Quote: History never repeats itself but it rhymes (attrib Mark Twain 1970) plus question regarding John Robert Colombo

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 12 20:57:54 UTC 2014

Way back in June 2010 I posted to the list about the quotation
attributed to Mark Twain contained in the subject line. Now the Quote
Investigator website has entry:

History Does Not Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes

Various ADS denizens are acknowledged, and your help is appreciated

[Being excerpt]
(Great thanks to Barry Popik for his research on this saying. Thanks
to Daniel Gackle and Ben Yagoda who inquired about the Twain
attribution. Special thanks to Dan Goncharoff who located the 1845
citation. Thanks to Charlie Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred Shapiro
for their work on “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs”. Thanks also to
Victor Steinbok, Ken Hirsch, and Bill Mullins whose comments were
helpful. Lastly: In Memoriam: For my brother who also asked about this
saying in 2011.)
[End excerpt]


On Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 5:08 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> I spent some time at the end of May attempting to trace "History never
> repeats itself but it rhymes", a phrase often attributed to Mark
> Twain. Barry Popik posted his results concerning this saying and close
> variants such as "History doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes" on June
> 5th. He always does fantastic work, so he preempted most of my results
> http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/history_doesnt_repeat_itself_but_it_does_rhyme/
> The first known appearance of the quote is 1970 and the New York Times
> contains an instance dated 1970 January 25 that Barry Popik found.
> Interestingly, the Times quotation is part of a query "seeking to
> locate the source" for the alleged Twain quote.
> I did find two additional cites that may be of interest. The first is
> a work by Canadian poet and editor John Robert Colombo that is part of
> a collection called Neo Poems published in 1970. The experimental poem
> consists of a series of quotations. Here are the first four lines of
> the poem [JRC]:
>                                       for Ronald and Beatrice Gross
> "I have seen the future and it doesn't work," said Robert Fulford.
> "If there weren't any Poland, there wouldn't be any Poles," said Alfred Jarry.
> "We aren't making the film they contracted for," said Robert Flaherty.
> "History never repeats itself but it rhymes," said Mark Twain.
> [JRC] 1970, Neo Poems by John Robert Colombo, A Said Poem, Page 46,
> Sono Nis Press. (Google books no preview; Verified on paper)
> Books sometimes have long lead times, so the poem may have been seen
> by many others before the official 1970 publication date.
> The second cite dated 1971 is a review of the Neo Poems collection.
> The reviewer,  Michael Hornyansky, singles out the supposed Mark Twain
> quote used by Colombo and calls it a "random gem" while indicating
> that he had not heard it before [UTQ]:
> And yet, when all that's said, these jackdaw packs are good
> entertainment, provoke twinges and grins and surmises in us as they do
> in him. Maybe a real poet will 'find' Colombo one day, and weld the
> scattered riches into gold. Meanwhile, I'm grateful for random gems
> that I might otherwise have missed, like Mark Twain's 'History never
> repeats itself but it rhymes.'
> [UTQ] 1971 Summer, University of Toronto Quarterly, Review Section:
> Poetry by Michael Hornyansky, Page 375, Number 4, University of
> Toronto Press. (Google Books snippet view; Google Books date of 1969
> is inaccurate; Verified on paper)
> Do any list members know John Robert Colombo? He might have notes that
> reveal where he obtained the quote attributed to Twain.
> Garson O'Toole

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

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