F. Scott Fitzgerald? Aubrey Grey? Harriett G. Hancock? Apocryphal? Anonymous?
Question for Quote Investigator: A smile can raise the spirits of oneself and others. This thought has been conveyed as follows:
It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light, it scattered the night and made the day worth living.
These words have been attributed to the prominent U.S. novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I have never seen a solid citation, and I have become skeptical. Would you please explore the provenance of this statement?
Reply from Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for the ascription to F. Scott Fitzgerald who was born in 1896.
The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in March 1893 within a poem titled “Only” published in “The Western Teacher: A Monthly Journal for Progressive Teachers” of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Below are the first two verses of the four verse poem. The author was not identified. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1893 March, The Western Teacher: A Monthly Journal for Progressive Teachers, Volume 1, Number 5, Poem: Only, Quote Page 145, Column 2, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Google Books Full View) link
It was only a sunny smile,
And little it cost in the giving;
But it scattered the night
Like morning light,
And made the day worth living.
Through life’s dull warp a woof it wove
In shining colors of hope and love;
And the angels smiled as they watched above.
Yet little it cost in the giving.
It was only a kindly word,
A word that was lightly spoken;
Yet not in vain,
For it stilled the pain
Of a heart that was nearly broken.
It strengthened a faith beset by fears
And groping blindly through mists of tears
For light to brighten the coming years,
Although it was lightly spoken.
The poem above was widely reprinted in subsequent years, but QI has been unable to determine the author. Thus, the creator of the quotation under examination remains anonymous.
Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.
Image Notes: Pictures of balloons with smiles and frowns from Madison Oren at Unsplash.
Acknowledgements: Great thanks to Shawn Sudia-Skehan and Greg whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.