I Had Six Theories About Bringing Up Children

Lord Rochester? John Wilmot? James A. Magner? Mrs. John McLauchlan? Leonard Lyons? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A very funny comment about child-rearing has implausibly been attributed to John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester:

Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.

Wilmot died in 1680, and I do not think this quotation was crafted in the 17th century because the language is too modern. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of a close match found by QI appeared in a 1946 pamphlet titled “Parent Education Through Home and School”. The document was released by the Family Life Bureau, a Catholic Church organization. A section written by Reverend James A. Magner began with the following passage. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“Before I got married,” wrote Lord Rochester, “I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children—and no theories.”

Historically, the designation “Lord Rochester” has been used for John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, but it was very unlikely that a joke Wilmot wrote or spoke before his death in 1680 was somehow hidden for 266 years and only emerged in 1946. To date QI has located no substantive linkage between Wilmot and the quotation.

An interesting precursor to the quip was circulating by 1916. Detailed information is given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Had Six Theories About Bringing Up Children


  1. Date: 1946, Pamphlet Title: Parent Education Through Home and School, Catalog Description from Preface: [Addresses] originally presented at the fourteenth annual meeting of the National Catholic conference on family life, held at the Catholic University of America, February 5-8, 1946, Article Title: The Social Values of the Home, Article Author: Rev. James A. Magner, Start Page 11, Quote Page 11, Publisher: N.C.W.C. Family Life Bureau, Washington, D.C. (Verified with scans; great thanks to the librarians at Logue Library of Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)