This phrasing due to Bulwer-Lytton 1839, in his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy:
- Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
- The pen is mightier than the sword.
The sentiment is traditional, and has many antecedents; see . Some examples:
- Cicero, De Officiis I.lxxvii: cēdant arma togae (“arms yield to persuasion”).
- Antonio de Guevara, 1529, Reloj de príncipes, compares the pen to the lance; translated into English by Thomas North, 1557, as Diall of Princes.
- William Shakespeare, 1600, Hamlet, Act 2, scene II, "…many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills."