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

When You’re 60 You Realize No One Was Ever Thinking About You

Winston Churchill? Will Rogers? Jock Falkson? Ann Landers? Ewan McGregor? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: One’s sensitivity to the opinions of others often changes as one matures. The following statement has been attributed to statesman Winston Churchill:

When you’re 20 you care what everyone thinks, when you’re 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you’re 60 you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place.

I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for the attribution to Winston Churchill. Historian and Churchill quotation expert Richard M. Langworth signaled his skepticism when he included the statement in an article titled “All the ‘Quotes’ Winston Churchill Never Said”. 1

QI believes that the saying evolved over time, and famous humorist Will Rogers popularized an intriguing tripartite variant in the 1930s. See further below.

A thematic precursor was written by prominent lexicographer Samuel Johnson in 1751 who noted that most people were preoccupied with their own affairs. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

But the truth is, that no man is much regarded by the rest of the world, except where the interest of others is involved in his fortune. The common employments or pleasures of life, love or opposition, loss or gain, keep almost every mind in perpetual agitation. If any man would consider how little he dwells upon the condition of others, he would learn how little the attention of others is attracted by himself.

In August 1934 “The Minneapolis Star” of Minnesota printed an anonymous three-part saying based on the ages of 20, 30, and 40 instead of 20, 40, and 60. The attitudes expressed in the first two parts were flipped with respect to the target quotation. The attitude specified in the third part matched the target: 3

At 20 we don’t care what the world thinks of us; at 30 we worry about what it thinks of us; at 40 we discover it doesn’t think of us.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When You’re 60 You Realize No One Was Ever Thinking About You

Notes:

  1. Website: Richard M. Langworth, Title: All the “Quotes” Winston Churchill Never Said (1), Date on website: November 8, 2018, Sub-section: Caring What Others Think. (Accessed May 31, 2019) link
  2. 1752, The Rambler, Issue date: 1751 September 24, Number 159, (Essay by Samuel Johnson), Quote Page 6, Printed by Sands, Murray, and Cochran, Edinburgh. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1934 August 6, The Minneapolis Star, (Filler item), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Newspapers_com)

You Are My Fifth Favorite Actor. The First Four Are the Marx Brothers

George Bernard Shaw? Winston Churchill? Cedric Hardwicke? Blanche Patch? Leonard Lyons? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to a Hollywood legend, a famous intellectual or statesman once praised a prominent actor with a left-handed compliment. Here are two versions:

  • You are my fifth favorite actor. The first four are the Marx Brothers.
  • You are my fourth favorite actor. The first three are the Marx Brothers.

The famous person was supposedly George Bernard Shaw or Winston Churchill. The actor was the English star of the stage and screen Cedric Hardwicke. Would you please explore this entertaining tale?

Quote Investigator: Five Marx brothers were involved in the entertainment business; they employed the following stage names: Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo, and Gummo. The first four appeared in several movies together, but only the first three achieved stardom.

The earliest strong match for the anecdote located by QI appeared in the Hollywood gossip column of Leonard Lyons in 1946. The quotation emerged via a dialog. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Sir Cedric Hardwicke, now, co-starring with Katharine Cornell in “Antigone,” starred in some of Shaw’s plays in London. Shaw once told him: “Cedric, you are my fourth favorite actor.” Hardwicke asked: “G. B. S., who are the other three?” And Shaw replied: “The Marx Bros.”

This version referred to three Marx Brothers instead of four. Lyons indicated that he heard the anecdote from Hardwicke, and QI conjectures that Hardwicke constructed this humorous story by altering a comment made by Shaw. This conjecture is based on the 1951 citation given immediately below and the April 17, 1959 citation given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Are My Fifth Favorite Actor. The First Four Are the Marx Brothers

Notes:

  1. 1946 March 14, The Dayton Daily News, The Lyons Den: Pauley Turns Ickes Photo To the Wall by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 11, Column 3, Dayton, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

Kites Rise Against and Not With the Wind. Even a Head Wind Is Better than None

Winston Churchill? John Neal? Henry W. Davis? Chinese Proverb? Lewis Mumford? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An individual who faces opposition can grow in strength and resilience. This notion has been brilliantly expressed via a metaphorical kite in the wind. Here are three versions:

  1. Kites rise highest against the wind—not with it.
  2. Opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against and not with the wind.
  3. A kite can only rise against the wind. The best thing in a young man’s life is often adversity.

