Why are some demonstrators are holding pens and pencils in the air. Many of the cartoons assert that “the pen is mightier than the sword”. But where does this idea originate?
The English words “The pen is mightier than the sword” were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu.
Richelieu, chief minister to King Louis XIII, discovers a plot to kill him, but as a priest he is unable to take up arms against his enemies.
His page, Francois, points out: But now, at your command are other weapons, my good Lord.
Richelieu agrees: The pen is mightier than the sword… Take away the sword; States can be saved without it!
The saying quickly gained currency, says Susan Ratcliffe, associate editor of the Oxford Quotations Dictionaries. “By the 1840s it was a commonplace.”
Today it is used in many languages, mostly translated from the English. The French version is: “La plume est plus forte que l’epee.”