C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.
A beautiful woman, if poor, should use double circumspection; for her beauty will tempt others, her poverty herself.
A Christian builds his fortitude on a better foundation than stoicism; he is pleased with everything that happens, because he knows it could not happen unless it first pleased God, and that which pleases Him must be best.
A coxcomb begins, by determining that his own profession is the first; and he finishes by deciding that he is the first of his profession.
A feast is more fatal to love than a fast.
A fool is often as dangerous to deal with as a knave, and always more incorrigible.
A harmless hilarity and a buoyant cheerfulness are not infrequent concomitants of genius; and we are never more deceived than when we mistake gravity for greatness, solemnity for science, and pomposity for erudition.
A lady of fashion will sooner excuse a freedom flowing from admiration than a slight resulting from indifference.
A leveller has long ago been set down as a ridiculous and chimerical being, who, if he could finish his work to-day, would have to begin it again to-morrow.
A man who knows the world will not only make the most of everything he does know, but of many things he does not know, and will gain more credit by his adroit mode of hiding his ignorance than the pedant by his awkward attempt to exhibit his erudition.
A man’s profundity may keep him from opening on a first interview, and his caution on a second; but I should suspect his emptiness, if he carried on his reserve to a third.
A public debt is a kind of anchor in the storm; but if the anchor be too heavy for the vessel, she will be sunk by that very weight which was intended for her preservation.
A semi-civilized state of society, equally removed from the extremes of barbarity and of refinement, seems to be that particular meridian under which all the reciprocities and gratuities of hospitality do most readily flourish and abound. For it so happens that the ease, the luxury, and the abundance of the highest state of civilization, are as productive of selfishness, as the difficulties, the privations, and the sterilities of the lowest.
A thorough-paced antiquary not only remembers what all other people have thought proper to forget, but he also forgets what all other people think is proper to remember.
A thorough-paced knave will rarely quarrel with one whom he can cheat; his revenge is plunder; therefore he is usually the most forgiving of beings, upon the principle that if he come to an open rupture, he must defend himself; and this does not suit a man whose vocation it is to keep his hands in the pocket of another.
A town, before it can be plundered and deserted, must first be taken; and in this particular Venus has borrowed a law from her consort Mars. A woman that wishes to retain her suitor must keep him in the trenches; for this is a siege which the besieger never raises for want of supplies, since a feast is more fatal to love than a fast, and a surfeit than a starvation. Inanition may cause it to die a slow death, but repletion always destroys it by a sudden one.
A wise minister would rather preserve peace than gain a victory, because he knows that even the most successful war leaves nations generally more poor, always more profligate, than it found them.
A woman that wishes to retain her suitor must keep him in the trenches.
Accustom yourself to submit on all and every occasion, and on the most minute, no less than on the most important circumstances of life, to a small present evil, to obtain a greater distant good. This will give decision, tone, and energy to the mind, which, thus disciplined, will often reap victory from defeat and honor from repulse.
Adroit observers will find that some who affect to dislike flattery may yet be flattered, indirectly by a well-seasoned abuse and ridicule of their rivals.
Afflictions sent by Providence melt the constancy of the noble-minded, but confirm the obduracy of the vile. The same furnace that hardens clay liquefies gold; and in the strong manifestations of divine power Pharaoh found his punishment, but David his pardon.
Alas! how has the social spirit of Christianity been perverted by fools at one time, and by knaves and bigots at another; by the self-tormentors of the cell, and the all-tormentors of the conclave!
Alas! what is man? whether he be deprived of that light which is from on high, or whether he discard it; a frail and trembling creature, standing on time, that bleak and narrow isthmus between two eternities, he sees nothing but impenetrable darkness on the one hand, and doubt, distrust, and conjecture still more perplexing on the other. Most gladly would he take an observation as to whence he has come, or whither he is going. Alas, he has not the means; his telescope is too dim, his compass too wavering, his plummet too short. Nor is that little spot, his present state, one whit more intelligible, since it may prove a quicksand that may sink in a moment from his feet; it can afford him no certain reckoning as to that immeasurable ocean that he may have traversed, or that still more formidable one that he must.
All poets pretend to write for immortality, but the whole tribe have no objection to present pay, and present praise. Lord Burleigh is not the only statesman who has thought one hundred pounds too much for a song, though sung by Spenser; although Oliver Goldsmith is the only poet who ever considered himself to have been overpaid.
All preceptors should have that kind of genius described by Tacitus, “equal to their business, but not above it;” a patient industry, with competent erudition; a mind depending more on its correctness than its originality, and on its memory rather than on its invention.
All the poets are indebted more or less to those who have gone before them; even Homer’s originality has been questioned, and Virgil owes almost as much to Theocritus, in his Pastorals, as to Homer, in his Heroics; and if our own countryman, Milton, has soared above both Homer and Virgil, it is because he has stolen some feathers from their wings.
All who have been great and good without Christianity would have been much greater and better with it. If there be, amongst the sons of men, a single exception to this maxim, the divine Socrates may be allowed to put in the strongest claim. It was his high ambition to deserve, by deeds, not by creeds, an unrevealed heaven, and by works, not by faith, to enter an unpromised land.
Ambition is to the mind what the cap is to the falcon; it blinds us first, and then compels us to tower, by reason of our blindness. But alas! when we are at the summit of a vain ambition, we are also at the depth of misery.
Ambition makes the same mistake concerning power that avarice makes concerning wealth. She begins by accumulating power as a mean to happiness, and she finishes by continuing to accumulate it as an end.
An act by which we make one friend and one enemy is a losing game; because revenge is a much stronger principle than gratitude.
An elegant writer has observed, that wit may do very well for a mistress, but that he should prefer reason for a wife.
Anger is practical awkwardness.
Anguish of mind has driven thousands to suicide; anguish of body, none. This proves that the health of the mind is of far more consequence to our happiness than the health of the body, although both are deserving of much more attention than either of them receives.
Antithesis may be the blossom of wit, but it will never arrive at maturity unless sound sense be the trunk and truth the root.
Any one can give advice, such as it is, but only a wise man knows how to profit by it.
Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.
Aristotle has said that man is by nature a social animal, and he might have added, a selfish one too. Heroism, self-denial, and magnanimity in all instances, where they do not spring from a principle of religion, are but splendid altars on which we sacrifice one kind of self-love to another.
As a man of pleasure, by a vain attempt to be more happy than any man can be, is often more miserable than most men are, so the sceptic, in a vain attempt to be wise beyond what is permitted to man, plunges into a darkness more deplorable, and a blindness more incurable than that of the common herd, whom he despises, and would fain instruct.
As no roads are so rough as those that have just been mended, so no sinners are so intolerant as those that have just turned out saints.
As that gallant can best affect a pretended passion for one woman who has no true love for another, so he that has no real esteem for any of the virtues can best assume the appearance of them all.
As the dimensions of the tree are not always regulated by the size of the seed, so the consequences of things are not always proportionate to the apparent magnitude of those events that have produced them.
As the gout seems privileged to attack the bodies of the wealthy, so ennui seems to exert a similar prerogative over their minds.
As the grand discordant harmony of the celestial bodies may be explained by the simple principles of gravity and impulse, so also in that more wonderful and complicated microcosm, the heart of man, all the phenomena of morals are perhaps resolvable into one single principle, the pursuit of apparent good; for although customs universally vary, yet man in all climates and countries is essentially the same.
As the rays of the sun, notwithstanding their velocity, injure not the eye, by reason of their minuteness, so the attacks of envy, notwithstanding their number, ought not to wound our virtue by reason of their insignificance.
As there are none so weak that we may venture to injure them with impunity, so there are none so low that they may not at some time be able to repay an obligation. Therefore, what benevolence would dictate, prudence would confirm.
As there are some faults that have been termed faults on the right side, so there are some errors that might be denominated errors on the safe side. Thus we seldom regret having been too mild, too cautious, or too humble; but we often repent having been too violent, too precipitate, or too proud.
“As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will,” says Socrates, “he will be sure to repent.”
As we ascend in society, like those who climb a mountain, we shall find that the line of perpetual congelation commences with the higher circles; and the nearer we approach to the grand luminary the court, the more frigidity and apathy shall we experience.
Atheism is a system which can communicate neither warmth nor illumination, except from those fagots which your mistaken zeal has lighted up for its destruction.
Attempts at reform, when they fail, strengthen despotism; as he that struggles, tightens those cords he does not succeed in breaking.
Avarice begets more vices than Priam did children, and like Priam survives them all. It starves its keeper to surfeit those who wish him dead, and makes him submit to more mortifications to lose heaven than the martyr undergoes to gain it.
Avarice has ruined more men than prodigality, and the blindest thoughtlessness of expenditure has not destroyed so many fortunes as the calculating but insatiable lust of accumulation.
Be very slow to believe that you are wiser than all others; it is a fatal but common error. Where one has been saved by a true estimation of another’s weakness, thousands have been destroyed by a false appreciation of their own strength.
Bed is a bundle of paradoxes; we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; and we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late.
Bigotry murders religion to frighten folks with her ghost.
“Books,” says my lord Bacon, “should have no patrons but truth and reason.”
Brutes leave ingratitude to man.
Butler compared the tongues of these eternal talkers to race-horses, which go the faster the less weight they carry.
Calumniators are those who have neither good hearts nor good understandings. We ought not to think ill of any one till we have palpable proof; and even then we should not expose them to others.
Calumny crosses oceans, scales mountains and traverses deserts, with greater ease than the Scythian Abaris, and like him, rides upon a poisoned arrow.
Charles Fox said that restorations were the most bloody of all revolutions; and he might have added that reformations are the best mode of preventing the necessity of either.
Cheerfulness ought to be the viaticum vitæ of their life to the old; age without cheerfulness is a Lapland winter without a sun.
Common sense punishes all departures from her, by forcing those who rebel into a desperate war with all facts and experience, and into a still more terrible civil war with each other and with themselves.
Constant success shows us but one side of the world; for, as it surrounds us with friends, who will tell us only our merits, so it silences those enemies from whom alone we can learn our defects.
Contemporaries appreciate the man rather than his merit; posterity will regard the merit rather than the man.
Conversation is the music of the mind, an intellectual orchestra, where all the instruments should bear a part, but where none should play together. Each of the performers should have a just appreciation of his own powers, otherwise an unskilful novice who might usurp the first fiddle, would infallibly get into a scrape. To prevent these mistakes, a good master of the band will be very particular in the assortment of the performers; if too dissimilar, there will be no harmony, if too few, there will be no variety; and if too numerous, there will be no order, for the presumption of one prater, might silence the eloquence of a Burke, or the wit of a Sheridan, as a single kettle-drum would drown the finest solo of a Gionowich or a Jordini.
