nothing To Declare Except My Genius

Oscar Wilde? Stuart Mason? Christopher Sclater Millard? Robert Ross? Elizabeth P. O’Connor? Arthur Ransome? Frank Harris? Sylvestre Dorian? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend, the famous wit Oscar Wilde delivered a comically audacious line when he first entered the United States during his lecture tour. A customs official in New York asked him if he had anything to declare, and he supposedly replied:

I have nothing to declare but my genius.

Would you please explore the provenance of this remark?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde entered New York in January 1882. Yet, the earliest evidence of the quip known to QI appeared in 1910. The phrasing has varied over time. Often it has been presented from a third person perspective. Here is a summary with dates:

1910: I have nothing to declare except my genius
1912: He had nothing to declare except his genius
1912: He had nothing to declare but his genius
1913: I have nothing to declare but my genius
1917: He had nothing to declare save his genius
1917: He had nothing to declare but genius
1918: Nothing—except—my genius
1923: Only my genius
1925: Nothing but my genius
1934: I have nothing but my genius to declare

The remark appeared within “The Oscar Wilde Calendar” of 1910 compiled by Stuart Mason, a pseudonym for Christopher Sclater Millard. For each day of the year a quotation ascribed to Wilde was presented, and the following appeared for January 4th. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings Selected by Stuart Mason (Christopher Sclater Millard), Quotation for … Continue reading

At the New York Custom House: “I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

Millard mentioned Robert Ross in the acknowledgement section of the calendar. Ross was a close friend and literary executor of Wilde. He may have supplied the quotation to Millard:[2]1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings Selected by Stuart Mason, Section: Acknowledgement, Quote Page 91, … Continue reading

Many quotations are made from works little known to the general reader. Some are taken from unpublished manuscripts, others are traditional. For many of the latter the compiler is indebted to the courtesy of Mr Robert Ross.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Nothing To Declare Except My Genius

References

References
1 1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings Selected by Stuart Mason (Christopher Sclater Millard), Quotation for January Four, Quote Page 7, Frank Palmer, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link
2 1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings Selected by Stuart Mason, Section: Acknowledgement, Quote Page 91, Frank Palmer, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

To Be True Music It Must Repeat the Thoughts and Aspirations of the People and the Time. My People Are Americans. My Time Is Today

George Gershwin? Bennett Cerf? Edward Jablonski? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: U.S. pianist and composer George Gershwin is known for works such as “Rhapsody in Blue” and “I Got Rhythm”. He believed that music should embody the thoughts and aspirations of a people and a time. He said his people were Americans and his time was now. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1927 George Gershwin published an essay titled “Jazz Is the Voice of the American Soul” in “Theatre Magazine”. His concluding paragraph included the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1927 March, Theatre Magazine: For the Lovers of Stage and Screen, Volume 45, Number 311, Jazz Is the Voice of the American Soul by George Gershwin, Start Page 14, Quote Page 52B, Theatre Magazine … Continue reading

I do not know what the next decade will disclose in music. No composer knows. But to be true music it must repeat the thoughts and aspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans. My time is to-day.

Of to-morrow, and of my to-morrow, as an interpreter of American life in music, I am sure of but one thing: That the essence of future music will hold enough of the melody and harmony of to-day to reveal its origin. It will be sure to have a tincture of the derided yesterday, which has been accepted to-day, and which perhaps to-morrow will be exalted—jazz.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Be True Music It Must Repeat the Thoughts and Aspirations of the People and the Time. My People Are Americans. My Time Is Today

References

References
1 1927 March, Theatre Magazine: For the Lovers of Stage and Screen, Volume 45, Number 311, Jazz Is the Voice of the American Soul by George Gershwin, Start Page 14, Quote Page 52B, Theatre Magazine Company, New York. (Verified with images from Library of Congress)

