When a Man Loves Cats, I Am His Friend and Comrade

Mark Twain? Robert H. Hirst? Susy Clemens? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Several books about cats contain a quotation credited to humorist Mark Twain stating that Twain was a friend and comrade to people who love cats. I am skeptical of this  attribution, and I haven’t seen a citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 2009 Robert H. Hirst who is the general editor of the scholarly Mark Twain Project edited a book titled “Who is Mark Twain?” containing a collection of sketches and essays by Twain that were unpublished (or rarely published) previously.

A vignette dated September 1887 and titled “An Incident” described a meeting between Twain and a young man who was carrying a gun. Twain initially feared the youth was a “lunatic out gunning for men”. Next, he worried that a group of “four sorry-looking cats” were the target. But Twain learned that the youth was hoping to provide a meal for the cats. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]2010, Who is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain, Edited by Robert H. Hirst (General Editor of Mark Twain Project), Title of manuscript: An Incident, Editor’s date of manuscript: September 1887, Start … Continue reading

Aha!—so far from being a madman, he was saner, you see, than the average of our race; for he had a warm spot in him for cats. When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.

A couple more citations for this quotation are listed in the full article on the Medium website which is available here.

Image Notes: Public domain image of painting titled “Wild Cat” by Rosa Bonheur who died in 1899.

Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Karen__Rico whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.

References

References
1 2010, Who is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain, Edited by Robert H. Hirst (General Editor of Mark Twain Project), Title of manuscript: An Incident, Editor’s date of manuscript: September 1887, Start Page 165, Quote Page 166, HarperStudio: Imprint of HarperCollins, New York. (Verified with scans of paperback edition; hardcover was published in 2009)

Never Argue With Stupid People. They Will Drag You Down To Their Level and Then Beat You With Experience

Mark Twain? George Carlin? Yul Brynner? Jean Cocteau? Bob Gray? Dilbert? Scott Adams? Anonymous?

Illustration of a jester's hat from OpenClipart-Vectors at Pixabay.Question for Quote Investigator: Logic and careful reasoning are the ingredients of a constructive argument. Acrimony and irrationality are the elements of a fruitless argument. The celebrated humorist Mark Twain supposedly formulated the following cautionary remark. Here are two versions:

(1) Never argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience!

(2) Never argue with stupid people because they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

Comedian George Carlin has also received credit. I am skeptical of both of these attributions, and I have never seen solid citations. Would you please examine this saying?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The full version of this article with additional detailed information is available on the Medium website which is available by clicking here. The abbreviated article appears below.

QI has been unable to find substantive evidence crediting this remark to Mark Twain or George Carlin. It does not appear on the Twain Quotes website edited by Barbara Schmidt,[1]Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, (QI searched the website for quotations containing the phrase “with experience” or the phrase “drag you”. No pertinent match … Continue reading nor does it appear in the large compilation “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger.[2]1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, (QI searched for quotations containing the phrase “with experience” or the phrase “drag you”. No pertinent … Continue reading

Scholar Matt Seybold of Elmira College and the Center for Mark Twain Studies examined this saying and concluded that “Mark Twain never said these words, nor anything resembling them”.[3]Website: Center for Mark Twain Studies, Article title: The Apocryphal Twain: “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience”, Article author: … Continue reading George Carlin received credit many years after the quip was circulating.

QI conjectures that the quotation evolved over time. The Bible contains a thematically related passage in Proverbs 26:4. Here is the rendering from the New International Version. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[4]Website: Bible Hub, Article title: Parallel Verses of Proverbs 26:4, Translation: New International Version, Website description: Online Bible Study Suite. Bible hub is a production of the Online … Continue reading

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.

In 1878 April “The Daily Picayune” of New Orleans, Louisiana printed an adage depicting the underlying idea without attribution:[5] 1878 April 28, The Daily Picayune, (Untitled short item), Quote Page 4, Column 1, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Newspapers_com)

To argue with a fool is to make him your equal.

In May 1878 “The Rochester Evening Express” of Rochester, New York printed another precursor while acknowledging an Ohio source:[6] 1878 May 20, The Rochester Evening Express, Happy Thoughts, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Rochester, New York. (Old Fulton)

Don’t argue with a fool, or the listener will say there is a pair of you.—Cincinnati Breakfast Table.

