"[Taiwanese defector] Lin applied to study economics at People’s University in Beijing and was rejected. His official file, the dang’an, contained every suspicion ever raised about his political history. For Lin, defection would always be a cause for suspicion; in the language of the day, people said he had “origins unclear.” After the rejection, he applied to Peking University. Dong Wenjun, an administrator, worried that Lin might turn out to be a spy, but ultimately decided, as he put it later, that there was “no intelligence to be gathered in the economics department anyway.” Lin was accepted."

quoted from Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos


"People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors."

Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, 1790


"While philosophers were looking for a characteristic to distinguish man from other animals, inconsistency ought not to have been forgotten."

Richard Duppe, from the notebooks of English belletrist Geoffrey Madan (1895-1947)


"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of great fear."

Bertrand Russell, 1943.


"Terror is as much a part of the concept of truth as runniness is of the concept of jam. We wouldn't like jam if it didn't, by its very nature, ooze. We wouldn't like truth if it wasn't sticky, if, from time to time, it didn't ooze blood."

Jean Baudrillard, 1987. He was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer (1929 - 2007).


"Didn't George Washington say, 'He who controls Afghanistan will carry New Jersey?'"

Gore Vidal (1925 - 2012), born Eugene Louis Vidal, was an American writer (novels, essays, screenplays, stage plays) and a public intellectual known for his patrician manner, epigrammatic wit, and polished style of writing.  He was born to a political family; his maternal grandfather was twice the U.S. Senator for Oklahoma (1907–21 and 1931–37).  As a politician, Gore Vidal was a Democratic Party man who twice sought elected office; first to the House of Representatives (New York State, 1960), then to the Senate (California, 1982).

As a novelist, Gore Vidal explored the nature of corruption in public and private life. He also wrote books which greatly offended public sensibilities but today are considered ahead of their time: one novel had a dispassionately presented gay male relationship, another explored the mutability of gender-role and sexual-orientation as being social constructs created by social conventions. Vidal considered himself a bisexual person, and lived with his partner Howard Austen for 53 years.


"Nothing is so much to be feared as fear."

You have probably heard this famous quote -- but attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and with slightly different wording. It was written into FDR's speech by his confidant, Louis Howe. FDR's speechwriter claimed Howe -- whose reading "was confined excclusivel to detective novels and newspapers" and "may never have heard of Thoreau" -- must have picked up the idea of fearing fear from a newspaper ad for Wanamaker's department store. The store had been running a campaign featuring inspirational quotes from history.

source: Lapham's Quarterly, volume X, number 3. Summer 2017. "Fear."


"You will then realize that there is nothing fearful there except fear itself."

Seneca the Younger, circa 50 CE. He was a Stoic, and wrote this quote in a letter to Lucilius Junior. Lucilius Junior was a financial officer in Siciliy who was experiencing “unspecified anxieties.” Maybe a case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

His friend Seneca the Younger tried to help out by writing letters in which he explained Stoic philosophy. These letters were so well-regarded that they were compiled and published as Epistulae morales ad Lucilium (Moral Letters to Lucilius). As a result, we have quite a good record of what Stoicism looked like during the mid-first century CE.


"After the basic necessities of life, nothing is more valuable than books."

The first line of Pierre Fournier's Manuel typographique, Vol. 1 (Paris: Barbou, 1764-66)

  • <
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • >
  • Leave us a message

    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!

    Website design and coding by the Amalgama

    About us X