Christopher McQuarrie? Charles Baudelaire? Kevin Spacey? Verbal Kint? Keyser Söze? John Wilkinson? William Ramsey? John Fletcher Hurst? Anonymous?

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Dear Quote Investigator: The 1995 movie “The Usual Suspects” contains a memorable line spoken by a guileful character around the existence or non-presence of the Devil.

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The greatest trick the Devil ever before pulled was convincing the human being he didn’t exist.

Apparently, the prominent French literary figure Charles Baudelaire shelp something similar. Would you please check out this saying?

Quote Investigator: Charles Baudelaire did compose a story that appeared in the Paris newspaper “Le Figaro” in 1864 that consisted of a equivalent statement. The precise citation is given further listed below.

Interelaxing precursors emerged also earlier; for example, the 1836 book “Quakerism Examined” by John Wilkinson consisted of the complying with. Emphasis included to excerpts by QI: 1

One of the artifices of Satan is, to induce men to believe that he does not exist: an additional, probably equally fatal, is to make them fancy that he is obliged to stand quietly by, and not to meddle with them, if they gain into true silence.

In 1856 “Spiritualism, a Satanic Delusion, and also a Sign of the Times” by Pastor William Ramsey had this passage: 2

One of the most striking proofs of the individual existence of Satan, which our times afford us, is uncovered in the truth, that he has actually so affected the minds of multitudes in recommendation to his existence and doings, regarding make them think that he does not exist; and that the hosts of Demons or Evil Spirits, over whom Satan plives as Prince, are only the phantacies of the brain, some halucicountry of mind. Could we have a stronger proof of the existence of a mind so mighty as to develop such results?

Here are added selected citations in chronological order.

In 1864 “Le Figaro” publimelted the tale “Le Joueur Généreux” (“The Generous Gambler”) by Charles Baudelaire. The major character meets and also converses with a manifestation of the Devil. Here is an excerpt in French: 3

Elle ne se plaignit en aucune façon de la mauvaise réputation dont elle jouit dans toutes les parties du monde, m’assura qu’elle était, elle-même, la personne la plus intéressée à la devastation de la superstition, et m’avoua qu’elle n’avait eu peur, relativement à boy propre pouvoir, qu’une seule fois, c’était le jour où elle avait entendu un prédicateur, plus subtil que le reste du troupeau huprimary, s’écrier en chaire: « Mes chers frères, n’oubliez jamais, quand also vous entendrez vanter le progrès des lumières, que la plus belle des ruses du Diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas! »

Here is the very same excerpt from a translation by Arthur Symons published in 1918 in “The English Review”. Baudelaire described the Devil using the feminine pronoun “elle” and also the masculine pronoun “il” in various sections of the story. Within the excerpt above Baudelaire generally employed “elle”, yet English translators have actually provided “he” instead of “her”. The original message had the mistaken expression “your hear” instead of “you hear”: 4

He complained in no way of the evil reputation under which he lived, indeed, everywhere the people, and he assured me that he himself was of all living beings the most interested in the destruction of Superstition, and also he avowed to me that he had actually been afraid, reasonably as to his correct power, once only, and also that was on the day when he had actually heard a preacher, more subtle than the rest of the human herd, cry in his pulpit: “My dear brethren, carry out not ever forget, as soon as your hear the development of lights pelevated, that the loveliest trick of the Devil is to sway you that they don’t exist!”

Here is a 1919 translation by Joseph T. Shipley: 5

He did not in any kind of means bemoan the bad reputation which he enjoys in all parts of the civilization, assured me that he himself was the perkid many interested in the damage of superstition, and confessed that he had actually never feared for his own power conserve when, on the day once he had heard a preacher, more subtle than his colleagues, cry from the pulpit: “My dear brethren, never foracquire, as soon as you hear the progression of wisdom vaunted, that the cleveremainder rusage of the Devil is to persuade you he does not exist!”

In 1948 “LIFE” magazine publimelted a item titled “The Devil” by Whittaker Chambers which contained an circumstances of the saying: 6

Baudelaire, that old freduced of evil, was right: ‘The Devil’s cleverest wile is to make men believe that he does not exist.’

In 1984 a reporter with “The Los Angeles Times” spoke to Jeffrey Rusoffer, a professor of medieval background at UC Santa Barbara, that referenced the saying: 7

“I choose to quote from Baudelaire,” he retaliated. “‘The prettiest trick of the devil is to make us believe he doesn’t exist."”

Christopher McQuarrie created the screenplay of the 1995 movie “The Usual Suspects”. Actor Kevin Spacey played the function of Roger Kint whose nickname was “Verbal” because of his loquacity. Throughout a pivotal scene Verbal explained a mysterious demonic figure named Keyser Söze: 8

Nobody ever before thought he was genuine. Nobody ever kbrand-new him or experienced anybody that ever worked directly for him, however to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody might have worked for Söze. You never before knew. That was his power. The best trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the human being he didn’t exist.

The line around the Devil was accentuated once it was repetitive close to the end of the film.

In conclusion, Charles Baudelaire might be attributed through the statement he composed in “Le Joueur Généreux”. Yet, similar remarks were already in circulation. John Wilkinkid publiburned a variation in 1836, however the concept is difficult to map and previously instances probably exist. Christopher McQuarrie’s variation harks ago to Baudelaire’s statement.

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Image Notes: Portrait of Charles Baudelaire by Emile Deroy circa 1844; accessed through Wikimedia Commons. Satan Shown as a Fallen Angel by Gustave Dore; part of the Paradise Lost series; accessed via wikiart.org. Imeras have actually been cropped and resized.

(This question emerged from a conversation of “The Usual Suspects”. Thanks to discussants Jonathan Lighter, Wilson Gray, Dan Goncharoff, Laurence Horn, Ron Butters, Amy West, Joel S. Berkid, Dave Hause, and Federico Escobar.)