Are you always looking for the perfect quote for someone’s 37th or 45th or 63rd birthday? Check out The Oxford Book of Ages (Oxford University Press, 224 pp., varied prices), a collection of quotations by well-known people for every year from zero (for newborns) to 100. A year typically has at least a half dozen entries, all chosen Anthony and Sally Sampson. Not all of the quotations express the kind of uplifting sentiments you might want to inscribe on a card – some are downbeat, if not grim – but all are pithy and intelligent. And the best lines are worth quoting again and again.
Among my favorites:
“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” Victor Hugo
“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” Shirley Temple
“After thirty, a man wakes up sad every morning excepting perhaps five or six, until the day of his death.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1834
“I’m sixty-three and I guess that puts me in with the geriatrics, but if there were fifteen months in every year, I’d be only forty-three.” James Thurber
“She drank good ale, strong punch and wine,
And lived to the age of ninety-nine.”
Epitaph for Mrs. Freland, in Edwelton churchyard, Nottinghamshire, 1741
The Oxford Book of Ages is out-of-print in the U.S. but available online and in libraries. If you can’t find it, here’s a consoling comment that Françoise Sagan made at the age of 43: “The one thing I regret is that I will never have time to read all the books I want to read.”
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.