Mark Twain? Madame de Sévigné? Madame Roland? Alphonse de Lamartine? Alphonse Toussenel? Louise de la Rameé? Alfred D’Orsay? Thomas Carlyle? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: A popular expression combines disappointment with humanity together with praise for canines. Here are four versions:
- The more I see of men, the more I like dogs.
- The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.
- The more I know about people, the better I like my dog.
- The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.
These words have been attributed to Mark Twain and Alphonse Toussenel. Would you please explore the statement’s provenance?
Quote Investigator: Top quotation researcher Ralph Keyes remarked on the long history of ascriptions to a variety of famous French figures: 1
They include the inimitable letter-writer Madame de Sévigné (Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné, 1626-1696), the revolutionary writer Madame Roland (Marie-Jeanne Philipon, 1754-1793), author-politician Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869), author Alphonse Toussenel (1803-1885), and author Louise de la Rameé (1839-1908).
Yet, QI and other researchers have not yet found any published evidence in the 1600s or 1700s; hence, the linkage to Madame de Sévigné and Madame Roland is currently unsupported.
The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in “Tablettes Historiques et Littéraires” in 1822, and the attribution was anonymous. Passages in French are followed by English translations. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2
Nous venons de recevoir le Miroir de la Somme, il contient les niaiseries suivantes: Une dame disait l’autre jour: plus je connais les hommes, mieux j’aime les chiens.
We just received the Mirror of the Somme, it contains the following nonsense: A lady said the other day: the more I know men, the better I like dogs.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1847 Alphonse Toussenel published “L’Esprit des Bêtes” (“Spirit of the Beasts”) which included the following: 3
Résumons par un trait notre opinion sur le Chien: Plus on apprend à connaître l’homme, plus on apprend à estimer le chien.
Let’s summarize by a line our opinion on the Dog: The more one gets to know of men, the more one values dogs.
In December 1847 the periodical “L’Illustration: Journal Universel” printed an article crediting an unnamed philosopher with the saying: 4
Je m’éloignai, triste, et en murmurant cette pensée d’un philosophe moderne:
« Plus je connais les hommes, plus j’estime les chiens. »
I walked away, sad, and murmuring this thought of a modern philosopher:
“The more I know men, the more I value dogs.”
In 1852 the journals “Revue Britannique” of Paris 5 and “The New Monthly Magazine” of London published articles about Count Alfred D’Orsay who had died in that year. The journals reprinted letters written by D’Orsay including an 1850 missive that mentioned dining with the authors Alphonse de Lamartine and Victor Hugo. D’Orsay credited Lamartine with a version of the remark aimed at politicians: 6
Une autre fois je vous parlerai politique, c’est trop dégoutant pour le moment.
Lamartine me disoit hier: ‘Plus je vois des représentants du peuple, plus j’aime mes chiens.’
Another time I’ll talk politics, it’s too disgusting for the moment.
Lamartine told me yesterday: ‘The more I see representatives of the people, the more I love my dogs.’
“The New Monthly Magazine” mentioned above was an English language journal; however, the letters of Count D’Orsay (and the saying under analysis) were presented in French.
In 1855 a book about “The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington” included an appendix containing letters written by Count D’Orsay in French. The book indicated that the statement about dogs was sent from D’Orsay to his friend John Foster. 7
In 1869 a periodical titled “Le Lorgnon” by Aurélien Scholl ascribed to Lamartine a modified statement without “représentants du people”: 8
Ah! que je comprends bien Lamartine s’écriant, l’autre soir, à son foyer: « Plus je vois les hommes, plus j’aime les chiens! »
Ah! That I understand Lamartine exclaiming the other night at his home: “The more I see men, the more I love dogs!”
In 1872 the periodical “Les Modes Parisiennes” of Paris also credited Lamartine with an altered expression: 9
« Plus je vois les hommes, plus j’aime les chiens », disait Lamartine au comte d’Orsay, un peu après 1848.
“The more I see men, the more I love dogs,” said Lamartine to Count D’Orsay, a little after 1848.
In 1877 a biographical work “The Life of Napoleon III” included an English language version of the saying ascribed to Lamartine: 10
No wonder that at this time of profound discouragement Lamartine said: ‘The more I see of the representatives of the people, the more I love my dogs.’
In 1881 “London Society: An Illustrated Magazine” published a short story containing an instance in English: 11
Some one once said in reply to a similar charge, “The more I know of men, the more I admire dogs.” Well, that is a little my feeling. Horses and dogs are genuine, they never forget a friend; and if you love them and show it, they will love you back with no reserve, with entire trust, and for yourself alone.
In 1908 an inquiry about the saying appeared in “Notes and Queries”, and the words were attributed to Madame Roland: 12
Which of the subjoined forms of quotation is correct—“Plus je connais les hommes, plus j’aime les chiens,” or “Plus je connais les hommes, plus j’admire les chiens”? I have seen it given both ways. The saying is, I believe, attributed to Madame Roland.
