By SIR ARTHUR HELPS ( 1813 - 1875 )

From "Friends in Council." ( 1847 - 1859 )

WE are all apt to magnify the importance of whatever we are thinking about, which is not to be wondered at; for everything human has an outlet into infinity, which we come to perceive on considering it. But with a knowledge of this tendency, I still venture to say that, of all that concerns mankind, this subject has, perhaps, been the least treated of in regard to its significance. For once that unreasonable expectations of gratitude have been reproved, ingratitude has been denounced a thousand times; and the same may be said of inconstancy, unkindness in friendship, neglected merit and the like.

To begin with ingratitude. Human beings seldom have the demands upon each other which they imagine; and for what they have done they frequently ask an impossible return. Moreover, when people really have done others a service, the persons benefited often do not understand it. Could they have understood it, the benefactor, perhaps, would not have had to perform it. You cannot expect gratitude from them in proportion to your enlightenment. Then, again, where the service is a palpable one, thoroughly understood, we often require that the gratitude for it should bear down all the rest of the man's character. The dog is the very emblem of faithfulness; yet I believe it is found that he will sometimes like the person who takes him out and amuses him more than the person who feeds him. So, amongst bipeds, the most solid service must sometimes give way to the claims of congeniality. Human creatures are, happily, not to be swayed by self-interest alone: they are many-sided creatures; there are numberless modes of attaching their affections. Not only like likes like, but unlike likes unlike.

To give an instance which must often occur. Two persons, both of feeble will, act together; one as superior, the other as inferior. The superior is very kind, the inferior is grateful. Circumstances occur to break this relation. The inferior comes under a superior of strong will, who is not, however, as tolerant and patient as his predecessor. But this second superior soon acquires unbounded influence over the inferior: if the first one looks on, he may wonder at the alacrity and affection of his former subordinate towards the new man, and talk much about ingratitude. But the inferior has now found somebody to lean upon and to reverence. And he cannot deny his nature and be otherwise than he is. In this case it does not look like ingratitude, except perhaps to the complaining person. But there are doubtless numerous instances in which, if we saw all the facts clearly, we should no more confirm the charge of ingratitude than we do here.

Then, again, we seldom make sufficient allowance for the burden which there is in obligation, at least to all but great and good minds. There are some people who can receive as heartily as they would give; but the obligation of an ordinary person to an ordinary person is more apt to be brought to mind as a present sore than as a past delight.

Amongst the unreasonable views of the affections, the most absurd one has been the fancy that love entirely depends upon the will; still more that the love of others for us is to be guided by the inducements which seem probable to us. We have served them; we think only of them; we are their lovers, or fathers, or brothers; we deserve and require to be loved and to have the love proved to us. But love is not like property; it has neither duties nor rights. You argue for it in vain; and there is no one who can give it you. It is not his or hers to give. Millions of bribes and infinite arguments cannot prevail. For it is not a substance, but a relation. There is no royal road. We are loved as we are lovable to the person loving. It is no answer to say that in some cases the love is based on no reality, but is solely in the imagination -- that is, that we are loved not for what we are but for what we are fancied to be.
That will not bring it any more into the dominions of logic:and love still remains the same untamable creature, deaf to advocacy, blind to other people's idea of merit, and not a substance to be weighed or numbered at all.

Then, as to the complaints about broken friendship.
Friendship is often outgrown; and his former child's clothes will no more fit a man than some of his former friendships.
Often a breach of friendship is supposed to occur when there is nothing of the kind. People see one another seldom; their courses in life are different; they meet, and their intercourse is constrained. They fancy that their friendship is mightily cooled. But imagine the dearest friends, one coming home after a long sojourn, the other going out to new lands: the ships that carry these meet; the friends talk together in a confused way not relevant at all to their friendship, and, if not well assured of their mutual regard, might naturally fancy that it was much abated. Something like this occurs daily in the stream of the world. Then, too, unless people are very unreasonable, they cannot expect that their friends will pass into new systems of thought and action without new ties of all kinds being created, and some modification of the old ones taking place.

