Benjamin Franklin? Publilius Syrus? Apocryphal? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: This is the season for New Year’s resolutions and toasts, and I have found a quotation credited to Benjamin Franklin that fits this theme:
Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man (or woman).
However, there are so many fake quotes attributed to Franklin that I have no idea if this one is authentic. Could you tell me if this one is real? Also, if these are Franklin’s words where did they appear?
Quote Investigator: Franklin published a series of almanacs in the 1700s that were very popular, and many of the proverbs that are credited to him today were printed in these almanacs. This sentence did appear in the 1755 edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanac” whose more complete title is: “Poor Richard improved: Being an Almanack and Ephemeris of the Motions of the Sun and Moon; the True Places and Aspects of the Planets; the Rising and Setting of the Sun, And The Rising Setting and Southing of the Moon.”
The words of the expression were interleaved with astronomical facts concerning December 1755, and the salient terms in the phrase were capitalized. The word neighbors was spelled with a “u”, and New Year was hyphenated: 1
Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man.
Many of the sayings that Franklin presented in his almanacs were obtained from other sources, and QI does not know if this advice originated with Franklin.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order together with a digital image showing how the saying was printed within the almanac. Continue reading Be at War with Your Vices, at Peace with Your Neighbours, and Let Every New Year Find You a Better Man
- 1755, Poor Richard improved: Being an Almanack and Ephemeris of the Motions of the Sun and Moon; The True Places and Aspects of the Planets [Poor Richard’s Almanac], Benjamin Franklin, Month: December, Column: Aspects, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Images from volume at Rosenbach Museum & Library; Accessed at rarebookroom.org on 2011 December 17) ↩