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

Genius Is Really Only the Power of Making Continuous Efforts

Elbert Hubbard? Robert Burns Wilson? Dale Carnegie? Kin Hubbard? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A short motivational piece of about 130 words begins with the following sentence: “Genius is really only the power of making continuous efforts.” The piece has been attributed to aphorist Elbert Hubbard and poet Robert Burns Wilson. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match for the full piece located by QI appeared in 1895 within “Mining and Scientific Press” of San Francisco, California. Boldface added to excerpts by QI. No attribution was given:[1] 1895 June 1, Mining and Scientific Press, Volume 70, Number 22, Keeping Everlastingly At It Brings Success, Quote Page 344, Column 3, San Francisco, California. (Google Books Full View) link

Genius is really only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it—so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business, sometimes prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.

Based on current evidence the author of this piece remains anonymous. Interestingly, the text contains material lifted from an 1887 essay by Robert Burns Wilson. See details further below.

The first ascription to Elbert Hubbard occurred in a book published in 1911. But this evidence is weak because of its late date.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Genius Is Really Only the Power of Making Continuous Efforts

References

References
1 1895 June 1, Mining and Scientific Press, Volume 70, Number 22, Keeping Everlastingly At It Brings Success, Quote Page 344, Column 3, San Francisco, California. (Google Books Full View) link

There Is Really No Insurmountable Barrier, Save Your Own Inherent Weakness of Purpose

Elbert Hubbard? Kin Hubbard? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Robert Burns Wilson? Henry Austin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Success is often achieved via persistence. Here is a popular elaboration of this notion:

There is no defeat except from within. There is really no insurmountable barrier, save your own inherent weakness of purpose.

This remark has been attributed to essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, publisher and aphorist Elbert Hubbard, painter and poet Robert Burns Wilson, cartoonist and humorist Kin Hubbard and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the New York journal “The Critic” in 1887 within a five paragraph piece titled “And So—I Gave Up Trying!” by Robert Burns Wilson. Here is an excerpt with boldface added by QI:[1]1887 October 8, The Critic: A Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts, “And So—I Gave Up Trying!” by Robert Burns Wilson, Start Page 173, Quote Page 173, The Critic Company, New York. (Google … Continue reading

There is no defeat except from within. There is really no insurmountable barrier, save your own inherent weakness of purpose. There is no power either in heaven or earth that can successfully oppose the onward course of the perfectly determined soul.

Success as the world names it is but a word, which with the next breath may signify defeat. But success as the soul knows it, is to have within the sustaining sense of right and an unselfish purpose. There is no failure except in no longer trying.

Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882 before the text above appeared. The first attribution to Emerson known to QI occurred in 1905. This citation was not substantive. Other linkages to prominent individuals were also quite weak.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is Really No Insurmountable Barrier, Save Your Own Inherent Weakness of Purpose

References

References
1 1887 October 8, The Critic: A Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts, “And So—I Gave Up Trying!” by Robert Burns Wilson, Start Page 173, Quote Page 173, The Critic Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

What Man Can Conceive, Man Can Achieve

Robert Owen? Elbert Hubbard? Orlando K. Fitzsimmons? Sidney Abram Weltmer? O. A. Hawkins? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An optimistic rhyming maxim highlights the enormous potential for positive accomplishments. Here are three versions:

(1) What humanity can conceive, humanity can achieve.
(2) What man can conceive, man can achieve
(3) Man can achieve what man can conceive

Would you please explore this adage?

Quote Investigator: This saying is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in several different ways. The prominent social reformer and socialist Robert Owen employed an instance in the 1845 edition of his treatise “The Book of the New Moral World Containing the Rational System of Society”. Owen emphasized the need for charity, wisdom, and kindness. His book contained a partial match. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1845, The Book of the New Moral World Containing the Rational System of Society by Robert Owen, First American Edition, Part 4: The Principles and Practice of the Rational Religion, Chapter 7, Quote … Continue reading

It is this spirit and language of truth which must pervade the whole mass and the entire of society, before man can conceive what man can achieve, or society united can accomplish.

Owen used a conditional phrasing. He believed that the principles he extolled would produce a society in which mankind’s positive conceptions would be achieved.

In 1906 a full match for the saying appeared in “Metamorphose: Involving Regeneration of Individual and Race, and Also the Solution of the Great Problem of Poverty” by Orlando K. Fitzsimmons:[2]1906, Metamorphose: Involving Regeneration of Individual and Race, and Also the Solution of the Great Problem of Poverty by Orlando K. Fitzsimmons, Chapter 12: The Rationale of the New, Quote Page … Continue reading

If the conditions existing in the fabled Golden Age can be conceived in the mind of man as a definite Idea, he can attain unto those conditions!

The motto of the new Order is: WHAT MAN CAN CONCEIVE, MAN CAN ACHIEVE.
The Change is at hand!

