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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Fri Jan 13 01:02:18 PST 2017

Back in November the saying in the subject line was discussed on this
mailing list. Now I've created an entry for the Quote Investigator

Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes

[Begin acknowledgement]
Great 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 contains the key 1916 ascription to
Oscar Wilde. Special thanks to top researchers S. M. Colowick and
Stephen Goranson who located valuable citations in 1909, 1911, and
1915. Thanks also to discussant Laurence Horn.
[End acknowledgement]

Feedback welcome

On Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 8:48 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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
> http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86061214/1902-04-08/ed-1/seq-10.pdf
> [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
> classes!"
> [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".
> Garson
> 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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