Freedom Lies In Being Bold

Robert Frost? Anita Brookner? Thucydides? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous poet Robert Frost enjoyed socializing with people who had strong personalities. He highlighted a connection between freedom and boldness. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In December 1952 “The New Yorker” magazine published a piece by Philip Hamburger who presented statements made by Robert Frost during an interview broadcast on the NBC television network. The ellipses below appeared in the original text. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“I don’t care about spending much time with people who haven’t a definite personality. I am that kind of an equalitarian. I like to mix with my equals, people who have as much personality as I have … but the great thing is taut boldness. … People … will tell you that freedom lies in being cautious.” Here he violently shook his head. “Freedom lies in being bold.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1952 December 13, The New Yorker, Television: Men of Faith by Philip Hamburger, Start Page 167, Quote Page 169, The New Yorker Magazine Inc., New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans)

A Collision at Sea Can Ruin Your Entire Day

Thucydides? W. B. ‘Bill’ Hayler? Horowitz’ First Law?

Dear Quote Investigator: I once served on a ship that had a brass plaque on the bridge engraved with the following:

A collision at sea can ruin your whole day.

This comes across as a modern sardonic saying, and I was surprised to read the name of Thucydides, an ancient Greek historian, on the plate beneath the saying. Is this attribution accurate? Perhaps it is a very loose translation? Could you examine this maxim and determine if it embodies ancient or modern wisdom?

Quote Investigator: The story behind this quotation is fascinating because it illustrates the malleability of sayings and attributions. Evidence indicates that this maxim which is dubiously linked with Thucydides was created and disseminated as a prank in the 1960s.

Commander W. B. ‘Bill’ Hayler was the prankster, and he confessed that he initiated the deed while he was a student at the Naval War College in 1960. The tale of Hayler’s hijinks was reported by the prominent newspaper columnist Herb Caen in 1971 [BHJ]. Top quotation expert Fred R. Shapiro recently located Caen’s column while investigating the quote [QUC].

Continue reading A Collision at Sea Can Ruin Your Entire Day