QI has a separate article about a family of sayings incorrectly linked to Mark Twain which is available here: Never Argue With a Fool, Onlookers May Not Be Able To Tell the Difference.

In 1956 an Associated Press columnist spoke with the popular actor Yul Brynner who attributed a partially matching statement to prominent French artist Jean Cocteau:[7] 1956 November 13, The Daily Messenger, Bald, But Not Frustrated by Hal Boyle. Quote Page 8, Column 6, Canandaigua, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Yul said the greatest advice he ever received in life was given by the French writer Jean Cocteau, who told him:

“Never associate with idiots on their own level, because, being an intelligent man, you’ll try to deal with them on their level—and on their level they’ll beat you every time.”

The above statement used the word “associate” instead of “argue”, but within a few years the remark evolved toward the modern expression. In 1958 a columnist in “The Daily Tar Heel” of Chapel Hill, North Carolina used the word “argue”. The columnist also omitted Brynner’s name and attributed the words directly to Cocteau:[8] 1958 January 15, The Daily Tar Heel, A National Lottery: Is It A Revenue Source? by Frank Crowther, Quote Page 2, Column 7, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Newspapers_com)

As Jean Cocteau once said, “Never argue with an idiot, because being an intelligent man, you will argue with them on their level, and, on their level, they’ll beat you every time.”

In 1993 an instance using the phrase “win with experience” appeared in the Usenet newsgroup comp.sys.cbm. The ellipsis occurred in the original text. The word “never” or “don’t” was omitted. No attribution was specified:[9]1993 December 12, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: comp.sys.cbm, From: Ben Dewberry @f272.n633.z3.fidonet.org, Subject: Zipcode Problem Solved. (Google Groups Search; Accessed August 8, 2020) … Continue reading

… Argue with idiots, they drag you to their level & win with experience.

In 1999 a version of the quip was attributed to Scott Adams’s Dilbert comic strip character. In 2009 Mark Twain received credit for a partially matching expression. In 2013 George Carlin received credit for a version of the quip.

The full version of this article with additional detailed information is available on the Medium website which is available by clicking here.

Image Notes: Illustration of a jester’s hat from OpenClipart-Vectors at Pixabay.

Acknowledgements: Great thanks to Marian T. Wirth, Brian Zachary Mayer, Thayne Davidson Muller, Robert McMillan, AnxiousPony, and Jane Bella whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Also, thanks to Matt Seybold for his pioneering research.

References

References
1 Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, (QI searched the website for quotations containing the phrase “with experience” or the phrase “drag you”. No pertinent match was discovered), Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched January 28, 2023) link
2 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, (QI searched for quotations containing the phrase “with experience” or the phrase “drag you”. No pertinent match was discovered), Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified with search)
3 Website: Center for Mark Twain Studies, Article title: The Apocryphal Twain: “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience”, Article author: Matt Seybold, Date on website: August 7, 2020, Organization description: The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded on December 31, 1982. The Center supports Mark Twain scholarship. (Accessed marktwainstudies.com on January 28, 2023) link
4 Website: Bible Hub, Article title: Parallel Verses of Proverbs 26:4, Translation: New International Version, Website description: Online Bible Study Suite. Bible hub is a production of the Online Parallel Bible Project. (Accessed biblehub.com on January 21, 2023) link
5 1878 April 28, The Daily Picayune, (Untitled short item), Quote Page 4, Column 1, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Newspapers_com)
6 1878 May 20, The Rochester Evening Express, Happy Thoughts, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Rochester, New York. (Old Fulton)
7 1956 November 13, The Daily Messenger, Bald, But Not Frustrated by Hal Boyle. Quote Page 8, Column 6, Canandaigua, New York. (Newspapers_com)
8 1958 January 15, The Daily Tar Heel, A National Lottery: Is It A Revenue Source? by Frank Crowther, Quote Page 2, Column 7, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
9 1993 December 12, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: comp.sys.cbm, From: Ben Dewberry @f272.n633.z3.fidonet.org, Subject: Zipcode Problem Solved. (Google Groups Search; Accessed August 8, 2020) link

I Do Not Know What I Think Until I Read What I’m Writing

Flannery O’Connor? Graham Wallas? E. M. Forster? Inger Stevens? August Heckscher? Paul Samuelson? Shirley MacLaine? Joan Didion? E. L. Doctorow? John Gregory Dunne? Edward Albee? Wendy Wasserstein? William Faulkner? Virginia Hamilton Adair? Stephen King?

