I've been spending my illness-related downtime (achoo, cough, etc.) doing some revisions to an article, which means pulling out volumes from my various material and electronic collections. Now, I was giving some (numerically bizarre) examples of one Victorian anti-Catholic talking point--namely, totting up all the people murdered by the Catholic Church, salacious details optional--when I noticed that the same passage kept appearing over and over:
This footnote is from John Scott's sermon Samson's Fatal Sleep (1854), but examples recur right down to the twenty-first century. It is always this quotation specifically, which set off my academic Spidey-sense: when authors over a period spanning well more than a century (!) always somehow manage to cite the same quotation from a three-volume work, the work in question being John Scott's (not this John Scott's) The History of the Church of Christ (1826-1832), then it is highly likely that somebody somewhere has not actually done the reading, but is instead lifting the quotation from elsewhere. (Tsk, tsk.) In any event, this discovery called for further investigation, so I called up Scott's History and started searching for it.
Er, one problem. It's not in John Scott's History.
It is, however, in Thomas Scott's enormously popular The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (a.k.a. Commentary on the Whole Bible). Hey, Scott vs. Scott...it's easy to confuse them. Right? So when did they get confused?
It looks like the culprit may well be Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. There are earlier references to Scott in the 1820s that refer to him as "T. Scott" without any mention of the title--presumably because the name would have been sufficient to indicate the source. Alas, the Blackwood's author was apparently not up on their Bible commentaries, because in an 1838 article on "The Progress of Popery," they referenced Edward Bickersteth's Testimony of the Reformers (1836), which cites Scott without further identifying the Scott in question. However, Blackwood's thought Bickersteth meant the other Scott. Hence the problem. Later authors all appear to have lifted their references from a combination of a) Blackwood's and b) each other, with the result that the quotation has been misattributed for a good 185 years or so now.