I Always Advise People Never To Give Advice

P. G. Wodehouse? George Bernard Shaw? Smallwood Bessemer? Bob Chieger? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: A famous wit once offered the following piece of self-contradictory advice: Never take advice. Another prominent humorist offered a similar piece of oxymoronic guidance: Never give advice. Would you please help me to find these citations together with the correct phrasings?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1894 critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw sent a letter of instruction to the neophyte critic Reginald Golding Bright. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1963 (1955 Copyright), Advice to a Young Critic and Other Letters by Bernard Shaw, Notes and Introduction by E. J. West (Edward Joseph West), Letter Title: A Lesson in Practical Criticism: Shaw Edits … Continue reading

Write a thousand words a day for the next five years for at least nine months every year. Read all the great critics—Ruskin, Richard Wagner, Lessing, Lamb and Hazlitt. Get a ticket for the British Museum reading room, and live there as much as you can. Go to all the first rate orchestral concerts and to the opera, as well as to the theatres.

Shaw provided a long series of additional recommendations, but he finished by comically flipping the entire discourse:

Finally, since I have given you all this advice, I add this crowning precept, the most valuable of all. NEVER TAKE ANYBODY’S ADVICE.

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References

References
1 1963 (1955 Copyright), Advice to a Young Critic and Other Letters by Bernard Shaw, Notes and Introduction by E. J. West (Edward Joseph West), Letter Title: A Lesson in Practical Criticism: Shaw Edits a Bright Review, Letter From: George Bernard Shaw, Letter To: Reginald Golding Bright, Letter Date: Dec. 2, 1894, Start Date 12, Quote Page 14, Capricorn Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

“Lots of People Talk To Animals” “Not Very Many Listen, Though”

A. A. Milne? Piglet? Owl? Pooh? Benjamin Hoff? George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: The following dialog has been ascribed to the famous English author A. A. Milne:

Pooh: Lots of people talk to animals.
Owl: Maybe, but . . . Not very many listen, though.
Pooh: That’s the problem.

I am skeptical of this attribution because I have never seen a citation. Other characters such as Piglet sometimes receive credit for lines from this dialog. Would you please explore this topic.

Reply from Quote Investigator: QI has not found this dialog in any of the four canonical books containing material about Pooh by A. A. Milne: “When We Were Very Young” (1924), “Winnie-the-Pooh” (1926), “Now We Are Six” (1927), and “The House at Pooh Corner” (1928).

In 1982 U.S. author Benjamin Hoff published “The Tao of Pooh” with the goal of illuminating the Chinese philosophy of Taoism via the characters created by A. A. Milne. Hoff’s work contained the following dialog. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1982, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, Chapter: Spelling Tuesday, Quote Page 29, E. P. Dutton, New York. (Verified with scans)

It seems fairly obvious to some of us that a lot of scholars need to go outside and sniff around—walk through the grass, talk to the animals. That sort of thing.

“Lots of people talk to animals,” said Pooh.
“Maybe, but . . .”
“Not very many listen, though,” he said.
“That’s the problem,” he added.

In other words, you might say that there is more to Knowing than just being correct.

Based on current evidence QI believes that Benjamin Hoff constructed this dialog to reflect his viewpoint. It was not crafted by A. A. Milne.

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References

References
1 1982, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, Chapter: Spelling Tuesday, Quote Page 29, E. P. Dutton, New York. (Verified with scans)

Flowers: Don’t Cut Off Their Heads and Stick Them in Pots

George Bernard Shaw? Blanche Patch? Archibald Henderson? Bennett Cerf? Walter Winchell? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A visitor to the home of a famous wit expected to find vases filled with beautiful cut flowers, but there were none. The wit explained the absence by making a comically grotesque comparison between cut flowers and decapitated people. Would you please help me to identify the humorist and find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in 1899 within the London journal “The Garden” which published a short item crediting Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw with the joke. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1899 May 20, The Garden: Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture in All Its Branches, Volume 55, Number 1435, The New Style, Quote Page 358, Column 1, London, England. (Google Books Full View) link

Mr. G. Bernard Shaw on flowers is—well, he is Mr. G. Bernard Shaw, just as he is on the drama and things generally. As thus: “A well-balanced mind has no favourites. People who have a favourite flower generally cut off its head and stick it into a button-hole or a vase. I wonder they do not do the same to their favourite children. It is a crime to pluck a flower. I dislike formal gardens. At any given moment two thirds of its blossoms are dead.

