only one must not say so

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shawn xie


I came across a sentence, "only one must not say so", and I am not so sure about its meaning. It's from a critique by Henry III on Shakespeare, which is "Was there ever such stuff as great as part of Shakespeare? Only one must not say so. But what think you?-what?-Is there not sad stuff? what? what?" I think the "only"-headed sentence does not make much sense in terms of grammar or syntax. Is it an idiomatic expression or anything like that? Many thanks beforehand.
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I can't really make sense of the whole quotation as written, though it is wide-spread on the Internet.

    Here is an alternate version that is available on several sources on Google books, and it does make sense.

    "Was there ever such stuff as the greater part of Shakespeare? Only one must not say so." (attributed to George III)
    "Was there ever such stuff as the greater part of Shakespeare?
    [Most of Shakespeare's works are 'stuff' -- nonsense.]
    Only one must not say so.
    [But you shouldn't say this. That is you shouldn't criticize Shakespeare -- people will think less of you if you do.]


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    This quotation seems to be on various sites around the Internet, without a proper attribution.

    In his work, Shakespeare for all Time, Stanley W. Wells reveals the source of the quotation: the novelist Fanny Burney reported it as the words of King George III (1785).

    "Only one must not say so"--but one must not say such a thing (no doubt for fear of being despised by those who hold Shakespeare in high regard). "Only" is often used in this way.
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