Quote: "Horace Greeley is 'a self-made man who worships his Creator'" (1868)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 11 15:40:56 UTC 2014

Thank you for your responses Robin and Charlie. Robin, those valuable
citations do help to illustrate the conceptual history of "self-made".
A journal article would be expansive enough to include them I think.

But the QI article is more narrowly focused. Charlie makes a fine
point that the quip has multiple elements. The punch line, I think,
humorously highlights an atypical quasi-theological interpretation of

A great earlier citation in 1858 was sent to me via by Professor Ian
Preston of University College London, and the QI article has now been

A precursor expressing the core of the joke appeared in a satirical
poem composed in 1858 titled “Two Millions” by William Allen Butler.
The work described a millionaire who obeyed a “higher law” with “all
his heart and soul and mind and strength”:

[Begin excerpt]
Proclaimed to all the world the Millionnaire,
His purse and person both at fullest length,
And even the higher law which he obeyed,
With all his heart and soul and mind and strength,
To love his maker, for he was SELF-MADE!
Self-made, self-trained, self-willed, self-satisfied,
He was himself, his daily boast and pride.
[End excerpt]

[ref] 1858, Two Millions by William Allen Butler, (Dedication: To The
Phi Beta Kappa Society of Yale College, this poem, written at their
request, and delivered before them, July 28, 1858, is dedicated),
Quote Page 9, Published by D. Appleton & Company, New York. (Google
Books Full View) link [/ref]



On Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM, Robin Hamilton
<robin.hamilton3 at virginmedia.com> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Quote: "Horace Greeley is 'a self-made man who worships his
>               Creator'" (1868)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> <<
> From: Charles C Doyle
> Good quotations, Robin.  However, isn't the essence of the joke or quip not
> the concept of the self-made man per se, but rather the follow-up point
> about his worship or adoration his creator?
> --Charlie
> It probably +is+ a bit of a stretch, Charlie, but an earlier occasion where
> Shakespeare has an echo of this bit of Pico perhaps does suggest a degree of
> self-love.
> Richard (to be III) of Gloucester in 3 Henry VI, V.vi:
>         I have no brother, I am like no brother;
>         And this word 'love,' which graybeards call divine,
>         Be resident in men like one another
>         And not in me: I am myself alone.
> The self-creating figures in Shakespeare who show traces of Pico's statement
> (Edmund in Lear, Parolles in All's Well) do tend to be self-loving lads (to
> misapply a phrase from Fulke Greville).
> Then there's Mosca in Ben Jonson's Volpone, III,i: "I fear I shall begin to
> grow in love / With my dear self ..."
> A stretch, I agree, but maybe we have a set of statements linked around
> certain figures in English Renaissance Drama that re-surface later,
> independently, via the Greeley joke, with the same point being made in a
> different fashion.
> But yes, a loooong stretch ...
> Robin
> ________________________________________
> Poster:       Robin Hamilton
> <<
> From: ADSGarson O'Toole
> There is a family of jokes that follow two basic templates:
> He is a self-made man, and he worships his creator.
> He is a self-made man, and he adores his maker
> Reminds me of Coriolanus, "[I] will stand / As if a man were author of
> himself / And knew no other kin". (V.iii).
> Possibly echoing Pico della Mirandola, _Oration_, where man is somewhat
> heretically suggested to be "the maker and moulder of himself".
> So the trope maybe can be carried back as far as the Renaissance Phoenix of
> his time.
> Robin Hamilton
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