There Are Always Flowers for Those Who Want To See Them

Henri Matisse? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The innovative French artist Henri Matisse reportedly wrote:

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

This statement appears on countless pictures of floral arrangements, but I have been unable to find the source, and I am beginning to question its authenticity. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In the 1940s Henri Matisse underwent surgery that left him frequently bedridden. He experimented with a fresh artistic technique to produce colorful illustrations. He and his assistants used scissors to cut out forms from sheets of colored paper and pasted them onto a backing to create collages. In 1947 Matisse published “Jazz” which contained a collection of his recent artworks together with his written thoughts including the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Heureux ceux qui chantent de tout leur cœur, dans la droiture de leur cœur.

Trouver la joie dans le ciel, dans les arbres, dan les fleurs. Il y a des fleurs partout pour qui veut bien les voir.

Here is one possible translation into English by Sophie Hawkes:

Happy are those who sing with all their heart, from the bottoms of their hearts.

To find joy in the sky, the trees, the flowers. There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

Matisse’s thoughts were handwritten, and the images were vivid as shown in the following two samples from the book:

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1992, Jazz by Henri Matisse, Quote Page xxvi, 133, and 134, Text by Henri Matisse translated from the French by Sophie Hawkes, (Reprint of original 1947 edition), George Braziller, New York. (Verified with scans)

I Have Just One Day, Today, and I’m Going To Be Happy In It

Groucho Marx? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Reportedly, Groucho Marx once described his philosophy of life. He stated that each day he had the power to choose to be happy or unhappy, and he would select happiness. Are you familiar with his statement on this topic? Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Groucho Marx was 86 when he died in 1977. In 1972 Rufus W. Gosnell who was a columnist in an Aiken, South Carolina newspaper ascribed the following to Groucho. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Each morning when I open my eyes, I say to myself; “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” That’s a system that has worked for Groucho Marx for a long time; try it.

This statement apparently was assembled from fragments employed by others as suggested by the citations listed in chronological order below. Continue reading


  1. 1972 August 30, Aiken Standard, Here’s Rufus by Rufus W. Gosnell, Quote Page 1-B, Column 5, Aiken, South Carolina. (Newspapers_com)

“The Peasants Are Revolting” “You Can Say That Again”

Brant Parker? Johnny Hart? L. Frank Baum? Walt Kelly? Allan Sherman? Mel Brooks? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I vaguely recall seeing a comic strip with a clever joke based on two different senses of the word “revolting”. An advisor warned a monarch about an uprising, and he replied acerbically:

Advisor: The peasants are revolting.
Monarch: Yes, they are appalling, but I love them anyway.

Would you please explore the history of this wordplay?

Quote Investigator: With the publication of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900 L. Frank Baum initiated a beloved fantasy series. The 1904 sequel was titled “The Marvelous Land of Oz: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman”. During one episode in the book a character named General Jinjur led an army of young women with the goal of capturing the Emerald City. Baum included an instance of the wordplay. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Still, you must surrender!” exclaimed the General, fiercely. “We are revolting!”

“You don’t look it,” said the Guardian, gazing from one to another, admiringly.

“But we are!” cried Jinjur, stamping her foot, impatiently; “and we mean to conquer the Emerald City!”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1904, The Marvelous Land of Oz: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman by L. Frank Baum, Quote Page 92, The Reilly and Britton Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

Do Not Wait To Strike Till the Iron Is Hot; But Make It Hot By Striking

William Butler Yeats? William B. Sprague? Benjamin Franklin? Richard Sharp? Charles Lamb? Charles Caleb Colton? Oliver Cromwell? Peleg Sprague? Ernest Hemingway? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular proverb highlights the limited duration of an opportunity:

Strike while the iron is hot.

This metaphor has been astutely extended with advice for greater challenges:

Make the iron hot by striking.

This full metaphor has been credited to the English military leader Oliver Cromwell, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and the American novelist Ernest Hemingway. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The basic proverb appeared in one of “The Canterbury Tales” called “The Tale of Melibeus” by Geoffrey Chaucer written in the latter half of the 1300s. Here is the original spelling together with a modern rendition. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

…whil that iren is hoot men scholden smyte…
…while the iron is hot men should smite…

The earliest full match known to QI appeared in a 1782 letter from the famous statesman Benjamin Franklin to Reverend Richard Price about using the press to spread ideas. The letter was included in “Memoirs of the Life of The Rev. Richard Price” published in 1815: 2

