They say we no longer read for pleasure. They say we’re too busy with our tweets and texts, our iPads and iPhones and iPods, and our thousands of virtual Facebook friends even to consider picking up a book. They say that teachers are afraid to assign their students complete novels for fear they will never be read in entirety. They also say we are each and every day afflicted with such an enormous amount of undigested electronic information that we stand no chance of sorting out even the smallest part of it.
They say we have the attention span of newts.
If you are on the website of The New York Public Library, however, and you have happened to stumble across this post, chances are you know a thing or two about books. You’re one of those who still find the time to read. You make the time! You read not only extensively but passionately. It is not enough to let your eyes simply pass over the words and turn the pages, hoping to get another title under your belt: you crack open your books and suck out their vital juices.
Have I come close to describing you? If so, this post is your challenge. As with my earlier movie quiz, I will give you 25 quotations. They all come from the universe of English and American literature, and they include novels, short stories, and plays. Since Shakespeare is probably the most quoted author in the English language, he appears several times; his quotations should be easy to spot, but the tricky part will be naming the play they come from. Along with the answers, I have provided links to at least one fairly recent circulating copy.
"Reader, I married him" is your first quotation, an easy one, which comes from the end of Jane Eyre. (You will find this beautiful edition with the Fritz Eichenberg illustrations in the General Research Division, but you will also find other circulating copies throughout the neighborhood libraries.) The other quotations follow this illustration from our Digital Gallery and the answers follow.
- “If it had grown up,” she said to herself, “it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.”
- ...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart
was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
- My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.
- Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
- How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!
- “Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!”
- To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
- My mother is a fish.
- "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn."
- A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.
- If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
- Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.
- "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."
- "It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it."
- There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind.
- The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be.
- Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it; he died
As one that had been studied in his death,
To throw away the dearest thing he ow'd,
As 'twere a careless trifle.
- "It is the eve of St. George's Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?"
- It appears that ordinary men take wives because possession is not possible without marriage, and that ordinary women accept husbands because marriage is not possible without possession.
- It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.
- There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams—not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
- In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more.
- I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.
- Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you'll poison me.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?
Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!
- I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.
- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
- James Joyce, Ulysses
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
- Herman Melville, Moby Dick
- William Shakespeare, King Lear
- William Golding, Lord of the Flies
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
- William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
- George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
- J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22
- L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
- Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
- Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
- William Shakespeare, Macbeth
- Bram Stoker, Dracula
- Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd
- Samuel Clemens, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
- Ernest Hemingway, “In Another Country”
- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
- Edgar Allan Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart”