Marginalia, no.179

He was one of those men, not uncommonly met with in the year 1830, that peppered his speech with quotations perfectly apposite and perfectly spurious, which he happily attributed to authors his hearers were ashamed to admit they had never read.

~ Stendhal, The Red and the Black

A note in my copy of the book indicates that only 15 of the 73 epigraphs employed at the start of individual chapters in The Red and the Black can actually be traced to the authors credited with them. Stendhal seems to have made up the rest. Considering how casually people reorder their own memories to suit a moment’s purpose, it’s no real shock to find someone raiding the Bibliotheca Abscondita for quotes. It’s even possible, I suppose, to do so innocent of intentional imposture. I wonder how many of the quotations I’ve scribbled down over the years are fudges and fabrications? I’m sure I wouldn’t vouch for the one above.

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