This saying did not appear in the previous edition in 1924. Kenyon Nicholson rather predicates his play upon the theory that if you’re not a leftist or socialist before you’re 25, you have no heart; if you are one after 25 you have no head!The compiler of the book was Sir Gurney Benham, and he also stated that there was a variant expression ascribed to Georges Clemenceau: N’être pas republicain à vingt ans est preuve d’un manque de coeur; l’être après trente ans est preuve d’un manque de tête.—Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head. An excited supporter burst into the private chambers of the old tiger Clemenceau one day and cried, “Your son has just joined the Communist Party.” Clemenceau regarded his visitor calmly and remarked, “Monsieur, my son is 22 years old.
Details are given further below in the 1936 citation.Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. If you’re not a socialist before you’re twenty-five, you have no heart; if you are a socialist after twenty-five, you have no head. Here are three examples: Not to be a républicain at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.In 1905 a French history journal called “Revue d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine” published a review that included a version of the saying using a different phrasing.
The words were attributed to an unnamed man: « Nous entendions dire dans notre enfance par un homme qui avait connu l’existence et qui n’etait pas sans esprit: « Celui qui n’est pas républicain à vingt ans révèle une bien vilaine âme; mais celui qui l’est encore à trente est un imbécile ».
QI has not yet located this expression in the writings of Burke, and it is possible that Burke’s changing political behavior inspired the saying and not his words.
“Republican” is a translation of the French “républicain”.
The versions of the expression using the words “socialist” and “liberal” were almost certainly derived directly or indirectly from the statement that was in circulation by 1875.
The support for ascriptions other than Anselme Batbie is weaker because it is typically later and/or indirect.
A facile saying, whipped up in a moment of inspiration by some ex-socialist press agent for the status quo.