[Ads-l] Quote: I have nothing to declare except my genius (1910) attributed to Oscar Wilde

Mark Mandel markamandel at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 18 21:05:09 EST 2022


(Sorry about the type irregularity. This comes of trying to do something
this complicated on a smartphone.)


Meter, Jonathan? Which of these is more metrically consistent? (Read in
Courier New or some other monospace font, or skip to the paragraph below.)


˘  ˘    -  ˘   ˘   ˘  -    ˘   ˘  -  ˘

I have nothing to declare but my genius



˘  ˘   -   ˘    ˘  ˘  -   ˘  ˘   ˘   -  ˘

I have nothing to declare except my genius

These may be easier to read:

../. ../ ../.

../. ../. ../.

For my money, the second one is better: three tetrasyllables of identical
meter rather than two identical tetrasyllables and one trisyllable. (I've
put but in the third "foot", but putting it in the second leaves the same
imbalance.)


Mark Mandel



On Mon, Jan 17, 2022, 10:26 AM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
wrote:

Thanks for your perceptive comments, JL.

In 1913 an alternative statement using "but" instead of "except" was
ascribed to Wilde. Here is a citation:

[ref] 1913, European Dramatists by Archibald Henderson, Chapter: Oscar
Wilde, Quote Page 272, Stewart & Kidd Company, Cincinnati, Ohio.

(Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

http://books.google.com/books?id=fYQOAAAAMAAJ&q=%22my+genius%22#v=snippet&

[Begin excerpt]

In America he was greeted with amused incredulity, treated as a diverting
sort of literary curiosity, ridiculed, satirized,

caricatured. His intellectual arrogance gave tone to his remark at the New
York Customs House: "I have nothing to declare but my genius."

[End excerpt]

"The New Yale Book of Quotations" also lists the above citation.

James Cooper suggests in his article that the incident at the New York
Custom House was invented. Wilde's ‍lecture ‍tour ‍of ‍the U.S. began ‍in
‍1882. Yet, the first citation for the quip occurred in 1910.

Garson

On Mon, Jan 17, 2022 at 10:11 AM Jonathan Lighter

<wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:

>

> OTOH, he might have said "except" for condescending emphasis after a
pregnant pause.

>

> But that's too cocksure for my taste.

>

> JL

>

> On Mon, Jan 17, 2022 at 10:06 AM Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>

> wrote:

>

> > Nice work, Garson.

> >

> > But surely Wilde, who had an outstanding sense of meter, would have
said "but" rather than the disyllabic "except"?

> >

> > JL



On Mon, Jan 17, 2022, 10:26 AM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Thanks for your perceptive comments, JL.
> In 1913 an alternative statement using "but" instead of "except" was
> ascribed to Wilde. Here is a citation:
>
> [ref] 1913, European Dramatists by Archibald Henderson, Chapter: Oscar
> Wilde, Quote Page 272, Stewart & Kidd Company, Cincinnati, Ohio.
> (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]
>
> http://books.google.com/books?id=fYQOAAAAMAAJ&q=%22my+genius%22#v=snippet&
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> In America he was greeted with amused incredulity, treated as a
> diverting sort of literary curiosity, ridiculed, satirized,
> caricatured. His intellectual arrogance gave tone to his remark at the
> New York Customs House: "I have nothing to declare but my genius."
> [End excerpt]
>
> "The New Yale Book of Quotations" also lists the above citation.
>
> James Cooper suggests in his article that the incident at the New York
> Custom House was invented. Wilde's ‍lecture ‍tour ‍of ‍the U.S. began
> ‍in ‍1882. Yet, the first citation for the quip occurred in 1910.
>
> Garson
>
> On Mon, Jan 17, 2022 at 10:11 AM Jonathan Lighter
> <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > OTOH, he might have said "except" for condescending emphasis after a
> > pregnant pause.
> >
> > But that's too cocksure for my taste.
> >
> > JL
> >
> > On Mon, Jan 17, 2022 at 10:06 AM Jonathan Lighter <
> wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > Nice work, Garson.
> > >
> > > But surely Wilde, who had an outstanding sense of meter, would have
> said
> > > "but" rather than the disyllabic "except"?
> > >
> > > JL
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > On Mon, Jan 17, 2022 at 9:54 AM ADSGarson O'Toole <
> > > adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> > >
> > >> Congratulations to researcher John Cooper. He has uncovered the
> > >> earliest known evidence for the quotation in the subject line. He
> > >> announced the discovery on his website "Oscar Wilde in America".
> > >>
> > >> https://oscarwildeinamerica.blog/2022/01/16/something-to-declare/
> > >>
> > >> The quotation appeared in 1910 within "The Oscar Wilde Calendar"
> > >> compiled by Stuart Mason (pseudonym of  Christopher Sclater Millard
> > >> according to Cooper). The calendar is accessible via HathiTrust. Here
> > >> are the details for the citation.
> > >>
> > >> [ref] 1910, The Oscar Wilde Calendar: A Quotation from the Works of
> > >> Oscar Wilde for Every Day in the Year with Some Unrecorded Sayings
> > >> Selected by Stuart Mason, Quotation for January Four, Quote Page 7,
> > >> Frank Palmer, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link [/ref]
> > >>
> > >>
> > >>
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/inu.32000001009895?urlappend=%3Bseq=13%3Bownerid=13510798897925460-17
> > >>
> > >> [Begin excerpt]
> > >> At the New York Custom House: “I have nothing to declare except my
> > >> genius.”
> > >> [End excerpt]
> > >>
> > >> Previously, the earliest known evidence occurred in 1912 within "Oscar
> > >> Wilde: A Critical Study" by Arthur Ransome.
> > >>
> > >> A Quote Investigator article about this quotation will be posted in
> > >> the coming days (or weeks).
> > >>
> > >> Garson O'Toole
> > >> QuoteInvestigator.com
> > >>
> > >> ------------------------------------------------------------
> > >> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> > >>
> > >
> > >
> > > --
> > > "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
> truth."
> > >
> >
> >
> > --
> > "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
> truth."
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>

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


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