When we are talking of exorbitant claims made for the regard of others, we must not omit those of what is called neglected merit. A man feels that he has abilities or talents of a particular kind, that he has shown them, and still he is a neglected man. I am far from saying that merit is sufficiently looked out for; but a man may take the sting out of any neglect of his merits by thinking that at least it does not arise from malice prepense, as he almost imagines in his anger.
Neither the public, nor individuals, have the time or will, resolutely to neglect anybody. What pleases us we admire, and, further, if a man in any profession, calling, or art does things which are beyond us, we are as guiltless of neglecting him as the Caffres are of neglecting the differential calculus. Milton sells his "Paradise Lost" for ten pounds; there is no record of Shakespeare dining much with Queen Elizabeth. And it is Utopian to imagine that statues will be set up to the right men in their day.

The same arguments which applied to the complaints of ingratitude apply to the complaints of neglected merit. The merit is oftentimes not understood. Be it ever so manifest, it cannot absorb men's attention. When it is really great, it has not been brought out by the hope of reward any more than the kindest services by the hope of gratitude. In neither case is it becoming or rational to be clamorous about payment.

There is one thing that people hardly ever remember, or, indeed, have imagination enough to conceive; namely, the effect of each man being shut up in his individuality. Take a long course of sayings and doings in which many persons have been engaged. Each one of them is in his own mind the center of the web, though, perhaps, he is at the edge of it. We know that in our observations of the things of sense, any difference in the points from which the observation is taken gives a different view of the same thing. Moreover, in the world of sense, the objects and the points of view are each indifferent to the rest; but in life the points of view are centers of action that have had something to do with the making of the things looked at. If we could calculate the moral parallax arising from these causes, we should see, by the mere aid of the intellect, how unjust we often are in our complaints of ingratitude, inconstancy, and neglect. But without these nice calculations, such errors of view may be corrected at once by humility, a more sure method than the most enlightened appreciation of the cause of error. Humility is the true cure for many a needless heartache.

It must not be supposed that in thus opposing unreasonable views of social affections, anything is done to dissever such affections. The Duke of Wellington, writing to a man in a dubious position of authority, says, "The less you claim, the more you will have." This is remarkably true of the affections; and there is scarcely anything that would make men happier than teaching them to watch against unreasonableness in their claims of regard and affection; and which at the same time would be more likely to insure their getting what may be their due.



St Matthew ( 8th century, the
British Museum ).

The world will find out that part of your character which concerns it: that which especially concerns yourself, it will leave for you to discover.

The step from the sublime to the ridiculous is not so short as the step from the confused to the sublime in the minds of most people, for the want of a proper standard of comparison. We always believe the clouds to be much higher than they really are, until we see them resting on the shoulders of the mountains.

There is no occasion to regard with continual dislike one who had formerly a mean opinion of your merits; for you are never so sure of permanent esteem as from the man who once esteemed you lightly, and has corrected his mistake -- if it be a mistake.

A friend is one who does not laugh when you are in a ridiculous position. Some may deny such a test, saying that if a man have a keen sense of the ridiculous, he cannot help being amused, even though his friend be the subject of ridicule. No, -- your friend is one who ought to sympathize with you, and not with the multitude.

You cannot expect that a friend should be like the atmosphere, which confers all manner of benefits upon you, and without which indeed it would be impossible to live, but at the same time is never in your way.

It would often be as well to condemn a man unheard as to condemn him upon the reasons which he openly avows for any course of action.

The apparent foolishness of others is but too frequently our own ignorance, or, what is much worse, it is the direct measure of our own tyranny.

When the subtle man fails in deceiving those around him, they are loud in their reproaches; when he succeeds in deceiving his own conscience, it is silent. The last is not the least misfortune, for it were better to make many enemies than to silence one such friend.

It is quite impossible to understand the character of a person from one action, however striking that action may be.

The youngest mathematician knows that one point is insufficient to determine a straight line, much less anything so curvelike as the character even of the most simple and upright of mankind.

If you are obliged to judge from a single action, let it not be a striking one.

Men rattle their chains -- to manifest their freedom.

The failure of many of our greatest men in their early career -- a fact on which the ignorant and weak are fond of vainly leaning for support -- is a very interesting subject for consideration.

