Friday, February 11, 2011

There are Two Kinds of People in the World...

Some weeks ago the Robert Benchley Society was contacted by someone with the following query:
Hope you don't mind my asking, but I am looking for a clue as to where exactly Robert Benchley said the words so often attributed to him, to the effect that "there are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don't."

I would like to track down the exact source (and the correct wording) because I have an idea that Benchley's joke actually states an interesting truth that is worth expanding on.

Can you help me, or offer any advice for my quest?

many thanks--
a Benchley fan,

To which we responded:
Dear Benchley fan,

Thank you for contacting the Robert Benchley Society.

The saying appears in Mr. Benchley's writings as:

"There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not." in the essay, "The Most Popular Book of the Month" which was first published in a newspaper or magazine. The aphorism's first appearance in a book of Mr. Benchley's essays was in "Of All Things" which was published in 1921 as a collection of pieces that had previously been published in periodicals. The essay begins on page 187 of the book and the subject is a book review of the New York City Telephone Directory. Another very funny comment of Benchley's in that essay is "But it is the opinion of the present reviewer that the weakness of plot is due to the great number of characters which clutter up the pages. The Russian school is responsible for this."

The entire book, which is out of print, has been scanned and made available on google at

1 comment:

David Trumbull said...

The biography "Gentle Soul: the Life of Robert Benchley" by Billy Altman states it first appeared in Vanity Fair. However, Mr. Altman's work is notorious for inaccuracies, so I cannot take that as conclusive.

Robert Benchley Society

For more information about the Robert Benchley Society, local chapters near you, our annual Award for Humor, and our Annual Gathering, visit The RBS Website