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I never could have done what I have done, without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination... Options
Daemon
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM
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I never could have done what I have done, without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one object at a time.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
MTC
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 7:36:31 AM
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The quotation is from David Copperfield, Ch 42, "Mischief:"

"I feel as if it were not for me to record, even though this manuscript is intended for no eyes but mine, how hard I worked at that tremendous short-hand, and all improvement appertaining to it, in my sense of responsibility to Dora and her aunts. I will only add, to what I have already written of my perseverance at this time of my life, and of a patient and continuous energy which then began to be matured within me, and which I know to be the strong part of my character, if it have any strength at all, that there, on looking back, I find the source of my success. I have been very fortunate in worldly matters; many men have worked much harder, and not succeeded half so well; but I never could have done what I have done, without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one object at a time, no matter how quickly its successor should come upon its heels, which I then formed. Heaven knows I write this, in no spirit of self-laudation. The man who reviews his own life, as I do mine, in going on here, from page to page, had need to have been a good man indeed, if he would be spared the sharp consciousness of many talents neglected, many opportunities wasted, many erratic and perverted feelings constantly at war within his breast, and defeating him. I do not hold one natural gift, I dare say, that I have not abused. My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest. I have never believed it possible that any natural or improved ability can claim immunity from the companionship of the steady, plain, hard-working qualities, and hope to gain its end. There is no such thing as such fulfilment on this earth. Some happy talent, and some fortunate opportunity, may form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to stand wear and tear; and there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere earnestness. Never to put one hand to anything, on which I could throw my whole self; and never to affect depreciation of my work, whatever it was; I find, now, to have been my golden rules."

Once again, we see an author's words plucked from context, and given a life of their own. In context the author balances his boast by attributing his success to other factors including luck, something we would not know from reading the quotation in isolation. Additionally, the quotation does not steer clear of false attribution, making it appear Dickens himself uttered the words when in fact they were spoken by a character in one of his novels, David Copperfield.

In this case the quotation has been cut out of context and stitched into a sampler of the Protestant Work Ethic. We feel the words probably come close to Dickens' own views, considering how hard he labored at his writing, so the harm is not so great.
Richard
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 9:25:39 AM
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So, Mr. Dickens. Not a multitasker.
RubyMoon
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 8:00:19 PM
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I don't see the quotation as boastful, whether taken in or out of context... or whether it is said by Dickens or by David Copperfield, or by anyone.

Why is it boastful? What do I miss here? Does it need to be "balanced"? ( I sincerely ask since this is one of my favorite passages from David Copperfield...)

To succeed by way of hard work, diligence, concentration... and...

My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.

If the primary quotation had been extended to include the above, would it then have a more humble(?) tone/message?
MTC
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 8:43:48 PM
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Boastfulness, like Beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. When the author acknowledges his implied success ("what I have done") could not have occurred without the virtues of "punctuality, order, diligence" and concentrated effort, yes, I feel that is self-congratulatory. And that is why the sentence standing alone out of context is misleading. Others may have a different impression.
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