The incredible amount of hoaxes, half-truths and lies circulating around the Internet, being shared and re-shared is sometimes hard to bear. Who takes the time and the diligence to really check a source or questions the origin of anything popping up in the newsfeed or inbox?
Having grown up in a time, when scientific work needed to be proven and quotes were only valid, when a source were given, I am usually suspicious of any quote, which doesn´t sound quite right, especially if you can not find the quote in the original language.
With a major in German in Germany, I remember that we were required to read some works of the most famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. So I have doubted all along, that one of the most shared of his quotes would be really from him. After stumbling upon it on yet another business speaker web page (quoted as “inspiration”), I finally decided to invest the time and research it myself. With Google today, any research just seems a few clicks away, event though sometimes you have to know HOW to google…
„Whatever you can do, or dream, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”
However, any search quickly points to two reliable sources, which are clearly describing the origin of this Quote-Myth. The Goethe Society of North America clarified the subject already 1998 (!) and explains, that “The lines are attributed to John Anster in a “very free translation” of Faust from 1835.” with the emphasis on “very free translation”.
Searching for the corresponding lines in German OR also in any other (later) translation, proves, that they cannot be found. On the contrary, “The quote as you give it in a larger context seems to be from W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951.”
Goethe did not write it !, concludes similarly german.about.com in an article, called: “German Myth 12 – The Famous “Goethe” Quotation“: “Bottom line? Can any of the “commitment” quote be attributed to Goethe? No.”
So, I have satisfied my uneasy feeling and will point to this blog-entry, when I encounter the quote the next time: “It is not Goethe – it is W.H.Murray!”
Following my own principles, I would like to thank user “Albrecht”, who summarized this subject already auf gutefrage.net (in German) and pointed out the links.