Emerson (or Stanley) on Success

I heard a great quote at karate last night, but I had a feeling when I heard it that it was inaccurately attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. It just didn’t sound like him. It turns out, I was right.

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

I found this information on transcendentalists.com:

This quote is almost certainly not from Emerson, though it is often attributed to him. I have never been able to find it in any of Emerson’s writings, nor has anyone else to my knowledge (and plenty of people have been looking).

As of now, it seems that the quote may be traceable to a 1905 publication by a Bessie Stanley. Apparently, in a collection of quotations on “success,” her poem appeared on the facing page from a quotation which was from Emerson. Perhaps the mistaken attribution began when someone copied the source inaccurately from that collection. Here’s a 1905 article from the Lincoln Sentinel about that version of the quote: Bessie Stanley’s Famous Poem

Bessie Stanley’s poem, though, is a bit different from the standard quotation attributed to Emerson — and so there is still some tiny possibility that the quotation is Emerson’s or someone else’s and that Stanley’s was a variation.  At this time, though, the most dependable attribution would be to Bessie Stanley, with the changes attributable to the normal folk process of adaptation and editing.

I’d be interested in finding out if this is just a “whisper down the lane” situation or if there is more information on it.

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