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Words are things—and a small drop of ink,
Wise men have said, are wearisome; who reads
Perhaps no writer has borrowed so little, and is so well entitled to the claim of "original," as Swift. Cardinal Polignac said, "Il a l'esprit créateur." "On ne me répond pas, mais peut-être on m'entend." 5
Il faut l'amour, ou la religion pour goûter la nature."
Oh! magic of love-unembellish'd by you
Has the garden a blush, or the herbage a hue ?o
La perte de l'espérance change entièrement le caractère.9
Fire from the mind, as vigour from the limb;
And life's enchanted cup but sparkles at the brim.10
But who can view the ripen'd rose, nor seek
To wear it? Who can curiously behold
3 See Swift's Works, xix. 182., Scott's ed. 5 Les derniers Mots de Delphine.
10 Childe Harold.
2 Milton (Par. Reg.).
4 Departed Spirits.
Je voudrais dire "et."
My lovely lady,
Have you left me off? I think it very long since I had the happiness of seeing either your pretty eyes, or improving by your pretty manners.'
It is a terrible thing that we cannot wish young ladies to be well, without wishing them to become old women.2
A feeling heart is certainly a right heart; nobody will contest that; but, when a man chooses to walk about in the world with a cambric handkerchief always in his hand, that he may always be ready to weep, either with man or beast, he makes me sick.3
Their humanity is at their horizon, and like the horizon always flies before them.1
In all professions do you not see every thing that has the least pretence to genius fly up to the capital -the centre of riches, luxury, taste, pride, extravagance-all that ingenuity is to fatten upon? 5
Open flatterers, and privy mockers.
Waller showed a little of both when, upon sight of the Duchess of Newcastle's verses on the death of a stag, he declared that he would give all his own compositions to have written them; and, being charged with the exorbitance of his adulation, answered that "nothing was too much to be given that a lady might be saved from the disgrace of such a vile performance."
1 Mrs. Abington (see Garrick Correspondence).
2 Dr. Johnson. See Life of Dr.
3 Mrs. Greville of Sterne.
Burney by his daughter.
4 Life of Burney.
6 Life by Johnson.
I have always suspected that the reading is right which requires many words to prove it wrong; and the emendation wrong which cannot, without so much labour, appear to be right.'
Seldom any splendid story is wholly true.2
Works "not known except to antiquaries and collectors of books, which are bought because they are scarce, and would not have been scarce had they been esteemed."3
L'esprit de la conversation consiste bien moins à en montrer beaucoup, qu'à en faire trouver aux autres: celui qui sort de votre entretien, content de soi et de son esprit, l'est de vous parfaitement. Les hommes n'aiment point à vous admirer, ils veulent plaire: ils cherchent moins à être instruits, et même réjouis, qu'à être goûtés et applaudis; et le plaisir le plus délicat est de faire celui d'autrui.*
The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and, instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are."
The merit of Shakspeare is such as the ignorant can take in, and the learned add nothing to."
Discretion of speech is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good words, or in good order."
To use too many circumstances ere one come to the matter is wearisome; to use none at all is blunt."
1 Johnson, Pref. to Shakspeare. 2 Ibid., Life of Dorset. 3 Ibid., Pref. to Shakspeare. 4 La Bruyère, 223. 5 Johnson. 7 Bacon, Essay 32. 8 Ibid., 32.
A man's nature runs either to herbs, or weeds; therefore, let him seasonably water the one, and destroy the other.'
Invent first, and then embellish; set down diligently your thoughts as they arise, in the first words that occur; and, when you have matter for your purpose, you will easily give it form.2
The method of Pope was, to write his first thoughts in his first words, and gradually to amplify, decorate, rectify, and refine them."
Pope was not content to satisfy; he desired to excel, and, therefore, always endeavoured to do his best; he did not court the candour, but dared the judgment of his reader, and expecting no indulgence from others he showed none to himself."
Alas! they would not do you wrong,
But all appearances are strong!
Make you less virtuous, learn'd, or wise?
I hate when Vice can bolt her arguments,
Let him who has respect for the judgment of posterity "consider, in old books, what he finds that he is glad to know; and what omissions he most regrets."
5 Swift (On Censure—a little varied).
1 Bacon, Essay 38.
6 Comus, 770.
He (Mr. Grenville) was bred to the law, which is, in my opinion, one of the first and noblest of human sciences; a science which does more to quicken and invigorate the understanding than all the other kinds of learning put together; but it is not apt, except in persons very happily born, to open and to liberalize the mind exactly in the same proportion.'
I would advise him (the student for the law) to study, most diligently, the divine works of Cicero ; which no man, in my opinion, ever perused without improving in elegance and wisdom.2
The incomparable genius of Cicero, which converts into gold every object that it touches.3
The 25th chapter of his third book de Oratore, seems to me to contain almost the whole theory of fine writing.4
Can we conceive any study more important than the single one of the laws of our own country?
Nor do I see why it is called dry and unpleasant; and I very much suspect it seems so to those only who would think any study unpleasant which required a great application of the mind, and exertion of the memory.
This science is, however, so complex, that, without writing, which is the chain of memory, it is impossible to remember a thousandth part of what we read or hear."
There is no knowledge, case, or point in law,
1 Burke (On American Taxation). 3 Gibbon.
2 Sir W. Jones.
4 Horner. (See Mem. by his brother). 5 Sir W. Jones. (See Life by Lord Teignmouth.)