Quotes about quotes

Since I started to study calligraphy, I have been thinking – at least more than I used to – about aphorisms, quotations, maxims, and the like. There was only one William Blake.

“A wise word is not a substitute for a piece of herring or a bag of oats.”
~Sholom Aleichem

“Aphorisms are essentially an aristocratic genre of writing. The aphorist does not argue or explain, he asserts; and implicit in his assertion is a conviction that he is wiser or more intelligent than his readers. For this reason the aphorist who adopts a folksy style with ‘democratic’ diction and grammar is a cowardly and insufferable hypocrite.”
~W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger, introduction, The Faber Book of Aphorisms, 1962

“When one begins to live by habit and by quotation, one has begun to stop living.”
~James A. Baldwin, “White Racism of World Community,” Ecumenical Review (Oct. 1968).

“Conquered people tend to be witty.”
~Saul Bellow

“Life itself is a quotation.”
~Jorge Luis Borges, qu. Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories (1987; trans. 1990) Ch. 5.

“Our live experiences, fixed in aphorisms, stiffen into cold epigrams. Our heart’s blood, as we write it, turns to mere dull ink.”
~F. H. Bradley, Aphorisms (1930)

“Aphorisms are bad for novels. They stick in the reader’s teeth.”
~Anatole Broyard

“They have written volumes out of which a couplet of verse, a period in prose, may cling to the rock of ages, as a shell that survives a deluge.”
~Edward Bulwer Lytton, “What will he do with it?” Part 15, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 84 (Aug. 1858):240.

“How many of us have been attracted to reason; first learned to think, to draw conclusions, to extract a moral from the follies of life, by some dazzling aphorism.”
~Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

“The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other well.”
~Elias Canetti, Die Provinz des Menschen: Aufzeichnungen, 1942 – 1972 (The Human Province, tr. 1978)

“What is a quote? A quote (cognate with quota) is a cut, a section, a slice of someone else’s orange. You suck the slice, toss the rind, skate away. Part of what you enjoy in a documentary technique is the sense of banditry. To loot someone else’s life or sentences and make off with a point of view, which is called “objective” because you can make anything into an object by treating it this way, is exciting and dangerous.”
~Anne Carson, Decreation

“Some brains are barren grounds, that will not bring seed or fruit forth, unless they are well manured with the old wit which is raked from other writers and speakers.”
~Margaret Cavendish

“Short sentences drawn from long experience.”
~Miguel de Cervantes

“A beautiful verse, an apt remark, or a well-turned phrase, appropriately quoted, is always effective and charming.”
~Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond du Deffand

“A quotation, like a pun, should come unsought, and then be welcomed only for some propriety of felicity justifying the intrusion.”
~Robert Chapman

“It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.”
~Winston Churchill

“The aphorism is cultivated only by those who have known fear in the midst of words, that fear of collapsing with all the words.”
~Emile M. Cioran

“Exclusively of the abstract sciences, the largest and worthiest portion of our knowledge consists of aphorisms: and the greatest and best of men is but an aphorism.”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“The laughter of the aphorism is sometimes triumphant, but seldom carefree.”
~Mason Cooley

“In quoting others, we cite ourselves.”
~Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

“Plagiarists, at least, have the merit of preservation.”
~Benjamin Disraeli

“A transposable aphorism is a malaise of the urge to be witty, or in other words, a maxim that is untroubled by the fact that the opposite of what it says is equally true so long as it appears to be funny.”
~Umberto Eco

“There is nothing more difficult to define than an aphorism.”
~Umberto Eco

“We endeavor to stuff the universe into the gullet of an aphorism.”
~Paul Eldridge

“All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. We quote not only books and proverbs, but arts, sciences, religion, customs, and laws; nay, we quote temples and houses, tables and chairs, by imitation.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Quotation and Originality,” Letters and Social Aims, 1876

“Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines, and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Many of the historical proverbs have a doubtful paternity.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Quotation and Originality”

“Most of the classical citations you shall hear or read in the current journals or speeches were not drawn from the originals, but from previous quotations in English books…”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Quotation and Originality”

“A transcription doesn’t so much repeat words as contextualize and historicize them, uniting them with the time, place, and source of their utterance. A transcript reproduces the words it records; it does not use them. Quoting is an attitude and practice, central to aesthetic and literary experiences as different from each other as the sublime and camp.”
~William Flesch

“Pretentious quotations [are] the surest road to tedium.”
~Henry Watson Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage

“Audiences are always better pleased with a smart retort, some joke or epigram, than with any amount of reasoning.”
~Charlotte Perkins Gilman

“Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted, than when we read it in the original author?”
~Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life, 1873

“A book of quotations… can never be complete.”
~Robert M. Hamilton

“It’s such a pleasure to write down splendid words—almost as though one were inventing them.”
~Rupert Hart-Davis

“I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative; grow weary of preparation, and connection, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made.”
~Samuel Johnson, quoted in The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, James Boswell, 1785

“Quotes are nothing but inspiration for the uninspired.”
~Attributed to Richard Kemph

“An apt quotation is like a lamp which flings its light over the whole sentence.”
~Letitia Elizabeth Landon

“Did you ever read my words, or did you merely finger through them for quotations which you thought might valuably support an already conceived idea concerning some old and distorted connection between us?”
~Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

“Life is too short for a long story.”
~Mary Wortley Montagu

“If, as we who study ourselves have learned to do, every one who hears a good sentence, would immediately consider how it applies to his own case, he would find that it is not so much an excellent saying as an excellent blow at the usual stupidity of his own judgment; but we receive the precepts and admonitions of truth as directed to the common people, never to ourselves; and instead of applying them to our morals, do only very ignorantly and unprofitably commit them to memory.”
~Michel de Montaigne, “Of Custom,” Essays (1575)

“I quote others only in order the better to express myself.”
~Michel de Montaigne

“Not everything that can be extracted appears in anthologies of quotations, in commonplace books, or on the back of Celestial Seasonings boxes. Only certain sorts of extracts become quotations.”
~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011.

