Hugh Blair


Scottish Divine

Author Quotes

Compassion is an emotion of which we ought never to be ashamed. Graceful, particularly in youth, is the tear of sympathy, and the heart that melts at the tale of woe. We should not permit ease and indulgence to contract our affections, and wrap us up in a selfish enjoyment; but we should accustom ourselves to think of the distresses of human, life, of the solitary cottage; the dying parent, and the weeping orphan. Nor ought we ever to sport with pain and distress in any of our amusements, or treat even the meanest insect with wanton cruelty. Hugh Blair

It is not easy to describe in words the precise impression which great and sublime objects make upon us when we behold them; but every one has a conception of it. It produces a sort of internal elevation and expansion; it raises the mind much above its ordinary state, and fills it with a degree of wonder and astonishment which it cannot well express. The emotion is certainly delightful, but it is altogether of the serious kind; a degree of awfulness and solemnity, even approaching to severity, commonly attends it when at its height, very distinguishable from the more gay and brisk emotion raised by beautiful objects.

The self-conceit of the young is the great source of those dangers to which they are exposed.

Conscience is too great a power in the nature of man to be altogether subdued: it may for a time be repressed and kept dormant; but conjectures there are in human life which awaken it; and when once re-awakened, it flashes on the sinner’s mind with all the horrors of an invisible ruler and a future judgment.

It is pride which plies the world with so much harshness and severity. - We are as rigorous to offences as if we had never offended.

The sinner is not only liable to that disappointment of success which so often prostrates all the designs of men, but liable to a disappointment still more cruel, of being successful and miserable at once.

Dissimulation in youth is the forerunner of perfidy in old age. - It degrades parts and learning, obscures the luster of every accomplishment, and sinks us into contempt. - The path of falsehood is a perplexing maze. - One artifice leads on to another, till, as the intricacy of the labyrinth increases, we are left entangled in our own snare.

It is proper also to observe, that genius is a word which, in common acceptation, extends much further than to the objects of taste. It is used to signify that talent or aptitude which we receive from nature for excelling in any one thing whatever. Thus, we speak of a genius for mathematics, as well as a genius for poetry—of a genius for war, for politics, or for any mechanical employment.

The soul of man can never divest itself wholly of anxiety about its fate hereafter: there are hours when, even to the prosperous, in the midst of their pleasures, eternity is an awful thought; but how much more when those pleasures, one after another, begin to withdraw; when life alters its forms, and becomes dark and cheerless—when its changes warn the most inconsiderate that what is so mutable will soon pass entirely away. Then with pungent earnestness comes home that question to the heart, “Into what world are we next to go?” How miserable the man who, under the distractions of calamity, hangs doubtful about an event which so nearly concerns him; who, in the midst of doubts and anxieties, approaching to that awful boundary which separates this world from the next, shudders at the dark prospect before him, wishing to exist after death, and yet afraid of that existence; catching at every feeble hope which superstition can afford him, and trembling in the same moment from reflection upon his crimes!

Exercise is the chief source of improvement in our faculties

Life will frequently languish, even in the hands of the busy, if they have not some employment subsidiary to that which forms their main pursuit.

The sublime rejects mean, low, or trivial expressions; but it is equally an enemy to such as are turgid.

Fretfulness of temper will generally characterize those who are negligent of order.

O cursed lust of gold! when, for thy sake, the fool throws up his interest in both worlds, first starved in this, then damned in that to come!

There are indeed few good dispositions of any kind with which the improvement of taste is not more or less connected. A cultivated taste increases sensibility to all the tender and humane passions by giving them frequent exercise; while it tends to weaken the more violent and fierce emotions:

A fourth rule for constructing sentences with proper strength is to make the members of them go on rising and growing in their importance above one another. This sort of arrangement is called a climax, and is always considered as a beauty in composition.

From reading the most admired productions of genius, whether in poetry or prose, almost every one rises with some good impressions left on his mind; and though these may not always be durable, they are at least to be ranked among the means of disposing the heart to virtue. One thing is certain, that without possessing the virtuous affections in a strong degree, no man can attain eminence in the sublime parts of eloquence. He must feel what a good man feels, if he expects greatly to move or to interest mankind. They are the ardent sentiments of honour, virtue, magnanimity, and public spirit, that only can kindle that fire of genius, and call up into the mind those high ideas which attract the admiration of ages; and if this spirit be necessary to produce the most distinguished efforts of eloquence, it must be necessary also to our relishing them with proper taste and feeling.

Of all the follies incident to youth, there are none which blast their prospects, or render them more contemptible, than self-conceit, presumption, and obstinacy. By checking progress in improvement, they fix one in long immaturity, and produce irreparable mischief.

Though Milton is most distinguished for his sublimity, yet there is also much of the beautiful, the tender, and the pleasing in many parts of his work.

A good man acts with a vigor, and suffers with a patience, more than human, when he believes himself countenanced by the Almighty.

Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manner.

Of all the means which human ingenuity has contrived for recalling the images of real objects, and awakening, by representation, similar emotions to those which were raised by the originals, none is so full and extensive as that which is created by words and writing.

Throughout the whole vegetable, sensible, and rational world, whatever makes progress towards maturity, as soon as it has passed that point, begins to verge towards decay.

A joyless and dreary season will old age prove, if we arrive at it with an unimproved or corrupted mind. For this period, as for everything, certain preparation is necessary; and that preparation consists in the acquisition of knowledge, friends, and virtue. Then is the time when a man would especially wish to find himself surrounded by those who love and respect him,—who will bear with his infirmities, relieve him of his labors, and cheer him with their society. Let him, therefore, now in the summer of his days, while yet active and flourishing, by acts of seasonable kindness and benevolence insure that love, and by upright and honorable conduct lay the foundation for that respect which in old age he would wish to enjoy. In the last place, let him consider a good conscience, peace with God, and the hope of heaven, as the most effectual consolations he can possess when the evil days shall come.

Gentleness, which belongs to virtue, is to be carefully distinguished from the mean spirit of cowards, and the fawning assent of sycophants. It removes no just right from fear; it gives up no important truth from flattery; it is, indeed, not only consistent with a firm mind, but it necessarily requires a manly spirit and a fixed principle in order to give it any real value.

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Scottish Divine