Charlie Chaplin? Steve Martin? Groucho Marx? Nicolas Chamfort?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following guideline for living makes sense to me, so I try to find humor in something every day:
A day without laughter is a day wasted
When I read this maxim originally it was credited to Charlie Chaplin, but I once heard it attributed to Groucho Marx. Do you know who said it and on what occasion?
Quote Investigator: This principle is sometimes credited to popular comedic entertainers such as Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx, but the idea was expressed more than two centuries ago. The French writer Nicolas Chamfort was famous for his witticisms and epigrams. In 1795 the periodical Mercure Français reprinted the following saying from one of his manuscripts [MFNC]:
La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.
The earliest instance of this aphorism in the English language located by QI is dated 1803 in a periodical titled “Flowers of Literature” in a section titled “Laughing” [FLFB]:
I admire the man who exclaimed, “I have lost a day!” because he had neglected to do any good in the course of it; but another has observed that “the most lost of all days, is that in which we have not laughed*;” and, I must confess, that I feel myself greatly of his opinion.
The asterisk footnote pointed to the bottom of the page where the French phrase listed above was presented. The text did not identify Chamfort as the author of the saying, but it did give his precise French wording as the source of the English epigram.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.