Quotations about:
    quality


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You see we make our writers into something very strange. […] We destroy them in many ways. First, economically. They make money. It is only by hazard that a writer makes money although good books always make money eventually. Then our writers when they have made some money increase their style of living and are caught. They have to write to keep up their establishment, their wives, and so on, and they write slop. It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried. Because they are ambitious. Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop. Or else they read the critics. If they believe the critics when they say they are great then they must believe them when they say they are rotten and they lose confidence. At present we have two good writers who cannot write because they have lost confidence through reading the critics. If they wrote, sometimes it would be good and sometimes not so good and sometimes it would be quite bad, but the good would get out. But they have read the critics, and they must write masterpieces. The masterpieces the critics said they wrote. They weren’t masterpieces, of course. They were just quite good books. So now they cannot write at all. The critics have made them impotent.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Green Hills of Africa, ch. 1 (1935)
    (Source)

Speaking of American writers.
 
Added on 6-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Gaurus, you claim that since my poems please by brevity, my talent’s second-rate.
I grant they’re short. But you who write twelve books on Priam’s mighty battles, are you great?
I make small boys of bronze, who live and play;
you, great one, make a giant out of clay.

[Ingenium mihi, Gaure, probas sic esse pusillum,
Carmina quod faciam, quae brevitate placent.
Confiteor. Sed tu bis senis grandia libris
Qui scribis Priami proelia, magnus homo es?
5Nos facimus Bruti puerum, nos Langona vivum:
Tu magnus luteum, Gaure, Giganta facis.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 9, epigram 50 (9.50) [tr. Kennelly (2008)]
    (Source)

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

Gaurus approves my wit but slenderly,
'Cause I write verse that please for brevity:
But he in twenty volumes drives a trade
Of Priam's wars. Oh, he's a mighty blade!
We give an elegant young pigmy birth,
He makes a dirty giant all of earth.
[tr. Fletcher (c. 1650)]

I am no genius, you affirm: and why?
Because my verses please by brevity.
But you, who twice ten ponderous volumes write
Of mighty battles, are a man of might.
Like Prior's bust, my work is neat, but small:
Yours like the dirty giants in Guildhall.
[tr. Hay (1755), ep. 51]

My pigmy-genius, you, grand bard, despise;
Because, by brevity, my verses rise.
But you, who Priam's battles dire endite,
In twice ten volumes wax a weighty wight:
We form a Brutus' boy, bid Lagon live;
And you a giant huge, of death-cold clay, do give.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 3, ep. 28]

You pretend to consider my talent as small, Gaurus, because I write poems which please by being brief. I confess that it is so; while you, who write the grand wars of Priam in twelve books, are doubtless a great man. I paint the favourite of Brutus, and Langon, to the life. You, great artist, fashion a giant in clay.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

You declare my genius slight;
Say the songs are short I write
     And so the people rush to buy them in a flood.
Think you, Gaurus, yours is great
Since in six tomes you narrate
     Old Priam's awful fight 'mid seas of blood?
Though they're boys whom I portray,
They're made boys who live and play.
     The Giants you create are made of mud.
[tr. Nixon (1911), "Of the Quality"]

You prove to me, Gaurus, that my genius is in this way a purny one, because I make poems that please by their brevity. I confess it. But you, who in twice six books write of Priam's wars in grand style, are you a great man? I make Brutus' boy, I make Langon live: you, great man as you are, Gaurus, make a giant of clay.
[tr. Ker (1920)]

But little, Gaurus, you account my wit,
Because with brevity I season it.
Quite true, and you, who of old Priam prate
Though twelve long books, are to be reckoned great.
I make a dwarf of living flesh and blood,
You, great one, make a giant, but of mud.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 470]

You pontificate my talent is small,
Gaurus, because my epigrams are all
Just puny trifles. Yet they seem to please,
I'll confess. They're a veritable breeze
Compared to your epic tome, which rattles,
In twelve mortal books, o'er Priam's battles.
That makes you big man on campus? Oh no!
As statuettes of master carvers glow
With life, so do my tiny dramas boast
Vital creatures. Your giants? Clay, at most.
[tr. Schmidgall (2001)]

 
Added on 29-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Good work you’ll find, some poor, and much that’s worse,
It takes all sorts to make a book of verse.

[Sunt bona, sunt quaedam mediocria, sunt mala plura
quae legis hic: aliter non fit, Avite, liber.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 1, epigram 16 (1.16) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Some things are good, indifferent some, some naught,
You read: a book can't otherwise be wrote.
[tr. Anon. (1695)]

Here's some good things, some middling, more bad, you will see:
Else a book, my Avitus, it never could be.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), 12.6]

Some of my epigrams are good, some moderately so, more bad: there is no other way, Avitus, of making a book.
[tr. Amos (1858), 2.23 (cited as 1.17)]

Of the epigrams which you read here, some are good, some middling, many bad: a book, Avitus, cannot be made in any other way.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

There are good things, there are some indifferent, there are more things bad that you read here. Not otherwise, Avitus, is a book produced.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Some things are good, some fair, but more you'll say
Are bad herein -- all books are made that way!
[tr. Duff (1929)]

Some of my poems are good, some
not up to scratch, some
bad.
That’s how it is with most books,
if the truth were told.
Who tells the truth about truth, my dear?
Make way for the judge and the jester.
[tr. Kennelly (2008), "How It Is"]

Some good things here, and some not worth a look.
For this is that anomaly, a book.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

You're reading good poems here, Avitus -- and a few that are so-so, and a lot that are bad; a book doesn't happen any other way.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

Some good, some middling, and some bad
You’ll find here. They are what I had.
[tr. J. V. Cunningham]

Some good, some so-so, most of them naught!
Well, if not worse, the book may still be bought.
[Anon.]

 
Added on 1-Oct-21 | Last updated 14-Jan-22
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Life is too short to drink bad wine.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
(Misattributed)

Often attributed to him, but not found in Goethe's works. The attribution, though, may come from translators' commentary on Goethe's West–Eastern Diwan, "The Book of the Cup-Bearer" (1819/1827), that refers to a poetic passage as deriving from Diez's 1811 translation of the Book of Kabus (Qabus):

It comes to this, that it is a sin to drink wine. If though, then committest sin, commit it at least for the best wine, for otherwise wouldst though on one part commit sin, and on another drink bad wine. By God! that would be the most sorrowful among sorrowful things. [tr. Rogers (1890)]

It so happens that wine-drinking is a sin. Hence, if you do commit this sin, do it at least with the best wine; otherwise, you'll commit the sin, on the one hand, and on the other, you'll drink bad wine. By God! That would be the sorriest of all sorry things. [tr. Ormsby (2019)]


More information: The Big Apple: “Life is too short to drink cheap wine”
 
Added on 9-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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He used to say that states fail when they cannot distinguish fools from serious men.

[τότ’ ἔφη τὰς πόλεις ἀπόλλυσθαι, ὅταν μὴ δύνωνται τοὺς φαύλους ἀπὸ τῶν σπουδαίων διακρίνειν.]

Antisthenes (c. 445 - c. 365 BC) Greek Cynic philosopher
Fragment 103, in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book 6, sec. 11 [tr. @sentantiq]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "He used to say too, 'That cities were ruined when they were unable to distinguish worthless citizens from virtuous ones.'" [tr. Yonge (1853)]
  • "He said that cities are doomed when they cannot distinguish good men from bad." [tr. Mensch (2018), Book 6, sec. 5]
 
Added on 22-Jun-20 | Last updated 22-Jun-20
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You confuse what’s important with what’s impressive.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
Maurice (w. 1914, pub. 1971)
    (Source)
 
Added on 8-Jan-18 | Last updated 8-Jan-18
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In the Laundry we supposedly pride ourselves on our procedures. We’ve got procedures for breaking and entering offices, procedures for reporting a shortage of paper clips, procedures for summoning demons from the vasty deeps, and procedures for writing procedures. We may actually be on track to be the world’s first ISO-9000 total-quality-certified intelligence agency. According to our written procedure for dealing with procedural cluster-fucks on foreign assignment, what I should do at this point is fill out Form 1008.7, then drive like a bat out of hell over Highway 17 until it hits the Interstate, then take the turnoff for San Francisco Airport and use my company credit card to buy the first available seat home. Not forgetting to file Form 1018.9 (“expenses unexpectedly incurred in responding to a situation 1008.7 in the line of duty”) in time for the end of month accounting cycle.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Atrocity Archives (2004)
 
Added on 20-Dec-16 | Last updated 20-Dec-16
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Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new type program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was.

Art Buchwald (1925-2007) American humorist, columnist
Have I Ever Lied to You?, ch. 4 “Live and In Color” (1968)
    (Source)
 
Added on 20-Jun-16 | Last updated 20-Jun-16
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If my books had been any worse, I should not have been invited to Hollywood, and if they had been any better, I should not have come.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Atlantic Monthly (12 Dec 1945)
 
Added on 21-Apr-16 | Last updated 21-Apr-16
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Life is too short to do mediocre work and it is definitely too short to build shitty things.

Stewart Butterfield (b. 1973) Canadian tech entrepreneur and businessman
(Attributed)
 
Added on 15-Apr-16 | Last updated 15-Apr-16
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Don’t consider how many you can please, but whom.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 599 [tr. Lyman, Jr. (1862)]
 
Added on 28-Aug-15 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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A little mind is always hurried, by twenty things at once; but a man of sense does but one thing at a time, and resolves to excel in it; for whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #71 (10 Mar 1746)
    (Source)
 
Added on 26-Jan-15 | Last updated 10-Oct-22
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There’s no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others. But a man shouldn’t fool with booze until he’s fifty, and then he’s a damn fool if he doesn’t.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
(Attributed)

Quoted in James M. Webb and A. Wigfall Green, William Faulkner of Oxford (1965). See also Wright and Chandler.
 
Added on 8-Aug-13 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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Better be cheated in the price than in the quality of goods.

[Más vale ser engañado en el precio que en la mercadería.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 157 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
    (Source)

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

It is better to be deceived in the Price, than in the Commodity.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

Far better to be cheated in the price, than in the goods.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

Better to be cheated by the price than by the merchandise.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

 
Added on 4-Jun-12 | Last updated 17-Jan-23
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There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 61 (1903)

Full text.
 
Added on 14-Nov-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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With virtue you cannot be entirely poor. Without it you cannot be really rich.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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Cheat me in the Price, but not in the Goods.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #1090 (1732)
    (Source)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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The strawberry grows underneath the nettle.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 1, sc. 1, l. 63 [Bishop of Ely] (1599)
    (Source)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Jun-22
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