Patriotism is the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

Samuel Johnson? James Boswell? Samuel Maunder? Henry F. Mason? Bernard J. Sheil? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A politician whose popularity is dropping may attempt to recapture acceptance by disingenuously embracing jingoistic patriotism. Here are three versions of a germane saying:

  • Pretended patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.
  • Patriotism is the first refuge of a scoundrel.
  • Patriotism is the scoundrel’s last refuge.

Would you please help me to identify an accurate version of this saying together with the identity of its creator?

Quote Investigator: Lexicographer Samuel Johnson was a celebrated eighteenth-century man of letters. Close friend and diarist James Boswell recorded Johnson’s life with exhaustive precision in a multi-volume biography. An entry dated April 7, 1775 mentioned a discussion on the topic (spelled “topick”) of patriotism during which Johnson articulated the saying. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apothegm, at which many will start: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest. I maintained, that certainly all patriots were not scoundrels. Being urged (not by Johnson,) to name one exception, I mentioned an eminent person, whom we all greatly admired.

JOHNSON. “Sir, I do not say that he is not honest; but we have no reason to conclude from his political conduct that he is honest.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Patriotism is the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

Notes:

  1. 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works, Author: James Boswell, Volume 2 of 2, Diary Date: April 7, 1775, Start Page 477, Quote Page 478, Printed by Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Truth Is the First Casualty in War

Aeschylus? Philip Snowden? Ethel Annakin? Samuel Johnson? Anne MacVicar Grant? E. D. Morel? W. T. Foster? Agnes Maude Royden? Hiram Johnson? Arthur Ponsonby? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The participants in a violent conflict often engage in crude propaganda and advocacy. Here are four versions of a pertinent saying:

  1. Truth is the first casualty in war.
  2. The first casualty of war is truth.
  3. When war is declared, truth is the first victim.
  4. In war, truth is the first casualty.

This adage has been credited to Aeschylus, Hiram Johnson, Arthur Ponsonby, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI appeared in a paper presented at an education conference in August 1915 by Ethel Annakin who was the wife of the British politician Philip Snowden. Annakin disclaimed credit by providing an anonymous attribution. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Someone has finely said that “truth is the first casualty in war”; and never was a greater untruth spoken than that war is waged for the protection of women and homes.

The above citation is given in the important reference “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” from Yale University Press. 2 It is also listed on the helpful website of researcher Barry Popik. 3

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Truth Is the First Casualty in War

Notes:

  1. 1915, Journal of Proceedings and Addresses of the Fifty-Third Annual Meeting and International Congress on Education, Held at Oakland, California, August 16-27, 1915, Section: Papers and Discussions, Article: Woman and War by Mrs. Philip Snowden (Ethel Annakin) of Liverpool, England, Start Page 54, Quote Page 55, Published by The National Education Association of the U.S., Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, Quote Page 265, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
  3. Website: The Big Apple, Article title: “The first casualty of war is truth”, Date on website: January 2, 2011, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 entries. (Accessed barrypopik.com on April 9, 2020) link

Sorrow Is the Mere Rust of the Soul. Activity Will Cleanse and Brighten It

Samuel Johnson? Frances Burney? Hester Lynch Piozzi? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The superlative English lexicographer Samuel Johnson once defined sorrow as the rust of the soul which could be scoured away by engaging with life and becoming active. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Quote Investigator: In 1750 Samuel Johnson began to publish a periodical called “The Rambler”. He penned the following passage for the August 28, 1750 issue. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Sorrow is a kind of rust of the soul, which every new idea contributes in it’s passage to scour away. It is the putrefaction of stagnant life, and is remedied by exercise and motion.

Samuel Johnson’s friend Hester Lynch Piozzi heard a similar remark from the dictionary maker, and she repeated it within a letter she wrote in 1821. See the citation further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Sorrow Is the Mere Rust of the Soul. Activity Will Cleanse and Brighten It

Notes:

  1. 1785, Harrison’s Edition: The Rambler by Samuel Johnson, Volume One of Four, Issue Number 47, Issue Date: August 28, 1750, (Filler item), Quote Page 111, Column 2, Printed for Harrison and Company, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

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)

Courage Is Rightly Esteemed the First of Human Qualities Because . . . It Is the Quality Which Guarantees All Others

Winston Churchill? Samuel Johnson? James Boswell? Aristotle? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The rights and freedoms enshrined in political documents are sometimes nullified by oppressive governments. The health of a society depends on the principles and the bravery of the populace. Here is a pertinent adage:

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

These words have been attributed to statesman Winston Churchill, but I have not been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1931 Winston Churchill wrote an article published in “Collier’s” magazine about King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and the piece included Churchill’s cogent remark about courage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Men and kings must be judged in the testing moments of their lives. Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because, as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others. Courage, physical and moral, King Alfonso has proved on every occasion of personal danger or political stress. Many years ago in the face of a difficult situation Alfonso made the proud declaration, no easy boast in Spain, “I was born on the throne, I shall die on it.”

