Judge Each Day Not By the Harvest You Reap But By the Seeds You Plant

Robert Louis Stevenson? William Arthur Ward? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An eloquent agricultural metaphor occurs within an astute proverb about the value of preparation and investment:

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.

The prominent Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson has received credit for this saying, but I have never seen a solid citation. Would you please help me to determine the true crafter of this remark?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Robert Louis Stevenson said or wrote this statement. He died in 1894, and the earliest match located by QI occurred several decades afterwards in May 1963 within the “Oklahoma City Star” newspaper of Oklahoma.

The saying was ascribed to William Arthur Ward who achieved fame as a motivational author and educator. Ward’s phrasing slightly differed from the version later attributed to Stevenson. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.—William A. Ward

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Judge Each Day Not By the Harvest You Reap But By the Seeds You Plant

Notes:

  1. 1963 May 17, Oklahoma City Star, Page Title: Pennsylvania Avenue Methodist Church, Post Script, Quote Page M-110, Column 1, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Newspapers_com)

Nostalgia Is a Dangerous Emotion Because It Glides So Easily Into Hatred and Resentment

Carolyn G. Heilbrun? Amanda Cross? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Nostalgia is a sentimental emotion that does not seem to be dangerous. Yet, wistful feelings for a bygone era can become a source of hatred and resentment. The mystery author Carolyn G. Heilbrun expressed something similar. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Carolyn G. Heilbrun was an influential English professor and the author of a series of mystery novels under the pen name Amanda Cross. In 1992 she published a review in “The New York Times” examining the volume “Battle of the Books: The Curriculum Debate in America”. She discussed the controversy over the evolving literary canon taught at top universities in the U.S.

Heilbrun contended that placing an emphasis on books that were no longer being taught or venerated in classrooms produced resentment. She believed it was impossible to prevent the emergence of new voices and the diminution of some old voices. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Nostalgia is, however, a dangerous emotion, both because it is powerless to act in the real world, and because it glides so easily into hatred and resentment against those who have taken our Eden from us.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nostalgia Is a Dangerous Emotion Because It Glides So Easily Into Hatred and Resentment

Notes:

  1. 1992 December 25, The New York Times, In Defense of Cultural Literacy and Once-Taught Masterpieces by Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Review of James Atlas’s “Battle of the Books: The Curriculum Debate in America”), Quote Page C30, Column 5 and 6, New York. (ProQuest)

That’s the Point of Quotations, You Know: One Can Use Another’s Words To Be Insulting

Carolyn G. Heilbrun? Amanda Cross? Kate Fansler? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: By employing a quotation from a well-known individual it is possible to firmly express a viewpoint without directly endorsing it. I vaguely recall the following similar statement:

Often the point of quotations is to use somebody else’s words to deliver an insult.

Would you please help me to determine the correct wording and attribution?

Quote Investigator: In 1971 Columbia University Professor of English Carolyn G. Heilbrun published “The Theban Mysteries” under the pen name Amanda Cross. The protagonist of the book, Kate Fansler, was an amateur detective who had attended “The Theban School”, an elite all-girls academy. Fansler returned to her alma mater to moderate a seminar, and she became entangled in a mystery when a dead body was discovered on campus. In the following dialogue a member of the school asked Fansler whether she wished to join the institution, and she declined. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Have you ever thought of joining the Theban in some permanent capacity?”

“Do you know what Dickens said when they asked him to stand for Parliament? ‘I believe that no consideration would induce me to become a member of that extraordinary assembly.’ That’s the point of quotations, you know: one can use another’s words to be insulting.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading That’s the Point of Quotations, You Know: One Can Use Another’s Words To Be Insulting

Notes:

  1. 1979 (1971 Copyright), The Theban Mysteries by Amanda Cross (pen name of Carolyn G. Heilbrun), Series: A Kate Fansler Novel, Chapter 6, Quote Page 89 and 90, Avon Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

The Real Cause of Problems Is Solutions

Eric Sevareid? Ernest Thompson? Paul Dickson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Every solution to a problem inevitably creates a new problem. This ruefully defeatist viewpoint has inspired a logically twisted adage. Here are two versions:

The real cause of problems is solutions.
The chief cause of problems is solutions.

