No Truth So Sublime But It May Be Trivial Tomorrow in the Light of New Thoughts

Ralph Waldo Emerson? Tryon Edwards? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: During one’s lifetime one may discover a truth that appears deep and beautiful. Yet, one must be willing to continuously grow and change. That supposed truth may later seem trivial or misleading. Personal development demands regular reevaluations.

The transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson made a similar point about a sublime truth metamorphosing into a trivial platitude in the light of new knowledge. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1841 Ralph Waldo Emerson published a collection of essays which included a piece about “Circles”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

In nature every moment is new; the past is always swallowed and forgotten; the coming only is sacred. Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energising spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant, to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime but it may be trivial to-morrow in the light of new thoughts. People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled, is there any hope for them.

Life is a series of surprises. We do not guess to-day the mood, the pleasure, the power of to-morrow, when we are building up our being.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading No Truth So Sublime But It May Be Trivial Tomorrow in the Light of New Thoughts

Notes:

  1. 1841, Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essay X: Circles, Start Page 301, Quote Page 321 and 322, James Fraser, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Beauty Is Only Skin-Deep, But Ugly Goes Clean To the Bone

Dorothy Parker? Jean Kerr? Charles Whitehead? Simon Suggs Jr.? Sam Stackpole? Abe Martin? Kin Hubbard? Herbert Spencer? Mort Walker? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Beauty is only skin-deep according to an adage that can be traced back to the 1600s. This assertion has inspired a wide variety of twisted reactions and elaborations. Here are three closely related instances:

  • Beauty’s only skin-deep, but ugliness goes to the bone.
  • Beauty is only skin-deep and ugly goes clear to the bone.
  • Beauty is only skin-deep but ugly goes clean through.

This insight has often been attributed to the prominent wit Dorothy Parker. Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1824 “American Farmer” of Baltimore. Maryland published a piece by “A Backwoodsman” about a fictional court case. An instance of the adage appeared together with the phrases “trite saying” and “I have heard it said” signaling familiarity and anonymity. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It is a trite saying that beauty is but skin deep, yet I have heard it said that ugly goes to the bone, and I am sure there is nothing in this doctrine so beautiful as to prevent its penetrating even to the marrow.

Dorothy Parker died in 1967, and the earliest linkage, known to QI, between Parker and the saying occurred in 1977. This evidence was not substantive, and QI believes that the attribution to Parker is currently unsupported.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Beauty Is Only Skin-Deep, But Ugly Goes Clean To the Bone

Notes:

  1. 1824 January 23, American Farmer, Volume 5, Number 44, To the Editor of the American Farmer from A Backwoodsman, Pleas Before the Hon. Chief Justice Rational, In the Vale of Kentucky, Start Page 349, Quote Page 350, Column 1, Printed by J. Robinson, Baltimore. Maryland. (Google Books Full View) link

Sunlight Is the Best Disinfectant

Louis Brandeis? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Robert Walter? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of sayings about the effectiveness of light for the destruction of noxious infectious agents. This family also includes metaphorical instances in which corrupt behavior is revealed and blocked via publicity. Here are some examples:

  • Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
  • Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
  • The best moral disinfectant is publicity.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1860 the well-known transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson published a collection of essays on “The Conduct of Life” which included a piece titled “Worship”. Emerson employed an analogy equating the protective illumination provided by gas-light and the protective information provided by publicity. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

As gas-light is found to be the best nocturnal police, so the universe protects itself by pitiless publicity.

In 1879 the journal “The Laws of Health” edited by Robert Walter published a short article without a byline about “Disinfectants” which included the following excerpt: 2

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Malaria, for instance, which is one of the most difficult things to contend against, is dissipated when the sun shines, and exerts its pernicious influence at night.

The above statement was non-metaphorical. Many years later in 1913 lawyer Louis Brandeis penned a metaphorical instance that has become popular. The fame of Brandeis grew when he joined the Supreme Court of the United States in 1916. See further below for details of the 1913 citation.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Sunlight Is the Best Disinfectant

Notes:

  1. 1860, The Conduct of Life by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chapter 6: Worship, Start Page 175, Quote Page 197, Smith, Elder and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1879 January, The Laws of Health, Disinfectants, Quote Page 70, Column 3, Published by Robert Walter of Wernersville near Reading, Pennsylvania. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Hold Fast To Dreams

Langston Hughes? Robert Frost? Zig Ziglar? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A poem about the need to maintain aspirational dreams employed a vivid metaphor based on a bird with a damaged wing. The author was Langston Hughes or Robert Frost. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1932 Langston Hughes published the collection “The Dream Keeper and Other Poems”. 1 The book included “Dreams” which consisted of eight lines split into two verses. “The Anniston Star” of Alabama reprinted the work on October 2, 1932. These were the first four lines: 2