Courage is generosity of the highest order, for the brave are prodigal of the most precious things. Our blood is nearer and dearer to us than our money, and our life than our estate.
Courage is incompatible with the fear of death; but every villain fears death; therefore, no villain can be brave. He may, indeed, possess the courage of the rat, and fight with desperation when driven into a corner,*****yet the glare of a courage thus elicited by danger, where fear conquers fear, is not to be compared to that calm sunshine which constantly cheers and illuminates the breast of him, who builds his confidence on virtuous principles.
Courage is like the diamond,—very brilliant; not changed by fire, capable of high polish, but except for the purpose of cutting hard bodies, useless.
Criticism is like champagne, nothing more execrable if bad, nothing more excellent if good; if meagre, muddy, vapid and sour, both are fit only to engender colic and wind; but if rich, generous and sparkling, they communicate a genial glow to the spirits, improve the taste, and expand the heart.
Cruel men are the greatest lovers of mercy, avaricious men of generosity, and proud men of humility; that is to say, in others, not in themselves.
Custom is the law of one description of fools, and fashion of another; but the two parties often clash—for precedent is the legislator of the first, and novelty of the last. Custom, therefore, looks to things that are past, and fashion to things that are present.
Death is like thunder in two particulars; we are alarmed at the sound of it; and it is formidable only from that which preceded it.
Death is the liberator of him whom freedom cannot release, the physician of him whom medicine cannot cure, and the comforter of him whom time cannot console.
Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness, or oppose with firmness.
Despotism can no more exist in a nation until the liberty of the press be destroyed than the night can happen before the sun is set.
Did universal charity prevail, earth would be a heaven and hell a fable.
Doubt is the vestibule of faith.
Dreams ought to produce no conviction whatever on philosophical minds. If we consider how many dreams are dreamt every night, and how many events occur every day, we shall no longer wonder at those accidental coincidences which ignorance mistakes for verifications.
Drunkenness is the vice of a good constitution or of a bad memory—of a constitution so treacherously good that it never bends till it breaks; or of a memory that recollects the pleasures of getting intoxicated, but forgets the pains of getting sober.
Duke Chartres used to boast that no man could have less real value for character than himself, yet he would gladly give twenty thousand pounds for a good one, because he could immediately make double that sum by means of it.
Early rising not only gives us more life in the same number of our years, but adds likewise to their number; and not only enables us to enjoy more of existence in the same measure of time, but increases also the measure.
Eloquence is the language of nature, and cannot be learned in the schools; the passions are powerful pleaders, and their very silence, like that of Garrick, goes directly to the soul, but rhetoric is the creature of art, which he who feels least will most excel in; it is the quackery of eloquence, and deals in nostrums, not in cures.
Eloquence, to produce her full effect, should start from the head of the orator, as Pallas from the brain of Jove, completely armed and equipped. Diffidence, therefore, which is so able a mentor to the writer, would prove a dangerous counsellor for the orator.
Emulation has been termed a spur to virtue, and assumes to be a spur of gold. But it is a spur composed of baser materials, and if tried in the furnace will be found to want that fixedness which is the characteristic of gold. He that pursues virtue, only to surpass others, is not far from wishing others less forward than himself; and he that rejoices too much at his own perfections will be too little grieved at the defects of other men.
Emulation looks out for merits, that she may exalt herself by a victory; envy spies out blemishes, that she may lower another by defeat.
Ennui, perhaps, has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.
Envy ought in strict truth to have no place whatever allowed it in the heart of man; for the goods of this present world are so vile and low that they are beneath it, and those of the future world are so vast and exalted that they are above it.
Envy, if surrounded on all sides by the brightness of another’s prosperity, like the scorpion confined within a circle of fire, will sting itself to death.
Error is always more busy than ignorance. Ignorance is a blank sheet on which we may write; but error is a scribbled one from which we must first erase.
Error, when she retraces her steps, has farther to go before she can arrive at truth than ignorance.
Evils in the journey of life are like the hills which alarm travelers upon their road; they both appear great at a distance, but when we approach them we find that they are far less insurmountable than we had conceived.
Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.
Extemporaneous and oral harangues will always have this advantage over those that are read from a manuscript: every burst of eloquence or spark of genius they may contain, however studied they may have been beforehand, will appear to the audience to be the effect of the sudden inspiration of talent.
Faith and works are necessary to our spiritual life as Christians, as soul and body are to our natural life as men; for faith is the soul of religion, and works the body.
Falsehood is never so successful as when she baits her hook with truth, and no opinions so fatally mislead us as those that are not wholly wrong, as no watches so effectually deceive the wearer as those that are sometimes right.
Falsehood is often rocked by truth; but she soon outgrows her cradle and discards her nurse.
Falsehood, like a drawing in perspective, will not bear to be examined in every point of view, because it is a good imitation of truth, as a perspective is of the reality, only in one. But truth, like that reality of which the perspective is the representation, will bear to be scrutinized in all points of view, and though examined under every situation, is one and the same.
Fame is an undertaker that pays but little attention to the living, but bedizens the dead, furnishes out their funerals, and follows them to the grave.
Fashion builds her temple in the capital of some mighty empire, and having selected four or five hundred of the silliest people it contains, she dubs them with the magnificent and imposing title of “the world.”
Fashion is the veriest goddess of semblance and of shade; to be happy is of far less consequence to her worshippers than to appear so; even pleasure itself they sacrifice to parade, and enjoyment to ostentation.
Fashion’s smile has given wit to dullness and grace to deformity, and has brought everything into vogue, by turns, except virtue.
Faults of the head are punished in this world, those of the heart in another; but as most of our vices are compound, so also is their punishment.
Few have borrowed more freely than Gray and Milton; but with a princely prodigality, they have repaid the obscure thoughts of others, with far brighter of their own—like the ocean, which drinks up the muddy water of the rivers from the flood, but replenishes them with the clearest from the shower.
Few things are more agreeable to self-love than revenge, and yet no cause so effectually restrains us from revenge as self-love. And this paradox naturally suggests another; that the strength of the community is not unfrequently built upon the weakness of those individuals that compose it.
Five thousand years have added no improvement to the hive of the bee, nor to the house of the beaver; but look at the habitations and the achievements of men!
Flattery is often a traffic of mutual meanness, where although both parties intend deception, neither are deceived.
Folly disgusts us less by her ignorance than pedantry by her learning.
For all the practical purposes of life, truth might as well be in a prison as in the folio of a schoolman; and those who release her from the cobwebbed shelf, and teach her to live with men, have the merit of liberating, if not of discovering her.
Forgiveness, that noblest of all self-denial, is a virtue which he alone who can practise in himself can willingly believe in another.
Fortune, like other females, prefers a lover to a master, and submits with impatience to control; but he that wooes her with opportunity and importunity will seldom court her in vain.
Friendship often ends in love; but love in friendship—never.
Gaming has been resorted to by the affluent as a refuge from ennui. It is a mental dram, and may succeed for a moment; but, like all other stimuli, it produces indirect debility.
Gaming is the child of avarice, but the parent of prodigality.
Genius, in one respect, is like gold—numbers of persons are constantly writing about both, who have neither.
God is as great in minuteness as He is in magnitude.
God is on the side of virtue; for whoever dreads punishment suffers it, and whoever deserves it, dreads it.
God will excuse our prayers for ourselves whenever we are prevented from them by being occupied in such good works as to entitle us to the prayers of others.
Grant graciously what you cannot refuse safely, and conciliate those you cannot conquer.
Gross and vulgar minds will always pay a higher respect to wealth than to talent; for wealth, although it be a far less efficient source of power than talent, happens to be far more intelligible.
Habit will reconcile us to everything but change, and even to change if it recur not too quickly.
Hannibal knew better how to conquer than how to profit by the conquest; and Napoleon was more skilful in taking positions than in maintaining them. As to reverses, no general can presume to say that he may not be defeated; but he can, and ought to say, that he will not be surprised.
Happiness is much more equally divided than some of us imagine. One man shall possess most of the materials, but little of the thing; another may possess much of the thing, but very few of the materials. In this particular view of it, happiness has been beautifully compared to the man in the desert—he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.
Happiness is that single and glorious thing which is the very light and sun of the whole animated universe; and where she is not it were better that nothing should be.
He that abuses his own profession will not patiently bear with any one else who does so. And this is one of our most subtle operations of self-love. For when we abuse our own profession, we tacitly except ourselves; but when another abuses it, we are far from being certain that this is the case.
He that aspires to be the head of a party will find it more difficult to please his friends than to perplex his foes. He must often act from false reasons which are weak, because he dares not avow the true reasons which are strong.
He that can enjoy the intimacy of the great, and on no occasion disgust them by familiarity, or disgrace himself by servility, proves that he is as perfect a gentleman by nature as his companions are by rank.
He that dies a martyr proves that he was not a knave, but by no means that he was not a fool; since the most absurd doctrines are not without such evidence as martyrdom can produce. A martyr, therefore, by the mere act of suffering, can prove nothing but his own faith.
He that gives a portion of his time and talent to the investigation of mathematical truth will come to all other questions with a decided advantage.
He that has energy enough in his constitution to root out a vice should go a little further, and try to plant a virtue in its place; otherwise he will have his labor to renew. A strong soil that has produced weeds may be made to produce wheat with far less difficulty than it would cost to make it produce nothing.
He that has never known adversity is but half acquainted with others, or with himself.
He that has no resources of mind, is more to be pitied than he who is in want of necessaries for the body; and to be obliged to beg our daily happiness from others, bespeaks a more lamentable poverty than that of him who begs his daily bread.
He that is good will infallibly become better, and he that is bad will as certainly become worse; for vice, virtue, and time are three things that never stand still.
He that knows himself, knows others; and he that is ignorant of himself could not write a very profound lecture on other men’s heads.
He that openly tells his friends all that he thinks of them, must expect that they will secretly tell his enemies much that they do not think of him.
He that places himself neither higher nor lower than he ought to do exercises the truest humility.
He that studies books alone, will know how things ought to be; and he that studies men will know how things are.
He that studies only men will get the body of knowledge without the soul; and he that studies only books, the soul without the body.
He that swells in prosperity will be sure to shrink in adversity.
He that sympathizes in all the happiness of others perhaps himself enjoys the safest happiness, and he that is warned by all the folly of others has perhaps attained the soundest wisdom.
He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend must have a very long head or a very short creed.
