Sunday, February 22, 2009


While reading an article about a French petroleum company operating in Yemen, I not too surprisingly came across the word audace, which made the apophthegm "l'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!" pop into my head. (And yeah, I'm in a consonant-wasting mood this morning. Thanks for noticing.)

I Googled the phrase and the consensus seems to be that Frederick the Great said it but probably it originated with Georges Danton, and further, that Danton's original line was "Il nous faut de l'audace, et encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace."

However, I can't shake the feeling that the first version is what I heard, and where I heard it was in reference to a mathematician, for the boldness of a proof or conjecture. Fre the Gre did patronize (was a patron to, I mean -- I'm pretty sure he treated him with respect) Euler, among other eggheads, though if I had to describe Euler with one adjective, I'd prefer prolific to audacious. On the other hand, it must be said that raising e to the pie-eye, adding one, and calling the whole thing nothing does take a certain amount of huevos.

Anyway, anyone ever heard of this saying uttered in the sense that I remember it? Maybe there were two mathematicians at court, and one said it about the other, as a way of both delivering a compliment and letting the boss know they paid attention when he spoke?

Afterthought: I do recall that F the G also sponsored Lagrange for a time, but the only other thing I know about that guy, when I can remember that he didn't write Mécanique Céleste, is that ZZ Top named a whorehouse after him, which if nothing else certainly can't be said to be a place where one boldly goes where no man has gone before.

(alt. video link)


Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of a quote that seems pertinent;

"Why don't you write books people can read?" - Nora Joyce (re: James Joyce's writing)

James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

Bergen Evans (1968--accept no substitutes!), Oxford, and Penguin all give Danton without a hint of antecedent, conflicting attribution, or even alternate wording, which would conclude matters if it were up to me. The remarkable thing--having used the internets for quick n' dirty quotation searches over the years--is that you somehow managed to hit on one that seems to be both attributed and worded correctly, which must be considered some sort of happy cosmic accident.

bjkeefe said...

Thanks very much, DR. And thanks also for introducing me to Evans. Sounds like my kind of guy.

You're right about the uneasiness provoked when trying to track down the source of quotations online -- one wonders if we will someday soon not be sure about anything historical. So, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Evans's book(s).

@DM: LOL! A fair bust. I considered introducing a new tag for this post: It's my blog; I can stream my consciousness if I want to.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how it fits here, but I heard a quote yesterday that is so good it needs to be recorded somewhere for everyone's enjoyment. From Gore Vidal (paraphrasing because I can't remember it exactly): "The highest human emotion is requited self-love."