What you have in mind is obviously the criticism - or rather, the
definition of a problem - expressed by French philosopher Michel
Foucault (often misspelled as "Michael"):
"Assuming that we are dealing with an author, is everything he wrote
and said, everything he left behind, to be included in his work? This
problem is both theoretical and practical. If we wish to publish the
complete works of Nietzsche, for example, where do we draw the line?
Certainly, everything must be published, but can we agree on what
'everything' means? We will, of course, include everything that
Nietzsche himself published, along with the drafts of his works, his
plans for aphorisms, his marginal notations and corrections. But what
if, in a notebook filled with aphorisms, we find a reference, a
reminder of an appointment, an address, or a laundry bill, should this
be included in his works? Why not? These practical considerations are
endless once we consider how a work can be extracted from the millions
of traces left by an individual after his death. Plainly, we lack a
theory to encompass the questions generated by a work and the
empirical activity of those who naively undertake the publication of
the complete works of an author often suffers from the absence of this
This is part of the lecture "Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur?" Michel Foucault
held on 22 February 1969 before the Société Française de Philosophie.
It was first published in print as an essay in issue No. 63 of the
Bulletin de la Société Française de Philosophie (July to September
issue, 1969), p. 73-104.
An English translation of "Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur?" was first
published in 1977 as "What is an Author?" in "Language,
Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews" (p.
113-138), Ed. Donald F. Bouchard, published by Cornell University
The excerpt from "What is an Author?" above is quoted following the
version published in "Twentieth-Century Literary Theory: An
Introductory Anthology", edited by Vassilis Lambropoulos, published by
Suny Press, 1987 (ISBN 0887062652). The quote can be found in that
book on page 127.
I could not find any earlier texts that correspond to what you
specified, so I have reason to assume that Foucault's "What is an
Author?" is the actual origin.
In case you'd like to learn about Michel Foucault, here is an article
on him in the Wikipedia encyclopedia:
Hope this answers your question!
Twentieth-Century Literary Theory: An Introductory Anthology (in
Google Book Search)
University of the West Indies: Philweb - Michel Foucault
Érudit: Autour de Michel Foucault et son oeuvre (PDF file)
Search terms used successfully:
"laundry" "complete works" (in Google Book Search)
"michael foucault" "qu'un auteur"
"or a laundry bill"
Request for Answer Clarification by
05 Jun 2006 08:42 PDT
Writing in The New York Review of Books, Truman Capote (laundry-like
lists, Vol 1, number 2, June 1, 1963), A. Alvarez (laundry bills, Vol
1, number 5, October 31, 1963), Louis Kronenberger (laundry lists, Vol
2, number 6, April 30, 1964) and Tom Wolfe (laundry slips, Vol 6,
number 4, March 17, 1966) said it before Foucault. It should be much
older, perhaps related to Boswell.