Bartlett's book of anecdotes /
Clifton Fadiman and Andre Bernard, general editors.
Updated and rev. ed.
Boston, Mass. : Little, Brown, 2000.
xxvi, 766 p.
0316082678 (hc)
More Details
Boston, Mass. : Little, Brown, 2000.
0316082678 (hc)
general note
Rev. ed. of: Little, Brown book of anecdotes, 1985.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
A Look Inside
First Chapter



Aaron, Henry Louis ["Hank"] (1934-), US baseball player. He broke Babe Ruth's home-run record, hitting 755 in all .

1 During the 1957 World Series, Yankee catcher Yogi Berra noticed that Aaron grasped the bat the wrong way. "Turn it around," he said, "so you can see the trademark." But Hank kept his eye on the pitcher's mound: "Didn't come up here to read. Came up here to hit."

2 Aaron, who surpassed Babe Ruth's "unsurpassable" home-run record of 714 home runs in 1974, never saw any of his famous hits flying through the air. While running to first base he always looked down until he touched the bag, feeling that "looking at the ball going over the fence isn't going to help."

3 Asked how he felt about breaking Ruth's record - an achievement that was both admired and somewhat controversial given the great reverence and affection Ruth inspired even years after his death - Aaron said, "I don't want them to forget Ruth. I just want them to remember me!"

4 Aaron was known as a hitter who rarely failed, the bane of pitchers. As a pitcher on a rival team once said of him, "Trying to sneak a pitch past Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster."


Abernethy, John (1764-1831), British physician .

1A titled gentleman who consulted Abernethy was received by the great doctor with the rudeness for which he was notorious. The patient lost his temper and told Abernethy that he would make him "eat his words." "It will be of no use," responded Abernethy, "for they will be sure to come up again."

2 When Abernethy was canvassing for the post of surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, he called upon one of the governors, a wealthy grocer, in the man's shop. The grocer loftily remarked that he presumed Abernethy was wanting his vote at this important point in his life. Nettled by the man's tone and attitude, Abernethy retorted, "No, I don't; I want a pennyworth of figs. Look sharp and wrap them up. I want to be off."

3 "Mrs. J- consulted him respecting a nervous disorder, the minutiae of which appeared to be so fantastic that Mr. A. interrupted their frivolous detail by holding out his hand for the fee. A ?1 note and a shilling were placed into it; upon which he returned the latter to his fair patient, with the angry exclamation, 'There, Ma'am! go and buy a skipping rope; that is all you want. '"

4 Despite his brusqueness with his private patients, Abernethy was conscientious and kindly toward the poor under his care in the charity hospital. Once as he was about to leave for the hospital, a private patient tried to detain him. Abernethy observed, "Private patients, if they do not like me, can go elsewhere; but the poor devils in the hospital I am bound to take care of."

5 A patient complaining of melancholy consulted Dr. Abernethy. After an examination the doctor pronounced, "You need amusement. Go and hear the comedian Grimaldi; he will make you laugh and that will be better for you than any drugs." Said the patient, "I am Grimaldi."

6 Abernethy was renowned for his dislike of idle chatter. With this in mind, a young lady once entered his surgery and, without a word, held out an injured finger for examination. The doctor dressed the wound in silence. The woman returned a few days later. "Better?" asked Abernethy. "Better," replied the patient. Subsequent calls passed in much the same manner. On her final visit, the woman held out her finger, now free of bandages. "Well?" inquired the doctor. "Well," she replied. "Upon my word, madam," exclaimed Abernethy, "you are the most rational woman I have ever met."


Acheson, Dean [Gooderham] (1893-1971), US statesman and lawyer; secretary of state (1949-53) .

1On leaving his post as secretary of state, Acheson was asked about his plans for the future. He replied, "I will undoubtedly have to seek what is happily known as gainful employment, which I am glad to say does not describe holding public office."

2 In April 1963 Winston Churchill was made an honorary citizen of the United States. At the ceremony in the White House, his letter of acceptance was read by his son Randolph, as he himself was too frail to attend. It contained a passage rejecting the idea that Britain had only a "tame and minor" role to play on the international scene. Dean Acheson recognized this as an oblique allusion to his own famous and greatly resented remark that Britain had lost an empire and failed to find a new role. "Well, it hasn't taken Winston long to get used to American ways," commented Acheson. "He hadn't been an American citizen for three minutes before he began attacking an ex-secretary of state."

