Diamond Jubilee of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
2001 was the diamond jubilee for Oxford Quotations. Its over 60 years since the first edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations was published in 1941. What have the main changes been? the most striking difference is a cultural one.
In his Introduction to the first edition, Bernard Darwin reflected that "it is difficult today not to deal in warlike metaphors", but in fact the text of the Dictionary in those days reflected little of the period leading up to the Second World War. It is strange now to look at a page on which Winston Churchill, outnumbered by his father Randolph, is represented by a single quote (from 1906): It cannot in the opinion of His Majesty's Government be classified as slavery in the extreme acceptance of the word without some risk of terminological inexactitude. George V's official last words (How is the Empire?) are here, but not the Abdication, or the former Edward VIII's reference to the help and support of the woman I love. (The reported headline in an American newspaper announcing Mrs Simpson's divorce in an Ipswich court, King's Moll Reno'd in Wolsey's home town, was not to be included until the 4th edition of 1992.)
The Prime Minister who had to deal with the Abdication Crisis, Stanley Baldwin, does not appear at all, although his warning that the bomber will always get through was uttered in 1932. Churchill's great counterpart Franklin Roosevelt also appears with one quote (one of the few from the 1930s): his assertion during his 1932 presidential campaign that, I pledge you - I pledge myself - to a new deal for the American people. Neville Chamberlain does not appear: it should have been possible to record his mistaken I believe it is peace for our time (on his return from Munich in 1938), although his erroneous prediction of April 1940, Hitler has missed the bus, probably did come too late for a book published in 1941. There is in fact very little to indicate the coming storm, other than an item in the Addenda to German quotations: Hermann Goering's comment in a radio broadcast of 1936, Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat. The Dictionary in those days did not try!
to reflect the key moments of current affairs.
The novelist Norman Douglas once suggested that you can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements, and there are a number featured here. Bernard Darwin's introduction mentions what in 1941 was still a familiar advertising slogan, Pink Pills for Pale People, and the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the slogan for Kruschen salts, that Kruschen feeling, became a catchphrase of the 1920s to indicate a feeling of vigorous health. Health and concurrent looks were of particular concern, although some of the slogans seem to verge on the personal: Good-morning! Have you used Pears' soap?, for example, and You ought to see me on Sunday (Knight's Castile Soap). Wright's Coal Tar Soap (corrected to Pears in the 2nd edition of 1953) has the somewhat surprising statement, He won't be happy till he gets it.
Some advertisements, well-known in 1941, seem to have been forgotten by the 1950s: Dr Brighton, advertising Brighton's health-giving properties, was also to be dropped from the second edition, as was Always welcome, keep it handy, Grant's Morella Cherry Brandy. The slogan Where's George? Gone to Lyonch reflected the popularity of Lyons' Corner Houses in the 1920s and 1930s, but was not to survive the Second World War.
Popular songs include soldiers' songs from the First World War (Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag) and earlier music-hall favourites (We don't want to fight, but by jingo, if we do). There are a few precursors of larger entries in later editions: Irving Berlin is included for Alexander's Ragtime Band (1911), but not yet for Let's face the music and dance (1936). The possible dangers of social life (prefiguring Flanders and Swann's Have some Madeira, m'dear of the 1950s) were indicated by an anonymous limerick about a young lady of Kent who,
When men asked her to dine,
Gave her cocktails and wine,
She knew what it meant - but she went!
The Duke of Rutland (1818-1906), perhaps observing such a lifestyle with dismay, appealed
Let wealth and commerce, laws and learning die
But leave us still our old nobility.
The World of Literature
The selection is in fact pre-eminently a literary one: the prefatory note "The Compilers to the Reader" lists as the "most quoted writers" Browning, Byron, Cowper, Dickens, Johnson, Kipling, Milton, Shakespeare, Shelley, Tennyson, and Wordsworth; the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer also receive a special mention. But despite the predominance of the canonical writers, room was also found for minor figures: for example, the Victorian writer Thomas Ashe (1836-89), whose poems according to the Dictionary of National Biography "failed entirely to gain the ear of his generation" is represented by the plaintive line, Meet we no angels, Pansie? The moderns are cautiously represented: Virginia Woolf has as her single quotation the title of A Room of One's Own.
Sixty Years On
Quotation, said Bernard Darwin, brings to many people one of the intensest joys of living. The first edition of ODQ has its quotations organized in such separate sections as Authors Writing in English, Book of Common Prayer, Holy Bible, Anonymous, Ballads, Nursery Rhymes, Quotations from Punch, and Foreign Quotations (Latin, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, and German have the language of origin; Russian, Norwegian, and Swedish appear only in translation). Opening the pages is rather like walking into a traditional study lined with leather-bound volumes. The book opens a window into a different, and in many ways more orderly world, from the one we inhabit 60 years later, but our fascination with quotations endures. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it in 1876, By necessity, by proclivity, - and by delight, we all quote.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.