“To do such a thing would be to transcend magic. And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man—the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none. You have only to think! And I, a shabby, poverty-struck, hemmed-in demonstrator, teaching fools in a provincial college, might suddenly become—this.”
“What a man knows isn’t important. It’s what he is that counts.”
This statement was made by Joe Starrett in the 1946 western novel Shane, written by Jack Shaeffer. Starrett is a homesteader in 1889 Wyoming who is struggling to hold his land against the violent intimidation tactics of Luke Fletcher, a cattleman who resents homesteaders settling on land he considers to be his range. Shane is the dark, mysterious stranger who rides onto the Starrett's spread. After taking his measure Joe offers him a job, to the confusion of his wife who points out that Shane knows nothing about farming: "But, Joe, are you sure what you're doing? What kind of work can a man like that do? Oh, I know he stood right up to you with that stump. But that was something special. He's been used to good living and plenty of money. You can tell that. He said himself he doesn't know anything about farming." "Neither did I when I started here. What a man knows isn't important. It's what he is that counts. I'll bet you that one was a cowpuncher when he was younger and a tophand too. Anything he does will be done right. You watch. In a week he'll be making even me hump or he'll be bossing the place."
“I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's so inconvenient. If I didn't care about doing the right and didn't feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally.”
This statement is made by Jo March in Louisa May Alcott's 1868-69 novel Little Women. It occurs after Professor Bhaer has been gently but frankly expressing his distaste for the type of "thriller" stories which Jo has been writing because she wants the pay cheques they bring. His opinion hurts Jo, but mostly because she shares it and is embarrassed by the trashy tales. She determines not to write any more of them but, already feeling the loss of the money, half-humorously bemoans the inconvenience of having a conscience:
As soon as she went to her room, she got out her papers, and carefully reread every one of her stories. Being a little shortsighted, Mr. Bhaer sometimes used eye glasses, and Jo had tried them once, smiling to see how they magnified the fine print of her book. Now she seemed to have on the Professor's mental or moral spectacles also, for the faults of these poor stories glared at her dreadfully and filled her with dismay. "They are trash, and will soon be worse trash if I go on, for each is more sensational than the last. I've gone blindly on, hurting myself and other people, for the sake of money. I know it's so, for I can't read this stuff in sober earnest without being horribly ashamed of it, and what should I do if they were seen at home or Mr. Bhaer got hold of them?" Jo turned hot at the bare idea, and stuffed the whole bundle into her stove, nearly setting the chimney afire with the blaze. "Yes, that's the best place for such inflammable nonsense. I'd better burn the house down, I suppose, than let other people blow themselves up with my gunpowder," she thought as she watched the Demon of the Jura whisk away, a little black cinder with fiery eyes. But when nothing remained of all her three month's work except a heap of ashes and the money in her lap, Jo looked sober, as she sat on the floor, wondering what she ought to do about her wages. "I think I haven't done much harm yet, and may keep this to pay for my time," she said, after a long meditation, adding impatiently, "I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's so inconvenient. If I didn't care about doing right, and didn't feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally. I can't help wishing sometimes, that Mother and Father hadn't been so particular about such things." Ah, Jo, instead of wishing that, thank God that 'Father and Mother were particular', and pity from your heart those who have no such guardians to hedge them round with principles which may seem like prison walls to impatient youth, but which will prove sure foundations to build character upon in womanhood.
