I Have Made It a Rule Never To Smoke More Than One Cigar at a Time

Mark Twain? Elbert Hubbard? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Mark Twain followed two thoughtful guidelines regarding smoking:

  • Never smoke more than one cigar at a time.
  • Never smoke while sleeping.

Would you please determine when he enunciated these rules?

Quote Investigator: In 1905 Mark Twain celebrated his seventieth birthday at the popular New York restaurant Delmonico’s. The participants delivered numerous speeches and poems lauding Twain as reported in the “New York Tribune”. The famous humorist addressed the subject of his longevity: 1

I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else. I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: that we can’t reach old age by another man’s road.

I will now teach, offering my way of life to whomsoever desires to commit suicide by the scheme which has enabled me to beat the doctor and the hangman for seventy years.

Twain outlined his dietary regimen and then discussed smoking. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time. I do not know just when I began to smoke, I only know that it was in my father’s lifetime, and that I was discreet. He passed from this life early in 1847, when I was a shade past eleven; ever since then I have smoked publicly. As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake.

Twain employed these two jokes and helped to popularize them, but instances occurred before 1905.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Made It a Rule Never To Smoke More Than One Cigar at a Time

Notes:

  1. 1905 December 6, New-York Tribune, Dinner for Mark Twain: To Mark 70th Birthday, Quote Page 7, Column 3, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Editor: A Person Employed on a Newspaper, Whose Business It Is To Separate the Wheat from the Chaff, and To See that the Chaff Is Printed

Creator: Elbert Hubbard, founder of New York artisan community called Roycrofters, collector and creator of adages

Context: The May 1913 issue of “The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest” published by Elbert Hubbard contained a set of humorous definitions for “editor”: 1

EDITOR: A person employed on a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.

2. A delicate instrument for observing the development and flowering of the deadly mediocre and encouraging its growth

3. A seraphic embryon; a smooth bore; a bit of sandpaper applied to all forms of originality by the publisher-proprietor; an emictory.

A shorter version of the first definition evolved over time. The following appeared in a Meyersdale, Pennsylvania newspaper in 1922 without attribution: 2

Editor—One whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff and then print the chaff.

Image Notes: Portrait of Elbert Hubbard from 1916 edition of “Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great” accessed via Project Gutenberg. Picture of edited text with red pen from 3844328 at Pixabay.

Notes:

  1. 1913 May, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Volume 36, Number 6, (Definition of Editor), Quote Page 192, Elbert Hubbard: The Society of the Philistines, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1922 February 23, Meyersdale Republican, The Gloom Chaser, Quote Page 3, Column 2, Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

Get Your Happiness Out of Your Work, or You’ll Never Know What Happiness Is

Elbert Hubbard? Thomas Carlyle? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Working for a living consumes enormous amounts of time and energy. If you wish to be happy in life then it is essential to try and obtain happiness from your work. Would you please determine who created an adage expressing this idea?

Quote Investigator: Elbert Hubbard was the founder of a New York community of artisans called Roycrofters. He also collected and synthesized adages which appeared in his books and periodicals. The July 1904 issue of Hubbard’s “The Philistine” contained a pertinent saying. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

If you would be happy, do not look for happiness outside of your work.

In July 1906 “Printers’ Ink: A Journal for Advertisers” published a filler item crediting Hubbard’s periodical with a popular modern version of the adage: 2

Get your happiness out of your work or you’ll never know what happiness is.—The Philistine.

The reader must decide if this is a helpful insight or a misleading mantra for workaholics.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Get Your Happiness Out of Your Work, or You’ll Never Know What Happiness Is

Notes:

  1. 1904 July, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Volume 19, Number 2, (Filler item), Quote Page 60, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1906 July 4, Printers’ Ink: A Journal for Advertisers, Volume 56, Number 1, (Filler item), Quote Page 25 and 26, Column 2, Printers’ Ink Publishing Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

MacGuffin Is the Term We Use To Cover All that Sort of Thing: To Steal Plans or Documents, or Discover a Secret, It Doesn’t Matter What It Is

Alfred Hitchcock? Elbert Hubbard? Theodore Parker?

Dear Quote Investigator: The influential English film director Alfred Hitchcock employed the term MacGuffin when he discussed the plots of his movies. He also told a peculiar story to explain the meaning of the term. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1967 the prominent director François Truffaut published a volume containing an extensive interview he had conducted with Alfred Hitchcock. While discussing Hitchcock’s film “Foreign Correspondent” Truffaut mentioned that the plot hinged on a secret known to an elderly gentleman: 1

A.H. That secret clause was our “MacGuffin.” I must tell you what that means.
F.T. Isn’t the MacGuffin the pretext for the plot?
A.H. Well, it’s the device, the gimmick, if you will, or the papers the spies are after.

