Be Moderate In Everything Including Moderation

Mark Twain? Oscar Wilde? Socrates? Nancy Weber? Judy Tillinger? Horace Porter? J. F. Carter? Gaius Petronius Arbiter? James Ogilvy? Thomas Paine? Voltaire? Richard A. Posner? Benjamin Franklin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The ancient Greek poet Hesiod stated:[ref] 2008, Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Fifth Edition, Edited by Jennifer Speake, Entry: Moderation in all things, Quote Page 213, Oxford University Press, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things.

An extended version of this statement has been attributed to many famous people including Socrates, Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, and Mark Twain. Here are two versions:

(1) All things in moderation, including moderation.
(2) Be moderate in everything, including moderation.

I am skeptical about all these ascriptions for the extended statement. Would you please explore this topic, and help me to find solid citations?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for attributing this extended statement to any of the five people listed above. It is difficult to trace.

A collection based on ancient Greek poetry titled “Pagan Pictures” contained a pertinent four line verse called “Moderation”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1927, Pagan Pictures: Freely Translated and Fully Expanded from the Greek Anthology & the Greek Lyrical Poets by Wallace Rice, Quote Page 153, Boni & Liveright, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to the University of North Carolina library system) [/ref]

Nothing too much, doth Chilo say?
Be moderate despite temptation?
Aye; moderate in every way
Be moderate in moderation.

The biographical notes for “Pagan Pictures” stated that the material was based on the Planudean anthology, the Palatine anthology, and epigrams transcribed from ancient monuments. “Pagan Pictures” was published in 1927, and the collection did not specify an author or provide a precise citation for the verse “Moderation”. Thus, its provenance and date remain uncertain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Political activist Thomas Paine expressed a dual viewpoint about moderation in a letter he penned and published 1792:[ref] 1792, A Letter Addressed to the Addressers, On the Late Proclamation by Thomas Paine, Quote Page 40, Printed and Sold by the Booksellers, London. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

Those words, “temperate and moderate,” are words either of political cowardice, or of cunning, or seduction.—A thing, moderately good, is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is a species of vice.

A character in Oscar Wilde’s 1893 play “A Woman of No Importance” championed moderation, but another character vehemently disagreed:[ref] 1907, The Writings of Oscar Wilde, Uniform Edition, A Woman of No Importance (Play first performed in 1893), Third Act, Quote Page 121, Keller-Farmer Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

LADY HUNSTANTON. I don’t believe in women thinking too much. Women should think in moderation, as they should do all things in moderation.

LORD ILLINGWORTH. Moderation is a fatal thing, Lady Hunstanton. Nothing succeeds like excess.

In 1909 Mark Twain delivered an address to the graduating students at Misses Tewksbury’s School in Baltimore, Maryland. He made humorous remarks about moderation:[ref] 1976, Mark Twain Speaking, Edited by Paul Fatout, Speech: Remarks, Location: The Misses Tewksbury’s School Graduation, Date: June 9, 1909, Start Page 645, Quote Page 645, Published by University of Iowa Press, Iowa City. (Verified on paper) [/ref]

First, girls, don’t smoke—that is, don’t smoke to excess. I am seventy-three and one half years old, and have been smoking seventy-three of them. But I never smoke to excess—that is, I smoke in moderation, only one cigar at a time.
Second, don’t drink—that is, don’t drink to excess.
Third, don’t marry—I mean, to excess.

In 1927 the collection “Pagan Pictures” appeared with the four line verse titled “Moderation” as mentioned at the beginning of this article:

Nothing too much, doth Chilo say?
Be moderate despite temptation?
Aye; moderate in every way
Be moderate in moderation.

In December 1927 “The Daily Mail” of Hull, England printed a column from the editors titled “‘Mail’ Mustard and Cress” which listed a collection of miscellaneous short items including the following:[ref] 1927 December 29, The Daily Mail, “Mail” Mustard and Cress, Quote Page 1, Column 8, Hull, Humberside, England. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

Our Advice.—Be moderate in everything including moderation.

