Squire Bill Widener vs. Theodore Roosevelt

Today’s post is about a motivational quote that is often falsely attributed to Theodore Roosevelt.  It is very popular across the internet and in quote books.

The Misattributed Quote and Its Variations (in order of popularity)

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Theodore Roosevelt

“Do what you can where you are, with what you have.”
Theodore Roosevelt

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
Theodore Roosevelt

The Correct Quote

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
Squire Bill Widener of Widener’s Valley, Virginia
Theodore Roosevelt:  An Autobiography
chapter IX

Here is the quote found in chapter IX of Theodore Roosevelt:  An Autobiography (first published in 1913).  Note that Roosevelt clearly attributes the quote to Squire Bill Widener.

The Quote Attributed to Squire Bill Widener Found in Chapter IX of Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (1913)

The Quote Attributed to Squire Bill Widener Found in Chapter IX of Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (1913)

Here is the book title page:

Title Page of Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography

Title Page of Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography

Here is the table of contents:

Table of Contents Showing Title of Chapter IX Where the Quote is Found

Table of Contents Showing Title of Chapter IX Where the Quote is Found

Statistics

The quote virus is having a field day with this quote.  After surveying 135 infected websites, I found the following statistics.

PercentageType of Website
42%    Quotes-only or Quotes a major feature
21%    Corporate individuals or companies
11%    Social Media
10%    Informational (sports, science, news)
7%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
6%     Organization/foundation
3%     Academic/educational/school

Please keep in mind, this is an incomplete sample; there are many more sites featuring this misquote.  I stopped at 135 because I think that is an adequate amount to get a good approximation of the statistics.  Once again the majority of websites featuring the misquote are websites with an emphasis on providing an extensive quotes collection.  And once again, I will reiterate that quote websites are not reliable sources for quotes.  Use a source that includes detailed information for each quote.  In addition to the author/orator’s name, there should be accompanying data that enables you to find and verify the quote easily.  This data can include book title, chapter, play title, act, scene, poem title, line number, or speech date and location.

Variations

Somehow over the years, the words “with what you’ve got” have morphed into “with what you have,” and this is the most popular version of the misquote.  The second most popular version has the words “where you are” transposed into the middle of the sentence instead of at the end.  The least popular version of this misquote is the one with the correct wording.  That figures!

Some people don’t mind paraphrased or reworded quotes.  I am not one of them.  It doesn’t make sense to reword quotes by orators or writers who are revered for their skills in speaking and writing.  I have seen reworded quotes from William Shakespeare, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman and many other great authors which I think is downright sacrilegious.  It doesn’t make sense to alter words written by the greats.  After all, this is why they are being quoted—their brilliance in the craft of words.  I know there are people who disagree with me, but that is my humble opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Possible Cause of The Misattribution

There are probably a couple of factors contributing to the birth of this misquote.  The first is the obvious being that Theodore Roosevelt did indeed utter and write these words.  Unfortunately, even though he gives full credit to Squire Bill Widener, this information does not get forwarded with the quote.  I am guessing this is because a quote has more of an impact if it is from a well-known person, and sadly, Mr. Widener does not fit into this category.

Another contributing factor to this misquote is probably due to quote hunters not taking the time to read the full text in which the quote appears.  They instead presume that all the words contained within a book are originated by the author.  As some of my previous posts have demonstrated, this practice results in misquotes.  For example, my 10/21/14 post titled “Who wrote it?  Wordsworth or Michelangelo?” illustrates how William Wordsworth gets misquoted because he translated into English words written in the Italian of Michelangelo.  Another example can be found in my 08/12/14 post titled “Another Erroneous Inspirational Quote—Another Method of Origin.”  In this instance, Mark Twain gets misquoted because he includes Samuel Watson Royston’s entire short story within his own book The £1,000,000 Bank-Note and Other New Stories.  In both cases, a disclaimer is included to clarify that the author did not write the included work, and recognition is given to the proper originator.  Unfortunately, these efforts to give credit where credit is due are overridden by individuals who do not take the time to read the quote in its full context and thereby create a misquote that gets propagated like a virus throughout the literary world.

All is Not Lost

On the positive side, there are a handful of websites that not only provide the quote with the correct wording but also provide the correct attribution.  Many of them also point out that this quote is often misattributed to Theodore Roosevelt.  So there is hope!

Books

I came across five books containing the misquote.  They range in publication date from 1993 to 2013.  One of these books is dedicated solely to quotes.  I noticed that most books prior to the inception of the internet have the quote correctly worded and attributed.  I’m going to sound like a broken record again, but quotes found in books published after the birth of the internet are particularly unreliable as most of these authors use the internet as the source for their quotes.  This does not mean that all quotes found in books prior to the internet are accurate.  It just means to be wary of contemporary books.  And this includes quote books.

For Sale

As with most of my previous posts, today’s misquote is available for purchase.  In fact, it is the most popular for-sale misquote I have researched to date.  For as little as $7.00, you can have your own framed print.  You can also have a framed, “autographed” print for $49.99; the so-called “autograph” is an image of Roosevelt’s signature superimposed onto an image of the misquote.  A variety of t-shirts and coffee mugs are also available for purchase.  Unfortunately, these products are another method of misquote propagation.

Kill the Quote Virus

I will once again conclude with a plea to help kill the quote virus.  Never trust a quote website.  Do not trust a quote book unless it provides detailed source information.  And if you’re hunting for quotes, make sure you read the entire text in which the quote is found.  As today’s misquote illustrates, all content in a book is not necessarily written by the author.  Please visit my “What You Can Do” page for a complete list of pitfalls to avoid.

You can also help combat the quote virus by sharing this post with your friends and family.  I would also appreciate very much if you would “like” my Sue Brewton Author Facebook fan page.  Every “like” helps.  And remember

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

Edgar Allan Poe vs. Washington Irving

Today’s topic is a motivational quote that is often falsely attributed to Edgar Allan Poe.  Unfortunately, the misattributed version is wildly popular across the internet.

The Misattributed Quote

“There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.”
Edgar Allan Poe

The Correct Quote

“There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.”
Washington Irving
“The Adventure of the German Student”
Tales of a Traveller

Here is the quote found in the short story “The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving.

The Quote Found in “The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving

The Quote Found in “The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving

Here is the title page of the book Tales of a Traveller in which the short story appears.  The book was first published in 1824 by Washington Irving under the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon.  Irving is best known for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Title Page of the Book Tales of a Traveller Showing the Author is Geoffrey Crayon, One of Irving’s Pseudonyms

Title Page of the Book Tales of a Traveller Showing the Author is Geoffrey Crayon, One of Irving’s Pseudonyms

Statistics

Today’s misquote has a serious case of quote virus infection.  It has contaminated a multitude of websites as well as modern books.  I surveyed 130 infected websites and found the following statistics.

PercentageType of Website
43%    Quotes-only or Quotes a major feature
33%    Social media
10%    Community/shared interest/discussion forum
5%     Corporate individuals or companies
4%     Online service or app
3%     Academic/educational/school
2%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase

As in all my previous posts, the majority of websites featuring the misquote are websites dedicated solely to providing quotes.  Out of the 43% only six sites featured other non-quote information.  Once again, the lesson is do not rely on quotes websites for accurate quotes.  I know it doesn’t make sense that they are the least reliable since their sole purpose is to provide quotes.  Unfortunately, the administrators of these sites do not check the accuracy of the data they are providing, and many simply copy information verbatim from other inaccurate websites.  In fact many quotes websites contain the exact same quotes, the exact same misquotes with the exact same typos in the exact same order found on other quotes websites.  And as I’ve mentioned before, these types of websites continue to multiply like a virus.  Each time I do research for my next blog post, I notice new duplicate websites rearing their ugly heads.

The Possible Cause of the Misattribution

There are many books that feature the writings of both Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving.  Most of these books are collections of ghost stories or tales of the supernatural.  Some are collections of works by authors from the same time period or from the same country.  Since Poe and Irving happen to be grouped in several categories together, they are both often found within the same anthology.  One could surmise that perhaps a quote was taken from one of these collections and was inadvertently attributed to the wrong author in the collection.  This is a complete guess on my part, but I’m basing it on past experience with multiple authors found within the same book.  See my previous post dated 10/21/14 titled “Who wrote it? Wordsworth or Michelangelo?” as well as my post on 08/12/14 titled “Another Erroneous Inspirational Quote—Another Method of Origin.”  These two posts support my theory.

