This post comes from thoughts while ironing a shirt this morning and listening to Thought for the Day on Radio 4. A wonderful epitaph tribute was quoted about Sir Robert Shirley, who died in 1656: 'Sir Robert Shirley built this church, whose singular Praise is this: to have done the best of things in the worst of times'. This is indeed a heart-warming tribute - Shirley's times were undoubtedly hard for everyone in the country, whatever their circumstances, during the years of the civil war, but this expression somehow transcends the horrors even of that period, and ends up being about Shirley as just another man - one of us indeed - and so somehow also manages to inspire any of us also to rise above the challenges of the times we live in. This chain of thought led me to one about a similar quotation that has stayed with me ever since I read it in Edward Thompson's biography of Morris (these sentiments tend inevitably to be expressed following the death of the individual concerned). This was said by Robert Blatchford in the Clarion, the high-circulation socialist newspaper in his obituary of Morris written in 1896: 'However you struck him, he rang true'.
As any reader of this blog will know, I like quotations, and in a rather unsystematic way, collect them. I think this is for a number of reasons: a good quotation encapsulates in a memorable and concise way an important thought, so it can be a useful practical tool for thinking; and paying attention to quotations embodies the idea that the thoughts of people in the past are potentially relevant to contemporary living, and so imply the unity across time of humanity - we are no different from our forebears, and our most important problems and challenges were theirs also. They are tools for reflection, and so potentially of great value to anyone with a professional or indeed craft attitude to their activities.
Suggestions for more inspirational quotations welcome.