I Have Seen Dark Hours in My Life, and I Have Seen the Darkness Gradually Disappearing and the Light Gradually Increasing

Frederick Douglass? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass once stated that society was slowly improving. He believed that he was seeing “the darkness gradually disappearing and the light gradually increasing”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: On October 22, 1890 “The Evening Star” newspaper of Washington D. C. reported on a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church on the previous night. His concluding words looked to the future with an element of optimism engendered by a religious outlook. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

I have seen dark hours in my life, and I have seen the darkness gradually disappearing and the light gradually increasing. One by one I have seen obstacles removed, errors corrected, prejudices softened, proscriptions relinquished, and my people advancing in all the elements that go to make up the sum of general welfare. And I remember that God reigns in eternity, and that whatever delays, whatever disappointments and discouragements may come, truth, justice, liberty and humanity will ultimately prevail.

Below are additional selected citations and comments.

Continue reading I Have Seen Dark Hours in My Life, and I Have Seen the Darkness Gradually Disappearing and the Light Gradually Increasing

Notes:

  1. 1890 October 22, The Evening Star, White Man and Negro: A Characteristic Speech by Hon. Fred Douglass, Quote Page 9, Column 3, Washington, D. C. (Newspapers_com)

This Is My Truth, Now Tell Me Yours

Aneurin Bevan? Jennie Lee? Michael Foot? Friedrich Nietzsche? Zarathustra? Manic Street Preachers? John Strachey? Hubert Griffith? Herbert L. Matthews? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A U.K politician expressed a willingness to hear alternative viewpoints by using the following expression:

This is my truth; tell me yours.

British Labour Party leader Aneurin Bevan has received credit for this remark. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: There is substantive evidence that Aneurin Bevan employed this statement. The second volume of a comprehensive biography of Bevan by Michael Foot appeared in 1973, and Foot attributed the saying to Bevan. Interestingly, Foot also alluded to a precursor remark by the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Often he would protest furiously: ‘O God why did you make the world so beautiful and the life of man so short?’ But he would also say, with Nietzsche, ‘this is my truth, now tell me yours’, thus invoking his special gift of imaginative tolerance.

Jennie Lee who was married to Bevan from 1934 up to his death in 1960 also attributed the saying to Bevan. See the 1980 citation below. Admittedly, the ascriptions from Foot and Lee appeared after the death of Bevan which reduced their probative value.

Here are additional selected citations and comments.

Continue reading This Is My Truth, Now Tell Me Yours

Notes:

  1. 1973, Aneurin Bevan: A Biography by Michael Foot, Volume 2: 1945-1960, Chapter 17: 1960, Quote Page 657, Davis-Poynter, London. (Verified with scans)

This Is My Way/Truth; Tell Me Your Way/Truth

Friedrich Nietzsche? Zarathustra? John Strachey? Hubert Griffith? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Different people hold divergent views of the world. Here are three versions of a germane remark:

  • You have heard my truth; now tell me yours.
  • This then is my truth. What is yours?
  • This is my way; where is yours?

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has received credit for this comment. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Between 1883 and 1885 Friedrich Nietzsche published “Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen” (“Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None”). Zarathustra was an important religious figure, but Nietzsche constructed his own fictional didactic version of the prophet. The third part of the Nietzsche’s book contained a passage in which the character Zarathustra discussed his pursuit of truth. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

By many ways, in many ways, I reached my truth: it was not on one ladder that I climbed to the height where my eye roams over my distance. And it was only reluctantly that I ever inquired about the way: that always offended my taste. I preferred to question and try out the ways themselves.

Zarathustra continued his commentary by signaling that his way/truth might be different from the way/truth of the reader:

A trying and questioning was my every move; and verily, one must also learn to answer such questioning. That, however, is my taste—not good, not bad, but my taste of which I am no longer ashamed and which I have no wish to hide.

“This is my way; where is yours?”—thus I answered those who asked me “the way.” For the way—that does not exist.

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

QI conjectures that the saying under analysis evolved from Nietzsche’s words. The translation above was created by Princeton University Professor of Philosophy Walter Kaufmann in 1954. An excerpt from the original German is presented below together with additional English renderings.

