Tag Archives: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Nine Requisites for Contented Living

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? William D. Smith? Anonymous?

health11Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has been credited with the following group of expressions called: The Nine Requisites for Contented Living:

(1) Health enough to make work a pleasure.
(2) Wealth enough to support your needs.
(3) Strength to battle with difficulties and overcome them.
(4) Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them.
(5) Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished.
(6) Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor.
(7) Love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others.
(8) Faith enough to make real the things of God.
(9) Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future.

I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI has not found any substantive ascriptions to Goethe who died in 1832. The spurious connection may have been established by the misreading of an ambiguous passage published in 1914. Details are given further below.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in an article titled “A New Year’s Greeting” by Reverend William D. Smith that was printed in a religious periodical called “The Christian Work and Evangelist” in January 1904. In the following passage alphabetical labels and boldface have been added to facilitate the comparison of the two sets of expressions. In addition, the text has been reformatted into multiple separate lines instead of three paragraphs. If you wish to see the original 1904 format please click on the link in the bibliographical note: 1

(A) I wish you Health enough to make work a pleasure;
(B) Wealth enough to supply all necessary needs;
(C) Grit enough to battle with difficulty and overcome it;
(D) Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them;
(E) and Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished.

(F) I wish you a Cheerfulness that shall make others glad;
(G) a Charity that shall see some good in your neighbor;
(H) a Love that shall move you to be useful and helpful;
(I) a Faith that shall make real the things of God;
(J) and a Hope that shall remove all anxious fear concerning the Future.

(K) I wish you the Dignity which befits the children of God;
(L) the Humility which is needed in every follower of Christ;
(M) the Prayerfulness which develops and enriches the soul;
(N) the Push and Progress which were manifested in the life and labors of our Saviour;
(O) and the Piety and Perseverance which come from the abiding presence and influence of the Divine Spirit.

In the text above there were fifteen elements instead of nine, but a close correspondence can be established between the two sets. 1 and A both discussed Health; 2 and B discussed Wealth; 3 and C matched, but they employed two different terms: Strength and Grit; 4 and D discussed Grace; 5 and E discussed Patience; there was no match for F which discussed Cheerfulness; 6 and G discussed Charity; 7 and H discussed Love; 8 and I discussed Faith; 9 and J discussed Hope; there were no matches for the remaining items K, L, M, N, and O.

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Notes:

  1. 1904 January 9, The Christian Work and Evangelist, Volume 76, A New Year’s Greeting by Rev. William D. Smith, Quote Page 41, Christian Work and the Evangelist, Bible House, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

What You Can Do, or Dream You Can, Begin It; Boldness Has Genius, Power, and Magic in It

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? John Anster? William Hutchison Murray? Apocryphal?

goethe08Dear Quote Investigator: There is a wonderful quotation about the pivotal step of making a commitment to an enterprise:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

These two lines are often attributed to the great German playwright and thinker Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. There are different versions of the quotation and some contain the following:

Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. . .

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1835 an Irish poet named John Anster published a translation of Part One of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragic masterwork “Faust”. Anster’s interpretation was free and poetical; thus, some pieces did not directly align with the German text written by Goethe. The passage below was from a section titled “Prelude at the Theatre” (Vorspiel auf dem Theater) and was spoken by a character called “Manager” (Direktor). Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Strong drink is what we want to gull the people,
A hearty, brisk, and animating tipple;
Come, come, no more delay, no more excuses,
The stuff we ask you for, at once produce us.
Lose this day loitering—’twill be the same story
To-morrow–and the next more dilatory;
Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.
Are you in earnest? seize this very minute–
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it,
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it,
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated—
Begin it, and the work will be completed!

Anster wrote the phrase “What you can do” and not “Whatever you can do” which has become common in modern times. QI believes that the lines above should be credited to Anster with an inspiration from the words of Goethe.