The first remark has been ascribed to the famous British leader Winston Churchill. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This saying is not present in the comprehensive quotation collection “In His Own Words: Churchill By Himself” compiled by Richard M. Langworth. 1 Churchill died in 1965 at age 90, and QI has located attributions to the statesman in 1963. However, the origins of the saying are much older than this.

In 1846 author and critic John Neal published an essay titled “Enterprise and Perseverance” in the “Weekly Mirror” 2 of New York City. In the following days and months the popular piece was reprinted in several other periodicals including the “Portland Advertiser” in Maine. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 3

There are people, who, having began life, by setting their boat against wind and tide, are always complaining of their bad luck, and always just ready to give up and for that very reason are always helpless and good for nothing, and yet, if they would persevere, hard as it may be, to work up steam all your life long, they would have their reward at last. Good voyages are made both ways!

A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against not with the wind. Even a head wind is better than nothing. No man ever worked his voyage anywhere in a dead calm.

Neal’s essay presented an eloquent instantiation of the metaphor which was remembered and cited by many during the ensuing years, yet the beginnings of this figurative framework can be traced further back in time.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Kites Rise Against and Not With the Wind. Even a Head Wind Is Better than None

Notes:

  1. 2013 (Kindle Edition), In His Own Words: Churchill By Himself by Winston S. Churchill, Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, (No search match for “kite” or “kites”) RosettaBooks. (Verified with Kindle Ebook)
  2. 1846 January 31, The Evening Mirror, (Listing of contents for the “Weekly Mirror” of January 31, 1846 mentions: “Original Essay, — Enterprise and Perseverance by John Neal”; QI has not directly verified the essay text within a scan of the “Weekly Mirror”), Quote Page 2, Column 1, New York, New York. (Old Fulton)
  3. 1846 February 3, Portland Advertiser, Enterprise and Perseverance by John Neal, (Acknowledgement to N.Y. Mirror), Quote Page 3, Column 2, Portland, Maine. (GenealogyBank)

Experts Ought To Be On Tap and Not On Top

Winston Churchill? Harold Laski? George William Russell? Gertrude Mathews Shelby? Felix Frankfurter? Salvador de Madariaga? Robert Cecil? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: When a government or organization faces a difficult decision, its leaders must consult with expert thinkers and scientists; however, the resultant actions should not be dictated solely by the experts. Capable leaders are generalists with high-level comprehensive viewpoints; whereas, experts typically have insightful but overly narrow perspectives. Here are three ways to express this notion:

  • Experts must be on tap, and not on top.
  • Specialists should be on tap, never on top.
  • Scientists should be on tap, but not on top.

This adage has been attributed to statesman Winston Churchill, influential economist Harold Laski, and Irish writer George William Russell. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI occurred in a Dublin, Ireland periodical called the “The Irish Homestead” in 1910. George William Russell was the editor, and he wrote a piece about legislation that included the following. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

Our theory, which we have often put forward, is that experts ought to be on tap and not on top. We have had during our career a long and intimate knowledge of experts, most interesting men in their own speciality to which they have devoted themselves with great industry and zeal. But outside this special knowledge they are generally as foolish and ignorant as any person one could pick up in the street, with no broad knowledge of society or the general principles of legislation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Experts Ought To Be On Tap and Not On Top

Notes:

  1. 1910 December 31, The Irish Homestead: The Organ of Irish Agricultural and Industrial Development, Volume 17, Number 53, Notes of the Week: Fair Play in Legislation, Start Page 1087, Quote Page 1087, Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, Dublin, Ireland. (HathiTrust Full View) link

I Traveled Fifty Miles To See Your Bust Unveiled. . . .

