"An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise” is an old English proverb. English Elizabethan pamphleteer Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) wrote in 1596:
“One acre of performance, is worth twentie of the Land of Promise.”
Anglo-Welsh historian and writer James Howell (1594-1666) wrote in a letter published in 1655:
“An acre of performance is worth the whole Land of promise.”
The expression (popularized as “An acre of performance is worth the whole world of promise” by the early 1800s) was frequently credited to James Howell and then mistakenly credited by some to American author William Dean Howells (1837-1920).
[This expression was also researched by the Quote Investigator.]
Haue vvith you to Saffron-vvalden. Or, Gabriell Harueys hunt is vp Containing a full answere to the eldest sonne of the halter-maker. Or, Nashe his confutation of the sinfull doctor. The mott or posie, in stead of omne tulit punctum: pacis fiducia nunquam. As much to say, as I sayd I would speake with him.
By Thomas Nash (1567-1601)
A more likelier peice of Atheisme thou maist vrge against him, where he saith in one leafe, that one acre of performance, is worth twentie of the Land of Promise: as though God had not performd to the Chil|dren of Israel, the Land of Promise he vowd to them.
What the Independents would have, or, A character, declaring some of their tenents, and their desires to disabuse those who speak ill of that they know not.
By John Cook (d. 1660) of Grays Inn Barrister
He thinks no man will be godly, unlesse he will pro|mise to be so; therefore wonders that any Christian should speake against a Church Covenant, which is no more then to promise to doe that, by Gods assistance, which the Gospel requires of him, yet will not say that it proceeds out of a de|sire of carnall liberty, or contempt of the ordinances; for ri|gid censures seldome lodge in meeke and humble brests; he esteems protestation against practice, prevarication; as if Bil|hah had said, though I lye with Reuben, my heart is honest to my husband; for one acre of performance, is worth a whole land of promise.
A Fourth Volume of Familiar Letters Upon Various Emergent Occasions Partly Philosophical, Political, Historical by James Howell, Clerk of the Councell to his late Majestie
London: Printed for Humphrey Moseley
To Mr. R. Lee in Antwerp.
An acre of performance is worth the whole Land of promise; Besides, as the Italian hath it, Deeds are men, and words women: you pleas’d to promise me when you shook hands with England to barter Letters with me; But wheras I writ to you a good while since by Mr. Simons, I have not receiv’d syllable from you ever since.
J. H. (James Howell—ed.)
English Synonymes Explained, in Alphabetical Order
By George Crabb
London: Printed for Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy
Pg. 680, col. 2:
An acre of performance is worth the whole world of promise. HOWELL
12 November 1822, Washington Herald (Mount Pleasant, NY), pg. 4, col. 1:
3. One acre of performance, is worth the whole land of promise.
22 September 1874, Pittsburgh (PA) Commercial, “General and Particular,” pg. 2, col. 4:
Remember, Republicans, that an acre of performance is worth a whole world full of promise.
29 October 1874, The Daily Phoeix (Columbia, SC), “Phoenixiana,” pg. 2, col. 6:
An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise.
14 July 1875, West Jersey Press (Camden, NJ), “Freshest Gleanings,” pg. 1, col. 8:
An acre of performance is worth a world of promise.
6 August 1878, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), “London and Paris Notes” (dated July 24, 1878), pg. 1, col. 4:
I think it was that excellent writer but questionable character, Lady Mary Wortley Montague, who said “an acre of performance is worth the whole land of promise.”
Phillips’ Book of Great Thoughts, Funny Sayings
By Bob Phillips
Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House
An acre of performance is worth the whole Land of Promise.
An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise. William Dean Howells
11:26 PM - 11 Aug 2016