This notion has been attributed to U.S. journalist Eric Sevareid. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In July 1968 Eric Sevareid penned a piece in “The Progressive” magazine discussing the popularity of copying machines. These devices performed the useful task of duplicating the text and pictures displayed on paper sheets. Unfortunately, copying also encouraged the excessive proliferation of paper. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

In 1965, these duplicating machines produced about ten billion copies of stuff. In two more years, the figure will be up around seventy billion copies . . .

The more somber thinkers, however, feel nothing serious will or can be done until the world runs out of trees for making paper. That, of course, will create other problems, but that is the nature of progress.

The greatest intellectual discovery of this generation is that the real cause of problems is solutions.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Real Cause of Problems Is Solutions

Notes:

  1. 1968 July, The Progressive, Paper by Eric Sevareid of CBS News, Start Page 16, Quote Page 16, The Progressive Inc., Madison, Wisconsin. (Verified with scans from Opinion Archives)

The Trouble with Communism is the Communists, Just as the Trouble with Christianity is the Christians

H. L. Mencken? Martin Luther King Jr.? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The U.S. satirist and curmudgeon H. L. Mencken apparently employed the following saying. Here are two versions:

The trouble with communism are the communists.
The trouble with communism is the communists.

If this remark is authentic would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In August 1946 “LIFE” magazine published an interview with H. L. Mencken whose popularity had suffered because of his relentless hostility to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mencken stated that he found the idea of communism attractive. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Mr. Mencken puffed meditatively on his cigar. “We might as well discuss Communism, too,” he said. “As an idea it is anything but bad. I can easily imagine a civilization purged of the profit motive. In fact, I am pretty well purged of it myself. Private property, after a certain low point, becomes a mere nuisance.”

Nevertheless, Mencken distrusted the advocates of communism and labeled them hypocrites: 2

The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians. They really do not believe in it and hence are hypocrites. All of them pant for money and hope to collar it by changing the rules. This fundamental false pretense colors their whole propaganda. They have no more sense of honor than so many congressmen and engage constantly in wholesale lying.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Trouble with Communism is the Communists, Just as the Trouble with Christianity is the Christians

Notes:

  1. 1946 August 5, LIFE, Volume 21, Number 6, Mr. Mencken Sounds Off by Roger Butterfield, Start Page 45, Quote Page 51, Column 1, Published by Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1946 August 5, LIFE, Volume 21, Number 6, Mr. Mencken Sounds Off by Roger Butterfield, Start Page 45, Quote Page 51, Column 1, Published by Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

If a Poem Hasn’t Ripped Apart Your Soul, You Haven’t Experienced Poetry

Edgar Allan Poe? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A hyperbolic statement about poetry has been credited to the major literary figure Edgar Allan Poe:

If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul, you haven’t experienced poetry.

Could this possibly be a genuine remark from Poe?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Edgar Allan Poe who died in 1849 wrote or said this statement. The attribution probably entered circulation via a known misquotation mechanism called ‘naming confusion’.

There is an account on Twitter called @Edgar_Allan_Poe that uses the handle “Edgar Allan Poe”. On May 7, 2014 the account tweeted the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry.

The tweet received more than 1,300 likes and more than 1,400 retweets by June 2021. Some who saw the tweet assumed that the statement had been crafted by the famous horror author, and propagated it with that attribution.

