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“Is it true that your life passes before your eyes before you die?”


“Ghastly thought, really.” Rincewind shuddered. “Oh, gods, I’ve just had another one. Suppose I am about to die and this is my whole life passing in front of my eyes?”


Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Last Continent [Death and Rincewind] (1999)

Often paraphrased as something like:

It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.
Added on 9-Jul-23 | Last updated 9-Jul-23
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I hav lived in this world jist long enuff tew look karefully the seckond time into things that i am the most certain ov the fust time.

[I have lived in this world just long enough to look carefully the second time into things that I am the most certain of the first time.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist, aphorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Complete Works of Josh Billings, “Affurisms,” “Chicken Feed” (1876)
Added on 8-Jun-23 | Last updated 8-Jun-23
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Bad reviews jar me down to the instep. I will never become philosophically resigned to a negative reaction to something I’ve written.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Patterns, Introduction (1957)
Added on 6-Sep-22 | Last updated 6-Sep-22
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You damn every poem I write,
Yet you won’t publish those of your own.
Now kindly let yours see the light,
Or else leave my damned ones alone.

[Cum tua non edas, carpis mea carmina, Laeli.
Carpere vel noli nostra vel ede tua.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 1, epigram 91 (1.91) (AD 85-86) [tr. Nixon (1911)]

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

Thou blam'st my verses and conceal'st thine own:
Or publish thine, or else let mine alone!
[tr. Killigrew (1695)]

You do not publish your own verses, Laelius; you criticise mine. Pray cease to criticise mine, or else publish your own.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Although you don't publish your own, you carp at my poems, Laelius. Either do not carp at mine, or publish your own.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

You blame my verse; to publish you decline;
Show us your own or cease to carp at mine.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

Although you have not published
Even a single line
Of poetry yourself, you scoff
And sneer and jeer at mine.
Get off my back or publish!
I'd like to hear you whine!
[tr. Marcellino (1968)]

Although you don't punish anything, Laelius,
you keep finding fault with my songs. So please,
stop criticizing my stuff, or publish your own.
[tr. Bovie (1970)]

Although you don't publish your own poems, Laelius, you carp at mine. Either don't carp at mine or publish your own.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Each poem I publish you loudly bemoan.
Unfair that you never share works of your own.
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

You don’t write poems, Laelius, you criticise mine. Stop criticising me or write your own.
[tr. Kline (2006)]

With carpings you my works revile.
Your own you never publish.
Without such works, your carpings I'll
Consider snooty rubbish.
[tr. Wills (2007), "The Critic"]

You blast my verses, Laelius; yours aren’t shown.
Either don’t carp at mine or show your own.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

You won’t reveal your verse,
but whine that mine is worse.
Just leave me alone
or publish your own.
[tr. Juster (2016)]

You never wrote a poem,
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
[tr. Burch (c. 2017)]

Added on 4-Mar-22 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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Reader and hearer, Aulus, love my stuff;
A certain poet says it’s rather rough.
Well, I don’t care. For dinners or for books
The guest’s opinion matters, not the cook’s.

[Lector et auditor nostros probat, Aule, libellos,
Sed quidam exactos esse poeta negat.
Non nimium curo: nam cenae fercula nostrae
Malim convivis quam placuisse cocis.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 9, epigram 81 (9.81) (AD 94) [tr. Francis & Tatum (1924)]

"To Aulus". The numbering for this epigram varies between 81, 82, and 83 within in Book 9. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

The readers and the hearers like my books,
And, yet, some writers cannot them digest:
But what care I? for when I make a feast,
I would my guests should praise it, not the cooks.
[tr. Harington (16th C)]

Readers and hearers, both my Bookes renowne;
Some Poets say th' are not exactly done.
I care not much; like banquets, let my Bookes
Rather be pleasing to the guests than Cookes.
[tr. May (1629), 9.82]

My works the reader and the hearer praise:
They're not exact; a brother poet says:
I heed not him; for when I give a feast,
Am I to please the cook, or please the guest?
[tr. Hay (1755), ep. 82]

