I’m Not Young Enough To Know Everything

James Matthew Barrie? Oscar Wilde? Benjamin Disraeli? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Young people often reject the teachings of their elders. They believe that their understanding is superior. An older individual constructed the following ironic barb:

I am not young enough to know everything.

This statement has often been attributed to the famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde. It has also been credited to the playwright J. M. Barrie who is best known for the creation of Peter Pan. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: J. M. Barrie wrote the comic play “The Admirable Crichton” which was first produced in 1902. Barrie published the script by 1918. A character named Ernest delivered the line, and he repeated it when its humor was not fully understood: 1

LADY MARY (speaking without looking up). You impertinent boy.

ERNEST (eagerly plucking another epigram from his quiver). I knew that was it, though I don’t know everything. Agatha, I’m not young enough to know everything.
(He looks hopefully from one to another, but though they try to grasp this, his brilliance baffles them.)

AGATHA (his secret admirer) Young enough?

ERNEST (encouragingly) Don’t you see? I’m not young enough to know everything.

AGATHA I’m sure it’s awfully clever, but it’s so puzzling.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I’m Not Young Enough To Know Everything

Notes:

  1. 1918, The Plays of J. M. Barrie: The Admirable Crichton: A Comedy, Act I, Quote Page 12 and 13, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

The Old Believe Everything: The Middle-Aged Suspect Everything: The Young Know Everything

Oscar Wilde? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde once constructed an epigram about human knowledge and the three stages of life. I recall Wilde’s remarks about two of the stages. The arrogant young know everything, and the credulous old believe anything. Would you please help me to find this epigram?

Quote Investigator: Alfred Douglas asked Oscar Wilde to contribute to a new journal for students at the University of Oxford called “The Chameleon”. Wilde sent a collection of thirty-five witticisms which were published under the title “Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young” in 1894. Here were four items. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

If one tells the truth one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.

In examinations the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer.

The old believe everything: the middle-aged suspect everything: the young know everything.

Only the great masters of style ever succeed in being obscure.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Old Believe Everything: The Middle-Aged Suspect Everything: The Young Know Everything

Notes:

  1. 1894, The Chameleon, Volume 1, Number 1, Edited by John Francis Bloxam, Article: Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young by Oscar Wilde, Start Page 1, Quote Page 3, Gay and Bird, London. (British Library website; accessed bl.uk on October 28, 2020) link

God In Creating Man, Somewhat Overestimated His Ability

Oscar Wilde? Francis Douglas? 11th Marquess of Queensberry? ‎Percy Colson? Mark Twain? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The Book of Genesis describes the creation of the world and the formation of Adam and Eve. The actions of this couple in the Garden of Eden quickly revealed behavioral defects. A sardonic commentator has suggested that God overestimated his capabilities when he synthesized humankind.

This remark is usually attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wide. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900, and the earliest match known to QI occurred decades later in the 1940 book “Oscar Wilde and the Black Douglas” by Francis Douglas, 11th Marquess of Queensberry in collaboration with ‎Percy Colson. The following passage mixes commentary about Wilde together with quotations attributed to him. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Art and religion had much in common, he thought; both give an enhanced sense of living. St. Francis of Assisi, and Jeanne d’Arc were artists in their way, and he loved tradition. “Never try to pull down public monuments such as the Albert Memorial and the Church,” he said. “You are sure to be damaged by the falling masonry.”

But the Creator as an artist did not meet with his whole-hearted admiration. “I sometimes think that God in creating man, somewhat over-estimated his ability,” he remarked to a friend.

The friend was unidentified, and the long delay between 1900 and 1940 reduced the evidentiary value of this citation. Yet, QI is unaware of any other candidate creator with substantive support.

Francis Douglas was the nephew of Lord Alfred Douglas who was the lover and repudiator of Wilde. In addition, Francis Douglas was the grandchild of John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry who was Wilde’s nemesis. Interestingly, the book is sympathetic to Wilde.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading God In Creating Man, Somewhat Overestimated His Ability

Notes:

  1. 1949, Oscar Wilde and the Black Douglas by The Marquess of Queensberry (Francis Douglas) in collaboration with ‎Percy Colson, Chapter 2: Oscar Wilde’s Parentage and Youth, Quote Page 20, Hutchinson & Company, London. (Verified with scans)

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

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

Notes:

  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)

Sometimes I Think We’re Alone, and Sometimes I Think We’re Not. In Either Case, the Idea Is Quite Staggering

Arthur C. Clarke? Stanley Kubrick? Christiane Kubrick? Jeremy Bernstein? Porky Pine? Walt Kelly? Frank Interlandi? Carl Sagan? Jerome Agel? Buckminster Fuller? David Shepley? Lee Alvin DuBridge? Anonymous?

Quote Investigator: Astronomers have been searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence for more than a century. Is humankind alone in the universe, or is humankind sharing the cosmos with undiscovered alien civilizations?

A scientist or a science fiction (SF) writer once replied to this question by saying something like: Either answer is mindboggling. Would you please explore this topic?

