Sunday, August 19, 2007

Who said that?

Perhaps some of you have had this experience: you try to look up the source of an oft-quoted quote, and you can't find it, or you find out no one ever uttered that quote in the first place. Or you discover that the quote itself was inaccurate.

This has happened to me in the process of writing books. For my first book, I was looking up the source of the James Joyce quote all my Catholic friends loved and many contemporary Catholic writers have quoted, his definition of the Catholic Church as "here comes everybody." Never found it. For the second book, I searched high and low for the location of the famous Augustine quote "the one who sings prays twice." I even went to one of the top Augustine scholars in the country, for crying out loud, and she didn't know where it was from. So I wrote "attributed to Augustine" in the book because I never could find the source.

So now I'm looking for the accurate words and trying to verify the source of the William Faulkner quote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." What I do know is that Faulkner did write that, or words very close to those. If I had a copy of Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun here at home I could just look it up, since it comes, the internet tells me (but you how the internet is) from that 1951 work in Act I, Scene III. Anybody out there got a copy they can check?

In the process of poking about the Web about this, I found this very interesting excerpt from a book by Ralph Keyes called The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When. Have a look, you lovers of language and rhetoric. I think I need this book!

I'm glad that Keyes sets people straight about the alleged quote by Nelson Mandela (you know the one about how our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, bla, bla), which is much too New Age-y to have been written by Mandela and is by Marianne Williamson.

I'm going to use the Faulkner quote as an epigraph on my syllabus for "History of Religion in America."

(I know, Padre Mickey, I should say "Estados Unidos" and not "America," but I just inherited the course, so that's its title. Trust me, I'll deal with that one -- and with the fact that the first religious and cultural paths we need to look at are those of Native peoples here.)


johnieb said...

OK, so I needn't feel that sorry for you!

Jane R said...

Why not?

johnieb said...

Sorry: wrong thread. I meant the restaurant/ caterer for your retreat sounded very good.

Jane R said...

Oh -- yeah,they are great. Lovely people, too. They have a cafe-restaurant in Greensboro and a booth at the farmers' market (which is where we got the food for the retreat - cheapest way and I go there anyway most Saturdays) and they also do catering.

Joseph Zitt said...

Using the "Search Inside" feature at, I find the quote on page 535 of the Library of America editions. It is indeed in Act 1, and probably in Scene 3 (which begins on page 523, but I can't besure that another scene doesn't start in between).

I'll see if I can remember to look it up fer shure at work today.

klady said...

Also found in context at here or if my link doesn't work at