The reader and the hearer like my lays.
But they're unfinisht things, a poet says.
The stricture ne'er shall discompose my looke:
My chear is for my guests, and not for cooks.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), 3.14]

My works the reader and the hearer praise; --
They're incorrect, a brother poet says:
But let him rail; for when I give a feast,
Am I to praise the cook, or please the guest?
[tr. Hoadley (fl. 18th C), 9.82, §255]

The reader and the hearer approve of my small books, but a certain critic objects that they are not finished to a nicety. I do not take this censure much to heart, for I would wish that the course of my dinner should afford pleasure to guests rather than to cooks.
[tr. Amos (1858) 2.24]

My readers and hearers, Aulus, approve of my compositions; but a certain critic says that they are not faultless. I am not much concerned at his censure; for I should wish the dishes on my table to please guests rather than cooks.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Reader and hearer both my verses praise:
Some other poet cries, "They do not scan."
But what care I? my dinner's always served
To please my guests, and not to please the cooks.
[ed. Harbottle (1897)]

Though my readers sincerely admire me,
A poet finds fault with my books.
What's the odds? When I'm giving a dinner
I'd rather please guests than the cooks.
[tr. Nixon (1911)]

Reader and hearer approve of my works, Aulus, but a certain poet says they are not polished. I don't care much, for I should prefer the courses of my dinner to please guests rather than cooks.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

"Unpolished" -- so that scribbler sneers,
While he that reads and he that hears,
Approve my little books;
I do not care a single jot,
My fame is for my guests and not
     To please my rival cooks.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

The public likes my poems, though
A certain poet thinks them rough
Or never polished quite enough.
I could not care less! I prefer
The morsels served up in my books
To please my guests, not would-be cooks.
[tr. Marcellino (1968)]

Readers and listeners like my books,
Yet a certain poet calls them crude.
What do I care? I serve up food
To please my guests, not fellow cooks.
[tr. Michie (1972)]

Everyone enjoys my delightful books
Except a certain poet who objects.
I aim to please my guests, not other cooks.
[tr. O'Connell (1991)]

Reader and listener approve my little books, Aulus, but a certain poet says they lack finish. I don't care too much; for I had rather the courses at my dinner pleased the diners than the cooks.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Read or recited, my verse is much praised,
Aulus, yet one poet opines: "Ill-phrased."
I couldn't care less! When I set a table,
My guests, not the cooks, should say I'm able.
[tr. Schmidgall (2001)]

My books are praised by him who reads,
Though critics damn them in their screeds.
But who's to judge a proper meat --
Another cook, or those who eat?
[tr. Wills (2007), ep. 83]

Added on 14-Jan-22 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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Looking back on things, the view always improves.

Walt Kelly (1913-1973) American animator and cartoonist [Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr.]
Impollutable Pogo (1970)
Added on 14-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wants to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
Commonplace Book (1985) [ed. Gardner]
Added on 13-May-20 | Last updated 13-May-20
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I never saw an author in my life — saving perhaps one — that did not purr as audibly as a full-grown domestic cat on having his fur smoothed the right way by a skillful hand.

Collected in The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, ch. 3 (1858).

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
“The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,” Atlantic Monthly (1858-01)
Added on 11-Mar-20 | Last updated 4-May-23
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There is no harm in being sometimes wrong — especially if one is promptly found out.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Alfred Marshall,” The Economic Journal (Sep 1924)
Added on 1-Mar-17 | Last updated 1-Mar-17
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This book fills a much-needed gap.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Moses Hadas (1900-1966), Professor, Columbia University (Attributed)
Added on 17-Nov-16 | Last updated 17-Nov-16
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The covers of this book are too far apart.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist

One-sentence book review. First attributed to Bierce in 1923, but showing up in anonymous humor as early as 1899. See here for more information.
Added on 31-Mar-16 | Last updated 31-Mar-16
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The best of all ways to make one’s reading valuable is to write about it, and so I hope my Cousin Elizabeth has a blank book where she keeps some record of her thoughts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Letter to Elizabeth Tucker (1832-02-01)
Added on 30-Mar-16 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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Whenever you commend, add your reasons for doing so; it is this which distinguishes the approbation of a man of sense from the flattery of sycophants and admiration of fools.

