English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician
The truth of it is, if all the happiness that is dispersed through the whole race of mankind in this world were drawn together, and put into the possession of any single man, it would not make a very happy being. Though, on the contrary, if the miseries of the whole species were fixed in a single person, they would make a very miserable one.
The way to silence calumny, says Bias, is to be always exercised in such things as are praise-worthy. Socrates, after having received sentence, told his friends that he had always accustomed himself to regard truth and not censure, and that he was not troubled at his condemnation, because he knew himself free from guilt. It was in the same spirit that he heard the accusations of his two great adversaries, who had uttered against him the most virulent reproaches.
There are many virtues which in their own nature are incapable of any outward representation; many silent perfections in the soul of a good man, which are great ornaments to human nature, but not able to discover themselves to the knowledge of others; they are transacted in private without noise or show, and are only visible to the great Searcher of hearts. What actions can express the entire purity of thought which refines and sanctifies a virtuous man? That secret rest and contentedness of mind which gives him a perfect enjoyment of his present condition? That inward pleasure and complacency which he feels in doing good? That delight and satisfaction which he takes in the prosperity and happiness of another?
There is another kind of virtue that may find employment for those retired hours in which we are altogether left to ourselves and destitute of company and conversation; I mean that intercourse and communication which every reasonable creature ought to maintain with the great Author of his being. The man who lives under an habitual sense of the divine presence keeps up a perpetual cheerfulness of temper, and enjoys every moment the satisfaction of thinking himself in company with his dearest and best of friends. The time never lies heavy upon him: it is impossible for him to be alone. His thoughts and passions are the most busied at such hours when those of other men are the most inactive. He no sooner steps out of the world but his heart burns with devotion, swells with hope, and triumphs in the consciousness of that presence which everywhere surrounds him; or, on the contrary, pours out its fears, its sorrows, its apprehensions, to the great Supporter of its existence.
There is nobody so weak of invention that cannot make some little stories to vilify his enemy.
There is nothing we receive with so much reluctance as advice.
They consume a considerable quantity of our paper manufacture, employ our artisans in printing, and find business for great numbers of indigent persons.
This national fault of being so very talkative looks natural and graceful in one that has gray hairs to countenance it.
Quick sensitivity is inseparable from a ready understanding.
Round-heads and wooden-shoes are standing jokes.
Sir Roger made several reflections on the greatness of the British Nation; as, that one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen; that we could never be in danger of Popery so long as we took care of our fleet; that the Thames was the noblest river in Europe...with many other honest prejudices which naturally cleave to the heart of a true Englishman.
Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week.
That rebellion is one of the most heinous crimes which it is in the power of man to commit, may appear from several considerations. First, as it destroys the end of all government, and the benefits of civil society. Government was instituted for maintaining the peace, safety, and happiness of a people. These great ends are brought about by a general conformity and submission to that frame of laws which is established in every community, for the protection of the innocent, and the punishment of the guilty. As on the one side men are secured in the quiet possession of their lives, properties, and everything they have a right to; so on the other side, those who offer them any injury in these particulars, are subject to penalties proportioned to their respective offences. Government, therefore, mitigates the inequality of power among particular persons, and makes an innocent man, though of the lowest rank, a match for the mightiest of his fellow subjects; since he has the force of the whole community on his side, which is able to control the insolence or injustice of any private oppressor. Now rebellion disappoints all these ends and benefits of government, by raising a power in opposition to that authority which has been established among a people for their mutual welfare and defense. So that rebellion is as great an evil to society, as government itself is a blessing.
The Circumstance which gives Authors an Advantage above all these great Masters [of other arts], is this, that they can multiply their Originals; or rather can make Copies of their Works, to what Number they please, which shall be as valuable as the Originals themselves. This gives a great Author something like a Prospect of Eternity, but at the same time deprives him of those other Advantages which Artists meet with. The Artist finds greater Returns in Profit, as the Author in Fame. What an Inestimable Price would a Virgil or a Homer, a Cicero or an Aristotle bear, were their Works like a Statue, a Building, or a Picture, to be confined only in one Place and made the Property of a single Person?
The fear of death often proves mortal, and sets people on methods to save their Lives, which infallibly destroy them.
The great magazine for all kinds of treasure is supposed to be the bed of the Tiber. We may be sure, when the Romans lay under the apprehensions of seeing their city sacked by a barbarous enemy, that they would take care to bestow such of their riches that way as could best bear the water.
The infusion of a China plant sweetened with the pith of an Indian cane.
The mind never unbends itself so agreeably as in the conversation of a well-chosen friend. There is indeed no blessing of life that is any way comparable to the enjoyment of a discreet and virtuous friend. It eases and unloads the mind, clears and improves the understanding, engenders thought and knowledge, animates virtue and good resolutions, soothes and allays the passions, and finds employment for most of the vacant hours of life.
The Paradise Lost is looked upon, by the best judges, as the greatest production, or at least the noblest work of genius, in our language, and therefore deserves to be set before an English reader in its full beauty.
The prospect of death is so gloomy and dismal that if it were constantly before our eyes it would embitter all the sweets of life. The gracious Author of our being hath therefore so formed us that we are capable of many pleasing sensations and reflections, and meet with so many amusements and solicitudes, as divert our thoughts from dwelling upon an evil which, by reason of its seeming distance, makes but languid impressions upon the mind. But how distant soever the time of our death may be, since it is certain that we must die, it is necessary to allot some portion of our life to consider the end of it; and it is highly convenient to fix some stated times to meditate upon the final period of our existence here. The principle of self-love, as we are men, will make us inquire what is like to become of us after our dissolution; and our conscience, as we are Christians, will inform us that according to the good or evil of our actions here, we shall be translated to the mansions of eternal bliss or misery. When this is seriously weighed, we must think it madness to be unprepared against the black moment; but when we reflect that perhaps that black moment may be to-night, how watchful ought we to be!
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself Grow dim with age, and Nature sink in years; But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth, Unhurt amid the war of elements, The wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds.
The truth of it is, learning, like travelling, and all other methods of improvement, as it finishes good sense, so it makes a silly man ten thousand times more insufferable, by supplying variety of matter to his impertinence, and giving him an opportunity of abounding in absurdities.
The ways of heaven are dark and intricate, Puzzled in mazes, and perplex'd with errors; Our understanding traces them in vain, Lost and bewilder'd in the fruitless search; Nor sees with how much art the windings run, Nor where the regular confusion ends.
There are men of concealed fire that doth not break out in the ordinary circumstances of life.
There is but one thing necessary to keep the Possession of true Glory, which is, to hear the Opposers of it with Patience, and preserve the Virtue by which it was acquired. When a Man is thoroughly persuaded that he ought neither to admire, wish for, or pursue anything but what is exactly his Duty, it is not in the Power of Seasons, Persons, or Accidents to diminish his Value: He only is a great Man who can neglect the Applause of the Multitude, and enjoy himself independent of its Favor. This is indeed an arduous Task; but it should comfort a glorious Spirit that it is the highest Step to which human Nature can arrive. Triumph, Applause, Acclamation, are dear to the Mind of Man; but it is still a more exquisite Delight to say to yourself, you have done well, than to hear the whole human Race pronounce you glorious, except you your self can join with them in your own Reflections. A Mind thus equal and uniform may be deserted by little fashionable Admirers and Followers, but will ever be had in Reverence by Souls like itself. The Branches of the Oak endure all the Seasons of the Year, though its Leaves fall off in Autumn; and these too will be restored with the returning Spring.