Discretion has been termed the better part of valour, and it is more certain, that diffidence is the better part of knowledge.
If we can advance any propositions that are both true and new, these are indisputably our own, by right of discovery; and if we can repeat what is old more briefly and brightly than others, this also becomes our own, by right of conquest.
We should have a glorious conflagration, if all who cannot put fire into their works would only consent to put their works into the fire.
That author, however, who has thought more than he has read, read more than he has written, and written more than he published, if he does not command success, has at least deserved it.
With books, as with companions, it is of more consequence to know which to avoid, than which to choose; for good books are as scarce as good companions.
It is almost as difficult to make a man unlearn his errors as his knowledge. Mal-information is more hopeless than non-information; for error is always more busy than ignorance. Ignorance is a blank sheet, on which we may write; but error is a scribbled one, on which we must first erase. Ignorance is contented to stand still with her back to the truth; but error is more presumptuous, and proceeds in the same direction. Ignorance has no light, but error follows a false one. The consequence is, that error, when she retraces her footsteps, has further to go, before she can arrive at the truth, than ignorance.
Vol. I; I
Great minds had rather deserve contemporaneous applause, without obtaining it, than obtain, without deserving it; if it follow them, it is well, but they will not deviate to follow it. With inferior minds the reverse is observable.
Vol. I; VI
From the preponderance of talent, we may always infer the soundness and vigour of the commonwealth; but from the preponderance of riches, its dotage and degeneration.
Vol. I; VIII
Many a man may thank his talent for his rank, but no man has ever been able to return the compliment by thanking his rank for his talent.
Vol. I; VIII
Instead of exhibiting talent in the hope that the world would forgive their eccentricities, they have exhibited only their eccentricities, in the hope that the world would give them credit for talent.
Vol. I; XVI
Men will wrangle for religion, write for it, fight for it, die for it; anything but live for it.
Vol. I; XXV
No man can purchase his virtue too dear, for it is the only thing whose value must ever increase with the price it has cost us.
Vol. I; XXVI
He that sympathizes in all the happiness of others, perhaps himself enjoys the safest happiness.
Vol. I; XXXIII
None are so fond of secrets as those who do not mean to keep them; such persons covet secrets as a spendthrift covets money, for the purpose of circulation.
Vol. I; XL
Pedantry prides herself on being wrong by rules; while common sense is contented to be right, without them.
Vol. I; XLVIII
An elegant writer has observed, that wit may do very well for a mistress, but that he should prefer reason for a wife.
Vol. I; LXXI
When you have nothing to say, say nothing; a weak defense strengthens your opponent, and silence is less injurious than a bad reply.
Vol. I; CLXXXIII
We ask advice, but we mean approbation.
Vol. I; CXC
Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.
Vol. I; CCXVII
Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness, or oppose with firmness.
Vol. I; CCLXXXIV
It is always safe to learn, even from our enemies, seldom safe to venture to instruct, even our friends.
Vol. I; CCLXXXVI
Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.
Vol. I; CCCXXII
If you would be known, and not know, vegetate in a village; If you would know, and not be known, live in a city.
Vol. I; CCCXXXIV
This tendency, however, to ascribe an universality of genius to great men, led Dryden to affirm, on the strength of two smart satyrical lines, that Virgil could have written a satire equal to Juvenal. But, with all due deference to Dryden, I conceive it much more manifest, that Juvenal could have written a better epic than Virgil, than that Virgil could have written a satire equal to Juvenal. Juvenal has many passages of the moral sublime far superior to any that can be found in Virgil, who, indeed, seldom attempts a higher flight than the sublime of description. Had Lucan lived, he might have rivalled them both, as he has all the vigour of the one, and time might have furnished him with the taste and elegance of the other.
Vol. I; CCCCXII
Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.
Vol. I; CCCCXXIV
To know the pains of power, we must go to those who have it; to know its pleasures, we must go to those who are seeking it; the pains of power are real, its pleasures imaginary.
Vol. I; CCCCXXVII (7th Edition, published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, in 1821)
Those illustrious men, who, like torches, have consumed themselves, in order to enlighten others, have often lived unrewarded, and died unlamented. But the tongues of aftertimes have done them justice in one sense, but injustice in another. They have honoured them with their praise, but they have disgraced them with their pity. They pity them forsooth, because they missed of present praise, and temporal emolument; things great indeed to the little, but little to the great.
Vol. I; DLXXV
A feast is more fatal to love than a fast, and a surfeit than a starvation.
Vol. II; VIII
With the offspring of genius, the law of parturition is reversed; the throes are in the conception, the pleasure in the birth.
Vol. II; XVII
Pedantry crams our heads with learned lumber, and takes out our brains to make room for it.
Vol. II; XX
Drunkenness is the vice of a good constitution or of a bad memory—of a constitution so treacherously good that it never bends till it breaks; or of a memory that recollects the pleasures of getting intoxicated, but forgets the pains of getting sober.
Vol. II; XXXVIII
Friendship often ends in love; but love in friendship—never.
Vol. II; LXXXIII
Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason; they made no such demand upon those who wrote them.
Vol. II; CCXLVIII
Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.