Life Is a Treasure Hunt

Olivia Wyndham? Marjorie G. Hellier? Kevin J. Cook? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I have been attempting to trace an uplifting proverb about adventure and discovery:

Life is a treasure hunt.

The lesson of this phrase is illustrated by the delight experienced when uncovering early instances of this adage. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In July 1924 “The Sketch”, a London periodical, published a piece by Olivia Wyndham who was a member of a society that organized treasure hunts for entertainment. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Every attempt to keep the last Treasure Hunt of the season out of the papers failed completely. The idea of avoiding publicity was a losing fight from the start; but now that it is all over honour is satisfied, and I can add my say in the matter.

I have long wanted to argue with the gentleman who wrote to the paper saying, “Does not the Society of Bright Young People realise that the whole of life is a treasure hunt, etc.,” or words to that effect. In fact, I am afraid he was trying to infer that we were wasting our time, energy, and brains, and were not good citizens.

Wyndham was paraphrasing the words of a detractor, but the elegant encapsulation was hers. Since she wrote the earliest known instance she tentatively deserves credit for coining the expression. This notion is natural, and future researchers may find earlier evidence.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life Is a Treasure Hunt

Notes:

  1. 1924 July 23, The Sketch, Society Treasure Hunts: The Trail and the Chase by Olivia Wyndham, Start Page 158, Quote Page 158, Column 1, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)