Thursday, June 11, 2015


A Word of Advice

John William Burgon (1813-1888), "Martin Joseph Routh," Lives of Twelve Good Men, Vol. I (London: John Murray, 1888), pp. 1-115 (at 72-73; footnote omitted; ellipses in original):
Mrs. Routh met me in the street, and asked 'why I did not go to see her dear man?' 'I was afraid of being troublesome.' 'But he tells me that he wishes to see you.' So I went. (It was Nov. 29th, 1847.) Would that I had preserved a record of what passed! But I believe it was then that I ventured to address him somewhat as follows: "Mr. President, give me leave to ask you a question I have sometimes asked of aged persons, but never of any so aged or so learned as yourself." He looked so kindly at me that I thought I might go on. "Every studious man, in the course of a long and thoughtful life, has had occasion to experience the special value of some one axiom or precept. Would you mind giving me the benefit of such a word of advice?" ... He bade me explain,—evidently to gain time. I quoted an instance. He nodded and looked thoughtful. Presently he brightened up and said, "I think, sir, since you care for the advice of an old man, sir, you will find it a very good practice"—(here he looked me archly in the face),—"always to verify your references, sir!" ... I can better recall the shrewdness of the speaker's manner than his exact words; but they were those, or very nearly those.

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