Viral Quotes: Remark about a funeral: I approve of it (attrib Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar 1887; attrib Mark Twain 1938)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 7 20:20:46 UTC 2011

I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

A recent CNN article contained the saying above with an attribution to
Mark Twain. Some bloggers and twitterers contended that this was a
"real" Twain quote; unlike the Clarence-Darrow-like quip that was
wrongly labeled a Twain quote.

Here are two citations and a link to my analysis. Feedback appreciated.

Cite: 1887, Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men by Samuel Arthur Bent,
[Fifth Edition, Revised and Enlarged] Page 581, Ticknor & Company,
Boston. (Google Books full view)

Judge Hoar, being asked if he should attend Mr. Wendell Phillips’s
funeral, replied, "No, I am not invited, but I approve of it

The earliest instance of the joke that I have located with an
attribution to Mark Twain appeared in a humor magazine called "The
Judge" in 1938. A reader identified as "James Wayle, of Milwaukee"
wrote a letter to the editors of the periodical recounting a story
about Twain:

Cite: 1938 January, The Judge magazine, Page 11, Column 2, Volume 114
[Jubilee Number], Judge Publishing Company, New York. (Google Books
snippet, Verified on paper by a kind librarian)

... he writes to remind us that Mark Twain once refused to attend a
noted politician’s funeral. "But then," adds Mr. Wayle, "he wrote them
a very nice letter explaining that he approved of it."


The American Dialect Society -

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