Winston Churchill? John Randall Dunn? J. Woodruff Smith? Douglas Bloch? Linda Crew? Mario Murillo? Brian Mulroney? Wally Amos? Ron Kenoly? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Winston Churchill is often associated with quotations about steadfastness and tenacity. Consider the following saying:
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
I have seen this statement attributed to Churchill several times, but I have never seen any solid citations. Are these really the words of the famous British Prime Minister?
Quote Investigator: Probably not. In 2009 the publication “Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill” stated that the saying above was “not by Churchill, or at least not verifiable in any of the 50 million published words by and about him”. In addition, the statement was placed in an appendix titled “Red Herrings: False Attributions” in the book “Churchill By Himself” which is the most comprehensive collection of quotations from the statesman. The editor was Richard M. Langworth, the top expert in this domain.
This adage is difficult to trace because of the malleability of its expression. The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a religious context in the October 30, 1943 issue of the “Christian Science Sentinel” journal of Boston, Massachusetts. The saying was presented in dialog form. Boldface has been added to excerpts:
Someone once asked a man how he was. He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!” If you seem to be going through the deep waters of physical anguish and cannot for the moment seem to gain the understanding which binds the strong man, keep on going—keep on clinging to Truth, and hear again the comforting, strengthening message, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” God, divine Love, is eternally sustaining His child, and will “bind the power of pain” as surely as the summer sun will melt the stubborn frost.
The passage above was written by a Christian Science lecturer and editor named John Randall Dunn, but the dialog was attributed to an unnamed man and his anonymous friend.
The saying appeared again in the pages of the “Christian Science Sentinel” in July 1969 in an article by J. Woodruff Smith. He also credited the dialog to anonymous individuals:
A man who was going through deep waters of fear called a Christian Science practitioner. In anguish he cried, “Oh, you don’t know what I’m going through. I’m just going through hell.” With vigor his helper replied, “That’s no place to stop. Keep going.” There was a short silence. Then a ripple of amusement followed by a wave of laughter as the mesmerism burst.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.