The Cause of Misquote Propagation

As my statistics indicate, social media is the second most popular category of website featuring today’s misquote.  The reason these sites play a major role in misquote propagation is they all feature some type of functionality to forward and re-post messages and images that users create.  For example, one Twitter user can create a cascade of re-tweets from a single tweet of a misquote.  In other words, the misquote travels from one person to multiple people who then forward it to multiple people who then forward it to multiple people and so on.  This is why I call it a quote virus.  Its propagation is very similar to a physiological or computer virus.  Social media together with quotes websites are the fuel propelling the spread of false information at an increasingly rapid pace.

Books

I came across two books featuring today’s misquote.  Both were published in 2010.  One is a book of strictly quotes.  The other is a book containing a chapter dedicated to quotes.  Neither of these books provides detailed source information for each quote; the author/orator’s name is the only information given.  This leads me to repeat my warning to be extra cautious when using quote books published after the birth of the internet.  Most of them are compilations of quotes found either on the internet or in other contemporary quote books.  Do not trust a book if the quotes do not include source information such as book title, chapter, play title, act, scene, poem title, line number, speech date, location, etc.  This applies to all books regardless of publication date.

Most Disappointing Find

The most disappointing discovery to me is that this misquote appears on academic websites for schools and universities.  Because information released from an educational institution or an educator is presumed to be current and accurate, a misquote disseminated from these types of sources might as well be gospel.  I actually came across two teachers who not only misattributed the quote to Poe but they also misspelled his middle name.  Additionally, I found an article produced by a writing consortium at a prestigious university featuring the same errors.  It is disconcerting that well-respected sources of information and knowledge play a part in misquote propagation.

Most Amusing Find

Although I am amused, I am also saddened by the following.  I came across a blogger whose home page title is “The Future Star of the Literary World,” and on the same page she cites Irving’s quote as being from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.  I came across another blogger who refers to herself as a “Poe Girl” on her title page, and underneath this title is Irving’s quote misattributed to Poe.

For Sale

As with many of my previous posts, today’s misquote is available for purchase.  For just $6.50 you can purchase one greeting card, or for $20.95 you can have your own coffee mug.  Not only do both items feature this very special misquote, but both come with Poe’s name misspelled and as a bonus the word “eloquence” is misspelled.  Be sure to place your order soon while supplies last!

Kill the Quote Virus

In conclusion, I will reiterate my admonition to never trust a quote from a quotes website, and never trust a quote found on social media.  Always make sure the quote is from a reliable source.  Please visit my “What You Can Do” page for a complete list of pitfalls to avoid.

To help extinguish the quote virus, please share this post with your friends and family, and “like” my Sue Brewton Author Facebook fan page to help spread the word.  And remember to

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

Who wrote it? Wordsworth or Michelangelo?

The topic of today’s post is an inspirational quote that is found across the internet falsely attributed to William Wordsworth.

The Misattributed Quote 

“Love betters what is best.”
William Wordsworth

The Correct Quote

“Love betters what is best.”
Michelangelo
Translated into English by William Wordsworth
Poems, volume I by William Wordsworth
Sonnets part I, sonnet 11

Statistics

This misquote isn’t quite as rampant as previous posts; however, given some time, I’m sure the quote virus will do its dirty work.  Out of 41 websites surveyed, here is what I found:

PercentageType of Website
29%    Quotes-only
29%    Social media
24%    Informational
7%     Books
5%     Corporate individuals or companies
2%     Services
2%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
2%     Discussion forums

Once again, one of the largest percentages belongs to websites dedicated solely to providing quotes.  Interestingly, social media tied with the same percentage.  This leads me to reiterate to never trust quotes found on quotes-only websites, and never trust quotes posted on your friends’ and family’s social media pages.  As the above numbers show, social media is another major source of misquote propagation.

