Power Without Responsibility — The Prerogative of the Harlot Throughout the Ages

Stanley Baldwin? Rudyard Kipling? Arthur W. Baldwin? Benjamin Disraeli? Tom Stoppard? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: In the 1930s British politician Stanley Baldwin reacted with anger when he read a claim that he considered defamatory in the pages of a popular newspaper. Shortly afterward he delivered a speech accusing the U.K. press barons of wielding power without responsibility, and he employed a mordant analogy that compared his antagonists to harlots.

Some claim that the famous English author Rudyard Kipling supplied this analogy to Stanley Baldwin who was his cousin. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Stanley Baldwin delivered a speech to a full house of supporters at Queen’s Hall, London on March 17, 1931. Several newspapers reported on the event including the “The Lancashire Daily Post” of Preston, 1 the “Liverpool Echo” of Liverpool, 2 and “The Times” of London. The start of Baldwin’s oration included some praise for U.K. newspapers: 3

Let me begin by saying that the Press of Great Britain is the admiration of the world for its fairness, the ability with which it is conducted, and the high principles of journalism to which it adheres.

Yet, Baldwin’s plaudits were not universal. He criticized the newspapers of two powerful press barons:

The papers conducted by Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook are not newspapers in the ordinary acceptance of the term. (Cheers.) They are engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes, personal likes and dislikes of two men. (Loud cheers.)

Baldwin admitted that he had used the stinging description “insolent plutocracy”. He then presented the recent harsh response to his words that was printed in the “Daily Mail”:

“These expressions come ill from Mr. Baldwin, since his father left him an immense fortune, which, so far as may be learned from his own speeches, has almost disappeared. It is difficult to see how the leader of a party who has lost his own fortune can hope to restore that of anyone else or of his country.”

Baldwin said that the claims in the “Daily Mail” were false:

The first part of that statement is a lie, and the second part of that statement by its implication is untrue. The paragraph itself could only have been written by a cad.

Baldwin employed the quotation under examination while condemning the press barons. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:

What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility—the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

The most detailed evidence that Rudyard Kipling supplied the statement about prerogatives to Stanley Baldwin was provided by his son Arthur W. Baldwin in 1971. See the citation presented further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Power Without Responsibility — The Prerogative of the Harlot Throughout the Ages

Notes:

  1. 1931 March 17, The Lancashire Daily Post, Mr. Baldwin Fearlessly Hits Out At His Critics, Quote Page 5, Column 1, Lancashire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
  2. 1931 March 17, Liverpool Echo, Mr. Baldwin’s Sensational Speech: Blunt Reply To Peer Critics, Quote Page 12, Column 1 and 2, Liverpool, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
  3. 1931 March 18, The Times, A Vigorous Speech: Mr. Baldwin On Press Interference, Quote Page 18, Column 1 and 2, London, England. (Gale – The Times Digital Archive)

Fires Can’t Be Made with Dead Embers, Nor Can Enthusiasm Be Stirred by Spiritless Men

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.
—Baldwin.

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.

Continue reading Fires Can’t Be Made with Dead Embers, Nor Can Enthusiasm Be Stirred by Spiritless Men

Notes:

  1. 1942 May 2, Elmira Star-Gazette, Enthusiasm (Filler item), Quote Page 8, Co Elmira, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Men Occasionally Stumble Over the Truth, But They Pick Themselves Up and Hurry Off

Winston Churchill? Simon Singh? Stanley Baldwin? The Reader’s Digest? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Simon Singh is a fine author who writes knowledgeably about mathematical and scientific topics. His book “Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe” credited the following words to the statesman Winston Churchill [WCSS]:

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

This quotation was used by Singh during a discussion about serendipity and the development of antibiotics. When Alexander Fleming examined some bacterial cultures that had been contaminated with mold he saw an avenue toward the epoch-making discovery of penicillin Other scientists probably threw away similar contaminated cultures in exasperation.

I think it is a marvelous saying, but I have not yet located a solid citation. Could you determine if Churchill made this remark?

Quote Investigator: The earliest published evidence located by QI for a similar quote appeared in Reader’s Digest magazine in 1942, and the words were ascribed to Winston Churchill. Interestingly, the saying was about an individual unnamed man and not about men in general or people in general [WCR1]:

Occasionally he stumbled over the truth but he always picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened. (Winston Churchill)

An important reference work “Irrepressible Churchill: A Treasury of Winston Churchill’s Wit” was published by Kay Halle in 1966. Halle knew the leader well, and she interviewed him and many of his friends while creating the compendium. Halle stated that the quote was aimed at Churchill’s political adversary Stanley Baldwin who was Prime Minister between 1935 and 1937. The wording given in the reference differed slightly from the version in the Reader’s Digest [WCKH]:

Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.

Halle used the label “Ear-witness” for the quote to indicate that she heard it though mutual friends and not directly from Churchill. Also, she estimated that it was said around 1936.

In 1945 the syndicated newspaper columnist Charles G. Sampas printed a modern variant of the saying that referred to men in general instead of a specific man [WCCS]:

Men occasionally stumble over truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. (Churchill)

Here are additional selected citations and details in chronological order.

Continue reading Men Occasionally Stumble Over the Truth, But They Pick Themselves Up and Hurry Off