The rebelliousness of great natures is a good phrase, but I fear it will not entirely satisfy all our questionings. It has been said that if we could, with our limited capacities and muffled souls, compare this life and the future, and retain the impression, that our daily duties here would be neglected, and that all below would become "weary, flat, stale, and unprofitable." Now may not the pursuit of any particular study or worldly aim become to the far-seeing genius disgusting in the same way? May he not be like one on a lofty rock, who can behold and comprehend all the objects in the distance, can thence discover the true path that leadeth to the glad city, but, from his very position, cannot without great pain and danger scrutinize the ground immediately under him? Many fail from the extent of their views. "Nevertheless," as Bacon says "I shall yield, that he that cannot contract the sight of his mind, as well as disperse and dilate it, wanteth a great faculty."

There is another cause of failure that has not often been contemplated. The object may be too eagerly desired ever to be obtained. Its importance, even if it be important, may too often be presented to the mind. The end may always appear so clearly defined that the aspirant, forgetting the means that are necessary, forgetting the distance that must intervene, is forever stretching out his hand to grasp that which is not yet within his power. The calm exercise of his faculties is prevented, the habit of concentrating his attention is destroyed, and one form under a thousand aspects disturbs his diseased imagination. The unhappy sailor thinks upon his home, and the smiling fields, and the village church, until he sees them forever pictured in the deep, and with folded arms he continues to gaze, incapable alike of thought or action. This disease is called the calenture. There is an intellectual calenture.

Few have wished for memory so much as they have longed for forgetfulness.

Perhaps it is the secret thought of many, that an ardent love of power and wealth, however culpable in itself, is nevertheless a proof of superior sagacity. But in answer to this, it has been well remarked that even a child can clench its little hand the moment it is born; and if they imagine that the successful at any rate must be sagacious, let them remember the saying of a philosopher, that the meanest reptiles are found at the summit of the loftiest pillars.

The Pyramids! What a lesson to those who desire a name in the world does the fate of these restless, brick-piling monarchs afford! Their names are not known, and the only hope for them is that by the labors of some cruelly industrious antiquarian they may at last become more definite objects of contempt.

We talk of early prejudices, or the prejudices of religion, of position, of education; but in truth we only mean the prejudices of others. It is by the observation of trivial matters that the wise learn the influence of prejudice over their own minds at all times, and the wonderfully molding power which those minds possess in making all things around conform to the idea of the moment. Let a man but note how often he has seen likenesses where no resemblance exists; admired ordinary pictures, because he thought they were from the hands of celebrated masters; delighted in the commonplace observations of those who had gained a reputation for wisdom; laughed where no wit was; and he will learn with humility to make allowance for the effect of prejudice in others.

In a quarrel between two friends, if one of them, even the injured one, were, in the retirement of his chamber, to consider himself as the hired advocate of the other at the court of wronged friendship; and were to omit all the facts which told in his own favor, to exaggerate all that could possibly be said against himself, and to conjure up from his imagination a few circumstances of the same tendency; he might with little effort make a good case for his former friend. Let him be assured that whatever the most skillful advocate could say, his poor friend really believes and feels; and then, instead of wondering at the insolence of such a traitor walking about in open day, he will pity his friend's delusion, have some gentle misgivings as to the exact propriety of his own conduct, and perhaps sue for an immediate reconciliation.

There are often two characters of a man-- that which is believed in by people in general, and that which he enjoys among his associates. It is supposed, but vainly, that the latter is always a more accurate approximation to the truth, whereas in reality it is often a part which he performs to admiration; while the former is the result of certain minute traits, certain inflections of voice and countenance, which cannot be discussed, but are felt as it were instinctively by his domestics and by the outer world. The impressions arising from these slight circumstances he is able to efface from the minds of his constant companions, or from habit they have ceased to observe them.

We are pleased with one who instantly assents to our opinions; but we love a proselyte.

The accomplished hypocrite does not exercise his skill upon every possible occasion for the sake of acquiring facility in the use ot his instruments. In all unimportant matters, who is more just, more upright, more candid, more honorable?

Those who are successfully to lead their fellow-men should have once possessed the nobler feelings. We have all known individuals whose magnanimity was not likely to be troublesome on any occasion; but then they betrayed their own interests by unwisely omitting the consideration that such feelings might exist in the breasts of those whom they had to guide and govern: for they themselves cannot even remember the time when in their eyes justice appeared preferable to expediency, the happiness of others to self-interest, or the welfare of a state to the advancement of a party.

