If I Had Known That These Legs Were One Day To Carry a Chancellor, I’d Have Taken Better Care of Them

Robert Henley? Lord Northampton? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Experiencing happiness and maintaining a positive outlook toward life is much easier to accomplish when one is enjoying good health. An English Lord once complained that he would have taken better care of his legs if he had known how long he was going to live. Would you please help me to find the precise quotation and a citation?

Quote Investigator: Robert Henley, Earl of Northington served as the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain in the 1760s. In 1831 his grandson published a book about his prominent ancestor. Henley who died in 1772 sometimes experienced severe fits of gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis. His grandson reported the Earl’s remark about his legs. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

When suffering from its effects, he was once overheard in the House of Lords to mutter after some painful walks between the Woolsack and the Bar, “If I had known that these legs were one day to carry a Chancellor, I’d have taken better care of them when I was a lad.”

The QI website has a separate article about the following related saying: “If I had known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If I Had Known That These Legs Were One Day To Carry a Chancellor, I’d Have Taken Better Care of Them

Notes:

  1. 1831, A Memoir of the Life of Robert Henley, Earl of Northington, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain by The Right Honourable Robert Lord Henley (His Grandson), Quote Page 13, John Murray, Albemarle Street, London; Printer: C. Roworth and Sons, Bell Yard, Temple Bar, London. (Internet Archive archive.org) link