Another Erroneous Inspirational Quote—Another Method of Origin

Today’s post is about a motivational quote which can be found across the internet falsely attributed to Mark Twain.  Because it currently only appears on a handful of websites, I normally wouldn’t write about it; however, the method by which it is born is unique from all my previous posts and warrants at least a brief discussion.

The Misattributed Quote 

“Courage and perseverance will accomplish success.”
Mark Twain

The Correct Quote

“Courage and perseverance will accomplish success.”
Samuel Watson Royston
“The Enemy Conquered”

The Correct Source

The true source of this quote is the short story “The Enemy Conquered” by Samuel Watson Royston.  Here is the title page:

The Title Page of the Correct Source of the Quote

The Title Page of the Correct Source of the Quote

Here is the quote found in the book:

The Quote Found in "The Enemy Conquered" by Samuel Watson Royston

The Quote Found in “The Enemy Conquered” by Samuel Watson Royston

The Cause of the Misattribution

This quote gets misattributed to Mark Twain because he includes Samuel Watson Royston’s entire short story within his own book The £1,000,000 Bank-Note and Other New Stories.  A perusal of the table of contents would lead one to believe Twain is the author of the story as it does not include a reference to Royston; however, if time is taken to actually read the book, one would find the story is prefaced with a statement by Twain explaining why he included it in his book.  Here is the statement:

Introduction to Royston’s Short Story Where Mark Twain Explains Why He Included It in His Book

Introduction to Royston’s Short Story Where Mark Twain Explains Why He Included It in His Book

Essentially, Twain was compelled to include the work in its entirety to support his scathing critique of it.  The review is so unflattering that he substitutes Royston’s name with G. Ragsdale McClintock.  Here is the disclaimer:

Disclaimer Stating the Name G. Ragsdale McClintock Is a Substitute for the Real Author’s Name

Disclaimer Stating the Name G. Ragsdale McClintock Is a Substitute for the Real Author’s Name

Twain titled the review “A Cure for the Blues” insinuating the work’s inferior style of writing will provide the reader with a laugh.  Obviously, his description of it as a “great work” is sarcastic and not meant to be taken seriously.

This particular misquote was probably initiated by someone who did not actually read the book and assumed all the contents were written by Twain.  Oddly enough, all the websites featuring this misquote are literary in nature except for one which was a blog.  One audio book website actually created a fake, distressed book cover with the title The Curious Book:  A Love Story by Mark Twain.  The surprising thing is that they used the title Twain used to explain why he included another author’s work (see the previous “The Curious Book Complete” image).  One wonders how this could have been overlooked by people who are supposedly avid readers and book enthusiasts.  Clearly no one actually read the book. What a disappointment.

Beware of Anthologies

Although the cause of this type of misquote is not common, I have definitely encountered it more than once in my four years of research.  It usually evolves from books that are collections of works by multiple authors in a particular category.  For example, a book may be an anthology of English poets, and a misquote will arise due to the reader/quoter not double checking which author’s work the quote came from, and as a result William Wordsworth will be credited with words that were actually written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning or some other poet found in the collection.  And, as I have discussed in all my previous posts, just one person publishing a misquote on the internet or in a book will result in propagation of it.

Help Kill the Quote Virus

I will once again conclude with a plea to always get your quotes from a reliable source.  If you cannot find the quote from accompanying detailed source information, do not trust it.  Be especially wary of quotes from internet sources.  As today’s misquote demonstrates, even literary and educational websites are not infallible.  Avoid the quote virus by only using verified quotes.  And remember to

“Be the Antidote and Don’t Misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

2 thoughts on “Another Erroneous Inspirational Quote—Another Method of Origin

  1. Sue Brewton –
    Thanks for providing the real name of G. Ragsdale McClintock. I just finished reading Twain’s review and the incredible “The Enemy Conquered” while proofreading them for Project Gutenberg. If you have read “The Enemy …”, you will understand how difficult it is to proofread for just the reasons Twain describes in “A Cure for the Blues”. The proofreading is a labor of my love for Twain (and Project Gutenberg).
    Herb Helbig

    • Hi Herb,
      Thank you for acknowledging my article. It’s always nice to get positive feedback, and I really appreciate it. Also, kudos to you for contributing to Project Gutenberg! I use it all the time and think it provides a an important literary service to the world. Keep up the great work!

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