Cause of the Misattribution

The primary reason this quote gets attributed to William Wordsworth is that he translated it into English from the Italian of Michelangelo and featured it in his own book Poems, in two volumes, first published in 1807.  Here is a disclaimer found in a later edition of the book:

Translation Disclaimer in Poems, in two volumes by William Wordsworth

Translation Disclaimer in Poems, in two volumes by William Wordsworth

Here is the quote found within Michelangelo’s poem:

The Quote Found within Michelangelo’s Poem

The Quote Found within Michelangelo’s Poem

Additionally, in July of 1859, the North American Review magazine did an article titled “The Life of Michel Angelo Buonarroti, with Translations of Many of his Poems and Letters” explaining that Wordsworth did the translation.  Here is the excerpt from the article:

Excerpt from North American Review Article Stating Wordsworth Did the Translation

Excerpt from North American Review Article Stating Wordsworth Did the Translation

Here is the first page of the article showing the title of the magazine and article:

Title Page of the Michelangelo Article Stating the Poems are Translations

Title Page of the Michelangelo Article Stating the Poems are Translations

Obviously, the misquote stems from someone who did not actually read Wordsworth’s book, assumed all content was written by him and then published this misinformation which then propagated over the centuries.  This is not the first time in my research that I have come across this type of origination.  Unfortunately, there are other authors whose works were translated by someone other than themselves and consequently misattributed.

Most Disappointing Find

Sadly, one of the websites featuring this misquote was an author interview website.  And it was a modern-day author who stated it was her favorite quote by Wordsworth.  I say “sadly” because even the educated ranks have been infiltrated with the vast quantity of repeated erroneous information on the internet.  This author is a member of the literary community, yet she is proliferating false literary information.  Unfortunately, in my research I have encountered many university papers and books written by professors containing misquotes.  This indicates that even scholars cannot be trusted with quotes.  To reiterate, if the quote is not accompanied by detailed source information such as book title and chapter or play title with act and scene, it should not be considered reliable.

Replication of Misinformation

One item of note is that the informational websites making up the 24% featuring the misquote are all either English dictionary websites or translation websites from various languages into English.  This demonstrates that, much like quote websites, these dictionary websites have all replicated each other with the same misinformation.  It’s a shame that these websites, which have a great educational purpose, lose credibility because the content has not been checked for integrity.

Books

The books I found that contain the misquote are all books dedicated solely to quotes.  They were published beginning in the 1800s up to present day.  Most likely the modern-day books copied content found in previous quote books, resulting in the propagation of erroneous information.  If you are going to use a quote book, make sure it is one that includes not only the author/orator’s name but also source information for each quote such as the book, chapter, play, act, scene, poem, line number, speech date and location, etc.

For Sale

As a final note, this misquote is available for purchase.  For $120.74, you can have your own trinket box featuring flawed information to be handed down generation after generation.

Kill the Quote Virus

To learn how you can avoid fake quotes, visit my “What You Can Do” page.  To help extinguish the quote virus, share the information with your family and friends, and “like” my Sue Brewton Author Facebook page.

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

John Milton vs. Francis Bacon

Today’s topic is about a quote that is often found falsely attributed to John Milton.  It is popular across the internet and in modern books.

The Misattributed Quote

“He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.”
John Milton

The Correct Quote

“A man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal, and do well.”
Francis Bacon
“Of Revenge”
The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral

The Reliable Version

Please note there are two versions of this quote by Francis Bacon.  The more reliable quote begins with the words “A man that” and is found in the essay “Of Revenge” in the book The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral written by Bacon.  Here is the quote found in the book:

The Quote Found in the Essay “Of Revenge” in the Book, The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, by Francis Bacon

The Quote Found in the Essay “Of Revenge” in the Book, The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, by Francis Bacon

Here is the title page of the book:

Title Page of the Book, The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, by Francis Bacon

Title Page of the Book, The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, by Francis Bacon

The Unreliable Version

The quote that begins “He that” was first printed in Baconiana magazine in 1679 under the title Ornamenta Rationalia.  Here is the Baconiana cover page:

Title Page of the 1679 edition of Baconiana Magazine

Title Page of the 1679 edition of Baconiana Magazine

Ornamenta Rationalia is a list of sayings, some made by Bacon and some collected by Bacon from Publius Syrus.  However, it was not expressly written by Bacon but was compiled for the magazine from some of his notes that were collected posthumously.  Here is the title page featuring the publisher’s note:

The Publisher’s Note Found in "Ornamenta Rationalia" Stating It Was Not Expressly Written by Francis Bacon

The Publisher’s Note Found in “Ornamenta Rationalia” Stating It Was Not Expressly Written by Francis Bacon

As the above title page shows, the first part of Ornamenta Rationalia is a collection of sayings from the ancient Latin writer Publius Syrus (correct spelling is Publilius Syrus) which were collected by Bacon.  The second part is a collection of sayings taken from some of Bacon’s writings.  Some of the sentences are verbatim and some are not.  This particular quote is not verbatim as it begins with the words, “He that.”  Here is the quote from Ornamenta Rationalia:

The quote found in "Ornamenta Rationalia." Note the wording is altered, and the second half of the quote is missing.

The quote found in “Ornamenta Rationalia.” Note the wording is altered, and the second half of the quote is missing.

The above excerpt also shows that the latter part of the quote, “which otherwise would heal, and do well,” is deleted.  Since this version was published posthumously and was compiled by someone other than Bacon, it is not the reliable version.  Fortunately, the meaning is not altered by the rewording, but if you’re looking for the exact quote, use the one from the “Of Revenge” essay from the book The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral written by Bacon and published during his life time.

Statistics

Once again, the quote virus is at work spreading infected information across the universe.  After perusing 95 websites featuring this Francis Bacon quote incorrectly attributed to John Milton, here is what I found:

PercentageType of Website
43%    Quotes-only
15%    Discussion forums
15%    Social media
12%    Informational (politics, newspapers, magazines, etc.)
8%     Quotes a major feature
4%     Corporate individuals or companies
2%     Academic/educational
1%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase

As usual, it is the websites specializing in quotes only that make up the largest percentage of misquote offenders.  Hmm . . . there seems to be a pattern here.  If you go back and read all of my previous blog posts, you will see that ALL of them report this same result.  The disturbing thing is that the number of quote websites is growing.  Every three to four months, I notice new quote websites rearing their ugly heads.  After researching quotes for four years, I am very familiar with the names of most of these sites, so when a new one pops up, I spot it immediately.  As a side note, I have noticed that a lot of these sites contain pages that are exact copies of pages from other quote websites, meaning the quotes are in the exact same order featuring the exact same misquotes and the exact same typos.  The bottom line is that a website that specializes in quotes is typically the worst place to get reliable quotes.  This doesn’t make sense, but it seems to be the case.

Contemporary Authors Are Another Source of Misquote Propagation

This misquote is also featured in at least two books of quote collections published in the 21st century.  I also found it in five non-quote books, usually at the beginning of a chapter.

Unfortunately, modern authors use quote websites as a resource to find quotes to include in their books.  So when they inadvertently cite a misquote, their book becomes a new source of quote contamination and helps to perpetuate the spread of this misinformation.

Educators Are Another Source of Misquote Propagation

Some modern-day educators also use quote websites as a resource for quotes to include in their educational literature.  This creates a double jeopardy situation because most people assume if the information is coming from an educator or educational institution, it is accurate.  However, in my research, I have come across misquotes featured on university websites as well as in theses, papers, and books written by professors.  This doesn’t occur often, but it is still disappointing that academic sources like these can contribute to misquote proliferation.

Most Disappointing Find

Another disappointing place where this misquote occurs is on a website offering free books online.  Their John Milton page includes a biography about Milton as well as a list of quotes by him.  Unfortunately, the quote list includes this misquote.  Obviously whoever created this page did not actually read Milton’s books and probably copied the quotes from another source without verifying them.  This is a shame because the overall purpose of this website is meaningful and extremely beneficial; to have a free treasure trove of great literature at your finger tips any time you want it is invaluable.  It is unfortunate that what could be a great educational resource is marred by inaccurate information.

