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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Fri Aug 10 00:06:05 PDT 2018

John Henderson wrote:
> Great. Just the information I needed. It’s the beginning of pear picking
> season in these parts and I’ve seen that quotation a lot,

Glad that the citations were helpful to you, John.  I do not know what
text biographer John McAleer saw that caused him to speculate about
the thoughts of Emerson on pears.

University of Michigan has a webpage for the "Complete Works of Ralph
Waldo Emerson" that contains a stable URL pointing to a searchable


I executed a variety of queries, but was unable to find a germane
remark about the transient ripeness of pears.

I did find a passage about Emerson's passion for his pear orchard:

Title: The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: English traits [Vol. 5]
Author:  Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882.
Publication info: Boston ; New York : : Houghton, Mifflin, [1903-1904].

[Begin excerpt]
Page 49, note 2.
. . .
Mr. Emerson took great interest in his pear orchard, which he set out
soon after settling in Concord, and every morning in good weather,
before going to his study, visited, to prune, watch for caterpillars
and borers, or gather the fruit. He had Downing's book on Fruits. A
few pages in this gave him especial pleasure; namely, the account of
the theory and successful experiments in the amelioration of fruits,
by Dr. Van Mons, professor at Louvain in the Netherlands. All through
Mr. Emerson's works crop out allusions to this hopeful theory of
Amelioration, to him symbolic.
[End excerpt]

Since the 1913 citation (posted in the previous message) attributed
the saying to a Frenchman I looked for some instances in French, but
during a quick search I only found modern instances. The first
citation below is derived from the English expression.

Year: 2005 (French translation 2007 copyright)
Book: Leadership 360°
Quote Page 162
Author: John C. Maxwell
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee
Database: Google Books Preview

[Begin excerpt]
«Dans la vie d'une poire, il n'y a que dix minutes où elle est
parfaite à manger.» Il est sage d'attendre le bon moment pour dire
franchement sa pensée. Une bonne idée qui tombe au mauvais moment sera
perçue comme mauvaise.
[End excerpt]

Website: Hoppin' John's - John Martin Taylor's Personal Blog
Title: (No) Accounting for Taste
Date on website: Jan 24, 2015

[Begin excerpt]
Fleshier tomatoes have less flavor (more on that to follow). The
juicier the tomato, the more flavorful. That is why heirloom tomatoes,
not bred for shipping, often taste better. However, the ripeness
window is very small, and overripe is just as unpalatable as unripe. I
am reminded of one of my favorite French sayings: "Il n’y a que dix
minutes dans la vie d'une poire" – that is, There are only ten minutes
in the life of a pear (when it is perfect for eating).
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

> John Henderson
> Orchardist, formerly librarian
>> On Aug 9, 2018, at 5:26 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 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
>> QuoteInvestigator.com
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