Elbert Hubbard? Robert Burns Wilson? Dale Carnegie? Kin Hubbard? Anonymous?
Quote Investigator: The earliest match for the full piece located by QI appeared in 1895 within “Mining and Scientific Press” of San Francisco, California. Boldface added to excerpts by QI. No attribution was given:[ref] 1895 June 1, Mining and Scientific Press, Volume 70, Number 22, Keeping Everlastingly At It Brings Success, Quote Page 344, Column 3, San Francisco, California. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]
Genius is really only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it—so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business, sometimes prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.
Based on current evidence the author of this piece remains anonymous. Interestingly, the text contains material lifted from an 1887 essay by Robert Burns Wilson. See details further below.
The first ascription to Elbert Hubbard occurred in a book published in 1911. But this evidence is weak because of its late date.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1887 Robert Burns Wilson published an article titled “And So—I Gave Up Trying!” in “The Critic” journal of New York. An excerpt is shown immediately below. The three sentences in bold within the excerpt were reordered and combined to construct the conclusion of the later 1895 essay. The phrasing was changed slightly:[ref] 1887 October 8, The Critic: A Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts, “And So—I Gave Up Trying!” by Robert Burns Wilson, Start Page 173, Quote Page 173, The Critic Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]
There is no defeat except from within. There is really no insurmountable barrier, save your own inherent weakness of purpose. There is no power either in heaven or earth that can successfully oppose the onward course of the perfectly determined soul.
Success as the world names it is but a word, which with the next breath may signify defeat. But success as the soul knows it, is to have within the sustaining sense of right and an unselfish purpose. There is no failure except in no longer trying.
A separate QI article about Wilson’s quotation above is available here.
In June 1895 the essay under examination appeared in “Mining and Scientific Press” as noted previously. In the same month the essay appeared in “The Pacific Rural Press”[ref] 1895 June 1, The Pacific Rural Press, Keeping Everlastingly At It Brings Success, Quote Page 340, Column 3, San Francisco, California. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref] of San Francisco, “Electrical Review”[ref] 1895 June 12, Illustrated Electrical Review: A Journal of Scientific and Electrical Progress, Volume 26, Number 24, Keeping Everlastingly at It Brings Success, Quote Page 312, Column 2, New York, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link [/ref] of New York, and “The New York Times”[ref] 1895 June 16, The New York Times, Keeping Everlastingly at It, Quote Page 20, Column 6, New York. (Newspapers_com) [/ref] which acknowledged the “Electrical Review”. In all cases the author was unidentified.
The anonymous piece was reprinted in a variety of other periodicals. For example, in September 1895 it appeared in “The American Journal of Photography” of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[ref] 1895 September, The American Journal of Photography, Volume 16, Number 189, Section: The Editorial Dropshutter, Keeping Everlastingly at it, Quote Page 431, Thomas H. McCollin & Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (HathiTrust Full View) link [/ref]
The lines ascribed to Wilson were not forgotten. In 1899 the periodical “Unity” of Chicago, Illinois printed the following brief filler item:[ref] 1899 February 16, Unity, Volume 42, Number 25, (Filler item), Quote Page 493, Alfred C. Clark & Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]
There is no defeat except from within. There is no failure except in no longer trying.—Robert Burns Wilson.
In 1910 the anonymous essay appeared on the cover of “Trade: An Independent Weekly Journal for Merchants” of Detroit, Michigan. The attribution was listed as “UNIDENTIFIED”.[ref] 1910 March 30, Trade: An Independent Weekly Journal for Merchants, Volume 17, Number 13, (Quote appears on cover), Detroit, Michigan. (HathiTrust Full View) link [/ref]
In 1911 suffragist Alice Hubbard published a collection titled “An American Bible” which included a chapter dedicated to her husband Elbert Hubbard. The 1895 piece in “Mining and Scientific Press” was reprinted without acknowledgement or ascription within the Elbert Hubbard chapter. Thus, the words were attributed to him.[ref] 1911 Copyright, An American Bible, Edited by Alice Hubbard, Chapter: Elbert Hubbard, Quote Page 304, Published by The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link [/ref]
In 1913 Elbert Hubbard published an issue of his periodical “The Fra”. He reprinted the essay without attribution leading readers to believe that he was the author.[ref] 1913 July, The Fra: Exponent of the American Philosophy, Volume 11, Number 4, (Untitled item), Quote Page 108, Published by Elbert Hubbard, East Aurora, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link [/ref]
In 1958 Herbert V. Prochnow published “The New Speaker’s Treasury of Wit and Wisdom” which ascribed the essay to Elbert Hubbard.[ref] 1958, The New Speaker’s Treasury of Wit and Wisdom by Herbert V. Prochnow, Persistence, Quote Page 321, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
In 1959 “Dale Carnegie’s Scrapbook: A Treasury of the Wisdom of the Ages” also ascribed the essay to Elbert Hubbard.[ref] 1959, Dale Carnegie’s Scrapbook: A Treasury of the Wisdom of the Ages, Edited by Dorothy Carnegie with writings by Dale Carnegie, Chapter 4: Work, Quote Page 196, Published by Dale Carnegie & Associates, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
In 1974 “Instant Quotation Dictionary” attributed the final lines of the essay to a different Hubbard who was a popular cartoonist:[ref] 1974, Instant Quotation Dictionary, Compiled by Donald O. Bolander, Dolores D. Varner, Gary B. Wright, and Stephanie H. Greene, Topic: Perseverance, Quote Page 200, Career Institute, Mundelein, Illinois.(Verified with scans) [/ref]
There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose. Kin Hubbard
In conclusion, the short essay under investigation appeared in 1895, and its author remains anonymous. Some of its lines were lifted from an earlier 1887 essay by Robert Burns Wilson. The attribution to Elbert Hubbard occurred in 1911, but the supporting evidence was not substantive.
Image Notes: Public domain illustration of a rocket in space from geralt at Pixabay. Image has been resized.
(Great thanks to Tara Meyers whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Meyers asked about a poem attributed to Henry Austin. This is a complex topic because the contents of the poem evolved over time. This is the second of three articles. This article is focused on the anonymous 1895 essay which is a precursor of the Austin poem.)