One of the lesser known (and hard to find, being deliberately overgrown with ivy) landmarks of Yale University, these words caused some embarassment to the Yale authorities.

After employing medievalists, classical scholars, and egyptologists in an attempt to discover the source of this quotation, which is carved above one of the doors to the Hall of Graduate Studies, they discovered that it was a joke/hoax perpetrated by the building's architect, John Donald Tuttle.

In a letter of confession written in 1934, he explained that the Collegiate Gothic style repelled him. It is, he wrote "a type of architecture that had been designed expressly...to enable yeomen to pour molten lead through slots on their enemies below. As a propitiary gift to my gods...and to make them forget by appealing to their senses of humor, I carved the inscription over the door."

The quotation is from novelist Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche, and the full quote, referring to the hero is "Born with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad, and that was his only patrimony."

When the administration learned that the line was from a mere contemporary adventure novelist, they immediately planted the ivy that covers it today. Some people, it seems, just can't take a joke.

Toodles...

I’ve read that the quotation is inscribed over a doorway of the Hall of Graduate Studies (though hopefully there is an Everythingian out there who can eventually give us a first hand account).

Tuttle claimed credit for this, but Edgar Furniss, dean of the Graduate School at the time, blamed it on a foreman named Finnegan. He wrote that Finnegan was "an Irishman of middle age with a battered face of mahogany, with snapping eyes of piercing blue given…to an incessant chatter of frivolity and whimsey" and was "not supposed to exercise any independent authority at all."

Perhaps Finnegan wanted to tweak tight-asses at Yale, or perhaps they offended him in some way (keep in mind that the word mick was still in common parlance in those days). Perhaps Finnegan and Tuttle were in cahoots.

Reportedly there are also a number of bricks with unapproved decorations.

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