Richard Steele (1672-1729) Irish writer and politician
The Guardian # 24 (8 Apr 1713)
Added on 10-Nov-14 | Last updated 10-Nov-14
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He that applauds him who does not deserve praise, is endeavoring to deceive the public; he that hisses in malice or sport, is an oppressor and a robber.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Idler, #25 (7 Oct 1758)
Added on 25-Aug-14 | Last updated 25-Jun-22
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While an author is yet living we estimate his powers by his worst performance, and when he is dead we rate them by his best.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Plays of William Shakespeare, Preface (1765)
Added on 13-Jun-14 | Last updated 13-Jun-14
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I am strongly of opinion that an author had far better not read any reviews of his books: the unfavourable ones are almost certain to make him cross, and the favourable ones conceited; and neither of these results is desirable.

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) English writer and mathematician [pseud. of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]
Sylvie and Bruno (1889)
Added on 10-Jun-14 | Last updated 10-Jun-14
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“Thalaba,” Mr. Southey’s second poem, is written in open defiance of precedent and poetry. Mr. S. wished to produce something novel, and succeeded to a miracle. “Joan of Arc” was marvelous enough, but “Thalaba” was one of those poems “which,” in the words of Porson, “will be read when Homer and Virgil are forgotten, but — not till then.”

Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
“English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,” footnote to l. 205 (1809)

When one of his earlier works was harshly criticized in the Edinburgh Review, Byron wrote this poem satirizing such critics (and the poetry they like). He refers to Robert Southey's "Thalaba," bringing in a phrase used by classical scholar Richard Porson to refer to Southey's poem "Madoc". Except ...

... Porson doesn't include the "but not till then" phrase in his original comment. A man of subtle but biting humor, it seems likely he intended that as a subversive but deniable reading of "when Homer and Virgil are forgotten". Believing that, multiple writers of the time in turn criticized Byron for crudely spelling out Porson's bon mot (examples: Timbs (1862), Powell/Rogers (1903)).
Added on 13-Mar-13 | Last updated 12-Jan-23
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People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)

One of the earliest references to something like this was in an 1863 newspaper ad for Lincoln’s favorite humorist, Artemus Ward, that included this faux testimonial (possibly written by Ward): “I have never heard any of your lectures, but from what I can learn I should say that for people who like the kind of lectures you deliver, they are just the kind of lectures such people like. Yours respectfully, O. Abe.”

Quoted in G.W.E. Russell, Collections and Recollections, ch. 30 (1898), regarding “an unreadably sentimental book.”

According to Anthony Gross, Lincoln’s Own Stories (1902), Lincoln’s was speaking to Robert Dale Owen, who had insisted on reading to Lincoln a long manuscript on spiritualism. "Well, for those who like that sort of thing, I should think it is just about the sort of thing they would like."

In Emanual Hertz, ed., "Father Abraham," Lincoln Talks: A Biography in Anecdote (1939), the response was to a young poet asking him about his newly published poems.

More discussion of this quotation: Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-May-22
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This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer

First attributed in this form in Robert E. Drennan, ed., The Algonquin Wits (1968). No actual source material has been found by Parker using this quip, and it appears to have been first attributed to her by Bennett Cerf in his "Try and Stop Me" syndicated column (1962-10-10).

The Quote Investigator site attributes the quote to a faked, humorous review blurb in the book To You I Tell It! by Bill Miller (1929). Further examination of the quotation's origins: Quote Origin: Not a Book To Be Lightly Thrown Aside. Should Be Thrown with Great Force – Quote Investigator®.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Jun-23
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