God In Creating Man, Somewhat Overestimated His Ability

Oscar Wilde? Francis Douglas? 11th Marquess of Queensberry? ‎Percy Colson? Mark Twain? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The Book of Genesis describes the creation of the world and the formation of Adam and Eve. The actions of this couple in the Garden of Eden quickly revealed behavioral defects. A sardonic commentator has suggested that God overestimated his capabilities when he synthesized humankind.

This remark is usually attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wide. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900, and the earliest match known to QI occurred decades later in the 1940 book “Oscar Wilde and the Black Douglas” by Francis Douglas, 11th Marquess of Queensberry in collaboration with ‎Percy Colson. The following passage mixes commentary about Wilde together with quotations attributed to him. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Art and religion had much in common, he thought; both give an enhanced sense of living. St. Francis of Assisi, and Jeanne d’Arc were artists in their way, and he loved tradition. “Never try to pull down public monuments such as the Albert Memorial and the Church,” he said. “You are sure to be damaged by the falling masonry.”

But the Creator as an artist did not meet with his whole-hearted admiration. “I sometimes think that God in creating man, somewhat over-estimated his ability,” he remarked to a friend.

The friend was unidentified, and the long delay between 1900 and 1940 reduced the evidentiary value of this citation. Yet, QI is unaware of any other candidate creator with substantive support.

Francis Douglas was the nephew of Lord Alfred Douglas who was the lover and repudiator of Wilde. In addition, Francis Douglas was the grandchild of John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry who was Wilde’s nemesis. Interestingly, the book is sympathetic to Wilde.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading God In Creating Man, Somewhat Overestimated His Ability

Notes:

  1. 1949, Oscar Wilde and the Black Douglas by The Marquess of Queensberry (Francis Douglas) in collaboration with ‎Percy Colson, Chapter 2: Oscar Wilde’s Parentage and Youth, Quote Page 20, Hutchinson & Company, London. (Verified with scans)

Paradox Is Truth Standing On Its Head To Attract Attention

Oscar Wilde? G. K. Chesterson? Richard G. Moulton? Coulson Kernahan? William Thomas Stead? Richard Le Gallienne? C. Ranger Gull? Leonard Cresswell Ingleby? Guy Thorne? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The contemplation of a seemingly self-contradictory statement can help to illuminate a larger truth. This notion may be expressed with figurative language:

Paradox is merely truth standing on its head to attract attention.

The famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde and the English literary figure G. K. Chesterton have received credit for this remark. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI appeared in April 1898 within the London periodical “The Review of Reviews” edited by William Thomas Stead. A piece titled “The Jubilee of the Awakening of 1848” that was probably written by the editor began with the following discussion. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Success is a bad word!” said Victor Hugo once in his magnificently paradoxical fashion. “Success is a bad word. Its false resemblance to merit deceives mankind.” Richard Le Gallienne, who has recently been airing his ambrosial locks in the heated air of American lecture-rooms, once told his audience that “a paradox was a truth standing on its head in order to attract attention.” Victor Hugo’s paradox is a truth that hardly needs to be stood on its head to command attention.

QI believes that English author Richard Le Gallienne is the leading candidate for crafter of this expression. Le Gallienne was a close friend of Oscar Wilde. Further below in this article QI presents a 1923 citation in which Le Gallienne took credit for this saying, and he applied it to Oscar Wilde.

The attribution of this saying to Wilde may have occurred due to the following known misquotation mechanism: A well-known name appears near a vivid statement, and a careless reader incorrectly reassigns the statement to the prominent person.

G. K. Chesterton employed an instance of this saying in a 1935 short story. Chesterton’s story narrator disclaimed credit for the remark. Details are given further below.

The attribution to Chesterton may have occurred due to the following known misquotation mechanism: A famous person uses a quotation which is already in circulation. A cavalier reader reassigns the quotation to the famous person.

Here are additional selected citations and comments.

Continue reading Paradox Is Truth Standing On Its Head To Attract Attention

Notes:

  1. 1898 April, The Review of Reviews, Volume 17, Edited by W. T. Stead (William Thomas Stead), Section: The Topic of the Month, Article: The Jubilee of the Awakening of 1848, Start Page 339, Quote Page 339, Column 1, Published at the Office of the Review of Reviews, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

The Smallest Good Deed Is Better Than the Grandest Good Intention

Oscar Wilde? Jacques Joseph Duguet? Claude Joseph Dorat? Henry Ward Beecher? Gaspard Dughet? H. Jackson Brown? John Burroughs? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Hoping and dreaming are not enough; taking action is crucial. Here are two pertinent statements:

  • The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.
  • The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.

Would you please examine this family of sayings?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in 1863 within the French journal “Le Magasin Pittoresque” (“The Picturesque Store”) . A filler item stated the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Ne préférez jamais une grande bonne intention à une petite bonne action. UN AUTEUR ANGLAIS.

Here is one possible translation into English:

Never prefer a great good intention to a small good action.
AN ENGLISH AUTHOR.

The attribution did not specify the name of the English author, and QI would label the source anonymous based on current knowledge.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Smallest Good Deed Is Better Than the Grandest Good Intention

Notes:

  1. 1863, Le Magasin Pittoresque (The Picturesque Store), Volume 31, (Filler item), Quote Page 396, Column 1, Aux Bureaux D’Abonnement et de Vente, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link

Rhyme Does Not Pay

Dorothy Parker? Oscar Wilde? Mike Porter? Arch Ward? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Composing poetry is rarely a lucrative occupation. A traditional moralistic adage has been transformed into a comical warning for versifiers:

  • Crime does not pay.
  • Rhyme does not pay.

This word play has been credited to the prominent wit Dorothy Parker who published multiple collections of poetry. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in 1934 within a column by Martin A. Gosch in the “Evening Courier” of Camden, New Jersey. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

… a prize gag from colleague Mike Porter: Edith Murray, the CBS songbird, started out in life as a poet, but found that Rhyme does not pay!!

Dorothy Parker received credit for the quip by June 1938 as shown further below, but it was already in circulation.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Rhyme Does Not Pay

Notes:

  1. 1934 January 16, Evening Courier, By Gosh! by Martin A. Gosch (Courier-Post Radio Editor), Quote Page 16, Column 3, Camden, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)

Say Anything You Like About Me, But Spell My Name Right

George M. Cohan? P. T. Barnum? Mae West? Elinor Glyn? Babe Ruth? Damon Runyon? James J. Johnston? Charley Murphy? Max Schmeling? Walter Winchell? Oscar Wilde? Samuel Johnson? Ed Sullivan?

Dear Quote Investigator: A person once planned to write an article or book containing derogatory material about a celebrity. The unruffled response of the celebrity to this prospect was surprising. Here are three versions:

  1. I don’t care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right.
  2. I don’t care how much you pan me, but please spell the name correctly.
  3. Boost me or knock me; it doesn’t mean a thing. Just make sure you spell my name right.

This notion has been credited to Broadway musical icon George M. Cohan, showman P. T. Barnum, actress Mae West, baseball slugger Babe Ruth, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in several U.S. newspapers in 1888. The line was delivered by P. T. Barnum who was a founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus. He also operated a museum filled with curiosities and hoaxes. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

P. T. Barnum was once interviewed by a woman who told him that she was writing a book, and that it would contain something disagreeable about him. “No matter, madam,” was his reply, “say anything you like about me, but spell my name right — P. T. B-a-r-n-u-m, P. T. Barnum — and I’ll be pleased anyway.” The blackmailer retired in confusion.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Say Anything You Like About Me, But Spell My Name Right

Notes:

  1. 1888 August 8, The Evening News, The Table Gossip, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Franklin, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

