Arturo Toscanini? Georges Clemenceau? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend the prominent conductor Arturo Toscanini expressed disrespect for the famous composer Richard Strauss during an incident in the 1930s. To understand this incident it is helpful to know that removing one’s hat was a gesture of respect in the European culture shared by the two men. Here are two versions of the insult:
1) For Strauss the composer, I take my hat off. For Strauss the man, I put it on again.
2) Strauss, as a musician I take my hat off to you; as a man I put on twelve hats.
Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this insult schema located by QI appeared many years earlier in 1918. Georges Clemenceau who was the Prime Minister of France reportedly employed the hat remark while discussing the behavior of a country during World War 1. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
He was receiving a delegation from Rumania, and, after a short conversation, was asked by one of the delegates to send a message to the Rumanians who had given such gallant support to the Allies before national intrigue played them false. Then up rose Clemenceau and uttered the following tigerish sentiment: “I rise in the presence of your delegation; I take my hat off to the Rumanian people; I put it on again in the face of the Rumanian government.” Short, sweet, typically French in its incisive, epigrammatic quality.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1918 December 21, The New Appeal (Appeal to Reason), A Great Difference, Quote Page 3, Column 6, Girard, Kansas. (Newspapers_com) ↩