Question for Quote Investigator: The process of writing helps to clarify thoughts and ideas. For example, some novelists do not outline their plots in advance; instead, they spontaneously construct story arcs while writing. Here are two versions of a pertinent comment:

(1) I write to find out what I think.
(2) I don’t know what I think until I read what I write.

This remark has a humorous edge because thoughts are usually formulated before they are written down. This notion has been attributed to prominent short story writer and novelist Flannery O’Connor and to horror master Stephen King. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The full version of this article is available on the Medium website which is available by clicking here. This article provides an overview.

In 1948 Flannery O’Connor wrote a letter to her literary agent, and she included an instance of the saying. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1979, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, Edited by Sally Fitzgerald, Part I: Up North and Getting Home 1948-1952, Letter to: Literary agent Elizabeth McKee, Letter date: July 21, … Continue reading

What you say about the novel, Rinehart, advances, etc. sounds very good to me, but I must tell you how I work. I don’t have my novel outlined and I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.

O’Connor’s mention of an “old lady” indicated that she was referencing an earlier cluster of similar remarks. Here are two of the earliest instances:

1926: How can I know what I think till I see what I say? (Attributed to unnamed little girl by educator Graham Wallas)[2]1926 Copyright, The Art of Thought by Graham Wallas (Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of London), Chapter 4: Stages of Control, Quote Page 106, Harcourt, Brace and Company, … Continue reading

1927: How can I tell what I think till I see what I say? (Attributed to an unnamed old lady by novelist E. M. Forster)[3] 1927 Copyright, Aspects Of The Novel by E. M. Forster, Chapter 5: The Plot, Quote Page 152, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

The two quotations above were about speaking instead of writing. A separate QI article about the family of sayings centered on oral expression is available here: How Can I Know What I Think Till I See What I Say?

This article will center on sayings about written expression. Below is an overview of this family of remarks.

1948 Jul 21: I don’t have my novel outlined and I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again. (Writer Flannery O’Connor)

1959 May 7: I have been writing down my thoughts about things—not for publication, but to find out what I’m thinking about. (Actress Inger Stevens)

1963: I did not really know what I thought until I read what I had written the next day. (Attributed to Journalist August Heckscher)

1969 Jan: How do I know what I really think until I read what my pen is writing? (Economist Paul Samuelson)

1976 Nov 18: Half the time I write to find out what I mean. (Actress and Author Shirley MacLaine)

1976 Dec 5: I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking. (Writer Joan Didion)

1981 Mar 31: You write to find out what it is that you’re writing. (Novelist E. L. Doctorow)

1982 May 3: I think you write to find out what you think. (Screenwriter John Gregory Dunne)

1983 Jun: I write the plays down to find out what I’m thinking about. (Playwright Edward Albee)

1985 Mar 17: I often write to find out what I’m thinking. (Playwright Wendy Wasserstein)

1989: I don’t know what I think until I read what I said. (Attributed to William Faulkner by Warren Bennis)

1994: I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it. (Attributed to William Faulkner by Tom Morris)

1995: I never know what I think until I read it in one of my poems. (Poet Virginia Hamilton Adair)

2005: I write to find out what I think. (Horror writer Stephen King)

Additional detailed information is available in the Quote Investigator article on the Medium website which is available by clicking here.

References

References
1 1979, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, Edited by Sally Fitzgerald, Part I: Up North and Getting Home 1948-1952, Letter to: Literary agent Elizabeth McKee, Letter date: July 21, 1948, Start Page 5, Quote Page 5, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York. (Verified with scans)
2 1926 Copyright, The Art of Thought by Graham Wallas (Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of London), Chapter 4: Stages of Control, Quote Page 106, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
3 1927 Copyright, Aspects Of The Novel by E. M. Forster, Chapter 5: The Plot, Quote Page 152, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Never Explain. Your Friends Don’t Require It, and Your Enemies Won’t Believe You, Anyway

Elbert Hubbard? Victor Grayson? P. G. Wodehouse? Benjamin Jowett? E. A. Isaacs? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Explaining one’s beliefs and motivations is typically worthwhile, but sometimes it seems to be futile. Here are two versions of a germane remark:

(1) Never explain. Your friends don’t require it, and your enemies won’t believe you, anyway.

