[Ads-l] Antedating of An Elephant Never Forgets

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Apr 13 04:41:48 UTC 2021

French naturalist Comte de Buffon published a multi-volume work about
natural history. It was translated into English and the third edition
appeared in 1791.

The article about the elephant asserted that "The memory of the
elephant should be more perfect than that of any other animal". This
statement is not as compact as the saying "Elephants never forget",
but the idea is similar.

The reasoning presented by the book is odd. The Elephant memory is
superior because the animal experiences many sensations which results
in deep impressions.

Year: 1791
Title: Natural History, General and Particular
Author: Count De Buffon
Translator: William Smellie
Third Edition
Volume 6 of 9
Article: The Elephant
Start Page 1, Quote Page 52
Printed for A. Strahan and T. Cadell, London
Database: Google Books


[Begin excerpt]
The memory of the elephant should be more perfect than that of any
other animal; for memory depends greatly on the circumstances of
actions. No solitary sensation, however lively, can leave any distinct
or durable impression; but several combined and contemporary
sensations make deep and lasting impressions; so that, if the elephant
cannot recollect an idea by touch alone, the adjacent and accessory
sensations of smelling, and the power of suction, which have acted at
the same time, aid him in recalling the remembrance of it.
[End excerpt]

Here is another thematically similar assertion about the memory of the
elephant. The words are attributed to John Corse who was also
mentioned in Pete Morris's post.

Year: 1799
Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London
Article: Observations on the Manners, Habits, and Natural History, of
the Elephant
Author: John Corse
Note: Communicated by the Right Hon Sir Joseph Banks Bart KBPRS
Date of Reading: January 24, 1799
Start Page 31, Quote Page 37
Database: Google Books


[Begin excerpt]
It has been stated, that the sagacity of the elephant is so great, and
his memory so retentive, that when once he has received an injury, or
been in bondage, and afterwards escapes, it is not possible, by any
art, again to entrap him.
[End excerpt]


On Mon, Apr 12, 2021 at 11:20 AM Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:
> The Yale Book of Quotations traces this proverb, in the form "Elephants never forget," to the short story "Reginald," by Saki (1904).  Here is an example from James S. Olcott, Animal Electricity 78 (1844) (Google Books):  "The elephant never forgets nor forgives an insulting injury."
> Although that is the earliest I saw, there are a number of additional examples from the 19th century.  From the Auburn (N.Y.) Weekly American (May 12, 1856) (NewspaperArchive):  "The elephant never forgets an enemy or a friend."
> The statement clearly had come to be seen as proverbial no later than this example from a children's story in 1884.  From Harper's Young People (Feb. 26, 1884) (Google Books):  ""Elephants never forget," said Alice, more loudly than she intended, so that the Elephant heard, and turned and made a bow to her."
> John Baker
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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