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As this is a book of quotations, I may be allowed to begin at once by citing a remark of Professor Skeat, which seems peculiarly pertinent to the matter in hand. He says (Notes and Queries, 6th ser., vol. ix., p. 499), “I protest, for about the hundredth time, against the slipshod method of quoting a mere author's name, without any indication of the work of that author in which the alleged quotation may be found. Let us have accurate quotations and exact references, wherever such are to be found. A quotation without a reference is like a geological specimen of unknown locality.”
An admirable sentiment, which every one who has to do with quotations will readily applaud, and which may serve here to express the scope and character of the following compilation in its main features. My aim has been (1.) to give the quotations in their original form ; (2.) to add, wherever possible, an accurate reference to the author and work from which the quotation is taken.
That the attempt has proved far from being universally successful will be apparent, even upon a cursory examination of the volume. After deducting mottoes, proverbs, and such like, as have no special parentage, there remains a large number of quotations which are inserted without reference, 1 either from want of time to consult the originals in every case, or through inability to discover the proper source. In many instances, also, I have been obliged to rely on second-hand authorities, so that it is likely errors, both in text and authorship, may be discovered. When, however, the number of quotations included in the work is taken into account (many of them having never before appeared in any collection of the kind), it will not be a matter of surprise that some failure in this respect should have attended the endeavour : the endeavour being, after all, the thing that I lay claim to rather
1 In all such cases a ? will be found following the quotation, inviting the reader to supply the desired information. See “Correction of Inaccuracies," p. viii.
than the results. But as regards the greater majority of the quotations, the original has been consulted, the words verified, and author, work, and passage noted and particularised.
Natural and essential as one would imagine such details to be to any collection of quotations, it does not appear to have entered into the plan of any previous compilers, so that the idea has almost the merit of originality. Taking the various works of the kind that have appeared since Mr Macdonnel's Dictionary of 1796, I have not found any editor deigning to furnish his book with these necessary particulars, which assuredly constitute its chief value as an authoritative book of reference. Each compiler follows in the track of his predecessors in the field, and, for the most part, becomes only the too faithful copyist of his predecessors' inaccuracies.
As a result, we have a work which cannot be relied on. Two chief uncertainties, at least, will attach themselves to careless quotings of this description. In the first place, it is doubtful whether the passage be really the author's to whom it is ascribed; and next, it is almost even chances that the words given are not the exact words of the original. Such a sentence may be in Cicero, but it may also be in Quintilian ; such a line may be Corneille's, but there is nothing to show that it was not written by Scudéry. And all this, because pains have not been taken to go to the author and verify the passage. Not that the labour involved in such an investigation is small, far from it. Oh! the tediousness of hunting for a quotation from Statius through nineteen books of Sylvæ, Thebaid, and Achilleid ! Or to be sent to Lucan in search of a line, which, one ought to have known, is not Lucan, but Lucretius! One is rewarded in a sort of way, and perhaps as much by despoiling the alleged author of what is not his, as by discovering its legitimate parentage.3
But the error of author's name is slight and venial compared with the more serious fault of altering the words of the text. It may seem a small matter to substitute putat for Cicero's existimat, to alter Sallust's priusquam to antequam, or to write Uhr where Schiller wrote Stunde; but in reality the change is not unimportant. Besides the blot of inaccuracy, the passage suffers in a literary and artistic aspect, and when it is restored to its real shape it is seen how the right words fit into their right places like the pieces of a mosaic.
1 This applies, of course, only to English publications. In the Geflügelte Wörte of George Büchmann, and in Ed. Fournier's L'Esprit des autres, every pain has been taken to trace quotations to their original source, and no one can be more severe than M. Fournier on loose and inaccurate citation. I take this opportunity to state my indebtedness to both these writers, not only for many new and valuable quotations, but for quotations racontées, i.e., given with the curious and amusing particulars which in many instances attach to them.
2 Expertus disces quam gravis iste labor.–Forcellini, Dict. Lat. Præf.
3 Second rate and post-Augustan authors are by no means to be despised as far as quotations go. What could be better, e.g., than Statius (Theb. 2, 489), O cæca nocentum consilia ! O semper timidum scelus/ or the Grave pondus illum magna nobilitas premit of Seneca (Troad. 491) ?
