better to wear out than to rust out

It is better to remain active than to succumb to idleness: used particularly with reference to elderly people. Frequently attributed in its current form to Bishop Richard Cumberland (d. 1718). Cf. 1557 R. EDGEWORTH Sermons A1v Better it is to shine with laboure, then to rouste for idlenes; 1598 SHAKESPEARE Henry IV, Pt. 2 I. ii. 206 I were better to be eaten to death with a rust than to be scoured to nothing with perpetual motion.

1820 in Southey Life of Wesley II. xxv. I had rather wear out than rust out.

1834 M. EDGEWORTH Helen II. xiii. Helen..trembled for her health..but she repeated her favourite maxim—‘Better to wear out, than to rust out.’

1947 S. BELLOW Victim xvii. It was better to wear out than to rust out, as was often quoted. He was a hard worker himself.

1972 Times 24 May 16 ‘A man will rust out sooner ’n he’ll wear out’ is one of his oft-repeated maxims.

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