Gore Vidal? Stormont Mancroft? Gareth Williams? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following quotation has been attributed to the writer and political commentator Gore Vidal:
The four most beautiful words in the English language are ‘I told you so’.
Was this statement crafted by Vidal?
Quote Investigator: Gore Vidal did employ versions of this saying on multiple occasions. But the earliest strongly matching instance located by QI was spoken in the British House of Lords in 1953 by Lord Mancroft (Stormont Mancroft). Boldface has been added to excerpts:1953 February 18, Hansard, United Kingdom Parliament, House of Lords, Leasehold Reform, Speaking: Lord Mancroft (Mr. Stormont Mancroft), Lords Sitting, volume 180, cc512-59. (Accessed … Continue reading
I should like to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for having given us the opportunity of discussing this matter this afternoon and also for the moderate and reasonable way in which he has put his point of view forward. Indeed, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, also, on having successfully resisted the temptation to utter those happiest words in the English language, “I told you so.”
Mancroft used the adjective “happiest” instead of “most beautiful”, and he did not count the words, but the notion he expressed was very similar.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.