[PW] ?Ten minutes in the life of a pear

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Thu Aug 9 14:26:09 PDT 2018

John Henderson wrote:
> Famously, since the 21st Century only, Ralph Waldo Emerson said,
> "There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect
> to eat."
> It does not show up in an online search of his writings. No source
> found in a google books search has any atribution for the source of
> the quote, and the quote does not appear at all in a search with the
> limit by date earlier than 2001. I tried with the exact quote and key
> words.
> Any ideas any one of who first attributed it to him?

Here are three pertinent citations.

A close variant expression was ascribed to an unnamed Frenchman in
1913. The duration was 15 minutes instead of 10. Also, the fruit was
described as "worth eating" instead of "perfect to eat".

Date: October 21, 1913
Newspaper: The Los Angeles Daily Times
Newspaper Location: Los Angeles, California
Article: Pears and Acorns
Author: Harry Bowling
Part II, Quote Page 4, Column 5
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
A Thought by Harry Bowling.

A Frenchman once said that there is only fifteen minutes in the life
of a pear when it is worth eating. The sex-charm, for the voluptuary,
is as short as the fruit-charm of the Frenchman's pear.
[End excerpt]

In 1984 the saying was linked to Emerson within a biography. But the
biographer was describing his conception of the beliefs of Emerson,
and he was not presenting a direct quotation.

Year: 1984
Book Title: Ralph Waldo Emerson: Days of Encounter
Author: John McAleer (John J. McAleer)
Chapter 1: A Universal Man
Quote Page 4
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts
(Verified with scans)

[Begin excerpt]
Sometimes, when there was a crux to resolve or an insight to be
mastered, Emerson broke his morning work session with a stroll in the
garden or, once he had established it, in his orchard. In autumn and
in winter he kept pears ripening on the back of his bookshelves and,
on occasion, might interrupt his work to reward himself with one. The
selection was done with care since he believed there were only ten
minutes in the life of a pear when it was perfect to eat.
[End excerpt]

The quotation was attributed to Emerson in a Philadelphia newspaper in
1994 without citation.

Date: November 30, 1994
Newspaper: The Philadelphia Daily News
Newspaper Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Section: Good Food
Article: (Epigram at top right of page)
Quote Page F1
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
"There are only 10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

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