[lit-ideas] Re: a tricky quote to pin down

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 04 Jun 2004 12:48:15 -0700

on 6/4/04 8:04 AM, Paul Stone at pas@xxxxxxxx wrote:

> Okay, everyone knows "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice
> to deceive"
> But... I consistently get three different sources:
> I) (the one I think is most correct) is Sir Walter Scott's "Marmion"
Exactly as Robert Paul reports.
> 2) But a whole lot of people are also pretty sure that it's from Robbie
> Burns (I've yet to see the citation)

I have been trying to imagine what lines people might be remembering.  I
called my father, who has much Burns by heart, and all he could think of was
that "Oh what," and "Oh would," might be confused, "Oh would" being an
English rendition of "O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us..."  It is, as they
say, a stretch.
> 3) A lot of people attribute it to Shakespeare. This is probably a mistake.
> He did write the words "practice to deceive" in one play but not the rest.

Can't help you here.

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon

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