It Is Wiser To Find Out Than To Suppose

Mark Twain? Merle Johnson? Apocryphal?

twain07Dear Quote Investigator: I would like to use the following adage during a presentation to a large group:

It is wiser to find out than to suppose.

I plan to credit Mark Twain, but I know that if I am wrong it will be very embarrassing because the entire point of the remark will be undermined. Would you please help me to replace a supposition with a fact? Can you find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a small compilation titled “More Maxims of Mark” containing quotations ascribed to Twain that was privately printed as a limited edition in November 1927 by Merle Johnson who was a rare book collector. Johnson published the first careful bibliography of Twain’s works in 1910 shortly after the writer’s death. Twain scholars believe that the sayings compiled by Johnson in this book are genuine.

A friend of QI’s accessed volume number 14 of 50 in the Rubenstein Rare Book Library at Duke University and verified that the adage was printed on page number 8. Below is the saying together with the two succeeding entries. All the maxims in the work were presented in uppercase. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

IT IS WISER TO FIND OUT THAN TO SUPPOSE.
IN LITERATURE IMITATIONS DO NOT IMITATE.
IT IS BEST TO READ THE WEATHER FORECAST BEFORE WE PRAY FOR RAIN.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading It Is Wiser To Find Out Than To Suppose

Notes:

  1. 1927, More Maxims of Mark by Mark Twain, Compiled by Merle Johnson, Quote Page 8, First edition privately printed November 1927; Number 14 of 50 copies. (Verified on paper; thanks to the Rubenstein Library at Duke University; special thanks to Mike)

Clothes Make the Man. Naked People Have Little or No Influence in Society

Mark Twain? Merle Johnson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comments about stylish clothing always remind me of Mark Twain’s comment:

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.

But I cannot seem to find any direct reference for this quote. The best citation I have seen was dated more than fifteen years after Twain’s death in 1910.

Quote Investigator: The earliest known evidence for this saying was published in the book: “More Maxims of Mark”. This slim volume was compiled by Merle Johnson and privately printed in November 1927. Only fifty first edition copies were created, so gaining access to the work can be difficult. The Rubenstein Rare Book Library at Duke University holds book number 14 of 50. With the help of digital images captured by a friend, QI was able to verify that the quotation is present on page number 6 of this book. Below is the saying under investigation together with the preceding and succeeding entries. Maxims in the work were presented in uppercase: 1

CIVILIZATION IS A LIMITLESS MULTIPLICATION OF UNNECESSARY NECESSARIES.

CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN. NAKED PEOPLE HAVE LITTLE OR NO INFLUENCE IN SOCIETY.

DO YOUR DUTY TODAY AND REPENT TOMORROW.

Merle Johnson was a rare book collector, and he published the first careful bibliography of Twain’s works in 1910 shortly after the writer’s death. Twain scholars believe that the sayings compiled by Johnson in “More Maxims of Mark” are properly ascribed to Twain.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Clothes Make the Man. Naked People Have Little or No Influence in Society

Notes:

  1. 1927, More Maxims of Mark by Mark Twain, Compiled by Merle Johnson, Quote Page 6, First edition privately printed November 1927; Number 14 of 50 copies. (Verified with page images from the Rubenstein Library at Duke University; special thanks to Mike)