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Hold Fast To Dreams

Notes:

  1. 1994 (Copyright 1932), The Dream Keeper and Other Poems, Including Seven Additional Poems by Langston Hughes, Poem: Dreams, Quote Page 4, Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1932 October 2, The Anniston Star, Be Yourself by Iva Cook, Quote Page 5, Column 6, Anniston, Alabama. (Newspapers_com)

To Give Real Service You Must Add Something — Sincerity and Integrity

Douglas Adams? Donald A. Adams? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular business adage states that providing real service to a customer requires a crucial added ingredient known as sincerity and integrity. This notion has confusingly been credited to two different people: Douglas Adams and Donald A. Adams.

The first was a science fiction humorist who wrote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. The second was a lawyer and educator who taught business law. Would you please help me to determine the correct ascription?

Quote Investigator: In August 1926 “The Rotarian” magazine published an address delivered by Donald A. Adams who was the President of Rotary International, a voluntary nonprofit service organization. The speech included a passage about providing genuine service. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

We should all put into practice the Golden Rule of dealing with the other fellow as we would like to have him deal with us. But Service is something more than selling goods which are all wool and a yard wide and making delivery according to the contract. To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money and that thing is sincerity and integrity.

Douglas Adams was born many years later in 1952. The attribution shifted to hm by 2002. Perhaps an ambiguous designation such as “D. Adams” led someone to incorrectly change the attribution of this adage from the lesser-known Donald A. Adams to the well-known Douglas Adams.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Give Real Service You Must Add Something — Sincerity and Integrity

Notes:

  1. 1926 August, The Rotarian, Volume 29, Number 2, Rotary’s Ideal of Service: Convention Address of the President by Donald A. Adams, Start Page 8, Quote Page 60, Column 3, Published by Rotary International, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

Music Begins Where Language Ends

Heinrich Heine? Claude Debussy? Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky? Richard Wagner? Leonora Schmitz? Henry R. Cleveland? Jean Sibelius? John S. Dwight? Ludwig van Beethoven? Anton Rubinstein? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The expressiveness of words is paltry in the domain of deeply felt emotions and sensations. Yet, music can resonate with these profound feelings. Here are two versions of this sentiment:

  • Music begins where language ends
  • Where all words end, music begins

Numerous famous people have been credited with this adage including Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, French composer Claude Debussy, German composer Richard Wagner, and German poet Heinrich Heine. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This article is intended to provide an overview of this large and complex topic. Research is difficult because the phrasing of the adage is highly variable. In addition, the saying has appeared in multiple languages, e.g., English, German, French, and Russian. The native language of QI is English; therefore, this article is inevitably skewed toward English, but QI has attempted to locate instances in other languages.

Here is a set of dates and phrases summarizing the occurrences of this adage during a few early decades:

  • 1835: Music begins where language ends
  • 1841: Where the speech of man stops short there music’s reign begins (translation from French)
  • 1845: (Music) begins where speech leaves off
  • 1849: When words lose their power, it is then that the true office of music begins
  • 1853: Music begins where words leave off
  • 1855: Music begins where words cease
  • 1857: The province of music begins where language fails
  • 1865: Where the power of the words ceases, there that of the music begins
  • 1866: Where all words end, music begins

Currently, the earliest match located by QI appeared in a July 1835 essay by Henry Russell Cleveland titled “The Origin and Progress of Music” in “The New-England Magazine”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Music begins where language ends; it expresses thoughts and emotions, to which speech can give no utterance; it clothes words with a power which language cannot impart. Our favorite songs are set to music, because we are not satisfied with hearing them recited; we want to express more vividly the emotions which these words excite within us; and music alone will do it. Hence it is, that after hearing them sung, the words appear powerless if read in the common tone of voice.

This adage has remained popular during the ensuing 185 years, and the remainder of this article discusses several variants with citations.

If you are interested in a specific prominent individual who has employed this saying you may wish to veer off and consult one of QI’s specialized articles.

Composer Richard Wagner employed the saying in 1841, and an article focused on that ascription is here.

Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky credited Heinrich Heine with the saying in 1878, and an article focused on that attribution is here.

Composer Claude Debussy received credit for the saying in 1889, and an article focused on that attribution is here.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Music Begins Where Language Ends

Notes:

  1. 1835 July, The New-England Magazine, Article: The Origin and Progress of Music: No. 1, Author not listed, (1844 book claims author is Henry Russell Cleveland), Start Page 58, Quote Page 59 and 60, Eastburn’s Press, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

Where Words Leave Off, Music Begins

Heinrich Heine? Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular adage comments on the comparative expressiveness of words versus music. Here are two versions:

  • Where words leave off, music begins
  • Music begins where the spoken word ends

Many people have been credited with this saying including the famous German poet and critic Heinrich Heine. Would you please explore the attribution to Heine?

