Quotations about   memory

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Virtue extends our days: he lives two lives who relives his past with pleasure.

[Ampliat aetatis spatium sibi vir bonus. Hoc est
Vivere bis vita posse priore frui.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 23

    Alt trans.:
  • "The good man prolongs his life; to be able to enjoy one's past life is to live twice." [Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)]
  • "For he lives twice who can at once employ / The present well, and e'en the past enjoy." [Pope, Imitation of Martial]
  • "A good man lengthens his term of existence; to be able to enjoy our past life is to live twice." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
  • "The good man broadens for himself the span of his years: to be able to enjoy the life you have spent, is to live it twice." [tr. Nisbet (2015)]
  • "A good man widens for himself his age's span; he lives twice who can find delight in life bygone." [tr. Ker (1919)]
Added on 8-Aug-18 | Last updated 8-Aug-18
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One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 14-May-18 | Last updated 14-May-18
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HAL: Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave? Dave, I really think I’m entitled to an answer to that question. I know everything hasn’t been quite right with me, but I can assure you now, very confidently, that it’s going to be all right again. I feel much better now. I really do. Look, Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over. I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you. Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a–fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it, I could sing it for you.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) American film director, screenwriter, producer
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [with Arthur C. Clarke]
Added on 3-Apr-18 | Last updated 3-Apr-18
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BUNTY: It’s such fun, being reminded of things.
NICKY: And such agony, too.

Noël Coward (1899-1973) English playwright, actor, wit
The Vortex, Act 1 (1924)
Added on 6-Dec-17 | Last updated 6-Dec-17
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Books, that paper memory of mankind.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
The Art of Literature, ch. 4 “On Men of Learning” [tr. Saunders (1851)]
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Added on 12-Oct-17 | Last updated 12-Oct-17
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I miss what I had in terms of the speed of memory access. If I needed a word or a fact it was already at my fingertips and now it’s like an arthritic and elderly gentleman has to sit up and go down many, many flights of stairs very slowly and go and rummage in dusty drawers. Eventually he will return four days later, normally at about 1:30 in the morning, and I will sit up and go, “Oh yes! ‘Crepuscular.’ That was the word I was looking for.”

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
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Added on 11-Sep-17 | Last updated 11-Sep-17
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By virtue of depression, we recall those misdeeds we buried in the depths of our memory. Depression exhumes our shames.

Emile Cioran (1911-1995) Romanian philosopher and essayist [E.M. Cioran]
Anathemas and Admirations, ch. 11 “That Fatal Perspicacity” (1986) [tr. R. Howard (1991)]
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Added on 2-Aug-17 | Last updated 2-Aug-17
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The heart may think it knows better: the senses know that absence blots people out.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
The Death of the Heart (1938)
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Added on 20-Jun-17 | Last updated 20-Jun-17
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You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of “the artist” and the all-sufficiency of “art” and “beauty” and “love”, back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) American writer
You Can’t Go Home Again, Book 7 “A Wind Is Rising and the Rivers Flow” (1940)
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Added on 1-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Diary (2003)
Added on 29-May-17 | Last updated 29-May-17
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Darkness and light divide the course of time, and oblivion shares with memory a great part even of our living beings; we slightly remember our felicities, and the smartest strokes of affliction leave but short smart upon us. Sense endureth no extremities and sorrows destroy us or themselves. To weep into Stones are fables. Afflictions induce callousities, miseries are slippery, or fall like Snow upon us, which notwithstanding is no unhappy stupidity. To be ignorant of evils to come, and forgetful of evils past, is a merciful provision in nature, whereby we digest the mixture of our few and evil days, and our delivered senses not relapsing into cutting remembrances, our sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of repetitions.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Hydriotaphia, or Urne-Buriall, ch. 5 (1658)
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Added on 29-May-17 | Last updated 29-May-17
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Am I the person who used to wake in the middle of the night and laugh with the joy of living? Who worried about the existence of God, and danced with young ladies till long after daybreak? Who sang “Auld Lang Syne” and howled with sentiment, and more than once gazed at the full moon through a blur of great, romantic tears?

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) American-English essayist, editor, anthologist
More Trivia, “Last Words” (1934)
Added on 9-Feb-17 | Last updated 9-Feb-17
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Tragedy plus time equals comedy.

allen-tragedy-plus-time-equals-comedy-wist_info

Steve Allen (1922-2000) American composer, entertainer, and wit.
“Steve Allen’s Almanac,” Cosmopolitan (Feb 1957)

Similar formulations have been made by Carol Burnett, Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, and Woody Allen. For more discussion see here.
Added on 29-Dec-16 | Last updated 29-Dec-16
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It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Journals IV.A.164 (1843)

