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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by ESC on September 03, 2001

In Reply to: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. posted by William Karl Thomas on September 03, 2001

: You attribute the sentiment expressed in a different manner to Shakespear,
: but Margaret Wolfe Hungerford penned the line "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"
: in her 1878 novel titled Molly Bawn. My research for an article with that title found
: this to be the earliest source of that exact phrase in the form in which it is used in
: contemporary language. Without questioning the wealth of expression Shakespear
: has provided for all English speaking people worldwide, as an international resrouce
: you cannot afford to be "Anglo-centric." Please regard my comments as a constructive
: effort and accept my sincere thanks for providing an invaluable service.

Most phrases have a long history.

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER - "The first stirrings toward this proverb appear to have come from the English dramatist John Lyly, who wrote in 'Euphues in England' . 'As neere is Fancie to Beautie, as the pricke to the Rose,' and from William Shakespeare, who in 'Love's Labour's Lost' (c.1594) penned the line 'Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye.' Almost a century and a half later, Benjamin Franklin in his 'Poor Richard's Almanack' of 1741 included the lines, 'Beauty, like supreme dominion/ Is but supported by opinion,' and Scottish philosopher David Hume's 'Essays, Moral and Political' contained the perhaps too analytical 'Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.' It was not until 1878, however, that the modern wording of the proverb first appeared in 'Molly Brown,' by the Irish novelist Mr. Margaret Hungerford. The saying has been repeated frequently in the twentieth century." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).