English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
To this end, nothing is to be more carefully consulted than plainness. In a lady's attire this is the single excellence; for to be what some people call fine, is the same vice, in that case, as to be florid is in writing or speaking.
Upon laying a weight in one of the scales, inscribed eternity, though I threw in that of time, prosperity, affliction, wealth, and poverty, which seemed very ponderous, they were not able to stir the opposite balance.
We cannot have a single image that did not enter through the sight; but we have the power of altering and compounding those images into all the varieties of picture.
Were all the Vexations of Life put together, we should find that a great Part of them proceed from those Calumnies and Reproaches which we spread abroad concerning one another.
What pity is it That we can die, but once to serve our country.
When by reading or discourse we find ourselves thoroughly convinced of the truth of any article, and of the reasonableness of our belief in it, we should never after suffer ourselves to call it in question. We may perhaps forget the arguments which occasioned our conviction, but we ought to remember the strength they had with us, and therefore still to retain the conviction which they once produced. This is no more than what we do in every common art or science; nor is it possible to act otherwise, considering the weakness and limitation of our intellectual faculties.
When I see the motherly airs of my little daughters when playing with their puppets, I cannot but flatter myself that their husbands and children will be happy in the possession of such wives and mothers.
When we are asleep, joy and sorrow give us more vigorous sensations of pain or pleasure than at any other time.
Why will any man be so impertinently officious as to tell me all prospect of a future state is only fancy and delusion? Is there any merit in being the messenger of ill news. If it is a dream, let me enjoy it, since it makes me both the happier and better man.
Young men soon give and soon forget affronts; Old age is slow in both.
Through what new scenes and changes must we pass?
To a man of pleasure every moment appears to be lost, which partakes not of the vivacity of amusement.
Tom, hinted at his dislike at some trifle is mistress had said; she asked him how he would talk to her after marriage if he talked at this rate before.
Upon the whole, a contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world; and if in the present life his happiness arises from the subduing his desires, it will arise in the next from the gratification of them.
We cannot question but the happiness of a soul will be adequate to its nature; and that it is not endowed with any faculties which are to lie useless and unemployed. The happiness is to be the happiness of the whole man; and we may easily conceive to ourselves the happiness of the soul whilst any one of its faculties is in the fruition of its chief good. The happiness may be of a more exalted nature in proportion as the faculty employed is so: but as the whole soul acts in the exertion of any of its particular powers, the whole soul is happy in the pleasure which arises from any of its particular acts.
Were I to prescribe a rule for drinking, it should be formed upon a saying quoted by Sir William Temple: the first glass for myself, the second for my friends, the third for good humor, and the fourth for mine enemies.
What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul.
When he is stored with country images, if he would go beyond pastoral, and the lower kinds of poetry, he ought to acquaint himself with the pomp and magnificence of courts. He should be very well versed in everything that is noble and stately in the productions of art, whether it appear in painting or statuary; in the great works of architecture which are in their present glory, or in the ruins of those which flourished in former ages.
When I travelled, I took a particular delight in hearing the songs and fables that are come from father to son and are most in vogue among the common people of the countries through which I passed; for it is impossible that anything should be universally tested and approved by a multitude, though they are only the rabble of the nation, which hath not in it some peculiar aptness to please and gratify the mind of man. Human nature is the same in all reasonable creatures; and whatever falls in with it will meet with admirers among readers of all qualities and conditions.
When we suffer ourselves to be thus carried away by meer Beauty, or meer Wit, Omniamante, with all her Vice, will bear away as much of our Good-will as the most innocent Virgin or discreetest Matron; and there cannot be a more abject Slavery in this World, than to doat upon what we think we ought to to contemn: Yet this must be our Condition in all the Parts of Life, if we suffer ourselves to approve any Thing but what tends to the Promotion of what is good and honorable. If we would take true Pains with ourselves to consider all Things by the Light of Reason and Justice, tho? a Man were in the Height of Youth and amorous Inclinations, he would look upon a Coquet with the same Contempt or Indifference as he would upon a Coxcomb: The wanton Carriage in a Woman, would disappoint her of the Admiration which she aims at; and the vain Dress or Discourse of a Man would destroy the Comeliness of his Shape, or Goodness of his Understanding. I say the Goodness of his Understanding, for it is no less common to see Men of Sense commence Coxcombs, than beautiful Women become Immodest. When this happens ill either, the Favor we are naturally inclined to give to the good Qualities they have from Nature, should abate ill Proportion. But however just it is to measure the Value of Men by the Application of their Talents, and not by the Eminence of those Qualities abstracted from their Use; I say, however just such a Way of judging is, in all Ages as well as this, the Contrary has prevailed upon the Generality of Mankind. How many lewd Devices have been preserved from one Age to another, which had perished as soon as they were made, if Painters and Sculptors had been esteemed as much for the Purpose as the Execution of their Designs? Modest and well-governed Imaginations have by this Means lost the Representations of Ten Thousand charming Portraitures, filled with Images of innate Truth, generous Zeal, couragious Faith, and tender Humanity; instead of which, Satyrs, Furies, and Monsters are recommended by those Arts to a shameful Eternity.
Why will any man be so impertinently officious as to tell me all this is only fancy? If it is a dream, let me enjoy it.
Zeal for the good of one?s country a party of men have represented as chimerical and romantic.
Thus although the whole of Life is allowed by everyone to be short, the several Divisions of it appear long and tedious. We are for lengthening our Span in general, but would fain contract the Parts of which it is composed. The Usurer would be very well satisfied to have all the Time annihilated that lies between the present Moment and next Quarter-day.
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.