By Fred R. Shapiro

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2006 Fred R. Shapiro
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-10798-2

Chapter One


Edward Abbey U.S. environmentalist and writer, 1927-1989

1 Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. Quoted in Reader's Digest, Jan. 1970

William "Bud" Abbott 1895-1974 and Lou Costello (Louis Cristillo) 1906-1959 U.S. comedians

1 [Explaining the unusually named players on a baseball team:] Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third.

The Naughty Nineties (motion picture) (1945). According to Chris Costello, Lou's on First (1981), this Abbott and Costello baseball routine was developed during their burlesque years, then first heard on the Kate Smith Radio Hour in 1938.

Bella Abzug U.S. politician, 1920-1998

1 We don't want so much to see a female Einstein become an assistant professor. We want a woman schlemiel to get promoted as quickly as a male schlemiel.

Quoted in U.S. News and World Report, 25 Apr. 1977

Goodman Ace U.S. humorist, 1899-1982

1 [Of television:] We call it a medium because nothing's well done. Letter to Groucho Marx, 1953, in The Groucho Letters (1967)

Chinua Achebe Nigerian novelist, 1930-

1 Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten. Things Fall Apart ch. 1 (1958)

2 He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. Things Fall Apart ch. 25 (1958)

3 In such a r��gime [the government of Chief Nanga in Nigeria], I say, you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest-without asking to be paid. A Man of the People ch. 13 (1966)

Dean Acheson U.S. statesman, 1893-1971

1 Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role. Speech at U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., 5 Dec. 1962

2 A memorandum is written not to inform the reader but to protect the writer. Quoted in Wall Street Journal, 8 Sept. 1977

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, First Baron Acton English historian, 1834-1902

1 Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. "The History of Freedom in Antiquity" (1877)

2 There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men. Imagine a congress of eminent celebrities, such as More, Bacon, Grotius, Pascal, Cromwell, Bossuet, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Napoleon, Pitt, &c. The result would be an Encyclopedia of Error. Letter to Mary Gladstone, 24 Apr. 1881

3 Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. Letter to Mandell Creighton, 3 Apr. 1887 See William Pitt, Earl of Chatham 3

4 Writers the most learned, the most accurate in details, and the soundest in tendency, frequently fall into a habit which can neither be cured nor pardoned,-the habit of making history into the proof of their theories. The History of Freedom and Other Essays ch. 8 (1907)

Abigail Adams U.S. First Lady, 1744-1818

1 In the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. Letter to John Adams, 31 Mar. 1776 See Defoe 2

2 I can not say that I think you are very generous to the Ladies, for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good will to Men, Emancipating all Nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over Wives. But you must remember that Arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken-and notwithstanding all your wise Laws and Maxims we have it in our power not only to free ourselves but to subdue our Masters, and without violence throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet-"Charm by accepting, by submitting sway Yet have our Humor most when we obey." Letter to John Adams, 7 May 1776

3 It is really mortifying, sir, when a woman possessed of a common share of understanding considers the difference of education between the male and female sex, even in those families where education is attended to.... Nay why should your sex wish for such a disparity in those whom they one day intend for companions and associates. Pardon me, sir, if I cannot help sometimes suspecting that this neglect arises in some measure from an ungenerous jealousy of rivals near the throne. Letter to John Thaxter, 15 Feb. 1778

4 These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.... Great necessities call out great virtues. Letter to John Quincy Adams, 19 Jan. 1780

5 Patriotism in the female sex is the most disinterested of all virtues. Excluded from honors and from offices, we cannot attach ourselves to the State or Government from having held a place of eminence.... Yet all history and every age exhibit instances of patriotic virtue in the female sex; which considering our situation equals the most heroic of yours. Letter to John Adams, 17 June 1782

Charles Francis Adams U.S. lawyer and diplomat, 1807-1886

1 It would be superfluous in me to point out to your lordship that this is war. Dispatch to Lord John Russell, 5 Sept. 1863

Douglas Adams English science fiction writer, 1952-2001

1 This is the story of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, perhaps the most remarkable, certainly the most successful book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor.... It has the words "don't panic" inscribed in large, friendly letters on the cover. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Fit the First" (radio program) (1978)

2 Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much ... the wheel, New York, wars, and so on, whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely the dolphins believed themselves to be more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Fit the Third" (radio program) (1978)

3 [Answer to the "Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything":] Forty two. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Fit the Fourth" (radio program) (1978)

4 In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Fit the Fifth" (radio program) (1978)

5 The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million, they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn't enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Fit the Fifth" (radio program) (1978)

6 There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovered exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarrely inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Fit the Seventh" (radio program) (1978)

7 Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Fit the Twelfth" (radio program) (1980) See Twain 14

8 It was none the less a perfectly ordinary horse, such as convergent evolution has produced in many of the places that life is to be found. They have always understood a great deal more than they let on. It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency ch. 2 (1987)

9 It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression "as pretty as an airport." The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul ch. 1 (1988)

10 What god would be hanging around Terminal Two of Heathrow Airport trying to catch the 15.37 flight to Oslo? The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul ch. 6 (1988)

11 I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by. Quoted in Guardian (London), 3 June 2000

Frank R. Adams U.S. songwriter and writer, 1883-1963

1 I wonder who's kissing her now, Wonder who's teaching her how. "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" (song) (1909). Coauthored with Will M. Hough.

