Who is Silvan Engel?

28 June 2000

Last month, in searching for the source of a quote, I found it on several (apparently) unrelated pages of quotes:

with exactly the same wording and punctuation:
It is better to be silent, and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.
attributed to someone named Silvan Engel. None of the sites gave any further information about or any more quotes from Silvan Engel. In the past month, the same attribution has popped up on many other pages: Several have also appeared with the familiar wording attributed to Lincoln:
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
saying that Lincoln was quoting Silvan Engel. But still not a word about who this Engel was! I don't find a single hit on "Silvan" and "Engel" in any library catalog I've tried--including the Library of Congress. Was there really such a person, or is this all just a demonstration of the way a completely fictional attribution worms its way into public consciousness?

--Glenn Knickerbocker

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