[Ads-l] Anecdote: These pictures are not on trial. It is the visitors who are on trial

James Eric Lawson jel at NVENTURE.COM
Tue Apr 13 19:06:03 UTC 2021

I suspect the origin of the anecdote lies in religious sermonizing.
Perhaps a biblical forebear of the anecdote sponsored it. Here's an
early iteration from the 12 Feb 1874 _The Index_ (Boston, MA),
attributed therein to the slightly earlier sermon of Rev. C.L. Thompson
in Chicago:

"So [Thompson] goes on to argue that'the Bible is not on trial before
the world--the world is on trial before the Bible'" (p 78, #88).


On 4/12/21 7:32 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
> Back in December 2020 Bill Mullins mentioned to me (off list) a family
> of anecdotes that he thought I might find interesting. The anecdotes
> are about the evaluation of items that have been designated cultural
> masterpieces. Now the Quote Investigator website has an entry on the
> topic:
> https://quoteinvestigator.com/2021/04/11/painting-trial/
> Here is the earliest instance I located:
> [ref] 1904 February 13, Congregationalist and Christian World, Volume
> 89, Issue 7, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 232, Column 3, Boston,
> Massachusetts. (ProQuest) [/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> F. W. Macdonald, Kipling’s Wesleyan preacher uncle, tells an apt story
> having analogical and homiletical aptness for those talking of the
> Bible’s permanent worth to men. "Are these masterpieces?" said a
> tourist in a Florentine gallery. "I must admit that I don’t see much
> in them myself." Said the reserved doorkeeper, "These pictures are not
> on trial. It is the visitors who are on trial."
> [End excerpt]
> [Begin acknowledgement]
> Great thanks to Brad Verter and Bill Mullins whose inquiry led QI to
> formulate this question and perform this exploration.
> [End acknowledgement]
> Feedback welcome
> Garson O'Toole

James Eric Lawson

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

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