Oscar Wilde? frank Harris? ireland Barrister? Wilton Lackaye? Margaret Waters? popular Young Clubman? Gustav Traub? Mike Romanoff? Samuel George Blythe? Arthur M. Binstead? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The scintillating conversationalist Oscar Wilde enjoyed modifying dusty platitudes to construct comical alternatives. For example, the permuted one old complaint about the working class to yield:

Work is the curse the the drinking classes.

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Oddly, I have actually not found a citation for this statement dated before the fatality of Wilde. Would certainly you please study the provenance the this saying?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in November 1900. The earliest published circumstances of this quip located by QI occurred in the inscription of a newspaper cartoon in 1902. The details space given more below.

Yet there is great evidence the Oscar Wilde did craft this statement. In 1916 the writer and also outsized personality frank Harris who was a girlfriend of Wilde’s released a biography title “Oscar Wilde: His Life and also Confessions”. Harris explained a party that threw throughout which Wilde yielded the remark. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

A little later I provided a dinner at the Savoy and also asked him come come. He was delightful, his vivacious gaiety together exhilarating together wine. However he was much more like a roman inn Emperor 보다 ever: he had actually grown fat: he ate and also drank also much; not that he was intoxicated, however he came to be flushed, and also in spite of his gay and also genial speak he influenced me a small unpleasantly; he was gross and puffed up. Yet he gave one or 2 splendid snapshots of actors and their egregious vanity. It appeared to him a good pity the actors have to be taught to read and write: castle should find out their pieces from the lips of the poet.

“Just together work is the curse the the drinking classes of this country,” he said laughing, “so education is the curse that the acting classes.”

Yet even when making funny of the mummers there to be a brand-new tone in the of arrogance and also disdain. He used constantly to be genial and kindly also to those he laugh at; now he to be openly contemptuous.

The accuracy that the over ascription come Wilde relies on the veracity the Harris who was a straight witness. Harris described the long hold-up before the figure of his book in the introduction. Wilde was a controversial figure and Harris’s sympathetic job-related condemned the harshness the Wilde’s punishment. Harris waited an ext than ten year hoping that someone else would certainly write a similar book. That acted once he ultimately felt compelled to current his very own viewpoint.

Below are added selected citations in chronological order.

In April 1902 the “Ottumwa Semi-Weekly Courier” that Ottumwa, Iowa printed a one-panel cartoon through a inscription containing the original adage around the functioning classes together with the change joke around the drink classes. 2 see the accompanying image. QI does not know the name of the artist. In might 1902 “The Kalispell Bee” in Kalispell, Montana published the same cartoon and also caption: 3

“I call you, my friend, drink is the curse that the functioning classes.”“And ns tells you work is the curse that the drinkin’ classes.

In 1905 “The Sporting Times” the London reported the the jest was told by one “Irish barrister”: 4

Coming out of the “Victoria” lock were stating Admiral Rodjestvensky and the Russian people.

“It’s just this in Russia,” claimed an irish barrister native Calcutta, “it’s just this way. In Russia work is the curse that the drink classes!”

In June 1906 a newspaper in Utica, brand-new York described a party scene at a society in brand-new York City that included the well-known actor Wilton Lackaye that was best known for play the duty of Svengali. The quip was included into a rhyming verse: 5

At the “Washing Day” the the Lambs club of brand-new York, yesterday, all the members sang, v Wilton Lackaye improvising and also repeating the native in advance:

Too much toil v no vacationJustifies a slight libation;So here’s a toast, now drainpipe your glasses,Work is the curse the the drink classes.

There was also a stanza denouncing both war and also work together needless.

In July 1906 a team of revelers in Atlantic City, brand-new Jersey sang the exact same song: 6

Four renowned young clubmen, 2 of whom were married, and all hailing indigenous Washington, pertained to Atlantic City ~ above a bit of a tear the other day, and also at a influential cafe one evening among them repeated the adhering to toast, apropos of their cases:

“Too much toil with no vacation,Justifies a slim libation;So here’s a toast, now drainpipe your glasses,Work in the curse of the drinking classes.”

