Don't Quit: Who is the Author?
By Kiaran B. Davé - 10 Aug 2012
In Reference to the Poem: DON’T QUIT
To whom it may concern:
I would like to provide a close to the discussion of the authorship of the poem commonly called "Don't Quit". It was most likely written by Edgar A. Guest at the beginning of March, 1921. Guest was an English-born American poet who became one of the most widely syndicated writers in early 20th-century America. His feel-good daily column, "Breakfast Table Chat"—in some places "Just Folks"—was syndicated to over three-hundred newspapers throughout the United States.
On Friday, March 3, 1921, the following poem was published in "Breakfast Table Chat"/"Just Folks"[2–7]:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, And the road you're trudging seems all up hill, When the funds are low and the debts are high And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest if you must—but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns, As every one of us sometimes learns.
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out; Don't give up, though the pace seems slow— You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man.
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup, And he learned too late, when the night slipped down, How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you never can tell how close you are, It may be near when it seems afar; So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit— It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.
This, of course, is the poem in question. Evidence suggests that Guest is the first one to publish the poem: the poem doesn't appear in any earlier periodicals. In addition, given Guest's fame and the poem's widespread exposure through the poet's syndicated column, Guest is unlikely to have plagiarized it, because the theft would have been noticed and Guest would have been ostracized. Thus Edgar A. Guest is the most likely candidate for being the author.
Somehow, the poem has survived for nearly a century, albeit by a different name. It's actually quite strange that anybody knows about the poem at all. For one, apparently the poem didn't really have much of an impact, as it appears only sporadically in mainstream publications after 1921. In fact, even the original author seems to have forgotten it: it doesn't appear in any of Edgar A. Guest's published collections.
So how did the poem get to be so widely distributed? It is, I suspect, because the theme resonated well with a demographic that had just reached its peak by the early 1920s: organized workers. The poem appears many, many times in the union journals of the early '20s[8–12, but many more examples exist]. Because of the nature of these journals' submission processes, the poem was almost always published without checking the source. As such, the labor movement lost the poem's original title and author: "Keep Going" turned into "Don't Quit", and Guest's name completely vanished. (Variant titles such as "Never Quit" did occasionally appear, and the poem sometimes was incorrectly attributed to the submitter). What has reached us in the present, then, is not the original version found in the newspapers, but a modified form, a message of perseverance that was adapted by the masses and handed down from generation to generation.
With all this in mind, please find attached a copy of Edgar A. Guest's "Keep Going" as it appeared on 4 March 1921 in the newspaper that he called his home, the Detroit Free Press. Because the work was created more than 90 years ago, it's presently in the public domain.
I hope you find this comment valuable.
Kiaran B. Davé
 "Edgar Guest." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets.
 Edgar A. Guest, "Breakfast Table Chat: Keep Going." Detroit Free Press, vol. 86, no. 159, p. 6. 4 Mar 1921.
 Edgar A. Guest, "Observations: Keep Going." Miami Herald, vol. 11, iss. 98, p. 2. 3 Mar 1921.
 Edgar A. Guest, "Just Folks: Keep Going." Fort Worth Star-Telegram, vol. 41, iss. 30, p. 8. 3 Mar 1921.
 Edgar A. Guest, "Just Folks: Keep Going." Columbus Daily Enquirer, vol. 93, iss. 109., p. 4. 3 Mar 1921.
 Edgar A. Guest, "Keep Going." Tulsa Daily World, vol. 15, iss. 154, p. 4. 3 Mar 1921.
 "Keep Going." Augusta Chronicle, vol. 137, no. 63, p. 9. 4 Mar 1921.
 "Don't Quit." Woman's Label League Journal. vol. 20, no. 2, p. 4. 20 Feb 1922.
 "Don't Quit." The Leather Worker's Journal. vol. 4-5, p. 35, c. 1922.
 "Don't Quit." Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Journal. vol. 31, no. 6, p. 45. Jun 1922. Detroit.
 "Don't Quit." The Railroad Trainman. vol. 39, no. 6, p. 357. Jun 1922. Cleveland.
 L. W. Evans [misattribution]. "Don't Quit." Labor Digest. vol. 16, p. 33. 1924.