Mark Twain? Ben Wade? Emery A. Storrs? James Matthew Barrie? Robert Burton?
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a well-known quotation about heaven and hell that is usually credited to Mark Twain. I have found it phrased in different ways:
- Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.
- I would choose Heaven for climate but Hell for companionship.
- Heaven for climate. Hell for society.
My friend is adamant that the quotation was really created by James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. Initially, I thought that possibility was unlikely, but when I searched I found some websites that agree with my friend’s claim. Could you examine this question?
Quote Investigator: Mark Twain and J. M. Barrie both employed versions of this quip, and detailed citations are presented further below. Nevertheless, the earliest evidence located by QI pointed to another individual. The joke was attributed to Ben Wade by a judge named Arthur MacArthur while he was speaking at a National Conference of Charities and Correction in 1885. The context did not provide enough details to uniquely identify Wade, but MacArthur may have been referring to the United States Senator Benjamin Franklin “Bluff” Wade. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
The effect of that paper reminded me of an anecdote relating to Ben Wade, who was once asked his opinion on heaven and hell. Well,” said Mr. Wade, “I think, from all I can learn, that heaven has the better climate, but hell has the better company.”
Here are additional selected citations and details in chronological order.
- 1885, Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, Twelfth Annual Session Held in Washington, D.C., June 4-10, 1885, Judge MacArthur speaking on June 10, 1885, Page 500, National Conference of Charities and Correction, Press of Geo. H. Ellis, Boston. (Google Books full view) link ↩