Love: It Is a Sort of Divine Accident

Hugh Walpole? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Radiant love displays “depth, beauty, and joy”, but achieving this extraordinary relationship is challenging. The bestselling English novelist Hugh Walpole apparently said:

It is a sort of Divine accident.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The book “What is Happiness?” consists of essays by ten writers including Sir Hugh Walpole. The collection appeared in London in 1938 and in New York in 1939. Walpole began his reply to the title question by stating: “This is a dangerous question to ask, partly because there is no real answer to it”. Yet, he recognized the centrality of love. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

But the most wonderful of all things in life, I believe, is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a glowing depth, beauty, and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvellous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of Divine accident.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

The 1948 book “The Art of Being Happy” edited by Samuel G. Kling and Esther B. Kling contained a reprint of Walpole’s essay together with an acknowledgement of “What Is Happiness?” Thus, the passage above was further disseminated. 2

In 1973 the passage was reprinted in a Rocky Mount, North Carolina newspaper. The text was slightly altered. For example, “I believe” was deleted; “This inner” became “The inner”; and “sort of Divine” became “sort of a Divine”: 3

Sir Hugh Walpole said: “The most wonderful of all things in life is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a glowing depth, beauty and joy as the years increase. The inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvelous thing, it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of a Divine accident.

In 2000 the original passage appeared in “The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Wedding Toasts” edited by Katherine Young. 4

In 2006 the original passage appeared in “Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing” compiled by Larry Chang. 5

In conclusion, Sir Hugh Walpole should receive credit for the text he wrote in “What is Happiness?” in 1938. Modern instances sometimes contain small modifications.

(Great thanks to researcher Mardy Grothe who knew that the words were attributed to Hugh Walpole and contacted QI to request help in finding a proper citation.)

Notes:

  1. 1939, What Is Happiness? by Martin Armstrong et al, (A collection of ten essays by different authors: J. B. Priestley, Martin Armstrong, Storm Jameson, V. S. Pritchett, Bertrand Russell, Sir Hugh Walpole, Eric Linklater, Gerald Bullett, John Hilton, Havelock Ellis), Chapter by Sir Hugh Walpole, Start Page 67, Quote Page 74, H. C. Kinsey & Company, Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1948, The Art Of Being Happy, Edited by Samuel G. Kling and Esther B. Kling, Chapter: Tranquillity of Mind by Sir Hugh Walpole (1884-1941), (Essay reprinted from collection “What Is Happiness”), Start Page 208, Quote Page 210, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1973 December 9, The Sunday Telegram (Rocky Mount Telegram), Worth Mentioning by Ruth Mincher, Quote Page 4A, Column 1, Rocky Mount, North Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 2000, The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Wedding Toasts, Edited by Katherine Young, Chapter: Romance, Quote Page 426, Sterling Publishing Company Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)
  5. 2006, Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing, Compiled and Edited by Larry Chang, Section: Relationship, Quote Page 597, Column 1, Gnosophia Publishers, Washington, D.C. (Google Books Preview)