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Desperate Saying

In response to:

Sparkle Plenty from the June 24, 1982 issue

To the Editors:

Re Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks, reviewed by Alan Pryce-Jones [NYR, June 24]: The observation “The bible tells us to forgive our enemies; not our friends” did not originate with Mrs. Asquith. Francis Bacon, in his Of Revenge (1625), attributes that “desperate saying” to Cosimo de’ Medici.

Paul Violi

Putnam Valley, New York

Alan Pryce-Jones replies:

What Bacon in his Apophthegms quotes Cosimo de’ Medici as saying is “We read that we ought to forgive our enemies; but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends.” Probably Mrs. Asquith knew this when she said (if Madan quotes her correctly) much the same thing with greater economy. An analogy is the stock phrase of Edmond Haraucourt, “Partir, c’est mourir un peu,” which can be referred back to Schopenhauer’s “Every parting gives a foretaste of death.” Same sentiment, in both cases, but given a sharper point, by Haraucourt and Asquith.

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