Any Authentic Work of Art Must Start an Argument Between the Artist and His Audience

Rebecca West? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: True artists are often troublemakers. They challenge their audience and cause argumentation. The prominent British author and literary critic Rebecca West said something similar to this. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote investigator: Rebecca West’s 1957 book “The Court and the Castle” discussed themes present in the works of Shakespeare, Proust, and Kafka. In the first chapter she offered the following thesis. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

For any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience. The artist creates that work of art by analyzing an experience and synthesizing the results of his analysis into a form which excites an appetite for further experience.

Below are additional details and selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Any Authentic Work of Art Must Start an Argument Between the Artist and His Audience

Notes:

  1. 1957, The Court and the Castle: Some Treatments of a Recurrent Theme by Rebecca West, Part One: The Court of Kings, Chapter 1: Was Hamlet Without Will?, Quote Page 5, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified with scans)

I Never Seek To Take the Credit; We All Assume That Oscar Said It

Dorothy Parker? Louella Parsons? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The 19th-century Irish playwright Oscar Wilde is a superstar in the realm of quotations, and many scintillating expressions have been incorrectly attributed to him. A humorous verse about this phenomenon was composed by another wit, Dorothy Parker. The verse ends with this line:

We all assume that Oscar said it.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1927 Dorothy Parker published in “Life” magazine a set of eleven comical short verses about prominent literary figures under the title “A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature”. The following four lines were about Oscar Wilde. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

Below are additional details and selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Never Seek To Take the Credit; We All Assume That Oscar Said It

Notes:

  1. 1927 June 2, Life, A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature by Dorothy Parker, Poem: Oscar Wilde, Start Page 13, Quote Page 13, Office of Life Magazine, New York. (ProQuest American Periodicals)

There Are Three Main Plots for the Human Interest Story: Boy-Meets-Girl, The Little Tailor, and The Man-Who-Learned-Better

Robert Heinlein? L. Ron Hubbard? Catherine Crook de Camp? L. Sprague de Camp? Brian W. Aldiss? John Brunner? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous science fiction author Robert Heinlein apparently contended that there were only three basic templates for stories. One template was “The Brave Little Tailor”, a German fairy tale about a clever individual who combined luck and intelligence to perform a series of difficult feats, thereby obtaining success and happiness.

Would you please help me to determine the other two types of stories together with a precise citation for Heinlein’s commentary?

Quote Investigator: In 1947 Lloyd Arthur Eshbach published a variegated collection of essays about writing science fiction called “Of Worlds Beyond”. Robert Heinlein contributed a piece titled “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction” in which he initially splits speculative tales into two large groups: gadget stories and human interest stories. Next, he splits the latter group into three categories. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

There are three main plots for the human interest story: boy-meets girl, The Little Tailor, and the man-who-learned-better. Credit the last category to L. Ron Hubbard; I had thought for years that there were but two plots—he pointed out to me the third type.

The 1947 essay was reprinted several times, and the text above was taken from the 1977 collection “Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction” edited by Damon Knight. Below are additional details and selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Are Three Main Plots for the Human Interest Story: Boy-Meets-Girl, The Little Tailor, and The Man-Who-Learned-Better

Notes:

  1. 1977, Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction, Edited by Damon Knight, On the Writing of Speculative Fiction by Robert A. Heinlein (This article was reprinted from the 1964 Advent edition of the book “Of Worlds Beyond” compiled by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach; this book was first published by Fantasy Press in 1947), Start Page 199, Quote Page 200 and 201, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified with scans)

There Are Two Types of Speakers: Those Who Are Nervous and Those Who Are Liars

Mark Twain? Richard Branson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following comical remark reassures neophyte speakers that their anxious feelings are universal:

There are only two types of speakers: (1) the nervous (2) the liars.

This quip is usually attributed to the famous humorist Mark Twain, but I cannot find a solid citation, and I have become skeptical. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has been unable to find this statement in the writings, dictations, or speeches of Mark Twain. It does not appear on the Twain Quotes website edited by Barbara Schmidt, 1 nor does it appear in the large compilation “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger. 2 The ascription to Mark Twain is currently unsupported.

