Be Moderate In Everything Including Moderation

Mark Twain? Oscar Wilde? Socrates? Nancy Weber? Judy Tillinger? Horace Porter? J. F. Carter? Gaius Petronius Arbiter? James Ogilvy? Thomas Paine? Voltaire? Richard A. Posner? Benjamin Franklin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The ancient Greek poet Hesiod stated:[1] 2008, Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Fifth Edition, Edited by Jennifer Speake, Entry: Moderation in all things, Quote Page 213, Oxford University Press, New York. (Verified with scans)

Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things.

An extended version of this statement has been attributed to many famous people including Socrates, Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, and Mark Twain. Here are two versions:

(1) All things in moderation, including moderation.
(2) Be moderate in everything, including moderation.

I am skeptical about all these ascriptions for the extended statement. Would you please explore this topic, and help me to find solid citations?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for attributing this extended statement to any of the five people listed above. It is difficult to trace.

A collection based on ancient Greek poetry titled “Pagan Pictures” contained a pertinent four line verse called “Moderation”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[2]1927, Pagan Pictures: Freely Translated and Fully Expanded from the Greek Anthology & the Greek Lyrical Poets by Wallace Rice, Quote Page 153, Boni & Liveright, New York. (Verified with … Continue reading

Nothing too much, doth Chilo say?
Be moderate despite temptation?
Aye; moderate in every way
Be moderate in moderation.

The biographical notes for “Pagan Pictures” stated that the material was based on the Planudean anthology, the Palatine anthology, and epigrams transcribed from ancient monuments. “Pagan Pictures” was published in 1927, and the collection did not specify an author or provide a precise citation for the verse “Moderation”. Thus, its provenance and date remain uncertain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Be Moderate In Everything Including Moderation

References

References
1 2008, Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Fifth Edition, Edited by Jennifer Speake, Entry: Moderation in all things, Quote Page 213, Oxford University Press, New York. (Verified with scans)
2 1927, Pagan Pictures: Freely Translated and Fully Expanded from the Greek Anthology & the Greek Lyrical Poets by Wallace Rice, Quote Page 153, Boni & Liveright, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to the University of North Carolina library system)

I Have Nothing To Declare Except My Genius

Oscar Wilde? Stuart Mason? Christopher Sclater Millard? Robert Ross? Elizabeth P. O’Connor? Arthur Ransome? Frank Harris? Sylvestre Dorian? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend, the famous wit Oscar Wilde delivered a comically audacious line when he first entered the United States during his lecture tour. A customs official in New York asked him if he had anything to declare, and he supposedly replied:

I have nothing to declare but my genius.

Would you please explore the provenance of this remark?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde entered New York in January 1882. Yet, the earliest evidence of the quip known to QI appeared in 1910. The phrasing has varied over time. Often it has been presented from a third person perspective. Here is a summary with dates:

1910: I have nothing to declare except my genius
1912: He had nothing to declare except his genius
1912: He had nothing to declare but his genius
1913: I have nothing to declare but my genius
1917: He had nothing to declare save his genius
1917: He had nothing to declare but genius
1918: Nothing—except—my genius
1923: Only my genius
1925: Nothing but my genius
1934: I have nothing but my genius to declare

The remark appeared within “The Oscar Wilde Calendar” of 1910 compiled by Stuart Mason, a pseudonym for Christopher Sclater Millard. For each day of the year a quotation ascribed to Wilde was presented, and the following appeared for January 4th. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings Selected by Stuart Mason (Christopher Sclater Millard), Quotation for … Continue reading

At the New York Custom House: “I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

Millard mentioned Robert Ross in the acknowledgement section of the calendar. Ross was a close friend and literary executor of Wilde. He may have supplied the quotation to Millard:[2]1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings Selected by Stuart Mason, Section: Acknowledgement, Quote Page 91, … Continue reading

Many quotations are made from works little known to the general reader. Some are taken from unpublished manuscripts, others are traditional. For many of the latter the compiler is indebted to the courtesy of Mr Robert Ross.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Nothing To Declare Except My Genius

References

References
1 1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings Selected by Stuart Mason (Christopher Sclater Millard), Quotation for January Four, Quote Page 7, Frank Palmer, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link
2 1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings Selected by Stuart Mason, Section: Acknowledgement, Quote Page 91, Frank Palmer, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

I Drink To Keep Body and Soul Apart

Oscar Wilde? Seamus Heaney? Dorothy Parker? Israel Zangwill? Jen Kirkman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The body and the soul separate at the time of death according to many religious systems. Hence, the idiom “keep body and soul together” refers to maintaining life, i.e., earning enough money to maintain health and activity. The famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde has received credit for a reversal of the idiom. Here are two versions:

(1) I drink to keep body and soul apart.
(2) I drink to separate my body from my soul.

