History of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations Part 5

About the major reference book Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, trivia and information about the editions.



Unusual Facts about It: The 14th edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations boasts 117,000 subject entries. The most popular theme would appear to be "man," with "love" second and "life" a close third. Of the 2,250 authors represented, Shakespeare is by far the most widely quoted , followed at some distance by Milton , Pope , and Tennyson In contrast, many authors are represented by a single quote.

The general treatment of women authors through the various editions is worth comment. Of the 169 authors in the first edition, 4 were women. Probably the only one who would be remembered today is Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an 18th-century feminist, who is represented with three somewhat equivocal lines from "The Lady's Resolve":

Let this great maxim be my virtue's guide,--

In part she is to blame that has been tried:

He comes too near that comes to be denied.

By the fourth edition, eight more ladies of doubtful literary permanence had been added, and Lady Montagu had been accorded a second, even more enigmatic quote: "And we meet, with champagne and a chicken, at last." (Of which Byron commented in a letter to a friend, "What say you to such a supper with such a woman?")

Through all the early editions, unmarried lady authors were accorded their full names, but married ones were known only as Mrs. Barbauld, Mrs. Thrale, etc. By the seventh edition, several French mesdames had been added, including Madame de Stael and Madame de Sevigne, to whom is attributed the happy aphorism "No man is a hero to his valet." Bartlett contemporaries George Eliot and Emily Bronte had to wait for the post-Bartlett 10th edition; Charlotte, for the 11th--the edition in which married women were at last allowed their own first names. To quote Livy. "Better late..."

The present edition concludes, appropriately, with epitaphs. From the Cheltenham Churchyard, found on the gravestone of a child aged three weeks:

It is so soon that I am done for,

I wonder what I was begun for.

Future Plans: To continue to update and reissue Bartlett's Familiar Quotations at appropriate intervals "from here to Eternity" (Rudyard Kipling).

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