Walpole commented to Mann that he had come upon the word after reading a Persian fairy story, The Three Princes of Serendip. Indeed, as he noted, the titular three princes "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of".
|Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds 1756|
In Notes on the Etymology of Serendipity and Some Related Philological Observations (1961), Leo Goodman further quotes Walpole's letter to Mann and his efforts to explain this new word of which he was so fond:
"...Serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you,I shall endeavour to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition.
I once read a silly fairytale, called ' The Three Princes of Serendip': as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right - now do you understand Serendipity?"What a wonderful letter to receive; to correspond with Walpole must have been a delight and his letters to Mann make for an entertaining look into Georgian life and a very singular gentleman!