G. K. Chesterton? Charles Poore? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: Even the best writers occasionally pen passages of execrable prose. Apparently, a prominent author once made the following observation:
You could compile the worst book in the world entirely out of selected passages from the best writers in the world.
Would you please help me to determine the creator of this insightful remark?
Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1907 English writer and critic Gilbert K. Chesterton published a column discussing French adventure novelist Alexandre Dumas père in “The Daily News” of London. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1
Shakespeare and Dickens resemble Dumas, not only in the fact that their bad parts are very bad, but in the fact that their bad parts are very long. When they began talking nonsense they went at it steadily, and there was no doubt about it. You could compile, I should think, the worst book in the world entirely out of selecting passages from the best writers in the world.
Thus, Chesterton’s original statement included the verbose phrase “I should think”.
Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.
Image Notes: A stack of books from Kimberly Farmer at Unsplash. The image has been cropped.
Acknowledgement: Great thanks to the anonymous person whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.
 1907 January 2, The Daily News, Books of the Day: An Edition of Dumas by G. K. Chesterton, Subsection: Dumas, Dickens, and Shakespeare, Quote Page 4, Column 3, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)