Continue reading This Is My Way/Truth; Tell Me Your Way/Truth

Notes:

  1. 1976 (1954 and 1968 Copyright), The Portable Nietzsche by Friedrich Nietzsche, Translation by Walter Kaufmann (Princeton University), Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Third Part, Quote Page 307, The Viking Press, New York. (Verified with scans)

Years Wrinkle the Skin, But To Give Up Enthusiasm Wrinkles the Soul

Frank Crane? Douglas MacArthur? Watterson Lowe? Ann Landers? Jay B. Nash? L. F. Phelan? Samuel Ullman?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to a popular essay about youth the primary cause of aging is the desertion of one’s ideals. Also, years may wrinkle the skin, but losing enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. This essay has been attributed to U.S. General Douglas MacArthur and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a Carlsbad, New Mexico newspaper in April 1914. Prominent columnist and minister Dr. Frank Crane penned the essay which began with the following paragraphs. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips, and supple knees; it is a tempter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions. It is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty more than in a boy of twenty.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals.

Years wrinkle the skin; but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Below are additional selected citations and comments.

Continue reading Years Wrinkle the Skin, But To Give Up Enthusiasm Wrinkles the Soul

Notes:

  1. 1914 April 17, The Carlsbad Argus, Society: Youth by Dr. Frank Crane, Quote Page 8, Column 1, Carlsbad, New Mexico. (Newspapers_com)

Paradox Is Truth Standing On Its Head To Attract Attention

Oscar Wilde? G. K. Chesterson? Richard G. Moulton? Coulson Kernahan? William Thomas Stead? Richard Le Gallienne? C. Ranger Gull? Leonard Cresswell Ingleby? Guy Thorne? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The contemplation of a seemingly self-contradictory statement can help to illuminate a larger truth. This notion may be expressed with figurative language:

Paradox is merely truth standing on its head to attract attention.

The famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde and the English literary figure G. K. Chesterton have received credit for this remark. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI appeared in April 1898 within the London periodical “The Review of Reviews” edited by William Thomas Stead. A piece titled “The Jubilee of the Awakening of 1848” that was probably written by the editor began with the following discussion. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Success is a bad word!” said Victor Hugo once in his magnificently paradoxical fashion. “Success is a bad word. Its false resemblance to merit deceives mankind.” Richard Le Gallienne, who has recently been airing his ambrosial locks in the heated air of American lecture-rooms, once told his audience that “a paradox was a truth standing on its head in order to attract attention.” Victor Hugo’s paradox is a truth that hardly needs to be stood on its head to command attention.

QI believes that English author Richard Le Gallienne is the leading candidate for crafter of this expression. Le Gallienne was a close friend of Oscar Wilde. Further below in this article QI presents a 1923 citation in which Le Gallienne took credit for this saying, and he applied it to Oscar Wilde.

The attribution of this saying to Wilde may have occurred due to the following known misquotation mechanism: A well-known name appears near a vivid statement, and a careless reader incorrectly reassigns the statement to the prominent person.

G. K. Chesterton employed an instance of this saying in a 1935 short story. Chesterton’s story narrator disclaimed credit for the remark. Details are given further below.

The attribution to Chesterton may have occurred due to the following known misquotation mechanism: A famous person uses a quotation which is already in circulation. A cavalier reader reassigns the quotation to the famous person.

Here are additional selected citations and comments.

Continue reading Paradox Is Truth Standing On Its Head To Attract Attention

Notes:

  1. 1898 April, The Review of Reviews, Volume 17, Edited by W. T. Stead (William Thomas Stead), Section: The Topic of the Month, Article: The Jubilee of the Awakening of 1848, Start Page 339, Quote Page 339, Column 1, Published at the Office of the Review of Reviews, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

I Prefer an Injurious Truth To a Useful Error. Truth Heals Any Pain It May Inflict On Us

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Thomas Mann? André Gide? Arthur Koestler? Garrett Hardin? Horace Mann? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Sometimes a truthful statement can undermine a cherished belief and provide comfort to an adversary. Thus, it is tempting to embrace an untruthful statement that provides temporary solace. Yet, accepting uncomfortable truths leads to personal growth, whereas accepting errors and lies fails terribly over time. Here are three instances from a family of sayings:

  • An injurious truth is better than a useful error.
  • A harmful truth is better than a useful lie.
  • A destructive truth is preferable to a constructive error.

These expressions have been attributed to two prominent German literary figures Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Mann. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1787 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote a letter to Charlotte von Stein which included a discussion of this concept. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Es ist nichts groß als das Wahre und das kleinste Wahre ist groß. Ich kam neulich auf einen Gedancken der mich sagen ließ: auch eine schädliche Wahrheit ist nützlich, weil sie nur Augenblicke schädlich seyn kann und alsdann zu andern Wahrheiten führt, die immer nützlich und sehr nützlich werden müßen und umgekehrt ist ein nützlicher Irrthum schädlich weil er es nur augenblicklich seyn kann und in andre Irrthümer verleitet die immer schädlicher werden.

Translator Heinz Norden rendered the above passage into English for the book “Goethe’s World View” in 1963: 2

Nothing is great but truth, and the smallest truth is great. The other day I had a thought, which I put like this: Even a harmful truth is useful, for it can be harmful only for the moment and will lead to other truths, which must always become useful, very much so. Conversely, even a useful error is harmful, for it can be useful only for the moment, enticing us into other errors, which become more and more harmful.

Goethe formulated a more compact version of this idea which was reprinted in “Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung” (“General Literature Newspaper”) in 1801: 3

Schädliche Wahrheit, ich ziehe sie vor dem nützlichen Irrthum;
Wahrheit heilet den Schmerz, den sie vielleicht uns erregt.

Penguin Books published an English translation of the above statements in 1964: 4

I prefer an injurious truth to a useful error.
Truth heals any pain it may inflict on us.

Below are additional selected citations and comments.

Continue reading I Prefer an Injurious Truth To a Useful Error. Truth Heals Any Pain It May Inflict On Us

Notes:

  1. 1902, Title: Goethe-Briefe: Mit Einleitungen und Erläuterungen, (Goethe’s Letters: With Introductions and Explanations), Volume 3: Wiemar und Italien 1784-1792, Author: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Editor: Philipp Stein, (Letter dated June 8, 1787 from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to Charlotte von Stein), Start Page: 163, Quote Page: 165, Publisher: von Otto Eisner, Berlin (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1963, Goethe’s World View: Presented in His Reflections and Maxims by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Edited with an Introduction by Frederick Ungar, Translated by Heinz Norden, (Untitled passage), Quote Page 72 and 73, Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  3. 1801 January, Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (General Literature Newspaper), Number 2, Schöne Künste (Fine Arts): (Review of Göthe’s neue Schriften: 1795-1800 (Göthe’s new writings)), Quote Number 50, Start Column 9, Quote Column 15, Jena, in der Expedition dieser Zeitung. (Google Books Full View) link
  4. 1986 (1964 Copyright), Goethe Selected Verse, Introduced and Edited by David Luke, Section: Vier Jahreszeiten (The Four Seasons), Quote Page 130, Penguin Classics: Penguin Books, New York. Verified with scans)

What We Have Once Enjoyed We Can Never Lose . . . All That We Love Deeply Becomes a Part of Us

Helen Keller? Anne Sullivan? Sherokee Ilse? Kathy R. Floyd? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The loss of a companion is heartbreaking. The following viewpoint has provided solace to many:

What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

These words have been attributed to the deaf-blind social activist Helen Keller, but I have been unable to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1929 Helen Keller published the book “We Bereaved” for individuals experiencing grief. The passage below contains two sentences that overlap the statement under investigation, and QI conjectures that these sentences were altered over time to yield the modern statement. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. A sunset, a mountain bathed in moonlight, the ocean in calm and in storm—we see these, love their beauty, hold the vision to our hearts. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

Interestingly, Keller decided to communicate the idea of the enduring presence of the departed via a passage filled with visual imagery.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading What We Have Once Enjoyed We Can Never Lose . . . All That We Love Deeply Becomes a Part of Us

Notes:

  1. 1929, We Bereaved by Helen Keller, Quote Page 2, Leslie Fulenwider Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)

There Is Nothing in This World That Someone Cannot Make a Little Worse and Sell a Little Cheaper

John Ruskin? J. A. Richards? The Pure Food Store? White Star Company? Percy D. Hagan? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: It is always possible to manufacture an item using inferior materials and sell it at a cheaper price than a quality item. The buyer who is foolishly guided by price alone becomes the lawful prey of the seller. The famous English art critic John Ruskin has received credit for eloquently expressing this point. Oddly, I have never seen a proper citation supporting the attribution to Ruskin. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the February 1901 issue of “Profitable Advertising: The Advertiser’s Trade Journal”. A correspondent named J. A. Richards of New York sent a letter of disagreement to the journal editor who had advocated the display of prices within advertisements. Richards believed that a focus on prices was undesirable for the sellers of quality goods. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

While you talk about the quality of your wares, you have your cheaper competitor where he cannot touch you. The breach between you is longer than his arm. When you begin to talk about prices, you are absolutely at his mercy. There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey. This is the doctrine of commercial foreordination, against which it is useless to contend.