For Sale

Finally, on a lighter note, if you are interested in purchasing flawed merchandise, today’s misquote can be found for sale on the internet.  That’s right folks.  For just $31.95 you can have your own misquote coffee mug.  What a bargain!

Help Kill the Quote Virus

I will conclude with another plea to help stop the madness.  Please share this blog post and/or share my “What You Can Do” page.  Every little bit of shared knowledge makes a difference.

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

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

Two More Reasons to Get Your Inspirational Quotes from Reputable Sources

This post concerns an inspirational quote that is often misattributed to Harriet Beecher Stowe and Joan Baez.  Read on to learn who really wrote it.

The Misattributed Quote and Its Variations

“All serious daring starts from within.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe

“All serious daring starts from within.”
Joan Baez

The Correct Quote

“All serious daring starts from within.”
Eudora Welty
One Writer’s Beginnings, chapter III

Here is the quote found in Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings:

The quote found in chapter III of One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

The quote found in chapter III of One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

The Sources of the Misattribution

For this misquote, it looks like the quote virus has spread its ugly tendrils to the outer reaches of the universe.  Not only is it found misattributed to Harriet Beecher Stowe but Joan Baez gets credit as well.  Of the 124 websites I looked at featuring this misquote, 66 are websites or web pages strictly dedicated to quotes.  Stowe is the more popular misattribution with 47 occurrences, and Baez receives the remaining 19.  The 58 non-quote websites consist of mostly blogs followed by businesses, women’s topics, education, and quotes paraphernalia for purchase.  There were seven more pages I did not look at as my eyes were bleeding after perusing 124 sites.  So my statistics are less than what is actually out there in cyberspace.  Additionally, I discovered three books of quotes also misattributing the quote to Stowe and Baez; there are most likely others.

Based on the above numbers, quote websites and blogs are the main source of infection for this misquote.  Be very wary when obtaining quotes from these sources.  As I’ve discussed in previous posts, in the age of the internet, all it takes is one website or one book with an erroneous attribution to start a pandemic spreading the misquote far and wide.  This phenomenon occurs because most quote websites derive quotes from other quote websites and quote books and then bloggers get their quotes from these websites and books and so on and so forth.  The result is that people like Eudora Welty don’t get full credit for their amazing words and thoughts.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

I must confess that before today I was not familiar with Eudora Welty (1909–2001), the true originator of today’s quote.  She was an American author who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Optimist’s Daughter.  She also received recognition for her literary contributions through various awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.  This quote is from her memoir One Writer’s Beginnings.  It is a shame that it is being attributed to other people as she was obviously a remarkable woman whose words should be honored and given proper credit.

Help Kill the Quote Virus

I encourage you to visit my “What You Can Do” page for tips on how to avoid being duped by fake quotes.  And please be sure to share the knowledge.  Once again, I will conclude with my motto:

“Investigate.  Don’t propagate.  Demand integrity in quoting.”

©Sue Brewton

No, that’s not how Benjamin Franklin wrote it.

Today’s misworded quote is not as ubiquitous as the one in my previous post; however, it is a good example of how a quote can morph into an entirely different quote as it propagates across the internet and modern literature.  Please note I have underlined the words within the quote that have changed over time.

The Misworded Quote

“Work as if you were to live a thousand years, play as if you were to die tomorrow.”
Benjamin Franklin

The Correct Quote

“Work as if you were to live 100 years, pray as if you were to die to-morrow.”
Benjamin Franklin
Poor Richard’s Almanac, May 1757

Here is the quote found in Poor Richard’s Almanac:

The quote found in Poor Richard’s Almanac, May 1757

The quote found in Poor Richard’s Almanac, May 1757

The Sources of the Misworded Quote

Like all other misquotes floating around in cyberspace, this misquote appears on blogs and social media websites.  But more importantly it rears its ugly head on websites solely dedicated to providing quotes.  One would think websites that appear to be an authority on a very specific topic would provide reliable data.  Unfortunately, this is not true of quote websites.

Additionally, this misworded quote appears in a recently published book of strictly Benjamin Franklin quotes.  Obviously, the author of this book did no research to ensure that only verified quotes were used.  One would think that a book on so narrow a topic would be authoritative and accurate.  The truth is that, much like quote websites, modern quote books are not reliable sources.

Finally, I came across another book recently published about Benjamin Franklin’s life, and the author includes this misquote on the book’s website.  Thankfully, it is not featured in the book itself; otherwise, the book and the author would lose complete credibility.

The only books that can be trusted for quotes are books that include the name of the author/orator of the quote, the work in which the quote is found, AND the location of the quote within the work (e.g. chapter, act, scene, stanza, line).  This last piece of data is important as I have come across many misquotes that attribute the author along with the title of the work when in fact one or both are false.

Most Amusing Find

My most amusing find is a website that sells term papers to students and offers this misquote as a topic to choose from.  I wonder what the profits are from this sham!  The bottom line is you can’t believe everything you read.  Always question the author and the source.

Earwitness Accounts are Not Reliable

To avoid confusion regarding the source of today’s misquote, I want to mention that the first part of the misquote is very similar to another quote commonly attributed to Ann Lee (1736-1784), a Shaker leader and founder of the Shaker Society.  Because she was illiterate and could not write, the only sources available for her quotes are earwitness accounts.  Because each account is slightly different, there are variations of the quote.  Here are two examples:

  • “Do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as though you were going to die to-morrow.”
  • “Do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as you would if you knew you must die to-morrow.”

Obviously, this quote repeats the sentiment of the first half only of today’s misquote, but because they are so similar, be aware that if you search the internet for the misquote, you will probably come across both Franklin and Lee as the source.

Translated Quotes are Not Reliable

I should also mention that there is a Latin quote that has several translations, one of which is extremely similar.  It is:

  • “Work as if you were to live a thousand years, live as if you were to die tomorrow.”

The caveats are that this quote can be found attributed to Ansalus de Insulis, St. Edmund of Abingdon, and unknown, so its origins are sketchy.  And since it is translated from Latin, there are many variations.  The actual Latin wording is Disce ut semper victurus, vive ut cras moriturus.  My research has found these additional translations:

  • “Work as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.”
  • “Study as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.”
  • “Learn so that you may be victorious; live so that tomorrow you may be prepared to die.”
  • “Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.”

The last translation is also commonly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi except the statement order is reversed with the “live as” clause occurring before the “learn as” clause.  So if you decide to do some internet research, be aware that in addition to Benjamin Franklin and Ann Lee, you will also probably find Ansalus de Insulis, St. Edmund of Abingdon, Mahatma Gandhi, and unknown as the source.

Conclusion on Unreliable Quotes

In summary, secondary sources or ear-witness accounts are unreliable and should not be used as direct quotes.  A hearsay quote would be a lot more trustworthy if it were derived from an actual interview that is conducted with the cooperation of the quoted person and is published during his/her lifetime.  Additionally, quotes that are translated from another language are also not reliable.  Every translator has a slightly different interpretation.  And as today’s misquote demonstrates, all it takes is the tweaking of one or two words, and the quote takes on another life.  Two slightly different translations can morph into four slightly different quotes which can morph into eight and so on and so forth.  Yup, it’s that pesky quote virus I’ve been preaching about.  Until someone can invent some kind of vaccine for it, we need to practice safe quoting by only using verified quotes.  So check your sources!  And remember

Investigate.  Don’t propagate.  Demand integrity in quoting.”

©Sue Brewton

No, Louisa May Alcott did not write that.

The topic of today’s post is a motivational quote that is not only falsely attributed to Louisa May Alcott but is sometimes taken out of context.  It is very popular on quote websites as well as social media.  My findings are as follows.

