Poetry Is Music Written for the Human Voice

Maya Angelou? Bertha Flowers? Bill Moyers? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Rhyme and rhythm often produce a lovely euphony in poems. This notion has been expressed as follows:

Poetry is music written for the human voice.

These words have been attributed to Renaissance woman Maya Angelou, but some people assert that she disclaimed credit. Would you please help me to find a precise citation?

Quote Investigator: Traumatic experiences during Maya Angelou’s childhood caused her to stop speaking when she was young. Family friend Bertha Flowers encouraged Angelou to read novels and poetry aloud to achieve a greater understanding. This eventually led Angelou to begin talking again.

In 1982 U.S. public T.V. broadcast a 17-part series called “Creativity With Bill Moyers”. A reviewer in the “Chicago Tribune” of Illinois described the premiere episode during which journalist Moyers spoke to Angelou who presented an insight from her mentor Bertha Flowers. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Poetry is music written for the human voice—she must have told me that 50 times,” Angelou says.

Mrs. Flowers also told her to go home and read poetry, and she did, under her grandmother’s bed at first, and eventually she started speaking again. Now she speaks and reads and performs her poetry all over the world, but she’ll never forget Mrs. Flowers.

Thus, Maya Angelou popularized the expression under examination, but she attributed it to her respected guide Bertha Flowers.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Poetry Is Music Written for the Human Voice

Notes:

  1. 1982 January 8, Chicago Tribune, Moyers’ ‘Creativity’ is a rare gift by Marilynn Preston on TV, Section 3, Quote Page 12, Column 4, Chicago, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)

Life Is Uncertain. Eat Dessert First

Ernestine Ulmer? Arthur Murray? Earl Wilson? Leopold Fechtner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: T-shirts and bumper stickers present a modern proverb about the precariousness of existence. Here are two versions:

  • Eat dessert first because life is uncertain.
  • Life is uncertain, so eat dessert first.

Ernestine Ulmer often receives credit although that name is somewhat obscure. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the popular syndicated column of Earl Wilson in 1962. The well-known ballroom dancer and entrepreneur Arthur Murray received credit. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Arthur Murray says he always eats dessert first, because life is so uncertain.

The statement above referred to a single person; hence, it was not in proverbial form, but the phrasing evolved over time.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life Is Uncertain. Eat Dessert First

Notes:

  1. 1962 July 18, The Lima News, Eydie Gorme Will Work, Hubby Steve Explains by Earl Wilson, Quote Page 32, Column 3, Lima, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

When One Has Finished Writing a Short Story One Should Delete the Beginning and the End

Anton Chekhov? Ivan Bunin? André Maurois? Paul Engle? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous author offered the following astonishing advice: After completing a story one should cross out the beginning and the end.

This guidance has been attributed to the prominent Russian playwright and short-story writer Anton Chekhov. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The Russian writer Ivan Bunin won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1933. An English translation of his book Воспоминания appeared in 1951 under the title “Memories and Portraits”. One chapter discussed Anton Chekhov who Bunin initially met in Moscow at the end of 1895. Ellipses appeared in the 1951 text. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

A few characteristic phrases of his have remained fixed in my memory to this day. “Do you write a lot?” he asked me. I replied that I did not. “What a shame,” he said glumly, in his deep chest voice. “You must work, you know. You must work without stopping. . . . All your life.”

Then, after a pause, he added without any apparent connection: “I think that when one has finished writing a short story one should delete the beginning and the end. That’s where we fiction writers mostly go wrong. And one should be brief, as brief as possible. . . .”

