Gleanings from the Past #87


Geometry and Poetry

Geometry seems to stand for all that is practical, poetry for all that is visionary, but in the kingdom of the imagination you will find them close akin, and they should go together as a precious heritage to every youth.

— Florence Milner, School Review, 1898

Epitaph on Richard Adlam

In the romantic village church of Kings Teignton, Devon, there is a tomb to the memory of Richard Adlam, whose epitaph, besides being a singular specimen of the style of the period, is so remarkable for the coincidence of the first line with Dr. Young’s celebrated
apostrophe to Death (Night Third):

Insatiate archer! could not one suffice?

that we might almost think he must have seen and had it in his mind when he wrote it It is as follows:

Richardus Adlam hujus ecclesiae Vicarius, obit Feb. 10, 1670, Apostrophe ad Mortem:

Damn’d tyrant! can’t profaner blood suffice?
Must priests that offer be the sacrifice?
Go tell the genii that in Hades lye,
Thy triumphs o’er this sacred Calvary,
Till some just Nemesis avenge our cause
And force this kill-priest to revere good laws!

— Gulielmus, Notes and Queries, January 6, 1855


If I were to guess offhand, and without collusion with higher minds, what is the bottom cause of the amazing material and intellectual advancement of the last fifty years, I should guess that it was the modern-born and previously non-existent disposition on the part of men to believe that a new idea can have value.

— Mark Twain, “A Majestic Literary Fossil”, Harper’s Magazine, February 1890

Exact Measurement

In a recent case for an assault the witness was asked by the counsel:

“How far were you from the parties, sir, when the assault occurred?”

“Four feet five inches and a half.”

“Ah?” fiercely demanded the lawyer, “How’d you come to be so very exact as to the distance?”

“Well, because I thought some confounded fool would ask me, and so I measured it.”

This shot from the camp of the enemy stopped the further examination of the witness, and so he was dismissed amidst a burst of laughter that fairly made the old courthouse shake.

— Marshall Brown, Wit and Humor: A Choice Collection, 1879

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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