the birth of charles sanders peirce

“Mademoiselle Charlotte Elizabeth Peirce
Doctor Charles Henry Peirce          at Salem

Today at 12 o’clock was born a boy. Its mother and it are both doing ‘finely’ and send you their very best love. The boy would have written, but is prevented by circumstances over which he has no control. He does not like this blue ink he says. He hung himself this afternoon to a pair of steelyards; but postponed the further execution of his wicked designs upon himself, because he found he wanted just one quarter of a pound of the nine pound which he regards as the minimum of genteel and fashionable suicide. At 8 1/2 this morning his mother – if she can be called his mother before he was – his future mother, or more transcendentally, the mother of this then child of futurity was well – or nearly so, the shadows of coming events having but slightly obscured the brightness of her countenance.

               B. Peirce”

(Kenneth Laine Kettner, His Glassy Essence: an Autobiography of Charles Sanders Peirce, pp. 63–64.)

a dedication

“To the famous Mr. Jukes is this book dedicated in appreciation for the use of Mr. Jukes’ descendant, Detective Simon Grundt of the Lincoln School for the Feeble-Minded.”

(Harry Stephen Keeler, The Green Jade Hand: In Which a New and Quite Different Type of Detective Unravels a Mystery Staged in Chicago, Bagdad on the Lakes, London of the West! (1930), p. v.)

have tended to confuse

“Poetry brings similitude and representation to configurations waiting from forever to be spoken. North Americans have tended to confuse human fate with their own salvation. In this I am North American. ‘We are coming Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more,’ sand the Union troops at Gettysburg.”

(Susan Howe, from “There Are Not Leaves Enough to Crown to Cover to Crown to Cover,” p. 14 in The Europe of Trusts.)


“People buy a diary because the author is famous, while I wrote mine in order to become famous. That is where the misunderstanding lies.”

(Witold Gombrowicz, A Kind of Testament, trans. Alastair Hamilton, p. 120.)

towards an etymology of mathematical notation

“André Weil, in fact, invented for this book the universal notation we use today for the empty set: ∅.

This symbol comes from the Norwegian alphabet, which Weil had encountered in his travels. The Bourbaki text on set theory thus introduced this new mathematical symbol.”

(Amir Aczel, The Artist and the Mathematician: the story of Nicolas Bourbaki, the genius mathematician who never existed, p. 93.)

three aphorisms

“Fourier thought that our dream of a golden age that never was is a vision of his Période Amphiharmonique. In our time we long not for a lost past but for a lost future.”

“For every lack of civilization we pay dearly with boredom, outrage, death.”

“Butler’s insight was that the machine enslaved us, changing all work to drudgery. All work became pandering to the reproduction of the machines.”

(Guy Davenport, Apples and Pears, p. 64, p. 77, p. 163.)

kafka in davenport

“Instead, he prays. Have mercy on me, O God. I am sinful in every corner of my being. The gifts thou has given me are not contemptible. My talent is a small one, and even that I have wasted. It is precisely when a work is about to mature, to fulfill its promise, that we mortals realize that we have thrown our time away, have squandered our energies. It is absurd, I know, for one insignificant creature to cry that it is alive, and does not want to be hurled into the dark along with the lost. It is the life in me that speaks, not me, though I speak with it, selfishly, in its ridiculous longing to stay alive, and partake of its presumptuous joy in being.”

(Guy Davenport, “The Chair”, p. 59 in Apples and Pears and Other Stories.)