Hitchcock elaborated on the meaning of MacGuffin:

So the “MacGuffin” is the term we use to cover all that sort of thing: to steal plans or documents, or discover a secret, it doesn’t matter what it is. And the logicians are wrong in trying to figure out the truth of a MacGuffin, since it’s beside the point. The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.

Hitchcock presented a curious tale to help explain the origin of the term. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, “What’s that package up there in the baggage rack?” And the other answers, “Oh, that’s a MacGuffin.” The first one asks, “What’s a MacGuffin?”

“Well,” the other man says, “it’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.” The first man says, “But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,” and the other one answers, “Well then, that’s no MacGuffin!” So you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.

QI conjectures that the story above evolved from a humorous anecdote about an imaginary mongoose, and the term MacGuffin was derived from mongoose.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading MacGuffin Is the Term We Use To Cover All that Sort of Thing: To Steal Plans or Documents, or Discover a Secret, It Doesn’t Matter What It Is

Notes:

  1. 1967, Hitchcock by François Truffaut with the Collaboration of Helen G. Scott, Quote Page 98, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

If You Want Something Done, Ask a Busy Person To Do It

Lucille Ball? Benjamin Franklin? Elbert Hubbard? W. J. Kennedy? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular proverb suggests that when you are faced with a large task you should call upon someone with an ongoing track record of accomplishment. Here are three versions:

  • If you want something done, ask a busy person.
  • If you want anything done, ask a busy man.
  • If you want work well done, ask a busy woman.

This notion has been attributed to top comedian Lucille Ball, statesman Benjamin Franklin, and epigrammatist Elbert Hubbard. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in a report delivered in 1856 by Reverend W. J. Kennedy who was the Inspector of Schools for Lancashire and the Isle of Man in Britain. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Just as it is almost proverbial that, if you want any business done for you, you should ask a busy man to do it, and not a man of leisure, so it is the laborious scholar, who is working hard at languages, who picks up, nay, actually reads and studies more of other subjects than the rest of his fellows at school or college.

The context revealed that the saying was in circulation before the report was produced, and its authorship was anonymous.

This valuable citation was reported by quotation expert and BBC radio broadcaster Nigel Rees in his periodical “The Quote Unquote Newsletter” in January 2012. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Want Something Done, Ask a Busy Person To Do It

Notes:

  1. 1856, Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education, Section: Inspector’s Reports for 1855, General Report for the Year 1855 by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools, the Rev. W. J. Kennedy, M.A., &c., on the Church of England Schools inspected in the County of Lancaster and in the Isle of Man, Date: January 1856, Start Page 444, Quote Page 450 and 451, Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 2012 January, The Quote Unquote Newsletter, Volume 21, Number 1, Edited by Nigel Rees, Section: Answers A4319, Quote Page 9, Published and Distributed by Nigel Rees, Hillgate Place, London, Website: link

The Love You Give Away Is the Only Love You Keep

Elbert Hubbard? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

love11Dear Quote Investigator: I’m intrigued by the following counter-intuitive adage:

The love we give away is the only love we keep.

Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: Elbert Hubbard was the founder of a community of artisans called Roycrofters who were located in East Aurora, New York. He also collected and synthesized adages which appeared in his books and periodicals. The December 1902 edition of “The Philistine” included the following passage from Hubbard. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The Law of Consequences works both ways: by associating with the sinner and recognizing the good in him, you unconsciously recognize the good in yourself. The love you give away is the only love you keep—by benefiting another you benefit yourself.

The above instance used the pronoun “you” instead of “we”. Hubbard constructed and disseminated a few variant statements.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Love You Give Away Is the Only Love You Keep

Notes:

  1. 1902 December, The Philistine, Volume 16, Number 1, Heart to Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, Start Page 1, Quote Page 13 and 14, Society of the Philistines, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Life Is Just One Damn Thing After Another

Mark Twain? Lilian Bell? Elbert Hubbard? Frank Ward O’Malley? Bruce Calvert? H. L. Mencken? Charles Dickens? Edna St. Vincent Millay? Anonymous?

twisty10Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement of exasperation and resignation has been attributed to the luminary Mark Twain, the aphorist Elbert Hubbard, and the journalist Frank Ward O’Malley:

Life is just one damn thing after another.

