Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chesterton quotation

Have you ever heard someone say, "In the words of (fill in the blank) who said (fill in the blank again)," and you think to yourself, "I wonder if that person really did say that." Well, you are not alone.

Recently, a question was posted on the Association of Christian Librarian's (ACL) listserv where a fellow librarian was wondering about the quotation, "Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions," attributed to G.K. Chesterton. She wanted to know exactly where it could be found in his works. She said she looked on different quotation websites, but they just indicated that Chesterton said it, but not where if was found. I looked on under quotations and didn't find anything. I found this website from the American Chesterton Society that has a list of quotations and citations, but the quotation about tolerance is not included. No one on the listserv was able to find the citation to the quotation either.

As one of the librarians on the ACL listerserv said, "Reference librarians remind me of a herd or gaggle or pack of angry English bulldogs. They just never let go," the question was then sent to the reference desks at the Library of Congress and the British Library. The librarian from the Library of Congress sent a wonderful response outlining what she did to find try to find the answer and her outcome. She wasn't able to find the citation either! If anyone finds it, she wants to know too! The librarian at the British Library couldn't find anything either.

So now what? We librarians are a tenacious people and will remember this in the back of our minds. We will always be looking out for it. If it was by Chesterton, someone will find it. The problem is, do you ever know when you have looked everywhere and exhausted every resource? What if he never said it? Do you know when to stop? What a dilemma.

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