This Is My Truth, Now Tell Me Yours

Aneurin Bevan? Jennie Lee? Michael Foot? Friedrich Nietzsche? Zarathustra? Manic Street Preachers? John Strachey? Hubert Griffith? Herbert L. Matthews? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A U.K politician expressed a willingness to hear alternative viewpoints by using the following expression:

This is my truth; tell me yours.

British Labour Party leader Aneurin Bevan has received credit for this remark. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: There is substantive evidence that Aneurin Bevan employed this statement. The second volume of a comprehensive biography of Bevan by Michael Foot appeared in 1973, and Foot attributed the saying to Bevan. Interestingly, Foot also alluded to a precursor remark by the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Often he would protest furiously: ‘O God why did you make the world so beautiful and the life of man so short?’ But he would also say, with Nietzsche, ‘this is my truth, now tell me yours’, thus invoking his special gift of imaginative tolerance.

Jennie Lee who was married to Bevan from 1934 up to his death in 1960 also attributed the saying to Bevan. See the 1980 citation below. Admittedly, the ascriptions from Foot and Lee appeared after the death of Bevan which reduced their probative value.

Here are additional selected citations and comments.

Nietzsche did write a similar statement within “Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen” (“Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None”) which was published in multiple parts between 1883 and 1885. Zarathustra was an important religious figure, but Nietzsche constructed his own fictional didactic version of the prophet who discussed his pursuit of truth as follows: 2

By many ways and modes I have come unto my truth . . .

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra also signaled that his way/truth might be different from the way/truth of the reader:

‘This — is my way, — where is yours?’

The English rendering above appeared in an 1896 edition from translator Alexander Tille. QI conjectures that the saying under analysis evolved from Nietzsche’s words, and a separate article centered on Nietzsche’s quotation is available here.

In 1933 British Labour politician and author John Strachey published “The Coming Struggle for Power” which included the following passage. Strachey attributed the saying to Nietzsche’s prophet: 3

The first answer to that question is that the discovery of historical truth is a more complicated matter than had been supposed. “This then is my truth,” remarked Zarathustra. “Now, tell me yours.” Historical truth for, say, the working class of Great Britain, may be something rather different from historical truth for the professional historians.

John Strachey and Aneurin Bevan were colleagues in the same political party; hence, the saying may have been relayed between them. Alternatively, it may have been circulating in their milieu.

In 1937 “The Observer” newspaper of London printed a piece by drama critic Hubert Griffith containing the following: 4

There is a phrase in Nietzsche, “I have told you my truth—now tell me your truth.”

In 1961 “The Cuban Story” by Herbert L. Matthews mentioned the saying: 5

Nietzsche has his mythical seer, Zarathustra say: “That is my truth; now tell me yours.” There has been a Cuban truth about this Revolution and an American truth, and the two often differed.

In 1969 a columnist using the pseudonym Nefastus Dies in the London journal “Encounter” published this: 6

“All absolutes belong to pathology,” Nietzsche tells us. He says it again when he says: “You have heard my truth, now tell me yours.”

In 1972 “The Birmingham Post” of England attributed the remark to Bevan: 7

A favourite expression of Aneurin Bevan was: “That is my truth. Now what is yours?” While not necessarily agreeing with the late Mr. Bevan’s politics, one can admire his shrewdness.

In 1973 the second volume of “Aneurin Bevan: A Biography” by Michael Foot stated that Bevan used the expression as mentioned at the beginning of this article: 8

But he would also say, with Nietzsche, ‘this is my truth, now tell me yours’, thus invoking his special gift of imaginative tolerance.

In 1980 British politician Jennie Lee who was married to Bevan stated that he used the saying: 9

There are two things I do not wish to do. One is to claim that Nye was always right and that anyone who disagreed with him was always wrong. In matters of great moment, right or wrong depends largely on the point of the political compass from which events are viewed. One of Nye’s favourite quotations was, ‘This is my truth; now tell me yours.’

Also, in 1980 Jennie Lee published a piece in “The Observer” of London attributing the saying to Bevan: 10

He was used to fighting hard for what he believed in and expected others to fight just as hard. ‘This is my truth, now tell me yours,’ was one of his favourite quotations.

In 1998 the Welsh rock band “Manic Street Preachers” released an album titled “This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours”. “The Guardian” newspaper of London described where band member Nicky Wire had located the title: 11

Even the phrase This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours exemplifies their affinity with the unfashionable; Wire found it in a speech by NHS founder (and fellow Welsh person) Aneurin Bevan.

In conclusion, in 1933 U.K. Labour politician John Strachey employed the expression “This then is my truth. Now, tell me yours”. However, he attributed the saying to Nietzsche’s version of Zarathustra. Nietzsche did write a somewhat similar German statement in “Also sprach Zarathustra”. Instances of the English expression were used by Hubert Griffith, Herbert L. Matthews, and others. The phrase was attributed to Aneurin Bevan by his biographer Michael Foot in 1973 and by his wife Jennie Lee in 1980.

Image Notes: An ambiguous image depicting a duck or a rabbit from the October 23, 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter. Image has been resized, cropped, and retouched.

(Great thanks to Mark Wainwright whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Wainwright’s inquiry also inspired the creation of a separate article about the saying ascribed to Friedrich Nietzsche.)

Notes:

  1. 1973, Aneurin Bevan: A Biography by Michael Foot, Volume 2: 1945-1960, Chapter 17: 1960, Quote Page 657, Davis-Poynter, London. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1896, The Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Volume 8, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Translated by Alexander Tille, Third Part, Chapter: Of the Spirit of Gravity, Quote Page 283, The MacMillan and Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1933, The Coming Struggle for Power by John Strachey, Chapter 1: The Struggle for the Market, Quote Page 30 and 31, Covici, Friede Publishers, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1937 May 23, The Observer, “What Is Truth?”: Two Pictures of Russia by Hubert Griffith, Quote Page 7, Column 5, London, England. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1961, The Cuban Story by Herbert L. Matthews, Chapter 6: The United States, Quote Page 248, George Braziller, New York. (Verified with scans)
  6. 1969 April, Encounter, Column by Nefastus Dies, Start Page 45, Quote Page 47, Encounter, Ltd., London. (Unz)
  7. 1972 February 4, The Birmingham Post, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Warwickshire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
  8. 1973, Aneurin Bevan: A Biography by Michael Foot, Volume 2: 1945-1960, Chapter 17: 1960, Quote Page 657, Davis-Poynter, London. (Verified with scans)
  9. 1980, My Life With Nye by Jennie Lee, Chapter 18: The Struggle to Establish the Health Service, Quote Page 180, Jonathan Cape, London. (Verified with scans)
  10. 1980 November 2, The Observer, My Life With Nye by Jennie Lee (Continuation title: Nye, The Party and Me), Start Page 25, Quote Page 27, Column 4, London, England. (Newspapers_com)
  11. 1998 September 11, The Guardian, Section: The Guardian Review, A new design for life by Caroline Sullivan, Quote Page 24, Column 3 and 4, London, England. (Newspapers_com)