St. Thomas Aquinas and remedies for sorrow

Here’s one for the feast day of the Dumb Ox:

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.

Attr. St. Thomas Aquinas.

St. Thomas discusses remedies for sorrow in the Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part, Question 38. You can read it for yourself at the above link. Here’s the tl;dr version:

  1. Any pleasure is a remedy for sorrow (not necessarily the best remedy, but it does work).
  2. Weeping is a remedy because it provides an outlet for the sorrow.
  3. The sympathy of friends is a remedy (and good friends are a treasure).
  4. Contemplation of the truth is a remedy. St. Thomas regards this as a subset of “any pleasure” because contemplation of the truth is always pleasurable.
  5. Finally, sleep and baths are a remedy; in essence, sorrow drains the body of energy, and these things help restore that energy.

Noticeably absent from the list is any specific mention of wine.

Also note that St. Thomas didn’t say it in epigrammatic form. He is concise but often not terribly quotable.

St. Teresa of Ávila and the weather

All weather is good weather for it is God’s.

–Attr. St. Teresa of Ávila

I’ve even used this quotation, in the days before I became obsessive about citations. In fact, I think it was trying to verify this quotation after the fact that pushed me over the edge.

At any rate, I’m still not entirely sure it’s a fauxtation. I couldn’t find any place that gave a citation using normal Google search; Wikiquote doesn’t have it, even on the “unsourced and removed” page; and the only books that have it on Google Books don’t give a citation, and I think her collected works are all there. On the other hand, St. Teresa was good with the epigram, and it does sound to me like something she could have said.

But when all is said and done, I would call nearly any other quote a fake quote with this kind of negative evidence, so I guess I have to conclude that this one’s probably fake too.

St. Augustine: Despair, Presumption

Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume, one of the thieves was damned.–Attr. St. Augustine.

Apparently this quotation opens the movie Calvary, and it also seems to have influenced Samuel Beckett in writing Waiting for Godot. But did St. Augustine actually say it?

  1. It sounds plausibly but not convincingly Augustinian. St. Augustine was really not much given to aphorisms.
  2. Wikiquote has it under the “Disputed” section of St. Augustine’s page, noting: “Attributed to St. Augustine in The Repentance of Robert Greene, Master of Arts (1592) by Robert Greene.” You can find a PDF of that document here, but it gives no source. It does, however, give the saying in a less aphoristic form that sounds more authentically Augustinian: “There was (saith he) one thief saved and no more, therefore presume not, and there was one saved, and therefore despair not.
  3. Here’s a Google Books link to a book on Godot/Beckett that flatly affirms it’s not in Augustine and that it comes from Greene. Here’s another book on Beckett mentioning that searches for the saying in Augustine failed. This makes me think that Beckett is the source for most modern-day usage of the saying.
  4. I searched the works on Augustine in English at CCEL for “thief” and didn’t find the passage in question nor anything looking much like it.
  5. Most of the works of St. Augustine are online in Latin at The word used for “thief” in the Vulgate accounts of the Passion is “latro.” Latin has another word for thief, “fur,” so when Our Lord speaks of “thieves and robbers” it’s “fures et latrones,” but the thieves at Calvary are always “latrones.” I searched for “latro” (which also happily returned inflected forms of the word) and looked at the 85 results. Eight of them seemed possible from the excerpts shown in the search results, but none of them contained the saying or anything that looked like it could be the source of it.

My theory is therefore that Robert Greene misremembered his source and that Samuel Beckett is responsible for putting it into modern-day circulation.

Augustine: The world is a book?

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”–attributed to St. Augustine.

Wikiquote takes care of this one handily:

Attributed to Augustine in “Select Proverbs of All Nations” (1824) by “Thomas Fielding” (John Wade), p. 216, and later in the form “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”, as quoted in 20,000 Quips & Quotes (1995) by Evan Esar, p. 822; this has not been located in Augustine’s writings, and may be a variant translation of an expression found in Le Cosmopolite (1753) by Fougeret de Monbron: “The universe is a sort of book, whose first page one has read when one has seen only one’s own country.”

I found it suspect for two reasons (other than that I am congenitally suspicious):

  1. St. Augustine was not terribly well-travelled himself.
  2. It doesn’t sound like him. He didn’t use metaphors much.

Edit in September 2016

I saw this fauxtation used in an airport while I was on vacation, and in trying to locate the exact wording, I found a post that points a finger a little farther back, to John Feltham and his English Enchiridion, which says, “St. Augustine, when he speaks of the great advantages of travelling, says, that the world is a great book, and none study this book so much as a traveler. They that never stir from their home read only one page of this book.”

According to that post, St. Augustine does mention the “book of the world” several times:

Letter 43: Maior liber noster orbis terrarum est; in eo lego completum, quod in libro dei lego promissum: Our great book is the entire world; What I read as promised in the book of God I read fulfilled in it [the world].
= The world is our greater book; what was promised in the book of God, I read in the world as fulfilled.

Enarrationes in Psalmos (Psalm 45):
Liber tibi sit pagina diuina, ut haec audias; liber tibi sit orbis terrarum, ut haec uideas. in istis codicibus non ea legunt, nisi qui litteras nouerunt; in toto mundo legat et idiotaLet the sacred page be a book for you so that you may hear these things; let the world be a book for you so that you may seem them. In the codexes [books] no one can read them except those who have learned their letters, but even an idiot [unlettered person; I don’t think St. Augustine meant this in a modern pejorative sense] reads them in the whole world.