Based on current evidence QI tentatively credits J. A. Richards with the saying in the bold text above. Yet, it remains possible that Richards was repeating a formulation that was already in circulation.

John Ruskin died in January 1900.  Numerous researchers have been unable to find this expression in his writings. He received credit by October 1926, but the long delay meant that the linkage was very weak.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is Nothing in This World That Someone Cannot Make a Little Worse and Sell a Little Cheaper

Notes:

  1. 1901 February, Profitable Advertising: The Advertiser’s Trade Journal, Volume 10, Number 9, Section: From “P.A’s” Point of View, (Excerpt from a letter to the editor written J. A. Richards of New York), Quote Page 636, Boston, Massachusetts. (HathiTrust Full View) link

A Hero Is No Braver Than an Ordinary Person, But the Hero Is Brave Five Minutes Longer

Marcel Proust? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Lord Palmerston? Duke of Wellington? Japanese Proverb? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The difference between demonstrating bravery and cowardice can be surprisingly small. Perseverance under extreme duress can lead to success. Here are three instances from a family of sayings about heroism and tenacity:

  1. A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
  2. Victory is on the side that can hold out a quarter of an hour longer than the other.
  3. The conquering soldier is not braver than the soldiers of other countries, but he is brave ten minutes longer.

This saying has been attributed to the transcendental philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and the British military leader Arthur Wellesley. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the May 1878 issue of a London periodical called the “Temple Bar”. An unnamed author penned a statement above bravery which was prefaced with a remark about success in the sport of fencing. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If you can hit a man two inches farther than he can hit you, you are, in the truthful language of the “Fancy,” his better man physically. ‘Tis the same morally: all men are brave, but if one man is brave two minutes longer than the other he has a decided advantage.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Hero Is No Braver Than an Ordinary Person, But the Hero Is Brave Five Minutes Longer

Notes:

  1. 1878 May, Temple Bar: A London Magazine, Volume 53, Sticks, Stocks and Stones: Arma Virumque Cano, Start Page 50, Quote Page 54, Richard Bentley & Son, London.(Google Books Full View) link

You May Humbug the Town for Some Time Longer as a Tragedian; But Comedy Is a Serious Thing

David Garrick? Thomas Campbell? George Colman? John Simon? Wesley Ruggles? W. C. Fields? Carlotta Monti? Penelope Keith? Rex Harrison? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comedy is often lighthearted; hence, it is counter-intuitive to view it as a serious business, yet the creators and participants of humorous works face a harsh and crowded entertainment market; they must energetically support their projects. Here are three versions of a Hollywood adage:

  • Comedy is a serious matter.
  • Comedy is a serious business.
  • Comedy is a serious thing.

An extended version has been employed by thespians:

Any fool can play tragedy; but comedy is a damned serious business.

The popular eighteenth-century English actor David Garrick has received credit for this remark. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest semantic match to the full statement located by QI appeared in an 1834 biography of the prominent actress Sarah Siddons titled “Life of Mrs. Siddons” by Thomas Campbell. Siddons knew many fellow actors including David Garrick and John Bannister, and the book recounted a conversation between those two. Bannister had achieved success playing roles in tragedies, and he was contemplating broadening his repertoire to include comic characters. In the following passage the phrase “English Roscius” referred to Garrick who tried to dissuade Bannister. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

At another interview, he ventured to tell the English Roscius that he had some thoughts of attempting comedy. “Eh, eh?” said Garrick, “why no, don’t think of that, you may humbug the town for some time longer as a tragedian; but comedy is a serious thing, so don’t try it yet.” Bannister, however, attempted comedy; and his Don Whiskerandos (as he himself says) laughed his tragedy out of fashion.

As indicated above Bannister disregarded Garrick’s advice and achieved additional fame by playing the comical character Don Whiskerandos in the satire “The Critic” by the Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

This exchange between Bannister and Garrick was described by Campbell many years after the death of Garrick in 1779; hence, its credibility is reduced.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You May Humbug the Town for Some Time Longer as a Tragedian; But Comedy Is a Serious Thing

Notes:

  1. 1834, Life of Mrs. Siddons by Thomas Campbell, Volume 2, Chapter 4, (Footnote), Quote Page 113, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, London. (Google Books Full View) link