Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? William D. Smith? Anonymous?
Dear 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.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In December 1904 the article by Reverend William D. Smith was further disseminated when it was reprinted with the same title and authorship in “The Lutheran Observer” of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2 In January 1907 the article by Smith continued to circulate with the same title and authorship in “Northern Christian Advocate” of Syracuse, New York. 3
In June 1914 “The Christian Register” of Boston, Massachusetts printed a group of miscellaneous pieces under the title “Spiritual Life”. One piece consisted of ten elements from Smith’s set, but the Reverend’s name was not listed. Appended to the end of the ten elements was a quotation with an attribution to Goethe. The entire block of text was formatted as a single paragraph with Goethe’s name in the final position. Hence, some readers probably thought that the entire paragraph was being credited to Goethe.
The text below has been formatted into multiple lines with keywords in boldface and with Roman numeral labels to facilitate comparison. The first ten items matched the first ten items in Smith’s list with two modifications. Grit in C was changed to Strength in iii. The order of Cheerfulness, and Charity, was swapped to positions vii and vi. Item xi did not fit the general pattern of the items: 4
(i) Health enough to make work a pleasure;
(ii) wealth enough to support your needs;
(iii) strength enough to battle with difficulties and overcome them;
(iv) grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them;
(v) patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished;
(vi) charity that shall see some good in your neighbour;
(vii) cheerfulness that shall make others glad;
(viii) love that shall move you to be useful and helpful;
(ix) faith that shall make real the things of God;
(x) and hope that shall remove all anxious fears concerning the future.
(xi) It is not doing the things we like to do, but liking the things we have to do that makes life blessed.—Goethe.
In June 1914 the text above was reprinted in “The Dallas Morning News” of Dallas Texas in a section titled “Short Sermons”. 5 In August 1914 the text appeared in “The Christian World Pulpit” in a section called “Fragments of Thought”. Thus, the linkage to Goethe was further propagated. 6
In January 1915 a slightly modified version of the 1914 text was printed the “Illinois Central Magazine” of Chicago Illinois. This version was sent in by a reader of the magazine. The final item xi was omitted, and the letter writer credited Goethe with these introductory words. 7
To the Editor: The following New Year wish is ascribed to Goethe. I have never seen it before, but it is so good that I wish it to all of your readers:
After these words the ten elements were listed. They have been omitted here.
In April 1935 “The Gazette and Daily” of York, Pennsylvania printed nine elements instead of ten. The element mentioning Cheerfulness was excised. The introduction ascribed the set to Goethe and used the phrase “nine requisites for contented living”. An acknowledgement to Sunshine Magazine was specified. 8
A German version of the nine expressions does exist, but QI believes that it was created relatively recently, i.e., after 2000, via a translation from the English statements. Below is an example attributed to Goethe from a 2012 collection of quotations: 9
Für ein zufriedenes Leben braucht man neun Dinge:
Genügend Gesundheit, dass die Arbeit Freude macht.
Genügend Wohlstand, um seine Bedürfnisse zu befriedigen.
Genügend Kraft, um mit seinen Schwierigkeiten zu kämpfen und sie zu besiegen.
Genügend Gnade, um seine Sünden zu bekennen und zu überwinden.
Genügend Geduld, um sich zu bemühen, bis etwas Gutes zustande gekommen ist.
Genügend Nächstenliebe, um in seinen Nachbarn etwas Gutes zu entdecken.
Genügend Liebe, um sich zu entschließen, anderen zu helfen.
Genügend Glaube, um die wahren Werke Gottes zu tun.
Genügend Hoffnung, dass all die angstvollen Zukunftsgedanken schwinden.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In conclusion, Reverend William D. Smith should be credited with the collection of fifteen items in the January 1904 citation. The items in “The Nine Requisites for Contented Living” were a subset of the fifteen with slight alterations and therefore should be credited to Smith primarily. The ascription to Goethe was unsupported, and it may have been caused by the placement of a quotation attributed to Goethe adjacent to a group of items from Smith.
(Great thanks to Dagny Villegas whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Villegas is a librarian, and the question was posed on behalf of a library patron. Special thanks to Mathias who told QI about the German language version of the Nine Requisites.)
- 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 ↩
- 1904 December 30, The Lutheran Observer, Volume 72, A New Year’s Greeting by Rev. William D. Smith, Quote Page 1685, Column 3, (Quote Page 21 within issue), Lancaster and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1907 January 10, Northern Christian Advocate, A New Year’s Greeting, Quote Page 22, Column 1, Syracuse, New York. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1914 June 4, The Christian Register, Spiritual Life, Quote Page 537, Column 1 and 2, The Christian Association, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1914 June 14, Dallas Morning News, Part 3, Page 2 Title: Realm of Religion, Short Sermons, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Dallas, Texas. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1914 August 12, The Christian World Pulpit, Fragments of Thought, Quote Page 111, Column 3, Printed by James Clarke and Company, Fleet Street, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link ↩
- 1915 January, Illinois Central Magazine, Volume 3, Number 7, Happy New Year, Quote Page 96, Column 1 and 2, Published by the Illinois Central R. R. Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1935 April 11, The Gazette and Daily, For a Contented Life, Quote Page 14, Column 3, York, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 2012, Title: Auf den Punkt gebracht!: Lebensweisheiten für Alltagssituationen, Author: Hubert Hein, Quote Page 14, Publication Information: Druck und Verlag: epubli GmbH Berlin, www.epubli.de. (Google Books Preview) ↩