The common modern version of this quotation has been simplified and streamlined. The phrase “as has been said” is typically omitted. Churchill was probably referring to a remark by the famous 18th-century man of letters Samuel Johnson. The quintessential biographer James Boswell who authored “The Life of Samuel Johnson” described a conversation about public speaking that occurred in 1775: 2

“Why then, (I asked,) is it thought disgraceful for a man not to fight, and not disgraceful not to speak in publick?” Johnson. “Because there may be other reasons for a man’s not speaking in publick than want of resolution: he may have nothing to say, (laughing). Whereas, Sir, you know courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Courage Is Rightly Esteemed the First of Human Qualities Because . . . It Is the Quality Which Guarantees All Others

Notes:

  1. 1931 June 27, Collier’s, Unlucky Alfonso by Winston Churchill, Start Page 11, Quote Page 49, Column 2, P. F. Collier and Son, New York. (Unz Database)
  2. 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works, in Chronological Order by James Boswell, Volume 1 of 2, Time period specified: April 5, 1775, Quote Page 473, Printed by Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

The Two Most Engaging Powers of an Author: New Things Are Made Familiar, and Familiar Things Are Made New

Samuel Johnson? William Makepeace Thackeray? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The craft of storytelling is ancient; hence, creating original plots and characters is difficult. On the other hand, experimental tales without connections to the past are discordant. Here is a germane adage about successful creators:

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.

This notion has been attributed to the famous lexicographer Samuel Johnson and the prominent novelist William Makepeace Thackeray. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Samuel Johnson published a collection of biographical sketches and critical analyses under the title “The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets”. The volume discussing the English writer Alexander Pope appeared in 1781, and Johnson included an assessment of the parodic fantasy poem “The Rape of the Lock”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

In this work are exhibited, in a very high degree, the two most engaging powers of an author. New things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new. A race of aerial people, never heard of before, is presented to us in a manner so clear and easy, that the reader seeks for no further information, but immediately mingles with his new acquaintance, adopts their interests, and attends their pursuits, loves a sylph, and detests a gnome.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Two Most Engaging Powers of an Author: New Things Are Made Familiar, and Familiar Things Are Made New

Notes:

  1. 1781, The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets; With Critical Observations on Their Works by Samuel Johnson, Volume 4, Section: Alexander Pope, Quote Page 188, Printed for C. Bathurst, J. Buckland, W. Strahan, and more, London. (Google Books Full View) link

It Is Not Quite the Same God to Which One Returns

Samuel Johnson? Robert Gordis? Francis Bacon? Morris Raphael Cohen? Mordecai M. Kaplan? Benjamin Jowett?

Dear Quote Investigator: While I was a student a few decades ago I came across a remarkable metaphysical expression that was similar to the following:

The search for knowledge will lead a person away from God, and then back toward God, but it will be a somewhat different God than the original one.

Would you please help me to determine the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: This is a very difficult problem because this thought can be communicated in many different ways. The earliest solid match located by QI occurred in the journal “Jewish Social Studies” in 1956 within a piece by Robert Gordis, a biblical scholar at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Morris Raphael Cohen was wont to comment on Francis Bacon’s well-worn saying that “a little knowledge leads a man away from God, but a great deal brings him back,” by observing that it is not quite the same God to which he returns.

Cohen was a prominent Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. QI has not yet found a matching statement directly in Cohen’s writings or speeches.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It Is Not Quite the Same God to Which One Returns

Notes:

  1. 1956 January, Jewish Social Studies, Volume 18, Number 1, Book Review by Robert Gordis (Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary), (Book Review of “Theological Essays in Commemoration of the Jubilee of the Faculty of Theology” by L. W. Grensted, L. E. Browne, C. H. Dodd), Indiana University Press. (JSTOR) link

To Be Happy at Home Is the Ultimate Result of All Ambition

Samuel Johnson? C. S. Lewis? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous English lexicographer Samuel Johnson apparently extolled domestic bliss. Did he write or say something like the following?

