I received a terrific gift recently, a copy of the latest edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. (18th ed., 2012). It’s a behemoth of a book, clocking in at just over 1,500 pages.
It’s also a browser’s delight, a history lesson and time machine, and an exemplar for writers in how to turn a phrase. Here’s a very random sampling:
- “Every human being is an archeological site” (Luc Sante, The Factory of Facts, 1998)
- “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody” (Irving Berlin, Ziegfeld Follies, 1919)
- “Books, the children of the brain” (Jonathan Swift, A Tale of the Tub, 1704)
- “Nobody’s as powerful as we make them out to be” (Alice Walker, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, 1970)
- “You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)
- “If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom shall we serve?” (Abigail Adams, Letter to John Thaxter, 1778)
- “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” (Chester Nimitz, Of the Marines at Iwo Jima, 1945)
- “It is far, far better and much safer to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought” (John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 1958)
- “Man, if you gotta ask you’ll never know” (Louis Armstrong, Reply when asked what jazz is)
- “O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!” (Edna St. Vincent Millay, God’s World, 1917)
…and so, so much more. Buy, borrow, or be gifted a copy and enjoy.
Many thanks to Tom and Phyllis Schaaf for the kind gift that inspired this blog post!