Meghan Markle wrongly given credit for EE Cummings quote

A UK women’s organization’s attempts to praise Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, as a symbol of fortitude has instead once again given Markle’s detractors a reason to criticize her.

A social media uproar erupted Monday around a tweet, which the organization has since apologized for, falsely attributing an uplifting quote about human perseverance to Markle, instead of its true author, the poet EE Cummings.

It’s not clear how the wrong attribution occurred, whether Meghan had ever taken credit for the quote, or where she was even an involved party, but the tweet from the Women’s Organization sparked a new round of online discussion among the duchess’ critics about whether she has ever lifted ideas or words from other people, then passed them off as her own.

The tweet shows a photo of Meghan in a white Dior suit and matching hat, attending the June 3 thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

Deleted tweet from the UK-based Women’s Organization.

The photo was accompanied by the quote: “To be nobody but yourself in the world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” The caption credited the quote to “Meghan Markle.”

Several hours after the tweet was posted, the organization retweeted it with an apology and clarification, that said, “We apologize, as we misquoted here, the original quote is from EE Cummings.” The organization later deleted the apology and the original post about Meghan, and only shared the quote, properly attributed to Cummings, but late Monday, the organization had apparently been inundated with so much fury from Meghan’s critics that it made its tweets private.

It wasn’t clear from the organization’s apology how the mistake occurred — whether someone running the organization’s social media found the quote and wrongly gave credit to Meghan, or whether she or someone on her behalf had taken credit at some point.

The quote doesn’t show up in any initial online search of stories about Meghan’s writings or public statements. The Women’s Organization didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment. People have noted that the quote attributed to Meghan is slightly different than Cummings’ quote, switching the words “night and day.”

With its original tweet, the Women’s Organization clearly wanted to hold up the duchess as a model of human fortitude. The group has posted complimentary tweets about the duchess in the past, even though it doesn’t appear it has a working relationship with her.

The duchess has long championed feminism and progressive causes. Her supporters her were happy Monday that Omid Scobie, a royal reporter who wrote a sympathetic biography of Meghan and Harry, shared photos of her during her recent trip to the Invictus Games. She had stopped off to visit a Dutch nonprofit that provides services to girls and nonbinary children in Amsterdam.

While Scobie’s tweet received more than 2,000 likes, Meghan remains a controversial figure in the UK since she and Harry stepped down from royal duties, decamped to the United States in 2020 and gave interviews criticizing the royal family.

With regard to the Cummings’ quote, it was quickly seized upon by her critics, who have accused her of plagiarism and inauthenticity in the past.

Last year, they argued about similarities in the title and theme of her debut children’s book, “The Bench,” with a 2018 book, “The Boy on the Bench,” from UK author Corrinne Averis, according to Page Six and the Daily Mail. Both books feature colorful illustrations and a story focused on the bond between father and sons as they sit on a park bench together. Meghan said the story “started as a poem I wrote for my husband on Father’s Day, the month after Archie was born.”

However, Averis on Twitter disputed accusations of plagiarism. She wrote: “Reading the description and published excerpt of the Duchess’s new book, this is not the same story or the same theme as ‘The Boy on the Bench,’” she said. “I don’t see any similarities apart from the use of a bench — which exist in as many stories as they do parks and gardens.”

Critics also raised questions about a particular phrase that Meghan used in a much-discussed November 2020 New York Times op-ed about suffering a miscarriage the previous summer. They said she created a vivid scene and used a phrase that was similar to a scene and phrase that appeared in a 2016 memoir about surviving a miscarriage by a Canadian author.

Meghan wrote about how she was changing Archie’s diaper when she felt a sharp cramp, dropped to the floor and held her son in her arms, “humming a lullaby to keep us both calm.” She said she knew, “As I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.”

In “Chasing Light: Finding Hope Through the Loss of Miscarriage,” Stephanie Tong also wrote about holding her older child while suffering a miscarriage, according to a passage shared by a writer the Royal Analysis website. Tong wrote that she clutched her daughter “tightly and cried into her.” She also said, “As I tenderly held my firstborn in my arms, I was saying goodbye to my third her.”

The Royal Analysis site concluded that “99.9” percent of Tong’s writing didn’t sound similar to Meghan’s column. However the writer said that this particular phrase in Tong’s book is “possibly too close to comfort.”

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