I Always Prefer To Believe the Best of Everybody. It Saves So Much Trouble

Rudyard Kipling? Mrs. Mallowe? Mrs. Hauksbee? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following quotation embodies an irrepressible optimism:

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody. It saves so much trouble.

The famous author Rudyard Kipling has received credit for this remark, but I haven’t been able to find a citation. Are these really his words? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1888 Rudyard Kipling published the collection “Under the Deodars” which included the story “A Second-Rate Woman”. Two characters named Mrs. Mallowe, and Mrs. Hauksbee exchanged comments about their beliefs. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1] 1890 (1888 Previous Edition), Under the Deodars by Rudyard Kipling, Story: A Second-Rate Woman, Start Page 65, Quote Page 76, United States Book Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

“I am prepared to credit any evil of The Dancing Master, because I hate him so. And The Dowd is so disgustingly badly dressed———.”

“That she, too, is capable of every iniquity? I always prefer to believe the best of everybody. It saves so much trouble.”

“Very good. I prefer to believe the worst. It saves useless expenditure of sympathy.”

Thus, Kipling wrote the remark, but it was spoken by a fictional character. Also, another character immediately presented the opposite viewpoint.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Always Prefer To Believe the Best of Everybody. It Saves So Much Trouble

References

References
1 1890 (1888 Previous Edition), Under the Deodars by Rudyard Kipling, Story: A Second-Rate Woman, Start Page 65, Quote Page 76, United States Book Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

God’s Way of Pointing You in a New Direction

Oprah Winfrey? Mike Patrick? Peter A. LaPorta? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Failure is painful, but it also provides an opportunity to learn. An apparent defeat may be transformed into a victory by using hard-won knowledge to discover a different pathway to success. The prominent television producer, entrepreneur, and actress Oprah Winfrey concisely communicated this same idea during a graduation speech. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In May 2007 Oprah Winfrey delivered the commencement address at Howard University in Washington D.C., and the C-SPAN video archive contains a recording. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]Website: C-SPAN.org Video, Video title: Howard University Commencement Address, Speech delivered by: Oprah Winfrey (Television Personality), Date on website: May 12, 2007, Quotation location: 4 mins … Continue reading

So here are a few things I want you to know that I know for sure. Don’t be afraid. All you have to know is who you are. Because there is no such thing as failure. There is no such thing as failure. What other people label or might try to call failure I have learned is just God’s way of pointing you in a new direction.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading God’s Way of Pointing You in a New Direction

References

References
1 Website: C-SPAN.org Video, Video title: Howard University Commencement Address, Speech delivered by: Oprah Winfrey (Television Personality), Date on website: May 12, 2007, Quotation location: 4 mins 57 secs of 19 mins 56 secs, Website description: Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN) is a nonprofit public service organization. (Accessed c-span.org on June 27, 2022) link

I Washed It Down With Some Snakebite Remedy Which I Always Keep Handy. Only, However, After First Being Bitten By a Snake Which I Also Keep Handy

W. C. Fields? Clifford Terry? Corey Ford? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous comedian W. C. Fields apparently told a hilarious joke about whiskey. Here are three versions:

(1) I always carry a flask of whisky in case of snake bite. I also carry a small snake.

(2) I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake—which I also keep handy.

(3) I always keep a flagon of whiskey handy in case I see a snake — which I also keep handy.

No one seems to know the actual phrasing employed by Fields. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: During the 1930s W. C. Fields developed a comedy routine called “The Temperance Lecture” which included the snakebite gag, but the contents of the routine and the phrasing of the gag varied.

In 1946 Fields recorded a version of “The Temperance Lecture”. The audio is accessible via YouTube and Spotify. Fields described the dire effects of overindulging in alcohol. One time he awoke to discover a goat in his bed and a manhole cover resting on his head. So he decided to quit, but he misunderstood the cause of his problems. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]YouTube video, Title: W.C. Fields Temperance Lecture, Uploaded on October 20, 2011, Uploaded by: records45ful, Description from uploader: “Here is the 1946 classic recording of W.C. Fields, on 4 … Continue reading

Right then and there I swore that I would never again poison my system with maraschino cherries. Two weeks later I slipped and had another, but you must believe me when I say I thought it was a seedless grape.

I washed it down with some snakebite remedy which I always keep handy. Only, however, after first being bitten by a snake which I also keep handy.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Washed It Down With Some Snakebite Remedy Which I Always Keep Handy. Only, However, After First Being Bitten By a Snake Which I Also Keep Handy

References

References
1 YouTube video, Title: W.C. Fields Temperance Lecture, Uploaded on October 20, 2011, Uploaded by: records45ful, Description from uploader: “Here is the 1946 classic recording of W.C. Fields, on 4 sides. On Variety V 101. (3 record set)”, (Quotation starts at 8 minutes 21 seconds of 10 minutes 55 seconds) (Accessed on youtube.com on June 26, 2022) link

The Only Way of Discovering the Limits of the Possible Is To Venture a Little Way Past Them Into the Impossible

Arthur C. Clarke? Tobias Dantzig? Robert Heinlein? Jerome Agel? Harold Faber? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The science fiction luminary Arthur C. Clarke once said something like: the best way to find the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible. I have seen several different versions of this remark. Would you please help me to find the correct phrasing together with a citation?

