Quote: By three methods we may learn wisdom (attrib Confucius 1893)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 7 15:29:26 UTC 2010

Confucius is a quote magnet or flypaper figure in the world of
aphorisms. I have been asked about a saying attributed to Confucius
and the earliest cite I have located is dated 1893:

Cite: 1893, "Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English
and Foreign Sources", Selected and Compiled by James Wood, Page 34,
Frederick Warne and Co., London and New York. (Google Books full view)

By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is
the noblest; second, by imitation, which is the easiest; and third, by
experience, which is the bitterest. Confucius.


Knowing when an expression crosses over into the English language is
valuable I think, and the tools I use can help to answer that
question. But it is a circumscribed form of knowledge. Any feedback
about this quote from list members would be welcome, e.g., further
antedatings in English, a possible source text in Chinese, and other
ideas about how the maxim was constructed. I think this is on topic
because the saying might be an English proverb or amalgamation in

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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