Twain died in 1910, and the earliest close match located by QI appeared many years later in a posting to the Usenet newsgroup alt.business.seminars in 1998, Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 3

Some of the world’s most famous presenters have freely admitted to nervousness and stage fright. Mark Twain said it best, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Are Two Types of Speakers: Those Who Are Nervous and Those Who Are Liars

Notes:

  1. Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched March 5, 2020) link
  2. 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified with search)
  3. 1998 January 13, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: alt.business.seminars, From: Pres…@LJLSeminars.com, Subject: Overcoming Speaking Anxiety. (Google Groups Search; Accessed March 4, 2020) link

The Income Tax Has Made More Liars Out of the American People Than Golf Has

Will Rogers? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some golfers are not particularly conscientious when counting the number of strokes required to complete a course. A humorist once pointed to another activity that challenges scruples:

The income tax has made liars out of more people than golf.

Do you know the precise phrasing of this quip and the name of the creator?

Quote Investigator: In April 1927 Will Rogers widely syndicated column discussed taxes in the United States. Boldface added to excerpt by QI: 1

The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make one out on the level you don’t know when it’s through if you are a crook or a martyr.

Of course people are getting smarter nowadays; they are letting lawyers, instead of their conscience, be their guide.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Income Tax Has Made More Liars Out of the American People Than Golf Has

Notes:

  1. 1923 April 7, The Chattanooga News, Section: Magazine Section, Income Tax Has Made More Liars Out of the American People Than Golf: Helping Girls With Their Income Tax by Will Rogers, Quote Page 5, Column 2, Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Newspapers_com)

Live That You Wouldn’t Be Ashamed To Sell the Family Parrot To the Town Gossip

Will Rogers? Ray Thompson? Walter Winchell? Milton Berle? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A talkative pet parrot can cause enormous embarrassment when it publicly recites phrases spoken in private. A comedian offered the following guidance:

Live your life so you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell your family parrot to the town gossip.

Popular entertainer Will Rogers has often received credit for this remark, but I have been unable to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in 1928 in a Meyersdale, Pennsylvania newspaper which acknowledged another periodical. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

So live that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.—Troy Times.

QI has not located the pertinent issue of “Troy Times”. Hence, the creator remains anonymous at this time. Will Rogers received credit for the joke by 1946; however, this long delay weakens the value of this attribution.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Live That You Wouldn’t Be Ashamed To Sell the Family Parrot To the Town Gossip

Notes:

  1. 1928 July 12, Meyersdale Republic, (Filler item), Quote Page 6, Column 4, Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

No One in This World Has Ever Lost Money by Underestimating the Intelligence of the Great Masses of the Plain People

H. L. Mencken? Louis B. Mayer? Arthur L. Mayer? David Ogilvy? P. T. Barnum? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A sardonic comment about the general public has been credited to the famous journalist curmudgeon H. L. Mencken. Here are two versions:

(1) No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

(2) Nobody ever lost money underestimating the taste of the American people.

I have not been able to determine the original phrasing and a precise citation. Would you please help me?

Quote Investigator: H. L. Mencken was based in Baltimore, Maryland where he wrote for “The Sun” and its companion newspaper “The Evening Sun”. On September 18, 1926 he penned a column about the success of tabloid newspapers for “The Evening Sun” which included the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby. The mistake that is made always runs the other way. Because the plain people are able to speak and understand, and even, in many cases, to read and write, it is assumed that they have ideas in their heads, and an appetite for more. This assumption is a folly.

Mencken’s column was reprinted in other newspapers. For example, on the next day, September 19, the piece appeared in the “Chicago Sunday Tribune” of Illinois 2 and the “San Francisco Chronicle” of California. 3

During the ensuing years the quotation has evolved into more streamlined forms. The prolix remark about searching and employing agents has usually been omitted. The phrase “lost money” has often been replaced by “went broke”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading No One in This World Has Ever Lost Money by Underestimating the Intelligence of the Great Masses of the Plain People

Notes:

  1. 1926 September 18, The Evening Sun, As H. L. Sees It by H. L. Mencken, Quote Page 7, Column 2, Baltimore, Maryland. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1926 September 19, Chicago Sunday Tribune (Chicago Daily Tribune), Notes on Journalism by H. L. Mencken, Quote Page G1, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
  3. 1926 September 19, San Francisco Chronicle, Tabloid a la First Reader by H. L. Mencken, Quote Page 2F, Column 6, San Francisco, California. (GenealogyBank)

To Be Able To Fill Leisure Intelligently Is the Last Product of Civilization

Bertrand Russell? Arnold J. Toynbee? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: People who are attempting to climb the ladder of success today are often working more hours than ever before. Yet, the notable mathematician and intellectual Bertrand Russell envisioned a different future world in which the crucial challenge would be deciding how to fill leisure time intelligently.

