Anatole France? François Rabelais? Michel de Montaigne? Lewis Piaget Shanks? Will Durant? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The French Nobel laureate Anatole France was skeptical of martyrdom. Here are three versions of a statement attributed to him:
- To die for an idea is to set a pretty high value on conjectures.
- To die for an idea is to put a very high value on one’s opinions.
- To die for an idea is to set a rather high price upon guesswork.
Would you please help me to find the original statement in French?
Quote Investigator: In April 1889 Anatole France published a piece in “Le Temps” (“The Times”) newspaper of Paris in which he discussed a book about François Rabelais. France’s essay praised the controversial 16th century satirical writer for maintaining integrity while avoiding execution. The following is a statement from the essay together with one possible translation into English. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
. . . mourir pour une idée, c’est mettre à bien haut prix des conjectures.
. . . to die for an idea is to place a very high price on conjectures.
Below are additional selected citations.
- 1889 Avril (April) 21, Le Temps (The Times), La Vie Littéraire: Rabelais by Anatole France, (Discussion of Paul Stapfer’s book “Rabelais, sa personne, son génie, son oeuvre”), Quote Page 2 (Not paginated), Column 3, Paris, France. (BNF Gallica) ↩