Workers Vanguard No. 904

7 December 2007


On Accuracy in Attribution


(Young Spartacus pages)

November 3, 2007

To the editor,

In the article on the RCP in your last issue, you pointed out how these Maoists who once cheered the Khomeni “revolution” in Iran now talk as though they’ve always fought against that clerical reaction. You add: “We can only paraphrase a comment attributed to Oscar Wilde: Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.” That’s not a paraphrase, and you’re off a couple centuries on the attribution. If you consult any good book of quotations (or the Internet), you’d learn that the author of this famous and oft-quoted maxim is Francois de La Rochefoucauld (Reflections, no. 218).

“Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady, but a newspaper can always print a retraction.” Now, who said that?

Sincerely yours,
A reader from Florida

Young Spartacus replies:

Our reader is right about the author of the aphorism quoted in our article, “RCP Maoists ‘Serve the People’ …Up to the Democrats” (WV No. 901, 26 October). Although we were aware of the correct attribution, we chose not to include it in the article. The aphorism is attributed to Oscar Wilde, but it would have been better to credit its original author, François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680). We thank the reader for his letter on this. In answer to his question: liberal Cold Warrior Adlai Stevenson.