Help me identify my wedding reading!
August 21, 2014 11:27 PM   Subscribe

This quote is all over the internet with conflicting attributions. Can you help me identify the original source? "You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving..."

Here is the quote, which is attributed to Victor Hugo's Les Mis or Robert Louis Stevenson, depending on where you look, but I haven't been able to confirm that it is actually from either of them.

"You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves."

I tried searching through some online copies of Les Mis and works from Robert Louis Stevenson, but haven't been able to locate it.
posted by purplevelvet to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's definitely from Les Misattribution. It's everywhere on the net, but always misattributed to Stevenson or Hugo or both without citing exactly where the lines come from.

My bet is that it's a concatenation of various currently popular wedding aphorisms. Someone used it at a wedding, then other people copied it and adapted it to suit their purposes. Ten Facebook copies later, it's a quotation from Victor Robert Hugo MacLean Stevenson III Jr.

For instance, the Westminster Collection of Christian Quotations (search Google Books) offers these two nearly identical quotations:
  • "It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving." -- Richard Braunstein
  • "You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving." -- Amy Carmichael
And maybe they stole their lines from some granny's needlepoint.
posted by pracowity at 1:04 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The bit "We pardon to the extent that we love" is La Rochefoucauld: it's maxim 330 in his Reflections; see Project Gutenberg.

The last bit is actually from Les Mis, chapter 4 (M. Madeleine en deuil) of book 50 (La descente) of volume 1 (Fantine); see Project Gutenberg.
Le suprême bonheur de la vie, c'est la conviction qu'on est aimé; aimé pour soi-même, disons mieux, aimé malgré soi-même; cette conviction, l'aveugle l'a.
(The extra bit at the end there, l'aveugle l'a, means, "The blind have it [i.e., that conviction].")
posted by stebulus at 5:15 AM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

As far as I can tell, absolutely none of it is from Robert Louis Stevenson (I did a couple of quick searches through the whole corpus of his work).
posted by Lezzles at 6:55 AM on August 22, 2014

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