A. A. Milne? Lord Peter Wimsey? Dorothy L. Sayers? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A. A. Milne is famous for authoring children’s books that bring to life anthropomorphic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet. Milne also composed essays aimed at adults, and he once criticized thinkers who recited quotations instead of engaging in independent analysis. Would you please help me to find his statement about “thinking for oneself”?
Quote Investigator: A. A. Milne published a collection in 1920 containing the essay “The Record Lie” in which he examined the following Latin adage:
Si vis pacem, para bellum.
If you want peace, prepare for war.
His negative experiences during World War I pushed him toward a pacifist perspective, and he condemned the adage because he believed that it encouraged warmongers. The title of the essay reflected his contention that the saying was a “record lie of the ages, the lie which has caused more suffering than anything the Devil could have invented for himself”. Expanding on this viewpoint he expressed distrust of quotations in general. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
For a quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.
Interestingly, Milne did not adhere to pacifism during the ensuing decades. The events of World War II caused him to re-evaluate his position, and he joined the British Home Guard.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.