Viral Quotes in the News: great deal of satisfaction over many obituary notices (Clarence S. Darrow 1922 Nov 13)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 4 14:40:32 UTC 2011

Several quotations with faulty attributions and/or altered wording
have become popular after the death of Osama bin Laden. This CNN
article gives some background:

MLK, Mark Twain quotes go viral -- and are wrong

Here is information about a tweet that was retweeted more than 700 times.

MARYALICESTYLE: I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some
obituaries with great pleasure. - Mark Twain
700+ recent retweets

There is no evidence for the Twain quote in the form specified in the
tweet (known to me), but Clarence Darrow wrote something somewhat
similar in his 1932 memoir "The Story of My Life".

Further, The Yale Book of Quotations has a great citation in 1926 for
the Darrow quip:

Clarence S. Darrow, U.S. lawyer, 1857–1938
We’re all killers at heart....I have never taken anybody’s life, but I
have often read obituary notices with considerable satisfaction.
Testimony before congressional committee, 1 Feb. 1926

Darrow used the saying on multiple occasions. Here is a slightly
earlier version in a speech given by Darrow on November 13, 1922.

Cite: 1922, The Institution Quarterly, Volume 13, Number 3 and 4,
[Proceedings Starts on Page 92], Proceedings of the Illinois
Conference on Public Welfare; Held at East St. Louis, Illinois on
November 12-14, 1922, [Crime: Address by Attorney Clarence S. Darrow,
Chicago. Delivered: Evening of Monday, November 13, 1922] (Article
Start Page 231), Quote Page 239, Published by the Department of Public
Welfare by Authority of the State of Illinois. (Google Books full

I never killed anybody, but I have done just the same thing. I have
had a great deal of satisfaction over many obituary notices that I
have read. I never got into the habit of killing. I could mention the
names of many that it would please me if I could read their obituaries
in the paper in the morning.


The American Dialect Society -

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