To laugh often and love much... This is to have succeeded. ~Bessie Anderson Stanley, not Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Elisabeth-Anne "Bessie" Anderson Stanley (1879–1952) is the author of the poem Success (What is success? or What Constitutes Success?), which is often incorrectly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson or Robert Louis Stevenson.
Her poem was written in 1904 for a contest held in Brown Book Magazine. Mrs. Stanley, of Lincoln, Kansas submitted the words in the form of an essay, rather than as a poem. The competition was to answer the question "What is success?" in 100 words or less. Mrs. Stanley won the first prize of $250.
Written in verse form, it reads:He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty or failed to express it; Who has left the world better than he found it, Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; Whose life was an inspiration; Whose memory a benediction.
The poem was in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations in the 1930s or 1940s but was mysteriously removed in the 1960s. It was again included in the seventeenth edition. It also appears in a 1911 book, More Heart Throbs, volume 2, on pages 1–2.
Ann Landers (and her sister Abby) are also said to have misattributed the poem to Emerson and her concession to a public correction is in The Ann Landers Encyclopedia.
To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.
~ Bessie Anderson Stanley