July 14, 2013
me+ME: William Hazlitt's "Characteristics"
1. Characteristics
About ME/CFS


Actually, this is is a first version of William Hazlitt's  (1778-1830)  "Characteristics: in the manner of Rochefoucault's maxims".

To be sure: It's a first version on my site: The original is nearly two centuries old.

I have used the second edition of 1837, and in fact mostly used the text-edition, that's less horrible than it might have been and indeed often is, in my experience.

All I have done on the moment is this:

  • I have removed Horne's introduction to the second edition, but retained Hazlitt's own, to the first.
  • I have removed quite a few - usually small - copying mistakes. (There remain some.)
  • I have corrected and standardized the Roman numbering and moved them towards the left, while
  • the pages are retained, at least by their page numbers and the contents.
  • The page numbers are centered.
Otherwise I have not done much, but this is the best html-edition of the work as is, though a few mistakes still have to be undone.

What's also missing are my notes, that - hopefully - will come later.

Here are three remarks:
  • I have done this because I could, and because Hazlitt is one of the best writers I know (though this is not his best work).
  • This does not mean I agree with all of his opinions (and indeed I do not).
  • The present edition is mostly for the rare admirers of Hazlitt, and I should remark it is over 400 Kb.
From here on, between the two lines, the text is William Hazlitt's.



THE following work was suggested by a perusal of Rochefoucault's
MAXIMS AND MORAL REFLECTIONS. I was so struck with the
force and beauty of the style and matter, that I felt an earnest
ambition to embody some occasional thoughts of my own in the
game form. This was much easier than to retain an equal degree
of spirit. Having, however, succeeded indifferently in a few, the
work grew under my hands; and both the novelty and agreeable-
ness of the task impelled me forward. There is a peculiar stimu-
lus, and at the same time a freedom from all anxiety, in this mode of writing. A thought must tell at once, or not at all. There is no opportunity for considering how we shall make out an opinion
by labour and prolixity. An observation must be self-evident ;
or a reason or illustration (if we give one) must be pithy and con-
cise. Each MAXIM should contain the essence or ground- work
of a separate Essay, but so developed as of itself to suggest a
whole train of reflections to the reader ; and it is equally necessary to avoid paradox or common-place. The style also must be sententious and epigrammatic, with a certain pointedness and involution of expression, so as to keep the thoughts distinct, and to prevent them from running endlessly into one another. Such
are the conditions to which it seemed to me necessary to conform,
in order to insure anything like success to a work of this kind ;
or to render the pleasure of the perusal equal to the difficulty of
the execution. There is only one point in which I dare even
allude to a comparison with Rochefoucault: I have had no theory
to maintain; and have endeavoured to set down each thought as
it occurred to me, without bias or prejudice of any sort.



OF all virtues, magnanimity is the rarest. There
are a hundred persons of merit for one who
willingly acknowledges it in another.


It is often harder to praise a friend than an
enemy. By the last we may acquire a reputa-
tion for candour ; by the first we only seem to
discharge a debt, and are liable to a suspicion
of partiality. Besides, though familiarity may
not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of ad-
miration ; and the shining points of character
are not those we chiefly wish to dwell upon.
Our habitual impression of any one is very dif-
ferent from the light in which he would choose
to appear before the public. We think of him
as a friend : we must forget that he is one, be-
fore we can extol him to others.



To speak highly of one with whom we are
intimate, is a species of egotism. Our modesty
as well as our jealousy teaches us caution on
this subject.


What makes it so difficult to do justice to
others is, that we are hardly sensible of merit,
unless it falls in with our own views and line of
pursuit; and where this is the case, it interferes
with our own pretensions. To be forward to
praise others, implies either great eminence, that
can afford to part with applause; or great quick-
ness of discernment, with confidence in our own
judgments; or great sincerity and love of truth,
getting the better of our self-love.


Many persons are so narrow in this respect,
that they cannot bring themselves to allow the
most trifling merit in any one else. This is not
altogether ill-nature, but a meanness of spirit
or want of confidence in themselves, which is
upset and kicks the beam, if the smallest par-
ticle of praise is thrown into another's scale.
They are poor feeble insects tottering along


the road to fame, that are crushed by the sha-
dow of opposition, or stopped by a whisper of


There are persons, not only whose praise,
but whose very names we cannot bear to hear.


There are people who cannot praise a friend
for the life of them. With every effort and all
the goodwill in the world, they shrink from the
task through a want of mental courage; as some
people shudder at plunging into a cold-bath
from weak nerves.


Others praise you behind your back, who will
not, on any account, do so to your face. Is it
that they are afraid of being taken for flatterers?
Or that they had rather any one else should
know they think well of you than yourself; as
a rival is the last person we should wish to hear
the favourable opinion of a mistress, because it
gives him most pleasure?


To deny undoubted merit in others, is to deny


its existence altogether, and consequently our
own. The example of illiberality we set is easily
turned against ourselves.


Magnanimity is often concealed under an ap-
pearance of shyness, and even poverty of spirit.
Heroes, according to Rousseau, are not known
by the loftiness of their carriage; as the greatest
braggarts are generally the merest cowards.


Men of the greatest genius are not always the
most prodigal of their encomiums. But then it
is when their range of power is confined, and they
have in fact little perception, except of their own
particular kind of excellence.


Popularity disarms envy in well-disposed
minds. Those are ever the most ready to do
justice to others, who feel that the world has
done them justice. When success has not this
effect in opening the mind, it is a sign that it
has been ill-deserved.



Some people tell us all the harm others as
carefully conceal all the good they hear of us.


It signifies little what we say of our acquaint-
ance, so that we do not tell them what others
say against them. Tale-bearers make all the
real mischief.


The silence of a friend commonly amounts
to treachery. His not daring to say any thing
in our behalf implies a tacit censure.


It is hard to praise those who are dispraised
by others. He is little short of a hero, who
perseveres in thinking well of a friend who has
become a butt for slander, and a bye-word.


However we may flatter ourselves to the con-
trary, our friends think no higher of us than
the world do. They see us with the jaundiced
or distrustful eyes of others. They may know


better, but their feelings are governed by po-
pular prejudice. Nay, they are more shy of us
(when under a cloud) than even strangers; for
we involve them in a common disgrace, or com-
pel them to embroil themselves in continual quar-
rels and disputes in our defence.


We find those who are officious and trou-
blesome through sheer imbecility of character.
They can neither resolve to do a thing, nor to
let it alone ; and by getting in the way, hinder
where perhaps they meant to help. To volun-
teer a service and shrink from the performance,
is to prevent others from undertaking it.


Envy, among other ingredients, has a mixture
of the love of justice in it. We are more angry
at undeserved than at deserved good-fortune.


We admit the merit of some, much less wil-
lingly than that of others. This is because
there is something about them, that is at vari-


ance with their boasted pretensions, either a
heaviness importing stupidity, or a levity infer-
ring folly, &c.


The assumption of merit is easier, less embar-
rassing, and more effectual than the positive at-
tainment of it.


Envy is the most universal passion. We only
pride ourselves on the qualities we possess or
think we possess ; but we envy the pretensions
we have, and those which we have not, and do
not even wish for. We envy the greatest qua-
lities and every trifling advantage. We envy
the most ridiculous appearance or affectation of
superiority. We envy folly and conceit: nay,
we go so far as to envy whatever confers dis-
tinction or notoriety, even vice and infamy.


Envy is a littleness of soul, which cannot see
beyond a certain point, and if it does not oc-
cupy the whole space, feels itself excluded.



Or, it often arises from weakness of judgment.
We cannot make up our minds to admit the
soundness of certain pretensions ; and therefore
hate the appearance, where we are doubtful
about the reality. We consider every such tax
on our applause as a kind of imposition or injus-
tice; so that the withholding our assent is from
a fear of being tricked out of our good opinion
under false pretences. This is the reason why
sudden or upstart advantages are always an ob-
ject of such extreme jealousy, and even of con-
tempt; and why we so readily bow to the claims
of posthumous and long-established reputation.
The last is the sterling coin of merit, which we
no longer question or cavil at. The other, we
think, may be tinsel ; and we are unwilling to
give our admiration in exchange for a bauble.
It is not that the candidates for it in the one
case are removed out of our way, and make a
diversion to the more immediate claims of our
contemporaries; but that their own are so clear
and universally acknowledged, that they come
home to our feelings and bosoms with their full
weight, without any drawbacks of doubt in our


own minds, or objection on the part of others.
If our envy were intrinsically and merely a ha-
tred of excellence and of the approbation due
to it, we should hate it the more, the more dis-
tinguished and unequivocal it was. On the
other hand, our faith in standard reputation is
a kind of religion; and our admiration of it, in-
stead of a cold, servile offering, an enthusiastic
homage. There are people who would attempt
to persuade us that we read Homer or Milton
with pleasure, only to spite some living poet.
With them, all our best actions are hypocrisy ;
and our best feelings, affectation.


The secret of our self-love is just the same as
that of our liberality and candour. We prefer
ourselves to others, only because we have a more
intimate consciousness and confirmed opinion of
our own claims and merits than of any other


It argues a poor opinion of ourselves, when
we cannot admit any other class of merit be-
sides our own, or any rival in that class.


Those who are the most distrustful of them-
selves, are the most envious of others ; as the
most weak and cowardly are the most revengeful.


Some persons of great talents and celebrity have
been remarkable for narrowness of mind and
an impatience of every thing like competition.
Garrick and other public favourites might be
mentioned as instances. This may perhaps be
accounted for, either from an undue and intoxi-
cating share of applause, so that they became
jealous of popularity, as of a mistress ; or from
a want of other resources, so as to be unable to
repose on themselves without the constant sti-
mulus of incense offered to their vanity.


We are more jealous of frivolous accomplish-
ments with brilliant success, than of the most
estimable qualities without it. Dr. Johnson en-
vied Garrick whom he despised, and ridiculed
Goldsmith whom he loved.


Persons of slender intellectual stamina dread


competition, as dwarfs are afraid of being run
over in the street. Yet vanity often prompts
them to hazard the experiment, as women
through fool-hardiness rush into a crowd.


We envy others for any trifling addition to
their acknowledged merit, more than for the
sum-total, much as we object to pay an addition
to a bill, or grudge an acquaintance an unex-
pected piece of good fortune. This happens,
either because such an accession of accomplish-
ment is like stealing a march upon us, and im-
plies a versatility of talent we had not reckoned
upon ; or it seems an impertinence and affecta-
tion for a man to go out of his way to distin-
guish himself; or it is because we cannot ac-
count for his proficiency mechanically and as a
thing of course, by saying, It is his trade! In
like manner, we plume ourselves most on ex-
celling in what we are not bound to do, and are
most flattered by the admission of our most
questionable pretensions. We nurse the ricketty
child, and want to have our faults and weak
sides pampered into virtues. We feel little
obliged to any one for owning the merit we are


known to have -it is an old story but we are
mightily pleased to be complimented on some
fancy we set up for it is a feather in our cap,
a new conquest, an extension of our sense of
power. A man of talent aspires to a reputation
for personal address or advantages. Sir Ro-
bert Walpole wished to pass for a man of gal-
lantry, for which he was totally unfit. A wo-
man of sense would be thought a beauty, a
beauty a great wit, and so on.


Some there are who can only find out in us
those good qualities which nobody else has dis-
covered : as there are others who make a point
of crying up our deserts, after all the rest of the
world have agreed to do so. The first are pa-
trons, not friends : the last are not friends, but


A distinction has been made between acute-
ness and subtlety of understanding. This might
be illustrated by saying, that acuteness consists
in taking up the points or solid atoms, subtlety
in feeling the air of truth.



Hope is the best possession. None are com-
pletely wretched but those who are without
hope ; and few are reduced so low as that.


Death is the greatest evil; because it cuts off


While we desire, we do not enjoy; and with
enjoyment desire ceases, which should lend its
strongest zest to it. This, however, does not
apply to the gratifications of sense, but to the
passions, in which distance and difficulty have a
principal share.


To deserve any blessing is to set a just value

on it. The pains we take in its pursuit are only
a consequence of this.


The wish is often " father to the thought :"
but we are quite as apt to believe what we dread
as what we hope.



The amiable is the voluptuous in expression
or manner. The sense of pleasure in ourselves
is that which excites it in others ; or, the art of
pleasing is to seem pleased.


Let a man's talents or virtues be what they
may, we only feel satisfaction in his society, as
he is satisfied in himself. We cannot enjoy the
good qualities of a friend, if he seems to be
none the better for them.


We judge of others for the most part by
their good opinion of themselves : yet nothing
gives such offence or creates so many enemies
as that extreme self-complacency or supercili-
ousness of manner, which appears to set the
opinion of every one else at defiance.


Self-sufficiency is more provoking than rude-
ness or the most unqualified or violent opposi-
tion, inasmuch as the latter may be retorted,
and implies that we are worth notice ; whereas


the former strikes at the root of our self-impor-
tance, and reminds us that even our good opi-
nion is not worth having. Nothing precludes
sympathy so much as a perfect indifference to


The confession of our failings is a thankless
office. It savours less of sincerity or modesty
than of ostentation. It seems as if we thought
our weaknesses as good as other people's vir-


A coxcomb is generally a favorite with wo-
men. To a certain point his self-complacency
is agreeable in itself; and beyond that, even if
it grows fulsome, it only piques their vanity the
more to make a conquest of his. He becomes
a sort of rival to them in his own good opinion,
so that his conceit has all the effect of jealousy
in irritating their desire to withdraw his admi-
ration from himself.


Nothing is more successful with women than
that sort of condescending patronage of the sex,


which goes by the name of general gallan-
try. It has the double advantage of imposing
on their weakness and flattering their pride.
By being indiscriminate, it tantalizes and keeps
them in suspense ; and by making a profession
of an extreme deference for the sex in general,
naturally suggests the reflection, what a delight-
ful thing it must be to gain the exclusive regard
of a man who has so high an opinion of what is
due to the female character. It is possible for
a man, by talking continually of what is femi-
nine or unfeminine, vulgar or genteel 9 by say-
ing how shocking such an article of dress is, or
that no lady ought to touch a particular kind of
food, fairly to starve or strip a whole circle of sim-
pletons half-naked, by mere dint of impertinence,
and an air of common-place assurance. How
interesting to be acquainted with a man whose
every thought turns upon the sex ! How charm-
ing to make a conquest of one who sets up for
a consummate judge of female perfections !


We like characters and actions which we do
not approve. There are amiable vices and ob-
noxious virtues, on the mere principle that our


sympathy with a person who yields to obvious
temptations and agreeable impulses (however
prejudicial) is itself agreeable ; while to sym-
pathize with exercises of self-denial or for-
titude, is a painful effort. Virtue costs the
spectator, as well as the performer, something.
We are touched by, the immediate motives of
actions, we judge of them by the consequences.
We like a convivial character better than an ab-
stemious one, because the idea of conviviality
in the first instance is pleasanter than that of
sobriety. For the same reason, we prefer ge-
nerosity to justice, because the imagination lends
itself more easily to an ebullition of feeling, than
to the suppression of it on remote and abstracted
principles ; and we like a good-natured fool, or
even knave better than the severe professors
of wisdom and morality. Cato, Brutus, &c. are
characters to admire and applaud, rather than
to love or imitate.


Personal pretensions alone ensure female re-
gard. It is not the eye that sees whatever is
sublime or beautiful in nature that the fair de-
light to see gazing in silent rapture on them-
selves, but that which is itself a pleasing object


to the sense. I may look at a Claude or a Ra-
phael by turns, but this does not alter my own
appearance ; and it is that which women attend


There are persons that we like, though they
do not like us. This happens very rarely; and
indeed it argues a strong presumption of merit
both in them and in ourselves. We fancy they
only want to know us better, to be convinced of
the prize they would obtain in our friendship.
There are others, to whom no civilities or good
offices on their parts can reconcile us, from an
original distaste: yet even this repugnance
would not, perhaps, be proof against time and


We may observe persons who seem to have a
peculiar delight in the disagreeable. They catch
all sorts of uncouth tones and gestures, the man-
ners and dialect of clowns and hoydens, and
aim at vulgarity as others ape gentility. (This
is what is often understood by a love of low
life.) They say all sorts of disagreeable things
without meaning or feeling what they say. What
startles or shocks other people is to them an


amusing excitement, a fillip to their constitu-
tions ; and from the bluntness of their percep-
tions and a certain wilfulness of spirit, not being
able to enter into the refined and pleasurable,
they make a merit of being insensible to every
thing of the kind. Masculine women, for in-
stance, are those who, not being possessed of
the charms and delicacy of the sex, affect a su-
periority over it by throwing aside all decorum.


We find another class who continually do
and say what they ought not, and what they do
not intend; and who are governed almost en-
tirely by an instinct of absurdity. Owing to a
perversity of imagination or irritability of nerve,
the idea that a thing is improper acts as a me-
chanical inducement to it ; the fear of commit-
ting a blunder is so strong, that they bolt out
whatever is uppermost in their minds, before
they are aware of it. The dread of some ob-
ject haunts and rivets attention to it; and a
continual, uneasy, morbid apprehensiveness of
temper takes away their self-possession, and hur-
ries them into the very mistakes they wish to



There are few people quite above, or com-
pletely below par.


Society is a more level surface than we ima-
gine. Wise men or absolute fools are hard to
be met with, as there are few giants or dwarfs.
The heaviest charge we can bring against the
general texture of society is, that it is common-
place ; and many of those who are singular,
had better be common-place. Our fancied su-
periority to others is in some one thing, which
we think most of, because we excel in it, or have
paid most attention to it; whilst we overlook
their superiority to us in something else, which
they set equal and exclusive store by. This is
fortunate for all parties. I never felt myself su-
perior to any one, who did not go out of his way
to affect qualities which he had not. In his own
individual character and line of pursuit, everyone
has knowledge, experience, and skill : and who
shall say which pursuit requires most, thereby
proving his own narrowness and incompetence
to decide? Particular talent or genius does not


imply general capacity. Those who are most
versatile are seldom great in any one depart-
ment: and the stupidest people can generally
do something. The highest pre-eminence in
any one study commonly arises from the con-
centration of the attention and faculties on that
one study. He who expects from a great name
in politics, in philosophy, in art, equal greatness
in other things, is little versed in human nature.
Our strength lies in our weakness. The learned
in books is ignorant of the world. He who is
ignorant of books is often well acquainted with
other things : for life is of the same length itt
the learned and unlearned ; the mind cannot be
idle ; if it is not taken up with one thing, it at-
tends to another through choice or necessity ;
and the degree of previous capacity in one class
or another is a mere lottery,


Some things, it is true, are more prominent,
and lead to more serious consequences than
others, so as to excite a greater share of atten-
tion and applause. Public characters, authors,
warriors, statesmen, &c. nearly monopolize pub-
lic consideration in this way, and are apt to


judge of their merit by the noise they make in the
world. Yet none of these classes would be wil-
ling to make the rule absolute ; for a favourite
player gains as much applause as any of them.
A poet stands a poor chance either of popu-
larity with the vulgar, or influence with the great,
against a fashionable opera-dancer or singer.
Reputation or notoriety is not the stamp of
merit. Certain professions, like certain situa-
tions, bring it into greater notice, but have, per-
haps, no more to do with it than birth or for-
tune. Opportunity sometimes indeed " throws
a cruel sunshine on a fool." I have known se-
veral celebrated men, and some of them have
been persons of the weakest capacity: yet acci-
dent had lifted them into general notice, and
probably will hand their memories down to
posterity. There are names written in her im-
mortal scroll, at which FAME blushes!


The world judge of men by their ability in
their profession, and we judge of ourselves by
the same test ; for it is that on which our suc-
cess in life depends. Yet how often do our
talents and pursuits lie in different directions f


The best painters are not always the cleverest
men ; and an author who makes an unfavour-
able or doubtful impression on the public, may
in himself be a person of rare and agreeable
qualifications. One cause of this is affectation.
We constantly aim at what we are least fit for,
thwarting or despising our natural bent ; so that
our performances and our characters are unac-
countably at variance.


If a man is disliked by one woman, he will
succeed with none. The sex (one and all) have
the same secret, or free-masonry, in judging of


Any woman may act the part of a coquet suc-
cessfully, who has the reputation without the
scruples of modesty. If a woman passes the
bounds of propriety for our sakes, and throws
herself unblushingly at our heads, we conclude
it is either from a sudden and violent liking, or
from extraordinary merit on our parts, either of
which is enough to turn any man's head, who
has a single spark of gallantry or vanity in his



The surest way to make ourselves agreeable
to others is by seeming to think them so. If
we appear fully sensible of their good qualities,
they will not complain of the want of them in us.


We often choose a friend as we do a mis-
tress, for no particular excellence in themselves,
but merely from some circumstance that flatters
our self-love.


Silence is one great art of conversation. He
is not a fool who knows when to hold his tongue;
and a person may gain credit for sense, elo-
quence, wit, who merely says nothing to lessen
the opinion which others have of these qualities
in themselves.


There are few things in which we deceive
ourselves more than in the esteem we profess
to entertain for our friends. It is little better
than a piece of quackery. The truth is, we
think of them as we please that is, as they
please or displease us. As long as we are in
good humour with them, we see nothing but


their good qualities ; but no sooner do they of-
fend us than we rip up all their bad ones (which
we before made a secret of, even to ourselves)
with double malice. He who but now was little
less than an angel of light shall be painted in
the blackest colours for a slip of the tongue,
"some trick not worth an egg," for the slightest
suspicion of offence given or received. We
often bestow the most opprobrious epithets on
our best friends, and retract them twenty times
in the course of a day, while the man himself
remains the same. In love, which is all rhap-
sody and passion, this is excusable; but in the
ordinary intercourse of life, it is preposterous.


A man who is always defending his friends
from the most trifling charges, will be apt to
make other people their enemies.


There are those who see every thing through
a medium of enthusiasm or prejudice; and who
therefore think, that to admit any blemish in a
friend, is to compromise his character altoge-
ther. The instant you destroy their heated ex-


aggerations, they feel that they have no other
ground to stand upon.


We are ridiculous enough in setting up for
patterns of perfection ourselves, without becom-
ing answerable for that of others. It is best to
confine our absurdities at home.


We do not like our friends the worse, be-
cause they sometimes give us an opportunity
to rail at them heartily. Their faults reconcile
us to their virtues. Indeed, we never have
much esteem or regard, except for those that
we can afford to speak our minds of freely ;
whose follies vex us in proportion to our anxiety
for their welfare, and who have plenty of re-
deeming points about them to balance their de-
fects. When we " spy abuses" of this kind, it
is a wiser and more generous proceeding to
give vent to our impatience and ill-humour,
than to brood over it, and let it, by sinking into
our minds, poison the very sources of our good-


To come to an explanation with a friend is to


do away half the cause of offence ; as to declare
the grounds of our complaints and chagrin to a
third party, is tacitly to pass them over. Our
not daring to hint at the infirmities of a friend
implies that we are ashamed to own them, and
that we can only hope to keep on good terms
with him by being blind to his real character.


It is well that there is no one without a fault ;
for he would not have a friend in the world.
He would seem to belong to a different species.


Even among actors, painters, &c. those who
are the most perfect, are not always the most ad-
mired. It is those who strike by their inequa-
lities, and whose faults and excellences keep up
a perpetual warfare between the partizans on
both sides, that are the most talked of and pro-
duce the greatest effect. Nothing is prominent
that does not act as a foil to itself. Emery's
acting was without a fault. This was all that
was ever said about it. His merit was one of
those things that nobody insisted on, because it
was taken for granted. Mr. Kean agitates


and almost convulses the public mind by con-
trary extremes. It is a question whether Ra-
phael would have acquired so great a name,
if his colouring had been equal to his drawing
or expression. As it is, his figures stand out
like a rock, severed from its base : while Cor-
regio's are lost in their own beauty and sweet-
ness. Whatever has not a mixture of imper-
fection in it, soon grows insipid, or seems " stu-
pidly good."


I have known persons without a friend never
any one without some virtue. The virtues of
the former conspired with their vices to make
the whole world their enemies.


The study of metaphysics has this advan-
tage, at least it promotes a certain integrity
and uprightness of understanding, which is a
cure for the spirit of lying. He who has devoted
himself to the discovery of truth feels neither
pride nor pleasure in the invention of falsehood,
and cannot condescend to any such paltry ex-
pedient. If you find a person given to vulgar
shifts and rhodomontade, and who at the same


time tells you he is a metaphysician, do not be-
lieve him.


It is the mischief of the regular study of all
art and science, that it proportionably unfits a
man for those pursuits or emergencies in life,
which require mere courage and promptitude.
To any one who has found how difficult it is to
arrive at truth or beauty, with all the pains and
time he can bestow upon them, every thing
seems worthless that can be obtained by a mere
assumption of the question, or putting a good
face upon the matter. Let a man try to pro-
duce a fine picture, or to solve an abstruse pro-
blem by giving himself airs of self-importance,
and see what he will make of it. But in the
common intercourse of life, too much depends
on this sort of assurance and quackery. This
is the reason why scholars and other eminent
men so often fail in what personally concerns
themselves. They cannot take advantage of
the follies of mankind ; nor submit to arrive at
the end they have in view by unworthy means.
Those who cannot make the progress of a
single step in a favourite study without infinite
pains and preparation, scorn to carry the world


before them, or to win the good opinion of any
individual in it, by vapouring and impudence.
Yet these last qualities often succeed without
an atom of true desert ; and " fools rush in
where angels fear to tread." In nine cases out
of ten, the mere sanguineness of our pursuit
ensures success ; but the having tasked our fa-
culties as much as they will bear, does not tend to
enhance our overweening opinion of ourselves.
The labours of the mind, like the drudgery of
the body, impair our animal spirits and alacrity.
Those who have done nothing, fancy them-
selves capable of every thing : while those who
have exerted themselves to the utmost, only
feel the limitation of their powers, and evince
neither admiration of themselves nor triumph,
over others. Their work is still to do, and they
have no time or disposition for fooling. This
is the reason why the greatest men have the
least appearance of it.


Persons who pique themselves on their under-
standing are frequently reserved and haughty :
persons who aim at wit are generally courteous
and sociable* Those who depend at every turn


on the applause of the company, must endeavour
to conciliate the good opinion of others by every
means in their power.

"A jest's prosperity lies in the ear
Of him who hears it."

If a habit of jesting lowers a man, it is to the
level of humanity. Wit nourishes vanity ; rea-
son has a much stronger tincture of pride in it.


Satirists gain the applause of others through
fear, not through love.


Some persons can do nothing but ridicule


Parodists, like mimics, seize only on defects,
or turn beauties into blemishes. They make
bad writers and indifferent actors.


People of the greatest gaiety of manners are
often the dullest company imaginable. Nothing
is so dreary as the serious conversation or wri-
ting of a professed wag. So the gravest per-


sons, divines, mathematicians, and so on, make
the worst and poorest jokes, puns, &c.


The expression of a Frenchman's face is often
as melancholy when he is by himself, as it is lively
in conversation. The instant he ceases to talk,
he becomes " quite chop-fallen."


To point out defects, one would think it ne-
cessary to be equally conversant with beauties.
But this is not the case. The best caricaturists
cannot draw a common outline; nor the best
comic actors speak a line of serious poetry with-
out being laughed at. This may be perhaps
accounted for in some degree by saying, that
the perfection of the ludicrous implies that loose-
ness or disjointedness of mind, which receives
most delight and surprise from oddity and con-
trast, and which is naturally opposed to the
steadiness and unity of feeling required for the
serious, or the sublime and beautiful.


Different persons have different limits to their


capacity. Thus, some excel in one profession
generally, such as acting ; others in one depart-
ment of it, as tragedy ; others in one character
only. Garrick was equally great in tragedy
and comedy ; Mrs. Siddons only shone in tra-
gedy; Russell could play nothing but Jerry


Comic actors have generally attempted tra-
gedy first, and have a hankering after it to the last.
It was the case with Weston, Shuter, Munden,
Bannister, and even Liston. Prodigious ! The
mistake may perhaps be traced to the imposing
eclat of tragedy, and the awe produced by the
utter incapacity of such persons to know what to
make of it.


If we are not first, we may as well be last in
any pursuit. To be worst is some kind of dis-
tinction, and implies, by the rule of contrary,

* There is a pleasant instance of this mentioned in the Tatler.
There was an actor of that day who could play nothing but the
Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet. He succeeded so well in this,
that he grew fat upon it, when he was set aside ; and having
then nothing to do, pined away till he became qualified for the
part again, and had another run in it.


that we ought to excel in some opposite quality.
Thus, if any one has scarcely the use of his
limbs, we may conceive it is from his having
exercised his mind too much. We suppose
that an awkward boy at school is a good scho-
lar. So if a man has a strong body, we com-
pliment him with a weak mind, and vice versa.


There is a natural principle of antithesis in
the human mind. We seldom grant one excel-
lence but we hasten to make up for it by a con-
trary defect, to keep the balance of criticism
even. Thus we say, Titian was a great colour-
ist y but did not know how to draw. The first is
true : the last is a mere presumption from the
first, like alternate rhyme and reason ; or a com-
promise with the weakness of human nature,
which soon tires of praise.


There is some reason for this cautious distri-
bution of merit; for it is not necessary for one man
to possess more than one quality in the highest
perfection, since no one possesses all, and we are
in the end forced to collect the idea of per-


fection in art from a number of different speci-
mens. It is quite sufficient for any one person
to do any one thing better than every body else.
Any thing beyond this is like an impertinence.
It was not necessary for Hogarth to paint his
Sigismunda ; nor for Mrs. Siddons to abridge
Paradise Lost.


On the stage none but originals can be count-
ed as any thing. The rest are " men of no mark
or likelihood." They give us back the same
impression we had before, and make it worse
instead of better.


It was ridiculous to set up Mr. Kean as a
rival to Mr. Kemble. Whatever merits the
first might have, they were of a totally differ-
ent class, and could not possibly interfere with,
much less injure those of his great predecessor.
Mr. Kemble stood on his own ground, and he
stood high on it. Yet there certainly was a
re-action in this case. Many persons saw no
defect in Mr. Kemble till Mr. Kean came, and
then finding themselves mistaken in the abstract
idea of perfection they had indulged in, were


ready to give up their opinion altogether. When
a man is a great favourite with the public, they
incline by a natural spirit of exaggeration and
love of the marvellous, to heap all sorts of per-
fections upon him, and when they find by ano-
ther's excelling him in some one thing that this
is not the case, they are disposed to strip their
former idol, and leave him " bare to weather."
Nothing is more unjust or capricious than pub-
lic opinion.


The public have neither shame nor gratitude.


Public opinion is the mixed result of the in-
tellect of the community acting upon general


Our friends are generally ready to do every
thing for us, except the very thing we wish
them to do. There is one thing in particular
they are always disposed to give us, and which
we are as unwilling to take, namely, advice.


Good-nature is often combined with ill tem-


per. Our own uncomfortable feelings teach us
to sympathize with others, and to seek relief
from our own uneasiness in the satisfactions we
can afford them. Ill-nature combined with good
temper is an unnatural and odious character.
Our delighting in mischief and suffering, when
we have no provocation to it from being ill at
ease ourselves, is wholly unpardonable. Yet I
have known one or two instances of this sort of
callous levity, and gay, laughing malignity.
Such people " poison in jest."


It is wonderful how soon men acquire talents
for offices of trust and importance. The higher
the situation, the higher the opinion it gives us
of ourselves ; and as is our confidence, so is our
capacity. We assume an equality with circum-


The difficulty is for a man to rise to high
station, not to fill it; as it is easier to stand on
an eminence than to climb up to it. Yet he
alone is truly great who is so without the aid of
circumstances and in spite of fortune, who is
as little lifted up by the tide of opinion, as he is


depressed by neglect or obscurity, and who
borrows dignity only from himself. It is a fine
compliment which Pope has paid to Lord Ox-

"A soul supreme, in each hard instance tried,
Above all pain, all passion, and all pride ;
The rage of power, the blast of public breath,
The lust of lucre, and the dread of death !"


The most silent people are generally those who
think most highly of themselves. They fancy
themselves superior to every one else ; and not
being sure of making good their secret preten-
sions, decline entering the lists altogether. They
thus " lay the flattering unction to their souls,"
that they could have said better things than
others, or that the conversation was beneath


There are writers who never do their best ;
lest if they should fail, they should be left with-
out excuse in their own opinion. While they
trifle with a subject, they feel superior to it,
They will not take pains, for this would be a test
of what they are actually able to do, and set a


limit to their pretensions, while their vanity is
unbounded. The more you find fault with them,
the more careless they grow, their affected in-
difference keeping pace with and acting as a
shield against the disapprobation or contempt of
others. They fancy whatever they condescend
to write must be good enough for the public.


Authors who acquire a high celebrity and
conceal themselves, seem superior to fame. Pro-
ducing great works incognito is like doing good
by stealth. There is an air of magnanimity in
it, which people wonder at. Junius, and the
Author of Waverley are striking examples. Ju-
nius, however, is really unknown ; while the Au-
thor of Waverley enjoys all the credit of his wri-
tings without acknowledging them. Let any one
else come forward and claim them; and we should
then see whether Sir Walter Scott would stand
idle by. It is a curious argument that he can-
not be the author, because the real author could
not help making himself known ; when, if he is
not so, the real author has never even been
hinted at, and lets another run away with all
the praise.



Some books have a personal character. We
are attached to the work for the sake of the
author. Thus we read WALTON'S ANGLER as
we should converse with an agreeable old man,
not for what he says, so much as for his manner
of saying it, and the pleasure he takes in the


Some persons are exceedingly shocked at the
cruelty of WALTON'S ANGLER as if the most
humane could be expected to trouble them-
selves about fixing a worm on a hook, at a time
when they burnt men at a stake " in conscience
and tender heart." We are not to measure the
feelings of one age by those of another. Had
Walton lived in our day, he would have been
the first to cry out against the cruelty of angling.
As it was, his flies and baits were only a part
of his tackle. They had not, at this period,
the most distant idea of setting up as candidates
for our sympathy ! Man is naturally a savage,
and emerges from barbarism by slow degrees.
Let us take the streaks of light, and be thankful
for them, as they arise and tinge the horizon


one by one, and not complain because the noon
is long after the dawn of refinement.


Livery-servants (I confess it) are the only
people I do not like to sit in company with.
They offend not only by their own meanness,
but by the ostentatious display of the pride of
their masters.


It has been observed, that the proudest peo-
ple are not nice in love. In fact, they think
they raise the object of their choice above every
one else.


A proud man is satisfied with his own good
opinion, and does not seek to make converts to it.
Pride erects a little kingdom of its own, and acts
as sovereign in it. Hence we see why some men
are so proud they cannot be affronted, like kings
who have no peer or equal.


The proudest people are as soon repulsed as
the most humble. The last are discouraged by


the slightest objection or hint of their conscious
incapacity, while the first disdain to enter into
any competition, and resent whatever implies a
doubt of their self-evident superiority to others.


What passes in the world for talent or dex-
terity or enterprize, is often only a want of moral
principle. We may succeed where others fail,
not from a greater share of invention, but from
not being nice in the choice of expedients.


Cunning is the art of concealing our own de-
fects, and discovering other people's weak-
nesses. Or it is taking advantages of others
which they do not suspect, because they are
contrary to propriety and the settled practice.
We feel no inferiority to a fellow who picks our
pockets ; though we feel mortified at being over-
reached by trick and cunning. Yet there is no
more reason for it in the one case than in the
other. Any one may win at cards by cheating
till he is found out. We have been playing
against odds. So any one may deceive us by
lying, or take an unfair advantage of us, who is


not withheld by a sense of shame or honesty
from doing so.


The completest hypocrites are so by nature.
That is, they are without sympathy with others
to distract their attention or any of that ner-
vous weakness, which might revolt or hesi-
tate at the baseness of the means necessary to
carry on their system of deception. You can
no more tell what is passing in the minds of
such people than if they were of a different spe-
cies. They, in fact, are so to all moral intents
and purposes ; and this is the advantage they
have over you. You fancy there is a common
link between you, while in reality there is none.


The greatest hypocrites are the greatest
dupes. This is either because they think only
of deceiving others and are off their guard, or
because they really know little about the feel-
ings or characters of others from their want of
sympathy, and of consequent sagacity. Per-
haps the resorting to trick and artifice in the
first instance implies not only a callousness of
feeling, but an obtuseness of intellect, which


cannot get on by fair means. Thus a girl who
is ignorant and stupid may yet have cunning
enough to resort to silence as the only chance
of conveying an opinion of her capacity.


The greatest talents do not generally attain
to the highest stations. For though high, the
ascent to them is narrow, beaten, and crooked.
The path of genius is free, and its own. What-
ever requires the concurrence and co-operation
of others, must depend chiefly on routine and
an attention to rules and minutiae. Success hi
business is therefore seldom owing to uncom-
mon talents or original power, which is untract-
able and self-willed, but to the greatest degree
of common-place capacity.

The error in the reasonings of Mandeville,
Rochefoucault, and others, is this : they first find
out that there is something mixed in the motives
of all our actions, and they then proceed to ar-
gue, that they must all arise from one motive,
viz. self-love. They make the exception the rule.
It would be easy to reverse the argument, and


prove that our most selfish actions are disinte-
rested. There is honour among thieves. Rob-
bers, murderers, &c. do not commit those ac-
tions, from a pleasure in pure villainy or for
their own benefit only, but from a mistaken re-
gard to the welfare or good opinion of those
with whom they are immediately connected.


It is ridiculous to say, that compassion, friend-
ship, &c. are at bottom only selfishness in dis-
guise, because it is we who feel pleasure or pain
in the good or evil of others ; for the meaning
of self-love is not that it is I who love, but that
I love myself. The motive is no more selfish
because it is I who feel it, than the action is
selfish, because it is I who perform it. To
prove a man selfish, it is not surely enough to
say, that it is he who feels (this is a mere quibble)
but to shew that he does not feel for another ;
that is, that the idea of the suffering or welfare
of others does not excite any feeling whatever
of pleasure or pain in his mind, except from
some reference to or reflection on himself.
Self-love or the love of self means, that I have
an immediate interest in the contemplation of


my own good, and that this is a motive to ac-
tion; and benevolence or the love of others
means in like manner, that I have an immediate
interest in the idea of the good or evil that may
befal them, and a disposition to assist them, in
consequence. Self-love, in a word, is sympathy
with myself, that is, it is I who feel it, and I
who am the object of it : in benevolence or
compassion, it is I who still feel sympathy, but
another (not myself) is the object of it. If I
feel sympathy with others at all, it must be dis-
interested. The pleasure it may give me is the
consequence, not the cause, of my feeling it. To
insist that sympathy is self-love because we can-
not feel for others, without being ourselves af-
fected pleasurably or painfully, is to make non-
sense of the question ; for it is to insist that in
order to feel for others properly and truly, we
must in the first place feel nothing. C'est une
mauvaise plaisanterte. That the feeling exists
in the individual must be granted, and never ad-
mitted of a question: the only question is, how
that feeling is caused, and what is its object and
it is to express the two opinions that may be en-
tertained on this subject, that the terms, self-
lave and benevolence, have been appropriated.


Any other interpretation of them is an evident
abuse of language, and a subterfuge in argu-
ment, which, driven from the fair field of fact
and observation, takes shelter in verbal sophis-


Humility and pride are not easily distinguished
from each other. A proud man, who fortifies him-
self in his own good opinion, may be supposed
not to put forward his pretensions through shy-
ness or deference to others : a modest man, who is
really reserved and afraid of committing himself,
is thought distant and haughty : and the vainest
coxcomb who makes a display of himself and
his most plausible qualifications, often does so
to hide his deficiencies and to prop up his tot-
tering opinion of himself by the applause of
others. Vanity does not refer to the opinion a
man entertains of himself, but to that which he
wishes others to entertain of him. Pride is in-
different to the approbation of others ; as mo-
desty shrinks from it, either through bashful-
ness, or from an unwillingness to take any undue
advantage of it. I have known several very
forward, loquacious, and even overbearing per-
sons, whose confidential communications were
oppressive from the sense they entertained of


their own demerits. In company they talked
on in mere bravado >, and for fear of betraying
their weak side, as children make a noise in the


True modesty and true pride are much the
same thing. Both consist in setting a just value
on ourselves neither more nor less. It is a
want of proper spirit to fancy ourselves inferior
to others in those things in which we really ex-
cel them. It is conceit and want of common
sense to arrogate a superiority over others,
without the most well-founded pretensions.


A man may be justly accused of vanity and
presumption, who either thinks he possesses
qualifications which he has not, or greatly over-
rates those which he has. An egotist does not
think well of himself because, he possesses cer-
tain qualities, but fancies he possesses a number
of excellences, because he thinks well of himself
through mere idle self-complacency. True mo-
deration is the bounding our self-esteem within
the extent of our acquirements.



Conceit is the most contemptible and one of
the most odious qualities in the world. It is
vanity driven from all other shifts, and forced
to appeal to itself for admiration. An author,
whose play has been damned over-night, feels a
paroxysm of conceit the next morning. Conceit
may be defined a restless, overweening, petty,
obtrusive, mechanical delight in our own quali-
fications, without any reference to their real
value, or to the approbation of others, merely
because they are ours, and for no other reason
whatever. It is the extreme of selfishness and


Confidence or courage is conscious ability of
the sense of power. No man is ever afraid of
attempting what he knows he can do better
than any one else. Charles Fox felt no diffi-
dence in addressing the House of Commons:
he was reserved and silent in company, and had
no opinion of his talent for writing ; that is, he
knew his powers and their limits. The torrent
of his eloquence rushed upon him from his
knowledge of the subject and his interest in
it, unchecked and unbidden, without his once


thinking of himself or his hearers. As a man
is strong, so is he bold. The thing is, that
wherever we feel at home, there we are at our
ease. The late Sir John Moore once had to
review the troops at Plymouth before the King ;
and while he was on the ground and had to
converse with the different persons of the court,
with the ladies, and with Mr. Pitt whom he
thought a great man, he found himself a good
deal embarrassed ; but the instant he mounted
his horse and the troops were put in motion, he
felt quite relieved, and had leisure to observe
what an awkward figure Mr. Pitt made on horse-


The truly proud man knows neither superiors
nor inferiors. The first he does not admit of:
the last he does not concern himself about.
People who are insolent to those beneath them
crouch to those above them. Both shew equal
meanness of spirit and want of conscious dignity.


No elevation or success raises the humble
man in his own opinion. To the proud the
slightest repulse or disappointment is the last


indignity. The vain man makes a merit of mis-
fortune, and triumphs in his disgrace.


We reserve our gratitude for the manner of
conferring benefits ; and we revolt against this,
except when it seems to say we owe no obliga-
tion at all, and thus cancels the debt of grati-
tude as soon as it is incurred.


We do not hate those who injure us, if they
do not at the same time wound our self-love.
We can forgive any one sooner than those who
lower us in our own opinion. It is no wonder,
therefore, that we as often dislike others for
their virtues as their vices. We naturally hate
whatever makes us despise ourselves.


When you find out a man's ruling passion,
beware of crossing him in it.


We sometimes hate those who differ from us
in opinion worse than we should for an attempt


to injure us in the most serious point. A fa-
vourite theory is a possession for life ; and we
resent any attack upon it proportionably.


Men will die for an opinion as soon as for
any thing else. Whatever excites the spirit of
contradiction, is capable of producing the last
effects of heroism, which is only the highest
pitch of obstinacy in a good or a bad cause, in
wisdom or folly.


We are ready to sacrifice life, not only for
our own opinion, but in deference to that of
others. Conscience, or its shadow, honour,
prevails over the fear of death. The man of
fortune and fashion will throw away his life, like
a bauble, to prevent the slightest breath of dis-
honour. So little are we governed by self-in-
terest, and so much by imagination and sym-


The most impertinent people are less so from
design than from inadvertence. I have known
a person who could scarcely open his lips with-
out offending some one, merely because he


harboured no malice in his heart. A certain
excess of animal spirits with thoughtless good-
humour will often make more enemies than the
most deliberate spite and ill-nature, which is on
its guard, and strikes with caution and safety.


It is great weakness to lay ourselves open to
others, who are reserved towards us. There is
not only no equality in it, but we may be pretty
sure they will turn a confidence, which they are
so little disposed to imitate, against us.


A man has no excuse for betraying the se-
crets of his friends, unless he also divulges his
own. He may then seem to be actuated not by
treachery, but indiscretion.


As we scorn them who scorn us, so the con-
tempt of the world (not seldom) makes men


Even infamy may be oftentimes a source of
secret self-complacency. We smile at the im-


potence of public opinion, when we can survive
its worst censures.


Simplicity of character is the natural result
of profound thought.


The affected modesty of most women is a de-
coy for the generous, the delicate, and unsus-
pecting; while the artful, the bold, and unfeeling
either see or break through its slender disguises.


We as often repent the good we have done as
the ill.


The measure of any man's virtue is what
he would do, if he had neither the laws nor
public opinion, nor even his own prejudices, to
control him.


We like the expression of Raphael's faces
without an edict to enforce it. I do not see
why there should not be a taste in morals
formed on the same principle.



Where a greater latitude is allowed in mo-
rals, the number of examples of vice may in-
crease, but so do those of virtue: at least, we
are surer of the sincerity of the latter. It is
only the exceptions to vice, that arise neither
from ignorance nor hypocrisy, that are worth


The fear of punishment may be necessary to
the suppression of vice; but it also suspends
the finer motives to virtue.


No wise man can have a contempt for the
prejudices of others ; and he should even stand
in a certain awe of his own, as if they were
aged parents and monitors. They may in the
end prove wiser than he.


We are only justified in rejecting prejudices,
when we can explain the grounds of them ; or
when they are at war with nature, which is the
strongest prejudice of all.



Vulgar prejudices are those which arise out
of accident, ignorance, or authority. Natural
prejudices are those which arise out of the con-
stitution of the human mind itself.


Nature is stronger than reason: for nature is,
after all, the text, reason but the comment. He
is indeed a poor creature, who does not feel the
truth of more than he knows or can explain satis-
factorily to others.


The mind revolts against certain opinions,
as the stomach rejects certain foods.


The drawing a certain positive line in morals,
beyond which a single false step is irretrievable,
makes virtue formal, and vice desperate.


Most codes of morality proceed on a suppo-
sition of Original Sin ; as if the only object was
to coerce the headstrong propensities to vice,


and there were no natural disposition to good
in the mind, which it was possible to improve,
refine, and cultivate.


This negative system of virtue leads to a
very low style of moral sentiment. It is as if
the highest excellence in a picture was to avoid
gross defects in drawing ; or in writing, in-
stances of bad grammar. It ought surely to be
our aim in virtue, as well as in other things, "to
snatch a grace beyond the reach of art."


We find many things, to which the prohibi-
tion of them constitutes the only temptation.


There is neither so much vice nor so much
virtue in the world, as it might appear at first
sight that there is. Many people commit ac-
tions that they hate, as they affect virtues that
they laugh at, merely because others do so.


When the imagination is continually led to
the brink of vice by a system of terror and de-


nunciations, people fling themselves over the
precipice from the mere dread of falling.


The maxim Video meliora proboque, dete-
riora sequor has not been fully explained. In
general, it is taken for granted, that those things
that our reason disapproves, we give way to from
passion. Nothing like it. The course that per-
sons in the situation of Medea pursue has often
as little to do with inclination as with judgment:
but they are led astray by some object of a dis-
turbed imagination, that shocks their feelings
and staggers their belief; and they grasp the
phantom to put an end to this state of torment-
ing suspense, and to see whether it is human or


Vice, like disease, floats in the atmosphere.


Honesty is one part of eloquence. We per-
suade others by being in earnest ourselves.


A mere sanguine temperament often passes
for genius and patriotism.



Animal spirits are continually taken for wit
and fancy; and the want of them, for sense
and judgment.


In public speaking, we must appeal either to
the prejudices of others, or to the love of truth
and justice. If we think merely of displaying our
own ability, we shall ruin every cause we under-


Those who cannot miss an opportunity of
saying a good thing or of bringing in some fan-
tastical opinion of their own, are not to be
trusted with the management of any great ques-


There are some public speakers who commit
themselves and their party by extravagances
uttered in heat and through vanity, which they
retract in cold blood through cowardice and
caution. They outrage propriety, and trim to


An honest man is respected by all parties.


We forgive a hundred rude or offensive things
that are uttered from conviction or in the con-
scientious discharge of a duty never one, that
proceeds from design or a view to raise the per-
son who says it above us.


Truth from the mouth of an honest man, or
severity from a good-natured one, has a double


A person who does not endeavour to seem
more than he is, will generally be thought no-
thing of. We habitually make such large de-
ductions for pretence and imposture, that no
real merit will stand against them. It is ne-
cessary to set off our good qualities with a cer-
tain air of plausibility and self-importance, as
some attention to fashion is necessary to de-


If we do not aspire to admiration, we shall
fall into contempt. To expect sheer, even-
handed justice from mankind, is folly. They
take the gross inventory of our pretensions ; and
not to have them overlooked entirely, we must


place them in a conspicuous point of view, as men
write their trades or fix a sign over the doors
of their houses. Not to conform to the esta-
blished practice in either respect, is false deli-
cacy in the commerce of the world.


There has been a considerable change in
dress and manners in the course of a century
or two, as well as in the signs and badges of
different professions. The streets are no lon-
ger encumbered with numberless emblems of
mechanical or other occupations, nor crowded
with the pomp and pageantry of dress, nor
embroiled by the insolent airs assumed by
the different candidates for rank and prece-
dence. Our pretensions become less gross and
obtrusive with the progress of society, and as
the means of communication become more re-
fined and general. The simplicity and even
slovenliness of the modern beau form a striking
contrast to the dazzling finery and ostentatious
formality of the old-fashioned courtier ; yet both
are studied devices and symbols of distinction.
It would be a curious speculation to trace the va-
rious modes of affectation in dress from the age


of Elizabeth to the present time, in connection
with the caprices of fashion, and the march of
opinion ; and to shew in what manner Sir Isaac
Newton's Principia or Rousseau's Emilius have
contributed to influence the gliding movements
and (Jurtail the costume of a modern dandy !


Unlimited power is helpless, as arbitrary
power is capricious. Our energy is in propor-
tion to the resistance it meets. We can at-
tempt nothing great, but from a sense of the dif-
ficulties we have to encounter : we can perse-
vere in nothing great, but from a pride in over-
coming them. Where our will is our law, we ea-
gerly set about the first trifle we think of, and lay
it aside for the next trifle that presents itself, or
that is suggested to us. The character of des-
potism is apathy or levity or the love of mis-
chief, because the latter is easy and suits its
pride and wantonness.


Affectation is as necessary to the mind, as
dress is to the body.



Man is an intellectual animal, and therefore
an everlasting contradiction to himself. His
senses centre in himself, his ideas reach to the
ends of the universe ; so that he is torn in pieces
between the two, without a possibility of its ever
being otherwise. A mere physical being, or ^
pure spirit, can alone be satisfied with itself.


Our approbation of others has a good deal
of selfishness in it. We like those who give
us pleasure, however little they may wish for or
deserve our esteem in return. We prefer a
person with vivacity and high spirits, though
bordering upon insolence, to the timid and pu-
sillanimous ; we are fonder of wit joined to ma-
lice, than of dulness without it. We have no
great objection to receive a man who is a villain
as our friend, if he has plausible exterior quali-
ties ; nay, we often take a pride in our harmless
familiarity with him, as we might in keeping a
tame panther : but we soon grow weary of the
society of a good-natured fool who puts our
patience to the test, or of an awkward clown,
who pnts our pride to the blush.



We are fonder of visiting our friends in
health than in sickness. We judge less favour-
ably of their characters, when any misfortune
happens to them; and a lucky hit, either in bu-
siness or reputation, improves even their per-
sonal appearance in our eyes.


An heiress, with a large fortune and a mode-
rate share of beauty, easily rises into a reigning


One shining quality lends a lustre to another,
or hides some glaring defect.


We are never so much disposed to quarrel
with others as when we are dissatisfied with


We are never so thoroughly tired of the
.company of any one else as we sometimes are
of our own.


People outlive the interest, which, at different


periods of their lives, they take in themselves.
When we forget old friends, it is a sign we have
forgotten ourselves ; or despise our former ways
and notions, as much as we do their present


We fancy ourselves superior to others, be-
cause we find that we have improved ; and at
no time did we think ourselves inferior to them.


The notice of others is as necessary to us as
the air we breathe. If we cannot gain their
good opinion, we change our battery, and strive
to provoke their hatred and contempt.


Some malefactors, at the point of death, con-
fess crimes, of which they have never been
guilty, thus to raise our wonder and indignation
in the same proportion ; or to shew their supe-
riority to vulgar prejudice, and brave that pub-
lic opinion, of which they are the victims.


Others make an ostentatious display of their


penitence and remorse, only to invite sympathy,
and create a diversion in their own minds from
the subject of their impending punishment. So
that we excite a strong emotion in the breasts
of others, we care little of what kind it is, or by
what means we produce it. We have equally
the feeling of power. The sense of insignifi-
cance or of being an object of perfect indiffe-
rence to others, is the only one that the mind
never covets nor willingly submits to.


There are not wanting instances of those,
who pass their whole lives in endeavouring to
make themselves ridiculous. They only tire of
their absurdities when others are tired of talk-
ing about and laughing at them, so that they
have become a stale jest.


People in the grasp of death wish all the evil
they have done (as well as all the good) to be
known, not to make atonement by confession,
but to excite one more strong sensation before
they die, and to leave their interests and passions


a legacy to posterity, when they themselves are
exempt from the consequences.


We talk little, if we do not talk about our-


We may give more offence by our silence than
even by impertinence.


Obstinate silence implies either a mean opi-
nion of ourselves or a contempt of our company :
and it is the more provoking, as others do not
know to which of these causes to attribute it,
whether to humility or pride.


Silence proceeds either from want of some-
thing to say, or from a phlegmatic indifference
which closes up our lips. The sea, or any other
striking object, suddenly bursting on a party of
mutes in a stage-coach, will occasion a general
exclamation of surprise; and the ice being once
broken, they may probably be good company
for the rest of the journey.



We compliment ourselves on our national re-
serve and taciturnity by abusing the loquacity
and frivolity of the French.


Nations, not being willing or able to correct
their own errors, justify them by the opposite
errors of other nations.


We easily convert our own vices into virtues,
the virtues of others into vices.


A person who talks with equal vivacity on
every subject, excites no interest in any. Re-
pose is as necessary in conversation as in a pic-


The best kind of conversation is that which
may be called thinking aloud. I like very well
to speak my mind on any subject (or to hear
another do so) and to go into the question ac-
cording to the degree of interest it naturally in-
spires, but not to have to get up a thesis upon


every topic. There are those, on the other
hand, who seem always to be practising on their
audience, as if they mistook them for a DE-
BATING-SOCIETY, or to hold a general retainer,
by which they are bound to explain every diffi-
culty, and answer every objection that can be
started. This, in private society and among
friends, is not desirable. You thus lose the
two great ends of conversation, which are to
learn the sentiments of others, and see what
they think of yours. One of the best talkers
I ever knew had this defect that he evidently
seemed to be considering less what he felt on
any point than what might be said upon it, and
that he listened to you, not to weigh what you
said, but to reply to it, like counsel on the
other side. This habit gave a brilliant smooth-
ness and polish to his general discourse, but, at
the same time, took from its solidity and pro-
minence : it reduced it to a tissue of lively,
fluent, ingenious common-places, (for original,
.genuine observations are like "minute drops
from off the eaves," and not an incessant shower)
and, though his talent in this way was carried
to the very extreme of cleverness, yet I think it
seldom, if ever, went beyond it.



Intellectual excellence can seldom be a source
of much satisfaction to the possessor. In a
gross period, or in vulgar society, it is not un-
derstood ; and among those who are refined
enough to appreciate its value, it ceases to be a


There is, I think, an essential difference of
character in mankind, between those who wish
to do, and those who wish to have certain things.
I observe persons expressing a great desire to
possess fine horses, hounds, dress, equipage,
&c. and an envy of those who have them. I
myself have no such feeling, nor the least am-
bition to shine, except by doing something
better than others. I have the love of power,
but not of property. I should like to be able
to outstrip a greyhound in speed ; but I should
be ashamed to take any merit to myself from
possessing the fleetest greyhound in the world.
I cannot transfer my personal identity from my-
self to what I merely call mine. The gene-
rality of mankind are contented to be estimated
by what they possess, instead of what they are.



Buonaparte observes, that the diplomatists
of the new school were no match for those
brought up under the ancient regime. The
reason probably is, that the modern style of
intellect inclines to abstract reasoning and ge-
neral propositions, and pays less attention to
individual character, interests, and circum-
stances. The moderns have, therefore, less
tact in watching the designs of others, and less
closeness in hiding their own. They perhaps
have a greater knowledge of things, but less of
the world. They calculate the force of an ar-
gument, and rely on its success, moving in va-
cuo, without sufficiently allowing for the resis-
tance of opinion and prejudice.


The most comprehensive reasoners are not
always the deepest or nicest observers. They
are apt to take things for granted too much, as
parts of a system. Lord Egmont, in a speech in
Parliament, in the year 1750, has the following-
remarkable observations on this subject. ("It is
not common sense, but downright madness, to
follow general principles in this wild manner


without limitation or reserve ; and give me leave
to say one thing, which I hope will be long re-
membered, and well thought upon by all those
who hear me that those gentlemen who plume
themselves thus upon their open and extensive
understandings, are in fact, the men of the nar-
rowest principles in the kingdom. For what is a
narrow mind ? It is a mind that sees any proposi-
tion in one single contracted point of view, unable
to complicate any subject with the circumstances,
or considerations, that are or may or ought to
be combined with it. And pray, what is that
understanding which looks upon the question of
naturalization only in this general view, that
naturalization is an increase of the people, and
the increase of the people is the riches of the
nation ? Never admitting the least reflection,
what the people are whom you let in upon us;
how, in the present bad regulation of the police,
they are to be employed or maintained; how
their principles, opinions, or practice may in-
fluence the religion or politics of the state, or
what operation their admission may hav upon
the peace and tranquillity of the country. Is not
such a genius equally contemptible and narrow
with that of the poorest mortal upon earth, who


grovels for his whole life within the verge of the
opposite extreme?"


In an Englishman, a diversity of profession
and pursuit (as the having been a soldier, a
valet, a player, &c.) implies a dissipation and
dissoluteness of character, and a fitness for
nothing. In a Frenchman, it only shews a na-
tural vivacity of disposition, and a fitness for
every thing.


Impudence, like every thing else, has its
limits. Let a man be ever so hardened and
unblushing, there is a point at which his cou-
rage is sure to fail him ; and not being able to
carry off the matter with his usual air of confi-
dence, he becomes more completely confused
and awkward than any one else would in the
same circumstances.


Half the miseries of human life proceed from
our not perceiving the incompatibility of diffe-
rent attainments, and consequently aiming at
too much. We make ourselves wretched in
vainly aspiring after advantages we are deprived


of; and do not consider that if we had these
advantages, it would be quite impossible for us
to retain those which we actually do possess,
and which, after all, if it were put to the ques-
tion, we would not consent to part with for the
sake of any others.


If we use no ceremony towards others, we
shall be treated without any. People are soon
tired of paying trifling attentions to those who
receive them with coldness, and return them
with neglect.


Surly natures have more pleasure in dis-
obliging others than in serving themselves.


People in general consult their prevailing hu-
mour or ruling passion (whatever it may be)
much more than their interest.


One of the painters (Teniers,) has represented
monkeys with a monk's cloak and cowl. This
has a ludicrous effect enough. To a superior
race of beings the pretensions of mankind to


extraordinary sanctity and virtue must seem
equally ridiculous.


When we speak ill of people behind their
backs, and are civil to them to their faces, we
may be accused of insincerity. But the con-
tradiction is less owing to insincerity than to
the change of circumstances. We think well of
them while we are with them ; and in their ab-
sence recollect the ill we durst not hint at or
acknowledge to ourselves in their presence.


Our opinions are not our own, but in the
power of sympathy. If a person tells us a
palpable falsehood, we not only dare not con-
tradict him, but we dare hardly disbelieve him
to his face. A lie boldly uttered has the effect
of truth for the instant.


A man's reputation is not in his own keeping,
but lies at the mercy of the profligacy of others.
Calumny requires no proof. The throwing
out malicious imputations against any character


leaves a stain, which no after-refutation ean
wipe out. To create an unfavourable impres-
sion, it is not necessary that certain things
should be true, but that they have been said.
The imagination is of so delicate a texture,
that even words wound it.


A nickname is a mode of insinuating a preju-
dice against another under some general de-
signation, which, as it offers no proof, admits of
no reply.


It does not render the person less contempti-
ble or ridiculous in vulgar opinion, because it
may be harmless in itself, or even downright
nonsense. By repeating it incessantly, and leav-
ing out every other characteristic of the indivi-
dual, whom we wish to make a bye-word of, it
seems as if he were an abstraction of insignifi-


Want of principle is power. Truth and ho-
nesty set a limit to our efforts, which impudence
and hypocrisy easily overleap.



There are many who talk on from ignorance,
rather than from knowledge ; and who find the
former an inexhaustible fund of conversation.


Nothing gives such a blow to friendship as
the detecting another in an untruth. It strikes
at the root of our confidence ever after.


In estimating the value of an acquaintance or
even friend, we give a preference to intellectual
or convivial over moral qualities. The truth
is, that in our habitual intercourse with others,
we much oftener require to be amused than
assisted. We consider less, therefore, what a
person with whom we are intimate is ready to
do for us in critical emergencies, than what he
has to say on ordinary occasions. We dispense
with his services, if he only saves us from ennui.
In civilized society, words are of as much im-
portance as things.


We cultivate the society of those who are
above us in station, and beneath us in capacity.


The one we do from choice, the other from ne-
cessity. Our interest dictates our submission
to the first ; our vanity is flattered by the ho-
mage of the last.


A man of talents, who shrinks from a colli-
sion with his equals or superiors, will soon sink
below himself. We improve by trying our
strength with others, not by shewing it off/ A
person who shuts himself up in a little circle of
dependants and admirers for fear of losing
ground in his own opinion by jostling with the
world at large, may continue to be gaped at by
fools, but will forfeit the respect of sober and
sensible men.


There are others, who entertaining a high
opinion of themselves, and not being able (for
want of plausible qualities) to gather a circle
of butterflies round them, retire into solitude,
and there worship the ECHOES and themselves.
They gain this advantage by it the ECHOES
do not contradict them. But it is a question,
whether by dwelling always on their own vir-
tues and merits, unmolested, they increase the
stock. They, indeed, pamper their ruling vices,


and pile them mountain-high ; and looking down
on the world from the elevation of their retreat,
idly fancy that the world has nothing to do but
to look up to them with wondering eyes.


It is a false principle, that because we are
entirely occupied with ourselves, we must equally
1 occupy the thoughts of others. The contrary
inference is the fair one.


It is better to desire than to enjoy to love
than to be loved.


Every one would rather be Raphael than
Hogarth. Without entering into the question
of the talent required for their different works,
or the pleasure derived from them, we prefer
that which confers dignity on human nature to
that which degrades it. We would wish to do
what we would wish to be. And, moreover, it
is most difficult to do what it is most difficult to


A selfish feeling requires less moral capacity
than a benevolent one : a selfish expression re-


quires less intellectual capacity to execute it
than a benevolent one ; for in expression, and
all that relates to it, the intellectual is the re-
flection of the moral. Raphael's figures are
sustained by ideas : Hogarth's are distorted by
mechanical habits and instincts. It is elevation
of thought that gives grandeur and delicacy of
expression to passion. The expansion and re-
finement of the soul are seen in the face, as
in a mirror. An enlargement of purpose gives a
corresponding enlargement of form. The mind,
as it were, acts over the whole body, and ani-
mates it equally, while petty and local interests
seize on particular parts, and distract it by con-
trary and mean expressions. Now, if mental
expression has this superior grandeur and grace,
we can account at once for the superiority of
Raphael. For there is no doubt, that it is
more difficult to give a whole continuously and
proportionably than to give the parts separate
and disjointed, or to diffuse the same subtle but
powerful expression over a large mass than to
caricature it in a single part or feature. The
actions in Raphael are like a branch of a tree
swept by the surging blast; those in Hogarth like
straws whirled and twitched about in the gusts
and eddies of passion. I do not mean to say


that goodness alone constitutes greatness, but
mental power does. Hogarth's GOOD APPREN-
TICE is insipid : Raphael has clothed Elymas
the Sorcerer with all the dignity and grandeur
of vice. Selfish characters and passions borrow
greatness from the range of imagination, and
strength of purpose ; and besides, have an ad-
vantage in natural force and interest.


We find persons who are actuated in all their
tastes and feelings by a spirit of contradiction.
They like nothing that other people do, and
have a natural aversion to whatever is agreeable
in itself. They read books that no one else
reads ; and are delighted with passages that no
one understands but themselves. They only
arrive at beauties through faults and difficulties ;
and all their conceptions are brought to light
by a sort of Caesarean process. This is either
an affectation of singularity ; or a morbid taste,
that can relish nothing that is obvious and sim-


An unaccountable spirit of contradiction is
sometimes carried into men's behaviour and ac-
tions. They never do any thing from a direct mo-


tive, or in a straight-forward manner. They get
rid of all sorts of obligations, and rush on destruc-
tion without the shadow of an excuse. They take
a perverse delight in acting not only contrary to
reason, but in opposition to their own inclina-
tions and passions, and are for ever in a state
of cross-purposes with themselves,


There are some persons who never decide
from deliberate motives at all, but are the mere
creatures of impulse.


Insignificant people are a necessary relief in
society. Such characters are extremely agree-
able, and even favourites, if they appear satis-
fied with the part they have to perform.


Little men seldom seem conscious of their
diminutive size ; or make up for it by the erect-
ness of their persons, or a peculiarly dapper
air and manner.


Any one is to be pitied, who has just sense
enough to perceive his deficiencies.


I had rather be deformed, than a dwarf and
well-made. The one may be attributed to ac-
cident ; the other looks like a deliberate insult
on the part of nature.


Personal deformity, in the well-disposed, pro-
duces a fine, placid expression of countenance ;
in the ill-tempered and peevish, a keen, sarcas-
tic one.


People say ill-natured things without design,
but not without having a pleasure in them.


A person who blunders upon system, has a
secret motive for what he does, unknown to


If any one by his general conduct contrives
to part friends, he may not be aware that such
is the tendency of his actions, but assuredly it
is their motive. He has more pleasure in see-
ing others cold and distant, than cordial and



A person who constantly meddles to no pur-
pose, means to do harm, and is not sorry to find
he has succeeded.


Cunning is natural to mankind. It is the
sense of our weakness, and an attempt to effect
by concealment what we cannot do openly and
by force.


In love we never think of moral qualities, and
scarcely of intellectual ones. Temperament and
manner alone (with beauty) excite love.


There is no one thoroughly despicable. We
cannot descend much lower than an ideot ; and
an ideot has some advantages over a wise man.


Comparisons are odious, because they reduce
every one to a standard he ought not to be tried
by, or leave us in possession only of those claims
which we can set up, to the entire exclusion of


others. By striking off the common qualities,
the remainder of excellence is brought down to
a contemptible fraction. A man may be six feet
high, and only an inch taller than another. In
comparisons, this difference of an inch is the only
thing thought of or ever brought into question.
The greatest genius or virtue soon dwindles into
nothing by such a mode of computation.


It is a fine remark of Rousseau's, that the
best of us differ from others in fewer particu-
lars than we agree with them in. The diffe-
rence between a tall and a short man is only a
few inches, whereas they are both several feet
high. So a wise or learned man knows many
things, of which the vulgar are ignorant ; but
there is a still greater number of things, the
knowledge of which they share in common
with him.


I am always afraid of a fool. One cannot be
sure that he is not a knave as well.


Weakness has its hidden resources, as well as


strength. There is a degree of folly and mean-
ness which we cannot calculate upon, and by
which we are as much liable to be foiled, as by
the greatest ability or courage.


We can only be degraded in a contest with
low natures. The advantages that others ob-
tain over us are fair and honourable to both


Reflection makes men cowards. There is no
object that can be put in competition with life,
unless it is viewed through the medium of pas-
sion, and we are hurried away by the impulse of
the moment.


The youth is better than the old age of friend-


In the course of a long acquaintance we have
repeated all our good things and discussed all our
favourite topics several times over, so that our
conversation becomes a mockery of social inter-
course. We might as well talk to ourselves.
The soil of friendship is worn out with constant


use. Habit may still attach us to each other,
but we feel ourselves fettered by it. Old friends
might be compared to old married people with-
out the tie of children.


We grow tired of ourselves, much more of
other people. Use may in part reconcile us to
our own tediousness, but we do not adopt that
of others on the same paternal principle. We
may be willing to tell a story twice, never to hear
one more than once.


If we are long absent from our friends, we
forget them : if we are constantly with them, we
despise them.


There are no rules for friendship. It must be
left to itself: we cannot force it any more than


The most violent friendships soonest wear
themselves out.


To be capable of steady friendship or lasting


love, are the two greatest proofs, not only of
goodness of heart, but of strength of mind.


It makes us proud when our love of a mis-
tress is returned: it ought to make us prouder
that we can love her for herself alone, without
the aid of any such selfish reflection. This is
the religion of love.


An English officer who had been engaged in
an intrigue in Italy going home one night,
stumbled over a man fast asleep on the stairs.
It was a bravo who had been hired to assassi-
nate him. Such, in this man, was the force of


An eminent artist having succeeded in a pic-
ture which drew crowds to admire it, received
a letter from a shuffling old relation in these
terms, " Dear Cousin, now you may draw good
bills with a vengeance." Such is the force of
habit ! This man only wished to be Raphael
that he might carry on his old trade of drawing



Mankind are a herd of knaves and fools. It
is necessary to join the crowd, or get out of
their way, in order not to be trampled to death
by them.


To think the worst of others, and do the best
we can ourselves, is a safe rule, but a hard one
to practise.


To think ill of mankind and not wish ill to
them, is perhaps the highest wisdom and virtue.


We may hate and love the same person, nay
even at the same moment.


We never hate those whom we have once
loved, merely because they have injured us.
"We may kill those of whom we are jealous/'
says Fielding, "but we do not hate them." We
are enraged at their conduct and at ourselves as
the objects of it, biyt this does not alter our
passion for them. The reason is, we loved them
without their loving us ; we do not hate them


because they hate us. Love may turn to in-
difference with possession, but is irritated by


Revenge against the object of our love is mad-
ness. No one would kill the woman he loves,
but that he thinks he can bring her to life
afterwards. Her death seems to him as mo-
mentary as his own rash act. See Othello.
" My wife ! I have no wife," &c. He stabbed
not at her life, but at her falsehood ; he thought
to kill the wanton, and preserve the wife.


We revenge in haste and passion : we repent
at leisure and from reflection.


By retaliating our sufferings on the heads of
those we love, we get rid of a present uneasi-
ness, and incur lasting remorse. With the ac-
complishment of our revenge our fondness re-
turns; so that we feel the injury we have done
them, even more than they do.


I think men formerly were more jealous of


their rivals in love; they are now more jealous
of their mistresses, and lay the blame on them.
That is, we formerly thought more of the mere
possession of the person, which the removal of
a favoured lover prevented, and we now think
more of a woman's affections, which may still
follow him to the tomb. To kill a rival is to kill
a fool ; but the Goddess of our idolatry may be
a sacrifice worthy of the Gods. Hackman did
not think of shooting Lord Sandwich but Miss


Many people in reasoning on the passions
make a continual appeal to common sense. But
passion is without common sense, and we must
frequently discard the one in speaking of the


It is provoking to hear people at their ease
talking reason to others in a state of violent suf-
fering. If you can remove their suffering by a
word speaking, do so ; and then they will be in
a state to hear calm reason.


There is nothing that I hate as I do to hear


a common-place set up against a feeling of truth
and nature.


People try to reconcile you to a disappoint-
ment in love, by asking why you should cherish
a passion for an object that has proved itself
worthless. Had you known this before, you
would not have encouraged the passion; but that
having been once formed, knowledge does not
destroy it. If we have drank poison, finding it
out does not prevent its being in our veins : so
passion leaves its poison in the mind ! It is the
nature of all passion and of all habitual affection;
we throw ourselves upon it at a venture, but we
cannot return by choice. If it is a wife that has
proved unworthy, men compassionate the loss,
because there is a tie, they say, which we cannot
get rid of. But has the heart no ties ? Or if it is
a child, they understand it. But is not true love
a child? Or when another has become a part of
ourselves, " where we must live or have no life at
all," can we tear them from us in an instant ?
No : these bargains are for life ; and that for
which our souls have sighed for years, cannot
be forgotten with a breath, and without a pang.



Besides, it is uncertainty and suspense that
chiefly irritate jealousy to madness. When we
know our fate, we become gradually reconciled
to it, and try to forget a useless sorrow.


It is wonderful how often we see and hear of
Shakespear's plays without being annoyed with
it. Were it any other writer, we should be sick
to death of the very name. But his volumes
are like that of nature, we can turn to them
again and again :

"Age cannot wither, nor custom stale
His infinite variety."


The contempt of a wanton for a man who is
determined to think her virtuous, is perhaps
the strongest of all others. He officiously re-
minds her of what she ought to be ; and she
avenges the galling sense of lost character on
the fool who still believes in it.


To find that a woman whom we loved has for-


felted her character, is the same thing as to
learn that she is dead.


The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hy-
pocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself


Once a renegado, and always a renegado.


By speaking truth to the really beautiful, we
learn to flatter other women.


There is a kind of ugliness which is not dis-
agreeable to women. It is that which is con-
nected with the expression of strong but bad
passions, and implies spirit and power.


People do not persist in their vices because
they are not weary of them, but because they
cannot leave them off. It is the nature of vice
to leave us no resource but in itself.



Our consciousness of injustice makes us add
to the injury. By aggravating a wrong, we
seem to ourselves to justify it. The repetition
of the blow inflames our passion and deadens


In confessing the greatest offences, a criminal
gives himself credit for his candour. You and
he seem to have come to an amicable under-
standing on his character at last.


A barefaced profligacy often succeeds to an
overstrained preciseness in morals. People in
a less licentious age carefully conceal the vices
they have ; as they afterwards, with an air of phi-
losophic freedom, set up for those they have not.


It is a sign that real religion is in a state of de-
cay, when passages in compliment to it are ap-
plauded at the theatre. Morals and sentiment
fall within the province of the stage ; but reli-
gion, except where it is considered as a beautiful


fiction which ought to be treated with lenity,
does not depend upon our suffrages.


There are persons to whom success gives no
satisfaction, unless it is accompanied with dis-
honesty. Such people willingly ruin themselves,
in order to ruin others.


Habitual liars invent falsehoods not to gain
any end or even to deceive their hearers, but to
amuse themselves. It is partly practice and
partly habit. It requires an effort in them to
speak truth.


A knave thinks himself a fool, all the time he
is not making a fool of some other person.


Fontenelle said, " If his hand were full of
truths, he would not open his fingers to let
them out." Was this a satire on truth or on
mankind ?


The best kind of conversation is that which


is made up of observations, reflections, and anec-
dotes. A string of stories without application
is as tiresome as a long-winded argument.


The most insignificant people are the most
apt to sneer at others. They are safe from re-
prisals, and have no hope of rising in their own
esteem, but by lowering their neighbours. The
severest critics are always those, who have either
never attempted, or who have failed in original


More remarks are made upon any one's dress,
looks, &c. in walking twenty yards along the
streets of Edinburgh, or other provincial towns,
than in passing from one end of London to
the other.


There is less impertinence and more indepen-
dence in London than in any other place in the


A man who meets thousands of people in a day
who never saw or heard of him before, if he thinks
at all, soon learns to think little of himself. Lon-


don is the place where a man of sense is soonest
cured of his coxcombry, or where a fool may
indulge his vanity with impunity, by giving him-
self what airs he pleases. A valet and a lord
are there nearly on a level. Among a million of
men, we do not count the units ; for we have not


There is some virtue in almost every vice, ex-
cept hypocrisy; and even that, while it is a
mockery of virtue, is at the same time a compli-
ment to it.


It does not follow that a man is a hypocrite,
because his actions give the lie to his words.
If he at one time seems a saint, and at other
times a sinner, he possibly is both in reality, as
well as in appearance. A person may be fond
of vice and of virtue too ; and practise one or
the other, according to the temptation of the
moment. A priest may be pious, and a sot or
bigot. A woman may be modest, and a rake at
heart. A poet may admire the beauties of na-
ture, and be envious of those of other writers.
A moralist may act contrary to his own precepts,
and yet be sincere in recommending them to


others. These are indeed contradictions, but
they arise out of the contradictory qualities in
our nature. A man is a hypocrite only when
he affects to take a delight in what he does not
feel, not because he takes a perverse delight in
opposite things.


The greatest offence against virtue is to speak
ill of it. To recommend certain things is worse
than to practise them. There may be an excuse
for the last in the frailty of passion ; but the for-
mer can arise from nothing but an utter depra-
vity of disposition. Any one may yield to tempta-
tion, and yet feel a sincere love and aspiration
after virtue; but he who maintains vice in theory,
has not even the idea or capacity for virtue in
his mind. Men err: fiends only make a mock
at goodness.


The passions make antitheses and subtle dis-
tinctions, finer than any pen.


I used to think that men were governed by
their passions more than by their interest or
reason, till I heard the contrary maintained in


Scotland, viz. that the main-chance is the great
object in life, and the proof given of it was, that
every man in the street where we were talking,
however he might have a particular hobby,
minded his business as the principal thing, and
endeavoured to make both ends meet at the end
of the year. This was a shrewd argument, and
it was Scotch. I could only answer it in my
own mind by turning to different persons among
my acquaintance who have been ruined with
their eyes open by some whim or fancy. One,
for instance, married a girl of the town : a second
divorced his wife to marry a wench at a lodging-
house, who refused him, and whose cruelty and
charms are the torment of his own life, and
that of all his friends : a third drank himself
to death ; a fourth is the dupe and victim of
quack advertisements : a fifth is the slave of his
wife's ill-humour : a sixth quarrels with all his
friends without any motive : a seventh lies on to
the end of the chapter, and to his own ruin, &c.
It is true, none of these are Scotchmen ; and yet
they live in houses, rather than in the open
air, and follow some trade or vocation to avoid
starving outright. If this is what is meant by
a calculation of consequences, the doctrine may


hold true ; but it does not infringe upon the
main point. It affects the husk, the shell, but
not the kernel of our dispositions. The pleasure
or torment of our lives is in the pursuit of some
favourite passion or perverse humour.

"Within our bosoms reigns another lord,
Passion, sole judge and umpire of itself."


There are few things more contemptible than
the conversation of men of the town. It is made
up of the technicalities and cant of all professions,
without the spirit or knowledge of any. It is
flashy and vapid, and is like the rinsings of diffe-
rent liquors at & night-cellar instead of a bottle
of fine old port. It is without clearness or body,
and a heap of affectation.


The conversation of players is either dull or
bad. They are tempted to say gay or fine
things from the habit of uttering them with
applause on the stage, and unable to do it from
the habit of repeating what is set down for them
by rote. A good comic actor, if he is a sensible
man, will generally be silent in company. It is


not his profession to invent bon mots, but to de-
liver them ; and he will scorn to produce a the-
atrical effect by grimace and mere vivacity. A
great tragic actress should be a mute, except on
the stage. She cannot raise the tone of common
conversation to that of tragedy, and any other
must be quite insipid to her. Repose is neces-
sary to her. She who died the night before in
Cleopatra, ought not to revive till she appears
again as Cassandra or Aspasia. In the inter-
vals of her great characters, her own should be
a blank, or an unforced, unstudied part.


To marry an actress for the admiration she
excites on the stage, is to imitate the man who
bought PUNCH.


To expect an author to talk as he writes is
ridiculous ; or even if he did, you would find
fault with him as a pedant. We should read
authors, and not converse with them.


Extremes meet. Excessive refinement is of-


ten combined with equal grossness. They act
as a relief to each other, and please by contrast.


The seeds of many of our vices are sown in
our blood : others we owe to the bile, or a fit of
indigestion. A sane mind is generally the effect
of a sane body.


Health and good temper are the two greatest
blessings in life. In all the rest, men are equal,
or find an equivalent.


Poverty, labour, and calamity, are not without
their luxuries; which the rich, the indolent, and
the fortunate, in vain seek for.


Good and ill seem as necessary to human life
as light and shade are to a picture. We grow
weary of uniform success, and pleasure soon sur-
feits. Pain makes ease delightful ; hunger re-
lishes the homeliest food, fatigue turns the
hardest bed to down; and the difficulty and un-
certainty of pursuit in all cases enhance the va-


lue of possession. The wretched are in this
respect fortunate, that they have the strongest
yearnings after happiness; and to desire is in
some sense to enjoy. If the schemes of Uto-
pians could be realized, the tone of society would
be changed from what it is, into a sort of insipid
high life. There could be no fine tragedies
written; nor would there be any pleasure in
seeing them. We tend to this conclusion already
with the progress of civilization.


The pleasure derived from tragedy is to be
accounted for in this way, that, by painting the
extremes of human calamity, it by contrast kin-
dles the affections, and raises the most intense
imagination and desire of the contrary good.


The question respecting dramatic illusion has
not been fairly stated. There are different de-
grees and kinds of belief. The point is not
whether we do or do not believe what we see to
be a positive reality, but how far and in what
manner we believe in it. We do not say every
moment to ourselves, "This is real:" but neither


do we say every moment, "This is not real."
The involuntary impression steals upon us, till
we recollect ourselves. The appearance of
reality, in fact, is the reality, so long and in as
far as we are not conscious of the contradictory
circumstances that disprove it. The belief in a
well-acted tragedy never amounts to what the
witnessing the actual scene would prove, and
never sinks into a mere phantasmagoria. Its
power of affecting us is not, however, taken away,
even if we abstract the feeling of identity; for it
still suggests a stronger idea of what the reality
would be, just as a picture reminds us more pow-
erfully of the person for whom it is intended,
though we are conscious it is not the same.


We have more faith in a well-written romance,
while we are reading it, than in common his-
tory. The vividness of the representations in the
one case, more than counterbalances the mere
knowledge of the truth of the facts in the other.


It is remarkable how virtuous and generously
disposed every one is at a play. We uniformly
applaud what is right and condemn what is


wrong, when it costs us nothing but the senti-


Great natural advantages are seldom com-
bined with great acquired ones, because they
render the labour required to attain the last su-
perfluous and irksome. It is only necessary to be
admired ; and if we are admired for the graces
of our persons, we shall not be at much pains
to adorn our minds. If Pope had been a beau-
tiful youth, he would not have written the Rape
of the Lock.* A beautiful woman, who has
only to shew herself to be admired, and is fa-
mous by nature, will be in no danger of becom-
ing a blue-stocking, to attract notice by her learn-
ing, or to hide her defects.


Those people who are always improving, never
become great. Greatness is an eminence, the
ascent to which is steep and lofty, and which a
aian must seize on at once by natural boldness
and vigour, and not by patient, wary steps.


The late Mr. Opie remarked, that an artist

* Milton was a beautiful youth, and yet he wrote Paradise Lost.

often put his best thoughts into his first works.
His earliest efforts were the result of the study
of all his former life, whereas his later and more
mature performances (though perhaps more skil-
ful and finished) contained only the gleanings of
his after-observation and experience.


The effort necessary to overcome difficulty
urges the student on to excellence. When he
can once do well with ease, he grows compara-
tively careless and indifferent, and makes no far-
ther advances to perfection.


When a man can do better than every one else
in the same walk, he does not make any very
painful exertions to outdo himself. The pro-
gress of improvement ceases nearly at the point
where competition ends.


We are rarely taught by our own experi-
ence ; and much less do we put faith in that of


We do not attend to the advice of the sage


and experienced, because we think they are old,
forgetting that they once were young and placed
in the same situations as ourselves.


We are egotists in morals as well as in other
things. Every man is determined to judge for
himself as to his conduct in life, and finds out
what he ought to have done, when it is too late
to do it. For this reason, the world has to be*-
gin again with each successive generation.


We should be inclined to pay more attention
to the wisdom of the old, if they shewed greater
indulgence to the follies of the young.


The best lesson we can learn from witnessing
the folly of mankind is not to irritate ourselves
against it.


If the world were good for nothing else, it is
a fine subject for speculation.

In judging of individuals, we always allow


something to character ,- for even when this is
not agreeable or praise-worthy, it affords ex-
ercise for our sagacity, and baffles the harshness
of our censure.


There are persons to whom we never think
of applying the ordinary rules of judging. They
form a class by themselves and are curiosities in
morals, like non-descripts in natural history.
We forgive whatever they do or say, for the sin-
gularity of the thing, and because it excites at-
tention. A man who has been hanged, is not
the worse subject for dissection ; and a man who
deserves to be hanged, may be a very amusing
companion or topic of discourse.


Every man, in his own opinion, forms an ex-
ception to the ordinary rules of morality.


No man ever owned to the title of a murderer,
a tyrant &c. because, however notorious the
facts might be, the epithet is accompanied with a
reference to motives and marks of opprobrium


in common language and in the feelings of others,
which he does not acknowledge in his own mind.


There are some things, the idea of which alone
is a clear gain to the human mind. Let people
rail at virtue, at genius and friendship as long
as they will the very names of these disputed
qualities are better than any thing else that could
be substituted for them, and embalm even the
most angry abuse of them.


If goodness were only a theory, it were a pity
it should be lost to the world.


Were good and evil ever so nearly balanced
in reality, yet imagination would add a casting-
weight to the favourable scale, by anticipating
the bright side of what is to come, and throwing
a pleasing melancholy on the past.


Women, when left to themselves, talk chiefly


about their dress: they think more about their
lovers than they talk about them.


With women, the great business of life is love ;
and they generally make a mistake in it. They
consult neither the heart nor the head, but are
led away by mere humour and fancy. If instead
of a companion for life, they had to choose a
partner in a country-dance or to trifle away an
hour with, their mode of calculation would be
right. They tie their true-lover's knot with
idle, thoughtless haste, while the institutions of
society render it indissoluble.


When we hear complaints of the wretched-
ness or vanity of human life, the proper answer
to them would be that there is hardly any one
who at some time or other has not been in love*
If we consider the high abstraction of this feel-
ing, its depth, its purity, its voluptuous refine-
ment, even in the meanest breast, how sacred
and how sweet it is, this alone may reconcile us
to the lot of humanity. That drop of balm
turns the bitter cup to a delicious nectar
"And vindicates the way of God to man."



It is impossible to love entirely, without being
loved again. Otherwise, the fable of Pygmalion
would have no meaning. Let any one be ever
so much enamoured of a woman who does not
requite his passion, and let him consider what
he feels when he finds her scorn or indifference
turning to mutual regard, the thrill, the glow
of rapture, the melting of two hearts into one,
the creation of another self in her and he will
own that he was before only half in love !


Women never reason, and therefore they are
(comparatively) seldom wrong. They judge in-
stinctively of what falls under their immediate ob-
servation or experience, and do not trouble them-
selves about remote or doubtful consequences.
If they make no profound discoveries, they do
not involve themselves in gross absurdities. It
is only by the help of reason and logical inference,
according to Hobbes, that " man becomes ex-
cellently wise, or excellently foolish."*


Women are less cramped by circumstances or

* Leviathan.


education than men. They are more the crea-
tures of nature and impulse, and less cast in the
mould of habit or prejudice. If a young man
and woman in common life are seen walking out
together on a holiday, the girl has the advan-
tage in point of air and dress. She has a greater
aptitude in catching external accomplishments
and the manners of her superiors, and is less de-
pressed by a painful consciousness of her situa-
tion in life. A Quaker girl is often as sensible
and conversable as any other woman: while a
Quaker man is a bundle of quaint opinions and
conceit. Women are not spoiled by educa-
tion and an affectation of superior wisdom.
They take their chance for wit and shrewdness,
and pick up their advantages, according to their
opportunities and turn of mind. Their faculties
(such as they are) shoot out freely and grace-
fully, like the slender trees in a forest ; and are
not clipped and cut down, as the understandings
of men are, into uncouth shapes and distorted
fancies, like yew-trees in an old-fashioned gar-
den. Women in short resemble self-taught men,
with more pliancy and delicacy of feeling.



Women have as little imagination as they have
reason. They are pure egotists. They cannot
go out of themselves. There is no instance of
a woman having done any thing great in poetry
or philosophy. They can act tragedy, because
this depends very much on the physical expres-
sion of the passions they can sing, for they
have flexible throats and nice ears they can
write romances about love and talk forever
about nothing.


Women are not philosophers or poets, pa-
triots, moralists, or politicians - they are simply


Women have a quicker sense of the ridiculous
than men, because they judge from immediate
impressions, and do not wait for the explanation
that may be given of them.


English Women have nothing to say on ge-
neral subjects : French women talk equally well
on them or any other. This may be obviously
accounted for from the circumstance that the two


sexes associate much more together in France
than they do with us, so that the tone of con-
versation in the women has become masculine,
and that of the men effeminate. The tone of
apathy and indifference in France to the weigh-
tier interests of reason and humanity is aseri-
bable to the same cause. Women have no spe-
culative faculty or fortitude of mind, and wher-
ever they exercise a continual and paramount
sway, all must be soon laughed out of counte-
nance, but the immediately intelligible and agree-
able but the shewy in religion, the lax in mo-
rals, and the superficial in philosophy.


The texture of women's minds, as well as of
their bodies, is softer than that of men's: but
they have not the same strength of nerve, of un-
derstanding, or of moral purpose.


In France knowledge circulates quickly, from
the mere communicativeness of the national dis-
position. Whatever is once discovered, be it
good or bad, is made no secret of; but is spread
quickly through all ranks and classes of society.
Thought then runs along the surface of the mind


like an electrical fluid ; while the English un-
derstanding is a non-conductor to it, and damps
it with its torpedo touch.


The French are fond of reading as well as of
talking. You may constantly see girls tending
an apple-stall in the coldest day in winter, and
reading Voltaire or Racine. Such a thing was
never known in London as a barrow-woman
reading Shakespear. Yet we talk of our wide-
spread civilization, and ample provisions for the.
education of the poor.


In comparing notes with the French, we can-
not boast even of our superior conceit ; for in
that too they have the advantage of us.


It is curious that the French, with all their vi-
vacity and love of external splendour, should to-
lerate nothing but their prosing, didactic style of
tragedy on the stage ; and that with all their
flutter and levity they should combine the most
laborious patience and minute finishing in works
of art. A French student will take several weeks


to complete a chalk-drawing from a head of Leo-
nardo da Vinci, which a dull, plodding English-
man would strike off in as many hours.


The Dutch perhaps finished their landscapes
so carefully, because there was a want of romantic
and striking objects in them, so that they could
only be made interesting by the accuracy of the


An awkward Englishman has an advantage
in going abroad. Instead of having his defi-
ciency more remarked, it is less so ; for all En-
glishmen are thought awkward alike. Any slip
in politeness or abruptness of address is attri-
buted to an ignorance of foreign manners, and
you escape under the cover of the national cha-
racter. Your behaviour is no more criticised
than your accent. They consider the barbarism
of either as a compliment to their own superior


The difference between minuteness and sub-
tlety or refinement seems to be this that the
one relates to the parts, and the other to the
whole. Thus, the accumulation of a number


of distinct partipulars in a work, as the threads
of a gold-laced button-hole, or the hairs on the
chin in a portrait of Denner's, is minute or high
finishing : the giving the gradations of tone in a
sky of Claude's from azure to gold, where the
distinction at each step is imperceptible, but the
whole effect is striking and grand, and can only be
seized upon by the eye of taste, is true refinement
and delicacy.


The forte of the French is a certain facility
and grace of execution. The Germans, who
are the opposite to them, are full of throes and
labour, and do every thing by an overstrained
and violent effort.


The conversation of a pedantic Scotchman is
like a canal with a great number of locks in it.


The most learned are often the most narrow-
minded men.


The insolence of the vulgar is in proportion
to their ignorance. They treat every thing with
contempt, which they do not understand.



Our contempt for others proves nothing but
the illiberality and narrowness of our own views.
The English laugh at foreigners, because, from
their insular situation, they are unacquainted
with the manners and customs of the rest of the


The true barbarian is he who thinks every
thing barbarous but his own tastes and preju-


The difference between the vanity of a French-
man and an Englishman seems to be this the
one thinks every thing right that is French, the
other thinks every thing wrong that is not Eng-
lish. The Frenchman is satisfied with his own
country; the Englishman is determined to pick a
quarrel with every other.


The national precedence between the English
and Scotch may be settled by this, that the Scotch
are always asserting their superiority over the
English, while the English never say a word
about their superiority over the Scotch. The


first have got together a great number of facts
and arguments in their own favour ; the last
never trouble their heads about the matter, but
have taken the point for granted as self-evi-


The great characteristic of the Scotch is that
of all semi-barbarous people, namely, a hard de-
fiance of other nations.


Those who are tenacious on the score of their
faults shew that they have no virtues to bring
as a set-off against them.


An Englishman in Scotland seems to be tra-
velling in a conquered country, from the suspi-
cion and precautions which he has to encounter ;
and this is really the history of the case.


We learn a great deal from coming into con-
tact and collision with individuals of other na-
tions. The contrast of character and feeling
the different point of view from which they see

things is an admirable test of the truth or rea-
sonableness of our opinions. Among ourselves
we take a number of things for granted, which,
as soon as we find ourselves with strangers, we
are called upon to account for. With those who
think and feel differently from our habitual tone,
we must have a reason for the faith that is in us,
or we shall not come off very triumphantly. By
this comparing of notes, by being questioned
and cross-examined, we discover how far we
have taken up certain notions on good grounds,
or barely on trust. We also learn how much
of our best knowledge is built on a sort of ac-
quired instinct, and how little we can analyze
those things that seem to us most self-evident,
He is no mean philosopher who can give a rea-
son for one half of what he thinks. It by no means
follows that our tastes or judgments are wrong,
because we may be at fault in an argument.
A Scotchman and a Frenchman would differ
equally from an Englishman, but would run
into contrary extremes. He might not be able
to make good his ground against the levity of the
one or the pertinacity of the other, and yet he
might be right, for they cannot both be so.
By visiting different countries and conversing


with their inhabitants, we strike a balance be-
tween opposite prejudices, and have an average
of truth and nature left.


Strength of character as well as strength of
understanding is one of the guides that point
the way to truth. By seeing the bias and pre-
judices of others marked in a strong and decided
manner, we are led to detect our own from
laughing at their absurdities, we begin to sus-
pect the soundness of our own conclusions,
which we find to be just the reverse of them.
When I was in Scotland some time ago, I learnt
most from the person, whose opinions were not
most right (as I conceive) but most Scotch. In
this case, as in playing a game at bowls, you
have only to allow for a certain bias in order to
hit the Jack: or, as in an algebraic equation,
you deduct so much for national character and
prejudice, which is a known or given quantity,
and what remains is the truth.


We learn little from mere captious contro-
versy, or the collision of opinions, unless where
there is this collision of character to account for


the difference, and remind one, by implication,
where one's own weakness lies. In the latter
case, it is a shrewd presumption that inasmuch
as others are wrong, so are we : for the widest
breach in argument is made by mutual prejudice.


There are certain moulds of national charac-
ter, in which all our opinions and feelings must
be cast, or they are spurious and vitiated. A
Frenchman and an Englishman, a Scotchman
and an Irishman, seldom reason alike on any two
points consecutively. It is in vain to think of
reconciling these antipathies: they are some-
thing in the juices and the blood. It is not
possible for a Frenchman to admire Shake-
spear, except out of mere affectation : nor is it
at all necessary that he should, while he has au-
thors of his own to admire. But then his not
admiring Shakespear is no reason why we should
not. The harm is not in the natural variety of
tastes and dispositions, but in setting up an arti-
ficial standard of uniformity, which makes us
dissatisfied with our own opinions, unless we
can make them universal, or impose them as a
law upon the world at large.



I had rather be a lord than a king. A lord
is a private gentleman of the first class, amenable
only to himself. A king is a servant of the pub-
lic, dependent on opinion, a subject for history,
and liable to be " baited with the rabble's curse."
Such a situation is no sinecure. Kings indeed
were gentlemen, when their subjects were vas-
sals, and the world (instead of a stage on which
they have to perform a difficult and stubborn
part) was a deer-park, through which they ranged
at pleasure. But the case is altered of late, and
it is better and has more of the sense of personal
dignity in it to come into possession of a large
old family-estate and " ancestral" groves, than
to have a kingdom to govern or to lose.


The affectation of gentility by people without
birth or fortune is a very idle species of vanity.
For those who are in middle or humble life to
aspire to be always seen in the company of the
great is like the ambition of a dwarf who should
hire himself as an attendant to wait upon a
giant. But we find great numbers of this class
whose pride or vanity seems to be sufficiently


gratified by the admiration of the finery or su-
periority of others, without any farther object.
There are sycophants who take a pride in being
seen in the train of a great man, as there are
fops who delight to follow in the train of a
beautiful woman (from a mere impulse of admi-
ration and excitement of the imagination) with-
out the smallest personal pretensions of their


There is a double aristocracy of rank and let-
ters, which is hardly to be endured monstrum
ingens, biforme. A lord, who is a poet as well,
regards the House of Peers with contempt as a
set of dull fellows; and he considers his brother
authors as a Grub-street crew. A king is hardly
good enough for him to touch: a mere man of
genius is no better than a worm. He alone is
all-accomplished. Such people should be sent
to Coventry; and they generally are so, through
their insufferable pride and self-sufficiency.


The great are fond of patronising men of ge-
nius, when they are remarkable for personal in-
significance, so that they can dandle them like


parroquets or lap-dogs, or when they are dis-
tinguished by some awkwardness which they
can laugh at, or some meanness which they can
despise. They do not wish to encourage or
shew their respect for wisdom or virtue, but to
witness the defects or ridiculous circumstances
accompanying these, that they may have an ex-
cuse for treating all sterling pretensions with su-
percilious indifference. They seek at besj; to
be amused, not to be instructed. Truth is the
greatest impertinence a man can be guilty of in
polite company ; and players and buffoons are
the beau ideal of men of wit and. talents.


We do not see nature, merely from looking
at it. We fancy that we see the whole of any
object that is before us, because we know no
more of it than what we see. The rest escapes
us, as a matter of course ; and we easily conclude
that the idea in our minds and the image in na-
ture are one and the same. But in fact we only
see a very small part of nature, and make an
imperfect abstraction of the infinite number of
particulars, which are always to be found in it, as
well as we can. Some do this with more or less
accuracy than others, according to habit or natu-


ral genius. A painter, for instance, who has been
working on a face for several days, still finds out
something new in it which he did not notice be-
fore, and which he endeavours to give in order to
make his copy more perfect, which shews how
little an ordinary and unpractised eye can be
supposed to comprehend the whole at a single
glance. A young artist, when he first begins to
study from nature, soon makes an end of his
sketch, because he sees only a general outline
and certain gross distinctions and masses. As he
proceeds, a new field opens to him ; differences
crowd upon differences ; and as his perceptions
grow more refined, he could employ whole days
in working upon a single part, without satisfy-
ing himself at last. No painter, after a life de-
voted to the art and the greatest care and length
of time given to a single study of a head or other
object, ever succeeded in it to his wish or did
not leave something still to be done. The
greatest artists that have ever appeared are
those who have been able to embody some one
view or aspect of nature, and no more. Thus
Titian was famous for colouring ; Raphael for
drawing; Correggio for the gradations, Rem-
brandt for the extremes of light and shade.


The combined genius and powers of observa-
tion of all the great artists in the world would
not be sufficient to convey the whole of what
is contained in any one object in nature; and
yet the most vulgar spectator thinks he sees
the whole of what is before him, at once and
without any trouble at all.


A copy is never so good as an original. This
would not be the case indeed, if great painters
were in the habit of copying bad pictures ; but
as the contrary practice holds, it follows that
the excellent parts of a fine picture must lose in
the imitation, and the indifferent parts will not
be proportionably improved by any thing sub-
stituted at a venture for them.


The greatest painters are those who have
combined the finest general effect with the
highest degree of delicacy and correctness of
detail. It is a mistake that the introduction of
the parts interferes or is incompatible with the
effect of the whole. Both are to be found in
nature. The most finished works of the most
renowned artists are also the best.



We are not weaned from a misplaced attach-
ment, by (at last) discovering the unworthiness
of the object. The character of a woman is
one thing; her graces and attractions another;
and these last acquire even an additional charm
and piquancy from the disappointment we feel
in other respects. The truth is, a man in love
prefers his passion to every other consideration,
and is fonder of his mistress than he is of virtue.
Should she prove vicious, she makes vice lovely
in his eyes.


An accomplished coquet excites the passions
of others, in proportion as she feels none her-
self. Her forwardness allures, her indifference
irritates desire. She fans the flame that does
not scorch her own bosom ; plays with men's
feelings, and studies the effect of her several
arts, at leisure and unmoved.


Grace in women is the secret charm, that
draws the soul into its circle, and binds a spell
round it forever. The reason of which is, that
habitual grace implies a continual sense of de-


light, of ease and propriety, which nothing can
interrupt, ever varying, and adapting itself to
all circumstances alike.


Even among the most abandoned of the sex,
there is generally found to exist one strong and
individual attachment, which remains unshaken
through all circumstances. Virtue steals, like
a guilty thing, into the secret haunts of vice and
infamy, clings to their devoted victim, and will
not be driven quite away. Nothing can destroy
the human heart


There is a heroism in crime as well as in vir-
tue. Vice and infamy have their altars and
their religion. This makes nothing in their fa-
vour, but is a proud compliment to man's na
ture. Whatever he is or does, he cannot en-
tirely efface the stamp of the Divinity on him.
Let him strive ever so, he cannot divest himself
of his natural sublimity of thought and affection,
however he may pervert or deprave it to ill.


We judge of character too much from names


and classes, and modes of life. It alters very
little with circumstances. The theological doc-
trines of Original Sin, of Grace, and Election,
admit of a moral and natural solution. Out-
ward acts or events hardly reach the inward dis-
position or fitness for good or evil. Humanity
is to be met with in a den of rohbers, nay, mo-
desty in a brothel. Nature prevails, and vindi-
cates its rights to the last.


Women do not become abandoned with the
mere loss of character. They only discover the
vicious propensities, which they before were
bound to conceal. They do not (all at once)
part with their virtue, but throw aside the veil
of affectation and prudery.


It is enough to satisfy ambition to excel in
some one thing. In every thing else, one would
wish to be a common man. Those who aim at
every kind of distinction turn out mere preten-
ders and coxcombs. One of the ancients has
said that "the wisest and most accomplished man
is like the statues of the Gods placed against a


wall in front an Apollo or a Mercury, behind
a plain piece of marble."


The want of money, according to the poet,
has the effect of making men ridiculous. It not
only has this disadvantage with respect to our-
selves, but it often shews us others in a very con-
temptible point of view. If we sink in the opi-
nion of the world from adverse circumstances,
the world is apt to sink equally in ours. Po-
verty is the test of civility and the touchstone
of friendship.


There are those who borrow money, in or-
der to lend it again. This is raising a charac-
ter for generosity at an easy rate.


The secret of the difficulties of those people,
who make a great deal of money, and yet are
always in want of it, is this they throw it away
as soon as they get it on the first whim or ex-
travagance that strikes them, and have nothing
.left to meet ordinary expenses or discharge old



Those who have the habit of being generous
before they are just, fancy they are getting out
of difficulties all their lives, because it is in their
power to do so, whenever they will ; and for this
reason they go on in the same way to the last,
because the time never comes for baulking their
inclinations or breaking off a bad habit.


It is a mistake that we court the society of
the rich and great, merely with a view to what
we can obtain from them. We do so, because
there is something in external rank and splen-
dour that gratifies and imposes on the imagi-
nation, just as we prefer the company of those
who are in good health and spirits to that of
the sickly and hypochondriacal, or as we would
rather converse with a beautiful woman than
with an ugly one.


Shakespeare says, " Men's judgments are a
parcel of their fortunes." A person in de-
pressed circumstances is not only not listened
tohe has not the spirit to say a good thing.,



We are very much what others think of us.
The reception our observations meet with, gives
us courage to proceed or damps our efforts.
A man is a wit and a philosopher in one place,
who dares not open his mouth and is considered
as a blockhead in another. In some companies
nothing will go down but coarse practical jests,
while the finest remark or sarcasm would be


Men of talent rise with their company, and
are brought out by the occasion. Coxcombs
and pedants have no advantage but over the dull
and ignorant, with whom they talk on by rote.


In France or abroad one feels one's-self at a
loss ; but then one has an excuse ready in an ig-
norance of the language. In Scotland they
speak the same language, but do not understand
a word that you say. One cannot get on in so-
ciety, without ideas in common. To attempt to
convert strangers to your notions, or to alter
their whole way of thinking in a short stay among
them, is indeed making a toil of a pleasure, and


enemies of those who may be inclined to be


In some situations, if you say nothing, you
are called dull ; if you talk, you are thought im-
pertinent or arrogant. It is hard to know what
to do in this case. The question seems to be,
whether your vanity or your prudence predo-


One has sometimes no other way of escaping
from a sense of insignificance, but by offending
the self-love of others. We should recollect,
however, that good manners are indispensable
at all times and places, whereas no one is bound
to make a figure, at the expense of propriety.


People sometimes complain that you do not
talk, when they have not given you an opportu-
nity to utter a word for a whole evening. The
real ground of disappointment has been, that
you have not shewn a sufficient degree of atten-
tion to what they have said.


I can listen with patience to the dullest or


or emptiest companion in the world, if he does
not require me to do any thing more than listen.


Wit is the rarest quality to be met with among
people of education, and the most common among
the uneducated.


Are we to infer from this, that wit is a vulgar
faculty, or that people of education are propor-
tionably deficient in liveliness and spirit ?


We seldom hear and seldomer make a witty
remark. Yet we read nothing else in Con-
greve's plays.


Those who object to wit, are envious of it.


The persons who make the greatest outcry
against bad puns, are the very same who also
find fault with good ones. A bad pun at least
generally leads to a wise remark that it is a
bad one.



A grave blockhead should always go about
with a lively one they shew one another off to
the best advantage.


A lively blockhead in company is a public be-
nefit. Silence or dulness by the side of folly
looks like wisdom.


It is not easy to write Essays like Montaigne,
nor Maxims in the manner of the Duke de la


The most perfect style of writing may be that,
which treats strictly and methodically of a given
subject ; the most amusing (if not the most in-
structive) is that, which mixes up the personal
character of the author with general reflection.


The seat of knowledge is in the head ; of wis-
dom, in the heart. We are sure to judge wrong,
if we do not feel right.



He who exercises a constant independence of
spirit, and yet seldom gives offence by the free-
dom of his opinions, may be presumed to have
a well-regulated mind.


There are those who never offend by never
speaking their minds ; as there are others who
blurt out a thousand exceptionable things with-
out intending it, and because they are actuated
by no feelings of personal enmity towards any


Cowardice is not synonymous with prudence.
It often happens that the better part of discre-
tion is valour.


Mental cowards are afraid of expressing a
strong opinion, or of striking hard, lest the blow
should be retaliated. They throw themselves
on the forbearance of their antagonists, and
hope for impunity in their insignificance.


No one ever gained a good word from friend


or foe, from man or woman, by want of spirit.
The public know how to distinguish between
a contempt for themselves and the fear of an


Never be afraid of attacking a bully.


An honest man speaks truth, though it may
give offence; a vain man, in order that it may.


Those only deserve a monument who do not
need one; that is, who have raised themselves
a monument in the minds and memories of men.


Fame is the inheritance not of the dead, but
of the living. It is we who look back with lofty
pride to the great names of antiquity, who drink
of that flood of glory as of a river, and refresh
our wings in it for future flight.


The inhabitant of a metropolis is apt to think
this circumstance alone gives him a decided su-


periority over every one else, and does not im-
prove that natural advantage so much as he


A true-bred cockney fancies his having been
born in London is a receipt in full for every
other species of merit. He belongs, in his own
opinion, to a privileged class.


The number of objects we see from living in
a large city amuses the mind like a perpetual
raree-show, without supplying it with any ideas.
The understanding thus becomes habitually me-
chanical and superficial.


In proportion to the number of persons we
see, we forget that we know less of mankind.


Pertness and conceit are the characteristics
of a true cockney. He feels little respect for
the greatest things from the opportunity of see-
ing them often and without trouble ; and at the
same time entertains a high opinion of himself


from his familiarity with them. He who has
seen all the great actors, the great public cha-
racters, the chief public buildings, and the other
wonders of the metropolis, thinks less of them
from this circumstance ; but conceives a prodi-
gious contempt for all those who have not seen
what he has.


The confined air of a metropolis is hurtful to
the minds and bodies of those who have never
lived out of it. It is impure, stagnant without
breathing-space to allow a larger view of our-
selves or others and gives birth to a puny,
sickly, unwholesome, and degenerate race of


Those who from a constant change and dissi-
pation of outward objects have not a moment'i
leisure left for their own thoughts, can feel no
respect for themselves, and learn little consi-
deration for humanity.


Profound hypocrisy is inconsistent with va-
nity : for the last would betray our designs by
some premature triumph. Indeed, vanity im-

plies a sympathy with others, and consummate
hypocrisy is built on a total want of it.


A hypocrite despises those whom he deceives,
but has no respect for himself. He would make
a dupe of himself too, if he could.


There is a degree of selfishness so complete,
that it does not feel the natural emotions of re-
sentment, contempt, &c. against those who have
done all they could to provoke them. Every
thing but itself is a matter of perfect indifference
to it. It feels towards others no more than if
they were of a different species ; and inflicts
torture or imparts delight, itself unmoved and


Egotism is an infirmity that perpetually grows
upon a man, till at last he cannot bear to think
of any thing but himself, or even to suppose
that others do.


He will never have true friends who is afraid
of making enemies.



The way to procure insults is to submit to
them. A man meets with no more respect than
he exacts.


What puts the baseness of mankind in the
strongest point of view is, that they avoid those
who are in misfortune, instead of countenancing
or assisting them. They anticipate the increased
demand on their sympathy or bounty, and escape
from it as from a falling house.


Death puts an end to rivalship and competi-
tion. The dead can boast no advantage over
us; nor can we triumph over them.


We judge of an author by the quality, not
the quantity of his productions. Unless we add
as much to our reputation by a second attempt
as we did by our first, we disappoint expectation,
and lose ground with the public. Those there-
fore who have done the least have often the
greatest reputation. The Author of Waverley


has not risen in public estimation by the extreme
voluminousness of his writings ; for it seems as if
that which is done so continually could not be
very difficult to do, and that there is some trick
or knack in it. The miracle ceases with the re-
petition! The Pleasures of Hope and the Plea-
sures of Memory, on the contrary, stand alone
and increase in value, because they seem unri-
valled and inimitable even by the authors them-
selves. An economy of expenditure is the way
to grow rich in fame, as well as in other pur-


It is better to drink of deep griefs than to
taste shallow pleasures.


Those who can command themselves, com-
mand others.


A surfeit of admiration or friendship often
ends in an indifference worse than hatred or
contempt. It is not a lively perception of faults,
but a sickly distaste to the very idea of the per-
son formerly esteemed, a palling of the imagi-
nation, or a conscious inertness and inability to


revive certain feelings a state from which the
mind shrinks with greater repugnance than from
any other.


The last pleasure in life is the sense of dis-
charging our duty.


Those people who are fond of giving trou-
ble, like to take it ; just as those who pay no
attention to the comforts of others, are gene-
rally indifferent to their own. We are governed
by sympathy ; and the extent of our sympathy
is determined by that of our sensibility.


No one is idle, who can do any thing.


Friendship is cemented by interest, vanity, or
the want of amusement : it seldom implies es-
teem, or even mutual regard.


Some persons make promises for the plea-
sure of breaking them.



Praise is no match for blame and obloquy.
For, were the scales even, the malice of man-
kind would throw in the casting-weight.


The safest kind of praise is to foretell that
another will become great in some particular
way. It has the greatest shew of magnanimity,
and the least of it in reality. We are not jea-
lous of dormant merit, which nobody recog-
nizes but ourselves, and which in proportion as
it developes itself, demonstrates our sagacity.
If our prediction fails, it is forgotten ; and if it
proves true, we may then set up for pro-


Men of genius do not excel in any profession
because they labour in it, but they labour in it,
because they excel.


Vice is man's nature : virtue is a habit or a


The foregoing maxim shews the difference
between truth and sarcasm.



Exalted station precludes even the exercise
of natural affection, much more of common hu-


We for the most part strive to regulate our
actions, not so much by conscience or reason, as
by the opinion of the world. But by the world
we mean those who entertain an opinion about
us. Now, this circle varies exceedingly, but
never expresses more than a part. In senates,
in camps, in town, in country, in courts, in a pri-
son, a man's vices and virtues are weighed in a
separate scale by those who know him, and who
have similar feelings and pursuits. We care
about no other opinion. There is a moral ho-
rizon which bounds our view, and beybnd which
the rest is air. The public is divided into a
number of distinct jurisdictions for different
claims ; and posterity is but a name, even to
those who sometimes dream of it.


We can bear to be deprived of every thing
but our self-conceit.



Those who are fond of setting things to rights,
have no great objection to seeing them wrong.
There is often a good deal of spleen at the bot-
tom of benevolence.


The reputation of science which ought to be
the most lasting, as synonymous with truth, is
often the least so. One discovery supersedes
another ; and the progress of light throws the
past into obscurity. What is become of the
Blacks, the Lavoisiers, the Priestleys, in che-
mistry ? In political economy, Adam Smith is
laid on the shelf, and Davenant and De Witt
have given place to the Says, the Ricardos, the
Malthuses, and the Macullochs. These per-
sons are happy in one respect they have a
sovereign contempt for all who have gone before
them, and never dream of those who are to
come after them and usurp their place. When
any set of men think theirs the only science
worth studying, and themselves the only infal-
lible persons in it, it is a sign how frail the
traces are of past excellence in it, and how little
connection it has with the general affairs of hu-


man life. In proportion to the profundity of
any inquiry, is its futility. The most important
and lasting truths are the most obvious ones.
Nature cheats us with her mysteries, one after
another, like a juggler with his tricks ; but shews
us her plain honest face, without our paying
for it. The understanding only blunders more or
less in trying to find out what things are in
themselves : the heart judges at once of its own
feelings and impressions ; and these are true
and the same.


Scholastic divinity was of use in its day, by af-
fording exercise to the mind of man. Astro-
logy, and the finding out the philosopher's stone,
answered the same purpose. If we had not
something to doubt, to dispute and quarrel
about, we should be at a loss what to do with
our time.


The multitude who require to be led, still
hate their leaders.


It has been said that any man may have any



Many people are infatuated with ill-success,
and reduced to despair by a lucky turn in
their favour. While all goes well, they are
like fish out of water. They have no confidence
or sympathy with their good fortune, and look
upOn it as a momentary delusion. Let a douht
be thrown on the question, and they begin to
be full of lively apprehensions again; let all
their hopes vanish, and they feel themselves on
firm ground once more. From want of spirit or
of habit, their imaginations cannot rise from
the low ground of humility, cannot reflect the
gay, flaunting colours of the rainbow, flag and
droop into despondency, and can neither in-
dulge the expectation, nor employ the means of
success. Even when it is within their reach,
they dare not lay hands upon it, and shrink from
unlooked-for prosperity, as something of which
they are ashamed and unworthy. The class of
croakers here spoken of are less delighted at
other people's misfortunes than at their own.
Querulous complaints and anticipations of fai-
lure are the food on which they live, and they at
last acquire a passion for that which is the favou-
rite subject of their thoughts and conversation.



There are some persons who never succeed,
from being too indolent to undertake any thing;
and others who regularly fail, because the in-
stant they find success in their power, they
grow indifferent, and give over the attempt.


To be remembered after we are dead, is but a
poor recompense for being treated with contempt
while we are living.


Mankind are so ready to bestow their admira-
tion on the dead, because the latter do not hear
it, or because it gives no pleasure to the objects
of it. Even fame is the offspring of envy.


Truth is not one, but many ; and an obser-
vation may be true in itself, that contradicts
another equally true, according to the point of
view from which we contemplate the subject.


Much intellect is not an advantage in court-


ship. General topics interfere with particular
attentions. A man to be successful in love,
should think only of himself and his mistress.
Rochefoucault observes, that lovers are never
tired of each other's company, because they are
always talking of themselves.


The best kind of oratory or argument is not
that which is most likely to succeed with any
particular person. In the latter case, we must
avail ourselves of our knowledge of individual
circumstances and character: in the former, we
must be guided by general rules and calcula-


The picture of the Misers, by Quintin Matsys,
seems to proceed upon a wrong idea. It repre-
sents two persons of this description engaged
and delighted with the mutual contemplation of
their wealth. But avarice is not a social pas-
sion; and the true miser should retire into his
cell to gloat over his treasures alone, without
sympathy or observation.



About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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