The idea came to me to copy things from my collection of “Quotes, Ideas, and Other Words” to this blog. Over the years I’ve added various strings of words when they resonate with me. Some of them are from others, and some are my own. Yesterday, I heard one of these quotes, and it suggested that I might as well share it and its kin on this blog:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children . . . to leave the world a bit better . . . to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
I figure that if anything I post helps anyone “breathe a little easier,” it might be worth the time. I’m reluctant to add anything to the information deluge, though I reckon reading any of this is a choice. As an example of how our wonder web can be a boon and a bane, I’ll share the following from my note, with the whole essay/poem, and a possible clarification of authorship. I appreciate whomever took the time to think and write any of it.
Bessie Anderson Stanley (born Caroline Elizabeth Anderson, March 25, 1879 – October 2, 1952) was an American writer, the author of the poem Success (What is success? or What Constitutes Success?), which is often incorrectly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson or Robert Louis Stevenson.
She was born in Newton, Iowa, and married Arthur Jehu Stanley in 1900, living thereafter in Lincoln, Kansas. Her poem was written in 1904 for a contest held in Brown Book Magazine, by George Livingston Richards Co. of Boston, Massachusetts Mrs. Stanley submitted the words in the form of an essay, rather than as a poem. The competition was to answer the question “What is success?” in 100 words or less. Mrs. Stanley won the first prize of $250.
Written in verse form, it reads:
He achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.
The poem was in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations in the 1930s or 1940s but was mysteriously removed in the 1960s. It was again included in the seventeenth edition. However, it does appear in a 1911 book, More Heart Throbs, volume 2, on pages 1–2.
The version I’ve seen most:
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of the intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child, a garden patch,
or a redeemed social condition;
to know that one life has breathed easier
because you lived here.
This is to have succeeded.
And for good measure, from a different source that my browsers now say is a security risk, so I’m not including the link:
“Here’s a 1905 article from the Lincoln Sentinel about that version of the quote: Bessie Stanley’s Famous Poem:
‘Bessie Stanley’s poem, though, is a bit different from the standard quotation attributed to Emerson — and so there is still some tiny possibility that the quotation is Emerson’s or someone else’s and that Stanley’s was a variation. At this time, though, the most dependable attribution would be to Bessie Stanley, with the changes attributable to the normal folk process of adaptation and editing.’”