Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Jeremiah Seed? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Advice that is shouted as a command is often ignored. A different approach is more successful:
Advice is like snow – the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.
The prominent English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge has received credit for this thoughtful statement, but I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help trace this meta-advice?
Quote Investigator: Samuel Taylor Coleridge died in 1834 and this expression was assigned to him two years prior in 1832; however, QI believes that the words were based on a sermon delivered before the literary master was born.
Jeremiah Seed was a clergyman and Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford who died in 1747. A collection of his sermons which included a discourse “On Evil-Speaking” appeared shortly after his death. Seed presented three elaborate similes about giving advice gracefully: 1
We must consult the gentlest Manner and softest Seasons of Address: Our Advice must not fall, like a violent Storm, bearing down and making that to droop, which it was meant to cherish and refresh: It must descend, as the Dew upon the tender Herb; or like melting Flakes of Snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the Mind.
The popular modern version of the quotation was extracted from the above passage, simplified, and streamlined. Coleridge did not craft the simile and QI has located no direct evidence that he ever employed it. The ascription to him is unsupported.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1747, Discourses on Several Important Subjects: To Which Are Added Eight Sermons Preached at the Lady Moyer’s Lecture in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London by Jeremiah Seed (Rector of Emham in Hampshire, and late Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford), Volume 1 of 2, Third Edition, Sermon XIV: On Evil-Speaking, Start Page 349, Quote Page 351, Printed for R. Manby and H. S. Cox, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link ↩