Whoever Is Winning at the Moment Will Always Seem To Be Invincible

George Orwell? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The naïve extrapolation of current events leads to faulty predictions. Apparently, the influential English novelist and essayist George Orwell made a point of this type regarding the overestimation of victors in recent battles. Too often people view ruthless contemporary winners as invincible and are unable to recognize flaws. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1946 George Orwell published an article titled “Second Thoughts on James Burnham” in the periodical “Polemic”. The essay was reprinted in volume 4 of “George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible. If the Japanese have conquered south Asia, then they will keep south Asia for ever, if the Germans have captured Tobruk, they will infallibly capture Cairo; if the Russians are in Berlin, it will not be long before they are in London: and so on. This habit of mind leads also to the belief that things will happen more quickly, completely, and catastrophically than they ever do in practice.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Whoever Is Winning at the Moment Will Always Seem To Be Invincible

Notes:

  1. 1968, George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Volume 4: In Front of Your Nose 1945-1950, Edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, Essay: James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution, Citation note located at end of essay: “Second Thoughts on James Burnham, Polemic, No. 3, May 1946”, Start Page 160, Quote Page 174, A Harvest/HBJ Book: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York. (Verified with scans)

The Meaning of Life Is That Nobody Knows the Meaning of Life

Woody Allen? Ken Kelley? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Philosophers, religious figures, and spiritual gurus have been making claims about the meaning of life for millennia. The comedian Woody Allen apparently offered his own quixotic analysis. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: On July 1, 1976 “Rolling Stone” magazine printed an interview with Woody Allen conducted by Ken Kelley. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Do you believe in reincarnation?

I certainly don’t believe in anything. It’s conceivable, but I don’t believe in it. Perhaps we come back as a deck reshuffling itself. Maybe we turn into birds. Who knows?

What, then, is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life is that nobody knows the meaning of life. We are not put here to have a good time and that’s what throws most of us, that sense that we all have an inalienable right to a good time.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Meaning of Life Is That Nobody Knows the Meaning of Life

Notes:

  1. 1976 July 1, Rolling Stone, Issue 216, A conversation with The Real Woody Allen (or someone just like him), Interview of Woody Allen conducted by Ken Kelley, Start Page 34, Quote Page 87 and 88, Rolling Stone, New York. (ProQuest)

Life Is Not a Spectacle Or a Feast; It Is a Predicament

George Santayana? W. H. Auden? Cyril Connolly? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Fortunate people experience life as an overflowing banquet coupled with a remarkable series of sights and sounds. But most people have more complicated ordeals. Here are two pertinent expressions:

Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament.
Life is neither a feast nor a spectacle but a predicament.

Prominent philosopher George Santayana has received credit for this saying, but I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has been unable to find an exact match within the writings and speeches of George Santayana. The closest match located by QI occurred within a lecture titled “The Unknowable” which Santayana delivered at Oxford University in 1923. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Poets and philosophers sometimes talk as if life were an entertainment, a feast of ordered sensations; but the poets, if not the philosophers, know too well in their hearts that life is no such thing; it is a predicament. We are caught in it; it is something compulsory, urgent, dangerous, and tempting. We are surrounded by enormous, mysterious, only half-friendly forces.

The passage above did communicate a similar idea. The keywords “feast” and “predicament” were present, and the word “entertainment” provided a near match for “spectacle”.

A citation given further below shows that Santayana received credit for the saying under examination by 1932. QI offers two different hypotheses:

(1) The saying was constructed as a paraphrase of the statement above by an unknown person. The saying was subsequently reassigned directly to Santayana. (This is a known misquotation mechanism.)

(2) Santayana crafted the saying as a concise reformulation of his own idea, but a precise citation has not been uncovered. In fact, a direct citation in the works of Santayana may not exist if he only spoke it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life Is Not a Spectacle Or a Feast; It Is a Predicament

Notes:

  1. 1923, The Unknowable: The Herbert Spencer Lecture, Delivered at Oxford, 24 October 1923 by George Santayana (Formerly Professor of Philosophy in Harvard University), Quote Page 10, Oxford University Press, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Judge Each Day Not By the Harvest You Reap But By the Seeds You Plant

Robert Louis Stevenson? William Arthur Ward? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An eloquent agricultural metaphor occurs within an astute proverb about the value of preparation and investment:

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.

The prominent Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson has received credit for this saying, but I have never seen a solid citation. Would you please help me to determine the true crafter of this remark?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Robert Louis Stevenson said or wrote this statement. He died in 1894, and the earliest match located by QI occurred several decades afterwards in May 1963 within the “Oklahoma City Star” newspaper of Oklahoma.

