Category Archives: Quotations

Doublets: Memory as Literature

atkins-bookshelf-quotations“Every man’s memory is his private literature.”

Alders Huxley (1894-1963), British writer and philosopher. Huxley’s best known work is Brave New World.

“A childhood is what anyone wants to remember of it. It leaves no fossils, except perhaps in fiction.”

Carol Shields (1932-2003), American-born Canadian short story writer and novelist. Her novel, The Stone Diaries, published in 1993, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.


Read related posts: Doublets: Genius
Doublets: Youth and Maturity
Doublets: You Cannot Run Away From Yourself
Doublets: The Lessons of History
Doublets: Reading a Great Book
Doublets: Tolerance
Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid

Famous Last Words: Part 2

atkins bookshelf quotations“The tricky thing in the ‘last word’ business, as in so much else, is timing. Do you think of something clever years before and try and remember it to trot out at the appropriate time? Do you rely on last-minute inspiration?” writes Sir Richard Stilgoe in the introduction to Eric Grounds’ entertaining The Bedside Book of Final Words, “How can you control your last seconds so that you say your pithy sentence, check that someone’s got it down accurately, then die? Fortunately for biographers and collectors of last final words, many famous people have said some very clever things that were actually recorded in one form or another for posterity. Here are some selections from Grounds’ collection of famous last words:

Louisa May Alcott: “Is it not meningitis?”

Jane Austen: “Nothing but death…”

James Barrie: “I can’t sleep.”

L. Frank Baum: “Now we can cross the shifting sands.”

Lord George Byron: “I leave something dear to the world.”

Kurt Cobain: “I love you. I love you.”

Salvador Dali: “¿Donde esta mi reloj?” (“Where is my clock?”)

Charles Dickens: “Yes, on the ground.” (In response to someone suggesting that he lie down.)

Benjamin Franklin: “A dying man can do nothing easy.”

Thomas Hobbes: “A great leap in the dark.”

James Joyce: “Does nobody understand?”

Timothy Leary: “Beautiful.”

John Lennon: “Life is why happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Karl Marx: ” Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!”

Michelangelo: “Ancora impart.” (“I am still learning.”)

“General John Sedgwick: “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist……”

Read related posts: How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?
Writers’ Deaths that are Stranger than Fiction

How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Books Does the Average American Read?

For further reading: The Bedside Book of Final Words by Eric Grounds (2014)


The Three Humiliations of Humanity

atkins bookshelf quotations“Sigmund Freud declared that humanity had suffered three historic humiliations — Galileo’s discovery that the earth was not at the center of the universe, Darwin’s [discovery] that mankind was not qualitatively different than the animal kingdom, and his own — that we are not control of our own minds. Modern specialists reject many of his theories about the healing powers of psychoanalysis, but his revelation that the unconscious retains many thoughts and emotions that the conscious mind appears to have forgotten, has radically changed the way people think about themselves.”

From the essay “The Interpretations of Dreams (1899) by Sigmund Freud” in Books That Changed the World (2008) by Andrew Taylor. Taylor is a British journalist and contributor to the Sunday Times.

Human Compassion Binds Us Together

atkins bookshelf quotations“We are together in this. Our human compassion binds us the one to the other — not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”

Humanitarian and anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013), speaking at the Healing and Reconciliation Service dedicated to HIV/Aids sufferers held on December 6, 2000 in Johannesburg, Africa.

Doublets: There’s No Money in Poetry

atkins-bookshelf-quotations“Poetry is living proof that rhyme doesn’t pay”


“There’s no money in poetry, but there’s no poetry in money, either”

Robert Graves (1895-1985), English poet, novelist, and classicist, best known for his historical novel I, Claudius (1934) and The Greek Myths (1955), the retelling of famous Greek myths. 


Read related posts: Doublets: Genius
Doublets: Youth and Maturity
Doublets: You Cannot Run Away From Yourself
Doublets: The Lessons of History
Doublets: Reading a Great Book
Doublets: Tolerance
Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid

What is the Meaning of the Ides of March?

atkins-bookshelf-phrasesIn the ancient Roman calendar, before the Christian Era, every month had three named days: the Calends (or Kalends), the first day of the month when accounts were due; the Nones, the fifth or seventh day of the month; and the Ides, the middle of the month (between the 13th to 15th day). There was nothing particularly significant about the ides of January, the ides of February, and so forth.

