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There are some men of narrow views and grovelling conceptions, who, without the instigation of personal malice, treat every new attempt as wild and chimerical, and look upon every endeavour to depart from the beaten track, as the rash effort of a warm imagination, or the glittering speculation of an exalted mind, that may please and dazzle for a time, but can produce no real or lasting advantage.
Life of Blake, p. 191.
To play with important truths, to disturb the repose of established tenets, to subtilize objections, and elude proof, is too often the sport of youthful vanity, of which maturer experience commonly repents. There is a time when every man is weary of raising difficulties only to task himself with the solution, and desires to enjoy truth, without the labour or hazard of contest. Life of Sir Thomas Browne, p. 279.
There is not, perhaps, in all the stores of ideal anguish, a thought more painful than the consciousness of having propagated corruption by vitiating principles; of having not only drawn others from the paths of virtue, but blocked up the way by which they should return; of having blinded them to every beauty but the paint of pleasure; and deafened them to every call, but the alluring voice of the syrens of destruction.
Rambler, vol. 1, p. 191.
In solitude, if we escape the example of bad men, we likewise want the counsel and conver-sation of the good..
Prince of Abyssinia, p. 133.
The life of a solitary man will be certainly miserable, but not certainly devout..
To those who pass their time in solitude and retirement, it has been justly objected, that if they are happy, they are happy only in being useless; that mankind is one vast republic, where every individual receives many benefits from the labour of others, which by labouring in his turn for others, he is obliged to repay; and that where the united efforts of all are not able to exempt all from misery, none have a right to withdraw from their task of vigilance, or be indulged in idle wisdom and solitary pleasures.
Idler, vol. 1, p. 102,
The sharpest and most melting sorrow is that: which arises from the loss of those whom we have loved with tenderness. But friendship between mortals can be contracted on no other terms, than that one must some time mourn for the other's death; and this grief will always yield to the survivor one consolation proportionate to his affliction; for the pain, whatever it be, that he himself feels, his friend has escaped..
Rambler, vol. 1, p. 104.
It is urged by some, as a remedy for sorrow, to keep our minds always suspended in such indif
ference, that we may change the objects about us without emotion. An exact compliance with this rule might perhaps contribute to tranquillity, but surely it would never produce happiness. He that regards none so much as to be afraid of losing them, must live for ever without the gentle pleasures of sympathy and confidence. He must feel no melting confidence, no warmth of benevolence, nor any of those honest joys which nature annexes to the power of pleasing. And as no man can justly claim more tenderness than he pays, he must forfeit his share in that officious and watchful kindness which love can only dictate, and those lenient endearments by which love only can soften life.
Ibid. p. 285.
The safe and general antidote against sorrow, is employment. It is commonly observed, that among soldiers and seamen, though there is much kindness, there is little grief. They see their friend fall without any of that lamentation which is indulged in security and idleness, because they have no leisure to spare from the care of themselves; and whoever shall keep his thoughts equally busy, will find himself equally unaffected with irretrievable losses.
Ibid. p. 287.
Sorrow is a kind of rust to the soul, which. every new idea contributes in its passage to scour away. It is the putrefaction of stagnant life, and is remedied by exercise and motion.
The polite are always catching at modish innovations, and the learned depart from established
forms of speech, in hopes of finding or making better. But propriety resides in that kind of conversation which is above grossness and below refinement.
Preface to Shakspeare, p. 18.
Words, being arbitrary, must owe their power to association, and have the influence, and that only, which custom has given them.
Life of Cowley.
Words too familiar, or too remoté, defeat the purpose of a poet. From those sounds which we hear on small or coarse occasions, we do not easily receive strong impressions or delightful images; and words to which we are nearly strangers, whenever they occur, draw that attention on themselves, which they should convey to things. Life of Dryden.
An epithet or metaphor drawn from nature, ennobles art; an epithet or metaphor drawn from art, degrades nature.
Life of Gray.
There is a mode of style for which the masters of oratory have not as yet found a name; a style, by which the most evident truths are so obscured, that they can no longer be perceived, and the most familiar propositions so disguised, that they cannot be known. Every other kind of eloquence is the dress of sense, but this is the mask by which a true master of his art will so effectually conceal it, that a man will as easily mistake his own positions, if he meets them thus transformed, as he may pass, in a masquerade, his nearest acquaintance. Idler, vol. I, p. 203.
Few faults of style, whether real or imaginary, excite the malignity of a more numerous class of readers, than the use of hard words.But words are only hard to those who do not understand them and the critic ought always to enquire, whether he is incommoded by the fault of the writer, or by his own.
Ibid. vol. 2, p. 96.
Every language of a learned nation necessarily divides itself into diction, scholastic and popular, grave and familiar, elegant and gross; and, from a nice distinction of these different parts, arises a great part of the beauties of style. Life of Dryden.
It is not easy to distinguish affectation from habit; he that has once studiously formed a style, rarely writes afterwards with complete ease. Life of Pope.
Singularity, as it implies a contempt of general practice, is a kind of defiance, which justly provokes the history of ridicule. He, therefore, who indulges peculiar habits, is worse than others if he be not better.
Life of Swift.
He that encroaches on another's dignity, puts himself in his power; he is either repelled with helpless indignity, or endured by clemency and condescension. A great mind disdains to hold any thing by courtesy, and therefore never usurps
what a lawful claimant may take away. Ibid.