If We Could Read the Secret History of Our Enemies, We Should Find in Each Man’s Life Sorrow and Suffering Enough To Disarm All Hostility

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Ann Landers? Mary A. McIver? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Feeling empathy for an adversary is difficult to achieve when one’s mind is filled with indignation. The following intriguing statement claims that comprehensive knowledge of the past of one’s foe would yield a startling insight:

If we could read the secret history of those we would like to punish, we would find in each life enough grief and suffering to make us stop wishing anything more on them.

Apparently, the famous U.S. poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or the advice columnist Ann Landers said something like this. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1857 the two volume collection titled “Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow” appeared. The second volume included a section called “Table-Talk” listing bright remarks spoken by Longfellow. Here is a sampling of three items. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Every great poem is in itself limited by necessity,—but in its suggestions unlimited and infinite.

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

As turning the logs will make a dull fire burn, so change of studies a dull brain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If We Could Read the Secret History of Our Enemies, We Should Find in Each Man’s Life Sorrow and Suffering Enough To Disarm All Hostility

Notes:

  1. 1857, Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Volume 1 of 2, Chapter: Drift Wood: A Collection of Essays, Section: Table-Talk, Quote Page 452, Ticknor and Fields, Boston, Massachusetts. (HathiTrust Full View) link