I Have Come to a Frightening Conclusion. I Am the Decisive Element in the Classroom

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Haim G. Ginott? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The major German literary figure Goethe has received credit for a passage that begins:

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate.

I have not found any solid ascriptions to Goethe in German or English. Oddly, a similar remark has been attributed to the educator and psychologist Haim G. Ginott. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe crafted this quotation. He died in 1832 and received credit in a message posted to the Usenet discussion system in 1998.

In 1972 Haim G. Ginott published “Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers”, and the preface contained a series of memorably vivid statements that have been widely repeated with occasional garbling. Ginott stated that he composed the remarks when he was a young teacher, and they summed up the book’s philosophy: 1

I have come to a frightening conclusion.
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

QI has placed each sentence on a separate line for readability, but in the book they are combined into a single paragraph. This extensive excerpt has been reproduced here for research and educational purposes.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Come to a Frightening Conclusion. I Am the Decisive Element in the Classroom

Notes:

  1. 1972, Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers by Dr. Haim G. Ginott, Chapter: Preface, Quote Page 15, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

When Is a Mouse If It Spins? Because the Higher It Gets the Fewer

Robert Overton? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The question and answer of the following exasperating riddle appear to be nonsensical:

Question: Why is a mouse when it spins?
Answer: The higher, the fewer.

Would you please examine the provenance of this conundrum?

Quote Investigator: Robert Overton published “Ten Minutes: Holiday Yarns and Recitations” as a Christmas book for gift-givers. “The Manchester Guardian” of Manchester, England mentioned the work in October of 1892. 1

Overton’s version of the pseudo-riddle was somewhat different. He included it in the eighteenth tale titled “A Cry from Colney Hatch”. The riddle began with “when” instead of “why”: 2

Question: When is a mouse if it spins?
Answer: Because the higher it gets the fewer.

The ill-fated protagonist Harehead encounters a prankster named Smoogleslush who tells him the question and answer of the riddle, but Harehead is unable to comprehend the conundrum. After some misadventures he is driven to madness by his inability to grasp the riddle, and he is placed into an asylum at Colney Hatch. The astute reader surmises that the two statements really form a pseudo-riddle. The pair was deliberately constructed to be unintelligible. The question and answer have no ready interpretations.

Below are additional selected citations and excerpts in chronological order.

Continue reading When Is a Mouse If It Spins? Because the Higher It Gets the Fewer

Notes:

  1. 1892 October 29, The Manchester Guardian, Christmas Books, Quote Page 9, Column 2, Manchester, England. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1892, Ten Minutes: Holiday Yarns and Recitations by Robert Overton, Story 18: A Cry from Colney Hatch: When Is a Mouse If It Spins?, Start Page 93, End Page 96, Dean and Son, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?

Creator: Edmund Wilson, influential twentieth-century American critic

Context: This quotation is the title of an article by Edmund Wilson published in “The New Yorker” magazine in 1945. 1

In 1926 the famous mystery writer Agatha Christie published the landmark novel “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”. The remarkable twist ending has been surprising and delighting readers for more than ninety years. Yet, some arbiters of literary taste are supremely indifferent to the questions posed by tales of this type.

Continue reading Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?

Notes:

  1. 1945 January 20, The New Yorker, Books: Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?: A Second Report on Detective Fiction by Edmund Wilson, Start Page 59, Quote Page 59, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans)

A Copy of the Universe Is Not What Is Required of Art; One of the Damned Thing Is Ample

Rebecca West? Virginia Woolf? Nelson Goodman? Noam Chomsky? Vita Sackville-West? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Quantum mechanics has an interpretation that envisions many worlds. Also, modal logic has a semantics that features many possible worlds. Yet, the expansive idea of many universes or worlds has waggish detractors. One comical response to this plenteous philosophy states:

One of the damn things is enough.

Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI occurred in a 1928 collection of essays by the prominent British author and critic Rebecca West. Her piece titled “The Strange Necessity” discussed the fidelity of representation within artworks. She believed it was wrong-headed for an artist to unduly concentrate on achieving verisimilitude. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

We feel impatient with Royal Academy stuff of that sort because really the makers of it ought to have learned by this time that a copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned thing is ample.