Quote Investigator: Arthur C. Clarke published at least three different versions of this statement. The earliest match known to QI appeared in his 1962 book “Profiles of the Future” within chapter 2 called “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination”.

Clarke presented a table with two columns labeled “The Unexpected” and “The Expected”. The first column on the right listed unforeseen discoveries such as X-rays, transistors, superconductors, and relativity. The second column on the left listed notions that have been envisioned for hundreds or thousands of years such as flying machines, robots, immortality, invisibility, and telepathy. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1967 (First publication 1962), Profiles of the Future by Arthur C. Clarke, Chapter 2: Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination, Quote Page 20 and 21, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with … Continue reading

The right-hand list is deliberately provocative; it includes sheer fantasy as well as serious scientific speculation. But the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Previously, the Quote Investigator examined a thematically related adage: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. The article about this adage is available here.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Only Way of Discovering the Limits of the Possible Is To Venture a Little Way Past Them Into the Impossible

References

References
1 1967 (First publication 1962), Profiles of the Future by Arthur C. Clarke, Chapter 2: Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination, Quote Page 20 and 21, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

There Are Three Kinds of Lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Mark Twain? Benjamin Disraeli? St. Swithin? Eliza Gutch? Charles Dilke? Charles Stewart Parnell? Robert Giffen? Arthur James Balfour? Francis Bacon? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Statistical analysis can provide deep insights into an issue. Yet, carelessness or duplicity can generate misleading results. A popular cynical adage communicates this mistrust:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

These words have been attributed to prominent humorist Mark Twain, British statesman Benjamin Disraeli, and others. Do you know who should receive credit? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Mark Twain did include this saying in an installment of his autobiography which he published in 1907; however, he did not claim to be the originator; instead, Twain credited Benjamin Disraeli. Yet, there is no substantive evidence that Disraeli crafted this remark. He died in 1881, and the remark was attributed to him posthumously by 1895.

Tracing this saying is a complex task because the expression evolved over time. Changes were incremental, and there was no single originator who deserved credit. Here is an overview showing key phrases, dates, and attributions.

1882 Apr 04: three classes—liars, great liars, and scientific witnesses (Attributed to “well-known Judge”)

1885 Jun 27: three sorts of liars, the common or garden liar … the damnable liar … and lastly the expert (Attributed to “counsel”)

1885 Nov 26: grouped witnesses into three classes: simple liars, damned liars, and experts (Attributed to “well-known lawyer”)

1886 Apr 10: three kinds of liars who testify in courts: “Lawyers, liars and experts” (Attributed to “distinguished judge”)

1889 Aug 12: There are liars, and d—-d liars and experts (Attributed to “eminent judge”)

1891 Jun 13: three kinds of falsehood: the first is a ‘fib,’ the second is a downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is statistics (Anonymous)

1891 Oct 10: There are three degrees of falsehood: the first is a fib, the second is a lie, and then come statistics (Anonymous)

1891 Oct 14: there were three degrees of untruth—a fib, a lie, and statistics (Charles Dilke)

1891 Oct 19: false statements might be arranged according to their degree under three heads, fibs, lies, and statistics. (Attributed to Charles Dilke)

1891 Oct 28: Mr. Parnell’s dictum respecting fibs, lies, and statistics (Attributed to Charles Stewart Parnell)

1891 Nov 07: classifies falsehood under three heads: 1, the fib; 2, the lie; 3, statistics (Attributed to Mark Twain)

1892: three degrees of unveracity—“Lies, d——d lies, and statistics.” (Attributed to “some wit”)

1892 Jan: There are lies, there are outrageous lies, and there are statistics (Anonymous)

1892 Feb: three degrees in liars: the liar simple, the d — d liar, and the expert witness (Anonymous)

1892 Jun 28: three kinds of unveracity—namely, lies, damned lies, and statistics (Arthur James Balfour)

1895 July 27: three degrees of veracity—viz., lies d—d lies, and statistics (Attributed to Lord Beaconsfield, i.e., Benjamin Disraeli)

1907 Jul 5: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics (Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain)

QI gives great thanks to previous researchers particularly Stephen Goranson and Peter M. Lee who located many of the citations mentioned above.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Are Three Kinds of Lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

I Had the Syrup But It Wouldn’t Pour

Gertrude Stein? Alice B. Toklas? Glenway Wescott? William Styron? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Whenever I experience difficulty in a creative endeavor like writing or drawing I am reminded of the following expression:

I have the syrup, but it won’t pour.

The prize-winning author William Styron said something similar to this. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1933 prominent novelist and art collector Gertrude Stein published “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”. Stein’s book adopted the viewpoint and voice of her friend and life partner Toklas, but Stein was the ultimate author. The work briefly remarked on two contemporary authors. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1933, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, Chapter 7: After the War 1919-1932, Quote Page 269, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Then there was McAlmon. McAlmon had one quality that appealed to Gertrude Stein, abundance, he could go on writing, but she complained that it was dull.

There was also Glenway Wescott but Glenway Wescott at no time interested Gertrude Stein. He has a certain syrup but it does not pour.

In 1979 William Styron published “Sophie’s Choice”, and a character in the novel referred back to Stein’s words while describing his difficulties:
[2] 1979, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, Chapter 1, Quote Page 3, Jonathan Cape, London. (Verified with scans)

It was not that I no longer wanted to write, I still yearned passionately to produce the novel which had been for so long captive in my brain. It was only that, having written down the first few fine paragraphs, I could not produce any others, or—to approximate Gertrude Stein’s remark about a lesser writer of the Lost Generation—I had the syrup but it wouldn’t pour. To make matters worse, I was out of a job and had very little money and was self-exiled to Flatbush . . .

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Had the Syrup But It Wouldn’t Pour

References

References
1 1933, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, Chapter 7: After the War 1919-1932, Quote Page 269, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
2 1979, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, Chapter 1, Quote Page 3, Jonathan Cape, London. (Verified with scans)

The Sea Is the Sea. The Old Man Is an Old Man

Ernest Hemingway? Bernard Berenson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella “The Old Man and the Sea” has been exhaustively analyzed by critics and commentators. Beleaguered high school students have been coerced into composing essays about the tale. Unsurprisingly, the story has been transformed into a cornucopia for symbol generation.

Yet, Hemingway himself apparently believed that there were no symbols in his fable. He stated that “the old man is an old man”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In September 1952 Ernest Hemingway sent a letter to Renaissance art specialist Bernard Berenson. Hemingway commented on the lack of intentional symbolism in “The Old Man and the Sea”. The letter was reprinted in the collection “Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters 1917-1961”. The collection editor noted that the famous author used an irregular spelling for “symbolism”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1981, Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters 1917-1961, Edited by Carlos Baker, Letter To: Bernard Berenson, Letter Date: September 13, 1952, Start Page 780, Quote Page 780, Charles Scribners’ Sons, New … Continue reading

Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm (mis-spelled). The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know. A writer should know too much.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Sea Is the Sea. The Old Man Is an Old Man

References

References
1 1981, Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters 1917-1961, Edited by Carlos Baker, Letter To: Bernard Berenson, Letter Date: September 13, 1952, Start Page 780, Quote Page 780, Charles Scribners’ Sons, New York. (Verified with scans)

People Will Not Say Anymore That the Greeks Fight Like Heroes But Heroes Fight Like Greeks

Winston Churchill? Demetrius Caclamanos? John Rupert Colville? Queen Frederika of Greece? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A family of statements highlights the valor of military forces. Here are two examples:

Henceforth we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks

Finns don’t fight like heroes; heroes fight like Finns

These sayings use a rhetorical technique called antimetabole in which clauses are repeated while keywords are transposed. The first statement above has often been attributed to statesman Winston Churchill, but I am skeptical because I have not seen a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Manchester Guardian” of England in April 1941 within an article by Greek diplomat Demetrius Caclamanos. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1] 1941 April 18, The Manchester Guardian, The Campaign in Greece by Demetrius Caclamanos (former Greek Minister to Britain), Start Page 4, Quote Page 6, Column 2, Manchester, England. (Newspapers_com)

It was rightly said that “people will not say any more that the Greeks fight like heroes but heroes fight like Greeks.”

Caclamanos’s article discussed the attack on Greece by the forces of Italy and Germany during World War II in 1940 and 1941. Greek forces were initially able to repulse the attacks although the country was ultimately conquered by the Axis powers. The phrasing above signaled that Caclamanos was disclaiming credit for the quotation. Based on current evidence QI believes that the authorship of the saying remains anonymous.

The saying was attributed to Winston Churchill by 1951, but that late date meant the evidence was weak. See the 1951 citation presented further below.

