Robert Louis Stevenson? Betsy Patterson? Harry B. Brockett? Walter Winchell? Apocryphal? Anonymous?
Dear Quote investigator: Living a full and happy life is facilitated by maintaining a network of steadfast friendships. Here are three versions of a germane adage:
- A friend is a present you give yourself.
- A friend is a gift you give yourself.
- A friend is a gift you give to yourself.
This saying has been attributed to the famous adventure and horror novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, but I have been unable to locate a citation. What do you think?
Quote investigator: QI has been unable to locate substantive evidence ascribing this statement to Robert Louis Stevenson who died in 1894. He received credit by 1946 which is very late. See the citations presented further below.
The earliest match located by QI appeared in a column by Betsy Patterson published in “The Baltimore Sun” of Maryland in 1917. Patterson presented a verse and stated that “these lines run through my head”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
“A friend is a present you give yourself,”
Says a charming old-time song.
So I put you down with the best of them,
For that is where you belong.
Among the gifts I have given to me,
Most comforting, tried and true,
The one that I oftenest think about
Is the gift of myself to you.
The starting lines suggest that the adage appeared in an earlier song although QI has not yet found such a song. It is also possible that there is no earlier song, and the lines were included to evoke nostalgia. The creator of the adage was not identified.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1917 June 10, The Baltimore Sun, Betsy Patterson’s Chatter: A Weekly Chronicle of Colorful Phases of the Social Life of the City, Quote Page 8, Column 1, Baltimore, Maryland. (Newspapers_com) ↩