West’s barb about artistic realism was not really aimed at the many worlds of quantum mechanics or modal logic. Modern expressions typically use the word “enough”, but West used the word “ample”. In addition, she used the singular “thing” instead of ‘things”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Copy of the Universe Is Not What Is Required of Art; One of the Damned Thing Is Ample

Notes:

  1. 1928, The Strange Necessity: Essays and Reviews by Rebecca West, Essay 1: The Strange Necessity, Start Page 13, Quote Page 131, Jonathan Cape, London, England. (Verified with scans)

The Suspense in a Novel Is Not Only in the Reader, But in the Novelist Himself, Who Is Intensely Curious Too About What Will Happen To the Hero

Mary McCarthy? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some writers carefully map out the full plot of a novel before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Other writers begin a story relying on an incomplete character sketch and a theme. The prominent novelist and critic Mary McCarthy said she felt suspense while writing and was curious to know the future of her characters. Would you please help me to find this quotation?

Quote Investigator: In 1961 Mary McCarthy published the collection “On the Contrary: Articles of Belief 1946-1961” which included a piece titled “Settling the Colonel’s Hash” based on a talk she delivered at the Bread Loaf School of English in February 1954. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

In any work that is truly creative, I believe, the writer cannot be omniscient in advance about the effects that he proposes to produce. The suspense in a novel is not only in the reader, but in the novelist himself, who is intensely curious too about what will happen to the hero.

McCarthy gave the following example of a novelist who in her opinion began composing with the guidance of only a schematic plot:

Jane Austen may know in a general way that Emma will marry Mr. Knightley in the end (the reader knows this too, as a matter of fact); the suspense for the author lies in the how, in the twists and turns of circumstance, waiting but as yet unknown, that will bring the consummation about.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Suspense in a Novel Is Not Only in the Reader, But in the Novelist Himself, Who Is Intensely Curious Too About What Will Happen To the Hero

Notes:

  1. 1961, On the Contrary: Articles of Belief 1946-1961, by Mary McCarthy, Essay: Settling the Colonel’s Hash, Date: February 1954, Description: Given first as a talk at the Bread Loaf School of English, in Middlebury, Vermont, Start Page 225, Quote Page 341, Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy, New York. (Verified with scans)

Where Two People Are Writing the Same Book, Each Believes He Gets All the Worries and Only Half the Royalties

Agatha Christie? James Beasley Simpson? Joe Bushkin? Leonard Lyons? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Successful collaboration is difficult to achieve for many creators. The outstanding mystery writer Agatha Christie once referred to the difficulty of splitting royalties while explaining why she did not have coauthors. Would you please help me to find her remark?

Quote Investigator: The earliest citation located by QI appeared in a compilation of quotations published in 1957 by James Beasley Simpson. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worries and only half the royalties.

Agatha Christie, British mystery writer, news summaries of March 15, 1955.

QI has not yet found a newspaper article containing this statement on the date mentioned by Simpson, but electronic archives are incomplete. Also, QI does not have access to all pertinent databases.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Where Two People Are Writing the Same Book, Each Believes He Gets All the Worries and Only Half the Royalties

Notes:

  1. 1957, Best Quotes of ’54 ’55 ’56, Compiled by James Beasley Simpson, Section: Authors 1955, Quote Page 112, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York. (Verified on paper)

He, Who Will Not Reason, Is a Bigot; He, Who Cannot, Is a Fool; and He, Who Dares Not, Is a Slave

Lord Byron? William Drummond? Marguerite Gardiner? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: My favorite quotation is a brilliant tripartite observation about rationality. Here are two versions:

(1) Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.

(2) He, who will not reason, is a bigot; he, who cannot, is a fool; and he, who dares not, is a slave.

This saying has confusingly been ascribed to two very different individuals: romantic poet Lord Byron and Scottish philosopher William Drummond. Would you please untangle this attribution?

Quote Investigator: In 1805 William Drummond published “Academical Questions”, and the target quotation appeared in the final lines of the preface. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Prejudice may be trusted to guard the outworks for a short space of time, while Reason slumbers in the citadel; but if the latter sink into a lethargy, the former will quickly erect a standard for herself. Philosophy, wisdom, and liberty, support each other; he, who will not reason, is a bigot; he, who cannot, is a fool; and he, who dares not, is a slave.

Lord Byron should not receive credit for this saying. There are two potential sources of confusion. Byron’s major poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” has usually been published together with notes. One of the notes for the fourth canto contains the quotation above. The words are credited to William Drummond, but careless readers may have reassigned the statement directly to Byron.