He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend, must have a very long head, or a very short creed.
He that will have no books but those that are scarce evinces about as correct a taste in literature as he would do in friendship who would have no friends but those whom all the rest of the world have sent to Coventry.
He that will often put eternity and the world before him, and who will dare to look steadfastly at both of them, will find that the more often he contemplates them, the former will grow greater, and the latter less.
He that would thoroughly accomplish himself for the government of human affairs, should have a wisdom that can look forward into things that are present, and a learning that can look back into things that are past.***Wisdom, however, and learning, should go hand in hand, they are so beautifully qualified for mutual assistance. But it is better to have wisdom without learning, than learning without wisdom; just as it is better to be rich without being the possessor of a mine, than to be the possessor of a mine without being rich.
He who knows himself knows others.
Heaven may have happiness as utterly unknown to us as the gift of perfect vision would be to a man born blind. If we consider the inlets of pleasure from five senses only, we may be sure that the same Being who created us could have given us five hundred, if He bad pleased.
Heroism, self-denial, and magnanimity, in all instances where they do not spring from a principle of religion, are but splendid altars on which we sacrifice one kind of self-love to another.
Honesty is not only the deepest policy, but the highest wisdom; since, however difficult it may be for integrity to get on, it is a thousand times more difficult for knavery to get off; and no error is more fatal than that of those who think that Virtue has no other reward because they have heard that she is her own.
Honor is the most capricious in her rewards. She feeds us with air, and often pulls down our house, to build our monument.
Honor is unstable, and seldom the same; for she feeds upon opinion, and is as fickle as her food. She builds a lofty structure on the sandy foundation of the esteem of those who are of all beings the most subject to change.
Human foresight often leaves its proudest possessor only a choice of evils.
Hurry and cunning are the two apprentices of despatch and skill; but neither of them ever learn their master’s trade.
I have somewhere seen it observed that we should make the same use of a book that the bee does of a flower: she steals sweets from it, but does not injure it.
I question if Epicurus and Hume have done mankind a greater service by the looseness of their doctrines than by the purity of their lives. Of such men we may more justly exclaim, than of Cæsar, “Confound their virtues, they’ve undone the world!”
I will not be revenged, and this I owe to my enemy; but I will remember, and this I owe to myself.
Idleness is the grand Pacific Ocean of life, and in that stagnant abyss the most salutary things produce no good, the most noxious no evil. Vice, indeed, abstractedly considered, may be, and often is engendered in idleness; but the moment it becomes efficiently vice, it must quit its cradle and cease to be idle.
If a book really wants the patronage of a great name, it is a bad book; and if it be a good book, it wants it not.
If a cause be good, the most violent attack of its enemies will not injure it so much as an injudicious defence of it by its friends.
If all seconds were as averse to duels as their principals, very little blood would be shed in that way.
If it be true that men of strong imaginations are usually dogmatists—and I am inclined to think it is so—it ought to follow that men of weak imaginations are the reverse; in which case we should have some compensation for stupidity. But it unfortunately happens that no dogmatist is more obstinate or less open to conviction than a fool.
If martyrdom is now on the decline, it is not because martyrs are less zealous, but because martyr-mongers are more wise. The light of intellect has put out the fire of persecution, as other fires are observed to smoulder before the light of the same.
If merited, no courage can stand against its just indignation.
If often happens too, both in courts and in cabinets, that there are two things going on together,—a main plot and an under-plot; and he that understands only one of them will, in all probability, be the dupe of both. A mistress may rule a monarch, but some obscure favorite may rule the mistress.
If once a woman breaks through the barriers of decency, her case is desperate; and if she goes greater lengths than the men, and leaves the pale of propriety farther behind her, it is because she is aware that all return is prohibited, and by none so strongly as by her own sex.
If our eloquence be directed above the heads of our hearers, we shall do no execution. By pointing our arguments low, we stand a chance of hitting their hearts as well as their heads. In addressing angels, we could hardly raise our eloquence too high; but we must remember that men are not angels.
If rich, it is easy enough to conceal your wealth; but if poor, it is not quite so easy to conceal your poverty. We shall find that it is less difficult to hide a thousand guineas than one hole in our coat.
If Satan ever laughs, it must be at hypocrites; they are the greatest dupes he has.
If sensuality be our only happiness we ought to envy the brutes, for instinct is a surer, shorter, safer guide to such happiness than reason.
If that marvellous microcosm, man, with all the costly cargo of his faculties and powers, were indeed a rich argosy, fitted out and freighted only for shipwreck and destruction, who amongst us that tolerate the present only from the hope of the future, who that have any aspirings of a high and intellectual nature about them, could be brought to submit to the disgusting mortifications of the voyage?
If there be a pleasure on earth which angels cannot enjoy, and which they might almost envy man the possession of, it is the power of relieving distress—if there be a pain which devils might pity man for enduring, it is the death-bed reflection that we have possessed the power of doing good, but that we have abused and perverted it to purposes of ill.
If we steal thoughts from the moderns, it will be cried down as plagiarism; if from the ancients, it will be cried up as erudition. But in this respect every author is a Spartan, being more ashamed of the discovery than of the depredation.
If you cannot avoid a quarrel with a blackguard, let your lawyer manage it, rather than yourself. No man sweeps his own chimney, but employs a chimney-sweeper, who has no objection to dirty work, because it is his trade.
If you cannot inspire a woman with love of you, fill her above the brim with love of herself; all that runs over will be yours.
If you want enemies, excel others; if you want friends, let others excel you.
If you would know and not be known, live in a city.
Ignorance lies at the bottom of all human knowledge, and the deeper we penetrate the nearer we arrive unto it. For what do we truly know, or what can we clearly affirm, of any one of those important things upon which all our reasonings must of necessity be built—time and space, life and death, matter and mind?
Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.
Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.
In all government there must of necessity be both the law and the sword; laws without arms would give us not liberty but licentiousness, and arms without laws would produce not subjection but slavery.
In all places, and in all times, those religionists who have believed too much have been more inclined to violence and persecution than those who have believed too little.
In all societies it is advisable to associate if possible with the highest; not that the highest are always the best, but because, if disgusted there, we can at any time descend. But if we begin with the lowest, to ascend is impossible.
In an age remarkable for good reasoning and bad conduct, for sound rules and corrupt manners, when virtue fills our heads, but vice our hearts; when those who would fain persuade us that they are quite sure of heaven, appear in no greater hurry to go there than other folks, but put on the livery of the best master only to serve the worst;—in an age when modesty herself is more ashamed of detection than delinquency; when independence of principle consists in having no principle on which to depend; and free thinking, not in thinking freely, but in being free from thinking: in an age when patriots will hold anything except their tongues; keep anything except their word; and lose nothing patiently except their character;—to improve such an age must be difficult; to instruct it dangerous; and he stands no chance of amending it who cannot at the same time amuse it.
In cases of doubtful morality, it is usual to say, Is there any harm in doing this? This question may sometimes be best answered by asking ourselves another: Is there any harm in letting it alone?
In its primary signification, all vice, that is, all excess, brings on its own punishment, even here. By certain fixed, settled and established laws of Him who is the God of nature, excess of every kind destroys that constitution which temperance would preserve. The debauchee offers up his body a “living sacrifice to sin.”
In life, we shall find many men that are great, and some men that are good, but very few men that are both great and good.
In most quarrels there is a fault on both sides. A quarrel may be compared to a spark, which cannot be produced without a flint, as well as steel. Either of them may hammer on wood forever; no fire will follow.
In politics, as in religion, it so happens that we have less charity for those who believe the half of our creed than for those who deny the whole of it, since if Servetus had been a Mahomedan he would not have been burnt by Calvin.
In pulpit eloquence, the grand difficulty lies here,—to give the subject all the dignity it so fully deserves, without attaching any importance to ourselves. The Christian messenger cannot think too highly of his prince, nor too humbly of himself.
In religion as in politics it so happens that we have less charity for those who believe half our creed, than for those who deny the whole of it.
In the whole range of literature nothing is more entertaining, and, I might add, more instructive, than sound, legitimate criticism, the disinterested convictions of a man of sensibility, who enters rather into the spirit, than the letter of his author, who can follow him to the height of his compass, and while he sympathized with every brilliant power and genuine passion of the poet, is not so far carried out of himself as to indulge his admiration at the expense of his judgment, but who can afford us the double pleasure of being first pleased with his author, and secondly with himself, for having given us such just and incontrovertible reason for our approbation.
Injuries accompanied by insults are never forgiven, all men on these occasions are good haters, and lay out their revenge at compound interest.
Insults are engendered from vulgar minds, like toadstools from a dunghill.
Is there anything more tedious than the often repeated tales of the old and forgetful?
It has been said that men carry on a kind of coasting trade with religion. In the voyage of life, they profess to be in search of heaven, but take care not to venture so far in their approximations to it, as entirely to lose sight of the earth; and should their frail vessel be in danger of shipwreck, they will gladly throw their darling vices overboard, as other mariners their treasures, only to fish them up again when the storm is over.
It has been shrewdly said, that when men abuse us we should suspect ourselves, and when they praise us, them. It is a rare instance of virtue to despise censure which we do not deserve; and still more rare to despise praise which we do.
It has been well observed that the tongue discovers the state of the mind no less than that of the body; but in either case, before the philosopher or the physician can judge, the patient must open his mouth.
It has been well observed that we should treat futurity as an aged friend from whom we expect a rich legacy.
It is a curious paradox that precisely in proportion to our own intellectual weakness will be our credulity, to those mysterious powers assumed by others; and in those regions of darkness and ignorance where man cannot effect even those things that are within the power of man, there we shall ever find that a blind belief in feats that are far beyond those powers has taken the deepest root in the minds of the deceived, and produced the richest harvest to the knavery of the deceiver.
It is a doubt whether mankind are most indebted to those who, like Bacon and Butler, dig the gold from the mine of literature, or to those who, like Paley, purify it, stamp it, fix its real value, and give it currency and utility.
It is a mortifying truth, and ought to teach the wisest of us humility, that many of the most valuable discoveries have been the result of chance, rather than of contemplation, and of accident, rather than of design.
It is adverse to talent to be consorted and trained up with inferior minds and inferior companions, however high they may rank. The foal of the racer neither finds out his speed nor calls out his powers if pastured out with the common herd, that are destined for the collar and the yoke.
It is almost as difficult to make a man unlearn his errors as his knowledge.
It is always easy to shut a book, but not quite so easy to get rid of a lettered coxcomb.
It is always safe to learn even from our enemies, seldom safe to instruct even our friends.
