[Ads-l] Quote: If I owned Hell and Texas, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell

Fri Jul 2 11:02:33 EDT 2021

Sheridan’s 1880 speech, in which he specifically stated that the quip was from 1866, was printed in the Galveston News, Mar. 25, 1880, which is available in Gale Primary Sources:  Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers.  Sheridan’s remarks were a reply to a toast, given at a banquet for ex-president Grant at the Tremont Hotel in Galveston on Mar. 24, 1880.  The relevant passage was as follows:

“Speaking so kindly of Texas – and I speak from my heart – probably I ought to explain a remark I once made about it [loud applause], and I can do it in this way:  It was in 1866.  At that time we had some trouble with Mexico, and I went down to the border operating under the direction and influence of your honored guest here to-night.  I went down there to meet some of the representatives of the president of that country who were then at Chihuahua, and on my return to San Antonio I found a dispatch there which required me to go with the greatest haste to New Orleans.  I remember that I hired relays and coaches from San Antonio to Galveston, so that I had only to hitch on the wagon and go speedily.  I traveled day and night.  It was in August and very warm, the dust being about as deep as it is in Mexico, where it has not rained for several months.  One or two officers fell sick and I left them.  I arrived in Galveton [sic] covered with dust.  My eyes and ears and throat were filled with it; and I think I had about as much of the soil of Texas on me as would have raised a cotton crop.  I went to a little hotel (a voice:  the Washington); and in that condition, as I went up to register, one of these newspaper mem rushed up to me and said he:  “How do you like Texas?”  I was mad, and I said if I owned Texas and all hell, I would rent out Texas and live in hell.  [Applause.]  Now I want to assure you that by that expression I only meant to convey how much I was disgusted with that newspaper man.  It did not represent my opinion of Texas, and I know a great deal more about Texas than most people who are about here, and I have always had the very highest regard for Texas.  Every time I visit Texas I think a little more of it than ever before, as Gen. Grant said of his country when he came back to it.  [Applause.]”

This version is similar to, but differs somewhat from, the version of the speech reprinted in 1938 and included in the Quote Investigator article.  Let me know if you need a copy of the PDF.

John Baker

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of ADSGarson O'Toole
Sent: Friday, July 2, 2021 4:18 AM
Subject: Quote: If I owned Hell and Texas, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell

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I received a request from a political pundit to explore the provenance
of the quip in the subject line. Here is a link to the Quote
Investigator article:

The Yale Book of Quotations and Barry Popik have entries on this
topic. The earliest match I found appeared a couple months before the
previously known citations.

[ref] 1866 February 22, The Mobile Daily Times, Communicated from
TRAVELER to the Editor of Mobile Times, Quote Page 2, Column 1,
Mobile, Alabama. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
So Gen. Sheridan, who was obliged to stop in Texas awhile on duty,
said if “he owned Texas and h--l both, he would rent Texas and live in
[End excerpt]

The other most important cites in the QI article are dated July 8,
1883 and 1938. The 1938 cite presents an excerpt from a speech by
General Philip Sheridan that supposedly occurred in 1880. It would be
nice to have earlier evidence for that speech.

H. L. Mencken’s “A New Dictionary of Quotations” and Burton
Stevenson's "The Macmillan Book Of Proverbs" (1948) both claim that
Sheridan used the expression in 1855. Mencken and Stevenson usually
provide valuable information, but I have found no evidence before

Feedback welcome
Garson O'Toole

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

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

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