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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1175
AUTHOR: Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)
QUOTATION: The Right Honourable Gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests, and to his imagination for his facts.
ATTRIBUTION: RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN, reply in the House of Commons.—Thomas Moore, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 3d ed., vol. 2, chapter 21, p. 471 (1825).

“A curious instance of the care with which he treasured up the felicities of his wit appears in the use he made of one of those epigrammatic passages … which, in its first form, ran thus:—‘He certainly has a great deal of fancy, and a very good memory; but, with a perverse ingenuity, he employs these qualities as no other person does—for he employs his fancy in his narratives, and keeps his recollection for his wit:—when he makes jokes, you applaud the accuracy of his memory, and ’tis only when he states his facts that you admire the flights of his imagination.’

“After many efforts to express this thought more concisely, and to reduce the language of it to that condensed and elastic state, in which alone it gives force to the projectiles of wit, he kept the passage by him patiently some years,—till he at length found an opportunity of turning it to account, in a reply, I believe, to Mr. Dundas, in the House of Commons, when, with the most extemporaneous air, he brought it forth, in the … compact and pointed form [above] (p. 471).