The ear is an organ of finer sensibility than the eye, according to the measurement of philosophers.

Remember this; ye diplomatists: there are some imperturbable countenances, but a skillful ear will almost infallibly detect guile.

It is a shallow mind that suspects or rejects an offered kindness because it is unable to discover the motive. It would have been as wise for the Egyptians to have scorned the pure waters of the Nile, because they were not quite certain about the source of that mighty river.

Misery appears to improve the intellect, but this is only because it dismisses fear.

Intellectual powers may dignify, but cannot diminish, our sorrows; and when the feelings are wounded, and the soul is disquieted within you, to seek comfort from purely intellectual employments is but to rest upon a staff which pierces rather than supports.

When your friend is suffering under great affliction, either be entirely silent, or offer none but the most common topics of consolation. For in the first place they are the best; and also from their commonness they are easily understood. Extreme grief will not pay attention to any new thing.

When we consider the incidents of former days, and perceive, while reviewing the long line of causes, how the most important events of our lives originated in the most trifling circumstances; how the beginning of our greatest happiness or greatest misery is to be attributed to a delay, to an accident, to a mistake; we learn a lesson of profound humility. This is the irony of life.

The irony of a little child and its questions, at times how bitter!

Eccentric people are never loved for their eccentricities.

What is called firmness, is often nothing more than confirmed self-love.

Many know how to please, but know not when they have ceased to give pleasure. The same in arguing: they never lead people to a conclusion and permit them to draw it for themselves; being unaware that most persons, if they had but placed one brick in a building, are interested in the progress, and boast of the success of a work in which they have been so materially engaged.

There is an honesty which is but decided selfishness in disguise. The man who will not refrain from expressing his sentiments and manifesting his feelings, however unfit the time, however inappropriate the place, however painful to others this expression may be, lays claim forsooth to our approbation as an honest man, and sneers at those of finer sensibility as hypocrites.

Do not mistake energy for enthusiasm; the softest speakers are often the most enthusiastic of men.

The best commentary upon any work of literature is a faithful life of the author. And one reason, among many, why it must always be so advantageous to read the works of the illustrious dead is that their lives are more fairly written, and their characters better understood.

It may appear to an unthinking person that the life, perhaps an obtrusive one, of the man who has devoted himself to abstract and speculative subjects can be of no very considerable importance. But it is far otherwise. For instance, if Locke had never been engaged in the affairs of this world, would his biography have been of no importance if it had only informed us that for many years he devoted himself to the study of medicine? Are there no passages in his "Essay concerning Human Understanding," which such a fact tends to elucidate? Or is it not, in reality, the clew to a right understanding of all his metaphysical writings?

How often does a single anecdote reveal the real motive which prompted an author to write a particular work, and the influence of which is visible in every page! "When I returned from Spain by Paris (says Lord Clarendon), Mr. Hobbes frequently came to me and told me his book -- which he would call 'Leviathan' -- was then printing in England, and that he received every week a sheet to correct, of which he showed me one or two sheets, and thought it would be finished within little more than a month; and showed me the epistle to Mr. Godolphin, which he meant to set before it, and read it to me, and concluded that he knew, when I read his book, I would not like it, and thereupon mentioned some of his conclusions. Upon which I asked him why he would publish such doctrine; to which, after a discourse between jest and earnest upon the subject, he said, The truth is, I have a mind to go home." Perhaps this anecdote may explain many hard sayings in the "Leviathan."

It is worthy of remark that "The Prince" is now supposed to have been written solely from a wish to please the ruling powers, as appears in a private letter from Macchiavelli to his friend the Florentine ambassador at the Papal court, which was discovered at Rome, and first published to the world in 1810, by Ridolfi. In this letter Macchiavelli says that his work ought to be agreeable to a prince, and especially to a prince lately raised to power; and that he himself cannot continue to live as he was then living, without becoming contemptible through poverty. And also, in his dedication to Lorenzo de' Medici, after having said that subjects understand the disposition of princes best, as it is necessary to descend into the plains to consider the nature of the mountains, he thus concludes --"And if your Magnificence from the very point of your highness will sometimes cast your eyes upon those inferior places, you will see how undeservedly I undergo an extreme and continual despite of fortune."