The other possible wellspring of confusion is a book by Lord Byron’s friend Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington. She described at length her conversations with the poet, and she stated that Byron recommended Drummond’s works while employing the quotation under analysis. Byron credited Drummond when he used the line, but careless individuals may have incorrectly credited Byron.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading He, Who Will Not Reason, Is a Bigot; He, Who Cannot, Is a Fool; and He, Who Dares Not, Is a Slave

Notes:

  1. 1805, Academical Questions by the Right Honourable William Drummond Volume 1, Section: Preface, Start Page iii, Quote Page xv, Printed by W. Bulmer, and Company, London; Sold by Messrs. Cadell and Davies, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Most People Would Die Sooner Than Think—In Fact, They Do So

Bertrand Russell? Sheldon? John Ruskin? Woods Hutchinson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Cantankerous individuals who believe they are surrounded by an ignorant and unthinking public sometimes proclaim:

  • People would rather die than think.

This statement has been enhanced with a funny addition that reinvigorates the cliché. Here are two versions:

  • Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do.
  • Most people would rather die than think, and many of them do.

The influential British intellectual Bertrand Russell has received credit for this saying. Would you please trace this saying?

Quote Investigator: Bertrand Russell did include an instance in his 1925 book about physics titled “The ABC of Relativity”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think—in fact, they do so. But the fact that a spherical universe seems odd to people who have been brought up on Euclidean prejudices is no evidence that it is impossible.

Confusion has occurred because Russell’s book has been reprinted and revised several times over the years. The humorous statement above was omitted from the revised 1958 edition and subsequent editions.

Interestingly, Bertrand Russell did not create this joke. An elaborate version was in circulation by 1913. Below are additional selected citations and further details in chronological order.

Continue reading Most People Would Die Sooner Than Think—In Fact, They Do So

Notes:

  1. 1925, The ABC of Relativity by Bertrand Russell, Chapter XI: Is the Universe Finite?, Quote Page 166, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Verified with scans)

Three Things in Human Life Are Important. The First Is To Be Kind. The Second Is To Be Kind. And the Third Is To Be Kind

Henry James? Fred Rogers? Billy James? Leon Edel? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent American literary figure Henry James apparently crafted an expression with a three-fold repetition of the phrase “be kind”. The influential children’s television personality Fred Rogers has been credited with a similar statement. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: A landmark biography of Henry James provides substantive evidence that he did construct this saying. There is also evidence that Fred Rogers employed an instance of this remark; however, Rogers credited James. See the 2003 citation given further below for details.

Henry James died in 1916, and in 1953 Leon Edel released the first installment of his monumental five volume biography of James. The final book titled “Henry James: The Master: 1901-1916” appeared in 1972. One chapter discussed Billy James who was the second son of William James; thus, Billy was the nephew of Henry James. Billy came to England to visit with his uncle in October 1902. Years later Billy spoke directly to Leon Edel while he was composing the biography; hence, the following passage about the visit was probably based on the testimony Billy gave to Edel. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

His vision was of a short, rotund man, with a quick sensibility and a boundless capacity for affection. What he carried away from his elderly uncle was the memory of hearing him say, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Three Things in Human Life Are Important. The First Is To Be Kind. The Second Is To Be Kind. And the Third Is To Be Kind

Notes:

  1. 1978 (1972 Copyright), Henry James: The Master: 1901-1916 by Leon Edel, Book Two: The Beast in the Jungle, Chapter: Billy, Quote Page 124, A Discus Book: Avon Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

Drama Is Life with the Dull Bits Cut Out

Alfred Hitchcock? Leonard Lyons? François Truffaut? Steven Rattner? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Thrill master Alfred Hitchcock made a brilliant observation about storytelling requiring the excision of “dull bits” or “boring bits” from a narrative. Would you please help me to find a citation that presents the precise phrasing for this remark?

Quote Investigator: In 1956 Hitchcock conducted a preview of his latest film “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. Popular syndicated columnist Leonard Lyons praised the taut work and relayed a quotation from the director: 1

It’s perfect Hitchcock, full of suspense, color and constant interest. The director said after the showing: “Movies have lost a lot by this new trend towards documentary realism at the sacrifice of fantasy. After all, drama is life with the dull bits cut out.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Drama Is Life with the Dull Bits Cut Out

Notes:

  1. 1956 March 2, The Pittsburgh Press, The Lyons Den by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 19, Column 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)