Winston Churchill? Hugh Hampton Young? Bennett Cerf? John Barrymore? Jacob Potofsky? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to a bawdy anecdote, British statesman Winston Churchill once attended a ceremony during which a sculpture of his likeness was unveiled. A beautiful woman approached him, and their provocative exchange included a pun on the word “bust”. Would you please explore the authenticity of this tale?

Quote Investigator: Historian and Churchill quotation expert Richard M. Langworth discussed this anecdote in his compilation “Churchill By Himself” within an appendix called “Red Herrings: False Attributions”. Langworth remarked that ribald statements were often incorrectly ascribed to Churchill, but they did not fit his character. In the following excerpt “WSC” abbreviated the full name Winston S. Churchill. Emphasis added by QI: 1

One example will suffice: a curvaceous female admirer who meets WSC at the unveiling of his sculpture says: “I got up at dawn and drove a hundred miles for the unveiling of your bust”; WSC supposedly replies, “Madam, I would happily reciprocate the honour.” In reality, Churchill simply was not given to salacious remarks, and nearly always treated the opposite sex with Victorian courtesy.

The earliest match for this comical tale located by QI appeared in the 1940 book “Hugh Young: A Surgeon’s Autobiography” by Hugh Hampton Young who was a prominent urologist and medical researcher. The doctor’s long record of accomplishments was celebrated at the University of Virginia during a ceremony which included the inaugural display of a bust created by the notable English sculptor Claire Sheridan. Young described his attendance at the event: 2

They insisted on my being present, and I sat through the ordeal while Dr. John H. Neff made a meticulous analysis of my contributions to medicine. When at long last the function was over, a young woman came up and said, “I hope you appreciate that I have come fifty miles to see your bust unveiled.” Whereupon, with a bow, I said, “I would go a thousand to see yours.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Traveled Fifty Miles To See Your Bust Unveiled. . . .

Notes:

  1. 2013 (Kindle Edition), In His Own Words: Churchill By Himself by Winston S. Churchill, Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, Appendix I: Red Herrings: False Attributions. (Kindle Location 19563)
  2. 1940, Hugh Young: A Surgeon’s Autobiography by Hugh H. Young, Chapter 29: Bob, Quote Page 509, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Long Enough to Cover the Subject and Short Enough to Create Interest

Winston Churchill? Ronald Knox? Gerald K. Rudulph? C. H. McNider? Richard N. Elliott? Louis Sobol? Frances Langford? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous statesman and orator Winston Churchill was asked about the length of an ideal address, and he supposedly said:

A speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.

Yet, a similar remark about sermons is often attributed to the theologian Ronald Knox. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This quip is difficult to trace because it has many variants, and the phrasing is highly variable. The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in May 1920 in “The Buffalo Enquirer” of Buffalo, New York. The columnist Gerald K. Rudulph employed quotation marks to signal that the joke was already in circulation. This version used a simile comparing the length of a newspaper column and a woman’s skirt. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . we will do our best and try to make this column like a woman’s skirt, “short enough to be attractive, but long enough to cover the subject.”

An instance was attributed to Churchill by 1942. He probably used it after it had been coined. Pertinent citations are presented further below. QI has been unable to find substantive evidence that Ronald Knox used the expression.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Long Enough to Cover the Subject and Short Enough to Create Interest

Notes:

  1. 1920 May 21, The Buffalo Enquirer, The Port Side Column by Gerald K. Rudulph, Quote Page 1, Column 1, Buffalo, New York. (Newspapers_com)

A Diplomat Is a Person Who Can Tell You To Go To Hell in Such a Tactful Way That You’ll Look Forward with Pleasure To Making the Trip

Winston Churchill? Caskie Stinnett? Gary Knafelc? Vince Lombardi? Viola Layne? Earl Wilson? Joe Williams? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Diplomacy is a difficult profession that rewards sensitivity and great verbal dexterity. The following witticism has been credited to travel writer and humorist Caskie Stinnett:

A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.

