FACT CHECK: Did George Eliot Say, ‘It’s Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been’?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims British author George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Verdict: False

The Daily Caller found no record of Eliot ever saying or writing this expression.

Fact Check:

Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the pen name of George Eliot, was a prominent female novelist during the 19th century. Several of her books, including “Middlemarch” and “Daniel Deronda,” are widely considered classics.

There is, however, no evidence that she authored the quote attributed to her in the Facebook post. A search of the George Eliot Archive’s collection of her novels, essays, poems and translations turned up no record of the quote. It doesn’t appear in her collected letters either. (RELATED: Did Oscar Wilde Say, ‘Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken’?)

The Caller also reached out to several experts, none of whom thought the quote was authentic.

“George Eliot did not make that statement,” said retired Boston College professor Rosemarie Bodenheimer in an email to the Caller. “Nor did she believe what it says.”

The quote may actually have evolved from a line in Adelaide Anne Procter’s 1859 poem “A Legend of Provenance,” according to the website Quote Investigator. In that poem, Procter writes, “No star is ever lost we once have seen, we always may be what we might have been.”

Two decades later, in 1881, the alleged quote appeared in the monthly journal “Literary News,” after the editors asked the readers to submit their favorite Eliot quotes for a contest. It was included in the unvetted list of submissions without citing a source, according to Quote Investigator.

“Procter’s statement would have been rephrased and then reassigned to Eliot,” writes Quote Investigator. “This process may have occurred in the mind of the individual who sent the quote to ‘Literary News.'”

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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