I am skeptical because I have not seen a good citation. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence supporting the ascription to Oscar Wilde. It is not listed in the compendium “Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms”.[1]2006, Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms, Topically Arranged with Attributions, Compiled and edited by Tweed Conrad, (There is no quotation using “body and … Continue reading Also, it does not appear in researcher Ralph Keyes’s collection “The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde”.[2]1996, The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde, Edited by Ralph Keyes, (There is no quotation using “body and soul” and “drink / drank” in this book), HarperCollins Publishers, New … Continue reading

Wilde died in 1900, and the earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Boston Globe” in 1981. The newspaper published a profile of Irish poet and translator Seamus Heaney who later received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney told the “Globe” journalist that Wilde crafted the saying. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[3]1981 February 26, The Boston Globe, Poet Seamus Heaney: This most rooted of men, bard of the Irish soul by Shaun O’Connell (Special to The Globe), Quote Page 53, Column 3, Boston, … Continue reading

He is particularly at ease in his own kitchen, brewing a fresh pot of tea, slicing bread for a guest, talking. He is not, I rush to add, exactly uncomfortable hunched over a pint in a pub, talking.

“Do know that Oscar Wilde said he drank to keep body and soul apart? That’s good, isn’t it?”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Drink To Keep Body and Soul Apart

References

References
1 2006, Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms, Topically Arranged with Attributions, Compiled and edited by Tweed Conrad, (There is no quotation using “body and soul” and “drink” or “drank” in this book), McFarland & Company Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified with scans)
2 1996, The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde, Edited by Ralph Keyes, (There is no quotation using “body and soul” and “drink / drank” in this book), HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
3 1981 February 26, The Boston Globe, Poet Seamus Heaney: This most rooted of men, bard of the Irish soul by Shaun O’Connell (Special to The Globe), Quote Page 53, Column 3, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest)

Salary Is No Object; I Want Only Enough To Keep Body and Soul Apart

Dorothy Parker? Alexander Woollcott? Israel Zangwill? Oscar Wilde? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The body and the soul separate at the time of death according to many religious systems. Hence, the idiom “keep body and soul together” refers to maintaining life, i.e., earning enough money to maintain health and activity. A quipster once reversed this formula and said something like:

I only want enough money to keep body and soul apart.

Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 poet, critic, and wit Dorothy Parker published a book review in “The New Yorker” magazine which included a comical plea for employment. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1928 February 4, The New Yorker, Reading and Writing: A Good Novel, and a Great Story by Constant Reader (Dorothy Parker), Start Page 74, Quote Page 77, Column 1, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New … Continue reading

And now that this review is over, do you mind if I talk business for a moment? If you yourself haven’t any spare jobs for a retired book-reviewer, maybe some friend of yours might have something. Maybe you wouldn’t mind asking around. Salary is no object; I want only enough to keep body and soul apart.

Dorothy Parker deserves credit for the remark immediately above. Yet, this type of joke has a longer history, and an 1891 citation for author Israel Zangwill appears further below.

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Salary Is No Object; I Want Only Enough To Keep Body and Soul Apart

References

References
1 1928 February 4, The New Yorker, Reading and Writing: A Good Novel, and a Great Story by Constant Reader (Dorothy Parker), Start Page 74, Quote Page 77, Column 1, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans)

Deep Truths Are Statements in Which the Opposite Also Contains Deep Truth

Niels Bohr? Hans Bohr? Werner Heisenberg? Oscar Wilde? Emilio Segrè? Carl Sagan? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous scientist once asserted something like this:

The opposite of a deep truth is another deep truth.

Would you please help me to find a citation and the correct phrasing?

