happy is the country which has no history

Carlyle (see quot. 1864) attributed this observation to the French political philosopher Montesquieu (1689–1755). Cf. 1740 B. FRANKLIN Poor Richard’s Almanack (Feb.) Happy that Nation,—fortunate that age, whose history is not diverting.

1807 T. JEFFERSON Letter 29 Mar. in Writings (1904) XI. 182 Blest is that nation whose silent course of happiness furnishes nothing for history to say.

1860 G. ELIOT Mill on Floss VI. iii. The happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history.

1864 CARLYLE Frederick the Great IV. XVI. i. Happy the people whose annals are blank in history.

1957 V. BRITTAIN Testament of Experience I. iv. Quoting the familiar dictum: ‘Happy is the country which has no history,’ I remarked that I belonged, like Edward VIII, to a generation which was still on the early side of middle age but had already seen almost more history than any generation could bear.

1981 Nature 23 Apr. 698 An old proverb..tells us that ‘happy is the nation that has no history.’.. DNA..is the unhappiest of molecules, for it is the subject of innumerable biographies.

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