Who said : I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.
Dr Johnson? Churchill? Cicero? Mark Twain?
|Pascal said it, Churchill quoted it, Woodrow Wilson bettered it|
Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.
I have made this letter long because I don't have the leisure to make it shorter.
Dozens of other writers have expressed similar sentiments over the years, and several have had the saying attributed to them falsely. The Quote Investigator has it all if you want it. The best is Woodrow Wilson who died in 1924. He was asked by a member of his cabinet about the amount of time he spent preparing speeches :
"It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now."
I imagine Wilson was familiar with this exchange of telegrams between Mark Twain and his publisher:
NEED 2-PAGE SHORT STORY TWO DAYS, which got the answer: NO CAN DO 2 PAGES TWO DAYS. CAN DO 30 PAGES 2 DAYS. NEED 30 DAYS TO DO 2 PAGES.
As to Blaise Pascal, BBC Radio 4's In Our Time has just kicked off its new season with an episode on him. I've already listened to it twice. And for more on Pascal see Man, the feeblest thing in nature.
Pascal: Lettres Provinciales (1657) no 16. Source: Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
Woodrow Wilson: Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations edited by Suzy Platt, 1989, page 624.
Mark Twain: Guardian