Richard Langworth who is the top expert on Winston Churchill quotations has examined this topic in a posting on his website. Langworth searched a massive digital corpus containing millions of words written by and about Churchill, but he did not find evidence supporting the ascription. Langworth stated “It’s rather good, but I cannot track that quotation”.[2]Website: Richard Langworth, Article title: “Greeks Fight Like Heroes – Heroes Fight Like Greeks”: Not By Churchill, Article author: Richard Langworth, Date on website: November 5, 2021, Website … Continue reading

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading People Will Not Say Anymore That the Greeks Fight Like Heroes But Heroes Fight Like Greeks

References

References
1 1941 April 18, The Manchester Guardian, The Campaign in Greece by Demetrius Caclamanos (former Greek Minister to Britain), Start Page 4, Quote Page 6, Column 2, Manchester, England. (Newspapers_com)
2 Website: Richard Langworth, Article title: “Greeks Fight Like Heroes – Heroes Fight Like Greeks”: Not By Churchill, Article author: Richard Langworth, Date on website: November 5, 2021, Website description: Discussion of quotations correctly and incorrectly attributed to Winston Churchill. (Accessed richardlangworth.com on June 14, 2022) link

Damn Everything But the Circus! Damn Everything That Is Grim, Dull, Motionless, Unrisking, Inward Turning

E. E. Cummings? Corita Kent? Helen Kelley? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: To enjoy a full life one must be willing to embrace excitement, change, beauty, and risk. Metaphorically, one must enter the center ring of life’s circus and perform. The prominent U.S. poet E. E. Cummings (often styled e e cummings) has been credited with a pertinent passage:

Damn everything but the circus! . . . damn everything that is grim, dull, motionless, unrisking, inward turning, damn everything that won’t get into the circle, that won’t enjoy. That won’t throw it’s heart into the tension, surprise, fear and delight of the circus, the round world, the full existence.

I think this attribution is inaccurate because I have never been able to find a solid citation. Would you please help me to find the true author?

Quote Investigator: QI believes the passage under examination is a composite. The first line was extracted from a dialog written by E. E. Cummings, and the remainder was created by Sister Helen Kelley who was President of Immaculate Heart College of Los Angeles, California from 1963 to 1977.

In 1927 E. E. Cummings published a play titled “Him” in the literary journal “Dial”. The work included the following exchange between characters named “Him” and “Me”. Cumming’s text combined some words, e.g., “circus tent” appeared as “circustent”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1927 August, Dial: A Semi-monthly Journal of Literary Criticism, Discussion, and Information, Him by E. E. Cummings, Act 1, Scene 2, Start Page 101, Quote Page 105 and 106, Chicago, Illinois. … Continue reading

HIM: (Vehemently) Damn everything but the circus! (To himself ) And here am I, patiently squeezing fourdimensional ideas into a twodimensional stage, when all of me that’s any one or anything is in the top of a circustent . . . ( A pause.)

ME: I didn’t imagine you were leading a double life—and right under my nose, too.

HIM: ( Unhearing, proceeds contemptuously ) : The average “painter” “sculptor” “poet” “composer” “playwright” is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with a clown’s mouth, orchestrate twenty lions.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Damn Everything But the Circus! Damn Everything That Is Grim, Dull, Motionless, Unrisking, Inward Turning

References

References
1 1927 August, Dial: A Semi-monthly Journal of Literary Criticism, Discussion, and Information, Him by E. E. Cummings, Act 1, Scene 2, Start Page 101, Quote Page 105 and 106, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)

Always Do Sober What You Said You’d Do Drunk. That Will Teach You To Keep Your Mouth Shut

Ernest Hemingway? Charles Scribner IV? Malcolm Forbes? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway once described a strategy to reduce drunken boasting. The inebriated person should wait until soberness returns and then perform the foolish boastful actions. Thus, one will quickly learn to keep one’s mouth shut. Is this genuine advice from Hemingway? Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match for this tale located by QI appeared in “Forbes” magazine in September 1961. The editor Malcolm S. Forbes wrote the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1961 September 1, Forbes, Volume 88, Issue 5, Fact and Comment by Malcolm S. Forbes, Sub-section: One of Hemingway’s “Rules for Living”, Start Page 7, Quote Page 8, Forbes Inc., New York. … Continue reading

When Charles Scribner (IV) succeeded his late father as head of the country’s most venerable publishing firm in 1952, Ernest Hemingway, an old friend, wrote him a long personal letter, which concluded with a list of his “rules for life.” Among them, this one which we pass on to our readers without further comment:

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk: That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

Forbes did not explain how he learned about the content of Hemingway’s letter. Perhaps Scribner recounted the story to Forbes.

Additional strong evidence supporting the authenticity of the remark appeared in a book Scribner authored in 1990. He presented the same tale and a longer version of the quotation with the phrase “do when you were drunk”. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Always Do Sober What You Said You’d Do Drunk. That Will Teach You To Keep Your Mouth Shut

References

References
1 1961 September 1, Forbes, Volume 88, Issue 5, Fact and Comment by Malcolm S. Forbes, Sub-section: One of Hemingway’s “Rules for Living”, Start Page 7, Quote Page 8, Forbes Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)