Never Forget To Remember Those That Have Stuck By You

Irish Saying? Levi Furbush? Harold Keating? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following expression was mentioned in the news recently:

Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue,
but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.

Would you please rapidly conduct an examination of its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest appearance known to QI occurred in “The Gazette and Daily” of York, Pennsylvania on March 3, 1936. The two stanzas below were contained within a three stanza poem titled “Remember” ascribed to Levi Furbush. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Always remember to forget
The things that made you sad.
But never forget to remember
The things that made you glad.

Always remember to forget
The friends that proved untrue,
But never forget to remember
Those that have stuck by you.

The words were labeled an Irish saying in a 1976 book. See further below for details.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.




Marriage records for Woburn, Massachusetts indicate that Levi Furbush married a woman with a popular Irish surname in 1887. The verse may have been associated with Irish culture via this relationship. Warning: QI is not certain whether the Levi Furbush in this record is the same person who created the verse: 2

Woburn Records of Marriages
Bridget B. Gallagher and Levi Furbush both of Woburn, Oct. 26, 1887.

In 1915 the words “remember” and “forget” were used playfully by a columnist in Akron, Ohio. The two terms were repeated, permuted, and nested to create a long difficult to parse sentence. The verse under investigation employed a considerably simpler structure: 3

When we were studying the English language, we were under the impression that the examiners had picked out the hardest sentences possible for us to analyse, etc. We take it all back. Read this one:

“Have you ever thought how much easier it is to remember what one would rather forget than remember than forget what one would rather forget than remember, and how much easier it is to forget what one would rather remember than forget than remember what one would rather remember than forget? . . .

We do not know the author or the sentence he got for the sentence he wrote, but it ought to have been life at the least.

In June 1922 a poem titled “One Who Is Unfailing” published in a Charlotte, North Carolina newspaper contained a rhyme based on “friends all proved untrue” and “love for you”. 4

If trouble should ever come to you
Friends all proved untrue
There is one who remains unchanged
Your mother and her love for you.

In October 1922 a bank advertisement in Saint Paul, Minnesota employed a tagline similar to a line in the poem: 5

REMEMBER TO FORGET BUT NEVER FORGET TO REMEMBER THAT
Deposits made on or before Nov. 6th will draw 2 months interest January 1.

A matching verse appeared on March 3, 1936 as noted previously.

The Google Books database indicates that there is a match for the saying within “The International Stereotypers & Electrotypers’ Union Journal”. The journalist Sasha Lekach of “Mashable” tracked down the pertinent volume in a rare bookstore in San Francisco. She posted a digital scan of the first column of page 216 within the April 1936 issue of the journal. The poem was identical to the three verses in “The Gazette and Daily”. The words appeared at the end of a report form a Local Union. The name Harold Keating appeared after the poem, but he was not the poet, he was the Union Secretary who filed the report. 6

In May 1938 the poem appeared in the syndicated column “The Office Cat” by Junius. The ascription to Levi Furbush was maintained. The capitalization was slightly altered, and “stuck by you” was changed to “stuck to you”: 7

Always remember to forget the
friends that proved untrue,
But never forget to remember
those that have stuck to you.

In February 1940 the “Marion Progress” of Marion, North Carolina printed a version that matched the text from March 1936. The ascription was: 8

Levi Furbush in “Cheerful Letter.”

This might mean that the verse appeared in a Boston monthly called “The Cheerful Letter”:

In March 1940 “North Park College News” of Chicago Illinois printed the first and third stanzas under the title “Cheerful Letter” without an ascription: 9

Always remember to forget
The things that made you sad,
But never forget to remember
The things that made you glad!

Always remember to forget
The troubles that passed away,
But never forget to remember
The blessings that come each day.

In 1941 a columnist in a Washington, Missouri shared one of the verses and stated that he did not know the author’s identity. The variant phrase “stood by you” was included, and “ridiculous” was spelled “riduculous”: 10

Did you ever forget to remember something or remember to forget something? Sounds riduculous, doesn’t it? But it isn’t, I happened to come across a poem recently which read like this:

Always remember to forget
The friends that proved untrue,
But never forget to remember
Those that have stood by you.

A very sensible poem. By the way, I forgot to remember the author’s name.

An instance was included in a section of “Proverbs and Sayings” within the collection “Irish Wit & Wisdom” by Joan Larson Kelly with copyright 1976 from Peter Pauper Press. This was the earliest Irish connection located by QI: 11

Always remember to forget the things that made you sad
But never forget to remember the things that made you glad.
Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue
But don’t forget to remember those that have stuck by you.

Image Notes: Picture of letter tiles from Wokandapix at Pixabay.

(Thanks to Sasha Lekach for checking the citation in “The International Stereotypers & Electrotypers’ Union Journal”, and thanks to Ben Zimmer for locating the “The Gazette and Daily” citation. Thanks to Mike Caulfield and Ben Zimmer for pointing to the 1887 marriage record. Also, thanks to Peter Reitan pointing to the 1922 bank advertisement.)

Notes:

  1. 1936 March 3, The Gazette and Daily, Remember, Quote Page 12, Column 1, York, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1894, Woburn Records of Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Marriages, Part VI – Marriages: 1873-1890, Compiled by Edward F. Johnson, Quote Page 55, The News Print, Woburn, Massachusetts. (Google books Full View) link
  3. 1915 October 20, The Akron Times (Akron Evening Times), Section: The Times Magazine Page, Verse and Worse by Harry Varley, Editor: English as She Is Written, Quote Page 7, Column 4, Akron, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1922 June 7, The Charlotte Observer, One Who Is Unfailing (Verse 3), Quote Page 10, Column 3, Charlotte, North Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1922 October 28, The Appeal, (Advertisement for The State Savings Bank), Quote Page 3, Column 1, Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Chronicling America)
  6. Website: Mashable, Article title: So, we traced Trump’s ‘Irish proverb’ back to 1930s America, Article author: Sasha Lekach, Date on website: March 17, 2017, Website description: “Mashable is the go-to source for tech, digital culture and entertainment content for its dedicated and influential audience around the globe.” (Accessed mashable.com on March 18, 2017) link
  7. 1938 May 30, The Evening News, The Office Cat by Junius, Remember, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  8. 1940 February 8, Marion Progress, Remember, Quote Page 2, Column 2, Marion, North Carolina. (North Carolina Newspapers at newspapers.digitalnc.org)
  9. 1940 March 6, North Park College News, Cheerful Letter, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Chicago Illinois. (CARLI digital collections at collections.carli.illinois.edu)
  10. 1941 February 13, Washington Missourian, “Over the Back Fence” by Rosalie Eckelkamp, Quote Page 6, Column 5, Washington, Missouri. (Newspapers_com)
  11. 1976 Copyright, Irish Wit & Wisdom by Joan Larson Kelly, Section: Proverbs and Sayings, Quote Page 45, Peter Pauper Press, White Plains, New York. (Verified with scans; )