FACT CHECK: Did George Eliot Say, ‘Wear A Smile And Have Friends’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

A Facebook post credits 19th century English writer George Eliot with saying, “Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.”

Verdict: False

The Daily Caller News Foundation found no evidence that Eliot penned this expression.

Fact Check:

George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, a prominent female novelist during the Victorian Era. Under this pseudonym, she wrote numerous books, including “Middlemarch” and “Daniel Deronda.”

However, nowhere in these works, or any of her others, does the quote attributed to her in the Facebook post appear. TheDCNF searched the George Eliot Archive, an online database of all her writings, as well as her letters, but found no matching expressions.

Several experts also told TheDCNF that they did not recognize the quotation, with two noting that it didn’t sound like something she would say.

“I don’t recognize it being George Eliot,” said John Burton, chairman of the George Eliot Fellowship, in an email to TheDCNF. “It seems altogether too glib for her.”

The website Quote Investigator “tentatively” credits F. O. Hamilton with penning the quote in an essay published by a Pennsylvania newspaper in 1938, though elements of the quote appeared earlier.

“The ascription to George Eliot is unsupported,” reads the post. “The quotation about smiling and frowning appeared adjacent to a statement about the purpose of life in Hamilton’s essay. The latter statement was based on an authentic Eliot quotation.”

According to Quote Investigator, the proximity of Hamilton’s statement to a “streamlined” version of a line from Eliot’s “Middlemarch” likely confused readers, leading to the false attribution.

College of Southern Nevada professor Adam Burgess ascribed a similar mechanism of misattribution to the quote.

“The two quotes were further paraphrased in multiple printings of various sources throughout the 1940s and 1950s,” he further explained an email to TheDCNF, “until they became indistinguishable (and because Eliot was the more notable literary figure, her name became the one attached to the quote).”

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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