It is an easy and vulgar thing to please the mob, and not a very arduous task to astonish them; but essentially to benefit and to improve them is a work fraught with difficulty, and teeming with danger.
It is averse to talent to be consorted and trained up with inferior minds or inferior companions, however high they may rank. The foal of the racer neither finds out his speed, nor calls out his powers, if pastured out with the common herd, that are destined for the collar and the yoke.
It is better to meet danger than to wait for it. He that is on a lee shore, and foresees a hurricane, stands out to sea and encounters a storm to avoid a shipwreck.
It is curious that some learned dunces, because they can write nonsense in languages that are dead, should despise those that talk sense in languages that are living. “To acquire a few tongues,” says a French writer, “is the task of a few years, but to be eloquent in one, is the labor of a life.”
It is curious that we pay statesmen for what they say, not for what they do; and judge of them from what they do, not from what they say. Hence they have one code of maxims for profession and another for practice, and make up their consciences as the Neapolitans do their beds, with one set of furniture for show and another for use.
It is far more easy not to feel, that always to feel rightly, and not to act, than always to act well. For he that is determined to admire only that which is beautiful imposes a much harder task upon himself than he that, being determined not to see that which is the contrary, effects it by simply shutting his eyes.
It is far more easy to acquire a fortune like a knave than to expend it like a gentleman.
It is far more easy to pull down than to build up, and to destroy than to preserve. Revolutions have on this account been falsely supposed to be fertile of great talent; as the dregs rise to the top during a fermentation, and the lightest things are carried highest by the whirlwind.
It is in the middle classes of society that all the finest feeling, and the most amiable propensities of our nature do principally flourish and abound. For the good opinion of our fellow-men is the strongest though not the purest motive to virtue. The privations of poverty render us too cold and callous, and the privileges of property too arrogant and confidential, to feel; the first places us beneath the influence of opinion—the second, above it.
It is more easy to forgive the weak who have injured us than the powerful whom we have injured.
It is much easier to ruin a man of principle than a man of none, for he may be ruined through his scruples. Knavery is supple and can bend; but honesty is firm and upright, and yields not.
It is not every man that can afford to wear a shabby coat; and worldly wisdom dictates to her disciples the propriety of dressing somewhat beyond their means, but of living somewhat within them,—for every one sees how we dress, but none see how we live, except we choose to let them. But the truly great are, by universal suffrage, exempted from these trammels, and may live or dress as they please.
It is not known where he that invented the plough was born nor where be died; yet he has effected more for the happiness of the world than the whole race of heroes and of conquerors who have drenched it with tears and manured it with blood, and whose birth, parentage, and education have been handed down to us with a precision precisely proportionate to the mischief they have done.
It is not so difficult a task to plant new truths as to root out old errors; for there is this paradox in men—they run after that which is new, but are prejudiced in favor of that which is old.
It is only when the rich are sick that they fully feel the impotence of wealth.
It is sufficiently humiliating to our nature to reflect that our knowledge is but as the rivulet, our ignorance as the sea. On points of the highest interest, the moment we quit the light of revelation we shall find that Platonism itself is intimately connected with Pyrrhonism, and the deepest inquiry with the darkest doubt.
It is true that friendship often ends in love, but love in friendship never.
It is with antiquity as with ancestry, nations are proud of the one, and individuals of the other; but if they are nothing in themselves, that which is their pride ought to be their humiliation.
It is with diseases of the mind as with those of the body; we are half dead before we understand our disorders, and half cured when we do.
It is with honesty in one particular as with wealth,—those that have the thing care less about the credit of it than those who have it not. No poor man can well afford to be thought so, and the less of honesty a finished rogue possesses the less he can afford to be supposed to want it.
It is with nations as with individuals, those who know the least of others think the highest of themselves; for the whole family of pride and ignorance are incestuous, and mutually beget each other.
It may be observed of good writing, as of good blood, that it is much easier to say what it is composed of than to compose it.
It was observed of Elizabeth that she was weak herself, but chose wise counsellors; to which it was replied, that to choose wise counsellors was, in a prince, the highest wisdom.
It was observed of the Jesuits, that they constantly inculcated a thorough contempt of worldly things in their doctrines, but eagerly grasped at them in their lives. They were wise in their generation; for they cried down worldly things, because they wanted to obtain them, and cried up spiritual things, because they wanted to dispose of them.
Jealousy is sustained as often by pride as by affection.
Johnson told Garrick that he and his profession were mutually indebted to each other. “Your profession,” said the doctor, “has made you rich; and you have made your profession respectable.”
Kings and their subjects, masters and slaves find a common level in two places—at the foot of the cross and in the grave.
Kings and their subjects, masters and slaves, find a common level in two places—at the foot of the cross, and in the grave.
Knavery is supple, and can bend, but honesty is firm and upright and yields not.
Ladies of fashion starve their happiness to feed their vanity, and their love to feed their pride.
Law and equity are two things which God hath joined, but which man hath put asunder.
Let those who would affect singularity with success first determine to be very virtuous, and they will be sure to be very singular.
Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.
Life often presents us with a choice of evils, rather than of goods.
Light, whether it be material or moral, is the best reformer.
Like the rainbow, peace rests upon the earth, but its arch is lost in heaven. Heaven bathes it in hues of light—it springs up amid tears and clouds—it is a reflection of the eternal sun—it is an assurance of calm—it is the sign of a great covenant between God and man—it is an emanation from the distant orb of immortal light.
Literature has her quacks no less than medicine, and they are divided into two classes; those who have erudition without genius, and those who have volubility without depth; we shall get second-hand sense from the one, and original nonsense from the other.
Living authors, therefore, are usually bad companions. If they have not gained character, they seek to do so by methods often ridiculous, always disgusting; and if they have established a character, they are silent for fear of losing by their tongue what they have acquired by their pen—for many authors converse much more foolishly than Goldsmith, who have never written half so well.
Logic and metaphysics make use of more tools than all the rest of the sciences put together, and do the least work.
Lord Bacon has compared those who move in higher spheres to those heavenly bodies in the firmament, which have much admiration, but little rest. And it is not necessary to invest a wise man with power to convince him that it is a garment bedizened with gold, which dazzles the beholder by its splendor, but oppresses the wearer by its weight.
Love is an alchemist that can transmute poison into food—and a spaniel, that prefers even punishment from one hand to caresses from another. But it is in love, as in war, we are often more indebted for our success to the weakness of the defence than to the energy of the attack; for mere idleness has ruined more women than passion; vanity more than idleness, and credulity more than either.
Love may exist without jealousy, although this is rare: but jealousy may exist without love, and this is common; for jealousy can feed on that which is bitter no less than on that which is sweet, and is sustained by pride as often as by affection.
Make no enemies; he is insignificant indeed that can do thee no harm.
Make the most of the day, by determining to spend it on two sorts of acquaintances only—those by whom something may be got, and those from whom something may be learned.
Malherbe, on hearing a prose work of great merit much extolled, dryly asked if it would reduce the price of bread. Neither was his appreciation of poetry much higher, when he observed that a good poet was of no more use to the church or the state than a good player at ninepins.
Man, if he compare himself with all that he can see, is at the zenith of power; but if he compare himself with all that he can conceive, he is at the nadir of weakness.
Many books owe their success to the good memories of their authors and the bad memories of their readers.
Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a simple reason,—they made no such demand upon those who wrote them.
Marriage is a feast where the grace is sometimes better than the dinner.
Men are born with two eyes, but with one tongue, in order that they should see twice as much as they say; but from their conduct one would suppose that they were born with two tongues, and one eye; for those talk the most who observe the least, and obtrude their remarks upon everything, who have seen into nothing.
Men by associating in large masses, as in camps, and in cities, improve their talents, but impair their virtues, and strengthen their minds, but weaken their morals; thus a retrocession in the one is too often the price they pay for a refinement in the other.
Men of great and shining qualities do not always succeed in life, but the fault lies more often in themselves than in others.
Men pursue riches under the idea that their possession will set them at ease, and above the world. But the law of association often makes those who begin by loving gold as a servant finish by becoming themselves its slaves; and independence without wealth is at least as common as wealth without independence.
Men spend their lives in anticipations, in determining to be vastly happy at some period or other, when they have time. But the present time has one advantage over every other—it is our own. Past opportunities are gone, future are not come.
Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; anything but live for it.
Men, by associating in large masses, as in camps and in cities, improve their talents, but impair their virtues, and strengthen their minds, but weaken their morals.
Mental pleasures never cloy; unlike those of the body, they are increased by repetition, approved of by reflection, and strengthened by enjoyment.
Metaphysicians have been learning their lessons for the last four thousand years, and it is high time that they should now begin to teach us something. Can any of the tribe inform us why all the operations of the mind are carried on with undiminished strength and activity in dreams, except the judgment, which alone is suspended and dormant?
Milton neither aspired to present fame, nor even expected it; but (to use his own words) his high ambition was “to leave something so written to after ages, that they should not willingly let it die.” And Cato finely observed, he would much rather that posterity should inquire why no statues were erected to him, than why they were.
Miss Edgeworth and Mme. de Staël have proved that there is no sex in style; and Mme. la Roche Jacqueline, and the Duchesse d’Angouleme have proved that there is no sex in courage.
Moderation is the inseparable companion of wisdom, but with it genius has not even a nodding acquaintance.
Modern criticism discloses that which it would fain conceal, but conceals that which it professes to disclose; it is therefore read by the discerning, not to discover the merits of an author, but the motives of his critic.
Most of our misfortunes are more supportable than the comments of our friends upon them.
Most plagiarists, like the drone, have neither taste to select, industry to acquire, nor skill to improve, but impudently pilfer the honey ready prepared, from the hive.
Most women will forgive an insult rather than a slight.
Mystery magnifies danger, as a fog the sun; the hand that warned Belshazzar derived its horrifying influence from the want of a body.
Natural good is so intimately connected with moral good, and natural evil with moral evil, that I am as certain as if I heard a voice from heaven proclaim it, that God is on the side of virtue. He has learnt much, and has not lived in vain, who has practically discovered that most strict and necessary connection, that does and will ever exist between vice and misery, and virtue and happiness.
Neither can we admit that definition of genius that some would propose—“a power to accomplish all that we undertake;” for we might multiply examples to prove that this definition of genius contains more than the thing defined. Cicero failed in poetry, Pope in painting, Addison in oratory; yet it would be harsh to deny genius to these men.
Neutrality is no favorite with Providence, for we are so formed that it is scarcely possible for us to stand neuter in our hearts, although we may deem it prudent to appear so in our actions.
