James Thurber? Jane Austen? Charles Caleb Colton? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Many are familiar with the following adage which encourages aggregation:
There is safety in numbers.
Yet, I recall reading a short acerbic tale that presented an inverted moral of this type:
There is no safety in numbers, or anything else.
Would you please help me to find this story?
Quote Investigator: In 1939 “The New Yorker” published a set of four short tales by humorist James Thurber under the title “Fables for Our Time – II”. The first story was about a “fairly intelligent fly” who avoided being caught in an empty spider web. Unfortunately, when the fly later encountered a large group of flies together on a surface he decided to settle down among them. A bee warned the fly that the group were trapped on flypaper. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:1939 February 4, The New Yorker, Fables for Our Time – II by James Thurber, Start Page 20, Quote Page 20, Column 1, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital … Continue reading
“Don’t be silly,” said the fly, “they’re dancing.” So he settled down and became stuck to the flypaper with all the other flies.
Moral: There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
|↑1||1939 February 4, The New Yorker, Fables for Our Time – II by James Thurber, Start Page 20, Quote Page 20, Column 1, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans)|