In February 1928 “Hardware Dealers’ Magazine” printed the saying while acknowledging a college student periodical:[ref] 1928 February 1, Hardware Dealers’ Magazine, Volume 69, Number 2, The Smile Sheet, Quote Page 68, Column 2, Published by Edwin C. Johnston and Franklin Johnston for Hardware Dealers’ Magazine Inc., New York. (ProQuest) [/ref]

Be moderate in everything including moderation.
—Yale Record

In April 1928 “The Washington Post” suggested that the saying was from ancient Greece. The evidence proffered was clearly based on the verse in “Pagan Pictures”:[ref] 1928 April 18, The Washington Post, Old, But Good, Quote Page 6, Column 6, Washington D.C. (ProQuest) [/ref]

The Literary Digest, which each week prints a page of humorous bits taken from current publications, presents an epigram that originally appeared in the Yale News: “Be moderate in all things, including moderation.” The same wheeze, remarks the Argonaut, was current among the ancient Greeks in the form of a proverb that went as follows:

Nothing too much, doth Chilo say?
Be moderate despite temptation?
Aye; moderate in every way
Be moderate in moderation.

Aye; the bright collegians that edit Yale News should be moderate in all things, including plagiarism.

In 1943 “Esar’s Comic Dictionary” by Evan Esar contained the following entry:[ref] 1943, Esar’s Comic Dictionary by Evan Esar, Quote Page 183, Harvest House, New York. (Verified on paper) [/ref]

Be moderate in all things, including moderation.

In February 1946 the saying appeared in the syndicated newspaper column “Office Cat” by Junius:[ref] 1946 February 26, The Decatur Daily, Office Cat by Junius, Quote Page 4, Column 6, Decatur, Alabama. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

When a man is wrong and won’t admit it he always gets angry … Be moderate in all things including moderation … We never knew anybody who thought easy payments were easy.

In May 1946 the saying appeared in the syndicated column “Daffynitions”:[ref] 1946 May 20, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daffynitions, Quote Page 14, Column 2, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

CONSERVATIVE: One who’s moderate in all things, including moderation.

The biography “Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind” by David Cesarani presented a germane comment that author Koestler penned in his diary in January 1956:[ref] 1998, Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind by David Cesarani, Chapter 11: Hanging and Science 1955-60, Quote Page 442, (Source note stated that remark was written in diary-notebook (DN) in January 1956), William Heineman, London. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

In his reflections for the new year he noted: ‘I am now committed to moderation. But moderation must be moderate, i.e. admit occasional excess, otherwise moderation becomes excessive.’

Author Nancy Weber gathered items from students’ notebooks at Sarah Lawrence College and published them in the periodical “Story” in 1961. Material was reprinted in “Fiction Writer’s Handbook” in 1975. Here is an excerpt:[ref] 1991 (1975 Copyright), Fiction Writer’s Handbook by Hallie Burnett and Whit Burnett, Chapter 3: Notebooks and Diaries, Quote Page 91, (Items gathered by Nancy Weber from students’ notebooks at Sarah Lawrence College in 1961), HarperPerennial: A Division Harper Collins, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

“Nothing is good in excess, including moderation.”

“There is no greater fanatic than the man who stands solidly in the middle of the road.”

“It’s not that I don’t like him; but when we’re together, I’m bored with myself.”

In 1966 “The New York Times Book Review” described the office of a publishing executive at Viking Press. The saying was written on the ceiling:[ref] 1966 May 8, New York Times, Section: The New York Times Book Review, In and Out of Children’s Books by Lewis Nichols, Quote Page 42, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest) [/ref]

Her office at Viking was designed by architect Eric Gugler, and on the ceiling is a large bas relief of Taurus the bull and a Latin motto which, translated, reads, “Everything in moderation, including moderation itself.” The room was built in 1939 when Viking was on Forty-eighth Street and was moved intact to its present quarters.

