Tag Archives: Theophile Gautier

Positively, The Best Thing a Person Can Have To Do Is Nothing

Charles Lamb? Théophile Gautier? Anonymous?

relax07Dear Quote Investigator: When I was choosing a major in college, people would ask me what I wished to do in life. I am somewhat indolent; hence, the following response reflects my underlying beliefs:

The best thing to have to do is nothing.

I usually did not share this thought with others. Interestingly, a similar sentiment has been expressed by both the English essayist Charles Lamb and the French writer Théophile Gautier. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: In 1827 Charles Lamb wrote a letter to the poet Bernard Barton. He offered to help his friend, and the missive included an instance of the saying: 1

I would willingly come and work for you three weeks or so, to let you loose. Would I could sell or give you some of my leisure! POSTIVELY, THE BEST THING A MAN CAN HAVE TO DO IS NOTHING! and, next to that, perhaps, GOOD WORKS!

Here are additional selected citations in largely chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1837, The Letters of Charles Lamb with a Sketch of His Life by Thomas Noon Talfourd, Volume 2 of 2, Chapter XVI: 1826 to 1828, Letter from Charles Lamb to Bernard Barton, Start Page 211, Quote Page 213, Published by Edward Moxon, Dover Street, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Chance, Coincidence, Miracles, Pseudonyms, and God

Albert Einstein? Théophile Gautier? Alexis de Valon? Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Helena Blavatsky? Dr. Paul F.? Heidi Quade? Bonnie Farmer? Charlotte C. Taylor? Doris Lessing? Nicolas Chamfort? Horace Walpole?

chance10Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement is attributed to the brilliant physicist Albert Einstein:

Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

I have been unable to find any solid information to support this ascription. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein ever made a remark of this type. It is not listed in the comprehensive collection “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

This topic is large, complex, and tangled. QI believes that the remark evolved from a family of interrelated sayings that can be traced back many years. These sayings did not have the same meaning, but QI believes that the earlier statements influenced the emergence of the later statements.

Below is a summary list with dates of the pertinent quotations. The shared theme was an examination of the connections between chance, coincidence, Providence, and God. The term “Providence” refers to the guardianship and care provided by God, a deity, or nature viewed as a spiritual force. Statements in French are accompanied with a translation.

1777: What is called chance is the instrument of Providence. (Horace Walpole)

1795: Quelqu’un disait que la Providence était le nom de baptême du Hasard, quelque dévot dira que le Hasard est un sobriquet de la Providence. (Nicolas Chamfort) [Someone said that Providence was the baptismal name of Chance; some pious person will say that Chance is a nickname of Providence.]

1845: Le hasard, c’est peut-être le pseudonyme de Dieu, quand il ne veut pas signer. (Théophile Gautier) [Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when he does not want to sign.]

1897: Il faut, dans la vie, faire la part du hasard. Le hasard, en définitive, c’est Dieu. (Anatole France) [In life we must make all due allowance for chance. Chance, in the last resort, is God.]

1949: Chance is the pseudonym of God when He did not want to sign. (misattribution: Anatole France)

1976: He defined coincidence as a miracle in which God chose to remain anonymous. (Dr. Paul F. of Indianapolis, Indiana)

1979: A coincidence is a small miracle where God chose to remain anonymous. (Anonymous in “Shop with Sue”)

1984: A coincidence is a small miracle when God chooses to remain anonymous. (attribution: Heidi Quade)

1985: Coincidence is when God works a miracle and chooses to remain anonymous. (attribution: Bonnie Farmer)

1986: Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. (Charlotte Clemensen Taylor)

1997: Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous. (attribution: Doris Lessing)

2000: Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. (misattribution: Albert Einstein)

Details for these statements together with additional selected citations in chronological order are given below.

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Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Examined on paper)