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I am a great believer in luck...(Spurious Quotation)

Quotation: "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."

Variations: "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

Sources Consulted:

Earliest Appearance in Print: 19471

Earliest Appearance in Print, attributed to Thomas Jefferson: 1982?2

Other Attributions: Stephen Leacock, Mark Twain, George Allen, Samuel Goldwyn, "old Amish saying"

Comments: Neither this statement nor any variations thereof have ever been found in Thomas Jefferson's writings.

  • 1. F. L. Emerson, in Reader's Digest, March 1947.  See The Yale Book of Quotations, ed. Fred R. Shapiro (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006), s.v. “F. L. Emerson.”  Emerson was actually quoted as saying, "I'm a great believer in luck.  The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have."
  • 2. Administrative Management 43 (1982): 5.  Issues 7-12 were scanned together in Google Books and it is unclear which issue contains this quotation; no preview of the text is available except in search results.


Gradivus's picture
I believe Colleen McCullough (author of Fortune's Favorites and the rest of the First Man in Rome series of books) put the same sentiment (for the purposes of historical fiction) into the mouth of Julius Caesar, who was considered extremely lucky and was sometimes given the nickname Felix as a result. I've no idea whether there's any support for Caesar's having said anything like that, but that sort of thing (making up dialogue that historical characters might have said, based on their known or supposed character) is a well-respected technique in historical fiction.


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