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: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, … Continue reading
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: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 … Continue reading
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.
|↑1||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|
|↑2||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|