(2) Never explain—your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you.

U.S. aphorist Elbert Hubbard and British politician Victor Grayson have each received credit for this type of remark. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared as an epigraph on the cover of the February 1904 issue of “The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest” edited by Elbert Hubbard. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1]1904 February, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Edited by Elbert Hubbard, Volume 18, Number 3, Quote on cover page, Published by The Society of the Philistines, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, … Continue reading

Never explain: your friends don’t require it, and your enemies won’t believe you, anyway.

QI believes that Elbert Hubbard deserves credit for this quotation; however, it was not constructed ex nihilo. The previous year Hubbard was sufficiently impressed by another related expression attributed to a prominent scholar that he placed it on the cover of the March 1903 issue of “The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest”:[2]1903 March, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Edited by Elbert Hubbard, Volume 16, Number 4, Quote on cover page, Published by The Society of the Philistines, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New … Continue reading

Never explain, never retract, never apologize—get the thing done and let them howl!
—Rev. Dr. Benjamin Jowett

A separate QI article about the saying immediately above is available here.

Additional detailed information about Hubbard’s quotation is available in the Quote Investigator article on the Medium website which is available here.

References

References
1 1904 February, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Edited by Elbert Hubbard, Volume 18, Number 3, Quote on cover page, Published by The Society of the Philistines, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (ProQuest Periodicals Archive)
2 1903 March, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Edited by Elbert Hubbard, Volume 16, Number 4, Quote on cover page, Published by The Society of the Philistines, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Never Retract. Never Explain. Get It Done and Let Them Howl

Benjamin Jowett? Nellie McClung? Elbert Hubbard? Lionel Arthur Tollemache? James Kay-Shuttleworth? Ralph Lingen? George Otto Trevelyan? Wilbur F. Storey? Frederic William Farrar? Benjamin Disraeli? John Arbuthnot Fisher? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: Accomplishing a difficult task when facing strong opposition takes a forceful personality. Here are three pertinent guidelines for persevering:

(1) Never retract. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl.
(2) Don’t explain, don’t argue, get the thing done and let them howl.
(3) Never explain, never apologize. Get the thing done and let them howl.

The first statement has been attributed to scholar Benjamin Jowett who was a Master of Balliol College, Oxford. The second has been ascribed to U.S. essayist and aphorist Elbert Hubbard. The third has been credited to activist Nellie McClung who successfully campaigned for women’s suffrage in Canada. Are any of this linkages accurate? Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest full match located by QI appeared in 1895 within an article in “The Journal of Education” of London by the English writer Lionel Arthur Tollemache. The piece presented Tollemache’s memories of Benjamin Jowett who had died a couple years earlier at age 76. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1895 May, The Journal of Education: Supplement, Recollections of Jowett: A Fragment by L. A. Tollemache (Lionel A. Tollemache), Start Page 299, Quote Page 302, Column 2, Published by William Rice at … Continue reading

On another occasion he said to me: “A friend of mine of great practical ability told me that he has laid down for himself three rules of conduct. Never retract. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl.” Jowett repeated these paradoxical maxims with a characteristic laugh, which seemed at any rate not to mark disapproval.

Jowett helped to popularize the remark, but he disclaimed credit for it. Hence, the name of the creator remains uncertain. QI believes the remark evolved over time, and it was assembled from preexisting fragments. Elbert Hubbard mentioned the saying, but he credited Jowett. Nellie McClung employed the third statement during a speech in 1924, but the saying was already in circulation.

Additional detailed information about these sayings is available in the Quote Investigator article on the Medium website which is available here.