I Really Don’t Mind What People Do, So Long As They Don’t Do It In the Street and Frighten the Horses

Mrs. Patrick Campbell? Beatrice Stella Tanner? Helen Maud Tree? Oscar Wilde? Linkum Fidelius? Washington Irving? Alice Roosevelt Longworth? Eric Erskine Wood? Mrs. Claude Beddington? Frances Ethel Beddington? John Moore? King Edward VII? Ronald Reagan? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Enforcing societal norms and taboos is an important activity for some people. Others hesitate to proscribe conduct. They are broad-minded about unconventional behaviors. Here are two versions of a humorous remark reflecting the latter perspective:

(1) I don’t care what anybody does, so long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.

(2) There is no harm provided they don’t do it in the street and scare the horses.

This saying has been credited to Beatrice Stella Tanner, Helen Maud Tree, Oscar Wilde and others, Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI believes that the saying evolved over time. A partial instance appeared in “The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer” of Pennsylvania in 1879. An article mentioned that families with servants sometimes required them to wear special clothing whenever the leading member of the family died. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The fashion prevails in New York of putting the servants into mourning on the death of the head of the family, as in Europe, so it happens then many of the coachmen strikingly resemble, with their white cravats and long single-breasted black coats of the M. B. pattern, a ritualistic clergyman. “Taste is taste,” as Linkum Fidelius sagely remarks. So long as they don’t frighten the horses it matters little.

Linkum Fidelius was a comically erudite character appearing in the works of the prominent U.S. writer Washington Irving. This version of the expression did not include a reference to the street.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Really Don’t Mind What People Do, So Long As They Don’t Do It In the Street and Frighten the Horses

Notes:

  1. 1879 October 2, The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer (Intelligencer Journal), Wit and Wisdom: Fresh Gleanings From the Fruitful Harvest of American Humor, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

There Are Only Two Tragedies. One Is Not Getting What One Wants, and the Other Is Getting It

Oscar Wilde? George Bernard Shaw? Oliver Onions? Anonymous?

Quote Investigator: The psychology of human desire is paradoxical. The failure to achieve a goal can lead to unhappiness and ever despair. Yet, attaining an objective can produce an aftermath of uncertainty and lassitude. The following adage is humorous and poignant:

There are two tragedies in life—not getting what you want, and getting it.

This notion has been credited to the famous wit Oscar Wilde and the prominent playwright George Bernard Shaw. Did either of these Irishmen really employ this saying? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Both Wilde and Shaw used versions of this adage, but Wilde deserves credit for coinage. Oddly, the version in Shaw’s 1903 play “Man and Superman” changed over time as shown in the citations given further below.

The earliest close match known to QI appeared in the 1892 play “Lady Windermere’s Fan: A Play About a Good Woman” by Oscar Wilde. The minor character Mr. Dumby asked the character Lord Darlington whether the love he felt for Lady Windermere had ever been reciprocated. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

DUMBY
She doesn’t really love you then?

LORD DARLINGTON
No, she does not!

DUMBY
I congratulate you, my dear fellow. In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst, the last is a real tragedy! . . .

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Are Only Two Tragedies. One Is Not Getting What One Wants, and the Other Is Getting It

Notes:

  1. 1893 Copyright, Lady Windermere’s Fan: A Play About a Good Woman by Oscar Wilde, (Performed at St. James Theatre in London on February 22, 1892), Third Act, Quote Page 94, Elkin Mathews and John Lane, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Some Cause Happiness Wherever They Go; Others Whenever They Go

Oscar Wilde? Success Magazine? Olin Miller? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Individuals with energetic, warm, and joyful personalities are welcome at most gatherings, but individuals with sullen and mean-spirited dispositions are often unwelcome. This observation accords with the following insight:

Some people bring happiness wherever they go, and others whenever they leave.

This statement is usually attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde, but I am skeptical because I have never seen a good citation. Would you please trace this remark?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900, and QI has found no substantive evidence that he employed this saying.