The dialog above was based on conversations that occurred many years before Ivan Bunin published his book. Hence, the veracity of his memory was crucial.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When One Has Finished Writing a Short Story One Should Delete the Beginning and the End

Notes:

  1. 1951, Memories and Portraits by Ivan Bunin, Translation by Vera Traill and Robin Chancellor, Chapter: Chekhov, Quote Page 31 and 32, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans)

The Horse Is Here To Stay, But the Automobile Is Only a Novelty — a Fad

A Leading Banker? President of the Michigan Savings Bank? Sarah T. Bushnell? Horace Rackham? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: An investor was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase stock in Henry Ford’s nascent automobile company. The cautious capitalist asked a prominent banker what he thought, and he received an erroneous prediction:

The horse is here to stay but the automobile is a passing fad.

Would you please explore the accuracy of this anecdote? Also, if this tale is authentic would you determine whether the investor was dissuaded by the prediction?

Quote Investigator: In 1922 Sarah T. Bushnell published the biography “The Truth About Henry Ford”. She included a story about attorney Horace Rackham whose law firm drew up the incorporation papers for Henry Ford’s automobile company in 1903. Rackham was asked to become an investor, but his health was poor, and he feared risking his precious savings. So he visited an unnamed leading banker to obtain advice. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The banker took him to a window. “Look,” he said pointing to the street. “You see all those people on their bicycles riding along the boulevard? There is not as many as there was a year ago. The novelty is wearing off; they are losing interest. That’s just the way it will be with automobiles. People will get the fever; and later they will throw them away. My advice is not to buy the stock. You might make money for a year or two, but in the end you would lose everything you put in. The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.”

Rackham was convinced by the banker, and he decided to reject the investment. However, he spoke again with Alexander G. Malcomson who was organizing the new company and persistently recruiting investors:

. . . a few days later he met Mr. Malcomson who showed him facts and figures and talked eloquently. Rackham was convinced again – but the other way. He sold some real estate and took the money to Malcomson. “Here, take this money and buy the stock before I have time to change my mind again,” he said.

Rackham’s five thousand dollar purchase of shares was enormously lucrative. He held on to his stock until he finally sold it for twelve and one-half million dollars.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Horse Is Here To Stay, But the Automobile Is Only a Novelty — a Fad

Notes:

  1. 1922, The Truth About Henry Ford by Sarah T. Bushnell, Chapter 4: The First Car and the First Race, Quote Page 55 to 57, The Reilly & Lee Company, Chicago, Illinois.(Google Books Full View) link

A Clever Person Solves a Problem. A Wise Person Avoids It

Albert Einstein? Jerome Halprin? Abba Eban? Leonard Lyons? Sidney Greenberg? Paul Connett? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular quip highlights the distinction between the adjectives clever and wise:

A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.

This notion can also be expressed as follows:

A clever person gets out of a situation that a wise person would never get into.

The first statement is often attributed to Albert Einstein, but I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein wrote or spoke either of the statements above. Neither is listed in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. Einstein died in 1955, and he received credit for the saying many years afterward in 1992. 1

This quip is difficult to trace because it can be phrased in many ways. The earliest match located by QI appeared on April 11, 1969 in the “Jewish Journal” of New Brunswick, New Jersey within a short editorial piece without a byline titled “Nobody Asked Me, But”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 2

Do you know the difference between a clever man and a wise man? A clever man gets out of situations that a wise man would never get into.

The editor listed on the masthead of the “Jewish Journal” was Jerome Halprin, so he might be credited with the joke, but QI believes the quip was probably already circulating with an anonymous origin.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Clever Person Solves a Problem. A Wise Person Avoids It

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: (Statement does not appear), Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1969 April 11, Jewish Journal, Nobody Asked Me, But, Quote Page 2, Column 1, New Brunswick, New Jersey. (GenealogyBank)

The Net Interprets Censorship As Damage and Routes Around It

Howard Rheingold? John Gilmore? Michael Sattler? Philip Elmer-DeWitt? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Modern communication systems are designed to distribute messages even when some connections and modules are damaged. This resilience inspired an adage in the 1990s about the suppression of information. Here are two versions:

  • The net views censorship as damage and routes around it.
  • The internet treats censorship as a fault and reroutes around it.

Nowadays, the official and unofficial strategies used to impede the dissemination of information (and misinformation) have grown in scale and sophistication. Country-spanning data firewalls, court-mandated removal of webpages, social media deplatforming, and denial-of-service attacks have all been employed.

Yet, censorship is rarely completely successful. Would you please explore the provenance of this 20th-century adage?

Quote Investigator: Cultural critic Howard Rheingold penned influential early descriptions of online communities such as The Well, Usenet, and MUDs. In September 1993 he published “The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier”. Rheingold attributed the adage to prominent techno-activist John Gilmore. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Information can take so many alternative routes when one of the nodes of the network is removed that the Net is almost immortally flexible. It is this flexibility that CMC telecom pioneer John Gilmore referred to when he said, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” This way of passing information and communication around a network as a distributed resource with no central control manifested in the rapid growth of the anarchic global conversation known as Usenet.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Net Interprets Censorship As Damage and Routes Around It

Notes:

  1. 1993, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier by Howard Rheingold, Chapter Introduction, Quote Page 7, First Printing: September 1993, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts.

Ask Yourself What Makes You Come Alive, and Go Do That, Because What the World Needs Is People Who Have Come Alive

Howard Thurman? Gil Bailie? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: If you are an altruistic or philanthropic person you face many choices. It is natural to ask, “What does the world need?” Yet, it is essential to maintain commitment and enthusiasm. Hence, you should ask yourself what makes you come alive. This will help you decide what to do. The world needs people who have come alive.

Apparently, the renowned religious figure Howard Thurman said something like this. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1995 teacher Gil Bailie published “Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads”. Bailie stated that he heard the quotation under examination from Howard Thurman. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Once, when I was seeking the advice of Howard Thurman and talking to him at some length about what needed to be done in the world, he interrupted me and said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The text above appeared in a section titled “In Gratitude” dated August 1994. Bailie indicated that he heard the remark from Thurman twenty years in the past, i.e., around 1974. Howard Thurman died in 1981.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Ask Yourself What Makes You Come Alive, and Go Do That, Because What the World Needs Is People Who Have Come Alive

Notes:

  1. 1997 (1995 Copyright), Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads by Gil Bailie, Section: In Gratitude by Gil Bailie, Date on Section: August 1994, Start Page xv, Quote Page xv, A Crossroad Book: The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Power Without Responsibility — The Prerogative of the Harlot Throughout the Ages

Stanley Baldwin? Rudyard Kipling? Arthur W. Baldwin? Benjamin Disraeli? Tom Stoppard? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: In the 1930s British politician Stanley Baldwin reacted with anger when he read a claim that he considered defamatory in the pages of a popular newspaper. Shortly afterward he delivered a speech accusing the U.K. press barons of wielding power without responsibility, and he employed a mordant analogy that compared his antagonists to harlots.

Some claim that the famous English author Rudyard Kipling supplied this analogy to Stanley Baldwin who was his cousin. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Stanley Baldwin delivered a speech to a full house of supporters at Queen’s Hall, London on March 17, 1931. Several newspapers reported on the event including the “The Lancashire Daily Post” of Preston, 1 the “Liverpool Echo” of Liverpool, 2 and “The Times” of London. The start of Baldwin’s oration included some praise for U.K. newspapers: 3

Let me begin by saying that the Press of Great Britain is the admiration of the world for its fairness, the ability with which it is conducted, and the high principles of journalism to which it adheres.

Yet, Baldwin’s plaudits were not universal. He criticized the newspapers of two powerful press barons:

The papers conducted by Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook are not newspapers in the ordinary acceptance of the term. (Cheers.) They are engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes, personal likes and dislikes of two men. (Loud cheers.)