Quote Investigator: In 1949 the prominent physicist Niels Bohr published an essay titled “Discussion with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics” which included a passage about “deep truths”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1959 (1949 Copyright), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp, Chapter 7: Discussion with Einstein On Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics by Niels Bohr, Quote … Continue reading

In the Institute in Copenhagen, where through those years a number of young physicists from various countries came together for discussions, we used, when in trouble, often to comfort ourselves with jokes, among them the old saying of the two kinds of truth. To the one kind belong statements so simple and clear that the opposite assertion obviously could not be defended. The other kind, the so-called “deep truths,” are statements in which the opposite also contains deep truth.

Bohr labeled the remark a joke, and he used the phrase “old saying”. Thus, he disclaimed authorship; nevertheless, he usually receives credit for the statement.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. The phrasing of this notion varies; hence, this section begins with an overview:

Continue reading Deep Truths Are Statements in Which the Opposite Also Contains Deep Truth

References

References
1 1959 (1949 Copyright), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp, Chapter 7: Discussion with Einstein On Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics by Niels Bohr, Quote Page 240, Harper Torchbooks, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified with scans)

A Truth in Art Is That Whose Contradictory Is Also True

Oscar Wilde? Niels Bohr? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Sometimes a narrow logical analysis is not enough to understand a topic. In the realm of art, the negation of a truth may yield another truth. The famous wit Oscar Wilde once made a claim of this type. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Quote Investigator: The 1891 book “Intentions” by Oscar Wilde contained an essay titled “The Truth of Masks” in which Wilde boldly indicated that he sometimes disagreed with himself. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1] 1891, Intentions by Oscar Wilde, Essay: The Truth of Masks, Start Page 179, Quote Page 212, Heinemann and Balestier, Leipzig. (Google Books Full View) link

Not that I agree with everything that I have said in this essay. There is much with which I entirely disagree. The essay simply represents an artistic standpoint, and in aesthetic criticism attitude is everything. For in art there is no such thing as a universal truth. A Truth in art is that whose contradictory is also true. And just as it is only in art-criticism, and through it, that we can apprehend the Platonic theory of ideas, so it is only in art-criticism, and through it, that we can realize Hegel’s system of contraries. The truths of metaphysics are the truths of masks.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Truth in Art Is That Whose Contradictory Is Also True

References

References
1 1891, Intentions by Oscar Wilde, Essay: The Truth of Masks, Start Page 179, Quote Page 212, Heinemann and Balestier, Leipzig. (Google Books Full View) link

I Am Dying, As I Have Lived, Beyond My Means

Oscar Wilde? Robert Ross? Frank Harris? Hesketh Pearson? Josiah Flynt? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend, Oscar Wilde was resting with his eyes closed on his deathbed when two physicians began discussing the necessity of a very expensive operation to extend his life. Wilde opened his eyes and said:

I suppose that I shall have to die beyond my means.

Another version of the tale states that the ailing and impoverished wit was enjoying a convivial meal with friends in Paris when he asked for a bottle of champagne. When it was brought he declared:

I am dying, as I have lived, beyond my means.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died on November 30, 1900. The strongest evidence known to QI appeared in a letter dated December 14, 1900 that was sent from Robert Ross to More Adey. Ross was a close friend of Wilde’s who saw him frequently during his final days in Paris. Adey was an English art critic and editor. The ellipses in the following passage were present in the published text. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1916, Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions by Frank Harris, Volume 2 of 2, Section: Appendix, Letter from Robert Ross to More Adey, Date: December 14, 1900, Quote Page 596, Brentano’s, New … Continue reading

On October 25th, my brother Aleck came to see him, when Oscar was in particularly good form. His sister-in-law, Mrs. Willie, and her husband, Texeira, were then passing through Paris on their honeymoon, and came at the same time. On this occasion he said he was “dying above his means” . . . . he would never outlive the century . . . . the English people would not stand him—he was responsible for the failure of the Exhibition, the English having gone away when they saw him there so well-dressed and happy . . .

Wilde’s quip used the word “above” instead of “beyond” in this version of the tale. The “Exhibition” was a reference to the Paris Exhibition of 1900 which was held between April and November.

Common advice states that one should make a budget and not overspend, i.e., one should not live beyond one’s means. Wilde’s humorous wordplay was based on twisting this guidance.

