Quote: Supposed Lincoln quote traces to Alphonse Karr - help with French requested

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 15 20:24:43 UTC 2013

Here is a popular quotation attributed to Abraham Lincoln about
optimism and pessimism that I have been asked to investigate:

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because
thorn bushes have roses.

The Lincoln connection appears to be spurious. I have attempted to
trace the central concept of the saying instead of tracing the precise
phrasing or syntax. Here is a conceptual match in 1882, I think:

[ref] 1882 July 22, The Christian Life: A Unitarian Journal, Volume 8,
Number 323, Notes of the Week: Home and Abroad, Start Page 345, Quote
Page 346, Column 1, London, UK. (Google Books full view) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
"Some people," says Alphonse Karr, "are always finding fault with
Nature for putting thorns on roses; I always thank her for having put
roses on thorns."
[End excerpt]

I attempted to trace the expression further back in French. Here is an
instance by Alphonse Karr in a book published in 1862, I think. Could
someone help me with a translation of the middle section below? This
section is indented in the book.  Also, does the context suggest that
Karr is presenting his own words? (Please follow the link to see the
full context.) Or is he presenting the words of someone else?

Year: 1862
Title: Sur la plage
Author: Alphonse Karr
Publisher: Michel Lévy Frères, Paris
Page: 213
(Google Books full view)


[Begin excerpt]
.. la feuille de rose pliée qui trouble le sommeil du sybarite, tandis
que l'homme véritablement homme dort d'un sommeil réparateur sur la
paille qui vient de tomber sous sa faux laborieuse.

De leur meilleur côté tâchons de voir les choses:
Vous vous plaignez de voir les rosiers épineux;
Moi, je me réjouis et rends grâces aux dieux
  Que les épines aient des roses.

 Et cœtera, et cœtera, — morale, histoire, fable, histoire naturelle,
naturelle philosophie — ce qui n'empêche pas d'apprendre la première
déclinaison, laquelle devient ce qu'elle doit être, un détail de
l'instruction au lieu d'être ce qu'elle est pour un si grand nombre,
l'instruction et l'éducation tout entières.
[End excerpt]

Thanks for any help you can provide,

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

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