The earliest close match found by QI appeared in “Success Magazine” in May 1908. The phrasing was a bit odd. The magazine printed a short item with the title “Others Whenever”: 1

Others Whenever
Some people make happiness wherever they go.

The joke was presented with an inverted ordering, To decode the humor the reader must understand the sentence after the title and then reflect back on the meaning of the title. No attribution was given for the joke.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Some Cause Happiness Wherever They Go; Others Whenever They Go

Notes:

  1. 1908 May, Success Magazine, Volume 11, Pleasantry, Quote Page 303, Column 2, The Success Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Patriotism Is the Virtue of the Vicious

Oscar Wilde? A. H. Cooper-Prichard? Alvin Redman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The Irish playwright Oscar Wilde achieved his greatest fame in London. The historically fractured and deadly relationship between Ireland and England has led some intellectuals of the isles to adopt a skeptical attitude toward patriotic fervor. Intense emotions have been inspired by both patriotism and opposition to patriotism. The following remark has been attributed to Wilde:

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

I haven’t been able to find this saying in famous wit’s oeuvre. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900. The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1931 book “Conversations with Oscar Wilde” by A. H. Cooper-Prichard. The author presented statements he heard spoken by Wilde during discussions and social events. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“How is it,” I once asked him, “that people who are not possessed of a single other virtue should come out at times as patriots?”

“Exaggerated patriotism,” he answered, “is the most insincere form of self-conceit.” And at another time he said, “Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.”

The accuracy of the quotation is based on the memory of Cooper-Prichard, and his book appeared decades after the words were spoken. Nevertheless, the citation is significant because it presents direct ear-witness testimony.

According to Cooper-Prichard another dialog reflecting Oscar Wilde’s attitude toward patriotism occurred in the early 1890s in a drawing-room in South Kensington, London: 2

AN AUNT. Oh, come, let us be patriotic!
OSCAR WILDE. ‘Let us sing unto the Lord a new song!’ and let that song be that to-day the World has become altogether too wide for mere Patriotism, which, after all, now is only the virtue of small minds.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Patriotism Is the Virtue of the Vicious

Notes:

  1. 1931, Conversations with Oscar Wilde by A. H. Cooper-Prichard (Arthur Henry Cooper-Prichard), Chapter 1: My Introduction To Oscar Wilde, Quote Page 20, Philip Allan, London. (Verified with hardcopy)
  2. 1931, Conversations with Oscar Wilde by A. H. Cooper-Prichard (Arthur Henry Cooper-Prichard), Chapter 5: Oscar Wilde at Afternoon Tea, Quote Page 99, Philip Allan, London. (Verified with hardcopy)

I Know Artists Whose Medium Is Life Itself, and Who Express the Inexpressible Without Brush, Pencil, Chisel, or Guitar

Frederick Franck? Oscar Wilde? Donna J. Stone? J. Stone? Timothy Morrissey? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Artists do not always require implements such as brushes, clay, chisels, hammers, or guitars to create works. Some artists use life itself as a medium. This fascinating notion has been expressed in a family of quotations that I have been attempting to trace. Would you be willing to help?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1973 book “The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing As Meditation” by Frederick Franck. The work was extensively illustrated, and the text was handwritten. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

And yet, I know artists whose medium is Life itself, and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel, or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased Life. They SEE and don’t have to draw. They are the artists of being alive.

Researchers would have difficulty finding the text above in a modern computer database. The handwritten text is not properly converted to searchable text by current optical character recognition algorithms. Hence, Franck’s book is in the Google Books database, but it is not searchable. QI has verified the printed text above with the handwritten text.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Know Artists Whose Medium Is Life Itself, and Who Express the Inexpressible Without Brush, Pencil, Chisel, or Guitar

Notes:

  1. 1973, The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing As Meditation, Drawn and Handwritten by Frederick Franck, Quote Page 129, Vintage Books, New York. (Verified with scans)