The saying was ascribed to William Arthur Ward who achieved fame as a motivational author and educator. Ward’s phrasing slightly differed from the version later attributed to Stevenson. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.—William A. Ward

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Judge Each Day Not By the Harvest You Reap But By the Seeds You Plant

Notes:

  1. 1963 May 17, Oklahoma City Star, Page Title: Pennsylvania Avenue Methodist Church, Post Script, Quote Page M-110, Column 1, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Newspapers_com)

Nostalgia Is a Dangerous Emotion Because It Glides So Easily Into Hatred and Resentment

Carolyn G. Heilbrun? Amanda Cross? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Nostalgia is a sentimental emotion that does not seem to be dangerous. Yet, wistful feelings for a bygone era can become a source of hatred and resentment. The mystery author Carolyn G. Heilbrun expressed something similar. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Carolyn G. Heilbrun was an influential English professor and the author of a series of mystery novels under the pen name Amanda Cross. In 1992 she published a review in “The New York Times” examining the volume “Battle of the Books: The Curriculum Debate in America”. She discussed the controversy over the evolving literary canon taught at top universities in the U.S.

Heilbrun contended that placing an emphasis on books that were no longer being taught or venerated in classrooms produced resentment. She believed it was impossible to prevent the emergence of new voices and the diminution of some old voices. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Nostalgia is, however, a dangerous emotion, both because it is powerless to act in the real world, and because it glides so easily into hatred and resentment against those who have taken our Eden from us.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nostalgia Is a Dangerous Emotion Because It Glides So Easily Into Hatred and Resentment

Notes:

  1. 1992 December 25, The New York Times, In Defense of Cultural Literacy and Once-Taught Masterpieces by Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Review of James Atlas’s “Battle of the Books: The Curriculum Debate in America”), Quote Page C30, Column 5 and 6, New York. (ProQuest)

That’s the Point of Quotations, You Know: One Can Use Another’s Words To Be Insulting

Carolyn G. Heilbrun? Amanda Cross? Kate Fansler? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: By employing a quotation from a well-known individual it is possible to firmly express a viewpoint without directly endorsing it. I vaguely recall the following similar statement:

Often the point of quotations is to use somebody else’s words to deliver an insult.

Would you please help me to determine the correct wording and attribution?

Quote Investigator: In 1971 Columbia University Professor of English Carolyn G. Heilbrun published “The Theban Mysteries” under the pen name Amanda Cross. The protagonist of the book, Kate Fansler, was an amateur detective who had attended “The Theban School”, an elite all-girls academy. Fansler returned to her alma mater to moderate a seminar, and she became entangled in a mystery when a dead body was discovered on campus. In the following dialogue a member of the school asked Fansler whether she wished to join the institution, and she declined. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Have you ever thought of joining the Theban in some permanent capacity?”

“Do you know what Dickens said when they asked him to stand for Parliament? ‘I believe that no consideration would induce me to become a member of that extraordinary assembly.’ That’s the point of quotations, you know: one can use another’s words to be insulting.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading That’s the Point of Quotations, You Know: One Can Use Another’s Words To Be Insulting

Notes:

  1. 1979 (1971 Copyright), The Theban Mysteries by Amanda Cross (pen name of Carolyn G. Heilbrun), Series: A Kate Fansler Novel, Chapter 6, Quote Page 89 and 90, Avon Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

The Real Cause of Problems Is Solutions

Eric Sevareid? Ernest Thompson? Paul Dickson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Every solution to a problem inevitably creates a new problem. This ruefully defeatist viewpoint has inspired a logically twisted adage. Here are two versions:

The real cause of problems is solutions.
The chief cause of problems is solutions.

This notion has been attributed to U.S. journalist Eric Sevareid. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In July 1968 Eric Sevareid penned a piece in “The Progressive” magazine discussing the popularity of copying machines. These devices performed the useful task of duplicating the text and pictures displayed on paper sheets. Unfortunately, copying also encouraged the excessive proliferation of paper. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

In 1965, these duplicating machines produced about ten billion copies of stuff. In two more years, the figure will be up around seventy billion copies . . .

The more somber thinkers, however, feel nothing serious will or can be done until the world runs out of trees for making paper. That, of course, will create other problems, but that is the nature of progress.