No attribution is specified for the saying above, and QI believes that currently the originator remains anonymous.

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading What Man Can Conceive, Man Can Achieve

References

References
1 1845, The Book of the New Moral World Containing the Rational System of Society by Robert Owen, First American Edition, Part 4: The Principles and Practice of the Rational Religion, Chapter 7, Quote Page 134, G. Vale, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1906, Metamorphose: Involving Regeneration of Individual and Race, and Also the Solution of the Great Problem of Poverty by Orlando K. Fitzsimmons, Chapter 12: The Rationale of the New, Quote Page 212, Progress Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

Do Not Take Life Quite So Seriously—You Surely Will Never Get Out of It Alive

Elbert Hubbard? Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle? William J. Crawford? Walt Kelly? Pogo? Pierre Daninos? Alphonse Allais? Julien Green?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a trenchant family of fatalistic sayings concerning the solemnity of life. Here are four examples:

  • Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive.
  • You mustn’t take life too seriously; no one makes it out alive.
  • Don’t take life so seriously, you’ll never get out alive.
  • Why take life so seriously? It’s not permanent.

This notion has been attributed to U.S. aphorist Elbert Hubbard and French essayist and scholar Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle. Would you please explore the provenance of this set of expressions?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the December 1900 issue of “The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest” within an essay by Elbert Hubbard who was the editor of the publication. The text began with a reference to the spiritual dimension of life. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1900 December, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Volume 12, Number 1, Editor Elbert Hubbard, Heart to Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, Dear Playmate in the Kindergarten … Continue reading

Dear Playmate in the Kindergarten of God: Please do not take life quite so seriously—you surely will never get out of it alive. And as for your buying and selling, your churches and banks, your newspapers and books, they are really at the last of no more importance than the child’s paper houses, red and blue wafers, and funny scissors things.

Why you grown-ups! all your possessions are only just to keep you out of mischief, until Death, the good old nurse, comes and rocks you to sleep. Am I not right?

Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle died in 1757, and he received credit for this saying by the 1970s which is rather late. QI has not yet found substantive support for this attribution.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Do Not Take Life Quite So Seriously—You Surely Will Never Get Out of It Alive

References

References
1 1900 December, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Volume 12, Number 1, Editor Elbert Hubbard, Heart to Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, Dear Playmate in the Kindergarten of God, Start Page 24, Quote Page 24, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Find Out What You Like Doing Best and Get Someone To Pay You for Doing It

Katharine Whitehorn? Confucius? Elbert Hubbard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A generation of social media stars began by sharing their passions, e.g., playing video games, applying makeup, preparing meals, or animating short tales. Lucrative careers became possible with support from advertisers, patrons, and merchandise deals.

Vocational advice from decades ago is especially pertinent today: Find something you love doing and convince people to pay you to do it. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: English journalist Katharine Whitehorn was a columnist for “The Observer” newspaper of London for more than 35 years. In 1975 she penned a piece about employment containing the following remark. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1975 January 19, The Observer, The ten-hour week is here to stay by Katharine Whitehorn, Quote Page 25, Column 7, London, England. (Newspapers_com)

The best careers advice given to the young (at least to boys; girls’ schools can spot a snag to it) is ‘Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it’.

The statement above was the earliest match located by QI. This job strategy is inherently risky, and a backup job may be necessary. Yet, success in discovering your joyful niche is invaluable.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Find Out What You Like Doing Best and Get Someone To Pay You for Doing It

References

References
1 1975 January 19, The Observer, The ten-hour week is here to stay by Katharine Whitehorn, Quote Page 25, Column 7, London, England. (Newspapers_com)

Two Necessities In Doing a Great and Important Work: A Definite Plan and Limited Time

Elbert Hubbard? H.C. Peters? Leonard Bernstein?

Dear Quote Investigator: Dreaming about accomplishing a vaguely defined magnificent task at some unknown future date is unhelpful. True progress is made by formulating a plan and adopting a clear deadline. This notion has been attributed to U.S. publisher Elbert Hubbard and U.S. composer Leonard Bernstein. Would you please explore this topic.

Quote Investigator: Aphorist Elbert Hubbard edited and published a journal called “The Fra” for an artisan community in East Aurora, New York. The September 1911 issue featured the following epigraph. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1911 September, The Fra, Volume 7, Number 6, (Epigraph on title page), Quote Page 161, Elbert Hubbard and The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

TWO NECESSITIES IN DOING A GREAT AND IMPORTANT WORK: A DEFINITE PLAN AND LIMITED TIME

The journal issue included a short article by H.C. Peters that elaborated on this adage:[2]1911 September, The Fra, Volume 7, Number 6, (Untitled Article) by H. C. Peters, Start Page xxxvi (36), Quote Page xxxvi (36), Elbert Hubbard and The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books … Continue reading

If I were trying to condense in a few words the best plan for efficient action, I would say: Have a definite thing to do and a limited time to do it. About fifty per cent of the people engaged in business never reach the point where they set their minds on doing some one definite thing . . .