Yet, it is unlikely that the twitter account was being operated by the undead spirit of Poe; hence, the master of the macabre probably did not originate this quotation. Instead, the person behind the account @Edgar_Allan_Poe probably constructed it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If a Poem Hasn’t Ripped Apart Your Soul, You Haven’t Experienced Poetry

Notes:

  1. Tweet, From: Edgar Allan Poe @Edgar_Allan_Poe, Time: 9:25 AM, Date: May 7, 2014, Text: If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry. (Accessed on twitter.com on June 11, 2021) link

Always Forgive Your Enemies; Nothing Annoys Them So Much

Oscar Wilde? Walter Winchell? Reader’s Digest? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A well-known moral injunction states that one should forgive one’s enemies. A humorous twist suggests that one should grant forgiveness because it produces annoyance in one’s adversaries. This notion has been attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900, and QI has found no substantive evidence that he originated this quip. It is not listed in researcher Ralph Keyes’s important compilation “The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde”. 1 Also, the joke does not occur in the 2006 compendium “Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms”. 2

The earliest match located by QI appeared in the popular syndicated column of Walter Winchell in 1954, and he pointed to the mass-circulation magazine “Reader’s Digest”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 3

Reader’s Digest recalls O. Wilde’s: “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

QI has not yet located a precise citation within an issue of “Reader’s Digest”. In addition, quotations with attributions appearing in that magazine were often provided by readers who were compensated. The information was not carefully vetted for accuracy; hence, faulty data was sometimes submitted and propagated.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Always Forgive Your Enemies; Nothing Annoys Them So Much

Notes:

  1. 1996, The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde, Edited by Ralph Keyes, (Note: Search indicated that quotation was absent), HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
  2. 2006, Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms, Topically Arranged with Attributions, Compiled and edited by Tweed Conrad, (Note: Search indicated that quotation was absent), McFarland & Company Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1954 May 27, , Courier-Post, On Broadway by Walter Winchell, Quote Page 21, Column 1, Camden, New Jersey. (ProQuest)

Education Is What You Get from Reading the Small Print in a Contract. Experience Is What You Get from Not Reading It

Pete Seeger? Vesta M. Kelly? Mr. Minnick the Cynic? Old Timer? Bill Gold? Evan Esar? Saul Lavisky? Laurence J. Peter? Sydney J. Harris? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comprehending the details of a complex legal contract is a daunting task. Yet, entrapment by an unnoticed provision of an agreement is a terrible experience. Here is a pertinent saying:

Education is what you get from reading the small print. Experience is what you get from not reading it.

This saying has been attributed to folk singer activist Pete Seeger. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This quip can be expressed in many ways; hence, it is difficult to trace. The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Wall Street Journal” within the long-running humor column called “Pepper and Salt” in February 1961. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Candid Comment
People may get an education from reading the fine print, but what they get from not reading it is usually experience.— Vesta M. Kelly.

Currently, Vesta M. Kelly is the leading candidate for originator of this joke. Pete Seeger did use the expression during an interview published in October 1979. See the citation given further below:

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Education Is What You Get from Reading the Small Print in a Contract. Experience Is What You Get from Not Reading It

Notes:

  1. 1961 February 14, The Wall Street Journal, Pepper and Salt, Quote Page 12, Column 6, New York. (ProQuest)

Experience Is the Best of Schoolmasters; Only the School-Fees Are Heavy

Thomas Carlyle? Benjamin Franklin? Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Johann P. F. Richter? Minna Antrim? Heinrich Heine? William Ralph Inge?

Dear Quote Investigator: The most memorable and painful lessons are usually learned via direct experience, but the cost can be very high. A family of adages depict this point of view. Here are two instances:

  • Experience is a good school, but the fees are heavy.
  • Experience is the best teacher, but the tuition is exorbitant.

This saying has been credited to Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle, German writer Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, U.S. writer Minna Antrim, and others. Would you please explore this topic.

