September 20, Later in the morning
I wanted to check what I wrote earlier about Dorothy Parker's quote from La Rochefoucauld. I was almost right (and when I looked it up I found the correct spelling of the 17th Century epigrammist). Mrs. Parker wrote, in a short piece called "The Little Hours" about a woman agonizing with insomnia:"[La Rochefoucauld] said that if nobody had ever learned to read, very few people would be in love." Just a word or two different, but that was so much better I just had to share it.
Then I decided to go to the Encyclopedia Britannica (yes, there resources besides the Internet!) to find out exactly who La Rochefoucauld was. I was not disappointed. He was exactly the kind of dude Dorothy Parker would have loved. It seems that in Paris in those days, the intellectuals who met in salons had a sort of game to create what they called maximes. They would gather and bounce clever lines off each other, refining them until they felt they got it right, with someone transcribing with quill in hand all the time. At the end of a session they selected the best maxime and attributed it to its author, or at least whoever contributed the most to the creation. Then they would have books of their maximes published. La Rochefoucauld had several books published, but some he disclaimed, apparently out of modesty. At any rate, and also because the name is so much fun to pronounce in French, La Rochefoucauld is worth knowing about.
And so is Dorothy Parker.