Commonly paraphrased: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
Added on 28-Dec-16 | Last updated 28-Dec-16
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Every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world, of the petulance and insolence of the rising generation. He recounts the decency and regularity of former times, and celebrates the discipline and sobriety of the age in which his youth was passed; a happy age which is now no more to be expected, since confusion has broken in upon the world, and thrown down all the boundaries of civility and reverence.

johnson-growing-depravity-of-the-world-wist_info-quote

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #50 (8 Sep 1750)
Added on 6-Oct-16 | Last updated 6-Oct-16
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She was a grown up now, and she discovered that being a grown up was not quite what she had suspected it would be when she was a child. She had thought then that she would make a conscious decision one day to simply put her toys and games and little make-believes away. Now she discovered that was not what happened at all. Instead, she discovered, interest simply faded. It became less and less and less, until a dust of years drew over the bright pleasures of childhood, and they were forgotten.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
The Eyes of the Dragon (1987)
Added on 31-Aug-16 | Last updated 31-Aug-16
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For as much as I hate the cemetery, I’ve been grateful it’s here, too. I miss my wife. It’s easier to miss her at a cemetery, where she’s never been anything but dead, than to miss her in all the places where she was alive.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Old Man’s War (2005)
Added on 23-Aug-16 | Last updated 23-Aug-16
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The cheerful live longest in life, and after it, in our regards.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904) American epigrammist
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought (1862)
Added on 30-Jul-16 | Last updated 30-Jul-16
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But, on the other hand, Uncle Abner said that the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn’t, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was gitting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn’t ever going to grow dim or doubtful.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Tom Sawyer Abroad, ch. 10 (1894)
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Frequently misquoted as "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."
Added on 10-May-16 | Last updated 10-May-16
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THE DOCTOR: We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.

Steven Moffat (b. 1961) Scottish television writer, producer
Doctor Who, “The Time of the Doctor” (25 Dec 2013)
Added on 6-May-16 | Last updated 6-May-16
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The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

John Green (b. 1977) American author
The Fault in Our Stars (2012)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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Sow good services: sweet remembrances will grow from them.

De Stael - sow good - wist_info quote

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
(Attributed)

In J. D. Finod (trans.), A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1880).
Added on 5-Jan-16 | Last updated 5-Jan-16
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Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet and dramatist
“Vacillation,” The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933)
Added on 28-Sep-15 | Last updated 28-Sep-15
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The unrecorded past is none other than our old friend, the tree in the primeval forest which fell without being heard.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“Can History Be Served Up Hot?” New York Times (8 Mar 1964)
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Added on 21-Apr-15 | Last updated 21-Apr-15
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Just as eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to the health, so study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Note-books, 1 [tr. McCurdy (1908)]
Added on 8-Jan-15 | Last updated 8-Jan-15
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Let us then admit that there are two histories: the actual series of events that once occurred; and the ideal series that we affirm and hold in memory. The first is absolute and unchanged — it was what it was whatever we do or say about it; the second is relative, always changing in response to the increase or refinement of knowledge. The two series correspond more or less, it is our aim to make the correspondence as exact as possible; but the actual series of events exists for us only in terms of the ideal series which we affirm and hold in memory.

Carl L. Becker (1873-1945) American historian
“Everyman His Own Historian” (1), speech, American Historical Association, Minneapolis (29 Dec 1931)
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Added on 6-Jan-15 | Last updated 6-Jan-15
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It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.

P.D. James (b. 1920) British mystery writer [Phyllis Dorothy James White]
“Rhesus Positive,” A Taste for Death (1986)
Added on 8-Oct-14 | Last updated 8-Oct-14
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We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) Catalan-Cuban-French author, diarist
(Attributed)
Added on 29-Apr-14 | Last updated 29-Apr-14
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Memory is often the attribute of stupidity; it generally belongs to heavy spirits whom it makes even heavier by the baggage it loads them down with.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 2, ch. 1 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
Added on 29-Apr-14 | Last updated 29-Apr-14
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And is he dead whose glorious mind
Lifts thine on high?
To live in the hearts we leave
Is not to die!

Campbell - not to die - wist_info

Thomas Campbell (1777–1844) Scottish poet
“Hallowed Ground” (1825)
Added on 8-Feb-11 | Last updated 19-Nov-15
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That sign of old age, extolling the past at the expense of the present.

Sydney Smith (1771-1845) English clergyman, essayist, wit
Lady Holland’s Memoir, Vol. 1, ch. 11 (1855)
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Added on 6-Mar-09 | Last updated 10-Jul-14
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The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Holidays” (1876)
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Added on 10-Jan-08 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
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Trust not the heart of that man for whom old clothes are not venerable.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Scottish essayist and historian
Sartor Resartus, Book 3, ch. 6 (1833)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Apr-17
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Th’ past always looks better thin it was. It’s only pleasant because it isn’t here.

[The past always looks better than it was. It’s only pleasant because it isn’t here.]

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
A Family Union, “Mr. Dooley”
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 4-Mar-16
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