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Experience is a dear teacher

Posted by Baceseras on November 12, 2007

In Reply to: Experience is a dear teacher posted by ESC on November 12, 2007

: : : : My mother often said: "Experience is a dear teacher and fools learn by no other." I assumed this was from Shakespeare but I do not find it listed anywhere. What is the source of this? I want to use it in my writings.

: : : Benjamin Franklin

: :
: : If you enter the phrase into Google you will find numerous references to Benjamin Franklin.

: Variations go back to Roman times.

: EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER - "The great Roman leader Julius Caesar recorded the earliest known version of this proverb, 'Experience is the teacher of all things,' in 'De Bello Civili' (c. 52 B.C.). Over a century later, the Roman author Pliny the Elder in 'Naturalis Historia' (A.D. 77) wrote, 'Experience is the most efficient teacher of all things,' and the Roman historian Tacitus said simply, 'Experience teaches,' in his 'Histories' (c. 209). The earliest English rendering appeared in 1539 as 'Experience is mother of prudence,' which was included in Richard Taverner's 'Proverbes or Adagies.' Soon after in 1579, Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's 'Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans' rendered it as 'Experience is the School-mistress of fools' and Thomas Fuller's 'Gnomologia' included 'Experience teacheth Fools; and he is a great one that will not learn by it.' The English poet William Cowper wrote in 'The Task' , 'Experience, Slow preceptress, teaching oft' The way to glory by miscarriage foul.' Not long after, the American clergyman and viographer Mason Locke ('Parson') Weems : 'Experience, the best of teachers,' while the exact wording, 'Experience is the best teacher,' appeared in the 'Widow Bedott Papers' by Frances M. Whitcher." 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). Pag 55-56

: Another source gives the meaning and a later date for the first English rendering: "One learns more from experience than from books. The proverb has been traced back to 'The Schoolmaster' by Roger Ascham and comes from the L*tin phrase 'experiential docent' meaning 'experience teaches.' Water Scott (1854-1900) disagrees with the proverb, saying that 'experience is the name every one gives tho their mistakes.'." Variation: Experience is a hard master but a good teacher. From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). Page 93.

Note that 'dear' in the Franklin proverb means 'high priced'. The sense is that wise folks learn as well from teachers' precepts, from reading, or from observation --- but fools learn only when they have been thumped by rude experience. That's the price they pay.