Green Is the Prime Color of the World, and That From Which Its Loveliness Arises

Pedro Calderón de la Barca? Craufurd Tait Ramage? Denis Florence MacCarthy? Stephanie Tourles? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Metaphorically, the deity has flung a bucket of green at our world which has brought forth its loveliness. The primary color of Earth is green because of its beautiful foliage. The Spanish dramatist and poet Pedro Calderón de la Barca wrote on this theme. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Pedro Calderón de la Barca died in 1681. A collection of his works including “La Vanda, y la Flor” (“The Scarf and the Flower”) appeared in print in 1726. The crucial quotation was spoken by a character named “Lisi” (or “Lisida”). Here is the original Spanish. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1726, Octava Parte De Comedias Verdaderas Del Celebre Poeta Español D. Pedro Calderon De La Barca, (Eighth Part Of True Comedies Of The Celebrated Spanish Poet D. Pedro Calderon De La Barca), La … Continue reading

Lisi: Yo asi prosigo:
la verde, es color primera
del Mundo, y en quien consiste
su hermosura, pues se viste
de verde la Primevera:
la vista mas lisonjera
es aquel verde ornamento,
pues sin voz, y con aliento
nacen de varios colores
en cuna verde las flores,
que son estrellas del viento.

In 1853 Irish poet and translator Denis Florence MacCarthy published “Dramas of Calderon: Tragic, Comic, and Legendary” which included “The Scarf and the Flower”. MacCarthy performed a loose English translation designed to maintain rhyme and meter:[2]1853, Dramas of Calderon: Tragic, Comic, and Legendary by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Translated from the Spanish principally in the metre of the original, by Denis Florence M‘Carthy, Volume 2 of … Continue reading

LISIDA.
I thus proceed:
Green is the colour God doth fling
First on the naked world, a dress
Which doth increase its loveliness—
It is the colour of the spring.
The fairest sight the seasons bring
Is that green ornament that sees.
Voiceless and breathless ‘neath the trees,
The many-tinted flowers take birth
On the green cradle of the earth—
The trembling stars of every breeze.

“God” and “fling” were not present in the original Spanish text.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Green Is the Prime Color of the World, and That From Which Its Loveliness Arises

References

References
1 1726, Octava Parte De Comedias Verdaderas Del Celebre Poeta Español D. Pedro Calderon De La Barca, (Eighth Part Of True Comedies Of The Celebrated Spanish Poet D. Pedro Calderon De La Barca), La Vanda, y la Flor (The Scarf and the Flower), Start Page 288, Quote Page 301, En Madrid: En casa de la Viuda de Blàs de Villanueve, año de 1726. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1853, Dramas of Calderon: Tragic, Comic, and Legendary by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Translated from the Spanish principally in the metre of the original, by Denis Florence M‘Carthy, Volume 2 of 2, The Scarf and the Flower (La Banda y la Flor), Start Page 261, Quote Page 297. Charles Dolman, London. (Google Books Full View) link

The Time To Relax Is When You Don’t Have Time For It

Sydney J. Harris? Beulah Schacht? Sol Margoles? Evan Esar? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A nearly paradoxical piece of advice states that the best time to relax is when you feel unable to relax because of time pressures. Would you please explore this adage.

Quote Investigator: Here is a family of closely related statements with dates:

1954 Oct: The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.
1954 Nov: The time to relax is when you’re too busy to relax.
1960 Nov: The best time to relax is when you are the busiest.
1968: The best time to relax is when you don’t have time to relax.
1973 Jan: The best time to relax is when you don’t have the time.