Never join with your friend when be abuses his horse or his wife, unless the one is about to be sold, and the other to be buried.
Next to acquiring good friends, the best acquisition is that of good books.
No company is far preferable to bad, because we are more apt to catch the vices of others than their virtues, as disease is far more contagious than health.
No improvement that takes place in either sex can possibly be confined to itself. Each is a universal mirror to each, and the respective refinement of the one will always be in reciprocal proportion to the polish of the other.
No man can promise himself even fifty years of life, but any man may, if he please, live in the proportion of fifty years in forty,—let him rise early, that he may have the day before him, and let him make the most of the day, by determining to expend it on two sorts of acquaintances only—those by whom something may be got, and those from whom something may be learned.
No men deserve the title of infidels so little as those to whom it has been usually applied; let any of those who renounce Christianity, write fairly down in a book all the absurdities that they believe instead of it, and they will find that it retakes more faith to reject Christianity than to embrace it.
No metaphysician ever felt the deficiency of language so much as the grateful.
No propagation or multiplication is more rapid that that of evil, unless it be checked; no growth more certain.
No two things differ more than hurry and despatch. Hurry is the mark of a weak mind; despatch of a strong one.
Nobility is a river that sets with a constant and undeviating current directly into the great Pacific Ocean of time; but, unlike all other rivers, it is more grand at its source than at its termination.
Nobility of birth does not always ensure a corresponding nobility of mind; if it did, it would always act as a stimulus to noble actions; but it sometimes acts as a clog, rather than a spur.
None are so fond of secrets as those who do not mean to keep them; such persons covet secrets as a spendthrift covets money, for the purpose of circulation.
None are so seldom found alone, and are so soon tired of their own company, as those coxcombs who are on the best terms with themselves.
Nothing is more perplexing than the power, but nothing is more durable than the dynasty of doubt; for he reigns in the hearts of all his people, but gives satisfaction to none of them, and yet he is the only despot who can never die while any of his subjects live.
Nothing is so difficult as the apparent ease of a clear and flowing style; those graces which, from their presumed facility, encourage all to attempt an imitation of them, are usually the most inimitable.
Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of trick and duplicity himself than straightforward and simple integrity in another. A knave would rather quarrel with a brother-knave than with a fool, but he would rather avoid a quarrel with one honest man than with both.
Novels may teach us as wholesome a moral as the pulpit. There are “sermons in stones,” in healthy books, and “good in everything.”
Observation made in the cloister or in the desert will generally be as obscure as the one and as barren as the other; but he that would paint with his pencil must study originals, and not be over-fearful of a little dust.
Of all the faculties of the mind, memory is the first that flourishes and the first that dies.
Of all the marvelous works of the Deity, perhaps there is nothing that angels behold with such supreme astonishment as a proud man.
Of all the passions, jealousy is that which exacts the hardest service and pays the bitterest wages. Its service is, to watch the success of our enemy, to be sure of it.
Of present fame think little and of future less; the praises that we receive after we are buried, like the posies that are strewn over our grave, may be gratifying to the living, but they are nothing to the dead: the dead are gone either to a place where they hear them not, or where, if they do, they will despise them.
Oratory is the huffing and blustering spoiled child of a semi-barbarous age. The press is the foe of rhetoric, but the friend of reason; and the art of declamation has been sinking in value from the moment that speakers were foolish enough to publish, and readers wise enough to read.
Our actions must clothe us with an immortality loathsome or glorious.
Our integrity is never worth so much as when we have parted with our all to keep it.
Our minds are as different as our faces; we are all traveling to one destination—happiness; but few are going by the same road.
Our very best friends have a tincture of jealousy even in their friendship; and when they hear us praised by others, will ascribe it to sinister and interested motives if they can.
Our wealth is often a snare to ourselves, and always a temptation to others.
Pain may be said to follow pleasure as its shadow.
Patience is the support of weakness; impatience is the ruin of strength.
Peace is the evening star of the soul, as virtue is its sun, and the two are never far apart.
Pedantry prides herself on being wrong by rules; while common-sense is contented to be right, without them. The former would rather stumble in following the dead, than walk upright by the profane assistance of the living.
Perhaps that is nearly the perfection of good writing which is original, but whose truth alone prevents the reader from suspecting that it is so; and which effects that for knowledge which the lens effects for the sunbeam, when it condenses its brightness in order to increase its force.
Persecuting bigots may be compared to those burning lenses which Lenbenhoeck and others composed from ice; by their chilling apathy they freeze the suppliant; by their fiery zeal they burn the sufferer.
Philosophers have widely differed as to the seat of the soul, and St. Paul has told us that out of the heart proceed murmurings; but there can be no doubt that the seat of perfect contentment is in the head, for every individual is thoroughly satisfied with his own proportion of brains.
Philosophy is a bully that talks very loud when the danger is at a distance; but the moment she is hard pressed by the enemy she is not to be found at her post, but leaves the brunt of the battle to be borne by her humbler but steadier comrade, Religion.
Philosophy is a goddess, whose head indeed is in heaven, but whose feet are upon earth; she attempts more than she accomplishes, and promises more than she performs.
Physical courage, which despises all danger, will make a man brave in one way; and moral courage, which despises all opinion, will make a man brave in another. The former would seem most necessary for the camp, the latter for council; but to constitute a great man, both are necessary.
Pleasure is to women what the sun is to the flower; if moderately enjoyed, it beautifies, it refreshes, and it improves; if immoderately, it withers, deteriorates and destroys.
Posthumous charities are the very essence of selfishness, when bequeathed by those who, when alive, would part with nothing.
Posthumous fame is a plant of tardy growth, for our body must be the seed of it; or we may liken it to a torch, which nothing but the last spark of life can light up; or we may compare it to the trumpet of the archangel, for it is blown over the dead; but unlike that awful blast, it is of earth, not of heaven, and can neither rouse nor raise us.
Power will intoxicate the best hearts, as wine the strongest heads. No man is wise enough, nor good enough to be trusted with unlimited power.
Power, like the diamond, dazzles the beholder, and also the wearer; it dignifies meanness; it magnifies littleness; to what is contemptible, it gives authority; to what is low, exaltation.
Pride differs in many things from vanity, and by gradations that never blend, although they may be somewhat indistinguishable. Pride may perhaps be termed a too high opinion of ourselves founded on the overrating of certain qualities that we do actually possess; whereas vanity is more easily satisfied, and can extract a feeling of self-complacency from qualifications that are imaginary.
Pride requires very costly food—its keeper’s happiness.
Pride, like the magnet, constantly points to one object, self; but, unlike the magnet, it has no attractive pole, but at all points repels.
Prince Eugene informed a confidential friend that in the course of his life he had been exposed to many Potiphars, to all or whom he had proved a Joseph, merely because he had so many other things to attend to.
Public charities and benevolent associations for the gratuitous relief of every species of distress, are peculiar to Christianity; no other system of civil or religious policy has originated them; they form its highest praise and characteristic feature.
Pure truth, like pure gold, has been found unfit for circulation, because men have discovered that it is far more convenient to adulterate the truth than to refine themselves. They will not advance their minds to the standard, therefore they lower the standard to their minds.
Purity lives and derives its life solely from the Spirit of God.
Reason is progressive; instinct, stationary. Five thousand years have added no improvement to the hive of the bee, nor the house of the beaver.
Reform is a good replete with paradox; it is a cathartic which our political quacks, like our medical, recommend to others, but will not take themselves; it is admired by all who cannot effect it, and abused by all who can; it is thought pregnant with danger, for all time that is present, but would have been extremely profitable for that which is past, and will be highly salutary for that which is to come.
Religion, like its votaries, while it exists on earth, must have a body as well as a soul. A religion purely spiritual might suit a being as pure, but men are compound animals; and the body too often lords it over the mind.
Repartee is perfect, when it effects its purpose with a double edge. Repartee is the highest order of wit, as it bespeaks the coolest yet quickest exercise of genius at a moment when the passions are roused.
Revenge is a debt, in the paying of which the greatest knave is honest and sincere, and, so far as he is able, punctual.
Revenge is fever in our own blood, to be cured only by letting the blood of another; but the remedy too often produces a relapse, which is remorse—a malady far more dreadful than the first disease, because it is incurable.
Rhetoric is the creature of art, which he who feels least will most excel in; it is the quackery of eloquence, and deals in nostrums, not in cures.
Riches may enable us to confer favors; but to confer them with propriety and with grace requires a something that riches cannot give. Even trifles may be so bestowed as to cease to be trifles.
Secrecy is the soul of all great designs. Perhaps more has been effected by concealing our own intentions than by discovering those of our enemy.
Secrecy of design, when combined with rapidity of execution, like the column that guided Israel in the deserts, becomes the guardian pillar of light and fire to our friends, a cloud of overwhelming and impenetrable darkness to our enemies.
Self-denial is often the sacrifice of one sort of self-love for another.
Self-love, in a well-regulated breast, is as the steward of the household, superintending the expenditure, and seeing that benevolence herself should be prudential, in order to be permanent, by providing that the reservoir which feeds should also be fed.
Sensibility would be a good portress if she had but one hand; with her right she opens the door to pleasure, but with her left to pain.
Shakespeare stands alone. His want of erudition was a most happy and productive ignorance; it forced him back upon his own resources, which were exhaustless. If his literary qualifications made it impossible for him to borrow from the ancients, he was more than repaid by the powers of his invention, which made borrowing unnecessary.
Shakespeare, Butler and Bacon have rendered it extremely difficult for all who come after them to be sublime, witty or profound.
Shining outward qualities, although they may excite first-rate expectations, are not unusually found to be the companions of second-rate abilities.
Silence is less injurious than a weak reply.
Sincerely to aspire after virtue is to gain her, and zealously to labor after her wages is to receive them.
Sleep, the type of death, is also, like that which it typifies, restricted to the earth. It flies from hell, and is excluded from heaven.
Slight sorrow for sin is sufficient, provided it at the same time produces amendment.
Small miseries, like small debts, hit us in so many places and meet us at so many turns and corners, that what they want in weight they make up in number, and render it less hazardous to stand one cannon ball than a volley of bullets.
So blinded are we by our passions, that we suffer more to be damned than to be saved.
So idle are dull readers, and so industrious are dull authors, that puffed nonsense bids fair to blow unpuffed sense wholly out of the field.
So long as lust (whether of the world or flesh) smells sweet in our nostrils, so long we are loathesome to God.
Some are cursed with the fullness of satiety; and how can they bear the ills of life when its very pleasures fatigue them?
