FACT CHECK: Did Ernest Hemingway Author This Inspirational Maxim?

Aryssa Damron | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook attempted to ascribe an inspirational maxim advising “before you act, listen” and “before you pray, forgive” to Nobel Prize-winning writer Ernest Hemingway.

The full quote reads, “Before you act, listen. Before you react, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try.”

Verdict: False

There is no record of Hemingway ever saying or writing this, nor does it sound like him, according to one expert.

Fact Check:

While Hemingway’s written works provide a plethora of lines ripe for quotation, these maxims did not come from the American novelist.

Hemingway authored such books as “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Sun Also Rises,” “A Farewell to Arms” and “The Old Man and the Sea,” along with many short stories.

He did not, however, write the saying attributed to him in this image. The Daily Caller found no citation for when or where Hemingway would have written this, and it does not appear in any of his works.

When asked about the quote, James Hutchisson, a professor of American literature at the Citadel who wrote a biography on Hemingway, told the Caller: “Very unlikely that that is Hemingway. Never seen it before.”

“I am almost 100 percent sure that’s not by Hemingway,” Mary V. Dearborn, the first female author to write a biography of Hemingway, told the Caller in an email. “Doesn’t sound at all like him, either stylistically or substantively. He’d never advise praying, for one thing. In fact, I think he’d sooner die than endorse something this conservative and, well, passive. He was far more proactive, even rash. Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.”

Searches for the true origin of the quote frequently return a poem attributed to William Arthur Ward. That poem reads, “Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give.”

However, the Caller could not verify that Ward was the author of this poem.

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Aryssa Damron

Fact Check Reporter

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