James Matthew Barrie? Oscar Wilde? Benjamin Disraeli? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Young people often reject the teachings of their elders. They believe that their understanding is superior. An older individual constructed the following ironic barb:
I am not young enough to know everything.
This statement has often been attributed to the famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde. It has also been credited to the playwright J. M. Barrie who is best known for the creation of Peter Pan. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: J. M. Barrie wrote the comic play “The Admirable Crichton” which was first produced in 1902. Barrie published the script by 1918. A character named Ernest delivered the line, and he repeated it when its humor was not fully understood: 1
LADY MARY (speaking without looking up). You impertinent boy.
ERNEST (eagerly plucking another epigram from his quiver). I knew that was it, though I don’t know everything. Agatha, I’m not young enough to know everything.
(He looks hopefully from one to another, but though they try to grasp this, his brilliance baffles them.)
AGATHA (his secret admirer) Young enough?
ERNEST (encouragingly) Don’t you see? I’m not young enough to know everything.
AGATHA I’m sure it’s awfully clever, but it’s so puzzling.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.