In 1917 a story titled “The Trail of a Trapper” by Billy Snow described a person who posted the saying on a wall: 13
One time a follow that I’d guided sent me a picture of the homeliest pup you ever saw, and under it was printed:
“The more I see of some folks the more I like my dog.”
I tacked it up on the wall of the cabin and I’ve heard lots of people say:
“That’s mighty true. The fellow who wrote that knew what he was talking about.”
QI has found no substantive evidence that Mark Twain made this remark. No match was found during a search of the important “Twain Quotes” website edited by Barbara Schmidt. 14 Also, no match was found in the large compilation “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger. 15 Twain died in 1910, and the expression was attributed to him by 1918 in a trade journal called “The National Drug Clerk”: 16
. . . we feel as Mark Twain, I believe, expressed it, “The more I see of some people, the better I like my dog.”
In 1923 satirist Thomas Carlyle received credit in a trade journal called “Wholesale Grocery Review”: 17
It was Carlyle, cynical and desperate in his mad hatred of humanity, who said: ‘The more I see of men, the more I like my dog.’
Image Notes: Collection of dog pictures from cocoparisienne at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.
In conclusion, this article presents a snapshot of current research. The first citation in 1822 provides an anonymous attribution. There is solid evidence that Alphonse Toussenel and Alphonse de Lamartine employed instances of the saying and helped to popularize it, but the expression was already in circulation. The linkage to individuals who lived in the 1600s and 1700s is unsupported.
(Great thanks to Laurence Horn whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to previous researchers Ralph Keyes, Fred R. Shapiro, Nigel Rees, and Barry Popik. Also, thanks to discussant Jonathan Lighter.)
- 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page 47, 48 and 283, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩
- 1822 November 13, Tablettes Historiques et Littéraires: Journal de l’industrie, des mœurs, des théâtres et des beaux arts, Supplément, Mélanges, Start Page 37, Quote Page 38, Lyons, France. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1847, Title: L’Esprit des Bêtes: Vénerie Française et Zoologie Passionnelle, Author: Alphonse Toussenel, Chapter: 3, Section: Le Chien, Start Page 144, Quote Page 179, Publisher: Librairie Sociétaire, Paris. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1847 December 11, Periodical: L’Illustration: Journal Universel, Volume 10, Le Convoi du Pauvre: Souvenir D’Étudiant, Author: B.P., Start Page 230, Quote Page 231, Column 2, Publisher: Chez J. Dubochet et Cie, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1852, Revue Britannique: Recueil International, Article: Biographie: Le Comte Alfred D’Orsay, Start Page 199, Letter from: Comte Alfred d’Orsay, Quote Page 226, Au Bureau de La Revue, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1852, The New Monthly Magazine, Editor: W. Harrison Ainsworth, Volume 96, Count D’Orsay, Start Page 112, Letter from: Count D’Orsay (Alfred D’Orsay), Letter location: Rue de la Ville L’Eveque, Paris, Letter date: April 23, 1850, Quote Page 125, Chapman and Hall, London. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1855, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington by R. R. Madden (Richard Robert Madden), Volume 1, Appendix Section: Letters from Count D’Orsay to John Foster, Letter location: Rue de la Ville L’Eveque, Paris, Letter date: April 23, 1850, Start Page 377, Quote Page 388, T. C. Newby Publisher. London. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1869 October 23, Le Lorgnon by Aurélien Scholl, Number 3, Quote Page 39, Bureaux, Paris. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1872 March 9, Periodical: Les Modes Parisiennes, Article: Petit Courrier, Start Page 116, Quote Page 118, Publisher: Chez Le Successeur D’Aubert et Cie, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1877, The Life of Napoleon III by Blanchard Jerrold, Volume 3 of 4, Book 7: The Presidency, Quote Page 124, Longman’s, Green, and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1881, London Society: An Illustrated Magazine, The Christmas Number for 1881, Jack’s Wife, Start Page 65, Quote Page 71, Column 2, London, England. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1908 September 5, Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc., Inquiry from: Frances Burmeister (Wrentham Lodge, Bournemouth), Quote Page 188, Column 1, Published at the Office, London. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1917 December, Outer’s Book: Recreation, Volumes 57, Number 6, The Trail of a Trapper by Billy Snow, Start Page 419, Quote Page 419, The Outer’s Book Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched January 10, 2018) ↩
- 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩
- 1918 April, The National Drug Clerk, Volume 6, Number 4, Some Everyday Incidents in the Life of a Pharmacist by Zeb W. Rike, Ph. G., Start Page 286, Quote Page 286, The National Association of Drug Clerks, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1923 December, Wholesale Grocery Review, Volumes 24, Number 11, More Cooperation Needed Among Grocers: President McLaurin Tells Georgia Dealers How Wholesaler and Retailer May Work Together, Start Page 12, Quote Page 12, Lighter Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link ↩