The journal did not specify the source of this tale. Shaw received credit for variations of this quip in later years.

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References

References
1 1899 May 20, The Garden: Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture in All Its Branches, Volume 55, Number 1435, The New Style, Quote Page 358, Column 1, London, England. (Google Books Full View) link

“Lady X Will Be At Home Thursday Between 4 and 6” “Mr. Bernard Shaw Likewise”

George Bernard Shaw? Walter Winchell? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A person who was enamored with celebrities wanted George Bernard Shaw to attend a social gathering. Several attempts at interesting Shaw failed. So a formal invitation was sent. Shaw appended a short reply and sent the note back:

“Lord X will be at home on the 25th between four and six o’clock.”
“So will G. B. Shaw.”

Here is another version of the interaction:

“Lady X will be at home Tuesday between the hours of two and five in the afternoon.”
“George Bernard Shaw likewise.”

Is this episode genuine? Would you please explore this anecdote?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the syndicated gossip column of Walter Winchell in September 1939. Winchell stated that the tale had been circulating in British magazines. A wealthy woman who enjoyed gathering celebrities at her home had been unable to attract Shaw. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1939 September 12, The Morning Post, Walter Winchell On Broadway, Quote Page 17, Column 3, Camden, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)

Despite her failure, she persisted, and one day sent Shaw a card inviting him to tea. It read: “Lady X will be at home Thursday between 4 and 6” . . . Shaw sent it back with the comment: “Mr. Bernard Shaw likewise.”

QI has not yet located an earlier instance of this tale in a British periodical. Shaw was alive when this anecdote was published. He died in 1950 when he was 94 years old. This evidence is substantive, but the information was obtained neither from Shaw nor a direct participant; hence, its credibility is reduced.

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References

References
1 1939 September 12, The Morning Post, Walter Winchell On Broadway, Quote Page 17, Column 3, Camden, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)

Science Can Never Solve One Problem Without Raising Ten More Problems

George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Scientific knowledge is incomplete and tentative. Superior scientific theories regularly supersede existing theories. The knowledge provided is flawed, but the process is self-correcting and self-improving.

Irish playwright and activist George Bernard Shaw bluntly stated that science was always wrong. He believed that every time science solved a problem it introduced ten more problems. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1930 George Bernard Shaw delivered a speech in London honoring physicist Albert Einstein. The address was broadcast in the U.S., and a transcript appeared in “The New York Times”. Shaw presented a contrast between the certainties provided by religion and science. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1930 October 29, New York Times, Shaw and Einstein Speeches, Quote Page 12, Column 3, New York. (ProQuest)

Religion is always right. Religion protects us against that great problem which we all must face. Science is always wrong; it is the very artifice of men. Science can never solve one problem without raising ten more problems.

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References

References
1 1930 October 29, New York Times, Shaw and Einstein Speeches, Quote Page 12, Column 3, New York. (ProQuest)

Life Is Not About Finding Yourself. Life Is About Creating Yourself

George Bernard Shaw? Mary McCarthy? Thomas Szasz? Sydney J. Harris? Helen A. De Rosis? Victoria Y. Pellegrino? Karen Horney? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: For decades pop-psychology has emphasized the task of “finding yourself”, i.e., identifying your deepest values, abilities, feelings, and desires. Yet, these qualities are not immutable. Instead, living fully means endlessly recreating yourself. Here are two versions of a pertinent saying:

(1) Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

(2) The self is not something you find; it is something you create.

This notion has been attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw, novelist Mary McCarthy, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, and journalist Sydney J. Harris. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Tracing this saying is difficult because it can be expressed in many different ways. QI has found no substantive evidence that George Bernard Shaw who died in 1950 employed this saying; also, QI has seen no substantive evidence that Mary McCarthy who died in 1989 used this saying.