Some authors write nonsense in a clear style, and others sense in an obscure one; some can reason without being able to persuade, others can persuade without being able to reason; some dive so deep that they descend into darkness, and others soar so high that they give us no light; and some, in a vain attempt to be cutting and dry, give us only that which is cut and dried. We should labor, therefore, to treat with ease of things that are difficult; with familiarity, of things that are novel; and with perspicuity, of things that are profound.
Some frauds succeed from the apparent candor, the open confidence, and the full blaze of ingenuousness that is thrown around them. The slightest mystery would excite suspicion and ruin all. Such stratagems may be compared to the stars; they are discoverable by darkness and hidden only by light.
Some indeed there are, who profess to despise all flattery, but even these are, nevertheless, to be flattered, by being told that they do despise it.
Some men are very entertaining for a first interview, but after that they are exhausted, and run out; on a second meeting we shall find them flat and monotonous; like hand-organs, we have heard all their tunes.
Some men of a secluded and studious life have sent forth from their closet or their cloister rays of intellectual light that have agitated courts and revolutionized kingdoms; like the moon which, though far removed from the ocean, and shining upon it with a serene and sober light, is the chief cause of all those ebbings and flowings which incessantly disturb that restless world of waters.
Some men who know that they are great are so very haughty withal and insufferable that their acquaintance discover their greatness only by the tax of humility which they are obliged to pay as the price of their friendship.
Some persons will tell you, with an air of the miraculous, that they recovered although they were given over; whereas they might with more reason have said, they recovered because they were given over.
Some philosophers would give a sex to revenge, and appropriate it almost exclusively to the female mind. But, like most other vices, it is of both genders; yet, because wounded vanity and slighted love are the two most powerful excitements to revenge, it has been thought, perhaps, to rage with more violence in the female heart.
Some well-meaning Christians tremble for their salvation, because they have never gone through that valley of tears and sorrow, which they have been taught to consider as an ordeal that must be passed through before they can arrive at regeneration. To satisfy such minds, it may be observed that the slightest sorrow for sin is sufficient, if it produce amendment, and that the greatest is insufficient, if it do not.
Speaking generally, no man appears great to his contemporaries, for the same reason that no man is great to his servants—both know too much of him.
Steele has observed that there is this difference between the Church of Rome and the Church of England,—the one professes to be infallible, the other to be never in the wrong.
Strong as our passions are, they may be starved into submission, and conquered without being killed.
Sturdy beggars can bear stout denials.
Style is indeed the valet of genius, and an able one too; but as the true gentleman will appear, even in rags, so true genius will shine, even through the coarsest style.
Subtlety will sometimes give safety, no less than strength; and minuteness has sometimes escaped, where magnitude would have been crushed. The little animal that kills the boa is formidable chiefly from its insignificance, which is incompressible by the folds of its antagonist.
Subtract from a great man all that he owes to opportunity and all that he owes to chance, all that he has gained by the wisdom of his friends and by the folly of his enemies, and our Brobdignag will often become a Liliputian.
Subtract from many modern poets all that may be found in Shakespeare, and trash will remain.
Success seems to be that which forms the distinction between confidence and conceit. Nelson, when young, was piqued at not being noticed in a certain paragraph of the newspapers, which detailed an action wherein he had assisted. “But never mind,” said he, “I will one day have a gazette of my own.”
Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it, since as many live because they are afraid to die as die because they are afraid to live.
Taking things not as they ought to be, but as they are, I fear it must be allowed that Macchiavelli will always have more disciples than Jesus.
That alliance may be said to have a double tie, where the minds are united as well as the body; and the union will have all its strength when both the links are in perfection together.
That an author’s work is the mirror of his mind is a position that has led to very false conclusions. If Satan himself were to write a book it would be in praise of virtue, because the good would purchase it for use, and the bad for ostentation.
That author, however, who has thought more than he has read, read more than he has written, and written more than he has published, if he does not command success, has at least deserved it.
That extremes beget extremes is an apothegm built on the most profound observation of the human mind.
That is fine benevolence, finely executed, which, like the Nile, comes from hidden sources.
That is true beauty which has not only a substance, but a spirit; a beauty that we must intimately know, justly to appreciate.
That policy that can strike only while the iron is hot will be overcome by that perseverance which, like Cromwell’s, can make the iron hot by striking; and he that can only rule the storm must yield to him who can both raise and rule it.
That politeness which we put on, in order to keep the assuming and the presumptuous at a proper distance, will generally succeed. But it sometimes happens that these obtrusive characters are on such excellent terms with themselves that they put down this very politeness to the score of their own great merits and high pretensions, meeting the coldness of our reserve with a ridiculous condescension of familiarity, in order to set us at ease with ourselves.
That profound firmness which enables a man to regard difficulties but as evils to be surmounted, no matter what shape they may assume.
That talent confers an inequality of a much higher order than rank would appear from various views of the subject, and most particularly from this—many a man may justly thank his talent for his rank; but no man has ever yet been able to return the compliment, by thanking his rank for his talent. When Leonardo da Vinci died, his sovereign exclaimed: “I can make a thousand lords, but not one Leonardo.”
That which we acquire with the most difficulty we retain the longest; as those who have earned a fortune are usually more careful of it than those who have inherited one.
That writer does the most, who gives his reader the most knowledge, and takes from him the least time.
The acquirements of science may be termed the armor of the mind.
The art of declamation has been sinking in value from the moment that speakers were foolish enough to publish, and hearers wise enough to read.
The avarice of the miser may be termed the grand sepulchre of all his other passions, as they successively decay. But unlike other tombs, it is enlarged by repletion and strengthened by age.
The awkwardness and embarrassment which all feel on beginning to write, when they themselves are the theme, ought to serve as a hint to authors that self is a subject they ought very rarely to descant upon.
The blindness of bigotry, the madness of ambition, and the miscalculations of diplomacy seek their victims principally amongst the innocent and the unoffending. The cottage is sure to suffer for every error of the court, the cabinet, or the camp. When error sits in the seat of power and of authority, and is generated in high places, it may be compared to that torrent which originates indeed in the mountain, but commits its devastation in the vale.
The breast of a good man is a little heaven commencing on earth; where the Deity sits enthroned with unrivaled influence, every subjugated passion, “like the wind and storm, fulfilling his word.”
The celebrated Galen said employment was nature’s physician. It is indeed so important to happiness that indolence is justly considered the parent of misery.
The Christian messenger cannot think too highly of his Prince, or too humbly of himself.
The cynic who twitted Aristippus by observing that the philosopher who could dine on herbs might despise the company of a king, was well replied to by Aristippus, when he remarked that the philosopher who could enjoy the company or a king might also despise a dinner of herbs.
The drafts which true genius draws upon posterity, although they may not always be honored so soon as they are due, are sure to be paid with compound interest in the end.
The enthusiast has been compared to a man walking in a fog; everything immediately around him, or in contact with him, appears sufficiently clear and luminous; but beyond the little circle of which he himself is the centre, all is mist and error and confusion.
The excesses of our youth are drafts upon our old age, payable with interest, about thirty years after date.
The farther we advance in knowledge, the more simplicity shall we discover in those primary rules that regulate all the apparently endless, complicated, and multiform operations of the Godhead.
The firmest friendships have been formed in mutual adversity; as iron is most strongly united by the fiercest flame.
The French have a saying that whatever excellence a man may exhibit in a public station he is very apt to be ridiculous in a private one.
The gambler is a moral suicide.
The gamester, if he die a martyr to his profession, is doubly ruined. He adds his soul to every other loss, and by the act of suicide, renounces earth to forfeit heaven.
The great Howard was so fully engaged in works of active benevolence, that, unlike Baxter, whose knees were calcined by prayer, he left himself but little time to pray. Thousands were praying for him.
The greatest and most amiable privilege which the rich enjoy over the poor is that which they exercise the least—the privilege of making them happy.
The greatest friend of truth is time; her greatest enemy is prejudice; and her constant companion is humility.
The greatest genius is never so great as when it is chastised and subdued by the highest reason.
The greatest miracle that the Almighty could perform would be to make a bad man happy, even in heaven; he must unparadise that blessed place to accomplish it. In its primary signification, all vice—that is, all excess—brings its own punishment even here.
The Grecian’s maxim would indeed be a sweeping clause in literature; it would reduce many a giant to a pygmy, many a speech to a sentence, and many a folio to a primer.
The hand that unnerved Belshazzar derived its most horrifying influence from the want of a body, and death itself is not formidable in what we do know of it, but in what we do not.
The hate which we all bear with the most Christian patience is the hate of those who envy us.
The head of dullness, unlike the tail of the torpedo, loses nothing of the benumbing and lethargizing influence, by reiterated discharges.
The highest knowledge can be nothing more than the shortest and clearest road to truth; all the rest is pretension, not performance, mere verbiage and grandiloquence, from which we can learn nothing, but that it is the external sign of an internal deficiency.
The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but hides us from ourselves, and we injure our own cause, in the opinion of the world, when we too passionately and eagerly defend it.
The martyrs to vice far exceed the martyrs to virtue, both in endurance and in number.
The masses procure their opinions ready made in open market.
The mob is a monster, with the hands of Briareus, but the head of Polyphemus,—strong to execute, but blind to perceive.
The most notorious swindler has not assumed so many names as self-love, nor is so much ashamed of his own. She calls herself patriotism, when at the same time she is rejoicing at just as much calamity to her native country as will introduce herself into power, and expel her rivals.
The most ridiculous of all animals is a proud priest; he cannot use his own tools without cutting his own fingers.
The most zealous converters are always the most rancorous when they fail of producing conversion.
The only kind office performed for us by our friends of which we never complain is our funeral; and the only thing which we most want, happens to be the only thing we never purchase—our coffin.
The only things in which we can be said to have any property are our actions. Our thoughts may be bad, yet produce no poison; they may be good, yet produce no fruit. Our riches may be taken away by misfortune, our reputation by malice, our spirits by calamity, our health by disease, our friends by death. But our actions must follow us beyond the grave; with respect to them alone, we cannot say that we shall carry nothing with us when we die, neither that we shall go naked out of the world.
The plainest man that can convince a woman that he is really in love with her has done more to make her in love with him than the handsomest man, if he can produce no such conviction. For the love of woman is a shoot, not a seed, and flourishes most vigorously only when ingrafted on that love which is rooted in the breast of another.
The praise of the envious is far less creditable than their censure; they praise only that which they can surpass, but that which surpasses them they censure.