It is left for the men who decide on a definite thing to do within a limited time, to keep the wheels of progress moving.

Apparently, H.C. Peters developed the core idea, and Elbert Hubbard crafted and popularized a concise statement. Alternatively, Hubbard constructed the adage, and he next asked Peters to write on the subject.

The saying evolved over time, and it was reassigned to Leonard Bernstein by 2002. Yet, Bernstein died in 1990; hence, the current evidence supporting this attribution is rather weak.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Two Necessities In Doing a Great and Important Work: A Definite Plan and Limited Time

References

References
1 1911 September, The Fra, Volume 7, Number 6, (Epigraph on title page), Quote Page 161, Elbert Hubbard and The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1911 September, The Fra, Volume 7, Number 6, (Untitled Article) by H. C. Peters, Start Page xxxvi (36), Quote Page xxxvi (36), Elbert Hubbard and The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

We Should Utilize Natural Forces and Thus Get All of Our Power. Sunshine Is a Form of Energy, and the Winds and the Tides Are Manifestations of Energy

Thomas Edison? Elbert Hubbard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous inventor Thomas Edison supposedly foresaw the potential of solar energy more than one hundred years ago. He wanted to replace the burning of fuels with the collection of natural energy from the sun, wind, and tides.

Did Edison really express this viewpoint? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1910 influential publisher Elbert Hubbard printed an interview with Thomas Edison in his journal “The Fra”. Edison believed that burning wood and coal was shortsighted, and he was excited by a vision of collecting and storing what is now called renewable energy. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1910 April, The Fra: A Journal of Affirmation, Volume 5, Number 1, The Open Road: Afoot With The Fra, Thomas A. Edison, Start Page 1, Quote Page 6 and 7, Published by Elbert Hubbard, East Aurora, … Continue reading

This scheme of combustion in order to get power makes me sick to think of—it is so wasteful. It is just the old, foolish Prometheus idea, and the father of Prometheus was a baboon.

“When we learn how to store electricity, we will cease being apes ourselves; until then we are tailless orang-outangs. You see, we should utilize natural forces and thus get all of our power. Sunshine is a form of energy, and the winds and the tides are manifestations of energy. Do we use them?

“Oh, no; we burn up wood and coal, as renters burn up the front fence for fuel. We live like squatters, not as if we owned the property.

“There must surely come a time when heat and power will be stored in unlimited quantities in every community, all gathered by natural forces. Electricity ought to be as cheap as oxygen, for it can not be destroyed.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Should Utilize Natural Forces and Thus Get All of Our Power. Sunshine Is a Form of Energy, and the Winds and the Tides Are Manifestations of Energy

References

References
1 1910 April, The Fra: A Journal of Affirmation, Volume 5, Number 1, The Open Road: Afoot With The Fra, Thomas A. Edison, Start Page 1, Quote Page 6 and 7, Published by Elbert Hubbard, East Aurora, Erie County, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Nothing Can Stop a Person with the Right Mental Attitude from Achieving His or Her Goal

Thomas Jefferson? W. W. Ziege? Elbert Hubbard? Orison Swett Marden? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Several spiritual traditions assert that thoughts and beliefs can directly alter the world. Maintaining a positive outlook is highly desirable as indicated in the following proposition:

Nothing can stop a person with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help a person with the wrong mental attitude.

These words are often attributed to U.S. statesman Thomas Jefferson, but I have been unable to find a citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Researcher Anna Berkes of Monticello.org states that the quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson, and the ascription is deemed spurious.[1]Website: Thomas Jefferson: Monticello, Article title: Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude… (Spurious Quotation), Article author: Anna Berkes, Creation date on website: April … Continue reading

The earliest strong match located by QI occurred in “Forbes” magazine in January 1948 within a section called “Thoughts on the Business of Life”. The statement was credited to W. W. Ziege who was a high-level member of AMORC (Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis). Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:[2] 1948 January 15, Forbes, Thoughts on the Business of Life, Quote Page 42, Column 3, Forbes Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. — W. W. Ziege.

No precise citation was given in “Forbes” magazine, and QI has not yet found a closely matching statement within the writings of Ziege, but he did craft a semantically similar remark in a 1945 piece published in “The Rosicrucian Digest”. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nothing Can Stop a Person with the Right Mental Attitude from Achieving His or Her Goal

References

References
1 Website: Thomas Jefferson: Monticello, Article title: Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude… (Spurious Quotation), Article author: Anna Berkes, Creation date on website: April 20, 2010, Revision date on website: April 25, 2018, Website description: Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson. It has been maintained and kept open to the public by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. (Accessed monticello.org on January 19, 2019) link
2 1948 January 15, Forbes, Thoughts on the Business of Life, Quote Page 42, Column 3, Forbes Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)
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