[PW] ? Oscar Wilde Quote (Quotation Query #756)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Fri Nov 25 17:48:40 PST 2016

Oscar Wilde died in November 1900. The three citations below appeared
after Wilde's death, but before the 1916 citation provided by Fred.

The quip appeared in the caption of a cartoon in April 1902:

Date: April 08, 1902
Newspaper: Ottumwa Semi-Weekly Courier
Newspaper Location: Ottumwa, Iowa
Cartoon Title: VICE VERSA
Description: One-Panel Cartoon Caption
Quote Page 10
Database: Chronicling America


[Begin caption]
"I tell you, my friend, drink is the
curse of the working classes."
"And I tells you work is the curse of
the drinkin' classes."
[End caption]

In 1905 the joke was overheard in England.

Date: January 28, 1905
Periodical: The Sporting Times
Periodical Location: London, England
Article: Sporting Notes
Quote Page 1, Column 1
Database: britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

[Begin excerpt]
Coming out of the "Victoria" they were discussing Admiral
Rodjestvensky and the Russian people.

"It's just this in Russia," said an Irish barrister from Calcutta,
"it's just this way. In Russia work is the curse of the drinking
[End excerpt]

By 1906 the joke was incorporated into a toast.

Date: July 22, 1906
Newspaper: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Newspaper Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A Fin. Ricki's Chat About: Clubs and Clubmen
Quote Page 8, Column 5
Database: newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Four well-known young clubmen, two of whom were married, and all
hailing from Washington, came to Atlantic City on a bit of a tear the
other day, and at a prominent cafe one evening one of them repeated
the following toast, apropos of their cases:

"Too much toil with no vacation,
Justifies a slight libation;
So here's a toast, now drain your glasses,
Work in the curse of the drinking classes."
[End excerpt]

Note: The original text contains a misprint "Work in the curse"
appears instead of "Work is the curse".


On Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 12:34 PM, S M Colowick <januarye at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 7:57 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
>> In the Yale Book of Quotations I source the quote "Work is the curse of the drinking classes" to Oscar Wilde, Quoted in Frank Harris, Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions (1916).  I now believe, however, that there are earlier occurrences not attributed to Wilde.  I would welcome help in finding the earliest occurrence in newspaper databases, book databases, etc.
> A 1909 book called Toasts ("comp. by Margaret Waters") seems to
> contain an unattributed quatrain that ends with that line.
> https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x000423490;view=1up;seq=39
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