The 1977 book “Many Dimensional Man: Decentralizing Self, Society, and the Sacred” by educator James Ogilvy included the following passage:[ref] 1977, Many Dimensional Man: Decentralizing Self, Society, and the Sacred by James Ogilvy, Chapter 3: The Structure of Subjectivity, Quote Page 106, Oxford University Press, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

We must know that as soon as we admit Dionysus into our pantheon of intrapersonal selves we have modified the Apollonian saying, “All things in moderation,” to the self-referentially more consistent saying, “All things in moderation—including moderation.” Even Apollo is truer to himself when struggling in fraternal union with Dionysus.

The 1983 compilation “Good Quotes for Speakers” from Gerald F. Lieberman contained an entry attributing the saying to a U.S. soldier and diplomat:[ref] 1983, 3,500 Good Quotes for Speakers, Compiled by Gerald F. Lieberman, Topic: Moderation, Quote Page 155, Doubleday, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Be moderate in everything, including moderation.
Horace Porter

In 1989 “The New Official Rules: Maxims for Muddling Through to the Twenty-First Century” credited a New York woman with the saying:[ref] 1989, The New Official Rules: Maxims for Muddling Through to the Twenty-First Century, Compiled by Paul Dickson, Quote Page ???, Published by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper) [/ref]

Tillinger’s Rule. Moderation in all things, including moderation.
— Judy Tillinger, New York, N.Y.

Also, in 1989 “The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business of Life” contained an entry crediting another person:[ref] 1989 Copyright, The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business of Life by Forbes Magazine, Ascription: J.F. Carter, Quote Page 340, B. C. Forbes & Sons Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

I believe in moderation in all things, including moderation. —J.F. Carter

In 1990 influential legal thinker Richard A. Posner published “The Problems of Jurisprudence”, and he attributed the saying to the famous French wit Voltaire:[ref] 1990, The Problems of Jurisprudence by Richard A. Posner, Chapter 15: A Pragmatist Manifesto, Quote Page 461, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Have I, therefore, ended at dead center, violating Voltaire’s dictum (improving on Socrates) to be moderate in everything, including moderation?

In 1992 British author Peter Mayle tentatively attributed the saying to Oscar Wilde:[ref] 1993 (1992 Copyright), Acquired Tastes by Peter Mayle, Chapter 17: New Year’s Resolutions, Quote Page 151, Bantam Books, New York. (Google Books Preview) [/ref]

Someone, I think it might have been Oscar Wilde, said: “Moderation in all things—including moderation.”

In 2000 best-selling author Robert Ludlum published “The Prometheus Deception”, and a character in the book credited Roman courtier Gaius Petronius Arbiter:[ref] 2001 (2000 Copyright), The Prometheus Deception by Robert Ludlum, Chapter 2, Quote Page 30, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

“You can come by and pick up your papers now. And enjoy your weekend, as much as you deem wise. Just remember Petronius: Moderation in all things. Including moderation.”

In 2011 an editorial in a Decatur, Illinois newspaper credited a well-known U.S. statesman:[ref] 2011 August 5, Herald and Review, Opinion: Our Views, Quote Page A4, Column 4, Decatur, Illinois. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

She should have listened to that wise sage, Benjamin Franklin, who once said: “Moderation in all things — including moderation.”

In conclusion, the earliest match in English located by QI appeared in the 1927 book “Pagan Pictures” within a four line verse titled “Moderation”. The verse was based on ancient Greek poetry, but the author was unnamed, and a precise citation was not provided. Variations of the saying appeared during the ensuing decades. The ascriptions to prominent people like Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Socrates, Horace Porter, Gaius Petronius Arbiter, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Benjamin Franklin are currently unsupported.

Image Notes: Picture of carefully balanced stones adjacent to a body of water symbolizing moderation. Image from Stephanie Albert at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Courtney Nester, Jessica Metzger, and abbort whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to Bonnie Taylor-Blake and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill library system. Taylor-Blake helped QI by accessing the book “Pagan Pictures”. Thanks also to researchers Nigel Rees, Mardy Grothe, and Fred R. Shapiro who examined the topic of moderation in their newsletters and/or books. Additional thanks to William Green who mentioned the attribution to Horace Porter.)

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