George boy name Shaw? Oscar Wilde? Irvin Cobb? Michel de Montaigne? john Brunner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A very popular acerbic adage combine wisdom and also wistfulness together with a modicum the jealousy:

Youth is wasted top top the young.

You are watching: Youth is wasted on the young mark twain

These words have actually been attributed to two famed Irish wits: George boy name Shaw and Oscar Wilde. Oddly, I have not seen any an accurate citations. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: The earliest solid match located by QI showed up in a syndicated newspaper column dubbed “Cook-Coos” by Ted cook in February 1931. 1 The expression to be ascribed to George bernard Shaw, and the central meaning to be congruent to contemporary instances; however, the phrasing was quite different Boldface has been included to excerpts: 2

Someone asked Bernard shaw what, in his opinion, is the many beautiful thing in this world.

“Youth,” that replied, “is the many beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity the it has to be wasted top top children!”

QI has actually not yet determined an interview v Shaw include the over remark; hence, the attribution to be indirect. In the complying with months and also years there was an efflorescence of similar statements connected to Shaw employing highly-variable phrasing. No closely matching written remark has actually been uncovered in the corpus of Shaw; thus, residual uncertainty remains.

Attributions to Oscar Wilde to be in circulation through 1963, however QI has uncovered no substantive support for the linkage.

Here are extr selected citations in chronological order.

In 1904 shaw crafted the comedy “John Bull’s other Island”. The youth of among the characters was described as wasted; however, the remark to be particularized to one individual and did not reflect the full definition of the adage: 3

The genuine tragedy of Haffigan is the tragedy the his wasted youth, his stunted mind, his drudging over his clods and also pigs till he has come to be a clod and also a pig himself—until the spirit within him has actually smouldered into nothing but a dull temper that harms himself and also all about him.

In 1907 a monograph around the life of demonstrate by Holbrook Jackson to be published, and it had a comment by the playwright worrying his “wasted and also mischievous” beforehand years. The an individual experiences of shaw may have actually inspired the speak if he important did say it: 4

I to be an unmitigated nuisance till the phenomenon defined in the an initial act the Man and also Superman as the dawning that the moral passion took place; and also by that time ns was nearing the finish of my schooldays, which ns look earlier on as the most fully wasted and mischievous component of mine life.”

In February 1931 the complying with words were attributed come Shaw as discussed previously in this article:

“Youth,” he replied, “is the most beautiful point in this world—and what a pity the it has to be wasted on children!”

In in march 1931 an instance attributed to demonstrate was printed in “The Brooklyn day-to-day Eagle” the Brooklyn, brand-new York, but the word selection was different, i.e., “beautiful thing” became “wonderful thing” and “pity” became “shame”: 5

And as Bernard show replied, once asked what he thought of youth—thinks that youth is a exorbitant thing. It is a shame it needs to be wasted on children.

In April 1931 the top columnist O. O. McIntyre 6 wrote about a popular new Broadway actress called Lyda Roberti, and also he included a version of the comment ascribed to Shaw: 7

Her youthfulness, marvelous mop of glowing hair and also comic document dialect encompass a combination seldom attained amongst the shining lights. Youth is always wonderful. as George Bernard when exclaimed, it appears a shame to waste it on children.

In might 1931 a profile of the influential humorist Irvin S. Cobb was published in a Sunday newspaper supplement. Cobb presented an circumstances of the saying while crediting Shaw: 8

If there is any kind of melancholy in Cobb it is the melancholy the middle age looking ago to years the will never be again. He quoted v deep emotion a current epigram indigenous Bernard Shaw: “The most precious thing in the human being is youth. Too negative it is wasted on children.”

And then he to be reminded that Robert louis Stevenson’s mournful plaint: “If youth just knew and age only could.”

In December 1931 “The new York Times” reported the a sermon yielded by harry Emerson Fosdick contained a version of the saying: 9

Declares Youth Is Wasted by Children Who space Unaware that the Treasure castle Possess.

Concurring in the opinion the George boy name Shaw, the Rev. Take care of Emerson Fosdick called his congregation in ~ Riverside Church, Riverside Drive and also 122d Street, yesterday morning, the it to be a pity youth had actually to it is in wasted in childhood. “Half the time youngsters do not understand what a treasure lock possess,” he said.

Also in December 1931 a Massachusetts newspaper published an expression that was not attributed come Shaw or any kind of other individual. This version used “youth” and also “young” i m sorry are regularly used in contemporary instances: 10

What a pity the is that so lot youth is wasted ~ above young people, that don’t understand by experience how to do the ideal use of it.—Springfield Union.

