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John Bartlett (1820–1905). Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919.

8722 Pliny the Elder AD 23-AD 79 John Bartlett

AUTHOR:Pliny the Elder (A.D. c. 23–A.D. 79)
QUOTATION:Everything is soothed by oil, and this is the reason why divers send out small quantities of it from their mouths, because it smooths every part which is rough. 1
ATTRIBUTION:Natural History. Book ii. Sect. 234.
Note 1.
Why does pouring oil on the sea make it clear and calm? Is it for that the winds, slipping the smooth oil, have no force, nor cause any waves?—Plutarch: Natural Questions, ix.

The venerable Bede relates that Bishop Adain (A. D. 651) gave to a company about to take a journey by sea “some holy oil, saying, ‘I know that when you go abroad you will meet with a storm and contrary wind; but do you remember to cast this oil I give you into the sea, and the wind shall cease immediately.’”—Ecclesiastical History, book iii. chap. xiv.

In Sparks’s edition of Franklin’s Works, vol. vi. p. 354, there are letters between Franklin, Brownrigg, and Parish on the stilling of waters by means of oil. [back]