The chief aim of all human endeavors is to be happy at home.

Quote Investigator: In 1746 Samuel Johnson signed a contract to create “A Dictionary of the English Language”, and in 1755 the remarkable two volume product of his prodigious efforts appeared. He worked on other projects during this busy period including a periodical called “The Rambler”. His essay dated November 10, 1750 highlighted the importance of home life: 1

To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Be Happy at Home Is the Ultimate Result of All Ambition

Notes:

  1. 1785, Harrison’s British Classicks, Volume 1, Containing Dr. Johnson’s Rambler and Lord Lyttelton’s Persian Letters, Issue Number LXVIII (68), Date: Saturday, November 10, 1750, Start Page 155, Quote Page 156, Column 1, Printed for Harrison and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Clear Your Mind of Cant / Clear Your Mind of Can’t

Samuel Johnson? James Boswell? Thomas Carlyle? Apocryphal?

mind08Dear Quote Investigator: Two statements that sound the same but have very different meanings have been attributed to the esteemed dictionary maker and man of letters Samuel Johnson:

1) Clear your mind of cant.
2) Clear your mind of can’t.

In the first statement the noun “cant” referred to insincere, trite, or sanctimonious speech. Johnson was telling a friend not to dwell on this form of verbal nonsense.

In the second statement the term “can’t” referred to negative thoughts that undermine one’s self-confidence. But I think that this phrasing was too modern for Johnson who died in 1784. It sounds like a maxim from a current motivational book or poster. Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: The first expression was spoken to James Boswell by Samuel Johnson on May 15, 1783 as recorded in the famous biographical work “Boswell’s Life of Johnson”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

JOHNSON. “My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do. You may say to a man, ‘Sir, I am your most humble servant.’ You are not his most humble servant. You may say, ‘These are sad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such times.’ You don’t mind the times. You tell a man, ‘I am sorry you had such bad weather the last day of your journey, and were so much wet.’ You don’t care six-pence whether he was wet or dry. You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society: but don’t think foolishly.”

The second phrase was attributed to Johnson by 1929, but that was a very late date; clearly, the attribution was a mistake caused by confusion of the homophones: cant and can’t.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Clear Your Mind of Cant / Clear Your Mind of Can’t

Notes:

  1. 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works, in Chronological Order by James Boswell, Volume 2 of 2, Time period specified: May 15, 1783, Quote Page 454 and 455, Printed by Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link link

“She Is Always Kind to Her Inferiors” “But Where Does She Find Them?”

Dorothy Parker? Mark Twain? Samuel Johnson? Sidney Skolsky? Margaret Case Harriman? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The scintillating wit Dorothy Parker once listened to an enumeration of the many positive attributes of a person she disliked. Below is the final statement of praise together with Parker’s acerbic response:

“She is always kind to her inferiors.”
“And where does she find them?”

The humor hinges on the possible non-existence of the inferiors. Is this tale accurate? Who was the person being discussed?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this anecdote located by QI was printed in the Hollywood gossip column of Sidney Skolsky in 1937. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

At lunch the other day, a group were discussing a prominent actress and a person said: “She’s only kind to her inferiors.” Whereupon Dorothy Parker remarked: “Where does she find them?”

In January 1941 “The New Yorker” magazine printed an article by Margaret Case Harriman that profiled the fashionable author and playwright Clare Boothe Luce, and it included an oft-repeated version of the tale in which Clare Boothe Luce was the target of the barb from Parker.

Interestingly, the playwright was not known for her evanescent pursuit of acting. Her initial fame was primarily based on the Broadway hit she wrote titled “The Women” which debuted in December 1936, and QI believes that the columnist Sidney Skolsky would not have referred to Clare Boothe Luce as a “prominent actress” in June 1937.

There was another woman named Claire Luce who was a well-known actress in the time period. Conceivably, the names were confused. It was also possible that the entire story was simply concocted by someone to provide entertainment. Precursor tales and jibes have been circulating since the 1700s. Mark Twain employed a fun variant.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “She Is Always Kind to Her Inferiors” “But Where Does She Find Them?”

Notes:

  1. 1937 June 23, Milwaukee Sentinel, Section: Peach, Page 3, Column 6, Hollywood by Sidney Skolsky, Quote Page 14, Column 6, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Google News Archive)