« PreviousContinue »
pected that a little alteration or improvement will be made to enable them to be handled more easily or render them more effective.
(2) With regard to invented sayings, or those for which no authority has been found (e.g., L'état, c'est moi), Sainte-Beuve puts their case very strongly when he writes (Causeries du Lundi, vol. xiii, pp. 107-8), referring to a mot of Villars which seems never to have been uttered by him . le mot est si bien dans sa nature que, s'il ne l'a pas dit, il a dû le dire." In these cases the Italian saying, se non è vero è ben trovato, is often very appropriate; and, on the other hand, ast Boileau writes (L'Art poétique, iii, 48), "Le vrai peut quelquefois n'être pas vraisemblable." So that there is something to be said in favour of these (from one point of view useful) inventions after all.
(3) There is often a very good reason for a saying being fathered on the wrong person. Molière's words (Amphytrion, act ii, sc. 2) seem very appropriate here :
"Tous les discours sont des sottises,
Si c'étoit un grand qui parlât."
Pope, too, expresses a similar idea in his Essay on Criticism, pt. ii, ll. 220-1.
"But let a Lord once own the happy lines,
How the wit brightens! how the style refines!"
But, without either adopting M. Fournier's apparently pessimistic attitude towards historic sayings in general, or going to the other extreme and accepting them all without question, the compiler's object in the following pages has been to bring together, in their original language, what he hopes may be considered a fairly representative collection of historic sayings, real or apocryphal, improved or altered, rightly or wrongly attributed, as the case may be; answering the questions by whom said, and under what circumstances; giving authorities as far as he has been able to ascertain them, varying versions, and, by means of frequent cross-references, enabling interesting comparisons to be made between them. The task of selection has been by no means an easy one, for a similarsized volume might have been easily filled with sayings in any one of the six languages chosen.
Bon mots, as such, have not been included, for as Voltaire * Tacitus (Annals, I, 74) has it: Quia vera erant, dicta etiam credebantur."
writes (Essai sur les mœurs et l'esprit des nations, ch. cxlv). "La plupart des bons mots ne sont que des redites." This criticism, as will be seen in these pages, applies also, although perhaps in a less degree, to many historical sayings.
A number of "dying words" have been included, not so much because of any particular intrinsic merit they may possess, but rather on account of the interest they acquire from their having been uttered (or said to have been uttered) by famous persons. With regard to these M. Fournier writes (p. 377, idem) "Défiez-vous des mots prêtés aux mourants. La mort n'est point bavarde: un soupir, un regard noyé dans les ombres suprêmes, un geste de la main se portant vers le cœur, quelques paroles confuses, mais surtout sans déclamation, voilà seulement ce qu'elle permet à ceux qu'elle a frappés." Still, if correctly reported, they are likely to proceed from the heart of the speakers.
Gaunt: "O, but they say, the tongues of dying men
Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain ;
On the whole, it is perhaps better, while keeping an open mind on the point of their accuracy, to value historical sayingslike history-for what they teach. Rousseau (Emile, 1838 ed., vol. i, p. 307) writes: "Les anciens historiens sont remplis de vues dont on pourroit faire usage quand même les faits qui les présentent seroient faux Les hommes sensés doivent regarder l'histoire comme un tissu de fables, dont la morale est très appropriée au cœur humain." Here are the sayingsfables or otherwise, partly true or wholly false-it is for my readers to draw their own moral from any of them, or draw none at all as they please. For my part, to conclude these desultory remarks-as they began---with a quotation,
I cannot tell how the truth may be;
I say the tale as 'twas said to me.
Sir W. Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel, ca. ii, st. 23. It only remains for me to express my indebtedness and thanks for the valuable assistance rendered me by Mr. Swan Sonnenschein, Mr. W. A. Peplow, and Mr. F. Thorold Dickson, of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-Law.
Errors there must be in such a compilation, and particulars of any such that may be noticed will be gratefully received if forwarded through the publishers.
alrica 250, 193,
amenca 28, 68, 5, 57, 26, 25, 58,79, !?! Euro be 63,66, 13, 145, 116, 207+172+
in the House of Commons, May 1, 1873, referring to London.
A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy. BENJAMIN DISRAELI, [Earl of Beaconsfield] (1804-81)-in a debate in the House of Commons, March 17, 1845, on agricultural distress. A Conservative is only a Tory
who is ashamed of himself. J. HOOKHAM FRERE (1769-1846) -when the terms Conservative and Liberal were beginning to take the place of Tory and Whig.
a crowning mercy.
OLIVER CROMWELI. (1599-1658) -in a despatch, dated Sep. 4, 1651, announcing the preceding day's victory at Worcester: "The dimensions of this mercy are above my thoughts. It is, for aught I know, a crowning mercy."
Actors speak of things imagin
ary as if they were real, while you preachers too often speak of things real as if they were imaginary. THOMAS BETTERTON (1635-1710) -in reply to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who asked why actors were more successful than preachers in impressing their auditors.
a delusion, a mockery, and a
LORD DENMAN (1779-1854)— in giving judgment in the case of O'Connell and others v. the Queen, in the House of Lords, Sept. 4, 1844. (Clark and Finnelly's Reports of Cases in the House of Lords, vol. xi, p. 351.) "If it is possible that such a practice as that which has taken place in the present instance should be allowed to pass without a remedy (and no other remedy has been suggested), trial by jury itself, instead of being a security to persons