Why do we say "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"?

Well-Known Expressions

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Meaning:

A balanced education is needed to produce creative people.

Background:

This expression appears in its modern form in James Howell's 1659 Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish, but appears to have been in use some time before that.

It has appeared in writing countless times since. For example, in 1853 Charles Dickens wrote the following to author and scholar Peter Cunningham:

"...No one can more highly estimate your devotion to the best interests of Britain than I. But I wish to see it tempered with a wise consideration for your own amusement, recreation, and pastime. All work and no play may make Peter a dull boy as well as Jack. And (if I may claim the privilege of friendship to remonstrate) I would say that you do not take enough time for your meals. Dinner for instance you habitually neglect. Believe me, this rustic repose will do you good. Winkles also are to be obtained in these parts, and it is well remarked by Poor Richard, that a bird in the handbook is worth two in the bush."

Dickens (1853). Letters.

Alphabetical list of expressions

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