The expression "unvarnished truth" appeared in a recent column by one of the gazillion commentators on the Internet and it caused me to wonder where it came from. Who coined the phrase? Emerson? Ruskin? Shelley? I looked it up.
The credit goes to Euripides, the Greek tragic dramatist who lived from 485 to 405 B.C. Reference to truth being plain and unvarnished appears in his 411 B.C. play The Phoenissae."
"Men set most store by wealth, and of all things in the wide world it hath the greatest power.
"Plain and unvarnished are the words of truth."
He was aptly expressing the unvarnished truth when he observed that wealth has great power. It did then and does now, except it was measured differently more than 2,400 years ago. Today we count paper promises as actual wealth and list countless IOUs as part of our net wealth. They hadn't stumbled into that neat trick in Euripides's day. Actual wealth and anticipated wealth were two different things.
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