“Reframing an extract as a quotation constitutes a kind of coauthorship. With no change in wording, the cited passage becomes different. I imagine that the thrill of making an anthology includes the opportunity to become such a coauthor.”
~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others

“A single gnomic line can come to resonate with centuries of subsequent wisdom.”
~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others

“Unless created as freestanding works, quotations resemble found” art. They are analogous, say, to a piece of driftwood identified as formally interesting enough to be displayed in an art museum or to a weapon moved from an anthropological to an artistic display…. The presenter of found art, whether material or verbal, has become a sort of artist. He has not made the object, but he has made it as art.”
~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others

“Quotations will tell the full measure of meaning, if you have enough of them.”
~James Murray

“There are aphorisms that, like airplanes, stay up only while they are in motion.”
~Vladimir Nabokov

“In places this book is a little over-written, because Mr Blunden is no more able to resist a quotation than some people are to refuse a drink.”
~George Orwell, review of Cricket Country by Edmund Blunden, Manchester Evening News (April 20, 1944)

“Misquotation is, in fact, the pride and privilege of the learned. A widely-read man never quotes accurately, for the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely.”
~Hesketh Pearson

“Real novelty of vocabulary is impossible; in the matter of language we lead a parasitical existence, and are always quoting. Quotations, conscious or unconscious, vary in kind according as the mind is active to work upon them and make them its own.”
~Walter Raleigh, Style, 1904

“Such an expression as “fine by degrees and beautifully less” is often no more than a bloated equivalent for a single word – say “diminishing” or “shrinking.” Quotations like this are the warts and excremental parts of language; the borrowings of good writers are never thus superfluous, their quotations are appropriations.”
Walter Raleigh, Style

“[D]ifferent people have different quotational gravity.”
~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010, p.14

“Say what you want without saying it yourself: quote. Very useful, this, sometimes lovely, and versatile, too: big thoughts in small pieces, neatly wrapped and bundled in bulk, in different flavors for different tastes.”
~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology

“There are very few profound sayings in the world.”
~Jeff Rich

“An aphorism needn’t be true, but it should sound true.”
~Marty Rubin

“An aphorism ought to be entirely isolated from the surrounding world like a little work of art and complete in itself like a hedgehog.”
~Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

“Most of the noted literary men have indulged in the prudent habit of selecting favorite passages for future reference.”
~Charles F. Schutz, Sayings: Proverbs, Maxims, Mottoes, 1915

“A well arranged scrapbook, filled with choice selections, is a most excellent companion for anyone who has the least literary taste.”
~Chaning, qu. Charles F. Schutz, Sayings

“Perhaps the most powerful and appealing aspect of another’s words, however, is simply their convenience. Whether distilled in the briefest apophthegm, or spread out across some voluminous tome, the thought is ready-made, the heavy lifting done. It’s there to be used like a weapon or tool, and as time wanders on, seemingly leaving us fewer and fewer new things to say, it becomes ever more useful. As technology moves forward, as well, it also becomes much easier. Indeed, in this “information age” where so much is available to so many so quickly that enlightenment nearly verges on light pollution, it can sometimes appear that expression has been reduced to nothing more than a mad race to unearth and claim references. As such, the citation is also there to be donned, like some article of fashion from which we may reap the praise of discriminating taste without ever exerting ourself in the actual toil of manufacture.”
~Jasper Siegel Seneschal, Citations: A Brief Anthology

“Few things are more absurd than wise saws originally designed to inculcate or maintain the social needs of a society long past – when they are applied to today.”
~Idries Shah, Reflections

“The quoting of an aphorism, like the angry barking of a dog or the smell of overcooked broccoli, rarely indicates that something helpful is about to happen.”
~Lemony Snicket, The Vile Village, 2001

“It is the nature of aphoristic thinking to be always in a state of concluding; a bid to have the final word is inherent in all powerful phrase-making.”
~Susan Sontag

“Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.”
~Madame de Stael

“Wit consists in knowing the resemblance of things that differ, and the difference of things that are alike.”
~Madame de Stael

“Somewhere in this world there is an epigram for every dilemma.”
~Hendrik Willem van Loon, The Liberation of Mankind, 1926

“Anything that is too stupid to be spoken is sung.”
~Voltaire

“A witty saying proves nothing.”
~Voltaire

“In the dying world I come from, quotation is a national vice.”
~Evelyn Waugh

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
~Oscar Wilde

“One has to secrete a jelly in which to slip quotations down people’s throats – and one always secretes too much jelly.”
~Virginia Woolf

[Linked image on Cabinet from Monty Python, episode 39, season three, airdate 18.1.1973.]

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