Voltaire? Mark Twain? Richard Brinsley Sheridan? John Bright? Apocryphal? Anonymous?
Question for Quote Investigator: Legal conflicts are extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming for all the participants. Even the winner of a lawsuit can suffer financially. The ill-fated contender in two legal entanglements once said something like the following. Here are two versions. The word “gained” is a synonym for “won” in the second statement:
(1) I have been ruined only twice: once when I lost a lawsuit, and once when I won one.
(2) I never was ruined but twice; once when I gained a lawsuit, and once when I lost it.
This quip has been attributed to the famous wits Voltaire (pen name of François-Marie Arouet) and Mark Twain (pen name of Samuel Clemens); however, I have never seen a solid citation, and I have become skeptical. Would you please explore this topic?
Reply from Quote Investigator: There is no substantive support for the ascription to Mark Twain who died in 1910. The attribution to Twain appeared by 2014.
Researchers have been unable to find this saying in the writings or speeches of Voltaire. The valuable 2021 reference “The Quotable Voltaire” edited by Garry Apgar and Edward M. Langille contains a germane entry which states the following:2021, The Quotable Voltaire, Edited by Garry Apgar and Edward M. Langille, Section: Quotations by Voltaire, Topic: Law—Lawyers, Quote Page 163, Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. … Continue reading
Attributed to Voltaire, almost certainly apocryphal
Voltaire died in 1778, and the earliest strong match located by QI appeared many years later in June 1826 within “The Sun” newspaper of London. A column titled “Fashionable – Intelligence” printed a miscellaneous collection of items including the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1826 June 24, The Sun, FASHIONABLE – INTELLIGENCE, Quote Page 3, Column 4, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
BEAUTIES OF LAW.—“I never,” said Voltaire, “was ruined but twice, once, when I gained a law suit; and once, when I lost it.”
QI believes that the current evidence supporting the attribution to Voltaire is inadequate, and the originator of the quip remains anonymous.
Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.
Image Notes: Illustration of scales of justice from jpornelasadv at Pixabay.
Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Jan Adler whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.
|↑1||2021, The Quotable Voltaire, Edited by Garry Apgar and Edward M. Langille, Section: Quotations by Voltaire, Topic: Law—Lawyers, Quote Page 163, Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. (Verified with hardcopy)|
|↑2||1826 June 24, The Sun, FASHIONABLE – INTELLIGENCE, Quote Page 3, Column 4, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)|