Quotes of Note

“In short, it has been shown that no man can sit down to write without a very profound design. Thus to authors in general much trouble is spared. A novelist, for example, need have no care of his moral. It is there—that is to say, it is somewhere—and the moral and the critics can take care of themselves. When the proper time arrives, all that the gentleman intended, and all that he did not, will be brought to light, in the ‘Dial,’ or the ‘Down-Easter,’ [2 magazines that were popular at the time] together with all that he ought to have intended, and the rest that he clearly meant to intend:—so that it will all come very straight in the end. – Edgar Allan Poe, “Never Bet the Devil Your Head: A Tale With a Moral”(1850)[You can hear a wonderful radio adaptation of Poe’s story on CBS Radio Workshop Program 78 here]

“I have a new unbreakable rule: never, never to study at night no matter how many written reviews are coming in the morning. Instead, I read just plain books—I have to, you know, because there are eighteen blank years behind me. You wouldn’t believe, Daddy, what an abyss of ignorance my mind is; I am just realizing the depths myself. The things that most girls with a properly assorted family and a home and friends and a library know by absorption, I have never heard of. For example:

“I never read Mother Goose or David Copperfield or Ivanhoe or Cinderella or Blue Beard or Robinson Crusoe or Jane Eyre or Alice in Wonderland or a word of Rudyard Kipling. I didn’t know that Henry the Eighth was married more than once or that Shelley was a poet. I didn’t know that people used to be monkeys and that the Garden of Eden was a beautiful myth. I didn’t know that R. L. S. stood for Robert Louis Stevenson or that George Eliot was a lady. I had never seen a picture of the ‘Mona Lisa’ and (it’s true but you won’t believe it) I had never heard of Sherlock Holmes.

“Now, I know all of these things and a lot of others besides, but you can see how much I need to catch up. And oh, but it’s fun! I look forward all day to evening, and then I put an ‘engaged’ on the door and get into my nice red bath robe and furry slippers and pile all the cushions behind me on the couch, and light the brass student lamp at my elbow, and read and read and read. One book isn’t enough. I have four going at once. Just now, they’re Tennyson’s poems and Vanity Fair and Kipling’s Plain Tales and—don’t laugh—Little Women. I find that I am the only girl in college who wasn’t brought up on Little Women. I haven’t told anybody though (that WOULD stamp me as queer). I just quietly went and bought it with $1.12 of my last month’s allowance; and the next time somebody mentions pickled limes, I’ll know what she is talking about!” – Jean Webster, Daddy-Long-Legs (1912)

“I think cancer is actually a part of your physiological normal self. There’s a process called apoptosis by which your normal cells die, like the autumn leaves going brown. Cancer is actually not just an out-of-control growth—it’s a prevention of death, meaning the cells refuse to die when they should.” – Surgeon and Researcher Patrick Soon-Shiong

“The girl whose drinks refresh the soul then said these words to Gilgamesh: ‘Remember always, mighty king, that gods decreed the fates of all many years ago. They alone are let to be eternal, while we frail humans die as you yourself must someday do. What is best for us to do is now sing and dance. Relish warm food and cool drinks. Cherish children to whom your love gives life. Bathe easily in sweet, refreshing waters. Play joyfully with your chosen wife.’ ” – The Epic of Gilgamesh (trans. by Danny P. Jackson)

Someone once commented to me that it would be nice if we could read each other’s minds. Blaise Pascal tells us the likely result of having that ability.

“No one talks about us in our presence as he would in our absence. Human relations are only based on this mutual deception; and few friendships would survive if everyone knew what his friend said about him behind his back, even though he spoke sincerely and dispassionately.” – Blaise Pascal, Pensées

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

“Civilization is the fruit of renunciation of instinctual satisfaction, and from each newcomer in turn it exacts the same renunciation” – Sigmund Freud, Thoughts for the Times on War and Death

“Expert: A man who makes three correct guesses consecutively.” – Laurence J. Peter

“Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.” – W. C. Fields

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