Carolyn Wells? Bruce Porter? Gelett Burgess? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following well-known adage concisely states a controversial moral principle:
Of two evils, choose the lesser.
I’ve heard these cynical variants:
- Of two evils, choose the one you haven’t tried before.
- Of two evils, a journalist will write about the one that gets the most clicks.
- Of two evils, choose the prettier.
Would you please explore the history of the last statement?
Quote Investigator: In 1904 the popular and prolific writer and poet Carolyn Wells published a collection of short pieces called “Folly for the Wise”. A section titled “Maxioms” included these items. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Reward is its own virtue.
The wages of sin is alimony.
A penny saved spoils the broth.
Of two evils, choose the prettier.
Nonsense makes the heart grow fonder.
A word to the wise is a dangerous thing.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.