Wear a Smile and Have Friends; Wear a Scowl and Have Wrinkles

George Eliot? Mary Ann Evans? F. O. Hamilton? Lillie Langtry? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following adage encourages sociability and the projection of happiness:

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.

This statement has been credited to George Eliot, a popular Victorian era novelist whose real name was Mary Ann Evans. I am skeptical of this ascription because I have been unable to find a solid citation. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that George Eliot who died in 1880 spoke or wrote this quotation. The earliest close match located by QI appeared in a 1938 article about friendship by F. O. Hamilton. The statement was adjacent to a remark attributed to George Eliot. Shortly afterward the two statements from the essay were quoted together, and both were mistakenly attributed to Eliot. The details are given further below.

The notion that smiling will help a person to gain friends has a long history. In 1871 a newspaper in Yorkville, South Carolina printed the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

It is just as easy to smile as it is to frown. A smile will make you friends, and a frown will make you enemies.

The above statement partially matched the quotation, but it referred to frowning instead of scowling.

In 1906 a newspaper in Topeka, Kansas printed beauty advice from famed British actress and society figure Lillie Langtry. Her remark partially matched the quotation under examination: 2

“Feeling young is looking young. That is all. Mind over matter, you know. I do not worry and therefore do not scowl. Scowling makes wrinkles.

In 1907 a newspaper in Dixon, Illinois printed a humorous counterpoint to the advice about scowling: 3

Here’s a funny proposition. Whether you laugh or you scowl, you’ll have wrinkles just the same.

In May 1938 F. O. Hamilton published an essay about friendship which was part of a series of pieces under the title “Christian Endeavor News” printed in a Duncannon, Pennsylvania newspaper. An exact match for the quotation occurred in this essay: 4

No friends can be made until you have shown that you are a friend. Do not forget you must face your friends after the goods have been delivered. Wear a smile and have friends, wear a scowl and have wrinkles.

What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other? Always remember, a person wrapped up in himself always makes a very small package.

In the passage above the statement about smiling and frowning is followed by a streamlined version of a quotation from “Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life” by George Eliot. QI has created a separate article about this Eliot quotation which is available here.

Hamilton’s essay contained multiple unattributed sayings and quotations. QI has a separate article examining the quip about a package which is available here.

In September 1938 two statements from the essay appeared together in “The Kerrville Times” of Kerrville, Texas. The combination was prominently printed in the upper right corner of the front page of the newspaper. George Eliot incorrectly received credit for both statements: 5

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?
—GEORGE ELIOT.

In 1941 a Pittsburg, Kansas newspaper printed the saying while acknowledging another newspaper in Kansas. Eliot was unmentioned: 6

Wear a smile, you will have friends. Wear a scowl, you will have wrinkles. Take your choice.
—Hiawatha World.

In 1949 “The San Bernardino Daily Sun” newspaper of California printed an advertisement containing the same two statements appearing in the September 1938 citation. George Eliot received credit: 7

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?
—George Eliot.

In 1951 the single statement was credited to Eliot in a Salem, Oregon newspaper: 8

Quote for the Day
Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.
—George Eliot.

In conclusion, the quotation was employed by F. O. Hamilton in May 1938, and QI tentatively credits Hamilton with coining it. Matching fragments of the expression were circulating many years earlier. Also, Hamilton included unattributed sayings in his essays, so he may have acquired the remark from another person who is currently unknown.

The ascription to George Eliot is unsupported. The quotation about smiling and frowning appeared adjacent to a statement about the purpose of life in Hamilton’s essay. The latter statement was based on an authentic Eliot quotation. The two statements were combined which led to confusion and a misattribution.

Image Notes: Illustration of masks for tragedy and comedy from Clker-Free-Vector-Images at Pixabay. Portrait of George Eliot by the Swiss artist Alexandre-Louis-François d’Albert-Durade. Replica made between 1849 and 1886 accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Images have been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Simon Koppel whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Koppel asked about the combined statements in the 1938 citations which continue to circulate today.)

Notes:

  1. 1871 January 12, Yorkville Enquirer, Children’s Department: How To Be a Man, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Yorkville, South Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1906 November 10, The Topeka Daily Herald, How She Keeps Young: Lily Langtry Tells the Secret of Preservation, Quote Page 5, Column 1, Topeka, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1907 August 8, Dixon Evening Telegraph, Dement Town Doings, Quote Page 5, Column 2, Dixon, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1938 May 12, The Duncannon Record, Christian Endeavor News by F. O. Hamilton, Quote Page 3, Column 3, Duncannon, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1938 September 22, The Kerrville Times, (Box in upper right corner containing a quotation), Quote Page 1, Column 8, Kerrville, Texas. (Newspapers_com)
  6. 1941 January 9, The Pittsburg Advertiser, Kansas Klippings, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Pittsburg, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)
  7. 1949 February 25, The San Bernardino Daily Sun, (Advertisement for Circle Laundry), Quote Page 16, Column 6, San Bernardino, California. (Newspapers_com)
  8. 1951 July 11, The Oregon Statesman (Statesman Journal), Quote for the Day, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Salem, Oregon. (Newspapers_com)