After this we are not so much astonished at finding the following gentle admonition: "Let a prince therefore take the surest courses he can to maintain his life and state; the means will always be thought honorable, and be commended by every one."

Some of our law maxims are admirable rules of conduct. If, in spite of the censorious calumny of the world, we consIdered "a man innocent until he were proved guilty," or if, in our daily thoughts, words, and actions, we did but "give the prisoner the benefit of the doubt," what much better Christians we should become.

It is an error to suppose that no man understands his own character. Most persons know even their failings very well, only they persist in giving them names different from those usually assigned by the rest of the world; and they compensate for this mistake by naming, at first sight, with singular accuracy, these very same failings in others.

Men love to contradict their general character. Thus a man is of a gloomy and suspicious temperament, is deemed by all morose, and erelong finds out the general opinion. He then suddenly deviates into some occasional acts of courtesy. Why? Not because he ought, not because his nature is changed; but because he dislikes being thoroughly understood. He will not be the thing whose behavior on any occasion the most careless prophet can with certainty foretell.

When we see the rapid motions of insects at evening, we exclaim, how happy they must be! -- so inseparably are activity and happiness connected in our minds.

The most enthusiastic man in a cause is rarely chosen as the leader.

We have some respect for one who, if he tramples on the feelings of others, tramples on his own with equal apparent indifference.

It is frequently more safe to ridicule a man personally than to decry the order to which he belongs. Every man has made up his mind about his own merits; but, like the unconvinced believers in religion, he will not listen with patience to any doubts upon a subject which he himself would be most unwilling to investigate.

The opinion which a person gives of any book is frequently not so much a test of his intellect or his taste, as it is of the extent of his reading. An indifferent work may be joyfully welcomed by one who has neither had time nor opportunity to form a literary taste. It is from comparisons between different parts of the same book that you must discover the depth and judgment of an uncultivated mind.

"It is my opinion," says Herodotus, "that the Nile over-flows in the summer season, because in the winter the sun, driven by the storms from his usual course, ascends into the higher regions of the air above Libya." Many a man will smile at the delightful simplicity of the historian, and still persevere in dogmatizing about subjects upon which he does not even possess information enough to support him in hazarding a conjecture.

It is not in the solar spectrum only that the least warmth is combined with the deepest color.

How often we should stop in the pursuit of folly, if it were not for the difficulties that continually beckon us onwards.

Simple ignorance has in its time been complimented by the names of most of the vices, and of all the virtues.

No man ever praised two persons equally -- and pleased them both.

A keen observer of mankind has said that "to aspire is to be alone" : he might have extended his aphorism -- to think deeply upon any subject is indeed to be alone.

In the world of mind, as in that of matter, we always occupy a position. He who is continually changing his point of view will see more, and that too more clearly, than one who, statue-like, forever stands upon the same pedestal, however lofty and well placed that pedestal may be.

Some people are too foolish to commit follies.

The knowledge of others which experience gives us is of slight value when compared with that which we obtain from having proved the inconstancy of our own desires.

The world will tolerate many vices, but not their diminutives.

It is a weak thing to tell half your story, and then ask your friend's advice -- a still weaker thing to take it.

How to gain the advantages of society, without at the same time losing ourselves, is a question of no slight difficulty. The wise man often follows the crowd at a little distance, in order that he may not come suddenly upon it, nor become entangled with it, and that he may with some means of amusement main tain a clear and quiet pathway.

Not a few are willing to shelter their folly behind the respectability of downright vice.

We are frequently understood the least by those who have known us the longest.

The reasons which any man offers to you for his own conduct betray his opinion of your character.

If you are very often deceived by those around you, you may be sure that you deserve to be deceived; and that instead of railing at the general falseness of mankind, you have first to pronounce judgment on your own jealous tyranny, or on your own weak credulity. Those only who can bear the truth will hear it.

