I Have Seen So Many Extraordinary Things, That There Is Nothing Extraordinary To Me Now

Voltaire? Lewis Carroll? George Sand? François-Marie Arouet? C. L. Dodgson? Aurore Dupin Dudevant? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following remark perfectly encapsulates a world-weary perspective:

I have seen so many extraordinary things, nothing seems extraordinary any more.

This expression has been attributed to three people who employed pseudonyms: witty philosopher Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), fantasy author Lewis Carroll (C. L. Dodgson), and French novelist George Sand (Aurore Dupin Dudevant). Would you please explore the provenance of this remark?

Quote Investigator: In 1759 Voltaire published the famous satirical tale “Candide, Ou L’Optimisme” (“Candide, Or The Optimist”). In chapter 21 the characters Candide and Martin engaged in a philosophical discussion about humankind. Candide asked Martin about a story involving monkeys that they had spoken about previously. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1759, Candide, Ou L’Optimisme, Traduit De L’Allemand de Mr. Le Docteur Ralph (Voltaire), Chapitre Vingt-Unième: Candide & Martin aprochent des Côtes de France & raisonnent, Quote Page 191 and 191, (No publisher listed). (Gallica BNF Bibliothèque nationale de France) link [/ref]

N’êtes-vous pas bien étonné, continua Candide, de l’amour que ces deux filles du pays des Oreillons avaient pour ces deux singes, & dont je vous ai conté l’aventure?

Point du tout, dit Martin, je ne vois pas ce que cette passion a d’étrange; j’ai tant vu de choses extraordinaires, qu’il n’y a plus rien d’extraordinaire.

In 1762 an English translation of Voltaire’s work appeared. The name “Candide” was presented as “Candid” in the following rendering of the passage:[ref] 1762, The Works of M. de Voltaire, Translated for the French with Notes, Historical and Critical by T. Smollett (Tobias Smollett), T. Francklin, M.A. and Others, Volume 18, Section: Candid Or, The Optimist, Chapter 21: Candid and Martin, while thus reasoning with each other, draw near to the coast of France, Quote Page 87, Printed for J. Newbery, R. Baldwin, W. Johnston et al, London. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

Are you not surprised, continued Candid, at the love which the two girls in the country of the Oreillons had for those two monkeys?—You know I have told you the story.

Surprised! replied Martin, not in the least; I see nothing strange in this passion. I have seen so many extraordinary things, that there is nothing extraordinary to me now.

QI believes that Voltaire should receive credit for popularizing this remark. This notion is sufficiently common that an earlier semantic match probably exists. The precise phrasing in English of Voltaire’s statement varies because several different translations have been published over the years.

George Sand penned a thematically similar remark, and a detailed citation is given below. The linkage to Lewis Carroll is unsupported. The first attribution to him occurred in the 21st century.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1870 George Sand published “Pierre Qui Roule” (“A Rolling Stone”). The novel contained a jaded character who delivered the following line in French:
[ref] 1870, Pierre Qui Roule by George Sand, Quote Page 208, Michel Lévy Frères, Éditeurs, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

Je suis un homme qui a tant vu de choses extraordinaires, qu’il ne s’étonne plus de rien, et, quant à mon opinion, elle ne doit pas vous inquiéter.

Translator Carroll Owen published an English translation in 1871 with the following rendering:[ref] 1971, A Rolling Stone by George Sand, Translated from the French by Carroll Owen, Chapter 2, Quote Page 78, Column 2, James R. Osgood and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

“I am a man who has seen so many extraordinary things, that he has ceased to be astonished at anything; and as to my opinion, it ought not to disturb you.”

In 1907 a translation of “Candide” by Robert Bruce Boswell contained the following passage:[ref] 1907, Zadig, and Other Tales by Voltaire (1746-1767), A New Translation by Robert Bruce Boswell, Section: Candid, Or Optimism, Chapter 21: The Discussion that took place between Candid and Martin as they approached the Coast of France, Quote Page 291 and 292, George Bell and Sons, London. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

“Are you not very much astonished,” continued Candid, at the affection shown by those two girls in the country of the Orellians, for the two monkeys, about which I told you?”

“Not in the least,” said Martin; “I do not see anything particularly strange in that passion. I have seen so many extraordinary things that nothing seems extraordinary to me now.”

In 1918 New York publisher Boni and Liveright put out another translation of “Candide” with the following instance of the quotation:[ref] 1918 Copyright, Candide by Voltaire, Introduction by Philip Littell, Chapter 21: Candide and Martin, Reasoning, Draw Near the Coast of France, Quote Page 104, Boni and Liveright, New York. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

“Not at all,” said Martin. “I do not see that that passion was strange. I have seen so many extraordinary things that I have ceased to be surprised.”

In 1966 a translation of “Candide” by Robert M. Adams contained the following instance:[ref] 1966 Copyright, Candide or Optimism by Voltaire, Translated and Edited by Robert M. Adams, Series: A Norton Critical Edition, Chapter 21: Candide and Martin Approach the Coast of France: They Reason Together, Quote Page 47, W. W. Norton & Company, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

—Not at all, said Martin, I see nothing strange in these sentiments; I have seen so many extraordinary things that nothing seems extraordinary any more.

In 1973 prominent science fiction author and anthologist Brian W. Aldiss published “Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction” which included an excerpt from “Candide” with the following instance:[ref] 1973, Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction Brian W. Aldiss, Chapter 3: Pilgrim Fathers: Lucian and All That, Quote Page 77 and 78, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

“Not in the least. I see nothing strange in such an infatuation. I have seen so many extraordinary things that now nothing is extraordinary to me.”

In 2008 a webpage of the popular website Goodreads implausibly attributed the remark to Lewis Carroll:[ref] Website: goodreads, Article title: Lewis Carroll > Quotes > Quotable Quote, Timestamp of earliest ‘like’ of quotation: Jan 28, 2008 03:33PM, Name of first ‘like’ on webpage: Donald, Website description: Goodreads asserts that it is “the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations”. (Accessed goodreads.com on March 7, 2022) link [/ref]

“I have seen so many extraordinary things, nothing seems extraordinary any more”
― Lewis Carroll

In conclusion, the earliest match located by QI appeared in 1759 within Voltaire’s tale of “Candide”. The character Martin spoke the remark to Candide. QI tentatively credits Voltaire although an earlier match may exist. George Sand wrote a similar statement in 1870. The linkage to Lewis Carroll is unsupported.

Image Notes: Public domain image of an extraordinary sunset showing a tree with the sun shining through the branches from Bessi at Pixabay.

(Great thanks to Guy Tal whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

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