History Always Repeats Itself Essay

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“This list goes beyond even the usual level of Twain misattributions,” Shapiro told me.

“It seems to regard ‘Mark Twain quotation’ as a synonym for ‘quotation.’ ” For those who venerate the real Mark Twain, the list is all the more frustrating because the great man actually addressed the subjects of some of the fake quotes -- smoking, for instance. 19, 1870, letter to a friend named Joseph Twichell, Twain weighed the hazards of his beloved cigars: “When they used to tell me I would shorten my life ten years by smoking,” he wrote, “they little knew the devotee they were wasting their puerile words upon -- they little knew how trivial & valueless I would regard a decade that had no smoking in it!

“Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” [True] 6.

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” [Not Twain; Maurice Switzer.] 7.

I’ll go through the entire Huff Po list at the end of this piece, but first let’s look a bit more closely at one of its entries: the folk wisdom that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

This thought has also been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, without proof, although it’s the kind of thing Lincoln might have said -- because the sentiment is found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs.Goose, Her Book.” The point of this example is that lists of quotes without specific and verifiable citations -- where and when it appeared -- are useless, and invariably rife with errors.Websites with names like “Brainyquote” and “Thinkexist.com” are essentially Internet compost piles.(Example: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change – George Bernard Shaw.”) I like Buddy Roemer, find Cory Booker refreshing -- and maintain good relations with Arianna Huffington. It was here first.” Although that sounds vaguely like Twain, it’s actually from Robert Jones Burdette, a Union private from Illinois who after the Civil War became a prominent Iowa newspaper humorist and then a California pastor.But cognizant of the relatively new axiom that “nothing digital ever dies,” I try and gently correct such inaccuracies when I can, which I did with the Twain misquote. 30 was the great writer’s birthday, as it happens, and I’d mentioned a few of his pithy observations in a morning essay I’d written myself. If my sleuthing is correct, only 11 of the 27 were authentic.But Arianna kept tweeting out “Twain” quotes -- it seemed she was touting a slideshow on the Huffington Post -- so I clicked on it with a sense of trepidation. What awaited the reader were 27 quotes, most of which were not Twain, starting with the first one: “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The rest were purloined from other writers, fabricated out of whole cloth, or of unknown derivation, but not traceable to Mark Twain. There is no evidence, for instance, that Twain ever deadpanned that quitting smoking was easy because “I’ve done it thousands of times.” Others were comically wrong.It was a 20th century baseball player, not Mark Twain, who quipped that age was a question of mind over matter (“If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”).But Twitter is more egalitarian than Facebook, so I’ve been deluged, along with everyone else, by the counterfeit Churchill, the fabricated Lincoln, the fake Twain.Friday a week ago, Arianna Huffington tweeted: I wasn’t familiar with that line, but it sounds nothing like Mark Twain. an Alp from whose summit all small things are the same size.” Fourteen years later, in another letter to her, this one in reference to his friend Ulysses Grant, Twain wrote: “Manifestly, dying is nothing to a really great and brave man.”) But I digress.“I have no other restriction as regards smoking.” Likewise, although there is no evidence Twain ever said, “History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” he did write (in an unpublished manuscript that Bernard De Voto highlighted in a 1940 collection, “Mark Twain in Eruption”), “It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.” In other words, it is folly trying to improve on Mark Twain, and rarely possible. 15, 1890, letter to George Bainton, “The difference between the So, too, is it with right quotes. “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. It was here first.” [Not Twain; Robert Jones Burdette.] 2. If you don't mind, it doesn’t matter.” [Not Twain; Satchel Paige] 4.“I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” [This is Twain, but slightly garbled.] 5.


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