This situation is confusing. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong evidence appeared in 1909 when several instances were published in periodicals. In addition, a book titled “The Concentrations of Bee” by Lilian Bell included the following passage. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“Bob has a motto on his wall which says ‘Life is just one damned thing after another!'” said Jimmie. But I refused to smile. I was too distinctly annoyed.

The lead time for publishing a book has traditionally been lengthy; hence, Lilian Bell may have written her novel before 1909. Bell stated within the text that the adage was already being posted on walls.

On March 5, 1909 “The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader” of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania printed the small filler item shown below. 2 This was the earliest instance known to QI with a complete date; it was located by top researcher Bill Mullins, and it was included in the important reference “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs”: 3

life350During the following weeks, months, and years the popular saying was widely disseminated. In December 1909 Elbert Hubbard printed the expression without attribution in a journal he was editing called “The Philistine”. In March 1910 a man named Bruce Calvert was credited with the saying. In 1919 the prominent cultural commentator H. L. Mencken ascribed the phrase to Mark Twain. After the death of Frank Ward O’Malley in 1932 some obituary notices credited him with the saying. In 1942 Mencken reconsidered his judgement and linked the saying to both O’Malley and Hubbard. Detailed information is given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life Is Just One Damn Thing After Another

Notes:

  1. 1909, The Concentrations of Bee by Lilian Bell, Quote Page 241, Grosset & Dunlap, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1909 March 5, Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, (Filler item), Quote Page 6, Column 5, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (GenealogyBank)
  3. 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, Quote Page 144, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

If You Build a Better Mousetrap the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door

Ralph Waldo Emerson? Elbert Hubbard? Sarah S. B. Yule? John R. Paxton? Orison Swett Marden? Anonymous?

mouse14Dear Quote Investigator: A remarkably popular adage about innovation highlights mousetraps and celebrity:

Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.

The origin of this saying was complex, and the topic has been contentious. Historically, the following people have been linked to the phrase: philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, aphorist Elbert Hubbard, clergyman John R. Paxton, and quotation collector Sarah S. B. Yule. Would you please examine this subject?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strongly matching statement located by QI was published in “The Atlanta Constitution” of Atlanta, Georgia on May 11, 1882 in a section called “Current Comment”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

The Value of Good Work,
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

Emerson died on April 27, 1882, so the above passage was ascribed to him shortly after his death. In the following days, months, and years the quotation appeared in a wide variety of periodicals and books together with the acknowledgement. For example, on May 15, 1882 the text along with Emerson’s name was printed in “The Cincinnati Enquirer” of Cincinnati, Ohio. 2 On May 19, 1882 it was reprinted in the “The Decatur Daily Republican” of Decatur, Illinois. 3

Minor alterations in the text occurred as the quotation was widely replicated. The term mousetrap was sometimes presented as two words: “mouse trap” and sometimes hyphenated: “mouse-trap”. In modern times, the term often appears as a single unhyphenated word: “mousetrap”. The word “neighbors” was sometimes given in the singular form.

The saying was employed as a filler item in newspapers, and it also appeared in columns containing miscellaneous short news items and sayings. The specific circumstances when Emerson spoke or wrote the statement were not specified.

Over the decades the phrasing has evolved. For example, by 1901 a version with “build a better mouse-trap” instead of “make a better mouse-trap” was circulating.

An exact match for the passage above has never been found in the published writings or personal journals of Emerson. However, a solid thematic match was written in his journal dated 1855 in a section about “Common Fame”. A mousetrap was not mentioned; instead, other goods and services were specified: 4

Common Fame. I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.

Emerson was a popular speaker who delivered numerous public lectures over a period of decades. He used his journals as source material for his speeches, but the phrasing employed in the notebooks and speeches was variable. QI believes Emerson probably did voice the passage with “mouse trap” during a speech.

