The Love You Give Away Is the Only Love You Keep

Elbert Hubbard? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

love11Dear Quote Investigator: I’m intrigued by the following counter-intuitive adage:

The love we give away is the only love we keep.

Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: Elbert Hubbard was the founder of a community of artisans called Roycrofters who were located in East Aurora, New York. He also collected and synthesized adages which appeared in his books and periodicals. The December 1902 edition of “The Philistine” included the following passage from Hubbard. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The Law of Consequences works both ways: by associating with the sinner and recognizing the good in him, you unconsciously recognize the good in yourself. The love you give away is the only love you keep—by benefiting another you benefit yourself.

The above instance used the pronoun “you” instead of “we”. Hubbard constructed and disseminated a few variant statements.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack” of 1755 included a statement that matched the theme under exploration. The words of the expression were interleaved with astronomical facts concerning February 1755: 2

If you would be loved, love and be loveable.

Hubbard printed the following instance as an epigraph to an article in the February 1903 issue of “The Philistine”: 3

The love you give away is the only love you can keep and carry in your heart.

In “The Philistine” issue of August 1905 Hubbard applied the saying to the domain of work: 4

Art is the beautiful way of doing things. There is quite a list of things I do not know, but set this down as beyond dispute: There can be no art without love, and the love you keep is the love you liberate in your work.

In the same August 1905 issue of “The Philistine” Hubbard modified his initial saying to use the pronoun “we” instead of “you”. The following passage was reminiscent of “new thought” philosophy: 5

We receive from others exactly what we give out—others treat us as we treat them. All the wrong we do comes back to plague us. The love we give away is the love we keep. Love goes to those who give love.

In September 1905 the periodical “Mind: Science, Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, Metaphysics” printed an instance without attribution: 6

The love you liberate in your work is the only love you keep.

Hubbard was eager to promote his words and ideas. In November 1905 “Good Housekeeping” printed a message he sent to the magazine together with their comment: 7

I must congratulate Good Housekeeping on the good, plain common sense expressed in October on the food question. The work certainly has my entire sympathy. You are benefiting the race by your efforts in this particular line.
Elbert Hubbard.

Our friend adds the pithy quotation: “The love you liberate in your work is the only love you keep.”

In January 1909 Hubbard published an issue of “The Fra: A Journal of Affirmation” that presented a spiritual perspective to the adage: 8

Our religion is one of humanity. Our desire is to serve. We know that we can only help ourselves as we help others, and that the love we give away is the only love we keep.

We have no fears of the future, for we have no reason to believe that the Power which cares for us in this life will ever desert us in another.

Also, in 1909 a collection titled “The Loving Cup: Original Toasts by Original Folks” edited Wilbur D. Nesbit included an instance ascribed to Hubbard: 9

GIVING AND KEEPING
The love you give away is the only love you keep. —Elbert Hubbard.

Quotation expert Mardy Grothe included the saying in his compilation “Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History’s Greatest Wordsmiths”: 10

The love we give away is the only love we keep.
ELBERT HUBBARD

In conclusion, Elbert Hubbard sometimes constructed sayings by reworking existing adages. Nevertheless, the statements above from his pen appear to be sufficiently novel that he deserves credit. Certainly, he was important to their popularization.

Images Notes: A ring with a shadow showing a heart from animus at Pixabay. Hands holding a globe from Nemo at Pixabay. A couple kissing in silhouette from InspiredImages at Pixabay. Images have been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Mardy Grothe whose book “Oxymoronica” and email newsletter referenced this saying which led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Grothe is the author of the forthcoming opus “Metaphors Be With You”. His website is located here.)
http://www.drmardy.com/

Notes:

  1. 1902 December, The Philistine, Volume 16, Number 1, Heart to Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, Start Page 1, Quote Page 13 and 14, Society of the Philistines, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1755, Poor Richard improved: Being an Almanack and Ephemeris of the Motions of the Sun and Moon; The True Places and Aspects of the Planets (Poor Richard’s Almanac), Benjamin Franklin, Month: February, Column: Aspects, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Images from volume at Rosenbach Museum & Library; accessed at rarebookroom.org on October 29, 2016)
  3. 1903 February, The Philistine, Volume 16, Number 3, Heart to Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, (Quotation given in epigraph), Start Page 65, Quote Page 65, Society of the Philistines, East Aurora, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  4. 1905 August, The Philistine, Volume 21, Number 3, Heart to Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, Start Page 65, Quote Page 78, Society of the Philistines, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  5. 1905 August, The Philistine, Volume 21, Number 3, Heart to Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, Start Page 65, Quote Page 70, Society of the Philistines, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  6. 1905 September, Mind: Science, Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, Metaphysics, Volume 16, Number 3, (Filler item), Quote Page 829, Published Monthly by Upland Farms Alliance, Easton, Pennsylvania. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  7. 1905 November, Good Housekeeping, Volume 41, Number 5, Letter from Elbert Hubbard together with a response, Quote Page 534, Column 2, Hearst Corp., New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  8. 1909 January, The Fra: A Journal of Affirmation, Volume 2, Number 4, Joint Debate: Hubbard-Albertson, Start Page 49, Quote Page 56, E. Hubbard, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  9. 1909 Copyright, The Loving Cup: Original Toasts by Original Folks, Edited by Wilbur D. Nesbit, Eighth Edition, Quote Page 7, Published by P. F. Volland & Company, Chicago, Illinois. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  10. 2004, Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History’s Greatest Wordsmiths by Mardy Grothe, Topic: sex, love, & romance, Quote Page 63, Publisher HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified on paper)