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Similar statements have been ascribed to philosopher Socrates and U. Boldface has been added to excerpts: His thoughts and conversation were always on a high level, and I recollect a saying of his, which not only greatly impressed me at the time, but which I have ever since cherished as a test of the mental calibre of friends and acquaintances. Dear Quote Investigator: The following adage is largely used to deride people who are preoccupied with gossip: The words are attributed to social activist and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, but I have been unable to find a solid supporting citation. As a child in London, Stewart listened to the conversation of dinner guests such as history scholar Henry Thomas Buckle who would sometimes discourse engagingly for twenty minutes on a topic.The statement was used as unattributed parenthetical commentary on a quotation by John Milton.
Conversational topics were split into three categories: persons, things, and ideas; the latter two found favor with the “unusually cultivated and thoughtful”: Yet as talk about persons, rather than about things and ideas, is far the commonest and most popular staple of conversation everywhere—save amongst unusually cultivated and thoughtful people; the temptation to drift into it will prove very strong indeed in the early days of a Community, and almost irresistible at times.
The remark was further disseminated when it was reprinted within a review of Stewart’s book in a journal called “The Academy”: Buckle said, in his dogmatic way: “Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas.”I believe it was Buckle, he of the “History of Civilisation,” who claimed that men and women were divided into three classes mentally.
The first and lowest class talk of persons; the second talk about things; the third and highest about ideas.
It has been said long ago that there were three classes of people in the world, and while they are subject to variation, for elemental consideration they are useful.
The first is that large class of people who talk about people; the next class are those who talk about things; and the third class are those who discuss ideas.
All of us are conscious of this and we have also realized how distasteful the lower thought is after we have accustomed ourselves to the higher.