The press is the foe of rhetoric, but the friend of reason.
The pride of ancestry is a superstructure of the most imposing height, but resting on the most flimsy foundation. It is ridiculous enough to observe the hauteur with which the old nobility look down on the new. The reason of this puzzled me a little, until I began to reflect that most titles are respectable only because they are old; if new, they would be despised, because all those who now admire the grandeur of the stream would see nothing but the impurity of the source.
The reason why great men meet with so little pity or attachment in adversity would seem to be this: the friends of a great man were made by his fortunes, his enemies by himself; and revenge is a much more punctual pay-master than gratitude.
The reign of terror to which France submitted has been more justly termed “the reign of cowardice.” One knows not which most to execrate,—the nation that could submit to suffer such atrocities, or that low and blood-thirsty demagogue that could inflict them. France, in succumbing to such a wretch as Robespierre, exhibited, not her patience, but her pusillanimity.
The road to glory would cease to be arduous if it were trite and trodden; and great minds must be ready not only to take opportunities but to make them.
The sceptic, when he plunges into the depths of infidelity, like the miser who leaps from the shipwreck, will find that the treasures which he bears about him will only sink him deeper in the abyss.
The seeds of repentance are sown in youth by pleasure, but the harvest is reaped in age by pain.
The slightest sorrow for sin is sufficient, if it produces amendment; and the greatest is insufficient, if it does not.
The smiling daughter of the storm.
The soundest argument will produce no more conviction in an empty head than the most superficial declamation, as a feather and a guinea fall with equal velocity in a vacuum.
The sun should not set upon our anger, neither should he rise upon our confidence. We should forgive freely, but forget rarely. I will not be revenged, and this I owe to my enemy; but I will remember, and this I owe to myself.
The three great apostles of practical atheism, that make converts without persecuting, and retain them without preaching, are wealth, health, and power.
The true motives of our actions, like the real pipes of an organ, are usually concealed; but the gilded and hollow pretext is pompously placed in the front for show.
The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God, and, secondly, that of their own conscience. Having done this, they would then willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men. But the truly little reverse the thing. The primary object with them is to secure the applause of their fellow-men; and having effected this, the approbation of God and their own conscience may follow on as they can.
The two most precious things on this side the grave are our reputation and our life. But it is to be lamented that the most contemptible whisper may deprive us of the one, and the weakest weapon of the other.
The upright, if he suffer calumny to move him, fears the tongue of man more than the eye of God.
The victims of ennui paralyse all the grosser feelings by excess, and torpify all the finer by disuse and inactivity. Disgusted with this world, and indifferent about another, they at last lay violent hands upon themselves, and assume no small credit for the sang froid with which they meet death. But, alas! such beings can scarcely be said to die, for they have never truly lived.
The weak resort of cowardice.
The wealthy and the noble, when they expend large sums in decorating their houses with the rare and costly efforts of genius, with busts from the chisel of a Canova and with cartoons from the pencil of a Raphael, are to be commended, if they do not stand still here, but go on to bestow some pains and cost, that the master himself be not inferior to the mansion, and that the owner be not the only thing that is little, amidst everything else that is great.
The wise man has his follies no less than the fool; but it has been said that herein lies the difference—the follies of the fool are known to the world, but are hidden from himself; the follies of the wise are known to himself, but hidden from the world.
The wisest man may be wiser to-day than he was yesterday, and to-morrow than he is to-day. Total freedom from change would imply total freedom from error; but this is the prerogative of Omniscience alone.
The worst thing that can be said of the most powerful is that they can take your life; but the same thing can be said of the most weak.
There are both dull correctness and piquant carelessness; it is needless to say which will command the most readers and have the most influence.
There are circumstances of peculiar difficulty and danger, where a mediocrity of talent is the most fatal quantum that a man can possibly possess. Had Charles the First and Louis the Sixteenth been more wise or more weak, more firm or more yielding, in either case they had both of them saved their heads.
There are male as well as female gossips.
There are many women who have never intrigued, and many men who have never gamed; but those who have done either but once are very extraordinary animals.
There are only two things in which the false professors of all religions have agreed—to persecute all other sects and to plunder their own.
There are prating coxcombs in the world who would rather talk than listen, although Shakespeare himself were the orator, and human nature the theme!
There are some characters who appear to superficial observers to be full of contradiction, change and inconsistency, and yet they that are in the secret of what such persons are driving at, know that they are the very reverse of what they appear to be, and that they have one single object in view, to which they as pertinaciously adhere through every circumstance of change, as the hound to the hare, through all her mazes and doublings. We know that a windmill is eternally at work to accomplish one end, although it shifts with every variation of the weather-cock, and assumes ten different positions in a day.
There are some men who are fortune’s favorites, and who, like cats, light forever on their legs.
There are some who affect a want of affectation, and flatter themselves that they are above flattery; they are proud of being thought extremely humble, and would go round the world to punish those who thought them capable of revenge; they are so satisfied of the suavity of their own temper that they would quarrel with their dearest benefactor only for doubting it.
There are three difficulties in authorship—to write anything worth the publishing, to find honest men to publish it, and to get sensible men to read it.
There are three kinds of power,—wealth, strength, and talent; but as old age always weakens, often destroys, the two latter, the aged are induced to cling with the greater avidity to the former.
There are three kinds of praise,—that which we yield, that which we lend, and that which we pay. We yield it to the powerful from fear, we lend it to the weak from interest, and we pay it to the deserving from gratitude.
There are three modes of bearing the ills of life; by indifference, which is most common; by philosophy, which is most ostentatious; and by religion, which is the most effectual.
There are too many who reverse both the principles and the practice of the Apostles; they become all things to all men, not to serve others, but themselves; and they try all things only to hold fast that which is bad.
There are truths which some men despise because they have not examined, and which they will not examine because they despise. There is one signal instance on record where this kind of prejudice was overcome by a miracle; but the age of miracles is past, while that of prejudice remains.
There are two metals, one of which is omnipotent in the cabinet, and the other in the camp—gold and iron. He that knows how to apply them both may indeed attain the highest station.
There are two things which ought to teach us to think but meanly of human glory; the very best have had their calumniators, the very worst their panegyrists.
There are two ways of establishing your reputation,—to be praised by honest men, and to be abused by rogues. It is best, however, to secure the former, because it will be invariably accompanied by the latter.
There is a holy love and a holy rage, and our best virtues never glow so brightly as when our passions are excited in the cause. Sloth, if it has prevented many crimes, has also smothered many virtues; and the best of us are better when roused.
There is an elasticity in the human mind, capable of bearing much, but which will not show itself until a certain weight of affliction be put upon it; its powers may be compared to those vehicles whose springs are so contrived that they get on smoothly enough when loaded, but jolt confoundedly when they have nothing to bear.
There is but one pursuit in life which it is in the power of all to follow, and of all to attain. It is subject to no disappointments, since he that perseveres makes every difficulty an advancement and every contest a victory; and this is the pursuit of virtue.
There is more jealousy between rival wits than rival beauties, for vanity has no sex. But in both cases there must be pretensions, or there will be no jealousy.
There is no cruelty so inexorable and unrelenting as that which proceeds from a bigoted and presumptuous supposition of doing service to God. The victim of the fanatical persecutor will find that the stronger the motives he can urge for mercy are, the weaker will be his chance for obtaining it, for the merit of his destruction will be supposed to rise in value in proportion as it is effected at the expense of every feeling both of justice and of humanity.
There is nothing that requires so strict an economy as our benevolence. We should husband our means as the agriculturist his manure, which, if he spread over too large a superficies, produces no crop,—if over too small a surface, exuberates in rankness and in weeds.
There is one passage in the Scriptures to which all the potentates of Europe seem to have given their unanimous assent and approbation, and to have studied so thoroughly as to have it quite at their fingers’ ends: “There went out a decree in the days of Claudius Cæsar, that all the world should be taxed.”
There is this difference between those two temporal blessings, health and money: Money is the most envied, but the least enjoyed; health is the most enjoyed, but the least envied: and this superiority of the latter is still more obvious when we reflect that the poorest man would not part with health for money, but that the richest would gladly part with all their money for health.
There is this of good in real evils, they deliver us while they last from the petty despotism of all that were imaginary.
There is this paradox in fear: he is most likely to inspire it in others who has none himself!
There is this paradox in pride—it makes some men ridiculous, but prevents others from becoming so.
There were moments of despondency when Shakespeare thought himself no poet, and Raphael no painter; when the greatest wits have doubted the excellence of their happiest efforts.
These can be no Christianity where there is no charity.
This idol gold can boast of two peculiarities: it is worshipped in all climates without a single temple, and by all classes without a single hypocrite.
Those that are the loudest in their threats are the weakest in the execution of them. In springing a mine, that which has done the most extensive mischief makes the smallest report; and again, if we consider the effect of lightning, it is probable that he that is killed by it hears no noise; but the thunderclap which follows, and which most alarms the ignorant, is the surest proof of their safety.
Those who have finished by making all others think with them, have usually been those who began by daring to think with themselves.
Those who have resources within themselves, who can dare to live alone, want friends the least, but, at the same time, best know how to prize them the most. But no company is far preferable to bad, because we are more apt to catch the vices of others than their virtues, as disease is far more contagious than health.
Those who start for human glory, like the mettled hounds of Actæon, must pursue the game not only where there is in path, but where there is none. They must be able to simulate and dissimulate; to leap and to creep; to conquer the earth like Cæsar, or to fall down and kiss it like Brutus; to throw their sword like Brennus into the trembling scale, or, like Nelson, to snatch the laurels from the doubtful hand of Victory, while she is hesitating where to bestow them.
Those who visit foreign nations, but who associate only with their own countrymen, change their climate, but not their customs; they see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untraveled minds.
Those who worship gold in a world so corrupt as this we live in have at least one thing to plead in defense of their idolatry—the power of their idol. It is true that, like other idols, it can neither move, see, hear, feel, nor understand; but, unlike other idols, it has often communicated all these powers to those who had them not, and annihilated them in those who had. This idol can boast of two peculiarities; it is worshipped in all climates, without a single temple, and by all classes, without a single hypocrite.
Time is the measurer of all things, but is itself immeasureable; and the grand discloser of all things, but is itself undisclosed.
Time is the most subtle yet the most insatiable of depredators, and by appearing to take nothing is permitted to take all; nor can it be satisfied until it has stolen the world from us, and us from the world. It constantly flies, yet overcomes all things by flight; and although it is the present ally, it will be the future conqueror of death.
Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past, even while we attempt to define it, and, like the flash of the lightning, at once exists and expires.