Dear Quote Investigator: This notion has been expressed in many different ways. Here is a sampling in chronological order:

1966 November: Sometimes I think we’re alone, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering.

1966 December: You either believe there are other forms of intelligent life in the universe, or that there aren’t. Either way, it’s a pretty staggering thought.

1974: Sometimes I think we’re alone in the Universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the prospect is very frightening.

1977: Either mankind is alone in the galaxy — or he is not; either alternative is mind-boggling.

1989: Sometimes I think we are alone in the universe and sometimes I think we aren’t; in both cases the idea makes me dizzy.

1990: Either we are alone in the universe, or we are not. Either way, the thought is frightening.

1996: Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

2000: Either there is life out there or we are the only living things in the universe, and either alternative is equally astonishing.

The earliest close match located by QI appeared within an article by physicist Jeremy Bernstein about movie director Stanley Kubrick published in “The New Yorker” magazine in 1966. Kubrick was working together with British SF author Arthur C. Clarke who wrote a short story titled “The Sentinel”. The pair spent two years expanding the story into a novel and a script for the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” which included an interplanetary voyage to Jupiter. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Extraterrestrial life may seem an odd subject for a motion picture, but at this stage in his career Kubrick is convinced that any idea he is really interested in, however unlikely it may sound, can be transferred to film. “One of the English science-fiction writers once said, ‘Sometimes I think we’re alone, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering,’” Kubrick once told me. “I must say I agree with him.”

Kubrick did not precisely identify the author of the quotation. Clarke was mentioned extensively in the article; however, QI believes that Kubrick and Bernstein would have credited Clarke if he had crafted the statement. Kubrick spoke to other British SF writers such as J. G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock during the long difficult parturition of “2001”. 2

Oddly, a couple years later in 1968 Kubrick tentatively attributed the remark to a “prominent astronomer”. See the 1968 citation further below. Kubrick did speak to U.S. astronomer Carl Sagan during the creation of the “2001”. 3

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Sometimes I Think We’re Alone, and Sometimes I Think We’re Not. In Either Case, the Idea Is Quite Staggering

Notes:

  1. 1966 November 12, The New Yorker, Profiles: How About a Little Game? by Jeremy Bernstein, (Profile of Stanley Kubrick), The New Yorker Magazine, Inc., New York. (Online New Yorker archive at newyorker.com; accessed October 10, 2020) link
  2. 2016 January 5, New Statesman, Books: “Close to tears, he left at the intermission”: how Stanley Kubrick upset Arthur C Clarke by Michael Moorcock, (Article posted on website on January 8, 2017), (Accessed newstatesman.com on October 21, 2020) link
  3. Website: CNet, Article title: Kubrick, Clarke and 2001: How Space Odyssey came together, Article author: Nicholas Tufnell, Date on website: April 3, 2018, Website description: Technology news. (Accessed cnet.com on October 27, 2020) link

I Never Liked the Men I Loved, and Never Loved the Men I Liked

Fanny Brice? Fannie Hurst? Norman Katkov? Ray Stark? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Falling in love with someone occurs because of unconstrained desires and emotions. The decision is not based on clearsighted logic and rationality. In retrospect, an infatuation might seem foolish or destructive. An unhappy humorist once commented on this behavior. Here are two versions:

  • I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.
  • I never liked the man I loved, and never loved the man I liked.

These statements illustrate antimetabole, the elegant repetition of clauses containing transposed words. Would you please tell me who deserves credit for this saying?

Quote Investigator: Fanny Brice was a popular comedienne, singer, and actress who died in 1951. In 1953 journalist and scriptwriter Norman Katkov published a biography titled “The Fabulous Fanny”. Brice’s three marriages ended in divorce. Her second husband was a gambler who served time in prison. The following excerpt presented her thoughts on love. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“When you’re young,” she continued, “you make pictures in your head, you have ideas. You pick the type guy you want. But if I went to a party, and there was one no-good bastard in the room, I’d go for him right away. It’s so funny: for my friends I must have admiration and I must respect them. In fact, I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.”

The book was based on many hours of recordings made by Brice in 1951 for a future memoir. This plan was derailed by the comedienne’s death in 1953, and Katkov was commissioned to create an authorized biography. 2 The accuracy of this quotation depends on the veracity of Katkov. Several later instances of this quotation can be traced back to this book.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Never Liked the Men I Loved, and Never Loved the Men I Liked

Notes:

  1. 1953, The Fabulous Fanny: The Story of Fanny Brice by Norman Katkov, Chapter 7: Nick Arnstein, Quote Page 89, Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1968 September 15, The New York Times, ‘Come On, Let’s Stop a Minute To See Snooks’ by Ray Stark, Quote Page D15, New York. (ProQuest)

There Is a Hopeful Symbolism in the Fact That Flags Will Not Wave in a Vacuum

Arthur C. Clarke? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous science fiction (SF) author was fearful that nationalistic and jingoistic impulses were driving conflict on Earth and endangering the future of humankind. The author hoped that space exploration would redirect and lessen those passions.

A flag flapping in the breeze is a traditional signifier of allegiance, but there are no gusts of wind in outer space. Also, there is no atmosphere on the moon. The SF author said something like:

There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In July 1969 emissaries from Earth were poised to land on the moon for the first time. To mark the occasion the editors of “Time” magazine requested an essay from SF author Arthur C. Clarke who described his dreams and predictions. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

There is always the fear, of course, that men will carry the curse of their animosities into space. But it is more likely that in the long run, those who go out to the stars will leave behind the barriers of nation and race that divide them now. There is a hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags will not wave in a vacuum; our present tribal conflicts cannot be sustained in the hostile environment of space.

The NASA picture above shows Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin together with the U.S. flag at Tranquility Base. A metal rod sewn inside the top edge of the flag prevented it from drooping. Perhaps Clarke underestimated the desire to retain symbols.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is a Hopeful Symbolism in the Fact That Flags Will Not Wave in a Vacuum

Notes:

  1. 1969 July 18, Time, To the Moon: Special Supplement, Beyond the Moon: No End by Arthur C. Clarke, Start Page 31, Quote Page 31, Column 3, Time Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)

“When Was the Golden Age of Science Fiction?” “Twelve”

Peter Graham? Terry Carr? Avram Davidson? Barry N. Malzberg? Baird Searles? L. Sprague de Camp? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and H. G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” were milestones in the genesis and evolution of the science fiction (SF) genre. This imaginative category of literature built upon technological and other-worldly speculation makes a strong impression on young readers and viewers.

Adherents of the genre debate whether a Golden Age of creativity and exploration occurred during the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, or 1960’s. A fan who was asked to name the years of the magnificent era responded by cleverly reinterpreting the query and presenting the age of a child experiencing SF with fresh directness:

The Golden Age of science fiction is twelve.

Variant statements use the age thirteen or fourteen. Would you please explore the origin of this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest published evidence located by QI appeared in editor Terry Carr’s introduction to the anthology “Universe 3”. The introduction was dated June 9, 1972, and the book was released in 1973: Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Years ago a friend of mine, Pete Graham, tersely answered the question “When was the golden age of science fiction?” by saying, “Twelve.” He didn’t have to explain further; we knew what he meant.

Carr’s comment suggested that the remark was in circulation before 1972. Shown further below is a February 1978 citation in which Carr stated that Graham made the remark circa 1960. In addition, further below is an August 1997 citation from fan Gary Farber containing the unverified claim that the saying appeared in the fanzine “VOID” circa 1957. A co-editor of the fanzine presented a dissenting viewpoint in 2020.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “When Was the Golden Age of Science Fiction?” “Twelve”

Notes:

  1. 1973, Universe 3, Edited by Terry Carr, Section: Introduction by Terry Carr, Date of Introduction: June 9, 1972, Start Page vii, Quote Page viii, Random House, New York. (Verified with scans)

How Do You Know That the Earth Isn’t Some Other Planet’s Hell?

Aldous Huxley? George Bernard Shaw? Voltaire? Andy Capp? Reg Smythe? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A dejected literary figure apparently experienced an alarming eschatological revelation:

Maybe this world is another planet’s Hell.

This notion has been credited to English writer Aldous Huxley who penned the classic dystopian novel “Brave New World”. Credit has also been given to playwright George Bernard Shaw. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 Aldous Huxley published the novel “Point Counter Point”. Huxley’s disillusioned intellectual character Maurice Spandrell delivered a line about hell while conversing with a barmaid. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

‘But why should two people be unhappy?’ persisted the barmaid. ‘When it isn’t necessary?’

‘Why shouldn’t they be unhappy?’ Spandrell enquired. ‘Perhaps it’s what they’re here for. How do you know that the earth isn’t some other planet’s hell?’

A positivist, the barmaid laughed. ‘What rot!’

The phrasing above differed from the most common modern version of the quotation, but QI believes that this 1928 citation is the origin of the Huxley attribution.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading How Do You Know That the Earth Isn’t Some Other Planet’s Hell?

Notes:

  1. 1954 (Copyright 1928), Point Counter Point: A Novel by Aldous Huxley, Chapter XVII, Quote Page 306 and 307, Chatto & Windus, London. (Verified with scans)

They Will Never Agree. They Argue from Different Premises

Sydney Smith? Punch? Evan Esar? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A disagreement between two people is sometimes caused by a difference in underlying assumptions. Two individuals arguing from different premises are likely to reach different conclusions.

This notion can be comically transformed via a pun on the word “premises” which can mean “assumptions” or “residences”. The famous English wit Sydney Smith has received credit for crafting this type of joke, but skepticism is justified because he is a quotation magnet. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the London humor magazine “Punch” in September 1841. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

When a person holds an argument with his neighbour on the opposite side of the street, why is there no chance of their agreeing?–Because they argue from different premises.

No attribution was specified; hence, QI conjectures that the joke was crafted by one of the “Punch” editors or a contributor:

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading They Will Never Agree. They Argue from Different Premises

Notes:

  1. 1841 September 25, Punch, Or The London Charivari, Volume 1, (Untitled short item), Quote Page 123, Column 1, Published at The Punch Office, London. (Google Books Full View) link