Of other and more deliberate misrepresentations of classic authors it is hard to speak with patience. When a well-known line of Juvenal, or a beautiful passage in the Georgics, is “slightly altered " to suit the taste of the compiler, one is inclined to feel something more than amusement. Nothing is gained by the change, neither in the way of beauty, and, still less, in truth, and this, it must be felt, is the principle that should guide any one attempting a compilation of the kind-exactness, accuracy, truth. He is not called upon for any originality, save the original words of the author he quotes. He must give his author's own words, and give them in their proper order. He must be observant of number and gender, mood and tense. If the quotation be in the form of a dependent sentence in the original, so must be leave it, and not think to exchange infinitive for indicative, or third person for first, in order to suit the exigencies of his readers, or put the saying into more quotable and epigrammatic shape. The quotation may not look so sprightly, perhaps, but it has the unique and priceless quality of being correct.
Besides this, it is desirable that the quotation be accompanied by its context where it does not run to undue length, and that if any intermediate portion of it be omitted—a perfectly legitimate proceeding—the omission be indicated in the usual way. It may seem unnecessary to add that the author should be quoted in his own tongue ; but, from the unfamiliarity of the Greek language, it is not uncommon to have a passage from a Greek writer given in a Latin rendering, which seems hardly permissible in a book of original quotation. If Cicero has Latinised some lines of Euripides, or Ausonius translated the sayings of the Seven Sages, I conceive it allowable to make use of their versions ; but it is impossible to represent Lucian, Plutarch, or Aristotle
1 In point of fact, accurate quotation is by no means a common atteinment even in the case of the most familiar passages. And the more familiar the passage, the more commonly is it, in many cases, misquoted. Inaccuracies of this kind are repeated and become stereotyped. The hackneyed sie volo, sis jubee does not, for all its frequency, exist in any known Latin author; nor does the celebrated Haud
inal Newman would substitute for the original words of Virgil. Ask any one to go on with the well-known Facilis descensus, etc., and it is ten chances to one (and perhaps much longer odds) that the remainder of the passage will not be correctly repeated.
as Latin writers, for the simple reason that they wrote in Greek, 1
Only second to the duty of accurate quotation is the task of selecting passages fit for insertion in the collection. The first compilers proceeded, not unnaturally, in the way of accumulation rather than selection, the object being to make a decent-sized volume : anything, provided it was not English, being caught up and admitted with quasi-classical status into the volume, as though its mere insertion would in some vague way either betoken or promote learning. Hence, one was presented not only with long paragraphs in French and Latin, but with pointless scraps of Greek and Italian, Welsh, and even native Irish, which could hardly be conceived of as either likely or even possible to be quoted.
A quotation, then, to deserve the rank of such, should, first of all, be quotable. It should contain a sentiment of some acumen, well expressed, and not too long. This seems to be, more or less, the idea of the quotation proper. There are of course many loci classici which do not fall precisely under this definition, but which, for their grandeur, pathos, or truth, could not be well excluded from any collection. But the rule of “ quotability” is that which I have endeavoured to keep generally in view, and, as far as regards quotations properly so called, to admit none that could not be thus employed either in literary or oratorical composition. Of these, the poetical will be seen to preponderate largely over
1 As an illustration of these and the foregoing remarks I append some instances of faulty quotation taken from various collections of the kind :-1. Simple in ver. sion of proper order, Adolescentem verecundum esse decet for the Decet verecundum esse adolescentem of Plautus (As. 5, 1, 6). 2. Inversion of order and alteration of text, Dem Glücklichen schlägt keine Stunde for the Die Uhr schlägt keinem Glücklichen of Schiller (Piccol. 3, 3). 3. Wrong author, “La critique est aisée et l'art est difficile, Boileau," for Destouches (Glorieux, 2, 5). 4. Change of depen. dent to independent form of sentence, Mens peccat, non corpus, et unde consilium abfuit, culpa abest for the Mentem peccare non corpus, et, unde consilium abfuerit, culpam abesse of Livy (1, 58, 9). 5. Falsification of text, order, form of sentence. and author. "Voluptas est malorum esca : quod ea non minus h quam hamo capiuntur pisces. Plautus," for the “ Plato escam malorum appellat voluptatem quod ea videlicet homines capiantur, ut hamo pisces" of Cicero (Sen. 13, 44). This is a very bad instance, but the following is, if possible, even worse :
6. “Cujus conatibus obstat
Res angusta domi. Hor." First, alteration of text, cujus conatibus for the quorum virtutibus of the original; secondly, omission of preceding words, Haud facile emergunt, upon which the rest depends; and, lastly, the reference to Horace when the line is Juvenal's. 7. Omission of part of a quotation without any note of such omission, as, e.g.,
“Facilis descensus Averni, At revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
Hic labor, hoc opus est. Virg." where a whole line is omitted between the first and second of the quotation, and the last line misquoted, not to speak of other inaccuracies. See the original, No. 1599.