The earliest match located by QI appeared in 1969 within the syndicated column of Sydney J. Harris. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1969 April 18, Record-Gazette, Strictly Personal by Sydney J. Harris (Syndicated), (newspaper has misspelling: Sidney) Quote Page 1, Column 10, Banning, California. (Newspapers_com)

Young people searching for their “real self” must learn that the real self is not something one finds as much as it is something one makes; and it is one’s daily actions that shape the inner personality far more permanently than any amount of introspection or intellection.

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References

References
1 1969 April 18, Record-Gazette, Strictly Personal by Sydney J. Harris (Syndicated), (newspaper has misspelling: Sidney) Quote Page 1, Column 10, Banning, California. (Newspapers_com)

It Is the Soul’s Duty To Be Loyal To Its Own Desires

Rebecca West? George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent British author and literary critic Rebecca West once wrote about the necessity to be loyal to one’s own desires. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1913 Rebecca West published in the journal “The New Freewoman” a review of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Androcles and the Lion”. West suggested that the actions of the character Ferrovius reflected the yearnings of his soul, and she presented the following guidance. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1913 September 15, The New Freewoman: An Individualist Review, Volume 1, Number 7, Editor: Dora Marsden, “Androcles and the Lion” by Rebecca West (Review of George Bernard Shaw’s … Continue reading

It is the soul’s duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master-passion.

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References

References
1 1913 September 15, The New Freewoman: An Individualist Review, Volume 1, Number 7, Editor: Dora Marsden, “Androcles and the Lion” by Rebecca West (Review of George Bernard Shaw’s “Androcles and the Lion”), Start Page 128, Quote Page 128, Column 22, The New Freewoman, Ltd., London. (Accessed at modjourn.org on September 18, 2021) link

A Happy Family Is But an Earlier Heaven

George Bernard Shaw? John Bowring? John Browning? John Bouring?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some envision heaven filled with a joyous, loving, and interconnected group of people united on a higher spiritual plane. If one is a member of a happy family here on Earth then it is possible to obtain a glimpse of this future possibility. One may express this notion as follows:

A happy family is an earlier heaven.

This statement has been attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw, political economist Sir John Bowring, and parliamentarian Sir John Browning. Would you please help me to identify the correct originator?

Quote Investigator: Sir John Bowring’s career was long and varied. He wrote articles about economics, served as a Member of the U.K. Parliament, worked a literary translator, and was appointed Governor of Hong Kong. In addition, his Unitarian faith inspired him to write many hymns. In 1837 a volume of “Hymns for Public and Private Worship” compiled by John R. Beard included a work celebrating domestic life titled “Home Joys” credited to Bowring containing the following two verses. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1837, A Collection of Hymns for Public and Private Worship, Compiled by John R. Beard, Hymn Number 517: Home Joys by Bowring (Dr. Bowring), Verse Number 6, Start Page 311, Quote Page 312, Published … Continue reading

The pilgrim’s step in vain
Seeks Eden’s sacred ground;
But in home’s holy joys, again
An Eden may be found.

A glance of heaven to see,
To none on earth is given;
And yet—a happy family
Is but an earlier heaven.

Bowring’s name was followed by an asterisk, and the accompanying note stated that the hymn was an original “composed for the most part expressly for the volume”.

In 1841 John Bowring published the third edition of “Matins and Vespers: With Hymns and Occasional Devotional Pieces”. He included the hymn he wrote with slightly different punctuation.[2]1841, Matins and Vespers: With Hymns and Occasional Devotional Pieces by John Bowring, Third Edition Altered and Enlarged, Hymn: Home Joys, Start Page 267, Quote Page 268, Published by J. Green, … Continue reading

A glance of heaven to see,
To none on earth is given;
And yet a happy family
Is but an earlier heaven.

The first edition of “Matins and Vespers” appeared in 1823, but the hymn containing the quotation under examination was absent.[3]1823, Matins and Vespers: With Hymns and Occasional Devotional Pieces by John Bowring, (Quotation is absent), Printed for the author and sold by G. and W. B. Whittaker, London. (Google Books Full … Continue reading QI has not yet seen the second edition and does not know whether it included the hymn and quotation.