Franklin P. Adams U.S. journalist and humorist, 1881-1960

1 These are the saddest of possible words: "Tinker to Evers to Chance." Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds, Tinker and Evers and Chance. Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble, Making a Giant hit into a double-Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble: "Tinker to Evers to Chance." "Baseball's Sad Lexicon" l. 1 (1910). Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance were the double-play combination for the Chicago Cubs.

2 Years ago we discovered the exact point, the dead center of middle age. It occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net. Nods and Becks (1944)

3 Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody, rather than for somebody. Nods and Becks (1944) See W. C. Fields 21

4 I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way. Quoted in Reader's Digest, Oct. 1960

Henry Brooks Adams U.S. historian and writer, 1838-1918

1 Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 1 (1907)

2 Accident counts for as much in companionship as in marriage. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 4 (1907)

3 All experience is an arch, to build upon. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 6 (1907)

4 Only on the edge of the grave can man conclude anything. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 6 (1907)

5 A friend in power is a friend lost. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 7 (1907)

6 Friends are born, not made. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 7 (1907)

7 [Charles] Sumner's mind had reached the calm of water which receives and reflects images without absorbing them; it contained nothing but itself. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 16 (1907)

8 Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 16 (1907)

9 The difference is slight, to the influence of an author, whether he is read by five hundred readers, or by five hundred thousand; if he can select the five hundred, he reaches the five hundred thousand. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 17 (1907)

10 The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 17 (1907)

11 A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 20 (1907)

12 One friend in a life-time is much; two are many; three are hardly possible. Friendship needs a certain parallelism of life, a community of thought, a rivalry of aim. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 20 (1907)

13 What one knows is, in youth, of little moment; they know enough who know how to learn. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 21 (1907)

14 He had often noticed that six months' oblivion amounts to newspaper death, and that resurrection is rare. Nothing is easier, if a man wants it, than rest, profound as the grave. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 22 (1907)

15 Practical politics consists in ignoring facts. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 24 (1907)

16 All the steam in the world could not, like the Virgin, build Chartres. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 25 (1907)

17 Modern politics is, at bottom, a struggle not of men but of forces. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 28 (1907)

18 No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. The Education of Henry Adams ch. 31 (1907)

Joey Adams U.S. comedian, 1911-1999

1 With friends like that, who needs enemies? Cindy and I ch. 30 (1957)

John Adams U.S. president, 1735-1826

1 A Pen is certainly an excellent Instrument, to fix a Mans Attention and to inflame his Ambition. Diary and Autobiography, 14 Nov. 1760

2 The jaws of power are always opened to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing. A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law (1765)

3 The law, in all vicissitudes of government, fluctuations of the passions, or flights of enthusiasm, will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men.... On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries and lamentations of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder to the clamors of the populace. Argument in defense of the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, 4 Dec. 1770 See Bible 114; Algernon Sidney 1

4 A government of laws, and not of men. "Novanglus Papers" no. 7 (1774). Almost certainly derived from James Harrington, but Adams's use of the phrase gave it wide circulation in the United States. He also used "government of laws, and not of men" in the Declaration of Rights drafted for the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. See Cox 1; Gerald Ford 3; James Harrington 1

5 The judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that. "Thoughts on Government" (1776)

6 I agree with you, that in Politicks the Middle Way is none at all. Letter to Horatio Gates, 23 Mar. 1776

7 The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.-I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. Letter to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776

8 I am but an ordinary Man. The Times alone have destined me to Fame-and even these have not been able to give me, much.... Yet some great Events, some cutting Expressions, some mean Hypocrisies, have at Times, thrown this Assemblage of Sloth, Sleep, and littleness into Rage a little like a Lion. Diary and Autobiography, 26 Apr. 1779

9 I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry, and Porcelaine. Letter to Abigail Adams, 12 May 1780

10 Amidst your Ardor for Greek and Latin I hope you will not forget your mother Tongue. Read Somewhat in the English Poets every day.... You will never be alone, with a Poet in your Poket. You will never have an idle Hour. Letter to John Quincy Adams, 14 May 1781

11 You are afraid of the one-I, of the few. We agree perfectly that the many should have a full fair and perfect Representation.-You are Apprehensive of Monarchy; I, of Aristocracy. I would therefore have given more Power to the President and less to the Senate. Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 6 Dec. 1787

12 But my Country has in its Wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant Office [the vice-presidency] that ever the invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived: and as I can do neither good nor Evil, I must be borne away by Others and meet the common Fate. Letter to Abigail Adams, 19 Dec. 1793

13 [Upon moving into the new White House:] I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof. Letter to Abigail Adams, 2 Nov. 1800

14 You and I ought not to die, before We have explained ourselves to each other. Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 15 July 1813


Excerpted from THE YALE BOOK OF Quotationsby Fred R. Shapiro Copyright © 2006 by Fred R. Shapiro. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.