Fathers: Give the Gift that Only You Can to Your Child

Ann Landers? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Many years ago I read a poem I greatly enjoyed in a newspaper column by Ann Landers. Unfortunately, I only remember a few fragments:

What will you give one small boy?
… a tinker toy?
No, give him a day he can call his own.

Can you find the poem with this partial information?

Quote Investigator: In the 1950s a poem was printed in multiple newspaper columns during the period around Father’s Day in the United States. Here is an instance published in 1956 in the Oxnard Press-Courier of Oxnard, California. The verse included the phrase “tinseled toy” rather than “tinker toy”. The author was anonymous [OXSB]:

What shall you give to one small boy?
A glamorous game, a tinseled toy,
A barlow knife, a puzzle pack,
A train that runs on curving track?
A picture book; a real live pet.
No, there’s plenty of time for such things yet.
Give him a day for his very own—
Just one small boy and his dad alone.
A walk in the woods, a romp in the park,
A fishing trip from dawn to dark.
Give the gift that only you can—
The companionship of his Old Man.
Games are outgrown, and toys decay—
But he’ll never forget if you “Give him a day.”

Other newspapers publishing the poem included: the Logansport Press of Logansport, Indiana in 1956 [LPSB]; the Millbrook Round Table of Millbrook, New York in 1957 [MRSB]; and the Augusta Chronicle of Augusta, Georgia in 1957 [ACSB]. Each time the poem was labeled anonymous.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Fathers: Give the Gift that Only You Can to Your Child

He Has Achieved Success Who Has Lived Well, Laughed Often and Loved Much

Ralph Waldo Emerson? Bessie A. Stanley? Albert Edward Wiggam? Harry Emerson Fosdick? Ann Landers? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: In church this morning I listened to a short discourse on the definition of success. It began:

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends,…

The speaker credited the words to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I am confident this ascription is inaccurate. Can you find the real source of this quotation?

Quote Investigator: Your skepticism is well founded. Many of the words you heard were derived from an essay written by Bessie A. Stanley of Lincoln, Kansas. Here is an article about her essay that was published in the Emporia Gazette of Emporia, Kansas on December 11, 1905 [BSEK]:

A Boston firm recently offered several prizes for the best essay on the subject. “What Constitutes Success?” It was stipulated that the essay must be under one hundred words in length.

A Kansas woman, Mrs. A. J. Stanley of Lincoln, submitted a definition of success in the contest. Mrs. Stanley is the wife of the county superintendent of schools in Lincoln county. Her husband also represented his county in the legislature of 1899. It was considered in competition with several hundred others from all parts of the country, and a few days ago Mrs. Stanley received a draft for two hundred and fifty dollars, with the information that she had won the first prize. Her definition was as follows:

“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.”

There are multiple versions of this essay with relatively small differences that are all attributed to Bessie A. Stanley. For example, in 1906 a version was printed in a Springfield, Illinois newspaper that replaced the line immediately below with the next line [ILBS]:

… who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;

… who has gained the trust of pure women and the love of little children;

A considerably altered version of the piece was published in a syndicated newspaper column by Albert Edward Wiggam in 1951. When asked the question “What is success?” Wiggam decided to answer by presenting what he claimed was an abridged version of statements that he credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson [AWRE]:

Listen to Emerson (abridged): “To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty.

“To find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exaltation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”

This is the earliest evidence of an association to Emerson located by QI. The beginning of this piece was quite similar to Stanley’s work, and it was thematically congruent, but the latter part of the text diverged significantly. QI has not yet located comparable passages in Emerson’s corpus.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading He Has Achieved Success Who Has Lived Well, Laughed Often and Loved Much

You Can Easily Judge the Character of a Man by How He Treats Those Who Can Do Nothing for Him

Ann Landers? Abigail Van Buren? Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Samuel Johnson? Malcolm Forbes? Paul Eldridge? Charles Haddon Spurgeon? James D. Miles? Dan Reeves?

Dear Quote Investigator: I am attempting to verify the following quotation because it will appear in a forthcoming book, but I have discovered multiple attributions:

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

As I searched further I found a similar quotation with additional attributions:

The true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good.

Can you help determine the origin of this saying?

Quote InvestigatorQI agrees that these two expressions and several others can be grouped together because they are semantically closely aligned. Interestingly, members of this set have been employed by (or attributed to) a wide variety of individuals including: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Samuel Johnson, Ann Landers, Abigail Van Buren, Malcolm Forbes, Paul Eldridge, James D. Miles, and Dan Reeves.

The earliest close match for this saying that QI has located appeared in the popular newspaper column of Earl Wilson. He credited the well-known magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes in 1972 [EWMF]:

Remembered Quote: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”—Malcolm S. Forbes.

In 1978 Forbes published a collection of his own quotations called “The Sayings of Chairman Malcolm” [SCMF]. This title was constructed as wordplay on the well-known doctrinal work “The Sayings of Chairman Mao” also called “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung” or “The Little Red Book”.

A close variant of the saying under investigation was presented in the book and featured prominently in multiple advertisements that appeared in the New Yorker magazine for the collection in 1979 [SCMF] [NYMF]:

“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.”

—from The Sayings of Chairman Malcolm

Today a visitor to the Forbes magazine website can search a quotation database maintained by the publisher called “Thoughts on the Business of Life” that contains more than 10,000 entries. The version of the adage in “The Sayings of Chairman Malcolm” is available in the database [TBMF].

The famous advice giving sisters Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers used versions of this saying in the 1970s. But QI has not yet located any evidence of use before 1974 for either woman. The attachment of the quotation to the notable figures Samuel Johnson and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe appears to be unsupported by current evidence.

QI has also examined a related saying: If you want to know what a man’s like, look at how he treats his inferiors. Click here to read the other article.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can Easily Judge the Character of a Man by How He Treats Those Who Can Do Nothing for Him

“Our host certainly is outspoken.” “Outspoken by whom?”

Dorothy Parker? Punch Humor Magazine? Sally’s Sallies Comic Strip? Ann Landers?

Dear Quote Investigator: Previously you discussed a quote of Dorothy Parker’s which was self-critical, but she also directed her barbs at others. Here is an example [LWO]:

When a garrulous old battle-ax was praised as “outspoken,” Mrs. Parker raised an eyebrow to take dead aim: “Outspoken? By whom?”

I would like to know if Parker really said this, and if she did who was the “battle-ax”?  Could you trace this quotation?

Quote Investigator: Yes, QI will attempt to locate examples of this quip, but the targets of witty remarks sometimes remain anonymous in newspaper accounts.

QI has found citations for this word-play joke that show it is more than one-hundred years old. Thus, it predates the seminal Algonquin Round table period. The quip is first attributed to Dorothy Parker on or before 1944. Here are selected citations in reverse-chronological order.

Continue reading “Our host certainly is outspoken.” “Outspoken by whom?”