Baldwin admitted that he had used the stinging description “insolent plutocracy”. He then presented the recent harsh response to his words that was printed in the “Daily Mail”:

“These expressions come ill from Mr. Baldwin, since his father left him an immense fortune, which, so far as may be learned from his own speeches, has almost disappeared. It is difficult to see how the leader of a party who has lost his own fortune can hope to restore that of anyone else or of his country.”

Baldwin said that the claims in the “Daily Mail” were false:

The first part of that statement is a lie, and the second part of that statement by its implication is untrue. The paragraph itself could only have been written by a cad.

Baldwin employed the quotation under examination while condemning the press barons. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:

What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility—the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

The most detailed evidence that Rudyard Kipling supplied the statement about prerogatives to Stanley Baldwin was provided by his son Arthur W. Baldwin in 1971. See the citation presented further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Power Without Responsibility — The Prerogative of the Harlot Throughout the Ages

Notes:

  1. 1931 March 17, The Lancashire Daily Post, Mr. Baldwin Fearlessly Hits Out At His Critics, Quote Page 5, Column 1, Lancashire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
  2. 1931 March 17, Liverpool Echo, Mr. Baldwin’s Sensational Speech: Blunt Reply To Peer Critics, Quote Page 12, Column 1 and 2, Liverpool, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
  3. 1931 March 18, The Times, A Vigorous Speech: Mr. Baldwin On Press Interference, Quote Page 18, Column 1 and 2, London, England. (Gale – The Times Digital Archive)

Anxiety Does Not Empty Tomorrow of Its Sorrows; It Empties Today of Its Strength

Alexander McLaren? Charles Haddon Spurgeon? Ian Maclaren? Corrie ten Boom?

Dear Quote Investigator: Excessive fear and worry about the future can weaken the resolve needed to thrive. Here are three versions of a pertinent saying:

(1) Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.

(2) Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, but it empties it of its strength.

(3) Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.

The influential English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon often receives credit for this remark, but I have not found a solid citation. Would you please explore the origin of this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a sermon by Alexander McLaren who was a Baptist minister based in Manchester, England. The adage occurred in an 1859 collection called “Sermons Preached in Union Chapel, Manchester” within an address titled “Anxious Care”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It is God’s law of Providence that a man shall be disciplined by sorrow; and to try to escape from that law by any forecasting prudence, is utterly hopeless, and madness. And what does your anxiety do? It does not empty to-morrow, brother, of its sorrows; but, ah! it empties to-day of its strength.

It does not make you escape the evil, it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. It does not bless to-morrow, and it robs to-day. For every day has its own burden. We have always strength to bear the evil when it comes. We have not strength to bear the foreboding of it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Anxiety Does Not Empty Tomorrow of Its Sorrows; It Empties Today of Its Strength

Notes:

  1. 1859, Sermons Preached in Union Chapel, Manchester by Alexander McLaren, Sermon 21: Anxious Care, Start Page 276, Quote Page 288, Dunnill, Palmer, and Company, Manchester, England. (Google Books Full View) link

If I Owned Hell and Texas, I Would Rent Texas and Live at the Other Place

Philip Sheridan? H. L. Mencken? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Texas is a beloved state to many, but it also has detractors. One comical remark compares the state unfavorably to Hades:

If I owned Hell and Texas, I’d rent out Texas and live in Hell.

Would you please explore the provenance of this joke?

Quote Investigator: Philip Sheridan was a General in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. In February 1866 a newspaper in Mobile, Alabama reported on a remark he made about Texas. The word “hell” was sanitized via the omission of two letters to yield “h—l” which fit contemporary sensibilities. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

So Gen. Sheridan, who was obliged to stop in Texas awhile on duty, said if “he owned Texas and h—l both, he would rent Texas and live in h—l!”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If I Owned Hell and Texas, I Would Rent Texas and Live at the Other Place

Notes:

  1. 1866 February 22, The Mobile Daily Times, Communicated from TRAVELER to the Editor of Mobile Times, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Mobile, Alabama. (Newspapers_com)