A Statue Has Never Been Set Up in Honour of a Critic

Zig Ziglar? Jean Sibelius? Bengt de Törne? Martha Graham? Agnes De Mille? Anonymous?

sibelius02Dear Quote Investigator: When the famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar died last year I saw a list of ten quotations ascribed to him. One was about criticism:

There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.

I thought this was first said by a prominent music composer or dancer. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this saying known to QI appeared in 1937 in “Sibelius: A Close-Up” which discussed the life and works of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. This book was authored by another composer named Bengt de Törne, and he described an exchange he had with Sibelius. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Then his voice changed in tone as he told me that he wanted to give me some good advice. ‘Never pay any attention to what critics say,’ he proceeded, and expatiated on this theme. When I ventured to put in the remark that their articles might sometimes be of great importance, he cut me short. ‘Remember,’ he said, ‘a statue has never been set up in honour of a critic!’

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Statue Has Never Been Set Up in Honour of a Critic

Notes:

  1. 1938, Sibelius: A Close-up by Bengt de Törne, Quote Page 27, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts. (An edition from Faber and Faber, London was published in 1937) (Verified with scans in 1938 edition)