Edgar Allan Poe? Dinah Craik? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following hyperbolic proverb encouraging skepticism has been credited to the master of mystery and the macabre Edgar Allan Poe:
Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.
Did Poe craft this saying?
Quote Investigator: The short story “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether” by Edgar Allan Poe appeared in the November 1845 issue of “Graham’s Magazine”. The tale was set in a private hospital for the mentally ill, and the adage was spoken by the nominal head of the institution. Emphasis added by QI: 1
“You are young yet, my friend,” replied my host, “but the time will arrive when you will learn to judge for yourself of what is going on in the world, without trusting to the gossip of others. Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.
This was the earliest strong match known to QI. Hence, Poe is the leading candidate for coiner of this expression although the phrasing differed slightly from the popular modern versions.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading