Good Reader, I suspect I may have written some Things twice; if not the same in Words, yet in Sense, which I desire you to pass by favourably; forasmuch as you may well think, it was as difficult and dull a Thing for me, in so great a Number of independent Sentences, to find out the Repetitions, as it would be in a vast Heap of different Coins and Medals, confusedly thrown together, to pick out here and there one that bore the same and like Inscription, with some other among them. Besides the Pains, such a Search would cost me more Time, than I can afford it; for my Glass of Life running now low, I must not suffer one Sand to fall in waste, nor spend one Minute in picking of Straws. And moreover, my aged Eyes being grown weak and dim, I fear they will become quite dark, by much perusing and poring; or at least so far, so as to render me unable to perfect several Papers now lying by me, which I would willingly make a Present of to you.
Excerpt from Introductio ad prudentiam: Part II, To the Reader (Prefatory Remarks).
1887. Think thyself happy if thou hast one true Friend; never think of finding another.
1943. If thou canst not find Tranquility in thyself; 'twill be to little Purpose to seek it anywhere else.
1953. Learn the art of Silence; the wise Man that holds his Tongue, says more than the Fool who speaks.
1964. If thou wilt have no Difference with thy Friends; sell them not Horses, nor Goods; and buy nothing of them.
1978. If thou art wise, thou knowest thy own Ignorance; and thou art ignorant if thou knowest not thy self.
2001. Find out thy own Mistakes, and Failings, in order to amend them. A Disease known is half cured.
2021. Avoid knowing more than thou needest: Secrets are troublesome Burthens to such as are not interested in them.
2023. Assist the afflicted with something real, if thou canst; As for Tears they are but Water, what good can they do?
2043. He that advised thee not to let the Sun set in thine anger, did not command thee to trust a deceiving Enemy next Morning.
2048. Report not an ill Thing that thou thy self knowest not, but by the Report of a Man, who may lie or aggravate the Matter.
2057. Drive away and never endure Tale-bearers : Whoever entertains thee with the Faults of others, designs to serve thee in the same Kind.
2168. 'Tis better for thee to be wise and not seem so, than to seem wise and not be so: Yet Men, for the most Part, desire and endeavor the contrary.
2320. Trust not an Enemy, because thou hast done him good Offices: for Men are naturally more prone to revenge Injuries, than to requite Kindnesses.
2325. Squander not away thy life in Pastimes: There’s but little need to drive away Time, which is ever flying away so swiftly of itself; and when once gone is gone for ever.
2330. Live not to thyself alone; but have it in Mind, that we are all Members of one Body: and it is as natural to help one another, as for the Hands to help the Feet; and the Eyes the Hands.
2446. The Word Friend is a common Name, and appropriated by most People ; but believe me, thou wilt scarce ever find a Man that gives solid Proof of a true, unfeigned, and uninterested Friendship.
2454. If any one giveth thee excessive Praises more than can handsomely belong to thee, thou art to think of him, that he taketh thee for vain and credulous, and easy to be deceived, and effectually a Fool.
2462. Thou canst scarcely be truly wise till thou hast been deceived. Thy own Errors will teach thee more Prudence, than the grave Precepts, and even Examples of others.
2463. If thou canst but live free from Debt and Want, 'tis not absolutely necessary to care for more : for all the rest, truly speaking, is but Vanity, and for the most part Vexation too.
2489. Thou art not Master of what thou hast spoken, but mayest dispose of what thou hast not spoken as thou pleasest, and canst say it, or not say it, as thou wilt.
2545. Never defame or accuse any, except thou beest sure and certain of the Fact, and canst speak home to the Purpose : for undoubtful Accusations leave a Stain behind them ; and after prove indelible Injuries to the party accused.
2555. When thou shewest Respect to any one, see that thy Submissions be proportionable to the Homage thou owest him. There is Stupidity and Pride in doing too little ; but in over acting of it, there is Abjection and Hypocrisy.
2579. If thou findest thou canst not suffer the Impertinencies, Follies, and ill Usages of the World, withdraw from it ; but first be sure thou canst bear with thyself.
2591. If I leave thee a moderate Fortune, as my Father left me, and thou provest wise and virtuous, it will be sufficient. It's none of the least of God's Favours, that Wealth comes not trolling in upon us ; for many of us should have been worse, if our Estates had been better.
These precepts were first collected as advice for Fuller's son John.
2593. A prudent and discreet Silence will be sometimes more to thy Advantage, than the most witty expression, or even the best contrived Sincerity. A Man often repents that he has spoken, but seldom that he has held his Tongue.
2597. Keep thy Judgment to thyself. Why should others know what thou art? or paraphrase upon thy Opinion? Herein thou hast the Advantage of changing thy Mind when thou art mistaken, and yet continue ( for ought others know ) in the same Mind.
2609. Never think that the Things thou wantest will cure thee of thy Discontents ; for they will enlarge thy Desires, and make the Wounds wider. The Way to think we have enough, is not to desire to have too much.
2683. Have a Care of him that is slow to anger, for like as green Wood which is long in kindling, continueth hot longer than the dry, if it have once taken Fire : So that Man, who is not easily moved is more hard to be pacify'd, than he that is quickly provoked.
2732. Thou knowest not thy own Strength for want of trying it, and upon that Account thinkest thyself really unable to do many Things which Experience would convince thee, thou hast more Ability to effect, than thou hast Will to attempt.
2742. Shew not thyself joyful and pleased at the Misfortunes of any Man, tho' thou hatest him ; It argues a mischevious Mind, and that thou hadst a Desire to have done it thyself, if thou hadst had Power or Opportunity to thy Will.
2762. In Matters of Slander, thou oughtest to suspend thy Judgment, and examine the Thing ; and not, as the common Custom is, persuade thyself, that common Report is sufficient warrant for the Truth of the Matters. Popular Opinion is the greatest Lie in the World.
2763. Avoid Men that are Hot and Quarrelsome ; they will affront thee for nothing, and urge Things beyond Reason and Measure. They will bring thee into Troubles, which thou wilt not easily get out of. Keeping Company with such is living with Wolves, Bears, and Tygers.
2826. Provoke not even a patient Man too far ; extreme Sufferance when it comes to dissolve, breaks out into the most severe Revenge ; for taking Fire at last, Anger and Fury being combined into one, discharge their utmost Force at the first Blast. Irarumque omnes effundit habenas.
Latin fragment from Vergil's Aeneid, Book XII, line 499 : ‘He threw away all restraint on his anger.’
2858. By Trifles and unheeded common Things of Life, thou may'st discover Mens Qualities, Tempers, and Inclinations, better than by their greater Actions : Because in Matters of Importance they strain themselves, but in lesser Things they heedlessly follow the Current of their own Natures.
2915. Suffer a Friend to reprove thee, and thank him heartily for it : 'Tis a Happiness for a Man that he can be reproved when he does amiss, and be recalled when he runs wrong. Princes are deprived of that Benefit : for they converse familiarly but with very few Persons, and those make it their only Business to humour them.
2986. See that thou be alway a doing of something, and be ever ashamed to catch thyself idle : The idle man is content to anticipate Death, by being out of Motion ; but high Souls, like the Heaven they come from, move continually, and are uncapable of Rest, until they rest there.
3036. As he that doth not eat when he should, may have no Stomach when he is weak, but presently vomits up his Food again ; so if thou studiest not the Art of Patience, and preparest not thy mind before-hand, and takest not in Grounds of Consolation, till thou art in Troubles, and hast need of great Comfort, thou wilt find thy Soul very impatient of Remedies, and 'twill be irksome to thee but even to read such Things as should quiet thee.
3064. Be not always hot, and hasty in managing thy Affairs. Prudent Pauses forward Business : There is sometimes more Skill shewed by a Physician in not Prescribing, than in Prescribing. And there is no better Remedy for some Diseases, than to let them alone : for unseasonable meddling with them, may hinder their proceeding to a Crisis, and at long Run they will mend of themselves.
3072. Thou may'st extract an Antidote out of a Viper, and Good out of an Enemy. An Enemy will tell thee more truly of thy Imperfections, than the best of Friends will adventure to do, or ourselves (being partial to ourselves)will be able to discern : And this may be apply'd as precious Balm, to heal the Wounds our Folly, or Oversight have given our Reputation, by guarding our Actions for the future. And this is far better, than to be flattered into Pride, and Carelessness.
3082. To what Purpose shouldest thou seek great Things for thyself in the World? or having obtained them, prize them at any considerable Rate? or value thyself upon them? seeing thou knowest not, but this Night thy Soul may be required of thee, when thou shalt be divested of them all. 'Twould be as vain and unreasonable, as for a Traveler, that is to stay at his Inn but for a night, to take great Thought and Pains about furnishing and adorning his Chamber, which the next Morning he must leave to the next Comer.
3135. Every one is for denying, extenuating, or throwing the Blame on others, and never will confess a Fault, and take it upon himself ; but this, instead of getting it excused and pardoned aggravates it, and makes it worse, and angers the Party concerned, and so it doth Mischief instead of Good. I advise therefore (unless it be a furious, unforgiving Person, and the Thing be a Crime that must not be owned) frankly to own it, to shew how thou wast brought into it, and wish thou hadst not done it. It's likely this ingenuous dealing and throwing thyself upon his Kindness, may work upon his good Nature, and so the storm may pass off without more Mischief ; but this must be managed artfully in a middle Way between Sneaking and Arrogancy.
All of us forget more than we remember, and therefore it hath been my constant Custom to note down and record whatever I thought of myself, or receiv'd from Men, or Books worth preserving. Among other things, I wrote out Apothegms, Maxims, Proverbs, acute Expressions, vulgar Sayings, &c. And having at length collected more than ever any Englishman has before me, I have ventur'd to send them forth, to try their Fortune among the People.
Excerpt from Gnomologia, To the Reader (Prefatory Remarks).
62. A Crowd is not Company.
92. A Father is a Treasure, a Brother a Comfort ; but a Friend is both.
1579. Fools may invent Fashions, that wise Men will wear.
Similarly in French: Les fous inventent les modes et les sages les suivent.
1590. For Fashion's sake, as Dogs go to Church.
1596. For want of a Nail the Shoe is lost ; for want of a Shoe the Horse is lost ; for want of a Horse the Man is lost.
Compare Poor Richard's Almanack (1752) : For Want of a Nail the Shoe is lost; for want of a Shoe, the Horse is Lost; for want of a Horse the Rider is lost. ; also Poor Richard's Almanack (1758) : For Want of a Nail the Shoe was lost; for want of a Shoe, the Horse was Lost; and for want of a Horse the Rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the Enemy, all for want of Care about a Horse-shoe Nail.
1597. For whom does the blind Man's Wife paint her self?