The facility with which the same truths may be repeatedly enforced by placing them daily in different lights in newspapers which are every where read, gives a great chance of establishing them. And we now find, that it is not only right to strike while the iron is hot, but that it may be very practicable to heat it by continually striking.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1860, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Edited by Thomas Wright, The Tale of Melibeus, Start Page 150, Quote Page 152, Richard Griffin and Company, London and Glasgow. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1815, Memoirs of the Life of The Rev. Richard Price by William Morgan, Volume 5, (Letter within footnote), Letter from: Benjamin Franklin, Letter to: Richard Price, Letter date: June 13, 1782, Start Page 95, Quote Page 96, Printed for R. Hunter, Successor to J. Johnson, London. (Google Books Full View) link

If He Found that Flower in His Hand When He Awoke — Ay! And What Then?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A fascinating fragment describes the tangible intrusion of a dream into the prosaic world:

What if you slept
And what if in your sleep you dreamed
And what if in your dream you went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if when you awoke you had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

The famous Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who crafted “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan” has been credited with this fragment, but I have been unable to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Coleridge died in 1834, and more than sixty years later in 1895 excerpts from his unpublished notebooks were printed in the work “Anima Poetae” edited by his grandson Ernest Hartley Coleridge. Chapter 9 contained notebook entries created between 1814 and 1818. A passage at the end of the chapter included a strong semantic match, but the phrasing was quite different. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke — Ay! and what then?

The more exquisite and delicate a flower of joy, the tenderer must be the hand that plucks it.

Floods and general inundations render for the time even the purest springs turbid.

For compassion a human heart suffices; but for full, adequate sympathy with joy, an angel’s.

QI conjectures that the popular modern text was based on a paraphrase or a misremembering of the passage above written by Coleridge circa 1818.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1895, Anima Poetae: From the Unpublished Note-Books of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge, Chapter 9: 1814-1818, Quote Page 238 and 239, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Culture Does Not Consist in Acquiring Opinions, But in Getting Rid of Them

William Butler Yeats? Leonard A. G. Strong? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Too often classes in literature and the arts simply provide an encyclopedic recitation of previous opinions on a topic. The Nobel-Prize-winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats made a provocative remark about the desirability of getting rid of opinions. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: William Butler Yeats died in 1939. The literary journal “London Magazine” in 1955 printed “Yeats at His Ease” by critic and publisher Leonard A. G. Strong who was a long-time friend of the poet. Yeats came to live at Oxford in 1919, and Strong says that he was productive and happy there. The remark under examination was overheard by Strong. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Yeats in my hearing remarked to two English dons, ‘I can’t see what you think you are achieving. You seem to be busy with the propagation of second and third and fourth hand opinions upon literature. Culture does not consist in acquiring opinions, but in getting rid of them.’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1955 March, The London Magazine: A Monthly Review of Literature, Volume 2, Number 3, Yeats at His Ease by L. A. G. Strong (Leonard Alfred George Strong), Start Page 56, Quote Page 57, Chatto & Windus, Ltd, London. (Verified with hardcopy)

To Err Is Human, But a Human Error Is Nothing To What a Computer Can Do If It Tries

Agatha Christie? Bill Vaughan? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Previously you examined a humorous statement from columnist Bill Vaughan about the electronic beasts that control so much of our lives:

To err is human, to really foul things up requires a computer.

I think that the famous mystery writer Agatha Christie said something very similar. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1969 Agatha Christie published “Hallowe’en Party” featuring her masterful Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The character Mrs. Oliver tells Poirot that he is acting like a computer by programming himself with data about the crime that occurred. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“It is certainly an idea you have there,” said Poirot, with some interest. “Yes, yes, I play the part of the computer. One feeds in the information—”

“And supposing you come up with all the wrong answers?” said Mrs. Oliver.

“That would be impossible,” said Hercule Poirot. “Computers do not do that sort of thing.”

“They’re not supposed to.” said Mrs. Oliver, “but you’d be surprised at the things that happen sometimes. My last electric light bill, for instance. I know there’s a proverb which says, ‘To err is human’ but a human error is nothing to what a computer can do if it tries.”

The quip by Bill Vaughan is discussed here. It appeared in April 1969, 2 and Christie’s book was published the same year, but writing a book is often a lengthy endeavor, and QI does not know precisely when Christie composed her computer remark. Thus, the chronology is uncertain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1970 (Copyright 1969), Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie, Quote Page 35, Pocket Books, New York. (First published in 1969; this is 1970 paperback edition) (Verified with scans)
  2. 1969 April 2, Free Lance-Star, Senator Soaper [Free standing quote], Page 1, Column 2, Fredericksburg, Virginia. (Google News archive)

A Pedestal Is as Much a Prison as Any Small Space

Gloria Steinem? Joe King? Anonymous Black Feminist?