The earliest match located by QI appeared in the syndicated newspaper column of Sydney J. Harris in October 1954. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1954 October 26, Chicago Daily News, Strictly Personal: You’re Too Busy?, Time To Relax by Sydney J. Harris, Quote Page 18, Column 6, Chicago, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it; when you get the time, you are generally too exhausted to enjoy it. The way to relax (I have found, at least) is to spread it out during the week, so that the tensions don’t snap into listless apathy at the weekend.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Time To Relax Is When You Don’t Have Time For It

References

References
1 1954 October 26, Chicago Daily News, Strictly Personal: You’re Too Busy?, Time To Relax by Sydney J. Harris, Quote Page 18, Column 6, Chicago, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)

It’s a Great Life If You Don’t Weaken

John Buchan? Elizabeth Murray? Graham Greene? Dorothy Parker? Thomas Carter? H. L. Mencken? Sime Silverman? Karl Braun? Gene Byrnes? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: When you face a series of obstacles and successfully persevere you might employ the following saying. Here are three versions:

It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.
It’s a grand life if you don’t weaken.
It’s a joyful life if you don’t weaken.

Over time the meaning has shifted, and it has become ironic. The Scottish novelist and politician John Buchan often receives credit for this remark. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: John Buchan did use the expression in a 1919 novel. Details are given further below. But Buchan was not the originator.

The earliest match located by QI appeared in 1908 within an article published in “The Evening Telegram” of Salt Lake City, Utah. Police picked up a man who was acting like a hobo in Provo, Utah. He revealed to the officers that he was a wealthy individual named Thomas Carter, and he told them to contact his banker in Salt Lake City to verify his identity. In the following passage the word “jungle” is slang for a hobo encampment. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1908 November 19, The Salt Lake Evening Telegram, Provo Tramp Turns Out To Be Wealthy Salt Lake Man, Quote Page 7, Column 4, Salt Lake City, Utah. (GenealogyBank)

“You see,” he said, “this jungle life is a grand one if you don’t weaken. Talk about experience, why when I get back to the folks I will have had enough experience to fill a molasses barrel. When I get home I will sure have a bigger heart for these fellows you officers term tramps.”

A journalist heard this odd tale and asked Carter about his motivation:

“Well, I’ll tell you I am just paying an election bet. I bet that “Uncle Joe” Cannon would not be re-elected to the house and now I must make good as a hobo for sixty days or forfeit $5000. It’s a grand life if you don’t weaken.”

QI tentatively credits Thomas Carter with the saying although there is a substantial probability that the phrase was already in circulation, and future researchers may learn more.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It’s a Great Life If You Don’t Weaken

References

References
1 1908 November 19, The Salt Lake Evening Telegram, Provo Tramp Turns Out To Be Wealthy Salt Lake Man, Quote Page 7, Column 4, Salt Lake City, Utah. (GenealogyBank)

If You Want To Lead the Orchestra You Must Turn Your Back To the Crowd

Lawrence Welk? Max Lucado? G. P. Malalasekera? James Crook? Islwyn Jeneins? Richard Wagner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A genuine leader must be willing to ignore a popularly help opinion when it is flawed and act in the best interest of all. This thought has been conveyed via a clever analogy:

When you wish to lead an orchestra you must be willing to turn your back on the crowd.

This saying has been attributed to bandleader Lawrence Welk, church minister Max Lucado, and someone named James Crook. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: In 1933 “The People” newspaper of London published a column called “Thought For To-day” containing items acquired from readers with the following promise of compensation:

Half-a-Guinea will be paid for the best original thought published. No quotation from books, calendars, etc.

On March 9, 1933 the paper printed this item and ascription. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1933 March 19, The People, Thought For To-day, Quote Page 12, Column 6, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)

If you want to lead the orchestra you must turn your back to the crowd.
From Islwyn Jeneins, 27 Pier Street, Rhymney, Mon.

The citation above was the earliest located by QI, and the newspaper rules specified that the saying was supposed to be original; hence, QI tentatively credits Islwyn Jeneins with authorship. Of course, it remains possible that the adage was lifted from elsewhere, and future researchers may discover more on this topic.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Want To Lead the Orchestra You Must Turn Your Back To the Crowd

References

References
1 1933 March 19, The People, Thought For To-day, Quote Page 12, Column 6, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)

Once the Machine Thinking Method Had Started, It Would Not Take Long To Outstrip Our Feeble Powers

Alan Turing? Sara Turing? Stuart Russell? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A pioneering mathematician and computer researcher in the 1950s believed that an intelligent computer system could be built, and “it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers”. Would you please tell me the name of this person and help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Alan M. Turing was a major figure in the field of computer science who died in 1954. His mother Sara published a book about his life in 1959, and she included a draft of a lecture he delivered in Manchester, England in 1951. Turing’s address titled “Intelligent Machinery, A Heretical Theory” explored the consequences of building computer systems capable of displaying intelligence. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]2012 (First Edition 1959; Second Edition 2012), Alan M. Turing: Centenary Edition by Sara Turing, Chapter 14: Computing Machinery, Section: Intelligent Machinery, A Heretical Theory, Start Page 128, … Continue reading

There would be plenty to do in trying, say, to keep one’s intelligence up to the standard set by the machines, for it seems probable that once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers. There would be no question of the machines dying, and they would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control, in the way that is mentioned in Samuel Butler’s Erewhon.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Once the Machine Thinking Method Had Started, It Would Not Take Long To Outstrip Our Feeble Powers

References

References
1 2012 (First Edition 1959; Second Edition 2012), Alan M. Turing: Centenary Edition by Sara Turing, Chapter 14: Computing Machinery, Section: Intelligent Machinery, A Heretical Theory, Start Page 128, Quote Page 132, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. (Verified with scans)

The First Ultraintelligent Machine Is the Last Invention That Humanity Need Ever Make

Irving John Good? Arthur C. Clarke? Philip J. Davis? Reuben Hersh? Vernor Vinge? Raymond Kurzweil? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A prominent computer researcher in the 1950s or 1960s predicted that humanity would create a superintelligent machine sometime during the twentieth century. The researcher believed that this machine would be humanity’s last invention. Would you please tell me the name of this person and help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1965 mathematician, cryptographer, and computer researcher Irving John Good published a speculative article titled “Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine” in the journal “Advances in Computers”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1965, Advances in Computers, Volume 6, Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine by Irving John Good (Trinity College Oxford), Start Page 31, Quote Page 33, Academic Press Inc., New … Continue reading

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind.

Based on this extrapolation of ascending computer capabilities Good presented the following conclusion with an ominous proviso:

Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The First Ultraintelligent Machine Is the Last Invention That Humanity Need Ever Make

References

References
1 1965, Advances in Computers, Volume 6, Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine by Irving John Good (Trinity College Oxford), Start Page 31, Quote Page 33, Academic Press Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)

Computers Make Very Fast, Very Accurate Mistakes

Roy Zuvers? Stephen Tonnison? Paul Parkhurst? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Computers are known for performing blazingly fast calculations with excruciating precision. Computers are also known for inescapable bugs. A humorous statement combines these attributes:

Computers make very fast, very accurate mistakes.

Would you please explore the provenance of this remark?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a message posted on July 12, 1991 by Roy Zuvers to the newsgroup misc.handicap of the Usenet distributed message system. Zuvers was posting from Fidonet, a network of computer bulletin board systems. The quip used the singular “Computer” instead of “Computers”. The statement occurred in a signature line, and no attribution was provided. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1991 July 12, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: misc.handicap, From: Roy Zuvers, Subject: nfb and nls. (Google Groups Search; Accessed December 31, 2021) link

* DeLuxe 1.1 #6289 Computer Make Very Fast, Very Accurate Mistake

Currently, the originator of the expression remains anonymous. Perhaps future researchers will discover earlier citations.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Computers Make Very Fast, Very Accurate Mistakes

References

References
1 1991 July 12, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: misc.handicap, From: Roy Zuvers, Subject: nfb and nls. (Google Groups Search; Accessed December 31, 2021) link