Did Wyatt really say that?

From a recent interview:

In an 1896 article, Wyatt Earp said that “Doc was a dentist not a lawman or an assassin, whom necessity made a gambler.” Do you agree with that assessment?

The whole quote is “Doc [Holliday] was a dentist whom necessity had made a gambler; a gentleman whom disease had made a frontier vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit; a long lean ash-blond fellow nearly dead with consumption, and at the same time the most skillful gambler and the nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a gun that I ever knew.”

I suspect the entire quote is bogus, although Wyatt always defended Doc’s good character.

You can usually tell when a ghostwriter or a journalist put a colorful quote in Wyatt’s mouth. Wyatt was not well educated and not terribly articulate. Fancy phrasing and words like “vagabond … caustic wit … philosopher … nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a gun” just don’t sound authentic to me.

If you want an authentic quote about Doc Holliday, I believe this one by Virgil Earp, who said, “Tales were told that [Doc] had murdered men in different parts of the country, that he had robbed and committed all kinds of crimes, and yet when people were asked how they knew it, they could only admit it was hearsay, and nothing of the kind could really be traced up to Doc’s account.”

Unlike Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Virgil never really warmed to Doc, but he was a fair man and that’s a fair statement.

2 thoughts on “Did Wyatt really say that?

  1. Hi, Mary!
    This made me think of your book in which you wrote: “The Georgian had used more words in five minutes than Wyatt had spoken during 1872 and ’73 combined.” !! I was thinking more along the lines that you had written something to the effect that he always used 20 words when 5 would do, but perhaps I was delirious. I could not find that line! Still – that quote above certainly does NOT sound like the Wyatt you portrayed, and I trust YOUR version! 😉
    Blessings,
    Elaine P.

  2. In the book, Wyatt is always taken aback by the firehose of verbiage that comes out of Doc’s mouth. Wyatt doesn’t like to say more than five words in a row to anybody but his brothers, although he’ll talk when he has to. The quote you’re remembering is from Wyatt’s observation of Doc’s endlessly inventive and clause-ridden and elaborated speech: “The dentist never used one word when twenty would do the same job.”

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