|Et Tu, Brute!|
Do you every wonder where a particular phrase originated? I can actually hear you nodding. One of those phrases is "conspicuous by its absence." So I looked it up. According to Brush Up Your Classics by Michael Macrone (a book I picked up from a remainder table), it goes back to Imperial Rome. It has been attributed to the Roman Chronicler Tacitus in a description of the funeral of Junia Tertulla, the sister of Marcus Brutus, one of Julius Caesar's assassins, and the wife of Cassius, Brutus's co-conspirator.
"Though she died sixty-three years after Marc Antony defeated Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in 44 B.C., her relatives' crimes had not been forgotten. The emperor Tiberius, a rather touchy individual, might have been expected to bear a grudge because his stepfather was Caesar Augustus, Julius's nephew. But in rare show of restraint, Tiberius allowed Junia a ceremonial funeral." Among the statues lining the funeral route, conspicuous by their absence were monuments of her brother and husband.
British Prime Minister John Russell used the phrase in his 1859 address to the Electors of the City of London. He was referring to a provision lacking in a reform bill. O'Henry used it as well, and if you care, so have I.
So there you have it. Mystery solved!