Pleasurable obituaries

Like all good idiots, I post quotes to Facebook without checking whether they’re authentic.

Like this one, but not this one. I was one of the twelve people on Facebook who didn’t post it:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King

King never said that. Well, he said (or wrote) most of that, but not the first sentence. That’s just fake.

Another fake one is (same link for source):

“I have never killed a man, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” — Mark Twain

Actually Clarence Darrow said that.

Or did he? Google turns up two slightly different versions; has both on the same page, the one above and this:

“I never wanted to see anybody die, but there are a few obituary notices I have read with pleasure.”

The one I copied and pasted to Facebook was a third variant, with an attribution to Twain:

“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

I haven’t actually tracked down a source for the quote, just a lot of web sites and digitized books that quote Darrow. The majority of them, especially the earlier ones, agree on the “I have never killed a man…” version, so I’m guessing it’s the most authentic. Which is a shame; I think the “wanted to see anybody die” or better yet the “wished a man dead” version just works better.

But what was said and what should have been said are two different things, just like who said it and who should have said it. We’re stuck with Darrow and Darrow’s version. And so I close with this entirely authentic quote:

“When a quote is attributed to Twain, Shaw, or Churchill, it really means ‘I have no idea who said this’.” — Mark Twain


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