This is part of a series (typically it’s weekly) exploring quotations attributed to C.S. Lewis that are questionable for one reason or another. There is an “at a glance” page HERE to quickly see what has been posted so far in this series. Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to read the INTRODUCTION to this series.
As mentioned in the last installment, there are quotes to look out for that are close to what Lewis said, but no matter how good, they shouldn’t be shared just because they are “almost Lewis.” Such is the case for what I call the “bad eggs” quotation. While not among the most popular expressions falsely credited to Lewis, it is worth noting. If you are unclear about what makes something an “almost” quote verses falling under the category of “not,” then be sure to read my INTRODUCTION to Confirming C.S. Lewis Quotations article.
So, what’s so “bad” about the “bad eggs” statement? Nothing at all, as long as when you share it, you state you are paraphrasing Lewis and not quoting him. Of course, why do that when you can share the precise expression? In this case you might be justified, because the place this statement originated from is not very quotable:
“What would you say if you went to a hotel where the eggs were all bad and when you complained to the Boss, instead of apologising and changing his dairyman, he just told you that if you tried you’d get to like bad eggs in time?”
from The Great Divorce (Chapter 7)
Now go back over that excerpt again and think about the “almost” quote. Is it really a paraphrase of Lewis? Not really. It contains some of the ideas, but then adds “omelet” in the mix. In fact, while the above (non-Lewis) quotation comes across as being very witty, how could a person “arrange” eggs that were bad in a way to make it look like “a good omelet?”
When I first did research on this expression I did my usual searching through the electronic versions of text by Lewis that I had and couldn’t find it (of course). I sought out help online in one of the Facebook groups devoted to Lewis and Max McLean, the founding and artistic director of the Fellowship for Performing Arts, whom many know as the creator the dramatic play version of The Screwtape Letters, helped me with it. He pointed me to the passage shared above. Since then, I discovered what is likely the source of the false quotation. I found that Proceedings: Thirty-Eighth Annual Convention of Rotary International (a book with a copyright date of 1947), had a similar expression that is introduced as “someone said sometime ago” and it states, “No clever arrangement of bad eggs will every give you a good omelet.” Then the writer who isn’t credited shares, “And no clever arrangement of selfish hearts is ever going to give us an unselfish world.”
The next quote examined is: