Do Not Take Life Quite So Seriously—You Surely Will Never Get Out of It Alive

Elbert Hubbard? Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle? William J. Crawford? Walt Kelly? Pogo? Pierre Daninos? Alphonse Allais? Julien Green?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a trenchant family of fatalistic sayings concerning the solemnity of life. Here are four examples:

  • Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive.
  • You mustn’t take life too seriously; no one makes it out alive.
  • Don’t take life so seriously, you’ll never get out alive.
  • Why take life so seriously? It’s not permanent.

This notion has been attributed to U.S. aphorist Elbert Hubbard and French essayist and scholar Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle. Would you please explore the provenance of this set of expressions?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the December 1900 issue of “The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest” within an essay by Elbert Hubbard who was the editor of the publication. The text began with a reference to the spiritual dimension of life. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Dear Playmate in the Kindergarten of God: Please do not take life quite so seriously—you surely will never get out of it alive. And as for your buying and selling, your churches and banks, your newspapers and books, they are really at the last of no more importance than the child’s paper houses, red and blue wafers, and funny scissors things.

Why you grown-ups! all your possessions are only just to keep you out of mischief, until Death, the good old nurse, comes and rocks you to sleep. Am I not right?

Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle died in 1757, and he received credit for this saying by the 1970s which is rather late. QI has not yet found substantive support for this attribution.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Do Not Take Life Quite So Seriously—You Surely Will Never Get Out of It Alive

Notes:

  1. 1900 December, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Volume 12, Number 1, Editor Elbert Hubbard, Heart to Heart Talks with Philistines by the Pastor of His Flock, Dear Playmate in the Kindergarten of God, Start Page 24, Quote Page 24, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

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)

Two Necessities In Doing a Great and Important Work: A Definite Plan and Limited Time

Elbert Hubbard? H.C. Peters? Leonard Bernstein?

Dear Quote Investigator: Dreaming about accomplishing a vaguely defined magnificent task at some unknown future date is unhelpful. True progress is made by formulating a plan and adopting a clear deadline. This notion has been attributed to U.S. publisher Elbert Hubbard and U.S. composer Leonard Bernstein. Would you please explore this topic.

Quote Investigator: Aphorist Elbert Hubbard edited and published a journal called “The Fra” for an artisan community in East Aurora, New York. The September 1911 issue featured the following epigraph. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

TWO NECESSITIES IN DOING A GREAT AND IMPORTANT WORK: A DEFINITE PLAN AND LIMITED TIME

The journal issue included a short article by H.C. Peters that elaborated on this adage: 2

If I were trying to condense in a few words the best plan for efficient action, I would say: Have a definite thing to do and a limited time to do it. About fifty per cent of the people engaged in business never reach the point where they set their minds on doing some one definite thing . . .

It is left for the men who decide on a definite thing to do within a limited time, to keep the wheels of progress moving.

Apparently, H.C. Peters developed the core idea, and Elbert Hubbard crafted and popularized a concise statement. Alternatively, Hubbard constructed the adage, and he next asked Peters to write on the subject.

The saying evolved over time, and it was reassigned to Leonard Bernstein by 2002. Yet, Bernstein died in 1990; hence, the current evidence supporting this attribution is rather weak.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Two Necessities In Doing a Great and Important Work: A Definite Plan and Limited Time

Notes:

  1. 1911 September, The Fra, Volume 7, Number 6, (Epigraph on title page), Quote Page 161, Elbert Hubbard and The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1911 September, The Fra, Volume 7, Number 6, (Untitled Article) by H. C. Peters, Start Page xxxvi (36), Quote Page xxxvi (36), Elbert Hubbard and The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

We Should Utilize Natural Forces and Thus Get All of Our Power. Sunshine Is a Form of Energy, and the Winds and the Tides Are Manifestations of Energy

Thomas Edison? Elbert Hubbard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous inventor Thomas Edison supposedly foresaw the potential of solar energy more than one hundred years ago. He wanted to replace the burning of fuels with the collection of natural energy from the sun, wind, and tides.

Did Edison really express this viewpoint? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1910 influential publisher Elbert Hubbard printed an interview with Thomas Edison in his journal “The Fra”. Edison believed that burning wood and coal was shortsighted, and he was excited by a vision of collecting and storing what is now called renewable energy. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

This scheme of combustion in order to get power makes me sick to think of—it is so wasteful. It is just the old, foolish Prometheus idea, and the father of Prometheus was a baboon.