References

References
1 1895 May, The Journal of Education: Supplement, Recollections of Jowett: A Fragment by L. A. Tollemache (Lionel A. Tollemache), Start Page 299, Quote Page 302, Column 2, Published by William Rice at The Office the Journal, London. (Google Books Full View) link

An Expert Is a Person Who Has Made All the Mistakes Which Can Be Made in a Very Narrow Field

Niels Bohr? Edward Teller? Werner Heisenberg? W. P. Northrup? Benjamin Stolberg? Harry M. Meacham? Eugene Kane? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: Expertise is often acquired by learning from a series of errors. Here are three pertinent statements whose meanings diverge. The similarities suggest that these remarks still belong in the same family:

(1) An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.

(2) An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject and how to avoid them.

(3) I’ve made all the mistakes that are possible. The net result of that should be expert.

The first item has been attributed to nuclear scientist Edward Teller and Danish physicist Niels Bohr. The second item has been credited to German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match for the first item known to QI appeared in “LIFE” magazine in 1954 within a profile of Edward Teller who ascribed an instance to Niels Bohr. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1954 September 6, LIFE, Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession by Robert Coughlan, Quote Page 61, Quote Page 62, Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

But mistakes do not inhibit him. He likes to quote the dictum of Niels Bohr, the great Danish physicist, that, “An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.”

The earliest match for the second item known to QI appeared in a 1952 essay by Werner Heisenberg titled “Positivismus, Metaphysik und Religion” (“Positivism, Metaphysics and Religion”). Here is an excerpt translated into English:[2]1971 Copyright, Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations by Werner Heisenberg, Translator: Arnold J. Pomerans, German Title: Der Teil und das Ganze, Chapter 17: Positivism, Metaphysics and … Continue reading

Many people will tell you that an expert is someone who knows a great deal about his subject. To this I would object that no one can ever know very much about any subject. I would much prefer the following definition: an expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.

The earliest match for this general family of sayings located by QI appeared in “The Chicago Medical Recorder” in 1904 within an article by Professor of Pediatrics W. P. Northrup of New York University who had become adept at diagnosing and treating pneumonia in infants:[3]1904 November, The Chicago Medical Recorder, The Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Pneumonia in Infants by W. P. Northrup M.D. (Professor of Pediatrics in the New York University and Bellevue Hospital … Continue reading

My one admirer kindly spoke of me, he being in an amiable mood, as an expert in this diagnosis. “Yes,” I agreed, which took him aback, “I’ve made all the mistakes that are possible.” The net result of that should be expert.

Additional detailed information about these sayings is available in the Quote Investigator article on the Medium website which is available here.

Image Note: Detail from the painting “Das Schulexamen” (“The School Exam”) by Swiss painter and illustrator Albrecht Anker circa 1862.

References

References
1 1954 September 6, LIFE, Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession by Robert Coughlan, Quote Page 61, Quote Page 62, Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1971 Copyright, Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations by Werner Heisenberg, Translator: Arnold J. Pomerans, German Title: Der Teil und das Ganze, Chapter 17: Positivism, Metaphysics and Religion (1952), Quote Page 210, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified in hard copy)
3 1904 November, The Chicago Medical Recorder, The Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Pneumonia in Infants by W. P. Northrup M.D. (Professor of Pediatrics in the New York University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College), Start Page 688, Quote Page 689, The Medical Recorder, Pub. Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

The Moment You Think You Understand a Great Work of Art, It’s Dead for You

Oscar Wilde? Robert Wilson? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: Major works of art are complex, ambiguous, and difficult to interpret. The vitality of a piece is compromised when a single meaning is imposed on it. Apparently, an artist once said something like this:

The moment you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you.

This remark has been attributed to the famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde and the prominent U.S. theater director Robert Wilson. I am skeptical of the linkage to Wilde. Would you please help me to find the correct ascription together with a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in “The New York Times” in May 1990. The article reported on a new experimental production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in Frankfurt, Germany helmed by Robert Wilson who was described as “the P. T. Barnum of the avant-garde”. Wilson employed the quotation while discussing “King Lear”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1990 May 20, New York Times, ‘Lear’ Girds for a Remarkable Episode by Arthur Holmberg, Quote Page H7, Column 1, New York. (ProQuest)

“The work is a hall of mirrors, and the kaleidoscope of reflections intrigues me. Another reason I want to do the play is because we don’t understand it. The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you.”

