Bicycle Riding, If Persisted In, Leads To Weakness of Mind, General Lunacy, and Homicidal Mania

The New York Times? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A major U.S. newspaper supposedly published an article that claims riding a bicycle inevitably leads to general lunacy and homicidal mania. This assertion sounds satirical. Does this article actually exist?

Quote Investigator: On August 12, 1894 “The New York Times” published an article titled “Lunacy in England” about bicycle riders. The piece was filled with comical exaggerations, and QI believes that it was intended to be humorous. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Still, there is not the slightest doubt that bicycle riding, if persisted in, leads to weakness of mind, general lunacy, and homicidal mania. In the opinion of one of the ablest and most experienced of British lunatics, the habit of watching the revolution of the forward wheel develops in the mind of the bicycle rider a tendency to reason in a circle.

Below are additional excerpts and a conclusion.

Continue reading Bicycle Riding, If Persisted In, Leads To Weakness of Mind, General Lunacy, and Homicidal Mania

Notes:

  1. 1894 August 12, New York Times, Lunacy in England, Quote Page 4, Column 4 and 5, New York. (ProQuest)

The Lecture: An Obsolete Practice Dating From the Middle Ages When Books Were Scarce

Virginia Woolf? Apocryphal?

Illustration of two lecturers

Dear Quote Investigator: Apparently, the prominent English writer Virginia Woolf thought that transmitting knowledge via lectures was a “vain and vicious system”. She also stated that lecturing was “an obsolete practice dating from the Middle Ages”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Virginia Woolf published the book-length essay “Three Guineas” in 1938. She firmly expressed her disapproval of providing instruction by delivering a speech to an audience. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If we are asked to lecture we can refuse to bolster up the vain and vicious system of lecturing by refusing to lecture.

Woolf elaborated on her point in the “Notes and References” section at the end of the book. She admitted that many subjects could only be taught with diagrams and personal demonstration. Yet, lectures upon English literature were unjustified: 2

. . . it is an obsolete practice dating from the Middle Ages when books were scarce.

Further, Woolf contended that lecturing boosted undesirable psychological traits:

. . . eminence upon a platform encourages vanity and the desire to impose authority.

Also, the practice was inefficient for students and teachers:

. . . after the age of eighteen to continue to sip English literature through a straw, is a habit that seems to deserve the terms vain and vicious; which terms can justly be applied with greater force to those who pander to them.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Lecture: An Obsolete Practice Dating From the Middle Ages When Books Were Scarce

Notes:

  1. 1938, Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf, Chapter One, Quote Page 54, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1938, Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf, Notes and References, Quote Page 236 to 238, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

The Greatest Shortcoming of the Human Race Is Man’s Inability To Understand the Exponential Function

Albert A. Bartlett? William Dillinger? Paul A. Tipler? David Suzuki? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: What do the following have in common: computing power, internet communication traffic, human population, energy use? Each has experienced exponential growth. The full implications of such rapid changes are difficult to grasp. A scientist has asserted that the incomprehension of exponential growth is humankinds most serious flaw. The consequences of obliviousness could be disastrous. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1976 physicist Albert A. Bartlett published a piece in “The Physics Teacher”. He was concerned about the environmental costs of unrestrained growth. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Here is the theme of our presentation:

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is man’s inability to understand the exponential function.

Bartlett wanted physicists to use their knowledge to inform fellow citizens and decision makers:

Physics students and teachers have a great responsibility,

1. to understand the problems and perils of growth, and then
2. to alert the public to these problems and perils, even if this means taking issue with the “experts.”

The best decisions are those made by an enlightened public. It is our task as students and teachers to help roll away the darkness.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Greatest Shortcoming of the Human Race Is Man’s Inability To Understand the Exponential Function

Notes:

  1. 1976 October, The Physics Teacher, Volume 14, Issue 7, The exponential function—Part 1 by Albert A. Bartlett, Start Page 393, Quote Page 394, Column 1, American Institute of Physics (AIP) Publishing. (Verified with scans)

Conditions Are Never Just Right

William Feather? John R. Gunn? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: When commencing a significant new endeavor in life it is tempting to wait until conditions are perfect, but that never occurs. Delays are often the result of indecisiveness, fear, or procrastination. Yet, one must move forward. The successful publisher and printer William Feather expressed the situation concisely:

Conditions are never just right.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 “The Warren Tribune” newspaper of Pennsylvania published remarks from William Feather who described conversing with a man hoping to start a new enterprise. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“But he really wanted to have his own company, and the reason why he hasn’t is because he waited for conditions to get just right.

“Conditions are never just right. People who delay action until all factors are favorable are the kind who do nothing.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Conditions Are Never Just Right

Notes:

  1. 1928 June 16, The Warren Tribune, Business Conditions (acknowledgment to “Imperial Type Metal Magazine”), Quote Page 4, Column 1 and 2, Warren, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

As Long As I Count the Votes, What Are You Going To Do About It?

William Marcy Tweed? Boss Tweed? Thomas Nast? Zack Chandler? Napoleon Bonaparte? Joseph Stalin? Boris Bazhanov? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Remarks about the manipulation of vote tabulations have a long history. Apparently, a corrupt leader made a cynical pronouncement about voting. Here are three versions:

  • Let me count the votes, and I care not who casts them.
  • It’s not who votes that matters but who counts the votes.
  • Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.

Would you please explore this family of sayings?

Quote Investigator: The viewpoint of this saying can be expressed in many different ways which makes it difficult to trace.

The earliest match known to QI appeared in October 1871 within a single-panel work by influential cartoonist Thomas Nast depicting politician William Marcy Tweed standing next to a ballot box. Tweed was known by the nickname Boss Tweed because of his political power and wealth. Nast titled his cartoon “THAT’S WHAT’S THE MATTER”, and he placed the following derisive words into the mouth of Tweed. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Boss Tweed. “As long as I count the Votes, what are you going to do about it? say?”

It is unlikely that Tweed actually made this statement because it implied that his political operatives planned to illegally modify the election results. Instead, Thomas Nast should receive credit for crafting this remark.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading As Long As I Count the Votes, What Are You Going To Do About It?

Notes:

  1. 1871 October 7, Harper’s Weekly, Cartoon title: “That’s What’s the Matter”, (Caption of one panel cartoon by Thomas Nast), Quote Page 944, Column 1, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

People Ask You for Criticism, But They Only Want Praise

W. Somerset Maugham? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Often a request for criticism is really an appeal for approval or accolades. English playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham made a similar observation. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1915 W. Somerset Maugham published the popular novel “Of Human Bondage”. The main character Philip Carey wished to be a successful painter, and he asked another artist, Mr. Clutton, to evaluate his work, but Clutton declined with the following explanation. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise. Besides, what’s the good of criticism? What does it matter if your picture is good or bad?”

“It matters to me.”

Clutton elaborated on his reasoning for not examining Carey’s painting:

“No. The only reason that one paints is that one can’t help it. It’s a function like any of the other functions of the body, only comparatively few people have got it. One paints for oneself: otherwise one would commit suicide.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading People Ask You for Criticism, But They Only Want Praise

Notes:

  1. 1915, Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, Chapter 50, Quote Page 267, The Sun Dial Press, Garden City, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

I Love Criticism as Long as It Is Unqualified Praise

Noel Coward? Frank Sinatra? Margaret McManus? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The popular English playwright Noel Coward apparently once suggested that he welcomed any amount of criticism as long as it was unqualified praise. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In January 1956 Noel Coward was interviewed by journalist Margaret McManus who asked him about his recent appearance in Las Vegas. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“It was a great success, so naturally I loved it,” he said. “If I hadn’t been a success I’d probably have blamed it on the scenery. I’d have said, ‘I hate it here.’”
“I always say I love criticism as long as it is unqualified praise.”

In March 1957 a columnist writing in “The Londonderry Sentinel” of Northern Ireland credited Coward with a different phrasing of the quip. QI believes he employed both versions: 2

Said Noel Coward: “I can take any amount of criticism as long as it is unqualified praise.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Love Criticism as Long as It Is Unqualified Praise

Notes:

  1. 1956 January 8, The Des Moines Register, Section: Iowa TV Magazine, Noel Coward a ‘Blithe Spirit’–in Sunny Jamaica (Continuation title: ‘I Love Criticism, Just So It’s Unqualified Praise’) by Margaret McManus (Exclusive Dispatch to The Iowa TV Magazine), Start Page 1, Quote Page 5, Column 3 and 4, Des Moines, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1957 March 2, The Londonderry Sentinel, Limelight: The transformation of Sally Ann Howes by Thomas Wiseman, Quote Page 7, Column 5, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (British Newspaper Archive)