Indeed, a woman named Sarah S. B. Yule stated that she heard one of Emerson’s public addresses and copied the “mouse trap” statement into a notebook. In 1889 she placed the remark into a published compilation of quotations and adages titled “Borrowings”. Detailed information is given further below.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Build a Better Mousetrap the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door

Notes:

  1. 1882 May 11, Atlanta Constitution, Current Comment: The Value of Good Work: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Atlanta, Georgia. (ProQuest)
  2. 1882 May 15, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Personal, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1882 May 19, Decatur Daily Republican, Tea-Table Talk, Quote Page 2, Column 2, Decatur, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1912, Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson with Annotations, Edited by Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes, 1849-1855, Volume 8, Year Specified for Journal Entry: 1855, Quote Page 528, Published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (HathiTrust Full View) link link

People Who Say It Cannot Be Done Should Not Interrupt Those Who Are Doing It

George Bernard Shaw? Puck? Saxby’s Magazine? Elbert Hubbard? Confucius? Anonymous?wright07Dear Quote Investigator: The following adage is the perfect antidote to excessive negativity and obstructionism:

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

These words are often attributed to the acclaimed playwright and essayist George Bernard Shaw; unfortunately, I have not been able to locate any solid data to back up this claim. Would you please trace this quotation?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for the Shaw ascription.

QI hypothesizes that the modern expression evolved from a comment about the rapidity of change and innovation at the turn of the century that was printed in the humor magazine “Puck” in December 1902. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

Things move along so rapidly nowadays that people saying: “It can’t be done,” are always being interrupted by somebody doing it.

Multiple newspapers and journals reprinted the remark in 1903. One instance appeared on March 7, 1903 in a periodical called “The Public” based in Chicago, Illinois. An acknowledgment to the humor magazine “Puck” was appended: 2

Things move along so rapidly nowadays that people saying: “It can’t be done,” are always being interrupted by somebody doing it.—Puck.

On March 13, 1903 an instance was published in “The Evansville Courier” of Evansville, Indiana with an acknowledgement to “Saxby’s Magazine”. The statements above and below were both printed as filler items without additional contextual information: 3

Some philosopher takes time to remark that things move along so rapidly nowadays that people who say “It can’t be done,” are always being interrupted by somebody doing it.—Saxby’s Magazine.

In April 1903 a journal for educators and parents called “Kindergarten Magazine” printed an instance that exactly matched the statement in “The Public”. The “Puck” acknowledgement was included: 4

During the ensuing decades the expression was reshaped. In 1914 a charismatic aphorism constructor named Elbert Hubbard printed a variant in his journal “The Philistine”, but he disclaimed authorship. By 1962 a pseudo Confucian version had been fabricated, and by 2004 a version attributed to George Bernard Shaw was circulating.

Additional citations in chronological order are given below.

Continue reading People Who Say It Cannot Be Done Should Not Interrupt Those Who Are Doing It

Notes:

  1. 1902 December 24, Puck, Volume 52, (Filler item), Quote Page 2, Published at the Puck Building, New York, Copyright Keppler and Schwarzmann, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 1903 March 7, The Public, Number 257, Editor Louis F. Post, (Filler item), Quote Page 766, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1903 March 16, The Evansville Courier (Evansville Courier and Press), (Filler item), Quote Page 4, Column 7, Evansville, Indiana. (GenealogyBank)
  4. 1903 April, Kindergarten Magazine, Volume 15, Number 8, (Filler item), Quote Page 488, Kindergarten Magazine Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

To Avoid Criticism, Say Nothing, Do Nothing, Be Nothing

Aristotle? Elbert Hubbard? William Pitt? Fred Shero? Anonymous?

elbert08Dear Quote Investigator: Receiving criticism is an unpleasant experience, but it is also inevitable. If your actions in the world are significant then you will draw detractors. This notion is cleverly expressed in the following pointed remark:

To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.

This statement of anti-advice has been attributed to two very different figures: the ancient Greek sage Aristotle and the American aphorist publisher Elbert Hubbard. Who do you think deserves credit?

Quote Investigator: QI has not found any substantive evidence to support an ascription to Aristotle.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in an 1898 collection of short essays titled “Little Journeys to the Homes of American Statesmen” by Elbert Hubbard. A piece about the abolitionist politician William H. Seward noted that he was the target of an assassination attempt. But Hubbard suggested that one must brave censure and danger to live a full and meaningful life. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

If you would escape moral and physical assassination, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing—court obscurity, for only in oblivion does safety lie.

Hubbard crafted multiple versions of the expression, and the saying was often attributed to him in the early decades of the 1900s.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Avoid Criticism, Say Nothing, Do Nothing, Be Nothing

Notes:

  1. 1898, Little Journeys to the Homes of American Statesmen by Elbert Hubbard, Section: William H. Seward, Start Page 363, Quote Page 370, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York; The Knickerbocker Press, New York. (Edition copyright 1898; Reprint date November 1901) (HathiTrust Full View) link link