“When we learn how to store electricity, we will cease being apes ourselves; until then we are tailless orang-outangs. You see, we should utilize natural forces and thus get all of our power. Sunshine is a form of energy, and the winds and the tides are manifestations of energy. Do we use them?

“Oh, no; we burn up wood and coal, as renters burn up the front fence for fuel. We live like squatters, not as if we owned the property.

“There must surely come a time when heat and power will be stored in unlimited quantities in every community, all gathered by natural forces. Electricity ought to be as cheap as oxygen, for it can not be destroyed.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Should Utilize Natural Forces and Thus Get All of Our Power. Sunshine Is a Form of Energy, and the Winds and the Tides Are Manifestations of Energy

Notes:

  1. 1910 April, The Fra: A Journal of Affirmation, Volume 5, Number 1, The Open Road: Afoot With The Fra, Thomas A. Edison, Start Page 1, Quote Page 6 and 7, Published by Elbert Hubbard, East Aurora, Erie County, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Nothing Can Stop a Person with the Right Mental Attitude from Achieving His or Her Goal

Thomas Jefferson? W. W. Ziege? Elbert Hubbard? Orison Swett Marden? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Several spiritual traditions assert that thoughts and beliefs can directly alter the world. Maintaining a positive outlook is highly desirable as indicated in the following proposition:

Nothing can stop a person with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help a person with the wrong mental attitude.

These words are often attributed to U.S. statesman Thomas Jefferson, but I have been unable to find a citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Researcher Anna Berkes of Monticello.org states that the quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson, and the ascription is deemed spurious. 1

The earliest strong match located by QI occurred in “Forbes” magazine in January 1948 within a section called “Thoughts on the Business of Life”. The statement was credited to W. W. Ziege who was a high-level member of AMORC (Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis). Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. — W. W. Ziege.

No precise citation was given in “Forbes” magazine, and QI has not yet found a closely matching statement within the writings of Ziege, but he did craft a semantically similar remark in a 1945 piece published in “The Rosicrucian Digest”. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nothing Can Stop a Person with the Right Mental Attitude from Achieving His or Her Goal

Notes:

  1. Website: Thomas Jefferson: Monticello, Article title: Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude… (Spurious Quotation), Article author: Anna Berkes, Creation date on website: April 20, 2010, Revision date on website: April 25, 2018, Website description: Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson. It has been maintained and kept open to the public by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. (Accessed monticello.org on January 19, 2019) link
  2. 1948 January 15, Forbes, Thoughts on the Business of Life, Quote Page 42, Column 3, Forbes Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)

Don’t Take Life So Serious, Son … It Ain’t Nohow Permanent

Pogo? Walt Kelly? Porky Pine? Albert Alligator? Elbert Hubbard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Walt Kelly created the landmark comic strip “Pogo” which combined beautiful artwork with entertaining humor. One strip contained a philosophical remark suggesting that one should not take life too seriously because of its transience. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The “Pogo” strip published on June 24, 1950 was part of a story arc in which the character Albert Alligator faced the possibility of appearing as a defendant in a legal trial. When Albert saw a gallows-like structure being built he fainted. The first line below is spoken by the porcupine character named Porky Pine who is propping up the body of the unconscious Albert. The second line is spoken by a squirrel character who is building the ominous structure, and the third line is spoken by Porky to Albert as he is revived with a splash of water. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

HEY … FETCH SOME BRANCH WATER!

WHAT’S A MATTER HIM?

DON’T TAKE LIFE SO SERIOUS, SON … IT AIN’T NOHOW PERMANENT.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Don’t Take Life So Serious, Son … It Ain’t Nohow Permanent

Notes:

  1. 1950 June 24, Long Beach Independent, Comic Strip: Pogo by Walt Kelly, Quote Page 11, Column 4, Long Beach, California. (Newspapers_com)

Fear Defeats More People than Any Other One Thing in the World

Ralph Waldo Emerson? Elbert Hubbard? Napoleon Bonaparte? Dale Carnegie? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Self-help books encourage people to act with confidence and assurance because apprehension can block progress. I once read the following motivational statement:

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.

These words were attributed to the famous transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. I am skeptical of the ascription because I have not been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This saying has been ascribed to Emerson, Elbert Hubbard, Napoleon Bonaparte and others. QI has not yet located substantive evidence identifying the creator; he or she remains anonymous. This article presents a snapshot of current research.

