English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
To account for this, we must consider that the first race of authors, who were the great heroes in writing, were destitute of all rules and arts of criticism; and for that reason, though they excel later writers in greatness of genius, they fall short of them in accuracy and correctness. The moderns cannot reach their beauties, but can avoid their imperfections. When the world was furnished with these authors of the first eminence, there grew up another set of writers, who gained themselves a reputation by the remarks which they made on the works of those who preceded them.
Towards those who communicate their thoughts in print I cannot but look with a friendly regard, provided there is no tendency in their writings to vice.
Vanity is the natural weakness of an ambitious man, which exposes him to the secret scorn and derision of those he converses with, and ruins the character he is so industrious to advance by it.
We find out some excuse or other for deferring good resolutions.
Were not men of abilities thus communicative, their wisdom would be in a great measure useless, and their experience uninstructive.
What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the soul.
When honor is a support to virtuous principles, and runs parallel with the laws of God and our country, it cannot be too much cherished and encouraged; but when the dictates of honor are contrary to those of religion and equity, they are the greatest deprivations of human nature, by giving wrong ambitions and false ideas of what is good and laudable; and should therefore be exploded by all governments, and driven out as the bane and plague of human society.
When I was in the theatre the time above mentioned, I had the curiosity to count the patches on both sides, and found the tory patches to be about twenty stronger than the whig; but, to make amends for this small inequality, I the next morning found the whole puppet-show filled with faces spotted after the whiggish manner. Whether or no the ladies had retreated hither in order to rally their forces I cannot tell; but the next night they came in so great a body to the opera that they outnumbered the enemy.
When we therefore choose our companions for life, if we hope to keep both them and ourselves in good humor to the last stage of it, we must be extremely careful in the choice we make, as well as in the conduct on our own part. When the persons to whom we join ourselves can stand an examination and bear the scrutiny; when they mend upon our acquaintance with them, and discover new beauties the more we search into their characters; our love will naturally rise in proportion to their perfections.
Why wilt thou add to all the griefs I suffer imaginary ills, and fancy'd tortures?
Thus Cowley in his poem on the Resurrection, mentioning the destruction of the universe, has these admirable lines:
To an honest mind the best perquisites of a place are the advantages it gives a man of doing good.
Tradition is an important help to history, but its statements should be carefully scrutinized before we rely on them.
Virgil falls infinitely short of Homer in the characters of his poem, both as to their variety and novelty. ’neas is indeed a perfect character; but as for Achates, though he is styled the hero?s friend, he does nothing in the whole poem which may deserve that title. Gyas, Mnestheus, Sergestus, and Cloanthes, are all of them men of the same stamp and character.
We find that Good and Evil happen alike to all Men on this Side of the Grave; and as the principle Design of Tragedy is to raise Commiseration and Terror in the Minds of the Audience, we shall defeat this great End, if we always make Virtue and Innocence happy and successful.
Were not this desire of fame very strong, the difficulty of obtaining it, and the danger of losing it when obtained, would be sufficient to deter a man from so vain a pursuit.
What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.
When honor runs parallel with the laws of God and our country, it cannot be too much cherished; but when the dictates of honor are contrary to those of religion and equity, they are the great depravations of human nature.
When I was some Years younger than I am at present, I used to employ myself in a more laborious Diversion, which I learned from a Latin Treatise of Exercises that is written with great Erudition: It is there called the [foreign term], or the fighting with a Man?s own Shadow, and consists in the brandishing of two short Sticks grasped in each Hand, and loaden with Plugs of Lead at either End. This opens the Chest, exercises the Limbs, and gives a Man all the Pleasure of Boxing, without the Blows. I could wish that several Learned Men would lay out that Time which they employ in Controversies and Disputes about nothing, in this Method of fighting with their own Shadows. It might conduce very much to evaporate the Spleen, which makes them uneasy to the Public as well as to themselves.
When you are at Rome, live as Romans live.
Why, a spirit is such a little, little thing, that I have heard man, who was a great scholar, say that he'll dance ye a hornpipe upon the point of a needle.
This, among other motives, may be one reason why we are naturally averse to the launching out into a man?s praise till his head is laid in the dust. Whilst he is capable of changing, we may be forced to retract our opinions. He may forfeit the esteem we have conceived of him, and some time or other appear to us under a different light from what he does at present. In short, as the life of any man cannot be called happy or unhappy, so neither can it be pronounced vicious or virtuous, before the conclusion of it.
Thus I live in the world rather as a Spectator of mankind, than as one of the species, by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and artisan, without ever meddling with any practical part of life.
To be an atheist requires an indefinitely greater measure of faith than to receive all the great truths which atheism would deny.