‘When on board the ship,’ said Edison, as we sat down to déjeuner on the terrace of the Eiffel Tower, première étage, ‘they put rolls and coffee on the table for breakfast. I thought that that was a very poor breakfast for a man to do any work upon. But I suppose one gets used to it. I would like one American meal for a change — plenty of pie for a change.’ He then smashed the roll with his fist.
There were six of us, Mr and Mrs Edison, Colonel Gouraud, the Cavaliere, and Mr Durer, the author of a very remarkable brochure on Edison. And we had the world at our feet. There were shrimps amongst the hors d’oeuvres. Edison had never seen any. ‘Do they grow larger?’ he asked, and added, ‘They give a great deal of trouble for small results.’
… Over the soles frites: ‘There was something in the papers about your experimenting on photography with colours.’ Edison smiled. ‘No. That is not true. That sort of thing is sentimental. I do not go in for sentiment.’ Then he said: ‘Poor Carnegie has turned sentimental, quite sentimental. When I saw him last I wanted to talk to him about his ironworks. That is what interests me, immense factories going day and night, with the roar of furnaces and clashing hammers, acres and acres of activity — man’s fight with metal. But he would not talk about it. He said, “All that is brutal.” He is now interested in and will only talk about French art and amateur photography. It is a great pity.’
‘Could not,’ I asked, ‘a machine be made which could be adapted to the head, and which would record one’s thoughts, saving the trouble of speaking or writing?’ — Edison reflected. ‘Such a machine is possible,’ he said; ‘but just think if it were invented. Every man would flee his neighbour, fly for his life to any shelter.’
As they brought in the filets à la Brébant, I said, and thought of little Dombey, ‘What is electricity after all?’ — He said, ‘It is a mode of motion, a system of vibrations. A certain speed of vibration produces heat; a lower speed, light; still lower, something else.’
‘Is there anything in electricity as applied to medicine?’ — ‘There is a great deal of humbug in all that,’ he said. Then as a careful maître d’hôtel brought in the cradled Clos Vougeot, and served it with exaggeration of anxious ceremony, he added, ‘There is a great deal of humbug about wine too. And about cigars. Men go by cost. The connoisseurs are few. At home, for fun, I keep a lot of wretched cigars, made up on purpose in elegant wrappers, some with hairs in them, some with cotton wool. I give these to the critical smokers, tell them they cost 35 cents a piece. You should hear them praise them.’
…He seems to take delight in commercial phrases. It is comfortable to hear him pronounce the words ‘make money’. Commerciality with him is dignified and impressive, vulgar as it is with others.
— R.H. Sherard interviewing Thomas Edison, from Christopher Norton’s book The Norton Book of Interviews: An Anthology from 1859 to the Present Day