When the Chess Game Is Over, the King and the Pawn Go Back in the Same Box

Italian Proverb? John Boys? Thomas Adams? John Spencer? Thomas-Simon Gueullette? Omar Khayyam? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some people live lives of opulence and celebrity while others remain mired in poverty and anonymity. On a chessboard there is a king and a queen, but there are also eight lowly pawns. A metaphorical adage highlights the uniform fate of all chess pieces and humans:

At the end of the game the king and the pawn go into the same box.

Chess pieces undergo a form of reincarnation when a new match begins. Humans may experience reincarnation, oblivion, judgment day, hades, paradise or some other continuation. Would you please help me to find a citation for the adage above?

Quote Investigator: The earliest published match located by QI occurred in a 1629 collection of writings by John Boys who was the Dean of Canterbury in England. The non-standard spelling in the following passage is from the original text. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

As in Chesse-play, so long as the game is in playing, all the men stand in their order, and are respected according to their place; first, the King; then, the Queene; then, the Bishops; after them, the Knights; and last of all, the common Souldier: but when once the game is ended, and the table taken away, then all are confusedly tumbled into a bag, and happily the King is lowest, and the pawne vpmost. Euen so is it with vs in this life; the world is a huge theater or stage, wherein some play the parts of Kings; other, of Bishops; some, Lords; many, Knights; other, Yeomen: but when our Lord shall come with his Angels to iudge the world; all are alike.

Further below an interesting precursor verse from Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is presented. The translation into English appeared in the 19th century, but the source material may have been circulating in the 11th century. The complete provenance of the verse is uncertain.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When the Chess Game Is Over, the King and the Pawn Go Back in the Same Box

Notes:

  1. 1629, Title: The Workes of Iohn Boys: Doctor in Diuinitie and Deane of Canterburie, Author: John Boys (1571-1625), Section: The first Sunday after the Epiphanie, Quote Page 129, Imprinted for W. Ashley, London (HathiTrust Full View) link

A Man Who Is His Own Lawyer Has a Fool for a Client

Abraham Lincoln? William De Britaine? Roger L’Estrange? Italian Proverb? Benjamin Franklin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Evaluating complex legal issues requires expertise. Abraham Lincoln reportedly employed the following adage. Here are two versions:

  • If you are your own lawyer you have a fool for a client.
  • He who represents himself has a fool for a client.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest partial match known to QI appeared in the 1682 book “Humane Prudence, or, The Art by which a Man May Raise Himself and Fortune to Grandeur” by William De Britaine. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Before you act, it’s Prudence soberly to consider; for after Action you cannot recede without dishonour: Take the Advice of some Prudent Friend; for he who will be his own Counsellour, shall be sure to have a Fool for his Client.

This adage is ambiguous because the term “counselor” has more than one pertinent meaning. A counselor is a person who gives counsel, i.e., an adviser. Alternatively, a counsellor is an attorney, especially one who pleads cases in court. The context suggests to QI that the first interpretation is the most likely.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Man Who Is His Own Lawyer Has a Fool for a Client

Notes:

  1. Year: 1682 (MDCLXXXII), Author: William De Britaine, Title: Humane Prudence, or, The Art by which a Man May Raise Himself and Fortune to Grandeur by A.B., Section 18, Quote Page 57, Publication: Printed for John Lawrence, London. (Early English Books Online) link