Who said that?

A while ago I started following a blog after they posted some interesting music stuff but it transpired that the guy was one of those strange American conservative types who bemoan the intolerance of other people whilst displaying an equal degree of intolerance to anyone who may hold a differing view to his – which is probably most normal people. I continue to follow it somewhat fascinated.

To support his belief system he will often share some quote that someone else has cut and pasted across the Internet. More often than not these are fictions created on a whim and then attached to a famous name to give it some credibility or are an actual quote misattributed. So we may have a quote claiming to be from Solzhenitsyn that he did not actually write or say and probably never thought about either but it roughly aligns with what the blogger thinks so he cuts and pastes it anyway.

As is usually the case with such cherry picking the quotes are provided with neither a source nor any context. But in these information rich times one can spend a pleasant few minutes with a mug of coffee debunking the nonsense.

Today we had a quote by the Canadian born author Saul Bellow:

which was an interesting one. It is widely attributed to Bellow across the Interweb and Bellow does indeed use these words in a novel about a Jewish homosexual about to die from AIDS (a traditional right wing conservative theme) – Ravelstein but he is quoting:

The rule for the dead is that they should be forgotten. After burial there is a universal gradual progress toward oblivion. But with Ravelstein this didn’t altogether work. He claimed and filled a more conspicuous space in Rosamund’s life as well as mine. She remembered a text from her schooldays that went “Associate with the noblest people you can find; read the best books; live with the mighty; but learn to be happy alone.”

To Ravelstein this would have been the usual high-minded high-school kabibble.

Ravelstein – Saul Bellow – Viking Press – April 2000

The actual quote comes from the Scottish born philosopher Thomas Davidson. It can be found in a letter to his students collected in the book The education of the wage-earners; a contribution toward the solution of the educational problem of democracy. (Boston, Ginn 1904). It is number five in a list of twenty aphorisms.

Thomas Davidson the philosopher should not be confused with another Thomas Davidson such as the painter, or the poet or the palaeontologist as one academic writer does:

The “Rely upon your own energies, and so do not wait for, or depend on other people.” part is from the first aphorism with an erroneous “so”. Cut and paste. Cut and paste.

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