3 A rather flustered elderly lady once accosted Acheson in a Washington hotel. "Pardon me," she said, "I am somewhat embarrassed. My zipper has stuck and I am due at a meeting. Could you please help me out?" As the zipper was firmly stuck halfway down her back, Acheson was obliged to undo it completely, averting his eyes as best he could, before pulling it back up to the top. The lady thanked him profusely. "I think that I should tell you," she added, "that I am vice president of the Daughters of the American Revolution."

"My dear lady," replied Acheson, "what a moment ago was a rare privilege now appears to have been a really great honor."


Acton, Harold (1904-97), British author whose works include poetry, histories, memoirs, and novels .

1"One summer afternoon Acton, then a celebrated undergraduate poet at Oxford, was asked to perform at a Conservative Garden Fete. He decided he could do no better than recite [T. S. Eliot's] The Waste Land from beginning to end. His audience's good manners were severely tested, as this dirge for a godless civilization, delivered in Harold Acton's rich, resounding voice, swept irresistibly above their heads; and one or two old ladies, who were alarmed and horrified but thought that the reciter had such a 'nice, kind face,' rather than hurt the young man's feelings by getting up and leaving openly, were obliged to sink to their knees and creep away on all fours."


Adams, Alexander Annan (1908-), British air commander .

1At the end of the Battle of Britain, Adams was driving to a meeting at Fighter Command Headquarters when he came upon a sign: ROAD CLOSED - UNEXPLODED BOMB. Adams called over the policeman on duty, hoping he might be able to suggest an alternative route. "Sorry, you can't go through," said the policeman as he approached the car. "The bomb is likely to go off at any minute now." Then he caught sight of Adams's uniform. "I'm very sorry, sir," he said, "I didn't know you were a wing commander. It is quite all right for you to go through."


Adams, Ansel (1902-84), US landscape photographer (particularly of the mountainous West) and conservationist .

1During his early years Adams studied the piano and showed marked talent. At one party (he recalls it as "very liquid") he played Chopin's F Major Nocturne. "In some strange way my right hand started off in F-sharp major while my left hand behaved well in F major. I could not bring them together. I went through the entire nocturne with the hands separated by a half-step." The next day a fellow guest complimented him on his performance. "You never missed a wrong note!"


Adams, Franklin Pierce (1881-1960), US journalist, writer of light verse, and wit .

1Adams belonged to a poker club that included among its members an actor called Herbert Ransom. Whenever Ransom held a good hand, his facial expression was so transparent that Adams proposed a new rule for the club: "Anyone who looks at Ransom's face is cheating."

2 Adams accompanied Beatrice Kaufman (wife of the playwright George S. Kaufman) to a cocktail party where, feeling a little out of things, she sat down on a cane-seated chair. The seat suddenly broke, leaving Beatrice immobilized inside the frame, legs in the air. As a shocked silence gripped the party, Adams said severely, "I've told you a hundred times, Beatrice, that's not funny."

3 "Whose birthday is it today?" Adams once asked Beatrice Kaufman. "Yours?" she guessed. "No, but you're getting warm," replied Adams. "It's Shakespeare's."

4 Alexander Woollcott had been asked to sign a first-edition copy of his book Shouts and Murmurs. "Ah, what is so rare as a Woollcott first edition?" he sighed as he wrote. "A Woollcott second edition," replied Adams.

5 A friend was recounting to Adams an apparently interminable tale. He finally said: "Well, to cut a long story short-"

"Too late," interrupted Adams.


Adams, Henry (1838-1918), US diplomat and writer known particularly for his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams .

1Adams was very fond of his teenage niece Gabrielle. During one visit, they sat together in the library after dinner as Uncle Henry began to speak. His monologue was extraordinary, and ranged over the cosmos, the nature of God and man, and his own hopes and disappointments. For a long time he talked, then broke off and sat quietly for a moment. "Do you know why I have told you all this?" he asked her. "It is because you would not understand a word of it and you will never quote me."


Adams, John (1735-1826), US statesman, 2d President of the United States (1797-1801) .

1Adams loathed being vice president; even in those early days of the Republic, the job was ill defined and not much respected. Of his role as Washington's secondary partner, he wrote, "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."

2 During his presidency Adams's grand style, which contrasted unfavorably with the simpler dignity of the Washington regime, made him many enemies. A scandalous story circulated that he had sent General Charles C. Pinckney to Britain to select four pretty girls as mistresses, two for the general and two for himself. When this slander came to Adams's ears, he wrote complainingly to a friend, "I do declare, if this be true, General Pinckney has kept them all for himself and cheated me out of my two."