QI has found no evidence that Oscar Wilde employed this expression. The quotation does not appear in “The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde” compiled by Ralph Keyes,[2]1996, The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde, Compiled by Ralph Keyes, Note: Quotation with phrase “dead for you” was absent in this reference, HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified … Continue reading nor does it occur in “Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms” compiled by Tweed Conrad.[3]2006, Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms, Topically Arranged with Attributions, Compiled and edited by Tweed Conrad, Note: Quotation with phrase “dead for … Continue reading

QI presents a conjecture about the genesis of the misattribution to Oscar Wilde in the full article which is available on the Medium website located here.

References

References
1 1990 May 20, New York Times, ‘Lear’ Girds for a Remarkable Episode by Arthur Holmberg, Quote Page H7, Column 1, New York. (ProQuest)
2 1996, The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde, Compiled by Ralph Keyes, Note: Quotation with phrase “dead for you” was absent in this reference, HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
3 2006, Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms, Topically Arranged with Attributions, Compiled and edited by Tweed Conrad, Note: Quotation with phrase “dead for you” was absent in this reference, McFarland & Company Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified with scans)

I Don’t Care Who Writes a Nation’s Laws . . . If I Can Write Its Economic Textbooks

Paul Samuelson? Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun? Percy Bysshe Shelley? Mary Shelley? Sylvia Nasar?

Question for Quote Investigator: The cultural impact of economic thought has been enormous. Apparently, a famous economist once said something like this:

I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws if I can write its economic textbooks.

Would you please help me to identify this economist and find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Samuelson published the perennially popular textbook “Economics” beginning in 1948. Twenty editions have appeared during subsequent decades.

In 1990 Samuelson wrote the foreword to “The Principles of Economics Course: A Handbook for Instructors”, and he employed the quotation. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1990, The Principles of Economics Course: A Handbook for Instructors, Edited by Phillip Saunders and William B. Walstad, Section: Foreword by Paul A Samuelson, Date: October 1988, Quote Page ix, … Continue reading

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.” It was a poet who said that, exercising occupational license. Some sage, it may have been I, declared in similar vein: “I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws—or crafts its advanced treaties—if I can write its economic textbooks.” The first lick is the privileged one, impinging on the beginner’s tabula rasa at its most impressionable state.

Paul Samuelson’s phrasing was humorously tentative, but QI believes that he deserves credit for the remark under examination. When Samuelson crafted his remark he was deliberately alluding to a family of previous remarks about the powerful cultural influence of music and poetry.

In 1704 Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun published “An Account of a Conversation Concerning a Right Regulation of Governments for the Common Good of Mankind”, and he attributed a pertinent remark about music to an anonymous wise man. This remark used the same template as Samuelson’s comment:[2]1704, An Account of a Conversation Concerning a Right Regulation of Governments for the Common Good of Mankind: In a Letter to the Marquiss of Montrose, the Earls of Rothes, Roxburg, and Hadington, … Continue reading

. . . a very wise man . . . believed if a man were permitted to make all the Ballads, he need not care who should make the Laws of a Nation. And we find that most of the antient Legislators thought they could not well reform the manners of any City without the help of a Lyric, and sometimes of a Dramatic Poet.

Additional detailed information is available in the Quote Investigator article on the Medium website which is available here.

References

References
1 1990, The Principles of Economics Course: A Handbook for Instructors, Edited by Phillip Saunders and William B. Walstad, Section: Foreword by Paul A Samuelson, Date: October 1988, Quote Page ix, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
2 1704, An Account of a Conversation Concerning a Right Regulation of Governments for the Common Good of Mankind: In a Letter to the Marquiss of Montrose, the Earls of Rothes, Roxburg, and Hadington, from London the 1st of December, 1703, Author: Andrew Fletcher, Quote Page 10, Printed in the Year 1704 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Google Books Full View) link

A Committee Should Consist of Three People, One of Whom Is Always Sick and the Other Is Always Absent

Herbert Beerbohm Tree? Hendrik Willem van Loon? E. V. Lucas? Charles Haddon Spurgeon? Robert Oliver Jones? Lord Palmerston? Cedric Hardwicke? Robert Copeland?

Question for Quote Investigator: Committees are common tools for decision making, but detractors have highlighted their inefficiency, unimaginativeness, and inflexibility. Here are four examples from a pertinent family of humorous remarks:

(1) The best committee is a committee of three with two of them ill in bed.

