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.
- 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) ↩