All Comedy Is Tragedy, If You Only Look Deep Enough Into It

Thomas Hardy? John Ruskin? William Stearns Davis? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comedy and tragedy are sometimes intertwined. The prominent English novelist Thomas Hardy has received credit for the following remark:

Comedy is tragedy, if you only look deep enough.

This statement has also been ascribed to the influential English art critic John Ruskin. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in a letter Thomas Hardy sent to John Addington Symonds in 1889. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

I often begin a story with the intention of making it brighter & gayer than usual; but the question of conscience soon comes in; & it does not seem right, even in novels, to wilfully belie one’s own views. All comedy, is tragedy, if you only look deep enough into it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading All Comedy Is Tragedy, If You Only Look Deep Enough Into It

Notes:

  1. 1978, The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, Volume 1, 1840-1892, Edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate, Letter date: April 14, 1889, Letter from: Thomas Hardy, Letter to: John Addington Symonds, Location: Max Gate, Near Dorchester, Quote Page 190, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England. (Verified with scans)