Roald Dahl? Willy Wonka? Gene Wilder? Horace? mr Byron? Horace Walpole? Hudibras? Samuel Butler? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The 1971 film “Willy Wonka and also the coco Factory” was an especially confection. The candy-maker Wonka played by Gene Wilder used numerous literary quotations while leading a tour of his factory. One step took location in a room with geese that created enormous gold eggs the chocolate. Each egg was analyzed by an “eggdicator” to determine whether it to be a great egg or a bad egg. One parental on the tour considered the situation ridiculous, and also Wonka responded to his hesitation with a quotation: 1

Grandpa Joe: It’s an educated eggdicator.Henry Salt: It’s a most nonsense.Willy Wonka: A tiny nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.

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Would friend please trace this saying?

Quote Investigator: The popular English writer Roald Dahl published the children’s publication “Charlie and also the coco Factory” in 1964. Dahl additionally wrote the screenplay because that “Willy Wonka and the chocolate Factory” based on his book. The line spoken by Wonka in the movie is no in the 1964 book, yet Dahl contained it in the 1972 sequel referred to as “Charlie and the good Glass Elevator”.

The earliest solid match recognized to QI appeared in the newspaper “The New-York Mirror” in 1823. The reviewer that a new melodrama referred to as “Undine, or the heart of the Waters” did not think about it a serious work, yet he took pleasure in it and also recommended it. Emphasis included to excerpts by QI: 2

As a drama, the is not of the household of legitimates; yet what then, who has actually not competent the reality of that an excellent old couplet, that

“A little nonsense, now and then, Is relished by the wisest men!”

The reviewer disclaimed credit for the expression by labelling it an “old couplet”; hence, earlier citations most likely exist. Nevertheless, quotation expert Nigel Rees deserves kudos because that placing this an useful instance in his compilation “The best Guide to feeling Quotations”. 3

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

The well known Roman lyric poet Horace who died in 8 BC contained thematically germane currently in the fourth publication of his Odes. Below is one English translation: 4

Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem:Dulce est desipere in loco.

Mingle a small folly v your wisdom; a little nonsense now and also then is pleasant.

Horace. Carmina. Bk. Iv. Ode 12, 1. 27.

In 1744 the famous English literary figure Horace Walpole wrote a letter comprise a thematically comparable remark: 5

A careless song, with a small nonsense in the now and also then, does not misbecome a monarch; however to pen manifestos worse 보다 the shortest commis the is kept jointly by 2 or 3 Margraves, is insufferable!

In 1804 “The europe Magazine and London Review” published a thematically comparable statement: 6

That wisdom have to be the predominating principle of our actions is universally admitted; yet I have some doubts that, created as we are, a small folly, now and also then, is indispensably necessary. numerous of our enjoyments, indeed, depend upon it.

In 1823 the quotation was printed in “The New-York Mirror” as discussed previously. In 1832 the couplet appeared again in the exact same periodical within a arsenal of miscellany. No attribution was given: 7

A small nonsense, now and also then, Is relished by the wisest men.

In 1839 one exactly equivalent couplet appeared in the London periodic “Cleave’s coin Gazette of selection and Amusement” within a pillar with the following title: 8

Whims and Waggeries of brother Jonathan!

Also in 1839 the couplet showed up in the London newspaper “The Champion and also Weekly Herald” in ~ a obelisk titled: 9


In 1842 a newspaper in Charlotte, phibìc Carolina printed a different using words “folly” rather of “nonsense”. The saying showed up in an post describing a newly launched periodical: 10

Nor, sinceA little folly now and also then, Is relished by the wisest men,do they intend to exclude those lighter write-ups of information, familiarly designated the chit conversation of the day. . .

In 1853 “A Cyclopaedia of Poetical Quotations: consists of an option Passages native the Poets the Every Age and also Country” implausible ascribed a variant couplet utilizing the phrase “best of men” instead of “wisest men” to mr Byron. QI has uncovered no substantive assistance for this attribution: 11

A tiny nonsense now and also then Is relished through the ideal of men. Byron.

In 1868 the really popular arsenal of “Familiar Quotations” assembled by man Bartlett included the couplet in a supplement ar at the end of the book. Bartlett to be unable to determine the creator of the saying: 12

A small nonsense now and then Is relished by the wisest men. Anon.

In 1883 the couplet was provided in a speech yielded at a conference of the new Jersey State plank of Agriculture. The speaker declared that the words were from “Hudibras”, a mock heroic poem by Samuel Butler the was published in 1684, however QI has discovered no substantive support for this ascription: 13

All this confirmed the poetic aphorism the Hudibras: “A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the best of men.” also that fun and also farming space not incompatible.

In 1891 “The illustrated American” printed a variant that offered a different word order: 14

If it be true the the wisest men relish a little folly now and also then, surely at no period can they taste it an ext than in ~ this holiday season, once it is the part of the graybeard sage to come to be even together a little child.

In 1971 the titular character in the movie “Willy Wonka & the chocolate Factory” to work the expression as noted previously. In 1972 Roald Dahl published “Charlie and the an excellent Glass Elevator” which to be a sequel to his lovely 1964 book. Dahl had the saying: 15

“I have actually never met a man,” stated Grandma Georgina, “who speak so lot absolute nonsense!”“A little nonsense now and also then, is relished by the wisest men,” Mr. Wonka said.

In conclusion, Roald Dahl helped to popularize the expression in contemporary times by consisting of it in his 1971 screenplay and his 1972 book, yet it has actually a lengthy history. An amazing precursor was written in old Rome by the poet Horace. The earliest precise instance recognized to QI was published in a new York newspaper in 1823. At the time the expression was explained as old, and also the creator to be anonymous. Lord Byron and Samuel Butler have received credit transaction for an ext than one hundreds years yet these ascriptions are unsupported.

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Image Notes: Reduced-size, low-resolution photos of a movie poster because that “Willy Wonka and also the coco Factory” and a publication cover the “Charlie and the great Glass Elevator”. Portrait the Roald Dahl through Carl valve Vechten accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

(Great thanks to illustrator Laura Stitzel whose inquiry led QI to build this question and perform this exploration. She called QI around the circumstances in the movie and the affiliation to “Hudibras”.)