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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Suzanne (Horatio) Delage
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 00:38:18 

>Craig Christensen wrote:
>>Peter Westlake wrote:
>>The Hamlet, at least, is easy:
>>  "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
>>    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
>>It's a very well-known quote (no offense!), hence "Hamlet's hackneyed
>> precept".

>None taken.  Yes, it is a very well-known quote, even to me.  But, aren't
>there many familiar quotes from Hamlet? I haven't read the play for a
>couple of years and didn't make the effort to check it myself.  I guess
>because I was so taken with the notion that forgetting was central to the
>story, I was trying to recall a quote about memory. ...

One thing I am sure of (perhaps the *only* thing I am sure of) in this
story is that the "Horatio" quote is the one intended here. (Of course,
just because I'm sure doesn't mean I'm right.) Look at the passage in

The idea which had so forcibly struck me was simply this: _that every man
has had in the course of his life some extraordinary experience, some
dislocation of all we expect from nature and probability, of such magnitude
that he might in his own person serve as a living proof of Hamlet's
hackneyed precept_ -- but that he has, nearly always, been so conditioned
to consider himself the most mundane of creatures, that, finding no
relationship to the remainder of his life in this extraordinary experience,
he has forgotten it.

Notice that I have used underscores to indicate the beginning and ending of
the use of italic text (at least its this way in the paperback copy of
_Endangered Species_ I am referring to).

(The use of italics seems odd, if it is not a mistake. It seems as if
either too much or too little is italicized. I would guess that it is an
error and that all the text in the quote above, after the colon, was meant
to have been in italics;  the whole thing is the striking fact, after all.

Wait, maybe Wolfe did this deliberately--maybe we're supposed to read
everything in italics as meaning the opposite
[italics--Italy--Romans--Greeks--Beware of Greeks bearing gifts!] So the
striking fact is that everyone really is perfectly ordinary and they have
forgotten it!


Anyway, my point is that the narrator mentions Hamlet *after* he talks
about the "extraordinary experience" but *before* he says anything about
forgetting it. So "Hamlet's hackneyed precept" is about the unusual, not
about memory, making the Horatio quote most probably the one intended by

Actually, the only other line from Hamlet that is so well know as to be
hackneyed (that I can think of) is: "To be, or not to be- that is the
question..." Hmmm, maybe this fits if we take it to mean existence and not

Oh, well.

William Ansley

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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