Quote: I shall lose no time in reading it: antedating (1871) (Gladstone 1897) (Disraeli 1898)

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 16 15:08:05 UTC 2010

I doubt Garson missed this one in Punch, but, perhaps, I see it as
more significant than he does, as he clearly identified his list as
"selective". Besides, there is no attribution in this piece of any
kind. [See the third line under Epistolatory.] Because of the nature
of the content, I thought it worthwhile to reproduce the entire

Punch, Volume 98. May 10, 1890
p. 218-9
>                           Social.
> "Dear me, how surprisingly your voice has strengthened since I last heard you sing:" i.e., "Roars like a town-bull, and fancies himself a *Lablache* !"
> "I saw quite a ring round your picture at the Academy to-day;" i.e., "If only he had heard them laugh !"
> "Won't you stop and have some lunch ?" i.e., "Couldn't help asking him, as the confounded luncheon-bell rang a peal; but if he has any manners or consideration he'll say, 'No, thank you,' and go."
> "I know your face so well—but l am such a bad hand at names;" i.e., "Never saw him before in my life !"
> "Pray allow me to get it;" i.e., "Catch me moving !"
> "You know you can trust me implicitly:" i.e., "May be a good story to tell."
> "He has such wonderful wit;" i.e., "An unfailing flow of rudeness which he calls repartee."
> "Rather satirical, yes; but she has marvellous insight into character ;" i.e., "She has been complimenting /me/."
>                           Platformulabs.
> "These, then, are the arguments;" i.e., "They're all yawning—must end somehow."
> "A crushing reply ;" i.e., a retort discourteous, in which all the points of the attack are adroitly evaded.
> "After the magnificent oration to which we have just listened with so much delight, I feel that anything that I can say must be in the nature of an anti-climax ;" i.e., "Confound him! Why will he take all the 'fat' to himself, and cut the ground from under a fellow's feet?"
> "I have the greatest possible pleasure in presiding over this magnificent assembly on this memorable occasion ;" i.e., "Place is like a malodorous oven, and I wish to goodness it were all over."
>                           Parliamentary.
> "I appeal to that consideration which the House always extends to a new Member, &c.;" i.e., "Mean to make them sit up a bit, but /must/ come the conventional modest."
> "The Honourable and Gallant Gentleman has fulfilled his task with all the ability that might naturally be expected;" i.e., "With none worth mentioning."
> "I rise to order;" i.e., " To raise /dis/order."
>                           Epistolatory.
> "Let me be the first, dear, to congratulate you on your well-merited good fortune;" i.e., "She has the deuce's own luck, and doesn't deserve it."
> " Thank you so much for your beautiful present, which I shall value for its own sake as well as for the giver's;" i.e., "Wouldn't give twopence for the two of 'em."
> "So good of you to send me your new book. I shall lose no time in reading it;" i.e., "No; not a single second."
>                           At A Dance.
> "So you prefer to stand out of this dance, dear ?" i.e., "Trust her for being a /willing/ 'Wallflower.'"
> "Shall we sit this out on the stairs?" i.e., "I don't want to dance, and I /do/ want to spoon."
>                           A Little Music.
> "Well, dear, the only song I can remember, without music, is 'Gasping'—but I'll try that, if you like;" i.e., "/Her/ great song, which she has been grinding up to sing to—or rather /at/—young Fitz-Floss. /Won't/ she be wild ? "
> "Well, your Beethoven bits are lovely, dear, we know; but suppose you give us something lighter, for once;" i.e., "*Beethoven*, indeed ! *Bessie Bellwood* is more /her/ style."
>                           Channel Passage.
> "Well, it may be a bit lively when we get out;" i.e.,
> "You won't know whether you are on your head or your heels in ten minutes."
>                           Curiomania.
> "I've never seen such a collection of curios in my life !" i.e., "Hope I never may again !"
> "I'm no great judge of such things, but I should say this specimen is unique ;" i.e., "It is to be /hoped/ so !"
> "Ex-qui-site !" i.e., "Rubbish !"
>                           Railroad Amenities.
> "Awfully noisy carriages on this line ;" i.e., "Thank goodness ! The clatter has tired even /his/ stentor throat."
> "Good-bye ! So sorry we don't travel farther together ;" i.e., "Hooray! Now for feet up and forty winks !"
>                           Preparing Fob Private Theatricals.
> "I'm sure you will be a great acquisition to my little company ;" i.e., "Awful stick, but a /pis aller/ I 'm afraid."
> "Now if there's /anything/ you notice not quite the thing, pray mention it. I 'm not above taking a hint;" i.e., "Nor /you/ up to giving one—of any value."
> "Oh, no doubt you 're right, though it's not the way *Charles Mathews* did it;" i.e., "That's a nasty one for you, *Mr. Meddler*."
> "Ah, yes, I was a little off colour, perhaps ; but shall be all right on the night, you bet !" i.e., "Not going to be dictated to by /you/ anyhow."

I believe, there are two reasons to note this particular piece. First,
the fact that it's in Punch both acknowledges wide use and gives it
further distribution. Second, the fact that it is anonymous /in/ Punch
suggests that there has been no attributionary claim, at that
point--something that goes well with [NAT]. More specifically, it
appears alongside mostly very generic statements--not ones that would
be identifiably attributable to anyone in particular. And only a
couple of them represent comments that might have appeared in a narrow
context (such as the Beethoven one).

This is not meant, however, to deny the possibility that this might
have been a phrase frequently used by Disraeli or Gladstone. Unlike
many alleged Mark Twain phrases, the phrase may well have been in the
repertoire of the person it is attributed to--in this case, Disraeli
(or Gladstone)--but not have been coined by him. The same applies to
some of the alleged Churchill witticisms, particularly, the one
concerning prepositions.