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References

References
1 1837, A Collection of Hymns for Public and Private Worship, Compiled by John R. Beard, Hymn Number 517: Home Joys by Bowring (Dr. Bowring), Verse Number 6, Start Page 311, Quote Page 312, Published by John Green, London. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1841, Matins and Vespers: With Hymns and Occasional Devotional Pieces by John Bowring, Third Edition Altered and Enlarged, Hymn: Home Joys, Start Page 267, Quote Page 268, Published by J. Green, London. (Google Books Full View) link
3 1823, Matins and Vespers: With Hymns and Occasional Devotional Pieces by John Bowring, (Quotation is absent), Printed for the author and sold by G. and W. B. Whittaker, London. (Google Books Full View) link

The Optimist Invents the Airplane and the Pessimist the Parachute

George Bernard Shaw? Gladys Bronwyn Stern? W. H. H. MacKellar? Gil Stern? Mack McGinnis?

Dear Quote Investigator: An entertaining quip contrasts the attitudes of the dreamer and the worrier:

Optimists invent airplanes; pessimists invent parachutes.

This saying has been attributed to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and English author Gladys Bronwyn Stern. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in a short piece published in the May 1939 issue of “The Rotarian” credited to W. H. H. MacKellar of Peekskill, New York who was described as an Honorary Rotarian. Rotary International is a voluntary nonprofit service organization.

MacKellar contrasted optimism and pessimism by presenting examples of inventions together with later improvements. He said that optimism led to the invention of the steam boiler, but explosions led pessimism to add safety valves. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]May 1939, The Rotarian, Volume 54, Number 5, Section: What They’re Saying, Optimism Versus Pessimism by W. H. H. MacKellar of Peekskill, New York (Honorary Rotarian), Quote Page 53, Column 1, … Continue reading

Optimism laid down the railroad, but pessimism made it practicable with the air brake and the block-signal system. Optimism designed a ship to sail daringly into the skies—and fall perhaps at times. So pessimism designed the parachute.

Currently, MacKellar is the leading candidate for originator of this notion although his expression was somewhat wordy. The first attributions to other people only occurred many years afterwards.

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References

References
1 May 1939, The Rotarian, Volume 54, Number 5, Section: What They’re Saying, Optimism Versus Pessimism by W. H. H. MacKellar of Peekskill, New York (Honorary Rotarian), Quote Page 53, Column 1, Rotary International, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

I Quite Agree With You, But Who Are We Two Against So Many?

George Bernard Shaw? Oscar Wilde? Clarence Rook? Alexander Woollcott? Hesketh Pearson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A playwright feared that his upcoming work was about to flop at the box office. After the surprisingly successful inaugural performance the bewildered playwright appeared on stage. Amongst the resounding cheers there was a barely audible hiss. The playwright addressed the lone detractor:

I quite agree with you, but what can we two do against a whole houseful of the opposite opinion?

George Bernard Shaw has received credit for this line. Would you please explore this popular anecdote?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the Chicago, Illinois periodical “The Chap-Book” in November 1896. The Latin phrase “popularis aura” means “popular favor”. Boldface has been added to excerpts by QI:[1]1896 November 1, The Chap-Book Semi-Monthly, Volume 5, Number 12, George Bernard Shaw by Clarence Rook, Start Page 529, Quote Page 539 and 540, Herbert S. Stone & Company, Chicago, Illinois. … Continue reading

I well remember how at the first night of “Arms and the Man” at the Avenue Theatre, after the audience had been successively puzzled, tickled and delighted, Shaw stepped before the curtain to face the applause. He was tremulous, unnerved, speechless. He looked as though he had expected cabbage stalks, and was disappointed. Suddenly a man in the Gallery began to hoot.

Shaw was himself again at once. He opened his lips, and amid the resulting silence he said, looking at the solitary malcontent. “I quite agree with my friend in the Gallery — but what are two against so many?” A single breath of opposition braced his energies. For Shaw is like the kite, and can rise only when the popularis aura is against him.

British journalist Clarence Rook penned the passage above, and apparently he directly witnessed Shaw deliver the line. The comedy “Arms and the Man” was first staged in April 1894 in London. Thus, Rook’s description appeared two years after the event. An earlier citation may exist, but QI has not yet uncovered it.

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References

References
1 1896 November 1, The Chap-Book Semi-Monthly, Volume 5, Number 12, George Bernard Shaw by Clarence Rook, Start Page 529, Quote Page 539 and 540, Herbert S. Stone & Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link