Ross’s letter was published in the 1916 book “Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions” by Frank Harris. The missive also appeared in “The Letters of Oscar Wilde” edited by Rupert Hart-Davis which was published in 1962.[2]1962, The Letters of Oscar Wilde, Edited by Rupert Hart-Davis, Epilogue, Letter from Robert Ross to More Adey, Date: December 14, 1900, (Text from Frank Harris, vol.2, pp. 595-603), Quote Page 847 … Continue reading

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Am Dying, As I Have Lived, Beyond My Means

References

References
1 1916, Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions by Frank Harris, Volume 2 of 2, Section: Appendix, Letter from Robert Ross to More Adey, Date: December 14, 1900, Quote Page 596, Brentano’s, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1962, The Letters of Oscar Wilde, Edited by Rupert Hart-Davis, Epilogue, Letter from Robert Ross to More Adey, Date: December 14, 1900, (Text from Frank Harris, vol.2, pp. 595-603), Quote Page 847 and 848, Published by Rupert Hart-Davis, London. (Verified on paper)

This Wallpaper Is Killing Me; One of Us Must Go

Oscar Wilde? Claire de Pratz? Léon Guillot de Saix? Lady Gregory? William Butler Yeats? Hesketh Pearson? Philippe Jullian? Violet Wyndham? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Near the end of Oscar Wilde’s life he was debt-ridden and ill. His shabby accommodations in Paris did not meet his aesthetic standards. According to legend he said something similar to the following while on his deathbed. Here are three versions:

(1) Either this wallpaper goes or I do.
(2) This wallpaper is killing me. Decidedly one of us will have to go.
(3) My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us must go.

In this anecdote accurate? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Journalist and novelist Claire de Pratz became friends with Oscar Wilde during his final period in Paris. Wilde died in 1900. Writer Léon Guillot de Saix interviewed Pratz and others for an article titled “Souvenirs Inédits Sur Oscar Wilde” (“Unpublished Memories About Oscar Wilde”) which he published in the weekly periodical “L’Européen” of Paris in 1929. Pratz told Saix about the hotel room that Wilde stayed in during his last days. The original French text is followed by one possible English translation. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1]1929 May 8, L’Européen: Hebdomadaire économique, artistique et littéraire, (Economic, artistic and literary weekly), Souvenirs Inédits Sur Oscar Wilde recueillis par Guillot de Saix … Continue reading

Il vivait dans une misérable chambre meublée, à l’hôtel d’Alsace, rue des Beaux-Arts. Et lui qui avait été l’esthète de la gentry londonienne, souffrait horriblement de cette misère symbolisée pour lui dans l’épouvantable papier « modern-style » à fleurs chocolat sur fond bleu.

« — Voyez-vous, ma chère enfant, me disait-il, il y a un duel à mort entre moi et mon papier de tenture. L’un de nous deux doit y rester. Ce sera lui ou ce sera moi. »

He lived in a miserable furnished room at the Hotel d’Alsace on rue des Beaux-Arts. And he who had been the aesthete of the London gentry, suffered horribly from this misery symbolized for him by the appalling “modern-style” wallpaper with chocolate flowers on a blue background.

“ — You see, my dear child, he said to me, there is a duel to the death between me and my wallpaper. One or the other of us has to go. It will be my wallpaper or me. ”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading This Wallpaper Is Killing Me; One of Us Must Go

References

References
1 1929 May 8, L’Européen: Hebdomadaire économique, artistique et littéraire, (Economic, artistic and literary weekly), Souvenirs Inédits Sur Oscar Wilde recueillis par Guillot de Saix (Unpublished Memories About Oscar Wilde collected by Guillot de Saix), Quote Page 2, Column 1, Paris, France. (Gallica BNF Bibliothèque nationale de France) link

Biography Should Be Written by an Acute Enemy

Arthur James Balfour? Batman? Oscar Wilde? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Apparently, the crime-fighting superhero Batman is a quotation expert. I recall watching a rerun episode of the 1960s television series during which Batman was asked to identify the creator of an obscure quotation about biography, and he immediately answered correctly with the name Arthur James Balfour who was a British statesman. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Batman’s capacious memory was displayed during an episode broadcast on March 8, 1967. Batman (played by Adam West) wished to send a message to the villain King Tut, so he called a popular radio broadcaster Jolly Jackson (played by Tommy Noonan) to relay the message. Jackson demanded that Batman prove his identity by answering a difficult question about the ascription of a quotation. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]Batman Television Series, Season 2, Episode 24, Batman’s Waterloo, Broadcast date: March 8, 1967, Quotation spoken at 11 minutes 53 seconds of 25 minutes 11 seconds. (Viewed via Amazon Prime … Continue reading

Jolly Jackson: Alright listen. If you’re really Batman then you’re a very brainy guy, right.