In 1934 a newspaper in Seattle, Washington published yet an additional variant: 11

George bernard Shaw as soon as wrote the “Youth is the many precious thing in life; the is too bad it has to be wasted on young folks.”

In 1935 several periodicals detailed additional context because that the quotation through presenting an anecdote in which shaw conversed with an unidentified woman: 12 13

Mr. Bernard show is a postmaster at the all set retort. A young mrs sitting next to him at dinner remarked: “What a wonderful thing is youth!”

“Yes—and what a crime to waste the on children,” G.B.S. Replied sagely.—Montreal everyday Star.

In November 1935 the Marian Mays Martin who wrote the syndicated pillar “Modern Women” deadline a concise instance to an unnamed philosopher: 14 15

Many philosophers preserve too lot store is put on youth. You will remember one declaring it was too poor youth has to be wasted on young people–or native to the effect. Most certainly they have the right to not, do not, appreciate it.

In 1936 the essential literary newspaper “The brand-new Yorker” published a version of the anecdote native the pen of Clifton Fadiman: 16

At dinner one evening, the bright young lady on Mr. Shaw’s appropriate burbled, “Ah, what a wonderful point is youth!” he swung his beard round at her crisply and replied, “Yes—and what a dead to waste the on children.”

In 1938 the gossip columnist and also future impresario Ed Sullivan published an instance along with a gloss: 17

The old saying was: “It’s a pity the youth is wasted top top the really young.” . . . . You have the right to paraphrase it to read: “It’s unfortunately that endure is wasted top top those who have exceeded fifty,” since the youngsters are in sore require of it.

In September 1939 “The Rotarian” published the complying with with an ascription to Shaw: 18

Music is much too essential to be wasted ~ above opera, just as youth (Mr. Show is the authority) is too important to it is in wasted top top the very young.

In December 1939 columnist Ed Sullivan published the adage again, but this time he added an unsure ascription to the French thinker Michel de Montaigne: 19

“It is a pity the youth is wasted on the really young,” remarked Montaigne or some other French wit. The cry was an oblique expression of the fact that so plenty of things come only with age: experience, poise, expertness at a trade, understanding.

In 1945 the novelist Ann Pinchot shared a publication chapter through the readers of the “Atlanta day-to-day World” the Georgia. Pinchot’s text included a phrase that precisely matched the modern-day version that the saying: 20

“I dreamed critical night ns was young again,” Reyna claimed presently. “What is it Shaw says—a pity youth is wasted on the young.”

In 1963 columnist Claire MacMurray writing in “The plain Dealer” that Cleveland, Ohio tentatively assigned the saying to Oscar Wilde: 21

Someone — perhaps Oscar Wilde — said that youth is wasted on the young. probably it’s also true that happiness is wasted ~ above those that have had actually no genuine trouble.

In 1965 a personality in a scientific research fiction story title “Wasted on the Young” by john Brunner ascribed the speak to Shaw: 22

“Reputedly, Shaw stated in his old age that youth to be wonderful; what a pity it had to be wasted ~ above the young! for in his view — as expounded in ~ some size in ago to Methuselah — just the wisdom which age entrains can fit an individual to do optimum use of the energies the youth.”

In conclusion, the earliest solid matches because that the saying showed up in 1931 and also were attributed come George young name Shaw. The phrasing advanced over time and also displayed significant variation. Researchers have been can not to uncover the adage in Shaw’s writings.

The first citation dated February 14, 1931 differed considerably from the anecdote date September 12, 1935. The lines ascribed to Shaw in 1931 were break-up into two parts; one part was yielded by one unidentified woman and the other part by Shaw. Overall, the accuracy of the ascription come Shaw was uncertain. Perhaps future researchers will uncover an ext evidence.

See more: When Assessing An 80-Year-Old Patient In Shock It Is Important To Remember That

Image Notes: relenten of “Fountain of Youth” from the might 1914 issue of “The Cosmopolitan” released by global Magazine Company, brand-new York. Image has actually been resized and cropped.

(Great thanks to Jonathan Caws-Elwitt, Kevin Basil Fritts, and also Michael Becket who inquiries led QI to build this question and also perform this exploration. Special thanks to Stephen Goranson who aided QI through locating the might 10, 1931 instance. Thanks additionally Charles Doyle and Fred R. Shapiro for pioneering research. Added thanks to discussants Wilson Gray, Joel Berson, and Laurence Horn. More thanks to Graham Warner that pointed to the 1965 Brunner citation and suggested including it.)