All that changed in 1599 when William Shakespeare wrote The Tragedy of Julius Ceasar. In Act 1, Scene 2, in a public place on March 15th, 44 BC, a soothsayer among the crowd approaches Caesar and calls out: “Caesar!… Beware the ides of March.” Caesar is not sure he has heard the man correctly, so Brutus repeats it: “A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.”  The soothsayer repeats the line, warning that the Roman leader’s life is in danger. But Caesar immediately dismisses him: “He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.” As we all know, Caesar should have heeded the soothsayer’s warning. In a scene filled with brutality and treachery, Caesar is surrounded by an angry mob of senators who walk up to him and stab him to death. He is stabbed a total of 23 times. As his life slips away, a feeble Caesar turns to his closest friend and ally, Marcus Junius Brutus, and utters the famous line, “Et tu, Brute?” (you too, Brutus?), signifying the ultimate betrayal.

So from that point on, thanks to Shakespeare’s dramatic genius, the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” being linked to Caesar’s barbarous assassination, imbued upon March 15 a rather ominous and nefarious connotation that has been passed down through the centuries. However, Tom Frail, senior editor of Smithsonian magazine, notes that March 15th lives in infamy beyond Casear’s murder. He cites several events in history that occurred on that same fateful day that were filled with villainy or mortalities:

Raid on Southern England, March 15, 1360: The French raided a town in southern England and began a two-day spree of murder, rape, and pillage. King Edward III initiated a pillaging spree in France in retaliation.

Cyclone strikes Samoa, March 15, 1889: A cyclone strikes six warships that were at barber in Apia, Samoa. More than 200 sailors were killed.

Czar Nicholas II abdicates throne, March 15, 1917: Czar Nicholas II or Russia is forced to abdicate his royal throne (ending a dynasty of 304 years). A few months later, he and his family are executed.

Blizzard in Great Plains, March 15, 1941: A devastating blizzard, with 60-MPH winds, struck the northern Great Plains, killing more than 66 people.

Depletion of ozone layer, March 15, 1988: NASA reported that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere has been depleted three times faster than had been predicted.

Outbreak of SARS, March 15, 2003: WHO reported a breakout of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Read related posts: The Buck Stops Here
Clothes Make the Man
Hoist with His Own Petard

For further reading: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare


The Most Beautiful Valentine Ever Written

catkins-bookshelf-literatureChilean poet Pablo Neruda (born  Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basalto) finished a collection of sonnets, entitled One Hundred Love Sonnets in October 1959. He then penned a beautiful, moving tribute to his wife, Matilde Urrutia Neruda, to serve as the book’s introduction. In short, the tribute — not to mention the brilliant love sonnets — make it one of the most beautiful valentines ever written:

“My beloved wife, I suffered while I was writing these misnamed “sonnets”; they hurt me and caused me grief, but the happiness I feel in offering them to you is vast as a savanna. When I set this task for myself, I knew very well that down the right sides of sonnets, with elegant discriminating taste, poets of all times have arranged rhymes that sound like silver or crystal or cannonfire. But—with great humility—I made these sonnets out of wood; I gave them the sound of that opaque pure substance, and that is how they should reach your ears. Walking in forests or on beaches, along hidden lakes, in latitudes sprinkled with ashes, you and I have picked up pieces of pure bark; pieces of wood subject to the comings and goings of water and the weather. Out of such softened relics, then with hatchet and machete and pocketknife, I built little houses, so that your eyes, which I adore and sing to, might live in them. Now that I have declared the foundations of my love, I surrender this century to you: wooden sonnets that rise only because you gave them life.”

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Read related posts: Pablo Neruda on Love
The Best Love Stories
Best Academy Award Quotes
Best Books for Movie Lovers
The Paradox of Love

The Wisdom of Rainer Maria Rilke
The Fluidity of Love
Doublets: Love

For further reading: Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda (1997)
100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda (1986)
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda (1993)
The Book of Love: Writers and Their Love Letters by Cathy Davidson (1992)



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