In 1907 “The Sun” newspaper of new York defined the financial, physical, and also moral fragmentation of a one-time waiter called Gustav Traub: 7

After the there was little work that had actually attractions for Traub. Instead of functioning he offered to spend many of his time in the saloons talking around his property and spending the money his wife made over the washtub. Work, that told his next-door neighbors was the curse that the drink classes.

In 1908 the “The Chicago Sunday Tribune” reported the actor Wilton Lackaye had published a book containing the joke: 8

According to john Pierre Roche of the present World, Wilton Lackaye has actually written a volume of verse entitled “Ballads that Broadway,” stated to display screen the White method knowledge the Lee Harrison and the versification strength of Kipling in his palmiest salad days. One of the gems of the arsenal starts:

“All together! Raise her glasses!Work is the curse the the drinking classes!”

In 1909 Margaret Waters released a compilation that toasts, and she included a slight variant of the toast noted previously: 9

Too much work and no vacationJustifies a slim libation;Here’s a toast, boys, raise your glassesWork is the curse of the drinking classes.

In 1913 Samuel George Blythe published a book designed to help individuals prevent drinking alcohol title “Cutting the Out: exactly how To obtain On the Waterwagon and also Stay There”. He included the saying: 10

When you room drinking girlfriend are never ever too liven to take it a drink and never as well busy not to stop. You room busy all the time—but acquire nowhere. Work is the curse the the drink classes.

In 1915 a newspaper in Wellington, brand-new Zealand ascribed the expression come the journalist Arthur M. Binstead back his surname was misspelled as “Brinstead”: 11

Mr. A. M. Brinstead, the immortal “Pitcher,"” passed away the other day in London at the comparatively early age that 51. He to be a scholar of excellent attainments and the ablest Bohemian journalist in the Empire. He claimed that “Work is the curse the the drink classes?” however he functioned hard himself and also drank little. He passed away in harness.

In 1916 the Wilde received credit because that the saying in the story “Oscar Wilde: His Life and also Confessions” by open minded Harris as noted previously:

“Just as occupational is the curse that the drink classes the this country,” he stated laughing, “so education is the curse of the acting classes.”

In 1942 H. L. Mencken express uncertainty around the remark in his massive compilation “A brand-new Dictionary of quotations on Historical principles from old and modern-day Sources”: 12

Work is the curse that the drink classes.Author unidentified

In 1946 a various biography that Oscar Wilde through Hesketh Pearson attributed the remark to Wilde: 13

What other people took serious he dealt with humorously; what castle dismissed together trivial he treated with great solemnity. His favourite an approach of ridiculing conventional requirements was to change a native or two in a proverb or cliché, and so include an aspect to truth. Right here are some an excellent examples of his conversational flings:

“Work is the curse the the drink classes.”“One that those properties British encounters that, when seen, are never ever remembered.”“Everyone should keep someone else’s diary.”“It is always a silly thing to provide advice, but to give good advice is absolutely fatal.”

In 1979 “The book of Quotes” compiled through Barbara Rowes assigned the speak to Mike Romanoff, 14 and also in 1984 “The Cynic’s Lexicon” compiled by Jonathon eco-friendly made the very same assignment. Romanoff was an American restaurateur who lived between 1890 and 1972 according to Green; 15 hence, the saying remained in circulation once he to be twelve year old.

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In conclusion, QI believes that the ascription to Oscar Wilde is the most plausible. Nevertheless, that is conceivable that the expression was crafted after ~ his death. In that case, the artist responsible for the 1902 cartoon becomes the top candidate.

(Great many thanks to Fred Shapiro whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Shapiro is the editor of “The Yale book of Quotations” which consists of the key 1916 ascription to Oscar Wilde. Special many thanks to height researchers S. M. Colowick and also Stephen Goranson who located valuable citations in 1909, 1911, and 1915. Thanks likewise to discussant Laurence Horn.)