The earliest close match located by QI appeared in an advertisement for “The Emma Dunn Method of Adult Education” printed in the “Los Angeles Times” in 1936. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

YOU WILL CONQUER FEAR
“Fear defeats more men than any other one thing in the world,” says Elbert Hubbard.

Elbert Hubbard founded a New York artisan community called Roycroft. He was known for creating, collecting, and popularizing adages. However, he died in 1915, and QI has not yet found any direct evidence during his lifetime that he authored this saying.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Fear Defeats More People than Any Other One Thing in the World

Notes:

  1. 1936 June 3, Los Angeles Times, No High Pressure Salesmanship (Advertisement for The Emma Dunn Method of Adult Education, Hollywood, California), Quote Page 6, Column 5, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)

I Have Made It a Rule Never To Smoke More Than One Cigar at a Time

Mark Twain? Elbert Hubbard? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Mark Twain followed two thoughtful guidelines regarding smoking:

  • Never smoke more than one cigar at a time.
  • Never smoke while sleeping.

Would you please determine when he enunciated these rules?

Quote Investigator: In 1905 Mark Twain celebrated his seventieth birthday at the popular New York restaurant Delmonico’s. The participants delivered numerous speeches and poems lauding Twain as reported in the “New York Tribune”. The famous humorist addressed the subject of his longevity: 1

I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else. I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: that we can’t reach old age by another man’s road.

I will now teach, offering my way of life to whomsoever desires to commit suicide by the scheme which has enabled me to beat the doctor and the hangman for seventy years.

Twain outlined his dietary regimen and then discussed smoking. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time. I do not know just when I began to smoke, I only know that it was in my father’s lifetime, and that I was discreet. He passed from this life early in 1847, when I was a shade past eleven; ever since then I have smoked publicly. As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake.

Twain employed these two jokes and helped to popularize them, but instances occurred before 1905.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Made It a Rule Never To Smoke More Than One Cigar at a Time

Notes:

  1. 1905 December 6, New-York Tribune, Dinner for Mark Twain: To Mark 70th Birthday, Quote Page 7, Column 3, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Editor: A Person Employed on a Newspaper, Whose Business It Is To Separate the Wheat from the Chaff, and To See that the Chaff Is Printed

Creator: Elbert Hubbard, founder of New York artisan community called Roycrofters, collector and creator of adages

Context: The May 1913 issue of “The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest” published by Elbert Hubbard contained a set of humorous definitions for “editor”: 1

EDITOR: A person employed on a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.

2. A delicate instrument for observing the development and flowering of the deadly mediocre and encouraging its growth

3. A seraphic embryon; a smooth bore; a bit of sandpaper applied to all forms of originality by the publisher-proprietor; an emictory.

A shorter version of the first definition evolved over time. The following appeared in a Meyersdale, Pennsylvania newspaper in 1922 without attribution: 2

Editor—One whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff and then print the chaff.

Notes:

  1. 1913 May, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Volume 36, Number 6, (Definition of Editor), Quote Page 192, Elbert Hubbard: The Society of the Philistines, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1922 February 23, Meyersdale Republican, The Gloom Chaser, Quote Page 3, Column 2, Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

Get Your Happiness Out of Your Work, or You’ll Never Know What Happiness Is

Elbert Hubbard? Thomas Carlyle? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Working for a living consumes enormous amounts of time and energy. If you wish to be happy in life then it is essential to try and obtain happiness from your work. Would you please determine who created an adage expressing this idea?

Quote Investigator: Elbert Hubbard was the founder of a New York community of artisans called Roycrofters. He also collected and synthesized adages which appeared in his books and periodicals. The July 1904 issue of Hubbard’s “The Philistine” contained a pertinent saying. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

If you would be happy, do not look for happiness outside of your work.

In July 1906 “Printers’ Ink: A Journal for Advertisers” published a filler item crediting Hubbard’s periodical with a popular modern version of the adage: 2

Get your happiness out of your work or you’ll never know what happiness is.—The Philistine.

The reader must decide if this is a helpful insight or a misleading mantra for workaholics.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Get Your Happiness Out of Your Work, or You’ll Never Know What Happiness Is

Notes:

  1. 1904 July, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Volume 19, Number 2, (Filler item), Quote Page 60, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1906 July 4, Printers’ Ink: A Journal for Advertisers, Volume 56, Number 1, (Filler item), Quote Page 25 and 26, Column 2, Printers’ Ink Publishing Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link