In addition to Meynell's bio of Disraeli, other authors also gave a
very guarded attribution of the phrase to Disraeli. In 1905, shortly
after the bio appeared, there is this in the Atlantic.

The Atlantic monthly, Volume 96. No. 4. October 1905
The Career of the Joke. By John Albert Macy. p. 503
> A perfect pun makes good sense both ways; the edges meet with a click like the blades of a sharp pair of shears. Sometimes the very thoughts fit tight together in antagonistic identity, as when the man said of the temperance exhorter that he would be a good fellow if he would only let drink alone; or as when Disraeli (if it was he) wrote to the youth who had sent him a first novel: "I thank you very much. I shall lose no time in reading it;" or as when a man seeing a poor piece of carpentry, said, "That chicken-coop looks as if some man had made it himself."

There is one more, from 1898--a year Garson covered extensively--which
suggests an attribution, but leaves it anonymous. That is, it suggests
a specific person in England who uses the phrase, but does not say who
it is. I've extended the passage slightly because it contains a
Lincoln quote that serves as an impetus to provide the other.

Collections and recollections. By One Who Has Kept a Diary [George
William Erskine Russell]. 1898
XXXI. The Art of Putting Things. p. 308-9
> But "The Art of Putting Things" includes also the things which one might have expressed worse, and covers the cases where a dexterous choice of words seems, at any rate to the speaker, to have extricated him from a conversational quandary. As an instance of this perilous art carried to high perfection, may be cited Abraham Lincoln's judgment on an unreadably sentimental book: " People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like"—humbly imitated by two eminent men on this side of the Atlantic, one of whom is in the habit of writing to struggling authors : " Thank you for sending me your book, which I shall lose no time in reading "; while the other prefers the less truthful but perhaps more flattering formula: " I have read your blank verse, /and much like it/."

One might also note that the actual publication date should be 1897.

> These Papers appeared in the Manchester Guardian during the year 1897, and are here reproduced by the kind permission of Mr. C. P. Scott, M.P. It has not been thought necessary to alter some phrases which imply that they were published periodically.

Ironically, I did find an /earlier/ occurrence, and it is in an
obscure church publication from Boston in 1828!

Tracts of the American Unitarian Association. First Series--Vol. II.
Containing numbers 12 to 26 [actually, 12 to 25, according to
cataloguer's notation] Boston: 1829.
No. 16. Conversations Between a Minister and a Parishioner, On Some
Corruptions of Scripture. American Unitarian Association. Boston: 1828
Conversation III. Friday Evening. p. 24 [p. 104 in the volume]
> /Mr. Ward/. I never thought of putting the words together after that manner. I believe, after all, the passage must be wrong as it now stands ; and if the evidence against it is as strong as you intimated, I will not contend for it any longer. I shall lose no time in reading the book you put into my hand. But are there other corruptions of scripture as important as the two you have mentioned ?

What's interesting about this is not just that this is a much earlier
occurrence, but also that it's in the US, not in the UK or associated
with English figures, and the statement appears to be made in
earnest--albeit by a "Socratic student" of a layman, so someone who is
portrayed as eagerly impressed but not a particular paragon of
intelligence and wit. In the intervening 40 or so years, the
expression not only made it across the Atlantic, but acquired a much
stronger ironic twist and has been adopted as "native"--as much so as
tomatoes are Italian.

One may be tempted to question the date. Tract No. 16 is dated
1828--as are all tracts Nos. 12-17. The entire volume has 1829 on the
title page and GB has it as 1830 (borrowing from some WorldCat
records). Had it not been for all of these being so close together,
one might have suspected a typo. If /all/ the dates were the same, one
could possibly blame printer error that went uncorrected. But, under
the circumstances, it appears the date is correct.


On Fri, May 14, 2010 at 11:08 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> (Response of a recipient to a gift of an unwanted book.)
> Thank you very much for your gift. I shall lose no time in reading it.
> This witticism has been credited to William Gladstone, Benjamin
> Disraeli, William Makepeace Thackeray, Moses Hadas and others. The
> Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations attributes the quip to
> Disraeli based on a 1903 citation in a biography titled The Man
> Disraeli by Wilfrid Meynell. The Yale Book of Quotations also credits
> Disraeli and cites a 1927 revised edition of the same biography.
> The first citation I have located in which the phrase is used with
> humorous intent is dated 1871, and the barb is delivered by a
> “celebrated botanist” [BOT]:
> [BOT] 1871 October 1, The British Quarterly Review, Article V, Letters
> and Letter Writing, Page 411, Hodder and Stoughton. (Google Books full
> view)
> A celebrated botanist used to return thanks somewhat in the following
> form: - 'I have received your book, and shall lose no time in reading
> it.' The unfortunate author might put his own construction on this
> rather ambiguous language.
> http://books.google.com/books?id=XsTQAAAAMAAJ&q=botanist#v=snippet&
> In 1883 the quip appears in the science periodical Nature. The context
> is an article critical of testimonial letters which clearly indicates
> that the saying is being used sarcastically. The joke is called a
> "well-known formula" [NAT]:
> [NAT] 1883 August 9, Nature (Weekly), A Result of our Testimonial
> System, Page 342, Macmillan and Co., London. (Google Books full view)
> Many testimonials are framed after that well-known formula for
> acknowledging the receipt of pamphlets which runs as follows: - "Dear
> Sir, - I beg to thank you for the valuable pamphlet which you have so
> kindly sent me, and which I will lose no time in reading." And I heard
> the other day a testimonial praised because it showed the electors
> whom not to elect.
> http://books.google.com/books?id=aCwVAAAAYAAJ&q=%22lose+no+time%22#v=snippet&
> ...

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