The greatest intellectual discovery of this generation is that the real cause of problems is solutions.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Real Cause of Problems Is Solutions

Notes:

  1. 1968 July, The Progressive, Paper by Eric Sevareid of CBS News, Start Page 16, Quote Page 16, The Progressive Inc., Madison, Wisconsin. (Verified with scans from Opinion Archives)

The Trouble with Communism is the Communists, Just as the Trouble with Christianity is the Christians

H. L. Mencken? Martin Luther King Jr.? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The U.S. satirist and curmudgeon H. L. Mencken apparently employed the following saying. Here are two versions:

The trouble with communism are the communists.
The trouble with communism is the communists.

If this remark is authentic would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In August 1946 “LIFE” magazine published an interview with H. L. Mencken whose popularity had suffered because of his relentless hostility to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mencken stated that he found the idea of communism attractive. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Mr. Mencken puffed meditatively on his cigar. “We might as well discuss Communism, too,” he said. “As an idea it is anything but bad. I can easily imagine a civilization purged of the profit motive. In fact, I am pretty well purged of it myself. Private property, after a certain low point, becomes a mere nuisance.”

Nevertheless, Mencken distrusted the advocates of communism and labeled them hypocrites: 2

The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians. They really do not believe in it and hence are hypocrites. All of them pant for money and hope to collar it by changing the rules. This fundamental false pretense colors their whole propaganda. They have no more sense of honor than so many congressmen and engage constantly in wholesale lying.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Trouble with Communism is the Communists, Just as the Trouble with Christianity is the Christians

Notes:

  1. 1946 August 5, LIFE, Volume 21, Number 6, Mr. Mencken Sounds Off by Roger Butterfield, Start Page 45, Quote Page 51, Column 1, Published by Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1946 August 5, LIFE, Volume 21, Number 6, Mr. Mencken Sounds Off by Roger Butterfield, Start Page 45, Quote Page 51, Column 1, Published by Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

If a Poem Hasn’t Ripped Apart Your Soul, You Haven’t Experienced Poetry

Edgar Allan Poe? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A hyperbolic statement about poetry has been credited to the major literary figure Edgar Allan Poe:

If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul, you haven’t experienced poetry.

Could this possibly be a genuine remark from Poe?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Edgar Allan Poe who died in 1849 wrote or said this statement. The attribution probably entered circulation via a known misquotation mechanism called ‘naming confusion’.

There is an account on Twitter called @Edgar_Allan_Poe that uses the handle “Edgar Allan Poe”. On May 7, 2014 the account tweeted the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry.

The tweet received more than 1,300 likes and more than 1,400 retweets by June 2021. Some who saw the tweet assumed that the statement had been crafted by the famous horror author, and propagated it with that attribution.

Yet, it is unlikely that the twitter account was being operated by the undead spirit of Poe; hence, the master of the macabre probably did not originate this quotation. Instead, the person behind the account @Edgar_Allan_Poe probably constructed it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If a Poem Hasn’t Ripped Apart Your Soul, You Haven’t Experienced Poetry

Notes:

  1. Tweet, From: Edgar Allan Poe @Edgar_Allan_Poe, Time: 9:25 AM, Date: May 7, 2014, Text: If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry. (Accessed on twitter.com on June 11, 2021) link

Always Forgive Your Enemies; Nothing Annoys Them So Much

Oscar Wilde? Walter Winchell? Reader’s Digest? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A well-known moral injunction states that one should forgive one’s enemies. A humorous twist suggests that one should grant forgiveness because it produces annoyance in one’s adversaries. This notion has been attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900, and QI has found no substantive evidence that he originated this quip. It is not listed in researcher Ralph Keyes’s important compilation “The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde”. 1 Also, the joke does not occur in the 2006 compendium “Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms”. 2

The earliest match located by QI appeared in the popular syndicated column of Walter Winchell in 1954, and he pointed to the mass-circulation magazine “Reader’s Digest”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 3

Reader’s Digest recalls O. Wilde’s: “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

QI has not yet located a precise citation within an issue of “Reader’s Digest”. In addition, quotations with attributions appearing in that magazine were often provided by readers who were compensated. The information was not carefully vetted for accuracy; hence, faulty data was sometimes submitted and propagated.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Always Forgive Your Enemies; Nothing Annoys Them So Much

Notes:

  1. 1996, The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde, Edited by Ralph Keyes, (Note: Search indicated that quotation was absent), HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
  2. 2006, Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms, Topically Arranged with Attributions, Compiled and edited by Tweed Conrad, (Note: Search indicated that quotation was absent), McFarland & Company Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1954 May 27, , Courier-Post, On Broadway by Walter Winchell, Quote Page 21, Column 1, Camden, New Jersey. (ProQuest)