“What the deuce is it to me?" he interrupted impatiently: "you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
The above statement is from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1887 novel A Study In Scarlet, which is the first Sherlock Holmes story and contains the meeting between Holmes and Dr. Watson. When the two men become flatmates in 221B Baker Street, Watson becomes very curious about Holmes and endeavours to learn all he can about the eccentric genius. He finds that, while Holmes has an encyclopedic knowledge of a lot of topics, there are other ones- such as astronomy- that he's completely ignorant of, simply because they don't interest him. Here's the section of the book (part of chapter two) that it's from:
As the weeks went by, my interest in him and my curiosity as to his aims in life, gradually deepened and increased. His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination. His hands were invariably blotted with ink and stained with chemicals, yet he was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch, as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched him manipulating his fragile philosophical instruments. The reader may set me down as a hopeless busybody, when I confess how much this man stimulated my curiosity, and how often I endeavoured to break through the reticence which he showed on all that concerned himself. Before pronouncing judgment, however, be it remembered, how objectless was my life, and how little there was to engage my attention. My health forbade me from venturing out unless the weather was exceptionally genial, and I had no friends who would call upon me and break the monotony of my daily existence. Under these circumstances, I eagerly hailed the little mystery which hung around my companion, and spent much of my time in endeavouring to unravel it. He was not studying medicine. He had himself, in reply to a question, confirmed Stamford’s opinion upon that point. Neither did he appear to have pursued any course of reading which might fit him for a degree in science or any other recognized portal which would give him an entrance into the learned world. Yet his zeal for certain studies was remarkable, and within eccentric limits his knowledge was so extraordinarily ample and minute that his observations have fairly astounded me. Surely no man would work so hard or attain such precise information unless he had some definite end in view. Desultory readers are seldom remarkable for the exactness of their learning. No man burdens his mind with small matters unless he has some very good reason for doing so. His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had done. My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it. “You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.” “To forget it!” “You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.” “But the Solar System!” I protested. “What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.” I was on the point of asking him what that work might be, but something in his manner showed me that the question would be an unwelcome one. I pondered over our short conversation, however, and endeavoured to draw my deductions from it. He said that he would acquire no knowledge which did not bear upon his object. Therefore all the knowledge which he possessed was such as would be useful to him. I enumerated in my own mind all the various points upon which he had shown me that he was exceptionally well-informed. I even took a pencil and jotted them down. I could not help smiling at the document when I had completed it. It ran in this way-- SHERLOCK HOLMES—his limits. 1. Knowledge of Literature.—Nil. 2. Philosophy.—Nil. 3. Astronomy.—Nil. 4. Politics.—Feeble. 5. Botany.—Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening. 6. Geology.—Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them. 7. Chemistry.—Profound. 8. Anatomy.—Accurate, but unsystematic. 9. Sensational Literature.—Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century. 10. Plays the violin well. 11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman. 12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law. When I had got so far in my list I threw it into the fire in despair. “If I can only find what the fellow is driving at by reconciling all these accomplishments, and discovering a calling which needs them all,” I said to myself, “I may as well give up the attempt at once.”
"On this eve of eves... when my own heart is overflowing with peace and kindness... I think it is most fitting to tell once again the story... of that still and lustrous night." - Sheridan Whiteside, The Man Who Came To Dinner
These words are spoken by Sheridan Whiteside, an irascible radio personality in The Man Who Came To Dinner. He is the reluctant guest of a wealthy family in Iowa, because he fell on their icy steps when he was there for a dinner. Now temporarily wheelchair-bound, he is the worst visitor ever as he bullies everyone in sight- especially his nurse- and wreaks havoc amongst the family, urging the daughter to elope with the boyfriend her father disapproves of, and the son to follow his dream to become a photographer- a plan also frowned upon by their parents. He fills their house with eccentric characters and animals, and tells them that he will be recording his Christmas Eve program in their living room. Meanwhile during their stay, his personal secretary-Maggie Cutler- has fallen in love with a local man and has announced to Whiteside that she will be leaving his employ to get married. Not wanting to lose her, Whiteside invites Lorraine Sheldon- a man-eating actress of their acquaintance- to visit, scheming to have her steal away Maggie's beau Bert by offering to work with him on the play he's writing. Everything comes to a head on Christmas Eve, with various characters raging, screaming, or crying as the radio crew sets up for the show. Seemingly unmoved by the emotional and physical chaos he is responsible for, Whiteside begins reading his schmaltz-y Christmas address, accompanied by a boys' choir humming Silent Night, just as if he were a sweet and sentimental man instead of a cynical, poisonous old coot.
"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared."
The above words are uttered by Sherlock Holmes in His Last Bow, a short story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1917, during World War One. It is set about a year before the war started and, instead of solving a mystery, Holmes is working undercover to prevent a German spy- Von Bork- from getting out of England with the intelligence he's gathered. At the end of the story, Holmes retires to the country, engaged in beekeeping and writing a book on investigation. Correctly predicting that war is coming, he remarks to Watson that an "east wind" is coming. Watson thinks that Holmes is actually talking about the weather, and says no, it's supposed to be a warm day, causing Holmes to laugh and make the above statement.