A Quotation Is a Handy Thing To Have About, Saving One the Trouble of Thinking for Oneself, Always a Laborious Business

A. A. Milne? Lord Peter Wimsey? Dorothy L. Sayers? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A. A. Milne is famous for authoring children’s books that bring to life anthropomorphic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet. Milne also composed essays aimed at adults, and he once criticized thinkers who recited quotations instead of engaging in independent analysis. Would you please help me to find his statement about “thinking for oneself”?

Quote Investigator: A. A. Milne published a collection in 1920 containing the essay “The Record Lie” in which he examined the following Latin adage:

Si vis pacem, para bellum.
If you want peace, prepare for war.

His negative experiences during World War I pushed him toward a pacifist perspective, and he condemned the adage because he believed that it encouraged warmongers. The title of the essay reflected his contention that the saying was a “record lie of the ages, the lie which has caused more suffering than anything the Devil could have invented for himself”. Expanding on this viewpoint he expressed distrust of quotations in general. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

For a quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.

Interestingly, Milne did not adhere to pacifism during the ensuing decades. The events of World War II caused him to re-evaluate his position, and he joined the British Home Guard.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Quotation Is a Handy Thing To Have About, Saving One the Trouble of Thinking for Oneself, Always a Laborious Business

Notes:

  1. 1920, If I May by A. A. Milne, Essay: The Record Lie, Start Page 89, Quote Page 90, Methuen & Company, London. (Internet archive archive.org) link

A Facility for Quotation Covers the Absence of Original Thought

Dorothy L. Sayers? Lord Peter Wimsey? Harriet Vane? Philip Broadley? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: I have found the perfect sardonic motto for the QI website:

A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.

According to the “Encarta Book of Quotations” 1 these words were spoken by the character Lord Peter Wimsey in the 1935 novel “Gaudy Night” by the acclaimed mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers.

Prepare for the twist ending of this message. I have “Gaudy Night” on my bookshelf, but I have been unable to find this quotation. Would you please help to solve this vexatious mystery?

Quote Investigator: QI has examined two editions 2 of “Gaudy Night” 3
and has been unable to find this quip; hence, QI believes that the “Encarta” reference book is mistaken.

Interestingly, a different novel by Sayers contains a very similar remark by Lord Peter Wimsey. He delivered the following line in the 1932 novel “Have His Carcase”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 4

“I always have a quotation for everything—it saves original thinking.”

“Blast the man!” said Harriet, left abruptly alone in the blue-plush lounge.

Below are additional selected citations that assist in the resolution of this whodunit.

Continue reading A Facility for Quotation Covers the Absence of Original Thought

Notes:

  1. 2000, Encarta Book of Quotations, Edited by Bill Swainson, Entry: Dorothy L. Sayers, Quote Page 826, St. Martin’s Press, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1958 (1935 Copyright), Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, (Quotation was absent), Victor Gollancz Ltd, London. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1968 (1936 Copyright), Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, (Quotation was absent), Avon Books: A Division of The Hearst Corporation, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1975 (Copyright 1932), Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers, Series: A Lord Peter Wimsey Novel, Quote Page 53, Avon Books: A Division of The Hearst Corporation, New York. (Verified with scans)