The Misattributed Quote

“He who believes is strong, he who doubts is weak.  Strong convictions precede great actions.”
Louisa May Alcott

The Correct Quote

“He who believes is strong, he who doubts is weak.  Strong convictions precede great actions.”
James Freeman Clarke
Common-Sense in Religion: A Series of Essays, chapter XV

The Correct Source

The correct author of this quote is James Freeman Clarke (1810–1888), an American theologian.  His book Common-Sense in Religion: A Series of Essays (James R. Osgood and Company, 1874) features this quote in chapter XV.  Here is the excerpt:

The Correct Quote Found in Chapter XV of Common-Sense in Religion by James Freeman Clarke

The Quote Found in Chapter XV of Common-Sense in Religion by James Freeman Clarke

The Sources of the Misattribution

To see how widespread this misquote is, I did a search on Google, and it returned ten pages worth of websites incorrectly attributing this quote to Louisa May Alcott.  The irony is that the vast majority of them are quote websites or websites presenting quotes as a major feature.  The remaining sites featuring the misquote are mostly blogs and social media.  It even rears its ugly head in an article written by a university professor.  Obviously, these are not good sources for verified quotes.  Never trust a source that does not include details about the quote such as the work in which it is found accompanied by corresponding information such as chapter, act, scene, stanza, line, etc.

For Sale

This particular misquote also appears on a website that is dedicated to creating customized quote paraphernalia such as coffee mugs, posters, awards, etc.  The site provides the quote, and the customer chooses the product on which the quote is to appear.  Although the quote can be edited by the customer, I would imagine most people would assume the information is correct and leave it as is.  One has to wonder how much money is being made on these flawed products.

Out of Context

Finally, I noticed that this misquote oddly appears on several anti-bullying websites.  One of them actually includes it under the category “Famous Bullying Quotes.”  This quote is in fact not about bullying at all.  As mentioned earlier, it is from a book written by the theologian James Freeman Clarke titled Common-Sense in Religion: A Series of Essays in a chapter titled “Common-Sense View of Salvation by Faith.”  Clearly the subject matter is not bullying.  Although the words can be interpreted with an anti-bullying sentiment, to assert they are specifically about bullying is taking the quote out of context.  This is a prime example of how a “quote virus” propagates (yes, I made up that term).  All it took to spread this infection was one person posting this misquote on one anti-bullying website, and from there it multiplied to other anti-bullying websites.  The end result is that there is now a growing number of people in the world who not only believe this is a quote by Louisa May Alcott but also believe it is a famous bullying quote.  And this group of poor, lost souls swirling around in the misquote eddy of despair will only continue to grow.

Final Diagnosis

The final diagnosis is that this quote is showing symptoms of misattribution and erroneous context because it has been infected by the quote virus.  Without intervention, it will continue to spread.  Quick!  Somebody call a doctor!  We need the vaccine!  Oh yeah . . . there is no vaccine.  Well, I guess the next best thing is to educate.  You can help stop this infection from spreading by sharing the knowledge.  Share this post with friends and family, and follow my tips on the “What You Can Do” page.  And remember to

“Investigate.  Don’t Propagate.  Demand integrity in quoting.”

©Sue Brewton

Look out! Sue Brewton, quotologist at large!

This will be a blog about inspirational and motivational quotes from inspirational people.  It will also be a blog about all the misquoting going on out there in the world of quotes.  Over the years I have discovered that an extremely large number (billions and bazillions and kazillions to the nth power . . . OK so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration) of quotes claimed to have been said or written by famous people are false.  These misquotes are found everywhere from quote websites, quote apps, quote paraphernalia and even quote books.  When I first discovered how widespread this problem is, I was annoyed and grumbled and complained about it.  But then the light bulb went off, and I decided that instead of complaining about it, I would do something about it.  And so the idea for creating a book with nothing but authenticated quotes was born.  I have been on this research journey for four years now with the goal of finding over 1,000 verified quotes.  At this point, I have collected 960 quotes so I’m approaching the finish line and am looking forward to publishing it soon.

I hope you will join me in my day-to-day adventures in doing quote research.  My goal is to educate and entertain while attempting to eradicate what I call the misquote virus.  I use this analogy because once cyberspace gets infected with a misquote, it spreads and propagates at an incredibly high rate and becomes ubiquitous in a very short period of time.  This is why my mantra has become:

“Investigate.  Don’t Propagate.  Demand integrity in quoting.”

I know . . . it’s corny.  But what the hey.  It gets the point across.  If you can come up with something else fun and informational, I’d love to hear it!