3 Adams received a letter from his wife, Abigail, that was highly critical of the impending marriage of a young lady she knew to a much older man. She called it the union of "the Torrid and the Frigid Zones." Adams immediately wrote back, saying, "How dare you hint or list a word about Fifty Years of Age? If I were near, I would soon convince you that I am not above Forty."

4 Although failing fast, Adams was determined to survive until the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence - July 4 , 1826. At dawn on that day he was awakened by his servant, who asked if he knew what day it was. He replied, "Oh, yes, it is the glorious fourth of July. God bless it. God bless you all." He then slipped into a coma. In the afternoon he recovered consciousness briefly to murmur, "Thomas Jefferson lives." These were his last words. Unknown to him, Thomas Jefferson had died that same day.


Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848), US statesman, 6th President of the United States (1825-29). From 1831 to his death he served in the House of Representatives .

1John Quincy Adams, an enthusiastic swimmer, used to bathe naked in the Potomac before starting the day's work. The newspaperwoman Anne Royall had been trying for weeks to get an interview with the President and had always been turned away. One morning she tracked him to the riverbank and after he had got into the water stationed herself on his clothes. When Adams returned from his swim, he found a very determined lady awaiting him. She introduced herself and stated her errand. "Let me get out and dress," pleaded the President, "and I swear you shall have your interview." Anne Royall was adamant; she wasn't moving until she had the President's comment on the questions she wished to put to him. If he attempted to get out, she would scream loud enough to reach the ears of some fishermen on the next bend. She got her interview while Adams remained decently submerged in the water.

2 In 1846 John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke and, although he returned to Congress the following year, his health was clearly failing. Daniel Webster described his last meeting with Adams: "Someone, a friend of his, came in and made particular inquiry of his health. Adams answered, 'I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken in upon by the storms, and, from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair.'"

3 One wintry day in 1848 Adams was busy writing at his desk when the Speaker of the House rose to ask a question. Adams rose to answer, then fell into the arms of his neighboring member. He was carried into the Speaker's chamber, where he spent the next two days in a semiconscious state. His final words were, "This is the last of Earth. I am content."


Addams, Jane (1860-1935), US social reformer. A supporter of racial equality, female suffrage, and pacifism, she shared the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize with the educator Nicholas Murray Butler .

1In 1900 the Daughters of the American Revolution elected Jane Addams to honorary membership. However, her antiwar stance during World War I and her insistence that even subversives had a right to trial by due process of law caused them to expel her. She commented that she had thought her election was for life, but now knew it was for good behavior.


Addison, Joseph (1672-1719), British writer and politician .

1Addison's natural diffidence made him an ineffective parliamentary debater. On one occasion he began, "Mr. Speaker, I conceive - I conceive, sir - sir, I conceive -" At this point he was interrupted by a voice saying, "The right honorable secretary of state has conceived thrice and brought forth nothing."

2 The Duke of Wharton, hoping to animate Addison into wit, plied him so generously with wine that the writer was taken ill. The duke observed with disgust that he could "get wine but not wit out of him."

3 A friend of Addison's with whom he was accustomed to have long discussions on topics of mutual interest borrowed some money from the author.


Excerpted from Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes by Clifton Fadiman Copyright © 2000 by Clifton Fadiman. Excerpted by permission.
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Bowker Data Service Summary
This volume is full of short anecdotes, which provide remarkable insights into the human character. Ranging from the humorous to the solemn, they span ancient history, recent politics, modern science and the arts.
Main Description
These short anecdotes provide remarkable insight into the human character. Ranging from the humorous to the tearful, they span classical history, recent politics, modern science, and the arts. Bartletts Book of Anecdotes is a gold mine for anyone who gives speeches, is doing research, or simply likes to browse.
Main Description
The ultimate anthology of anecdotes, now revised with over 700 new entries - a must-have reference for every personal library. From Hank Aaron to King Zog, Mao Tse-Tung to Madonna, Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes features more than 2,000 people from around the world, past and present, in all fields. These short anecdotes provide remarkable insight into the human character. Ranging from the humorous to the tearful, they span classical history, recent politics, modern science and the arts. Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes is a gold mine for anyone who gives speeches, is doing research, or simply likes to browse. As an informal tour of history and human nature at its most entertaining & instructive, this is sure to be a perennial favorite for years to come.

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