[Ads-l] To understand a person you have to know what was happening in the world when that person was twenty

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 7 16:00:16 UTC 2022

Volume one of R. F. Foster’s 1997 biography titled “W. B. Yeats: A
Life” contains the following passage:

[Begin excerpt]
Napoleon’s dictum that to understand a man you have to know what was
happening in the world when he was twenty is manifestly true of WBY.
[End excerpt]

A Fellow at the London School of Economics asked me to investigate the
provenance of this saying, and I was unable to find any support for
the attribution to Napoleon; instead, I found evidence that English
historian G. M. Young was the originator. Here is a link to the Quote
Investigator article:


If someone else can find additional citations illuminating the
connection to Napoleon that would be helpful. Also, citations before
1943 / 1949 would be interesting.


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

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