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

If I Had Known I Was Going To Live So Long, I’d Have Taken Better Care of Myself

Eubie Blake? Erma Bombeck? Mickey Mantle? Adolph Zukor? Billy Noonan? Robert Henley? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Looking back on one’s younger years it is natural to experience some regrets. The following comment has a humorous edge:

If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.

This saying has been attributed to U.S composer Eubie Blake, baseball player Mickey Mantle, Hollywood producer Adolph Zukor and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in a Minneapolis, Minnesota newspaper in September 1951. Seventy-year-old editorial columnist Billy Noonan attended a dinner with fellow journalists who praised him. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

At the dinner many nice things were said about Billy and the hope was expressed that he would live forever.

Noonan responded: “If I had known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

There is some evidence that others such as Eubie Blake and Adolph Zukor employed this saying in later years as indicated further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If I Had Known I Was Going To Live So Long, I’d Have Taken Better Care of Myself

Notes:

  1. 1951 September 16, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (Star Tribune), Section: Feature News, Billy Noonan: The Sage of Baudette (Continuation title: Noonan) by George L. Peterson, Start Page 1, Quote Page 10, Column 6, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Newspapers_com)