Category Archives: Writing


The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, a former slave, is well worth reading if you have not already done so.  Douglass thought highly of John Brown, the firebrand abolitionist, who determined violent means were justified to achieve worthy goals.  Ironically, Douglass understood something that Brown did not: the pen is mightier than the sword.  Here is the commentary of Douglass upon the death of Brown:

“With the Allegheny mountains for his pulpit, the country for his church, and the whole civilized world for his audience, John Brown was a thousand times more powerful as a preacher than as a warrior.”

(As quoted in Allen Guelzo, Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction, p. 118).



it was a dark and stormy night“The pen is mightier than the sword” was coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, 1839:

True, This! –
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! – itself a nothing! –
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! – Take away the sword –
States can be saved without it!

Bulwer-Lytton may have coined the phrase but he was preceded by several others who expressed essentially the same idea:

George Whetstone, in Heptameron of Civil Discourses, 1582, wrote “The dashe of a Pen, is more greevous than the counterbuse of a Launce.”

In Hamlet, 1602, Shakespeare gave Rosencrantz the line “… many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.”

Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621 includes “From this it is clear how much more cruel the pen may be than the sword.”

Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Thomas Paine in 1796, in which he wrote: “Go on doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword.”



“I have heard it said a thousand times that people seek out religion in order to escape complexity and uncertainty. I was moved and instructed precisely by the vast theater Edwards’s vision proposes for complexity and uncertainty, for a universe that is orderly without being mechanical, that is open to and participates in possibility, indeterminacy, and even providence. It taught me to think in terms that finally did some justice to the complexity of things.”

Pulitzer-prize winning author Marilynne Robinson