A similar observation has been credited to the historian Arnold Toynbee. Perhaps advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will reactivate questions about pursuing leisure. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1930 Bertrand Russell published “The Conquest of Happiness” which included the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Most people, when they are left free to fill their own time according to their own choice, are at a loss to think of anything sufficiently pleasant to be worth doing. And whatever they decide on, they are troubled by the feeling that something else would have been pleasanter. To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Be Able To Fill Leisure Intelligently Is the Last Product of Civilization

Notes:

  1. 1930, The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell, Chapter 14: Work, Quote Page 208, George Allen & Unwin, London. (Verified with scans)

If I Had Known That These Legs Were One Day To Carry a Chancellor, I’d Have Taken Better Care of Them

Robert Henley? Lord Northampton? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Experiencing happiness and maintaining a positive outlook toward life is much easier to accomplish when one is enjoying good health. An English Lord once complained that he would have taken better care of his legs if he had known how long he was going to live. Would you please help me to find the precise quotation and a citation?

Quote Investigator: Robert Henley, Earl of Northington served as the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain in the 1760s. In 1831 his grandson published a book about his prominent ancestor. Henley who died in 1772 sometimes experienced severe fits of gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis. His grandson reported the Earl’s remark about his legs. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

When suffering from its effects, he was once overheard in the House of Lords to mutter after some painful walks between the Woolsack and the Bar, “If I had known that these legs were one day to carry a Chancellor, I’d have taken better care of them when I was a lad.”

The QI website has a separate article about the following related saying: “If I had known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If I Had Known That These Legs Were One Day To Carry a Chancellor, I’d Have Taken Better Care of Them

Notes:

  1. 1831, A Memoir of the Life of Robert Henley, Earl of Northington, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain by The Right Honourable Robert Lord Henley (His Grandson), Quote Page 13, John Murray, Albemarle Street, London; Printer: C. Roworth and Sons, Bell Yard, Temple Bar, London. (Internet Archive archive.org) link

There Are Only Four Stories: The Siege of the City, the Return Home, the Quest, and the Sacrifice of a God

Jorge Luis Borges? Paulo Coelho? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous Argentinian short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges apparently believed that there were only four archetypal tales. Would you please explore this topic and identify the four tales?

Quote Investigator: In 1972 Jorge Luis Borges published a collection titled “El Oro de los Tigres” (“The Gold of the Tigers”). Most of the pieces were poems, but one piece was an essay titled “Los Cuatro Ciclos” (“The Four Cycles”) which described four fundamental stories that have been told and retold throughout the history of humankind. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

In the brief prose “The Four Cycles” he reviews four stories: one about a city sieged and defended by brave men (the Troy of the Homeric poems); another, the story of a return (Ulysses comes back to Ithaca); the third, a variation of the last, is about a search (Jason and the Golden Fleece, the thirty birds and the Simurg, Ahab and the whale, the heroes of James and Kafka); and the last one about a sacrifice of a god (Attis, Odin, Christ). Borges then concludes: “Four are the stories. During the time left to us we will continue telling them, transformed.”

The analytical passage above was from “Borges and the Kabbalah: And Other Essays on His Fiction and Poetry” by Jaime Alazraki. QI has not yet seen the original essay in Spanish by Borges.

The QI website has a separate article about the following related saying: There are only two plots: (1) A person goes on a journey (2) A stranger comes to town.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Are Only Four Stories: The Siege of the City, the Return Home, the Quest, and the Sacrifice of a God

Notes:

  1. 2009 (1988 Copyright), Borges and the Kabbalah: And Other Essays on His Fiction and Poetry by Jaime Alazraki, Chapter 13: Epilogue: On Borge’s Death, Start Page 176, Quote Page 184, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. (Google Books Preview)