FACT CHECK: Did Herman Melville Say, ‘A Thousand Fibers Connect Us With Our Fellow Men’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims author Herman Melville once said, “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.”

“And among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects,” the alleged quote continues.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that Melville ever said or wrote this quote. It actually comes from Anglican preacher Henry Melvill.

Fact Check:

A 19th-century American author, Melville wrote, along with numerous other stories and poems, the sea adventure novel “Moby-Dick.” (RELATED: Did Lewis Carroll Say, ‘Everyone Wants A Magical Solution To Their Problems, And Everyone Refuses To Believe In Magic’?)

However, nowhere in that book, or in any of his other works, did the Daily Caller News Foundation find the quote attributed to him in the Facebook post. A search of his complete works turned up no matching or similar expressions.

Scott Norsworthy, the bibliographical associate on “The Writings Of Herman Melville,” debunked the saying in a 2011 blog post titled, “the finest thing Herman Melville never said.”

The expression actually originates with Melvill, an Anglican preacher of no relation to Melville, according to Norsworthy. In an 1855 sermon, Melvill said, “Ye live not for yourselves; ye cannot live for yourselves; a thousand fibres connect you with your fellow-men, and along those fibres, as along sympathetic threads, run your actions as causes, and return to you as effects.”

“It’s a simple case of mistaken identity,” wrote Norsworthy.

Several Melville experts, including Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco and Hofstra University professor John Bryant, directed the DCNF to Norsworthy’s blog when asked about the erroneously attributed quote.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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