The New York Review of Each Other’s Books

Alan Levy? Ron Wellburn? Richard Hofstadter? Christopher Lehmann-Haupt? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A clique can form around a cultural organization or periodical and transform it into an insular mutual admiration society. Detractors of “The New York Review of Books” have given the journal the following nickname:

The New York Review of Each Other’s Books

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: “The New York Review of Books” published its first issue in 1963. The earliest match located by QI appeared in a 1968 book about merchandising culture titled “The Culture Vultures; or, Whatever Became of the Emperor’s New Clothes?” by Alan Levy. Boldface added to excerpt by QI: 1

The frighteningly articulate house organ of a self-promoting Manhattan coterie, it could easily be renamed the New York Review of Each Other’s Books. And like many people who have chosen to dwell intimately with the printed word, the New York Review clique maintains a love-hate relationship with the art it serves. Hate often seems to be getting the better of it.

Based on the above citation QI tentatively credits Alan Levy with coining this barbed expression.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The New York Review of Each Other’s Books

Notes:

  1. 1968, The Culture Vultures; Or, Whatever Became of the Emperor’s New Clothes? by Alan Levy, Part 2: The Careerists, Chapter 5: Corruption of the Instinct: The Critics, Quote Page 184, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. (Verified with scans)

Where Dreams Are Born, and Time Is Never Planned

James Matthew Barrie? Peter Pan? Betty Comden? Adolph Green? Mary Martin? Apocryphal

Dear Quote Investigator: James Matthew Barrie created the famous fictional character Peter Pan. Barrie has received credit for the following statement:

So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned.

This sentiment fits the world of Peter Pan, but I have been unable to find it in Barrie’s oeuvre. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: QI conjectures that these words were derived from the lyrics of the song “Never Never Land” written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the 1954 Broadway musical version of “Peter Pan”. The first two lines of the song were: 1

I know a place where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.

Comden and Green were inspired by Barrie’s work, but they crafted the song lyrics. Barrie has received credit for other modified lines. For example, the line “Just think of happy things” has been attributed to Barrie, but the song contains:

Just think of lovely things,
And your heart will fly on wings,

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Where Dreams Are Born, and Time Is Never Planned

Notes:

  1. 2002, Broadway Volume II: Complete Lyrics for 200 Songs From 116 Musicals, Series: The Lyric Library, Song: Never Never Land, Quote Page 144, Published by Hal Leonard. (Verified with scans)

Man’s Desires Can Be Developed So That They Will Greatly Overshadow His Needs

Paul M. Mazur? Adam Curtis? Al Gore? Robert S. Lynd? Helen Merrell Lynd? Mark Frauenfelder? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Influential societal observers have long denounced cultures that emphasize consumption. The ever growing fabrication and usage of products forces individuals to scramble on a hedonic treadmill that is ultimately unsatisfying and pointless according to critics. The misguided pursuit of materialism has been highlighted by a supposed remark from a proponent of consumer culture:

We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to verify this quotation which is usually attributed to Paul M. Mazur who was a leading investment banker at the firm of Lehman Brothers in New York. I have become skeptical. Is this quotation genuine? Would you please explore this topic.

Quote Investigator: Paul M. Mazur wrote a thematically similar passage in the 1928 book “American Prosperity: Its Causes and Consequences”, but there was a crucial difference. The quotation above was formulated as advocacy. Yet, Mazur was describing changes that he thought had already occurred in the U.S. economy by 1914. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Any community that lives on staples has relatively few wants. The community that can be trained to desire change, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed, yields a market to be measured more by desires than by needs. And man’s desires can be developed so that they will greatly overshadow his needs.

Mazur believed that retailers had already moved away from simple low-cost units. Instead, companies employed novelty and changing fashion to make items appear obsolete and to encourage additional purchases:

Standardization became increasingly subordinate to style; uniformity of production was subordinated to style appeal. The factors necessary for sales began to impose themselves in this manner upon manufacturing.

This condition was fairly well developed by 1914. It prepared the stage upon which the war trod during those eventful years. And the effect upon the economic drama was stupendous.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Man’s Desires Can Be Developed So That They Will Greatly Overshadow His Needs

Notes:

  1. 1928, American Prosperity: Its Causes and Consequences by Paul M. Mazur, Chapter 3: Evolution of Distribution, Quote Page 24 and 25, The Viking Press, New York. (Verified with scans)