God Forbid That Any Book Should Be Banned. The Practice Is As Indefensible As Infanticide

Rebecca West? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent British author and literary critic Rebecca West once compared book banning to infanticide. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 Rebecca West published a collection of essays and reviews titled “The Strange Necessity” which included a piece titled “The Tosh Horse” containing West’s bold statement. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide.

West continued by listing a few works that had offended censors and the censorious:

But one begins to remember what books have been banned during the last few years. Mr. D. H. Lawrence’s sincere and not for one second disgusting The Rainbow; Mr. Neil Lyons’s beautifully felt Cottage Pie; Brute Gods, that astringent product of Mr. Louis Wilkinson’s unique talent.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order

Continue reading God Forbid That Any Book Should Be Banned. The Practice Is As Indefensible As Infanticide

Notes:

  1. 1928, The Strange Necessity: Essays and Reviews by Rebecca West, Chapter 11: The Tosh Horse, Start Page 319, Quote Page 324, Jonathan Cape, London, England. (Verified with scans)

Any Authentic Work of Art Must Start an Argument Between the Artist and His Audience

Rebecca West? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: True artists are often troublemakers. They challenge their audience and cause argumentation. The prominent British author and literary critic Rebecca West said something similar to this. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote investigator: Rebecca West’s 1957 book “The Court and the Castle” discussed themes present in the works of Shakespeare, Proust, and Kafka. In the first chapter she offered the following thesis. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

For any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience. The artist creates that work of art by analyzing an experience and synthesizing the results of his analysis into a form which excites an appetite for further experience.

Below are additional details and selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Any Authentic Work of Art Must Start an Argument Between the Artist and His Audience

Notes:

  1. 1957, The Court and the Castle: Some Treatments of a Recurrent Theme by Rebecca West, Part One: The Court of Kings, Chapter 1: Was Hamlet Without Will?, Quote Page 5, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified with scans)

A Copy of the Universe Is Not What Is Required of Art; One of the Damned Thing Is Ample

Rebecca West? Virginia Woolf? Nelson Goodman? Noam Chomsky? Vita Sackville-West? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Quantum mechanics has an interpretation that envisions many worlds. Also, modal logic has a semantics that features many possible worlds. Yet, the expansive idea of many universes or worlds has waggish detractors. One comical response to this plenteous philosophy states:

One of the damn things is enough.

Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI occurred in a 1928 collection of essays by the prominent British author and critic Rebecca West. Her piece titled “The Strange Necessity” discussed the fidelity of representation within artworks. She believed it was wrong-headed for an artist to unduly concentrate on achieving verisimilitude. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

We feel impatient with Royal Academy stuff of that sort because really the makers of it ought to have learned by this time that a copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned thing is ample.

West’s barb about artistic realism was not really aimed at the many worlds of quantum mechanics or modal logic. Modern expressions typically use the word “enough”, but West used the word “ample”. In addition, she used the singular “thing” instead of ‘things”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Copy of the Universe Is Not What Is Required of Art; One of the Damned Thing Is Ample

Notes:

  1. 1928, The Strange Necessity: Essays and Reviews by Rebecca West, Essay 1: The Strange Necessity, Start Page 13, Quote Page 131, Jonathan Cape, London, England. (Verified with scans)

There Is No Such Thing as Conversation. It Is an Illusion. There Are Intersecting Monologues, That Is All

Rebecca West? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The notable British author Rebecca West once wrote a brilliant comment about people talking without communicating. Her words have been included in several important reference compilations of quotations, but the situation is confusing because there are two different versions of her statement that differ by a single word. Boldface has been added to excerpts:

1) There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.

2) There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are interesting monologues, that is all.

Would you please determine which of these is accurate?

Quote Investigator: This cogent remark was included in a short story by Rebecca West titled “There Is No Conversation”, and the earliest appearance of this work located by QI was in “The Saturday Evening Post” in 1928. The quotation employed the word “interesting”, but QI conjectures that West’s auctorial intention was to use the word “intersecting”. The story began with the following passage: 1

There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are interesting monologues, that is all. We speak; we spread round us with sounds, with words, an emanation from ourselves. Sometimes they overlap the circles that others are spreading round themselves. Then they are affected by these other circles, to be sure, but not because of any real communication that has taken place—merely as a scarf of blue chiffon lying on a woman’s dressing table will change color if she casts down on it a scarf of red chiffon.

In 1935 the work “There Is No Conversation” was reprinted by West in her collection called “The Harsh Voice: Four Short Novels”. The beginning segment matched the one above except the word “interesting” was changed to “intersecting”: 2 3

There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.

Which word should appear within the quotation? Both were published under the name of Rebecca West, but QI believes that the surrounding text makes the best choice quite clear. West employed the figurative language of colored scarves to beautifully illustrate and reinforce the meaning of the phrase “intersecting monologues”.

The phrase “interesting monologues” was published first, but its denotation did not conform closely to the neighboring text. QI conjectures that the mistake was introduced during the editorial or typesetting process. A known class of errors replaces a less common word such as “intersecting” with a typographically-similar word such as “interesting” that occurs more frequently.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is No Such Thing as Conversation. It Is an Illusion. There Are Intersecting Monologues, That Is All

Notes:

  1. 1928 December 8, The Saturday Evening Post, There Is No Conversation by Rebecca West, Start Page 6, Quote Page 6, The Curtis Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Verified with scans; thanks to the University of California, Berkeley library system)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section Rebecca West (Cicely Isabel Fairfield), Quote Page 810, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1956 (Reprint of 1935 edition), The Harsh Voice: Four Short Novels by Rebecca West, There Is No Conversation, Start Page 63, Quote Page 63, Published by Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England. (Verified on paper)

Most Conversations Are Simply Monologues Delivered in the Presence of a Witness

Mark Twain? Margaret Millar? Elizabeth P. O’Connor? Rebecca West? Leo Buscaglia? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following entertaining remark is often attributed to Mark Twain:

Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of witnesses.

I have also seen these words ascribed to the award-winning mystery writer Margaret Millar. Could you determine who should be credited?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Mark Twain wrote or spoke the statement above. The phrase should be credited to Margaret Millar although the original wording was slightly different because it used the singular word “witness”. In the 1942 novel “The Weak-Eyed Bat” Millar wrote the following exchange. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“As a matter of fact, have you never noticed that most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness?”

“No,” Jakes said.

“Well, listen next time you hear a couple of women talking. They’ll each have a list of likes and dislikes that they intend to reel off. Now wouldn’t it be much simpler for Mrs. Smith to sit in front of a mirror and read her list without competition…”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Most Conversations Are Simply Monologues Delivered in the Presence of a Witness

Notes:

  1. 1942, The Weak-Eyed Bat by Margaret Millar, Quote Page 117, Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday, Doran & Co., Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to the library system of University of North Carolina, Greensboro)