Skip to main content

A Fearful Plagiarism

July 2024
1min read

In “Mrs. Roosevelt Faces Fear” in the October/November 1984 issue, FDR is quoted as saying, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR, as usual, failed to supply the credits.

Isn’t it Sir Francis Bacon who made this remark almost four hundred years ago? Of course, Sir Francis, too, may have been guilty of plagiarism.

A quick check in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations shows that what Bacon said was, “Nothing is terrible except fear itself.” Montaigne expressed it this way: “The thing I fear most is fear.” And Thoreau wrote in his Journal. “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.” Perhaps all were basically rephrasing the biblical proverb that says, “Be not afraid of sudden fear.”

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.