James Baldwin? James Mark Baldwin? Stanley Baldwin? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a quotation that begins with an assertion that fires cannot be made with dead embers. The quotation has often been credited to U.S. writer James Baldwin, but I haven’t been able to find a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the “Elmira Star-Gazette” of New York in May 1942. The text was two sentences long, and it occurred within a box with a narrow black border. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Fires can’t be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.
The single-name attribution was ambiguous, and over the years the quotation has been ascribed to at least three different people: U.S. philosopher James Mark Baldwin, British politician Stanley Baldwin, and U.S. author James Baldwin. The current evidence is too weak to definitively identify the creator. One may hope that future research will help solve this mystery.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1942 May 2, Elmira Star-Gazette, Enthusiasm (Filler item), Quote Page 8, Co Elmira, New York. (Newspapers_com) ↩