I Never Seek To Take the Credit; We All Assume That Oscar Said It

Dorothy Parker? Louella Parsons? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The 19th-century Irish playwright Oscar Wilde is a superstar in the realm of quotations, and many scintillating expressions have been incorrectly attributed to him. A humorous verse about this phenomenon was composed by another wit, Dorothy Parker. The verse ends with this line:

We all assume that Oscar said it.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1927 Dorothy Parker published in “Life” magazine a set of eleven comical short verses about prominent literary figures under the title “A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature”. The following four lines were about Oscar Wilde. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

Below are additional details and selected citations in chronological order.

In 1928 Parker published “Sunset Gun”, a collection of poems, which included the verse about Wilde. 2

Also, in 1928 a columnist in “The Pittsburgh Press” of Pennsylvania examined Parker’s book and reprinted several poems including the one about Wilde: 3

Interestingly, Parker also achieved the high level of fame that attracted misattributions. In 1925 the gossip columnist Louella Parsons discussed the prevalence of faulty ascriptions: 4

Samuel Goldwyn says if he were clever enough to say half the ridiculous things attributed to him he would give up producing pictures and become another Will Rogers.

Just as every New York wisecrack is attributed to Dorothy Parker and every Hollywood bon mot used to be laid in the late Wilson Mizner’s lap, so is every verbal gymnastic credited to Samuel Goldwyn. He has become nationally known as the Mr. Malaprop of the movies.

In conclusion, Dorothy Parker deserves credit for the verse she wrote about Oscar Wilde in 1927.

Notes:

  1. 1927 June 2, Life, A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature by Dorothy Parker, Poem: Oscar Wilde, Start Page 13, Quote Page 13, Office of Life Magazine, New York. (ProQuest American Periodicals)
  2. 1941 (Copyright 1928), Sunset Gun: Poems by Dorothy Parker, A Pig’s-Eye View of Literature: Oscar Wilde, Quote Page 30, The Sun Dial Press, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1928 June 4, The Pittsburgh Press, I Dare Say by Florence Fisher Parry, (Six poems from the “Sunset Gun” collection by Dorothy Parker were reprinted in this column), Quote Page 21, Column 8, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1935 January 13, The San Francisco Examiner, Goldwyn Myth Exploded by Louella O. Parsons, Quote Page 6E, Column 4, San Francisco, California. (Newspapers_com)