English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
The man who will live above his present circumstances is in great danger of living in a little time much beneath them, or, as the Italian proverb says: The man who lives by hope will die by despair.
The ordinary writers of morality prescribe to their readers after the Galenic way; their medicines are made up in large quantities. An essay-writer must practice in the chemical method, and give the virtue of a full draught in a few drops. Were all books reduced thus to their quintessence, many a bulky author would make his appearance in a penny paper. There would be scarce such a thing in nature as a folio; the works of an age would be contained on a few shelves; not to mention millions of volumes that would be utterly annihilated.
The promiscuous and undistinguishing distribution of good and evil which was necessary for carrying on the designs of Providence in this life, will be rectified in another.
The spacious firmament on high, with all the blue ethereal sky, and spangled heavens, a shining frame, their great original proclaim. Forever singing, as they shine, the hand that made us is divine.
The truth of it is, I look upon a sound imagination as the greatest blessing in life, next to a clear judgment, and a good conscience. In the meantime, since there are very few whose minds are not more or less subject to these dreadful thoughts and apprehensions, we ought to arm ourselves against them by the dictates of reason and religion, ?to pull the old woman out of our hearts? (as Persius expresses it in the motto of my paper) and extinguish those impertinent notions which we imbibed at a time that we are not able to judge of their absurdity. Or if we believe, as many wise and good men have done, that there are such phantoms and apparitions as those I have been speaking of, let us endeavor to establish to ourselves an interest in Him who holds the reins of the whole creation in his hands, and moderates them after such a manner that it is impossible for one being to break loose upon another without his knowledge and permission.
The want of vowels in our language has been the general complaint of our politest authors, who nevertheless have made these retrenchments, and consequently increased our former scarcity.
There are many shining qualities on the mind of man; but none so useful as discretion. It is this which gives a value to all the rest, and sets them at work in their proper places, and turns them to the advantage of their possessor. Without it, learning is pedantry; wit, impertinence; virtue itself looks like weakness; and the best parts only qualify a man to be more sprightly in errors, and active to his own prejudice. Though a man has all other perfections and wants discretion, he will be of no great consequence in the world; but if he has this single talent in perfection, and but a common share of others, he may do what he pleases in his station of life.
There is another kind of vicious modesty which makes a man ashamed of his person, his birth, his profession, his poverty, or the like misfortunes, which it was not in his choice to prevent, and is not in his power to rectify. If a man appears ridiculous by any of the afore-mentioned circumstances, he becomes much more so by being out of countenance for them. They should rather give him occasion to exert a noble spirit, and to palliate those imperfections which are not in his power, by those perfections which are; or to use a very witty allusion of an eminent author, he should imitate C‘sar, who, because his head was bald, cover?d that defect with laurels.
There is no virtue so truly great and godlike as Justice. Most of the other virtues are the virtues of created Beings, or accommodated to our nature as we are men. Justice is that which is practiced by God himself, and to be practiced in its perfection by none but him. Omniscience and Omnipotence are requisite for the full exertion of it. The one, to discover every degree of uprightness or iniquity in thoughts, words and actions. The other, to measure out and impart suitable rewards and punishments.
There is nothing truly valuable which can be purchased without pains and labor. The gods have set a price upon every real and noble pleasure.
They are obliged indeed to be thus lavish of their praises, that they may keep one another in countenance; and it is no wonder if a great deal of knowledge, which is not capable of making a man wise, has a natural tendency to make him vain and arrogant.
This Mr. Dryden calls `the fairy way of writing'.
Providence delegates to the supreme magistrate the same power for the good of men which that supreme magistrate transfers to those several substitutes who act under him.
Ridicule is generally made use of to laugh men out of virtue and good sense, by attacking everything praiseworthy in human life.
Sir Francis Bacon observed that a well-written book, compared with its rivals and antagonists, is like Moses' serpent, that immediately swallowed up and devoured those of the Egyptians.
Such considerations, which everyone should perpetually cherish in his thoughts, will banish from us all that secret heaviness of heart which unthinking men are subject to when they lie under no real affliction; all that anguish which we may feel from any evil that actually oppresses us, to which I may likewise add those little cracklings of mirth and folly that are apter to betray virtue than to support it; and establish in us such an even and cheerful temper as makes us pleasing to ourselves, to those with whom we converse, and to Him whom we were made to please.
That heav?n would want spectators. God want praise.
The chief ingredients in the composition of those qualities that gain esteem and praise, are good nature, truth, good sense, and good breeding
The Fashionable World is grown free and easie; our Manners sit more loose upon us: Nothing is so modish as an agreeable Negligence. In a word, Good Breeding shows it self most, where to an ordinary Eye it appears the least.
The great art of a writer shows itself in the choice of pleasing allusions, which are generally to be taken from the great or beautiful works of art or nature; for, though whatever is new or uncommon is apt to delight the imagination, the chief design of an allusion being to illustrate and explain the passages of an author, it should be always borrowed from what is more known and common than the passages which are to be explained.
The important question is not what will yield to man a few scattered pleasures, but what will render his life happy on the whole amount.
The memory is perpetually looking back when we have nothing present to entertain us: it is like those repositories in animals that are filled with stores of food, on which they may ruminate when their present pasture fails.
The Pagan converts mention this great reformation of those who had been the greatest sinners, with that sudden and surprising change which the Christian religion made in the lives of the most profligate.
The prospect of a future state is the secret comfort and refreshment of my soul; it is that which makes nature look gay about me; it doubles all my pleasures, and supports me under all my afflictions. I can look at disappointments and misfortunes, pain and sickness, death itself, and, what is worse than death, the loss of those who are dearest to me, with indifference, so long as I keep in view the pleasures of eternity, and the state of being in which there will be no fears nor apprehensions, pains nor sorrows, sickness nor separation. Why will any man be so impertinently officious as to tell me all this is 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.
The stage might be made a perpetual source of the most noble and useful entertainment, were it under proper regulations.