He That Complies Against His Will, Is of His Own Opinion Still

Samuel Butler? Frances Burney? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Force can be used to compel a person to exhibit a specific behavior, but it is much more difficult to change the mind of a person. Compliance does not denote mental submission.
The 17th-century poet Samuel Butler composed a couplet expressing this notion. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Samuel Butler lived between 1613 and 1680. His most famous work was a long satirical poem titled “Hudibras”. The three parts of the poem were combined into a single edition published in 1684. The quotation appeared in third part within canto three. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

He that complies against his Will,
Is of his own Opinion still;
Which he may adhere to, yet disown,
For Reasons to himself best known

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

A closely related saying entered circulation afterwards: “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”. A separate article about this saying is available here.

In 1833 the English novelist Frances Burney published a work about her father titled “Memoirs of Doctor Burney”, and she referred to the couplet. The word “that” was changed to “who”: 2

But Hudibras too well says—
“He who complies against his will,
Is of his own opinion still.”

In 1949 “The Home Book of Quotations” compiled by Burton Stevenson included the saying and mentioned a common misquotation: 3

He that complies against his will,
Is of his own opinion still,
Which he may adhere to, yet disown,
For reasons to himself best known.

BUTLER, Hudibras. Pt. iii, canto iii, l. 547.
Often misquoted, “A man convinced against his will.”

In 1968 “Dictionary of Quotations” compiled by Bergen Evans included the Hudibras quotation with the following commentary: 4

Often misquoted as “A man convinced against his will / Is of the same opinion still.”

But, of course, a man can’t he convinced against his will. Many an honest man has been convinced, by irrefutable evidence, against his deepest wish to believe otherwise. But that is not what is meant by either Butler’s distich or its popular perversion.

In conclusion, Samuel Butler deserves credit for this couplet which appeared in his poem “Hudibras”. It was crafted before his death in 1680 and was published in an omnibus edition in 1684.

Image Notes: Public domain illustration circa 1726 by William Hogarth depicting Sir Hudibras and squire Ralpho mounted on horses. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Peter G. Epps whose tweet led QI to formulate this question and perform two tasks. QI conducted one exploration for this saying and another exploration for “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”. Also, thanks to previous researchers Burton Stevenson, Bergen Evans, and Barry Popik who highlighted the misquotation.)


  1. 1684, Hudibras in Three Parts (by Samuel Butler), Part 3, Canto III, Quote Page 202, Printed and Sold by W. Rogers, London. (Early English Books Online 2; ProQuest)
  2. 1833, Memoirs of Doctor Burney, Arranged from His Own Manuscripts by His Daughter, Madame D’Arblay, Evelina; Or, A Young Lady’s Entrance Into the World, Quote Page 119, Key & Biddle, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1949, The Home Book of Quotations: Classical and Modern, Selected by Burton Stevenson, Sixth Edition, Topic: Opinion Apothegms, Quote Page 1426, Dodd, Mead and Company, New York. (Internet Archive at archive.org)
  4. 1968, Dictionary of Quotations, Collected by Bergen Evans, Topic: Opinion(s), Quote Page 498, Delacorte Press, New York. (Verified with scans)