famous quote syntactically mangled, nobody notices

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 30 19:52:47 UTC 2012

Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> Cooke was himself the "early biographer" (1871) referred to.  _Surry_ is
> fiction.
> Cooke, a successful novelist, was an officer on Jeb Stuart's staff. I
> haven't found any information as to Cooke's whereabouts at the battle of
> Fredericksburg. I suspect that he heard the comment at second hand
> and tweaked it into memorable form.
> Only to be untweaked by the Internet.

Thanks for your response, JL. Yes, both YBQ and QV list the 1871
biography by John Esten Cooke. Below is a link to the biography. The
1866 and 1871 versions of the saying are slightly different. The word
"would" in 1866 is replaced by "should" in 1871. The asterisk note may
have indicated that Cooke was asserting the quote was genuine in the
1866 work. There is another early cite given below from Cooke.

Cite: 1871, A Life of Gen. Robert E. Lee by John Esten Cooke


[Begin excerpt]
They had returned as rapidly as they had charged, pursued by shot and
shell, and General Lee, witnessing the spectacle from his hill,
murmured, in his grave and measured voice: "It is well this is so
terrible! we should grow too fond of it!"
[End excerpt]

John Esten Cooke also included a version of the quote in an 1870 book.

Cite: 1870, Hammer and Rapier by John Esten Cooke


[Begin excerpt]
As Gen. Meade's lines were now seen flying, pursued by Jackson's men,
Lee gazed at them in silence; then, in that deep voice, which never
lost its grave and measured accent, he murmured:
"It is well this is so terrible; we would grow too fond of it!"
[End excerpt]

1866: It is well this is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it!
1870: It is well this is so terrible; we would grow too fond of it!
1871: It is well this is so terrible! we should grow too fond of it!

Please check for typos and OCR errors before using any of this
information. Thanks,

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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