American Essayist and Critic
Edwin Percy Whipple
American Essayist and Critic
Nothing is rarer than the use of a word in its exact meaning.
Wit is an unexpected explosion of thought.
His genius, it is true, was of a peculiar kind; the genius of character, of thought, and the objects of thought solidified and concentrated into active faculty. He belongs to that rare class of men--rare as Homers and Miltons, rare as Platos and Newtons--who have impressed their characters upon nations without pampering national vices. Such men have natures broad enough to include all the facts of a people's practical life, and deep enough to discern the spiritual laws which underlie, animate, and govern those facts.
Nothing lives in literature but that which has in it the vitality of creative art; and it would be safe advice to the young to read nothing but what is old.
The invention of printing added a new element of power to the race. From that hour the brain and not the arm, the thinker and not the soldier, books and not kings, were to rule the world; and weapons, forged in the mind, keen-edged and brighter than the sunbeam, were to supplant the sword and the battle-ax.
Wit, bright, rapid, and blasting as the lightning, flashes, strikes, and vanishes, in an instant; humor, warm and all-embracing as the sunshine, bathes its object in a genial and abiding light.The very large, very respectable, and very knowing class of misanthropes who rejoice in the name of grumblers,--persons who are so sure that the world is going to ruin, that they resent every attempt to comfort them as an insult to their sagacity, and accordingly seek their chief consolation in being inconsolable, their chief pleasure in being displeased.
Humor implies a sure conception of the beautiful, the majestic, and the true, by whose light it surveys and shapes their opposites. It is an humane influence, softening with mirth the ragged inequalities of existence, prompting tolerant views of life, bridging over the spaces which separate the lofty from the lowly, the great from the humble.
Nothing really succeeds which is not based on reality; sham, in a large sense, is never successful. In the life of the individual, as in the more comprehensive life of the State, pretension is nothing and power is everything.
The laughter which it creates is impish and devilish, the very mirth of fiends, and its wit the gleam and glare of infernal light.
Humor, warm and all-embracing as the sunshine, bathes its objects in a genial and abiding light.
Of the three prerequisites of genius; the first is soul; the second is soul; and the third is soul.
The minister's brain is often the "poor-box" of the church.
In most old communities there is a common sense even in sensuality. Vice itself gets gradually digested into a system, is amenable to certain laws of conventional propriety and honor, has for its object simply the gratification of its appetites, and frowns with quite a conservative air on all new inventions, all untried experiments in iniquity.
Pretension is nothing; power is everything.
The purity of the critical ermine, like that of the judicial, is often soiled by contact with politics.
Irony is an insult conveyed in the form of a compliment
Sin, every day, takes out a patent for some new invention.
The strife of politics tends to unsettle the calmest understanding, and ulcerate the most benevolent heart. - There are no bigotries or absurdities too gross for parties to create or adopt under the stimulus of political passions.
Irony is an insult conveyed in the form of a compliment; insinuating the most galling satire under the phraseology of panegyric; placing its victim naked on a bed of briers and thistles, thinly covered with rose-leaves; adorning his brow with a crown of gold, which burns into his brain; teasing and fretting, and riddling him through and through, with incessant discharges of hot shot from a masked battery; laying bare the most sensitive and shrinking nerves of his mind, and then blandly touching them with ice, or smilingly pricking them with needles.
Some men find happiness in gluttony and in drunkenness, but no delicate viands can touch their taste with the thrill of pleasure, and what generosity there is in wine steadily refuses to impart its glow to their shriveled hearts.
There is a natural disposition with us to judge an author's personal character by the character of his works. We find it difficult to understand the common antithesis of a good writer and a bad man.
It is at once the thinnest and most effective of all the coverings under which duncedom sneaks and skulks.
Sydney Smith playfully says that common sense was invented by Socrates, that philosopher having been one of its most conspicuous exemplars in conducting the contest of practical sagacity against stupid prejudice and illusory beliefs.