I Wish I Was As Sure of Any One Thing As He is of Everything

Lord Melbourne? William Windham? Benjamin Disraeli? Sydney Smith? William Lamb? Thomas B. Macaulay?

Dear Quote Investigator: Each of us has encountered an individual who with highhanded convictions presents an answer to every question. There is a famous witticism aimed at a person of this type:

I only wish that I was as cocksure of any one thing as he is sure of everything.

Do you know who crafted this expression?

Quote Investigator: There are many different versions of this statement which evolved over time. The earliest evidence indicates that William Lamb who was the Second Viscount Melbourne constructed this quip, and he aimed the barb at the prominent historian and politician Thomas Babington Macaulay. The first strong match located by QI was printed in 1851. Boldface has been added:

“I wish,” said he, “that I knew any thing as well as Tom Macaulay knows every thing.”

Details for this cite are given further below.

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

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