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January 8, 2009

Did Chesterton plagiarize Bierce?

Filed under: Literature — rmangum @ 5:41 pm
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The other day I was reading the Wikepedia article on British writer G.K. Chesterton, and I came across this saying attributed to him:

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.

I thought, hmm, that sounds familiar. In Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, one of my favorite books, he defines a “Conservative” as,

A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

The first quote is from 1924; the second would be from either 1906 or 1911. While Chesterton’s witticism is not close enough to Bierce’s to be considered an outright plagiarization, I cannot believe that Chesterton did not read Bierce’s book.

Chesterton

Chesterton

"Bitter Bierce"

"Bitter Bierce"

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1 Comment »

  1. One would hope these ideas are so readily apparent and obvious that many people could independently come to these conclusions, but it’s always fun to point out cribbing none the less.

    Come to think of it, if only more people would rip off Mises or Rothbard, yeah?

    Comment by JMangum — January 9, 2009 @ 6:51 pm | Reply


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