"serenity to accept..." from 1934

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Thu Jul 24 10:43:59 UTC 2008

The prayer appears to be a case of mixed oral and written transmission.
I found
a 1934 publication with one part of the later-so-called Serenity Prayer (the
courage passage may have come first, originally). The previous earliest known
attestation--for the complete prayer--was 1936 (as given in Fred
Shapiro's Yale
Alumni Magazine article. This 1934 wording is identical to the 1936 (and 1941)
wording, and it is placed within quotation marks. Also it was written by a US
woman quite involved in social work, continuing the trend that it may
have been
diseminated first in those circles (though church social work is not
It's in Sewanee Review 42.4 Oct.-Dec. 1934 page 398 in "Why Go South? A
Prescription for Patriotism" by June Purcell Guild (1887-    ), who was a
Northener who moved to Virginia, and wrote:

It must be added, many Southerners appear to have done little to erase
the awful
memories of the Civil War. North or South, not all have "serenity to
accept what
cannot be helped." It may be too much to expect a whole people to be as
great in
defeat as their great leader [Robert E. Lee] who said: "Recollect that we form
one country now. Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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