To Be Happy at Home Is the Ultimate Result of All Ambition

Samuel Johnson? C. S. Lewis? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous English lexicographer Samuel Johnson apparently extolled domestic bliss. Did he write or say something like the following?

The chief aim of all human endeavors is to be happy at home.

Quote Investigator: In 1746 Samuel Johnson signed a contract to create “A Dictionary of the English Language”, and in 1755 the remarkable two volume product of his prodigious efforts appeared. He worked on other projects during this busy period including a periodical called “The Rambler”. His essay dated November 10, 1750 highlighted the importance of home life: 1

To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1785, Harrison’s British Classicks, Volume 1, Containing Dr. Johnson’s Rambler and Lord Lyttelton’s Persian Letters, Issue Number LXVIII (68), Date: Saturday, November 10, 1750, Start Page 155, Quote Page 156, Column 1, Printed for Harrison and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link

History Is the Unfolding of Miscalculations

Barbara W. Tuchman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The popular historian Barbara W. Tuchman crafted one or both of the following cautionary adages:

  1. War is the unfolding of miscalculations.
  2. History is the unfolding of miscalculations.

Sometimes the final word is singular. Would you please help me unravel this mystery?

Quote Investigator: In 1971 Tuchman published “Stilwell and the American Experience in China: 1911-45”. She discussed the strategies adopted by Chiang Kai-shek who was the leader of the Kuomintang of China. His overall plans did not succeed, and he retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after suffering defeat on the mainland. Tuchman wrote the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

History is the unfolding of miscalculations, and Chiang had made several.

QI has been unable to find solid evidence that Tuchman used the variant expression with “war” instead of “history” although the 1973 citation given further below ascribed the variant to her.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1971, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 by Barbara W. Tuchman (Barbara Wertheim Tuchman), Chapter 6: Vinegar Joe, Quote Page 132, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

An Empty Taxi Arrived and Clement Attlee Stepped Out of It

Winston Churchill? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Critics of U.K. Prime Minister Clement Attlee viewed him as an insubstantial and dull figure. The following quip apparently circulated during the 1940s:

An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street and Clement Attlee got out of it.

These words are often attributed to Winston Churchill. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: Winston Churchill strongly denied that he employed this quip. See the citation further below. The anonymous barb was aimed at Attlee by 1948 as recorded by the widely-syndicated columnist Leonard Lyons. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The Upper Classes are at the government because the inheritance tax laws prevent them from shooting pheasants, so they have retaliated with this joke: An empty taxi pulled up in front of Number Ten Downing Street and Mr. Attlee got out.

This joke template has a very long history. In 1879 the French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt who was notably thin was the subject of the following: 2

. . . only yesterday, says a correspondent, you may read in the same paper a fragment of conversation as follows: “An empty carriage stops and who is it who steps out? Sarah Bernhardt.”

In 1882 a similar remark was aimed at Alexander H. Stephens who was a U.S. Senator for the State of Georgia. Stephens was short and slight: 3

. . . the late Senator Carpenter’s description of Stephens. He said: “An empty coach rolled up in front of one of the Departments and Alexander H. Stephens alighted from it.”

A separate article focused on these nineteenth century jokes is available here. This article continues with additional selected citations from the twentieth century in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1948 February 23, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Lyons Den by Frederic Wakeman (substituting for Leonard Lyons), Quote Page 26, Column 6, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers.com)
  2. 1879 May 31, Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, Table Talk, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Buffalo, New York. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1882 August 12, Daily State Gazette (Green Bay Press-Gazette), (Untitled short item), Quote Page 1, Column 1, Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Newspapers_com)

An Empty Carriage Drove Up To the Théâtre Français and Sarah Bernhardt Alighted From It

Target: Sarah Bernhardt? Alexander H. Stephens?

Dear Quote Investigator: Complaints about the body shapes of people in the public eye have a very long history. Small and thin individuals have sometimes been targeted with the following type of quip:

An empty vehicle rolled up to the hotel and so-and-so got out of it.

Would you please explore the history of this joke?

Quote Investigator: Sarah Bernhardt was a prominent French stage actress who was notably thin. A quip circulating in France was printed in a New York newspaper in May 1879. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . only yesterday, says a correspondent, you may read in the same paper a fragment of conversation as follows: “An empty carriage stops and who is it who steps out? Sarah Bernhardt.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1879 May 31, Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, Table Talk, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Buffalo, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Change One Letter in That Phrase and You Have My Life Story

Dorothy Parker? Ben Hecht? Corey Ford? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous wit Dorothy Parker apparently constructed a risqué quip when she observed people ducking for apples at a party. Would you please explore this topic?

Dear Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of Parker’s jest located by QI appeared in the 1957 book “Charlie: The Improbable Life and Times of Charles MacArthur” by Ben Hecht. MacArthur and Hecht were successful writing partners who created popular plays such as “The Front Page” and “Ladies and Gentlemen”. Dorothy Parker was Hecht’s friend and MacArthur’s lover. The book recounted the following anecdote. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

At a subsequent Halloween party, Miss Parker spoke one of her wryest sentences. Asked to join a group of merrymakers who were “ducking for apples,” Dorothy said, “Change one letter in that phrase and you have my life story.”

The change probably referred to the transformation of “ducking” into a synonym for fornication.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1957, Charlie: The Improbable Life and Times of Charles MacArthur by Ben Hecht, Quote Page 99, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Verified with hard copy)

Only One Man Ever Understood Me, and He Did Not Understand Me Either

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel? Heinrich Heine? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel had a major influence on later schools of thought including Marxism and existentialism. Yet, critics have complained of his unintelligibility. One colorful anecdote claims that Hegel made the following pronouncement on his deathbed:

Only one man ever understood me, and even he didn’t understand me.

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: Hegel died in 1831, and in 1834 the prominent poet and essayist Heinrich Heine included the anecdote in “Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland” (“On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany”): 1

Als Hegel auf dem Todtbette lag, sagte er: „nur Einer hat mich verstanden,” aber gleich darauf fügte er verdrießlich hinzu: „und der hat mich auch nicht verstanden.”

Here is one possible rendering in English:

When Hegel lay on his death-bed he said: ‘only one man has understood me;’ but immediately afterwards he added with chagrin: ‘nor did he understand me neither.’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1834, Der Salon von H. Heine by Heinrich Heine, Volume: Zweiter Band (Volume 2), Section: Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland (On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany), Quote Page 221, Hoffmann und Campe, Hamburg, Germany. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Success Is Failure Turned Inside Out

John Greenleaf Whittier? Edgar Guest? Labor? Nellie Maxwell? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular poem about perseverance includes these lines:

When all is pressing you down a bit—
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

The poets John Greenleaf Whittier and Edgar A. Guest have both been credited. Would you please determine the actual author?

Quote Investigator: Edgar A. Guest was a very popular poet for several decades during the twentieth century, and his poems appeared in a syndicated newspaper column. On March 3, 1921 he published the following work: 1

Keep Going

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must—but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

During the decades after publication the work was broadly disseminated, but the attribution was often changed. In addition, words, phrases, and stanzas were sometimes altered or deleted.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1921 March 3, The Indianapolis Star, Just Folks by Edgar A. Guest (Syndicated), Quote Page 6, Column 4, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Newspapers_com)

Every Word Has Consequences. Every Silence, Too

Jean-Paul Sartre? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Did the famous existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre say the following:

Every word has consequences. Every silence, too.

I am trying to find a citation for the original French version. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Jean-Paul Sartre believed that writers should be politically engaged. He was a founder of the journal “Les Temps Modernes”, and he presented his viewpoint on activism in the first issue in 1945: 1

L’écrivain est en situation dans son époque: chaque parole a des retentissements. Chaque silence aussi. Je tiens Flaubert et Goncourt pour responsables de la répression qui suivit la Commune parce qu’ils n’ont pas écrit une ligne pour l’empêcher. Ce n’était, pas leur affaire, dira-t-on. Mais le procès de Calas, était-ce l’affaire de Voltaire? La condamnation de Dreyfus, était-ce l’affaire de Zola?

One possible translation into English appeared in the 1982 book “The French Left: A History & Overview” by Arthur Hirsh: 2

The writer is situated in his time. Every word has consequences. Every silence, too. I hold Flaubert and Goncourt responsible for the repression which followed the Commune because they did not write one line to prevent it. One might say that it was not their business. But was the Calas trial Voltaire’s business? Dreyfus’ condemnation Zola’s?

The questions were rhetorical. Voltaire and Zola both took strong political stances, and Sartre argued that other writers should follow a similar policy of advocacy. Intellectuals should not be silent he maintained.

Below are two more citations and a conclusion. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1945 October, Les Temps Modernes: Revue Mensuelle, Volume 1, Number 1, Présentation by Jean-Paul Sartre, Start Page 1, Quote Page 5, Publisher: Temps Modernes, Paris, France. (Verified with scans; thanks to the library system of Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana)
  2. 1982, The French Left: A History & Overview by Arthur Hirsh, Chapter 2: The Existentialist Challenge, Quote Page 41, Black Rose Books, Montréal, Quebéc, Canada. (Google Books Preview)

The Pleasure Is Momentary, the Position Is Ridiculous, the Expense Is Damnable

Lord Chesterfield? Hilaire Belloc? D. H. Lawrence? George Bernard Shaw? Alexander Duffield? Somerset Maugham? Elliot Paul? Samuel Hopkins Adams? Benjamin Franklin? P. D. James? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Lord Chesterfield reportedly crafted an outrageously humorous description of intimate relations. I’ve seen different versions that each comment on pleasure, position, and expense. Yet, I have never seen a proper citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, is typically referred to as Lord Chesterfield. Researchers have been unable to find the statement about eros in his writings, and the words were ascribed to him many years after his death in 1773.

The earliest close match located by QI appeared in a letter sent to the editors of “The Western Daily Press” in Bristol, England in 1902. The subject was the standardization of equipment for golf, and the word “amusement” was employed to avoid terms such as “intercourse” or “sex”. “Attitude” is a synonym for “posture”. In addition, the taboos of the era dictated the replacement of “damnable” by dashes. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

If there is to be no limit to the fancy or ingenuity of club and ball makers, I am afraid the dictum of a certain American, speaking of another amusement, will be applicable to golf, viz., “that the pleasure is momentary, the attitudes ridiculous, and the expense —–“

So, the expression was circulating by 1902, but the printed evidence is limited. Interestingly, it was credited to an American instead of an Englishman.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1902 November 20, The Western Daily Press, Correspondence To The Editors of The Western Daily Press, (Letter Title: Standardisation of the Golf Ball, Letter From: W.L.B. of Clifton; Letter Date: November 17, 1902), Quote Page 3, Column 7, Bristol, England. (British Newspaper Archive)

Good Ideology; Wrong Species

Edward O. Wilson? Bert Hölldobler? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Social insects are famous for exhibiting a division of labor and a willingness to act for the overall good of the colony. The preeminent biologist Edward O. Wilson whose specialty is the study of ants was once asked about human politics, and he replied with a comment similar to the following regarding socialism:

Wonderful idea. Wrong species.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In October 1994 the “Los Angeles Times” published a profile of Edward O. Wilson which included an interview. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

On another morning, he compares human beings to ants. Consider man’s selfishness and ambition versus the insects’ drive to help their community. They’ll sacrifice their lives for the common good, if need be.

Biology doesn’t get more basic than this, and Wilson ends the lesson amid gales of laughter by raising the subject of Marxism. Why did it fail?

“Good ideology,” he says dryly. “Wrong species.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1994 October 21, Los Angeles Times, Natural Wonder At heart, Edward Wilson’s an ant man. But it’s his theories on human behavior that stir up trouble by Josh Getlin, Quote Page 1, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)