"Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics. Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously."

David Goodstein, States of Matter, 1985


"Until recently, it was the habit of preachers to enumerate the points they made in their sermon. The phrase ‘fifthly and lastly, dear brethren’, or whatever number it was, was a familiar one to churchgoers. St Mary Magdalen Church in Bermondsey Street, London, once had a Puritan preacher who, some four hundred years ago, preached a sermon from sixty pages of notes concluding with the words ‘one hundred and seventhly and lastly, dear brethren.’"

N.T.P. Murphy, A Wodehouse Handbook, 2013


"She did it the hard way."

epitaph on Bette Davis' tombstone. She was an American actress on stage, television, and film who is perhaps best remembered for being willing to play unsympathetic, sardonic characters. She was also a hard worker with a perfectionist steak.


"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees."

That is a quote from the "Father of Our National Parks," John Muir. He was born in Scotland, but was instrumental in safeguarding the American wilderness. His family emigrated to the United States in 1849 to establish a farm in Wisconsin. In 1867, Muir sustained a severe eye injury and as a result, decided to pursue his first love: walking the wilderness. He trekked 1,000 miles from Indianapolis to Florida, from which he sailed to New York, before sailing to San Francisco in 1868. He started walking from the other end of the United States, and "discovered" the Sierra Nevadas.

Those mountains his resting place, if John Muir could have one. He dedicated the rest of his life to walking and protecting the Sierra Nevadas. He founded the Sierra Club in San Francisco, and was a leading voice in convincing the federal government to establish Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and the Grand Canyon as national parks.


"Two farmers each claimed to own a certain cow. While one pulled on its heads and the other pulled on its tail, the cow was milked by a lawyer."

Jewish parable that made me smile.


"Heaven won’t fail the dedicated heart. Sleeping on brushwood and tasting gall, 3,000 Yue soldiers at long last can defeat the Wu."

Every Chinese schoolchild knows the idiom "sleeping on brushwood, tasting gall." It means — roughly — that grueling hard work will always pay off in the long run. The quote is a couplet by writer Pu Songling in the 1600s, who wrote it after repeatedly failing the notoriously difficult Qing Dynasty-era civil service exam. But the idiom predates Pu.

You have to back pretty far in Chinese history to find the source of the saying, to the war-filled Spring and Autumn period. In the early 400s BCE, King Goujian of the Yue state was defeated by the Wu state ruler and forced to be his servant for a time, before being allowed to return home. Goujian kept his resolve strong with hard living, eating peasant food and literally tasting bile to remind him of the bitterness of servitude. He eventually triumphs over his nemesis — who leads a more luxurious, lazy life — and annexes his rival’s kingdom.

Today, people are urged to become a “21st-century Goujian” through hard work. But they might want to consider Pu Songling’s case, too. Sometimes hard work takes too long to pay off. Pu, a schoolteacher, lived and died in relative obscurity, despite having written numerous short stories about the supernatural. It was not until some 50 years after his death that he gained a following as a writer. Too late for Pu to enjoy it.


"Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph."

Haile Selassie


"Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me."

Immanuel Kant


"Carter’s decision to run for president occurred during his gubernatorial term. One clear September morning in 1973 Governor Carter stopped by to visit his mother, who was resting in her bedroom. Carter pulled up a chair and propped up his feet on the foot of her bed. When his mother inquired as to his plans after leaving the governor’s office, he replied: ‘I’m going to run for president.’ ‘President of what?’ his mother asked, and Carter replied: ‘Mama, I’m going to run for president of the United States, and I’m going to win.’ Mrs. Carter then told him to get his feet off the bed."

from Larry F. Vrzalik and Michael Minor, "From the President’s Pen", 1991.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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