American Essayist and Critic
Edwin Percy Whipple
American Essayist and Critic
In most old communities there is a common sense even in sensuality. Vice itself gets gradually digested into a system, is amenable to certain laws of conventional propriety and honor, has for its object simply the gratification of its appetites, and frowns with quite a conservative air on all new inventions, all untried experiments in iniquity.
Pretension is nothing; power is everything.
The purity of the critical ermine, like that of the judicial, is often soiled by contact with politics.
Irony is an insult conveyed in the form of a compliment
Sin, every day, takes out a patent for some new invention.
The strife of politics tends to unsettle the calmest understanding, and ulcerate the most benevolent heart. - There are no bigotries or absurdities too gross for parties to create or adopt under the stimulus of political passions.
Irony is an insult conveyed in the form of a compliment; insinuating the most galling satire under the phraseology of panegyric; placing its victim naked on a bed of briers and thistles, thinly covered with rose-leaves; adorning his brow with a crown of gold, which burns into his brain; teasing and fretting, and riddling him through and through, with incessant discharges of hot shot from a masked battery; laying bare the most sensitive and shrinking nerves of his mind, and then blandly touching them with ice, or smilingly pricking them with needles.
Some men find happiness in gluttony and in drunkenness, but no delicate viands can touch their taste with the thrill of pleasure, and what generosity there is in wine steadily refuses to impart its glow to their shriveled hearts.
There is a natural disposition with us to judge an author's personal character by the character of his works. We find it difficult to understand the common antithesis of a good writer and a bad man.
It is at once the thinnest and most effective of all the coverings under which duncedom sneaks and skulks.
Sydney Smith playfully says that common sense was invented by Socrates, that philosopher having been one of its most conspicuous exemplars in conducting the contest of practical sagacity against stupid prejudice and illusory beliefs.
There is a serious and resolute egotism that makes a man interesting to his friends and formidable to his opponents.
It marries ideas lying wide apart by a sudden jerk of the understanding.
Talent is a cistern; genius, a fountain.
There is a very large and very knowing class of misanthropes who rejoice in the name of grumblers, persons who are so sure that the world is going to ruin that they resent every attempt to comfort them as an insult to their sagacity, and accordingly seek their chief consolation in being inconsolable, and their chief pleasure in being displeased.
Men educate each other in reason by contact or collision, and keep each other sane by the very conflict of their separate hobbies. Society as a whole is the deadly enemy of the particular crotchet of each, and solitude is almost the only condition in which the acorn of conceit can grow to the oak of perfect self-delusion.
Tears are copiously showered over frailties the discoverer takes a malicious delight in circulating; and thus, all granite on one side of the heart, and all milk on the other, the unsexed scandal-monger hies from house to house, pouring balm from its weeping eyes on the wounds it inflicts with its stabbing tongue.
True wisdom, indeed, springs from the wide brain which is fed from the deep heart; and it is only when age warms its withering conceptions at the memory of its youthful fire, when it makes experience serve aspiration, and knowledge illumine the difficult paths through which thoughts thread their way into facts,--it is only then that age becomes broadly and nobly wise.
Mirth is a Proteus, changing its shape and manner with the thousand diversities of individual character, from the most superfluous gayety to the deepest, moat earnest humor.
The bitterest satires and noblest eulogies on married life have come from poets.
We all originally came from the woods! it is hard to eradicate from any of us the old taste for the tattoo and the war-paint; and the moment that money gets into our pockets, it somehow or another breaks out in ornaments on our person, without always giving refinement to our manners.
Most of the men of dignity, who awe or bore their more genial brethren, are simply men who possess the art of passing off their insensibility for wisdom, their dullness for depth, and of concealing imbecility of intellect under haughtiness of manner.
The contemplation of beauty in nature, in art, in literature, in human character, diffuses through our being a soothing and subtle joy, by which the heart's anxious and aching cares are softly smiled away.
We like the fine extravagance of that philosopher who declared that no man was as rich as all men ought to be.
My Lord Anson, at the Admiralty, sends word to Chatham, then confined to his chamber by one of his most violent attacks of the gout, that it is impossible for him to fit out a naval expedition within the period to which he is limited. "Impossible!" cried Chatham, glaring at the messenger; "who talks to me of impossibilities?" Then starting to his feet, and forcing out great drops of agony on his brow with the excruciating torment of the effort, he exclaimed, "Tell Lord Anson that he serves under a minister who treads on impossibilities!"