The passage containing the word “hesitancy” that was also mentioned by the questioner was from neither Goethe nor Anster. An explanation is given together with the 1951 citation presented further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1835, Faustus, A Dramatic Mystery; The Bride of Corinth; The First Walpurgis Night, Translated from the German of Goethe, and Illustrated with Notes by John Anster, Section: Prelude at the Theatre, (Spoken by Manager), Quote Page 15, Printed for Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longman, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Shake Was a Dramatist of Note; He Lived by Writing Things to Quote

Shake? William Shakespeare? Mulleary? Go-ethe? Henry Cuyler Bunner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: While studying English in school I heard the following humorous rhyme about The Bard of Avon:

Shakespeare was a dramatist of note who lived by writing things to quote.

These words are from a longer poem, but I have not been able to locate it. Could you trace this phrase?

Quote Investigator: The full poem was titled “Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe” and the subject was three famous literary figures: William Shakespeare, Molière (stage name of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was published in the humor magazine Puck in 1880, and the author was listed as “V. Hugo Dusenbury”. But that name was a pseudonym for Henry Cuyler Bunner who was the long-time editor of Puck.

Below is the second stanza of the poem containing the lines about Shakespeare who was referred to as “Shake”. The author of the poem discussed busts of Shakespeare, Molière, and Goethe on top of a bookcase. The illustration that accompanied the piece is shown at the beginning of this article: 1

Shake was a dramatist of note;
He lived by writing things to quote.
He long ago put on his shroud:
Some of his works are rather loud.
His bald-spot’s dusty, I suppose.
I know there’s dust upon his nose.
I’ll have to give each nose a sheath–
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1880 January 28, Puck, Volume 6, Number 151, Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe by V. Hugo Dusenbury [Pseudonym of Henry Cuyler Bunner], Page 762, Keppler & Schwarzmann, New York. (Google Books full view) link

You Can Easily Judge the Character of a Man by How He Treats Those Who Can Do Nothing for Him

Ann Landers? Abigail Van Buren? Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Samuel Johnson? Malcolm Forbes? Paul Eldridge? Charles Haddon Spurgeon? James D. Miles? Dan Reeves?

Dear Quote Investigator: I am attempting to verify the following quotation because it will appear in a forthcoming book, but I have discovered multiple attributions:

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

As I searched further I found a similar quotation with additional attributions:

The true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good.

Can you help determine the origin of this saying?

Quote InvestigatorQI agrees that these two expressions and several others can be grouped together because they are semantically closely aligned. Interestingly, members of this set have been employed by (or attributed to) a wide variety of individuals including: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Samuel Johnson, Ann Landers, Abigail Van Buren, Malcolm Forbes, Paul Eldridge, James D. Miles, and Dan Reeves.

The earliest close match for this saying that QI has located appeared in the popular newspaper column of Earl Wilson. He credited the well-known magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes in 1972 [EWMF]:

Remembered Quote: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”—Malcolm S. Forbes.

In 1978 Forbes published a collection of his own quotations called “The Sayings of Chairman Malcolm” [SCMF]. This title was constructed as wordplay on the well-known doctrinal work “The Sayings of Chairman Mao” also called “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung” or “The Little Red Book”.

A close variant of the saying under investigation was presented in the book and featured prominently in multiple advertisements that appeared in the New Yorker magazine for the collection in 1979 [SCMF] [NYMF]:

“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.”

—from The Sayings of Chairman Malcolm

Today a visitor to the Forbes magazine website can search a quotation database maintained by the publisher called “Thoughts on the Business of Life” that contains more than 10,000 entries. The version of the adage in “The Sayings of Chairman Malcolm” is available in the database [TBMF].

The famous advice giving sisters Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers used versions of this saying in the 1970s. But QI has not yet located any evidence of use before 1974 for either woman. The attachment of the quotation to the notable figures Samuel Johnson and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe appears to be unsupported by current evidence.

QI has also examined a related saying: If you want to know what a man’s like, look at how he treats his inferiors. Click here to read the other article.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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