Time, the cradle of hope, but the grave of ambition, is the stern corrector of fools, but the salutary counselor of the wise, bringing all they dread to the one, and all they desire to the other.
Time,—that black and narrow isthmus between two eternities.
Times of general calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace, and the brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm.
To admit that there is any such thing as chance, in the common acceptation of the term, would be to attempt to establish a power independent of God.
To be a mere verbal critic is what no man of genius would be if he could; but to be a critic of true taste and feeling is what no man without genius could be if he would.
To be continually subject to the breath of slander will tarnish the purest virtue, as a constant exposure to the atmosphere will obscure the brightness of the finest gold; but in either case the real value of both continues the same, although the currency may be somewhat impeded.
To be satisfied with the acquittal of the world, though accompanied with the secret condemnation of conscience, this is the mark of a little mind; but it requires a soul of no common stamp to be satisfied with its own acquittal, and to despise the condemnation of the world.
To cure us of our immoderate love of gain, we should seriously consider how many goods there are that money will not purchase, and these the best; and how many evils there are that money will not remedy, and these the worst.
To despise our species is the price we must often pay for our knowledge of it.
To diminish envy, let us consider not what others possess, but what they enjoy; mere riches may be the gift of lucky accident or blind chance, but happiness must be the result of prudent preference and rational design; the highest happiness then can have no other foundation than the deepest wisdom; and the happiest fool is only as happy as he knows how to be.
To judge by the event is an error all commit: for in every instance courage, if crowned with success, is heroism; if clouded by defeat, temerity. When Nelson fought his battle in the Sound, it was the result alone that decided whether he was to kiss a hand at court or a rod at a court-martial.
To know a man, observe how he wins his object, rather than how he loses it; for when we fail, our pride supports us,—when we succeed, it betrays us.
To know the pains of power, we must go to those who have it; to know its pleasure, we must go to those who are seeking it; the pains of power are real, its pleasures imaginary.
To sentence a man of true genius to the drudgery of a school is to put a race-horse in a mill.
To-morrow!—it is a period nowhere to be found in all the hoary registers of time, unless perchance in the fool’s calendar.
Too high an appreciation of our own talents is the chief cause why experience preaches to us all in vain.
True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander.
True friendship is like sound health, the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.
Truth can hardly be expected to adapt herself to the crooked policy and wily sinuosities of worldly affairs; for truth, like light, travels only in straight lines.
Two things, well considered, would prevent many quarrels: first, to have it well ascertained whether we are not disputing about terms, rather than things; and, secondly, to examine whether that on which we differ is worth contending about.
Tyrants have not yet discovered any chains that can fetter the mind.
Unlike the sun, intellectual luminaries shine brightest after they set.
Vanity finds in self-love so powerful an ally that it storms, as it were, by a coup de main, the citadel of our heads, where, having blinded the two watchmen, it readily descends into the heart.
Vanity has no sex.
Very great personages are not likely to form very just estimates either of others or of themselves; their knowledge of themselves is obscured by the flattery of others; their knowledge of others is equally clouded by circumstances peculiar to themselves. For in the presence of the great, the modest are sure to suffer from too much diffidence, and the confident from too much display.
Villains are usually the worst casuists, and rush into greater crimes to avoid less. Henry VIII. committed murder to avoid the imputation of adultery; and in our times, those who commit the latter crime attempt to wash off the stain of seducing the wife by signifying their readiness to shoot the husband.
Villainy that is vigilant will be an overmatch for virtue, if she slumber at her post.
Virtue, without talent is a coat of mail without a sword; it may indeed defend the wearer, but will not enable him to protect his friend.
Vivacity in youth is often mistaken for genius, and solidity for dulness.
War kills men, and men deplore the loss; but war also crushes bad principles and tyrants, and so saves societies.
Wars are to the body politic, what drams are to the individual. There are times when they may prevent a sudden death, but if frequently resorted to, or long persisted in, they heighten the energies only to hasten the dissolution.
We are more inclined to hate one another for points on which we differ, than to love one another for points on which we agree. The reason perhaps is this; when we find others that agree with us, we seldom trouble ourselves to confirm that agreement; but when we chance on those who differ from us, we are zealous both to convince and to convert them. Our pride is hurt by the failure, and disappointed pride engenders hatred.
We are ruined, not by what we really want, but by what we think we do. Therefore never go abroad in search of your wants; if they be real wants, they will come home in search of you. For he that buys what he does not want, will soon want what he cannot buy.
We are sure to be losers when we quarrel with ourselves; it is a civil war, and in all such contentions, triumphs are defeats.
We ask advice, but we mean approbation.
We cannot think too highly of our nature, nor too humbly of ourselves. When we see the martyr to virtue, subject as he is to the infirmities of a man, yet suffering the tortures of a demon, and bearing them with the magnanimity of a God, do we not behold a heroism that angels may indeed surpass, but which they cannot imitate, and must admire.
We devote the activity of our youth to revelry and the decrepitude of our old age to repentance: and we finish the farce by bequeathing our dead bodies to the chancel, which when living, we interdicted from the church.
We hate some persons because we do not know them; and we will not know them because we hate them. The friendships that succeed to such aversions are usually firm; for those qualities must be sterling that could not only gain our hearts, but conquer our prejudices.
We injure mysteries, which are matters of faith, by any attempt at explanation in order to make them matters of reason. Could they be explained, they would cease to be mysteries; and it has been well said that a thing is not necessarily against reason because it happens to be above it.
We know the effects of many things, but the cause of few; experience, therefore, is a surer guide than imagination, and inquiry than conjecture.
We may anticipate bliss but who ever drank of that enchanted cup unalloyed?
We must be careful how we flatter fools too little, or wise men too much; for the flatterer must act the very reverse of the physician, and administer the strongest dose only to the weakest patient.
We must suit the flattery to the mind and taste of the recipient. We do not put essences into hogsheads, nor porter into phials. Delicate minds may be disgusted by compliments that would please a grosser intellect; as some fine ladies who would be shocked at the idea of a dram will not refuse a liqueur.
We often pretend to fear what we really despise, and more often to despise what we really fear.
We often regret we did not do otherwise, when that very otherwise would, in all probability, have done for us.
We shall at all times chance upon men of recondite acquirements, but whose qualifications, from the incommunicative and inactive habits of their owners, are as utterly useless to others as though the possessors had them not.
We should act with as much energy as those who expect everything from themselves; and we should pray with as much earnestness as those who expect everything from God.
We should have a glorious conflagration if all who cannot put fire into their works would only consent to put their works into the fire.
We should have all our communications with men, as in the presence of God; and with God, as in the presence of men.
We should not be too niggardly in our praise, for men will do more to support a character than to raise one.
We should pray with as much earnestness as those who expect everything from God; we should act with as much energy as those who expect everything from themselves.
We strive as hard to hide our hearts from ourselves as from others, and always with more success; for in deciding upon our own case we are both judge, jury, and executioner, and where sophistry cannot overcome the first, or flattery the second, self-love is always ready to defeat the sentence by bribing the third.
We submit to the society of those that can inform us, but we seek the society of those whom we can inform. And men of genius ought not to be chagrined if they see themselves neglected. For when we communicate knowledge, we are raised in our own estimation; but when we receive it, we are lowered.
Wealth, after all, is a relative thing, since he that has little, and wants less, is richer than he that has much but wants more.
Were we as eloquent as angels, yet should we please some men and some women much more by listening than by talking.
When all moves equally (says Pascal), nothing seems to move, as in a vessel under sail; and when all run by common consent into vice, none appear to do so. He that stops first, views as from a fixed point the horrible extravagance that transports the rest.
When I meet with any persons who write obscurely or converse confusedly, I am apt to suspect two things; first, that such persons do not understand themselves; and secondly, that they are not worthy of being understood by others.
When in reading we meet with any maxim that may be of use, we should take it for our own, and make an immediate application of it, as we would of the advice of a friend whom we have purposely consulted.
When the air balloon was first discovered, some one flippantly asked Dr. Franklin what was the use of it. The doctor answered this question by asking another: “What is the use of a new-born infant? It may become a man.”
When the cruel fall into the hands of the cruel, we read their fate with horror, not with pity. Sylla commanded the bones of Marius to be broken, his eyes to be pulled out, his hands to be cut off, and his body to be torn in pieces with pinchers; and Catiline was the executioner. “A piece of cruelty,” says Seneca, “only fit for Marius to suffer, Catiline to execute, and Sylla to command.”
When the million applaud you, seriously ask yourself what harm you have done; when they censure you, what good!
When we are in doubt and puzzle out the truth by our own exertions, we have gained a something that will stay by us, and which will serve us again. But, if to avoid the trouble of the search, we avail ourselves of the superior information of a friend, such knowledge will not remain with us; we have not bought, but borrowed it.
When we are in the company of sensible men, we ought to be doubly cautious of talking too much, lest we lose two good things, their good opinion and our own improvement; for what we have to say we know, but what they have to say we know not.
When we feel a strong desire to thrust our advice upon others, it is usually because we suspect their weakness; but we ought rather to suspect our own.
When young, we trust ourselves too much, and we trust others too little when old. Rashness is the error of youth, timid caution of age. Manhood is the isthmus between the two extremes; the ripe and fertile season of action, when alone we can hope to find the head to contrive, united with the hand to execute.
Where true religion has prevented one crime, false religions have afforded a pretext for a thousand.
Where we cannot invent, we may at least improve; we may give somewhat of novelty to that which was old, condensation to that which was diffuse, perspicuity to that which was obscure, and currency to that which was recondite.
Wit in women is a jewel, which, unlike all others, borrows lustre from its setting, rather than bestows it; since nothing is so easy as to fancy a very beautiful woman extremely witty.
With respect to the authority of great names, it should be remembered that he alone deserves to have any weight or influence with posterity who has shown himself superior to the particular and predominant error of his own time.
With the offspring of genius, the law of parturition is reversed; the throes are in the conception, the pleasure in the birth.
Women do not transgress the bounds of decorum so often as men; but when they do, they go greater lengths.
Women that are the least bashful are often the most modest.
Women who are the least bashful are not unfrequently the most modest; and we are never more deceived than when we would infer any laxity of principle from that freedom of demeanor which often arises from a total ignorance of vice.
Words indeed are but the signs and counters of knowledge, and their currency should be strictly regulated by the capital which they represent.
Worldly wisdom dictates to her disciples the propriety of dressing somewhat beyond their means, but of living somewhat within them.
You may forgive, and so will I; but I will not forget, though I control my anger.