"Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" or French existentialism?
January 28, 2009 7:25 PM   Subscribe

MovieQuoteFilter: I'm trying to find the origin of a quote from Waking Life and I'm starting to think it's either misattributed or simply wrong. Help!

The quote is from the scene where the anarchists walk up to an elderly man sitting on a bench. He says:

"What was missing was felt irretrievable. The extreme uncertainties of subsisting without working made excesses necessary and breaks definitive. To quote Stevenson: 'Suicide carried off many. Drink and the devil... took care of the rest.'"

As far as I can tell, the phrase "Drink and the devil took care of the rest" is actually a corruption of the pirate shanty in Treasure Island, which goes "Drink and the devil had done for the rest."

But I can't find the phrase "Suicide carried off many," in Stevenson anywhere, and I tried Project Gutenberg.

Thing is, if you do a search for the alleged quote, it turns up attributed to Stevenson all over the place, but they're all after Waking Life was released in 2001, so they could well be propagating the misquotation/misattribution.

Does anyone have more definitive information about the origin of this quote? Or of the whole line?
posted by valkyryn to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this helps at all but... it seems like the book "Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century" (I believe original published in the 1980s, although the one Google indexes seems to be a 2003 edition) attributes the "suicide carried off many" part to aFrench writer/ filmmaker named Guy Debord in his movie "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni".

I'm not sure if the quote is accurate or if this helps in any way...
posted by sharkfu at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2009

Note that DeBord (attributed in the film) was a Situationist and that his book Mémoires was a collage from various sources. He may have taken that line from somewhere else -- but I can't find any other potential source, either.

In the sense that the Debord character was said to be quoting Stevenson, it may not have meant the entire line, just the shantey.

Possibly it comes through one of the many adaptations of The Suicide Club?
posted by dhartung at 12:24 AM on January 29, 2009

I came across a similar situation in a college lit paper. I think that DeBord misquoted Stevenson, or modified his quote... dhartung has the right idea
posted by stratastar at 10:02 AM on January 29, 2009

My first though (and following on from dhartung), it could quite easily be:

´To quote Stevenson: Suicide carried off many. [small pause] "Drink and the devil... took care of the rest."´
posted by benzo8 at 3:57 PM on January 29, 2009

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