What men quote by: Tolstoy, wise sayings, and moral tales

Gary Saul Morson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The author of War and Peace also mastered short forms, including moral tales and the shortest of all literary forms, the quotation. Tolstoy loved quotations. By “quotations” I mean not any set of cited words, but the sort of memorable short saying that we find in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and similar volumes. Although it is often assumed that Bartlett invented the anthology of quotations, it derives from a tradition extending back to the Renaissance (Erasmus' Adagia), medieval florilegia, ancient classics including Diogenes Laertius, and the biblical Book of Proverbs, which is itself a collection of collections of Middle Eastern proverbs. To be a quotation in this sense, a set of words must be able to stand on its own as a complete, if brief, literary work. It must be quotable. We may therefore distinguish what I shall call a quotation – a short literary work – from an extract, in the sense of any set of cited words. Extracts, such as the sort of citations footnoted in scholarly articles, are neither offered nor taken as complete works capable of standing on their own. Clearly, not all extracts are quotations. But neither are all quotations extracts. For one thing, although a quotation may have an extract as a source, it may and often does differ from its source if for no other reason than to stand on its own. Becoming a quotation is a change in status that often involves a change in text.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnniversary Essays on Tolstoy
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780511676246
ISBN (Print)9780521514910
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'What men quote by: Tolstoy, wise sayings, and moral tales'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this