The following similar remarks have been attributed to Winston Churchill:

  • Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.
  • Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.

What do you think?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Winston Churchill employed this joke. He received credit by the 2000s. Caskie Stinnett did use this gag in his book “Out of the Red” in 1960, but it was already in circulation.

The earliest instance located by QI appeared as an anonymous filler item in the “St. Louis Star-Times” of Missouri in November 1937. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a tactful way that you’ll look forward with pleasure to making the trip.

The phrasing is variable which makes the expression difficult to trace. Thus, earlier evidence may be discovered by future researchers. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Diplomat Is a Person Who Can Tell You To Go To Hell in Such a Tactful Way That You’ll Look Forward with Pleasure To Making the Trip

Notes:

  1. 1937 November 27, St. Louis Star-Times, (Filler item), Quote Page 10, Column 1, St. Louis, Missouri. (Newspapers_com)

Plans Are Worthless, But Planning Is Everything

Dwight D. Eisenhower? Winston Churchill? Richard M. Nixon? Anonymous

Dear Quote Investigator: The World War II leader and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower apparently made a paradoxical statement about preparation. Here are two versions:

1) Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
2) Plans are worthless, but planning is essential.

Would you please explore the origin of this saying?

Quote Investigator: In 1950 Dwight Eisenhower wrote a letter to a U.S. diplomat in which he ascribed a military-oriented version of the saying to an anonymous soldier. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . I always remember the observation of a very successful soldier who said, “Peace-time plans are of no particular value, but peace-time planning is indispensable.”

During a speech in November 1957 Eisenhower employed the saying again. He told an anecdote about the maps used during U.S. military training. Maps of the Alsace-Lorraine area of Europe were used during instruction before World War I, but educational reformers decided that the location was not relevant to American forces. So the maps were switched to a new location within the U.S. for planning exercises. A few years later the military was deployed and fighting in the Alsace-Lorraine: 2

I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of “emergency” is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.

The details of a plan which was designed years in advance are often incorrect, but the planning process demands the thorough exploration of options and contingences. The knowledge gained during this probing is crucial to the selection of appropriate actions as future events unfold.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Plans Are Worthless, But Planning Is Everything

Notes:

  1. 1984, The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, Volume XI: Columbia University, Editor Louis Galambos et al, Letter from: Dwight Eisenhower, Letter to: Hamilton Fish Armstrong, Date: December 31, 1950, Start Page 1516, Quote Page 1516, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland. (Verified with hard copy)
  2. 1958, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957, Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President, Remarks at the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference, Date: November 14, 1957, Start Page 817, Quote Page 818, Published by the Federal Register Division, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, Washington D.C. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Why Make the Rubble Bounce?

Winston Churchill? James Reston? Edward M. Kennedy? Clark M. Clifford? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The massive arsenals of the nuclear nations have been poised like the Sword of Damocles to fall upon the head of mankind for decades. Statesman Winston Churchill reportedly was critical of excessive weaponry and said:

If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.

I haven’t been able to find a citation. Is this quotation accurate?

Quote Investigator: The earliest pertinent citation located by QI appeared in Winston Churchill’s volume about the Second World War titled “Their Finest Hour” published in 1949. London suffered from extensive bombardment, and Churchill suggested that eventually the war planners behind the devastation would recognize the ineffectiveness of further attacks upon the city. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Indeed, at this time we saw no end but the demolition of the whole metropolis. Still, as I pointed out to the House of Commons at the time, the law of diminishing returns operates in the case of the demolition of large cities. Soon many of the bombs would only fall upon houses already ruined and only make the rubble jump. Over large areas there would be nothing more to burn or destroy, and yet human beings might make their homes here and there, and carry on their work with infinite resource and fortitude.

Churchill was discussing conventional weaponry used against London and not nuclear bombs. Also, he used the phase “only make the rubble jump” without the word “bounce”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Why Make the Rubble Bounce?

Notes:

  1. 1949, The Second World War: Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill, Quote Page 372, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)