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It is erroneous to tie down individual genius to ideal models. Each person should do that, not which is best in itself, even supposing this could be known, but that which he can do best, which he will find out if left to himself. Spenser could not have written Paradise Lost, nor Milton the Faerie Queene. Those who aim at faultless regularity will only produce mediocrity, and no one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
“Thoughts on Taste,” Edinburgh Magazine (1819-07)
Added on 9-Feb-24 | Last updated 12-Feb-24
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If a man be discreet enough to take to hard drinking in his youth, before his general emptiness is ascertained, his friends invariably credit him with a host of shining qualities which, we are given to understand, lie balked and frustrated by his one unfortunate weakness.

Agnes Repplier (1855-1950) American writer
“A Plea for Humor,” Points of View (1891)

Offered as a hypothetical sardonic observation by the author William Dean Howells.
Added on 19-May-23 | Last updated 19-May-23
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Ninety percent of everything is crud.

Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985) American fiction author, poet, essayist, critic [b. Edward Hamilton Waldo]
“Sturgeon’s Law” (c. 1951)

Popularly known as "Sturgeon's Law," though the author used that term for another aphorism, and called this "Sturgeon's Revelation."

Verbal origins point to a talk at NYU in 1951, and at the World SF Convention, Philadelphia (Sep 1953). It was first referenced in print in Venture Science Fiction (Sep 1957), and first used by Sturgeon in print in his review column, "Books: On Hand," Venture Science Fiction (Mar 1958):

It is in this vein that I repeat Sturgeon's Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of S.F. is crud.

The Revelation
Ninety percent of everything is crud.

Corollary 1
The existence of immense quantities of trash in science fiction is admitted and it is regrettable; but it is no more unnatural than the existence of trash anywhere.

Corollary 2
The best science fiction is as good as the best fiction in any field.

For "crud" people often substitute "crap" or "shit." People citing the law sometimes vary the percentage value as well.

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Added on 9-Mar-23 | Last updated 9-Mar-23
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Our Constitution relies on our electorate’s complete ideological freedom to nourish independent and responsible intelligence and preserve our democracy from that submissiveness, timidity and herd-mindedness of the masses which would foster a tyranny of mediocrity.

Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954) US Supreme Court Justice (1941-54), lawyer, jurist, politician
American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 442 (1950) [concurrence and dissent]
Added on 30-Jan-23 | Last updated 30-Jan-23
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The reason I can’t take myself seriously as a “creative artist,” Guy dear, is because I’m not one. It’s not somehow not in me to bear very patiently with my own mediocrity. If I can’t — and I can’t — be Shakespeare or Goethe, I’d rather raise good cabbages. And that is why I would not write at all, except that there is more money in writing than in cabbages, not only more money, but more freedom. […] This is why I’m not “filled with my art.” I ain’t got no art. I’ve got only a kind of craftsman’s skill, and make stories as I make biscuits or embroider underwear or wrap up packages.

Rose Wilder Lane
Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968) American journalist, travel writer, novelist, political theorist
Letter to Guy Moyston (25 Jun 1925)

Quoted in William Holtz, The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane, ch. 9, sec. 5 (1995).
Added on 30-Jun-22 | Last updated 30-Jun-22
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Matho alleges that my book’s uneven.
He compliments my poems, if that’s true.
Calvinus and Umber write consistent books.
Consistent books are lousy through and through.

[Iactat inaequalem Matho me fecisse libellum:
Si verum est, laudat carmina nostra Matho.
Aequales scribit libros Calvinus et Umber:
Aequalis liber est, Cretice, qui malus est.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 7, epigram 90 (7.90) (AD 92) [tr. McLean (2014)]

"To Creticus" (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Matho objects, my books unequal are;
If he says true, he praises ere aware.
Calvin and Umber write an equal strain:
Naught is the book that's free from heights, and plain.
[tr. Killigrew (1695)]

My book is unequal, a Matho may boast.
So saying, he knows not he cries it up most.
Books equal a Calvin and Umber did write;
But equally penn'd in poor Pallasses spite.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 3, ep. 15]

Matho exults that I have produced a book full of inequalities; if this be true, Matho only commends my verses. Books without inequalities are produced by Calvinus and Umber. A book that is all bad, Creticus, may be all equality.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

I've writ, says Matho, an uneven book:
If that be true, then Matho lauds my verse.
Umber writes evenly, Calvinus too;
For even books, to be sure, are always bad.
[ed. Harbottle (1897)]

Matho puts it abroad that I have composed an unequal book; if that is true, Matho praises my poems. Equal books are what Calvinus and Umber write: the equal book, Creticus, is the bad one.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

My work's uneven, you protest
And sometimes falls beneath my best;
A compliment, say I:
Dull bards on level planes that grope
Shall never err -- or soar -- with Pope,
Although they shine with Pye.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921), "The Dull Level"]

I write unequal verse, so Matho says;
If it be true his criticism's a praise.
Try Umber, Cluveienus by that test:
No, Creticus; bad's bad; good seldom best.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), #382]

Matho exults and crows my book's uneven.
If that is true, he praises me. I'm glad.
Calvinus and Umber write books that are even.
Even books are books that are all bad.
[tr. Marcellino (1968)]

Matho's mad,
says my book
is unfair.
That's good,
I'm glad:
fair books
are dull books.
[tr. Goertz (1971)]

Matho spreads the word that I have made an uneven book. If so, Matho praises my poems. Calvinus adn Umber write even books. An even book, Creticus, is a bad book.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Matho says my book's uneven.
He thinks he's quite the joker.
I'd rather have both highs and lows,
Than just be mediocre.
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

Matho's one-word review of my small book:
"Uneven." I'm supposed to get all shook!
The scribblings of Calvinus and Umber
Are very "even" ... yet how they lumber.
I swear to you, Creticus, I thank God
My gift is for being quite frankly "odd."
[tr. Schmidgall (2001)]

Dour Matho offers me a "mixed review,"
To which contentedly I answer, "Whew!"
Most poets get reviews that are unmixed,
With every verse and stanza in them nixed.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

Smootus says my book is uneven.
I see this as praise of my work.
A bad book is fat with unvarying quality.
[tr. Kennelly (2008)]

Matho is crowing that I've "made an inconsistent book." If he's right, he's actually praising my poems. Calvinus and Umber write "consistent" books; if a book's "consistent," Creticus, it's consistently bad.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

Added on 8-Apr-22 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best. Genius must always have lapses proportionate to its triumphs.

Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) English parodist, caricaturist, wit, writer [Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm]
Obituary of Dan Leno, Saturday Review (5 Nov 1904)
Added on 27-Jan-15 | Last updated 27-Jan-15
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I’ve never been convinced that there’s any meaningful division between high culture and pop culture — I think there’s good stuff out there, and there’s stuff that’s not much good, and that Sturgeon’s Law applies to high culture and popular culture: 90% of it will be crap, which means that 10% of it will be amazing.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British author, screenwriter, fabulist
“Apparently if you just write BEAVER! people’s minds head straight for the gutter,” blog entry (2 Apr 2009)

See Sturgeon.
Added on 3-Apr-09 | Last updated 9-Mar-23
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