Eleanor Roosevelt? Confucius? Chinese Proverb? wilhelm L. Watkinson? E. Pomeroy Cutler? James Keller? Oliver Wendell Holmes? Adlai Stevenson? man F. Kennedy? Charles Schulz?

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Dear Quote Investigator: ns love the emphasis on constructive activity in the adhering to saying:

It is much better to irradiate a candle 보다 to curse the darkness.

You are watching: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness bible

These words have been attributed come Eleanor Roosevelt, Confucius, and several other people. What perform you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest appearance situated by QI arisen in a 1907 collection titled “The supreme Conquest and also Other Sermons preached in America” by william L. Watkinson. A sermon title “The Invincible Strategy” downplayed the worth of verbal attacks on undesirable behaviors and also championed the prestige of performing great works. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

But denunciatory rhetoric is so lot easier and cheaper than great works, and proves a famous temptation. However is it far far better to light the candle 보다 to curse the darkness.

In September 1907 Watkinson’s sermon “The Invincible Strategy” to be reprinted in a periodical dubbed “China’s Millions” i beg your pardon was published by a good news Christian missionary society based in China. 2

Thus, the expression was disseminated to a group of human being in China. Nowadays, the words are sometimes ascribed to Confucius or labeled a Chinese proverb, yet QI has not found compelling proof to assistance that assignment.

Below are extr selected citations in chronological order.

In 1911 a book of biblical commentary title “The an excellent Texts that the Bible” printed a slightly rephrased version of the expression and credited Watkinson in a footnote: 3

Yet it is far much better to light the candle 보다 to curse the darkness.22 W. L. Watkinson

In 1925 the adage ongoing to circulate in the religious sphere. “The Brooklyn day-to-day Eagle” of brand-new York report on a sermon Reverend E. Pomeroy Cutler was planning to deliver. The saying was presented as an anonymous proverb: 4

“As the main thread of mine sermon,” said Mr. Cutler. “I am acquisition a quotation indigenous the extra-canonical functions of Estras: ‘I shall irradiate a candle of understanding in your heart, i m sorry shall no be put out,’ and also a proverb: ‘It is much better to irradiate a candle than to curse the dark.’

In 1938 “The Waterloo Press” that Waterloo, Indiana published a filler item that matched the modern saying through an anonymous label: 5

It is much better to irradiate a candle 보다 to curse the darkness.—Anon.

In 1940 Dr. Bruce R. Baxter, president of Willamette college in Salem, Oregon to work the speak while addressing a graduating class. The indigenous were connected to a well known Chinese sage: 6

In questioning for a “vision of mind rather than the of the eyes,” Dr. Baxter quoted Confucius come the seniors: “It is better to irradiate a candle 보다 curse in darkness.”

In 1945 a “Questions Answered” pillar in “The Hartford Courant” implausibly attributed Oliver Wendell Holmes; no specification because that Jr. Or Sr. Was given: 7

Q. Who stated “It is much better to irradiate a candle 보다 to curse the darkness?” B.KA. Oliver Wendell Holmes is the writer of the saying.

In June 1946 “The new York Times” published a request through a garbled variation of the speak in the “Queries and Answers” section: 8

F. H. S. Desires the identity of this line, most likely from Lowell, Whittier or Holmes: “Light a candle prior to you enter and also curse darkness.”

Two weeks later on “The brand-new York Times” published a an answer from a correspondent. Unfortunately, the answer appeared to be inaccurate: 9

DOROTHY U. TROUBETZKOY, West Hartford, Conn.: F. H. S. (June 9) can have in psychic the old Chinese proverb the Confucius, “It is much better to irradiate a candle than to curse the darkness.” that is quite likely that it has actually been quoted or adapted by poets whereby your correspondent may have actually seen it.

In 1948 a Catholic periodical discussed a new book title “You Can adjust the World” by father James Keller that was the founder that the Christophers spiritual movement. The speak under examination was the motto the the movement: 10

As a Maryknoller, father Keller is complete of asian lore. He has actually a reply to those that think they cannot stir up enough vision come be part of his Christ-bearer plan. It is one old Chinese proverb—“Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

In 1960 john F. Kennedy offered an instance in his accept speech after receiving the Presidential nomination the the democratic Party: 11

We room not right here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can overview us thru the darkness to a safe and also sane future.

In 1962 former first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt died. Numerous statements of worship were printed from her admirers. Adlai Stevenson provided the candle expression in his plaudit. Thus, she was attached to the saying: 12

Adlai E. Stevenson, United states representative to the joined Nations, said: “Like so plenty of others. I have lost much more than a beloved friend. I have actually lost an inspiration. She would quite light a candle 보다 curse the darkness, and also her glow has actually warmed the world.”

In 1965 “Proverbs, Epigrams, Aphorisms, Sayings, and also Bon Mots” through Jacob M. Braude contained this entry: 13

Better to irradiate one candle 보다 to curse the darkness.—Chinese

In September 1965 Charles M. Schulz released a “Peanuts” comic piece in which Linus said Charlie Brown about the saying: “Better to irradiate a solitary candle than to curse the darkness”. The final two panels that the 4 panel strip revealed that Lucy withstood the indict of the adage: 14

In conclusion, QI tentatively credits william L. Watkinson with crafting this expression. His sermon published in 1907 aided to popularize the saying. The publication in “China’s Millions” supposed that Chinese missionaries to be exposed come the adage. That could explain why it was later assigned a Chinese origin. The attribution to Confucius is at this time unsupported.

Image Notes: Candle crib in 2 hands from Myriams-Fotos in ~ Pixabay.

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(Great many thanks to Chad Copeland who inquiry led QI to build this question and continue this exploration. Many thanks to discussant Randy Alexander. Also, many thanks to the “The Yale book of Quotations” edited by Fred Shapiro and also “The Quote Verifier” through Ralph Keyes both of which listed the Adlai Stevenson citation and also other beneficial citations. The 1907 quote is now provided in “The dictionary of modern-day Proverbs”. Numerous thanks come Jonathan Caws-Elwitt who pointed come the instance in the “Peanuts” comic strip.)

Update History: On march 24, 2017 the excerpt indigenous the 1965 comic piece was added.