Monday, July 1, 2019

A Christopher Morley Quote Produced a Conundrum

It began with a quotation attributed to Christopher Morley (1890-1957). A nice quote, for which the source is usually not given. Yet an interesting piece of bibliographical ephemera seems to helps. Here's a photo of it (click on the image to see it larger), with the quotation:

It is undated, but it states that it is an excerpt from Morley's final novel The Man Who Made Friends with Himself, which was published in April 1949. Yet this citation is wrong, and the quote is even punctuated incorrectly, with one word wrong. (See the real source, properly punctuated, at the bottom of this post.) The printer is identified as Herbert W. Simpson of Evansville, Indiana. He was born in 1904, and died in 1970. He and his wife Dora (1909-1995) are buried together in Evansville. His firm, Herbert W. Simpson Inc. was incorporated in Evansville in October 1943 as a business of general printing, engraving, lithography, and electrotyping. Simpson seems to have done a number of such pieces of ephemera, only a few of which are dated. These include Politics and the English Language: An Essay Printed as a Christmas Keepsake for the Typophiles  (1947) by George Orwell, and The Feather-Vendor Zodiac Calendar, 1951 (1951) by W.A. Dwiggins. Simpson seems to have been most active in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

It turns out that Simpson published two additional pieces of Christopher Morley ephemera (and if anyone has copies, I have a friend who wants them for his Morley collection. Really.). Both, of course, are undated, but here are the details from some library catalogues:

A Birthday Greeting for William Shakespeare, 23 April 1564-23 April 1616 by Christopher Morley. Evansville, IN: Herbert W. Simpson, [no date].
Includes quotation from Morley's Shakespeare and Hawaii (1933).
1 folded sheet ([3] pages).
"In the solemn vein of occasional advertising pronouncements: this piece is the second of a series. While ostensibly a birthday greeting, it is also a printers' potage cooked up from contributions by several hands. Credit is directly given to the three writers involved with the flavor of words. The illustrations are by Merrill Snethen and the types are various sizes of Caslon 471."
Contains Shakespeare's "Sonnet number sixty" and "A letter from Christopher Morley", regarding the Sonnets.

Note:  Merrill Snethen (1904-1974) was a native of Evansville, educated at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Energy Is Not Endless . . . by Christopher Morley.
Evansville, IN: Herbert W. Simpson, [no date].
"Energy is not endless, better hoard it for your own work. Be intangible and hard to catch; be secret and proud and inwardly unconformable. Say yes and don’t mean it; pretend to agree; dodge every kind of organization, and evade, elude, recede. Be about your own affairs, as you would also forbear from others at theirs, and thereby show your respect for the holiest ghost we know, the creative imagination."
From a tribute to Don Marquis (1878-1937) by Morley, "O Rare Don Marquis", The Saturday Review of Literature, 8 January 1938, and collected in Morley's Letters of Askance (1939). 

The correct source of Morley's quotation is his column entitled "Brief Case; or, Every Man His Own Bartlett," which appeared in the 6 November 1948 issue of The Saturday Review of Literature, page 20.  The epigrams in the column are rather gloomy for Morley, but the final one is more uplifting (and also punctuated more euphoniously):
    Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do.
    It is bad for the mind to be always part of a unanimity.*

*[sic] it reads "always part of" not "always a part of" as in the card shown above.


  1. Thanks for your thorough research! It helped me track down the original quote, which differs from yours in one tiny indefinite article. now has a scan of the Saturday Review issue in question (uploaded some two years after your post) with the Identifier: sim_saturday-review_1948-11-06_31_45. Page 20 shows that Morley ended his quote with "to be always part of a unanimity." It seems that pesky "a" has wandered over the years.

  2. Thanks. I checked my copy of that issue of The Saturday Review (which I don't think I had when I wrote this post), and you are correct. I've added the "a" to the official quote.

    1. Excellent. Thanks again for posting in the first place.