English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
Readers who are in the flower of their youth should labor at those accomplishments which may set off their persons when their bloom is gone, and to lay in timely provisions for manhood and old age.
Self-discipline is that which, next to virtue, truly and essentially raises one man above another.
So inconsiderable is the satisfaction that fame brings along with it, and so great the disquietudes to which it makes us liable. The desire of it stirs up very uneasy motions in the mind, and is rather inflamed than satisfied by the presence of the thing desired. The enjoyment of it brings but very little pleasure, though the loss or want of it be very sensible and afflicting; and even this little happiness is so very precarious that it wholly depends upon the will of others. We are not only tortured by the reproaches which are offered us, but are disappointed by the silence of men when it is unexpected, and humbled even by their praises.
Suspicion is not less an enemy to virtue than to happiness; he that is already corrupt is naturally suspicious, and he that becomes suspicious will quickly be corrupt.
That vain and foolish hope which is misemployed on temporal objects produces many sorrows.
The consciousness of being loved softens the keenest pang even at the moment of parting; yea, even the eternal farewell is robbed of half of its bitterness when uttered in accents that breathe love to the last sigh.
The first is the exercise of virtue, in the most general acceptation of the word. The particular scheme which comprehends the social virtues may give employment to the most industrious temper, and find a man in business more than the most active station of life. To advise the ignorant, relieve the needy, comfort the afflicted, are duties that fall in our way almost every day of our lives. A man has frequent opportunities of mitigating the fierceness of a party; of doing justice to the character of a deserving man; of softening the envious, quieting the angry, and rectifying the prejudiced; which are all of them employments suited to a reasonable nature, and bring great satisfaction to the person who can busy himself in them with discretion.
The great received articles of the Christian religion have been so clearly proved, from the authority of that divine revelation, in which they are delivered, that it is impossible for those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see, not to be convinced of them. But were it possible for anything in the Christian faith to be erroneous, I can find no ill consequences in adhering to it. The great points of the incarnation and sufferings of our Savior produce naturally such habits of virtue in the mind of man, that, I say, supposing it were possible for us to be mistaken in them, the infidel himself must at least allow that no other system of religion could so effectually contribute to the heightening morality. They give us great ideas of the dignity of human nature, and of the love which the Supreme Being bears to his creatures, and consequently engage us in the highest acts of duty towards our Creator, our neighbor, and ourselves.
The intelligence of affection is carried on by the eye only; good-breeding has made the tongue falsify the heart, and act a part of continued restraint, while nature has preserved the eyes to herself, that she may not be disguised or misrepresented.
The moderns cannot reach their beauties, but can avoid their imperfections.
The passion for praise, which is so very vehement in the fair sex, produces excellent effects in women of sense, who desire to be admired for that which only deserves admiration; and I think we may observe, without a compliment to them, that many of them do not only live in a more uniform course of virtue, but with an infinitely greater regard to their honor, than what we find in the generality of our sex.
The Publisher of Scandal is more or less odious to Mankind, and criminal in himself, as he is influenced by any one or more of the foregoing Motives. But whatever may be the Occasion of spreading these false Reports, he ought to consider, that the Effect of them is equally prejudicial and pernicious to the Person at whom they are aimed. The Injury is the same, tho? the Principle from whence it proceeds may be different.
The sublime rises from the nobleness of the thoughts, the magnificence of the words, or the harmonious and lively turn of the phrase: the perfect sublime arises from all three together.
The truth of it is, there is nothing in history which is so improving to the reader as those accounts which we meet with of the deaths of eminent persons and of their behavior in that dreadful season. I may also add that there are no parts in history which affect and please the reader in so sensible a manner. The reason I take to be this: there is no other single circumstance in the story of any person, which can possibly be the case of everyone who reads it. A battle or a triumph are conjunctures in which not one man in a million is likely to be engaged: but when we see a person at the point of death, we cannot forbear being attentive to everything he says or does, because we are sure that some time or other we shall ourselves be in the same melancholy circumstances. The general, the statesman, or the philosopher, are perhaps characters which we may never act in, but the dying man is one whom, sooner or later, we shall certainly resemble.
The woman that deliberates is lost.
There are not more useful members in a commonwealth than merchants. They knit mankind together in a mutual intercourse of good offices, distribute the gifts of nature, find work for the poor, and wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great... Trade, without enlarging the British territories, has given us a kind of additional empire: it has multiplied the number of the rich, made our landed estates infinitely more valuable than they were formerly, and added to them an accession of other estates as valuable as the lands themselves.
There is no defense against criticism except obscurity.
There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude. It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance. It is not, like the practice of many other virtues, difficult and painful, but attended with so much pleasure, that were there no positive command which enjoined it, nor any recompense laid up for it hereafter, a generous mind would indulge in it for the natural gratification that accompanies it.
There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice. We look upon the man who gives it us as offering an affront to our understanding, and treating us like children or idiots. We consider the instruction as an implicit censure, and the zeal which any one shows for our good on such an occasion as a piece of presumption or impertinence. The truth of it is, the person who pretends to advise does, in that particular, exercise a superiority over us, and can have no other reason for it but that, in comparing us with himself, he thinks us defective either in our conduct or our understanding. For these reasons, there is nothing so difficult as the art of making advice agreeable; and indeed all the writers, both ancient and modern, have distinguished themselves among one another according to the perfection at which they have arrived in this art. How many devices have been made use of to render this bitter potion palatable! Some convey their instructions to us in the best chosen words, others in the most harmonious numbers; some in points of wit, and others in short proverbs.
They meet each other, mingling blaze with blaze.
This party spirit has so ill an effect on our morals, it has likewise a very great one upon our judgments.
Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.
Seneca thought Modesty so great a Check to Vice, that he prescribes to us the Practice of it in Secret, and advises us to raise it in ourselves upon imaginary Occasions, when such as are real do not offer themselves; for this is the Meaning of his Precept, that when we are by ourselves, and in our greatest Solitudes, we should fancy that Cato stands before us, and sees everything we do. In short, if you banish Modesty out of the World, she carries away with her half the Virtue that is in it.
So when an angel by divine command with rising tempests shakes a guilty land, such as of late o'er pale Britannia passed, calm and serene he drives the furious blast; and, pleas'd th' almighty's orders to perform, rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.
Sweet are the slumbers of the virtuous man.