Dear Quote Investigator: Being placed on a pedestal has a serious drawback according to the following astute metaphorical amplification:

A pedestal is a prison, like any other small space.

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression which is often attributed to the prominent feminist Gloria Steinem?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in an advertisement for a realty company written by Joe King and published in “The Yuma Daily Sun” of Yuma, Arizona in September 1974. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The man who didn’t want his wife to work has been succeeded by the man who asks about her chances of getting a raise . . .
A pedestal is as much a prison as any small space . . .
Do you feel like you’re in prison?
Kids growing up and cramped for space?
Really put your wife on a pedestal — let HER pick out a larger house.

The advertisement contained other commonplace observations:

You can’t expect a person to see eye to eye with you when you’re looking down on him . . .
You can’t spend yourself rich any more than you can drink yourself sober . . .

Thus, QI conjectures that the saying about pedestals was already in circulation with an anonymous ascription.

In March 1976 a columnist in a Dubois, Pennsylvania newspaper credited Gloria Steinem with the remark: 2

A Thought: A pedestal is as much a prison as any small space. (Gloria Steinem)

Steinem used the saying during interviews and within articles, but she disclaimed authorship as shown below via selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1974 September 13, The Yuma Daily Sun, Time To Smile by Joe King (Advertisement for Paustell Realty), Quote Page 19, Column 8, Yuma, Arizona. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1976 March 11, The Courier-Express, Daisies Won’t Tell BUT I Will! by Bess K. Martin (C-E Staff Writer), Quote Page 5, Column 7, Dubois, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Peter Drucker? Giga Information Group? Mark Fields? Eli Halliwell? Richard Clark? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Business leaders have found that the pre-existing culture of a company can thwart indispensable changes. A popular cautionary aphorism encapsulates this viewpoint. Here are two versions:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Culture eats strategy for lunch.

The famous management guru Peter Drucker often receives credit for this saying, but I have not found a good citation. This notion can also be expressed less vividly as follows:

Culture constrains strategy.
Culture beats strategy.
Culture trumps strategy.

Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in the September 2000 issue of the trade journal “PIMA’s North American Papermaker: The Official Publication of the Paper Industry Management Association”. Two paper recycling consultants named Bill Moore and Jerry Rose wrote an article about online transactions that referred to the adage in the concluding paragraph. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The biggest question mark is the interest of the recovered paper industry in moving forward in the e-commerce business. As stated in the March 2000 Giga Information Group headline “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast!” Will the culture of the recovered paper transaction business stymie those using an e-strategy to improve the marketplace? Only time will tell.

The Giga Information Group is a technology consulting firm that was founded by Gideon I. Gartner who also founded the influential Gartner Group. QI has not seen the March 2000 periodical; hence, QI has not seen the initial surrounding context. In addition, the saying may have been in circulation before that date.

Peter Drucker who died in 2005 was not mentioned in the earliest citations found by QI. His name was attached to the saying by 2011.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 2000 September, PIMA’s North American Papermaker: The Official Publication of the Paper Industry Management Association, Volume 82, Number 9, Recovered paper trading—ready for the Web? by Bill Moore and Jerry Rose (Moore & Associates, a paper recycling consulting firm based in Atlanta, Georgia), Start Page 26, Quote Page 28, Column 3, Paper Industry Management Association, Mount Prospect, Illinois. (Verified with hardcopy)

We Must Be Willing To Get Rid of the Life We’ve Planned, So As To Have the Life That Is Waiting for Us

Joseph Campbell? E. M. Forster? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Life often presents us with unexpected obstacles and challenges that require us to rethink our assumptions. The following pertinent statement has been attributed to the expert in mythology Joseph Campbell and popular English novelist E. M. Forster:

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

I have not been able to find a solid citation for either. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Joseph Campbell died in 1987, and In 1991 Diane K. Osbon published “Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion” which consisted of material she selected and edited. The following text appeared in a section titled “In the Field”, and Osbon stated that she had collected the words directly from Campbell. The section contained “favorite expressions of his, recorded in my journals over the years in his company”. The layout of the phrases below mirrors the formatting in the book. 1

We must be willing to get rid of
the life we’ve planned, so as to have
the life that is waiting for us.

The old skin has to be shed
before the new one can come.

The text provided a close match to the sentence under examination although the precise phrasing differed. The final sentence employed a metaphor based on the shedding of skin, e.g., snakeskin.

QI has been unable to find substantive evidence supporting the ascription to E. M. Forster who died in 1970. He received credit for a version of the saying in 2002.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1991, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion, Selected and edited by Diane K. Osbon, Quote Page 8 and 18, HarperCollins, New York, New York.