Wilson Mizner? Addison Mizner? Douglas Malloch? Louis Ginsberg? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: An adage from antiquity asserts that a great poet must have an inborn talent that cannot be taught or feigned:
A poet is born, not made.
The dire financial condition of the market for poetry has inspired a humorously modified expression:
A poet is born, not paid.
This quip has been attributed to the playwright, entrepreneur, and rogue Wilson Mizner; it has also been ascribed to Wilson’s brother, the architect Addison Mizner. Would you please explore its provenance?
Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a Chambersburg, Pennsylvania newspaper in 1880. The pun was grouped together with miscellaneous remarks within a column titled “Borrowed Humor”. No attribution was given. A “campaign poet” was someone who composed verse for a political campaign. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
A campaign poet is born, not paid.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1880 September 22, Valley Spirit, Borrowed Humor, Quote Page 1, Column 8, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