Quote Investigator: This is a large topic, and this article will focus on the connection to Heinrich Heine. A separate article located here provides an overview. Available evidence suggests that Heine did not coin this adage.

Currently, the earliest match located by QI appeared in a July 1835 essay by Henry Russell Cleveland titled “The Origin and Progress of Music” in “The New-England Magazine”. Heine was not mentioned. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Music begins where language ends; it expresses thoughts and emotions, to which speech can give no utterance; it clothes words with a power which language cannot impart.

Heinrich Heine died in 1856, The earliest attribution of the saying to Heine located by QI appeared in “The Life & Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky”. The famous Russian composer sent a letter in 1878 to his patron Nadezhda von Meck about the symphony he was creating: 2

I can tell you no more, dear friend, about the symphony. Naturally my description is not very clear or satisfactory. But there lies the peculiarity of instrumental music; we cannot analyse it. ‘Where words leave off, music begins,’ as Heine has said.

This letter was sent more than two decades after the death of Heine; hence, its probative value is reduced. The lack of an earlier citation means that the attribution to Heine is currently weak. Yet, the discovery of earlier evidence, perhaps in German, could strengthen the linkage in the future.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Where Words Leave Off, Music Begins

Notes:

  1. 1835 July, The New-England Magazine, Article: The Origin and Progress of Music: No. 1, Author not listed, (1844 book claims author is Henry Russell Cleveland), Start Page 58, Quote Page 59 and 60, Eastburn’s Press, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1906, The Life & Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, Edited by Modeste Tchaikovsky, Letters Translated from Russian to English by Rosa Newmarch, Letter From: Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, To: N. F. von Meck (Nadejda Filaretovna von Meck), Location: Florence, Date: February 17th (March 1st) 1878, Start Page 274, Quote Page 277 and 278, John Lane: The Bodley Head, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Music Begins Where Speech Fails

Claude Debussy? Maurice Emmanuel? Léon Vallas? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Language is inadequate for conveying some deep emotions while music can arouse sensations and passions that are beyond words. Here are two versions of this sentiment:

  • Music begins where words leave off
  • Where words cease, music begins

Many people have been credited with this adage including the famous French composer Claude Debussy. Would you please explore the linkage to Debussy?

Quote Investigator: This is a large topic, and this article will focus on Claude Debussy’s use of the expression. A separate article located here provides an overview. Note that Debussy did not coin this adage.

Currently, the earliest match located by QI appeared in a July 1835 essay by Henry Russell Cleveland titled “The Origin and Progress of Music” in “The New-England Magazine”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Music begins where language ends; it expresses thoughts and emotions, to which speech can give no utterance; it clothes words with a power which language cannot impart.

Early in his career Debussy was influenced by the works of German composer Richard Wagner. Twice he traveled to the Festival Theatre in Bayreuth which was specifically designed to host performances of Wagner’s operas. Yet, over time he became disenchanted. Debussy employed the adage under examination after returning from Bayreuth with a changed perspective according to the 1933 biography “Claude Debussy: His Life and Works” by Léon Vallas: 2

In October 1889, when the last pilgrimage to Bayreuth had destroyed his faith in Wagner, Debussy made the following statement: ‘I do not feel tempted to imitate what I admire in Wagner. My conception of dramatic art is different. According to mine, music begins where speech fails. Music is intended to convey the inexpressible. I should like her to appear as if emerging from the shadowy regions to which she would from time to time retire. I would have her always discreet.’

The biography of Debussy by Vallas first appeared in French in 1926. The book included the original French version of Debussy’s remarks: 3

« Je ne suis pas tenté d’imiter ce que j’admire dans Wagner. Je conçois une forme dramatique autre : la musique y commence là où la parole est impuissante à exprimer; la musique est faite pour l’inexprimable; je voudrais qu’elle eût l’air de sortir de l’ombre et que, par instants, elle y rentrât; que toujours elle fut discrète personne. »

Vallas stated that these remarks were reported by Maurice Emmanuel in his book ‘Pelléas’. The full title of this book according to WorldCat is “Pelléas et Mélisande de Claude Debussy: étude historique et crititque, analyse musicale”, and the publisher is Mellotteé of Paris. Catalogs list several different dates of publication: 1919, 1920, and 1925. The dates are enclosed in brackets indicating uncertainty. QI has not verified the existence of this quotation within Emmanuel’s book.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Music Begins Where Speech Fails

Notes:

  1. 1835 July, The New-England Magazine, Article: The Origin and Progress of Music: No. 1, Author not listed, (1844 book claims author is Henry Russell Cleveland), Start Page 58, Quote Page 59 and 60, Eastburn’s Press, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1933, Claude Debussy: His Life and Works by Léon Vallas, Translated from the French by Maire and Grace O’Brien, Chapter 6: Before ‘Pelléas’: The ‘Quartet’ and the ‘Proses Lyriques’ (1892-9), Quote Page 84, Oxford University Press, London. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1926, Debussy (1862-1918) by Léon Vallas, Quote Page 68, Librairie Plon, Paris. (Google Books Snippet Match; quotation is visible in two snippets; this citation has not been verified with hardcopy)

Where the Speech of Man Stops Short There Music’s Reign Begins

Richard Wagner? Henry Russell Cleveland? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Music can express thoughts and emotions which cannot be captured by words alone according to some romantic souls. Here are two versions of this sentiment:

  • Where all words end, music begins
  • Music begins where language ends

Many people have been credited with this adage including the famous German composer Richard Wagner. Would you please explore the linkage to Wagner?

Quote Investigator: This is a large topic, and this article will focus on Richard Wagner’s use of the expression. A separate article located here provides an overview. Note that Wagner did not coin this adage.

Currently, the earliest match located by QI appeared in a July 1835 essay by Henry Russell Cleveland titled “The Origin and Progress of Music” in “The New-England Magazine”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Music begins where language ends; it expresses thoughts and emotions, to which speech can give no utterance; it clothes words with a power which language cannot impart.

Early in his career Richard Wagner lived for a few years in Paris. In October 1841 he published a short story titled “Une Soirée Heureuse: Fantaisie sur la musique pittoresque” (“A Happy Evening: Fantasy on pictorial music”) in the Paris periodical “Revue et Gazette Musicale”. The adage was spoken by a character in the tale. The French excerpt below 2 is followed by a translation into English by William Ashton Ellis: 3

Il est vraiment malheureux que tant de gens veuillent à toute force se donner la peine inutile de confondre le langage musical avec celui de la poésie, et de vouloir compléter par l’un ce qui, d’après leurs vues étroites et bornées, resterait incomplet dans l’autre. C’est une vérité établie à tout jamais : là où le domaine du langage poétique cesse, commence celui de la musique. Rien ne me paraît plus insupportable, que tous ces contes niais sur lesquels on prétend que ces compositions se fondent.

’Tis a great misfortune that so many people take the useless trouble to confound the musical with the poetic tongue, and endeavour to make good or replace by the one what in their narrow minds remains imperfect in the other. It is a truth for ever, that where the speech of man stops short there Music’s reign begins. Nothing is more intolerable, than the mawkish scenes and anecdotes they foist upon those instrumental works.

Below are additional selected citations.

Continue reading Where the Speech of Man Stops Short There Music’s Reign Begins

Notes:

  1. 1835 July, The New-England Magazine, Article: The Origin and Progress of Music: No. 1, Author not listed, (1844 book claims author is Henry Russell Cleveland), Start Page 58, Quote Page 59 and 60, Eastburn’s Press, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1841 Octobre 24, Revue et Gazette Musicale, Volume 8, Number 56, Une Soirée Heureuse: Fantaisie sur la musique pittoresque by Richard Wagner, Start Page 463, Quote Page 464, Column 1 and 2, Au Bureau D’Abonnement, Revue at Gazette Musicale, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1898, Richard Wagner’s Prose Works by Richard Wagner, Volume 7: In Paris and Dresden, Translated by William Ashton Ellis, A German Musician In Paris: 03: A Happy Evening, Start Page 69, Quote Page 73, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link

A Politician Ought To Be Born a Foundling and Remain a Bachelor

Lady Bird Johnson? Barbara Rowes? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The demands placed upon politicians are intense. Minimal time can be allocated for family and friends. Lady Bird Johnson who was married to U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) once made a statement similar to the following:

A politician should be born an orphan and remain a bachelor.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1970 Lady Bird Johnson published “A White House Diary” which included an entry dated September 12, 1967. Johnson reminisced about when LBJ was a U.S. Senator and their daughters were young. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . I remembered what Lynda and Luci used to say when they were little. We would start out for dinner and they didn’t want us to go. “Why are you always going out, Mama?” And then once Lynda said, forlornly, “Mama, Washington is sure meant for the Congressmen and their wives, but it is not meant for their children.”

I remember saying once myself, when we first came to Washington, that a politician ought to be born a foundling and remain a bachelor.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Politician Ought To Be Born a Foundling and Remain a Bachelor

Notes:

  1. 1970, A White House Diary: Lady Bird Johnson by Lady Bird Johnson, Section: Fall 1967, Diary entry dated: September 12, 1967, Start Page 567, Quote Page 568, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)