(2) A committee should consist of three people, two of whom are absent.

(3) Nothing is accomplished by a committee unless it consists of three members, one of whom happens to be sick and another absent.

(4) The ideal committee is a committee of two when one of them is absent.

English theatre manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, English humorist E. V. Lucas, and Dutch historian Hendrik Willem van Loon have each received credit for quips of this type. Would you please explore the provenance of this family of jokes?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in an October 1878 article published in “The Western Daily Press” of Bristol, England. Prominent religious figure Charles Haddon Spurgeon spoke at the annual session of the Baptist Union held in Leeds. He discussed the desirability of continual progress which he emphasized by using the catchphrase “drive on”. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1] 1878 October 12, The Western Daily Press, Mr Spurgeon On Christian Work, Quote Page 8, Column 3, Bristol, Avon, England. (Newspapers_com)

He liked committees for such work. Oh, yes; but the best committee was a committee of three, and two of them ill in bed. (Laughter.) Let the third man take the reins, and so drive on.

Spurgeon deserves credit for popularizing this joke. Also, based on current evidence he initiated this family of quips although it remains possible he was repeating an existing remark.

Herbert Beerbohm Tree received credit for an instance in 1920. Hendrik Willem van Loon used an instance in 1927. E. V. Lucas employed an instance in 1931. Others have delivered versions of this popular jest.

Additional detailed information is available in the Quote Investigator article on the Medium website which is available here.

References

References
1 1878 October 12, The Western Daily Press, Mr Spurgeon On Christian Work, Quote Page 8, Column 3, Bristol, Avon, England. (Newspapers_com)

Science Is a Differential Equation. Religion is a Boundary Condition

Alan Turing? Arthur Eddington? Andrew Hodges? Robin Gandy? John D. Barrow? Dermot Turing? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Apparently, the pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing once compared scientific knowledge to a differential equation and suggested that religion specified a boundary condition for the equation. I have not seen a precise citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1983 British mathematician Andrew Hodges published a biography titled “Alan Turing: The Enigma”. Hodges stated that in March 1954 Alan Turing sent four postcards to his friend and colleague Robin Gandy. The second postcard (partially shown below) contained the following lines. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1984 (1983 Copyright), Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, Chapter 8: On the Beach, Time Period: To 7 June 1954, Quote Page 512 to 514, A Touchstone Book: Simon & Schuster, New York. … Continue reading

Messages from the Unseen World

III. The Universe is the interior of the Light Cone of the Creation

IV. Science is a Differential Equation. Religion is a Boundary Condition.

Arthur Stanley

The postcard also contained the following line written sideways in the left margin:

? Does the gravitation constant decrease ?

Turing’s message presented a playful interpretation of contemporary cosmological theories. The line “Arthur Stanley” referred to English astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington, and the beginning line perhaps alluded to Eddington’s 1929 book “Science and the Unseen World”. Gandy stated that he and Turing had been discussing Eddington’s book titled “Fundamental Theory”.[2]Website: The Turing Digital Archive, Images scanned from the collection of Turing papers held in the Archive Centre at King’s College, Cambridge, Website description: Website contains nearly … Continue reading

QI conjectures that Turing’s statement was an analogy. A differential equation may have many possible solutions. A boundary condition is an extra constraint that reduces the number of possible solutions and sometimes specifies a unique solution. The postcard statement suggested that there were many possible universes that were compatible with the latest scientific knowledge. Religious beliefs provided additional assumptions that further constrained the set of possible universes.

Additional detailed information is available in the Quote Investigator article on the Medium website which is available here.

Image Notes: A public domain mathematical figure from the 1877 book “A Treatise on Some New Geometrical Methods” by James Booth.

References

References
1 1984 (1983 Copyright), Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, Chapter 8: On the Beach, Time Period: To 7 June 1954, Quote Page 512 to 514, A Touchstone Book: Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified with scans)
2 Website: The Turing Digital Archive, Images scanned from the collection of Turing papers held in the Archive Centre at King’s College, Cambridge, Website description: Website contains nearly 3,000 images of letters, photographs, newspaper articles, and unpublished papers by or about Alan Turing. (Accessed turingarchive.kings.cam.ac.uk on January 5, 2023) link