Batman: Go on.

Jolly Jackson: Tell me who said, “Biography should be written by an acute enemy”?

Batman: Arthur James Balfour, born 1848, died 1930. He was quoted by S. K. Ratcliffe in the London Observer, January 30, 1927.

QI conjectures that the writers of the television show obtained this information from “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations”. The 1938 edition contains the following entry:[2]1938, Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett, Eleventh Edition, Edited by Christopher Morley and Louella D. Everett, Entry: Arthur James Balfour, Quote Page 687, Column 2, Little, Brown and Company, … Continue reading

ARTHUR JAMES BALFOUR
[1848-1930]
Biography should be written by an acute enemy.
Quoted by S. K. RATCLIFFE in The London Observer, January 30, 1927

The citation in “Bartlett’s” was accurate. In 1927 “The Observer” published a piece by S. K. Ratcliffe containing the following:[3] 1927 January 30, The Observer, John Morley by S. K. Ratcliffe, Quote Page 7, Column 3, London, England. (Newspapers_com)

Biography, I once heard Lord Balfour say, should be written by an acute enemy. If that were a principle to be rigidly applied (it obviously is not), there would be no place as biographer for Mr. Francis Hirst.

Yet, there are subtleties to this tale of provenance. As indicated further below the quotation under examination appeared with an anonymous attribution in 1913.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Biography Should Be Written by an Acute Enemy

References

References
1 Batman Television Series, Season 2, Episode 24, Batman’s Waterloo, Broadcast date: March 8, 1967, Quotation spoken at 11 minutes 53 seconds of 25 minutes 11 seconds. (Viewed via Amazon Prime Video on August 10, 2021)
2 1938, Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett, Eleventh Edition, Edited by Christopher Morley and Louella D. Everett, Entry: Arthur James Balfour, Quote Page 687, Column 2, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans)
3 1927 January 30, The Observer, John Morley by S. K. Ratcliffe, Quote Page 7, Column 3, London, England. (Newspapers_com)

Every Great Man Nowadays Has His Disciples, and It Is Always Judas Who Writes the Biography

Oscar Wilde? Arthur Pendenys? Arthur James Balfour? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: An ill-intentioned biography is indistinguishable from a character assassination. The famous wit Oscar Wilde crafted a pertinent line on this topic. Here are three versions:

Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and
…it is usually Judas who writes the biography.
…it is invariably Judas who writes the biography.
…it is always Judas who writes the biography.

Would you please help me to determine which version is accurate?

Quote Investigator: In April 1887 Oscar Wilde published an unsigned article titled “The Butterfly’s Boswell” in “Court and Society Review”. Wilde’s piece sardonically discussed a recent fawning article about the painter James McNeill Whistler. In the following excerpt “Judas” denoted Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1914, Bibliography of Oscar Wilde by Stuart Mason, The Butterfly’s Boswell by Oscar Wilde (Reprint of “The Butterfly’s Boswell” by unsigned from “Court and Society … Continue reading

Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is usually Judas who writes the biography. Mr. Whistler, however, is more fortunate than most of his confrères, as he has found in Mr. Walter Dowdeswell the most ardent of admirers, indeed, we might almost say the most sympathetic of secretaries.

Wilde employed this line on at least three different occasions, but he varied the phrasing slightly. Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Every Great Man Nowadays Has His Disciples, and It Is Always Judas Who Writes the Biography

References

References
1 1914, Bibliography of Oscar Wilde by Stuart Mason, The Butterfly’s Boswell by Oscar Wilde (Reprint of “The Butterfly’s Boswell” by unsigned from “Court and Society Review”, Page 378, Volume 4, Number 146, Date: April 20, 1887), Start Page 28, Quote Page 28, T. Werner Laurie Ltd., London. (Internet Archive archive.org; QI has not yet directly verified this excerpt in the 1887 periodical) link