I once read a short story, quite convinced at the moment that it was by O. Henry, in which a grandfather figure sits down on his porch with a young boy and starts to tell him a story ... about a grandfather figure who sat down on his porch with a young boy to tell him a story ... about a grandfather figure who sat down on his porch with a young boy to tell him a story ... and on and on it went, several layers deep into a story that never went anywhere. The quotation marks alone ended up being:

"""""""Well, let me tell you a story," said the old man"""""

... because it was a quote of a quote of a quote of a quote of a quote.

And now I can't find that story anywhere. Any help at all is appreciated, especially if I have the entirely wrong author.

  • Well I can find two other records of people mentioning it online. One in a Wikipedia chat (was that you?)who was asking for, and not getting, the name of it, and one on something I think was called ‘language log’ where it was referenced as being by Henry or Twain. But that’s all I can find.
    – Spagirl
    Dec 7 '19 at 23:03
  • I have now turned every page of my O. Henry book with over 230 of his stories, and it's not in there. So I am really in the dark as to where I ever read it in the first place. Ugh. And it's not in "The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain". Dec 9 '19 at 4:36

This is a traditional joke story, more amusing to the teller than the listener, that has existed for well over a hundred years. Dads tell the story to troll their kids.

There are many versions. Sometimes it's soldiers hearing a tale told by their general. Sometimes it's children hearing a story told by their grandfather. Sometimes it's sailors hearing a tale told by their captain.

Most of them begin with some variant of "It was a dark and stormy night."

The earliest version found by the Quote Investigator blog dates from 1900, and begins:

‘Twas a dark and fearsome night. Brigands great and brigands small were gathered around the camp fire. “Come, Antonio,” they called to the terrible chief, “tell us one of your famous stories.” And Antonio arose and said:

“‘Twas a dark and fearsome night....


You might be actually thinking about Faulkner's 'The Reivers', which begins with "Grandfather said:", and the rest of the book is one long quotation.

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