Culture Does Not Consist in Acquiring Opinions, But in Getting Rid of Them

William Butler Yeats? Leonard A. G. Strong? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Too often classes in literature and the arts simply provide an encyclopedic recitation of previous opinions on a topic. The Nobel-Prize-winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats made a provocative remark about the desirability of getting rid of opinions. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: William Butler Yeats died in 1939. The literary journal “London Magazine” in 1955 printed “Yeats at His Ease” by critic and publisher Leonard A. G. Strong who was a long-time friend of the poet. Yeats came to live at Oxford in 1919, and Strong says that he was productive and happy there. The remark under examination was overheard by Strong. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Yeats in my hearing remarked to two English dons, ‘I can’t see what you think you are achieving. You seem to be busy with the propagation of second and third and fourth hand opinions upon literature. Culture does not consist in acquiring opinions, but in getting rid of them.’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Culture Does Not Consist in Acquiring Opinions, But in Getting Rid of Them

Notes:

  1. 1955 March, The London Magazine: A Monthly Review of Literature, Volume 2, Number 3, Yeats at His Ease by L. A. G. Strong (Leonard Alfred George Strong), Start Page 56, Quote Page 57, Chatto & Windus, Ltd, London. (Verified with hardcopy)