Quote Investigator: This saying has been circulating and evolving for many years; hence this is a complex topic. Here is a chronological sampling which presents a snapshot of current research:

1743: (Precursor) Experience keeps a dear school, yet Fools will learn in no other. (Benjamin Franklin)

1828: Experience is the best of schoolmasters; only the school-fees are heavy. (Thomas Carlyle)

1843: Dear bought experience is the only effectual schoolmaster. (Anon)

1856: Experience is the only schoolmaster; although the school-fees are somewhat heavy. (Attributed to Johann Paul Friedrich Richter)

1863 Experience is the best schoolmaster, but the school-fees are heavy. (Attributed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

1874: Experience and practice are the best schoolmasters; but the school fees are somewhat heavy. (Attributed to Johann Paul Friedrich Richter)

1893: Experience was the best of schools, but unfortunately the fees charged in it were extremely high. (Attributed to Heinrich Heine)

1902: Experience is a good teacher but she sends in terrific bills. (Minna T. Antrim)

1927: Experience is a good school, but the fees are high. (Attributed to Heinrich Heine)

1968: Experience is the best teacher, but the tuition is much too high. (Anon)

The 1743 statement “Experience keeps a dear school” was a precursor that appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. The adjective “dear” meant costly or expensive. There is a separate QI article about this statement available here.

In 1828 Thomas Carlyle published an article in “The Foreign Review” of London discussing the works of the major German literary figure Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Carlyle employed the adage when he was commenting on Goethe’s version of the legendary character Faust. Carlyle believed that Faust would learn from his experiences. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Experience, indeed, will teach him, for ‘Experience is the best of schoolmasters; only the school-fees are heavy.’

Carlyle enclosed the adage within quotation marks suggesting that it was already in circulation. Thus, Carlyle can be credited with popularizing the saying, but he may not be its originator.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Experience Is the Best of Schoolmasters; Only the School-Fees Are Heavy

Notes:

  1. 1828, The Foreign Review and Continental Miscellany, Volume 1, Number 2, Goethe’s Helena (Review of Goethe’s Sämmtliche Werke), Start Page 429, Quote Page 438, Black, Young, and Young, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

A Boy of Fifteen Who Is Not a Democrat is Good for Nothing, and He Is No Better Who Is a Democrat at Twenty

John Adams? Thomas Jefferson? John Ewing? John Hurt?

Dear Quote Investigator: Surprisingly, one of the founding fathers of the United States was skeptical about the long-term viability of democracy. The statesman believed that the proponents of democracy were philosophically immature. He was sympathetic to a young person of fifteen who found the system attractive, but he felt that someone over twenty should view a democratic system with suspicion. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Quote Investigator: John Adams was a central figure in the birth of the United States. He helped to draft the Declaration of Independence together with Thomas Jefferson. To temper the impulses of the electorate, Adams argued for the separation of powers. The legislative, executive, and judicial powers should be distinct, so that they could constrain one another.

Adams was skeptical of direct democracy. He favored a representative republic structure in which the people elected representatives to a legislature. Adams was the second president of the U.S. from 1797 to 1801. The papers of Thomas Jefferson included an interesting anecdote that occurred during Adams’s presidency. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

January, 1799. In a conversation between Doctor Ewen and the President, the former said one of his sons was an aristocrat, the other a democrat. The President asked if it was not the youngest who was the democrat. Yes, said Ewen. Well, said the President, a boy of fifteen who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at twenty. Ewen told Hurt, and Hurt told me.

Thus, this story was transmitted through two intermediaries before it reached the ears of Jefferson. A footnote accompanying this passage which is available at the “Founders Online” website of the U.S. National Archives identifies the intermediaries. 2 “Ewen” was an alternative spelling of “Ewing”, and “Dr. Ewen” referred to John Ewing. John Hurt was a former chaplain of Virginia who was a political supporter of Jefferson.

The Quote Investigator website has a separate article about a thematically pertinent expression: “If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain” Here is a link to that item.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Boy of Fifteen Who Is Not a Democrat is Good for Nothing, and He Is No Better Who Is a Democrat at Twenty

Notes:

  1. 1829, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Edited by Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Volume 4, Entry date: January 1799, Quote Page 509, F. Carr and Company, Charlottesville, Virginia. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. Website: Founders Online, Title: Notes on Comments by John Adams, [1–14 January 1799], Footnote for “Dr. Ewen”. Website description: In 2010, the U.S. National Archives entered into a cooperative agreement with The University of Virginia Press to create this website and make freely available online the historical documents of the Founders of the United States of America. (founders.archives.gov accessed on June 2, 2021) link