The wisest maxims are not those which fortify us against the deceit of others. Very subtle-minded persons often complain that their friends fall from them; and these complaints are not altogether unjust. One reason of this is that they display so much dialectic astuteness on every occasion, that their friends feel certain that such men, however unjustifiably they may behave, will always be able to justify themselves to themselves. Now we mortals are strangely averse to loving those who are never in the wrong, and much more those who are always ready to prove themselves in the right.

You cannot insure the gratitude of others for a favor conferred upon them in the way which is most agreeable to yourself.

How singularly mournful it is to observe in the conversation or writings of a very superior man and original thinker, homely, if not commonplace, expressions about the vanity of human wishes, the mutability of this world, the weariness of life. It seems as if he felt that his own bitter experience had taken away the triteness from that which is nevertheless so trite; as if he thought it were needless to seek fine phrases, and as idle a mockery as it would be to gild an instrument of torture.

It must be a very weary day to the youth, when he first discovers that after all he will only become a man.

It is unwise for a great man to reason as if others were like him: it is much more unwise to treat them as if they were very different.

Men are ruined by the exceptions to their general rules of action. This may seem a mockery, but it is nevertheless a fact to be observed in the records of history, as well as in the trivial occurrences of daily life. One who is habitually dark and deceptive commits a single act of confidence, and his subtle schemes are destroyed forever. His first act of extravagance ruins the cautious man. The coward is brave for a moment, and dies; the hero wavers for the first-- and the last time.

Some persons are insensible to flattering words; but who can resist the flattery of modest imitation?

An inferior demon is not a great man, as some writers would fain persuade us.

The world would be in a more wretched state than it is at present, if riches and honors were distributed according to merit alone. It is the complaint of the wisest of men, that he "returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." But if it were otherwise, if bread were indeed the portion of the wise, then the hungry would have something to lament over more severe even than the pangs of hunger. The belief that merit is generally neglected forms the secret consolation of almost every human being, from the mightiest prince to the meanest peasant.-- Divines have contended that the world would cease to be a place of trial if a system of impartial distribution according to merit were adopted. This is true, for it would then be a place of punishment.

There is no power in the wisdom of the insincere.

Conviction never abides without a welcome from the heart.

It is necessary to be decisive; not because deliberate counsel would never improve your designs, but because the foolish and the unthinking will certainly act if there be but a moment's pause.

The practical man -- an especial favorite in this age -- often takes the field with his single fact against a great principle, in the reckless spirit of one who would not hesitate to sever the thread on which he is unable to string his own individual pearl -- perhaps a false one -- even though he should scatter many jewels worthy of a prince's diadem.

Even the meanest are mighty to do evil.

If there is anyone quality of the mind in which the really great have conspired, as it were, to surpass other men, it is moral courage. He who possesses this quality may sometimes be made a useful tool or a ready sacrifice in the hands of crafty statesmen; but let him be the chief, and not the subordinate, give him the field, grant him the opportunity, and his name will not deserve to be unwritten in the records of his country. When such a man perceives that if he fail, everyone will be able to understand the risk that has been incurred; but that if he succeed, no one will estimate the danger that has silently been overcome; he bows, nevertheless, to the supreme dictates of his own judgment, regardless alike of the honors of his own age, and the praises of posterity.

It requires some moral courage to disobey, and yet there have been occasions when obedience would have been defeat. But it is not only in the council, in the senate, in the field, that its merits are so pre-eminent. In private life, what daily deceit would be avoided, what evils would be remedied, if men did but possess more moral courage! -- not that false image of it which proceeds from a blind and inconsiderate rashness, from an absence both of forethought and imagination; but that calm reliance on the decisions of reason, that carelessness of the undeserved applause of our neighbor, which will induce the great man to act according to his own informed judgment, and not according to the opinions of those who will not know, and who could never appreciate his motives.

Feeble applause may arise from a keen and fastidious sense of the slightest imperfection; but it is more frequently to be attributed to an inadequate notion of the dangers which have been avoided, and the difficulties which have been overcome.

The trifling of a great man is never trivial.

When two disputants relinquish a discussion, each apparently more convinced by his adversary's arguments of the goodness of his own cause, we imagine that debates of this kind can produce no beneficial effect. We are mistaken: after a well-fought battle both parties send their herald to claim a victory, but under cover of night the vanquished will find out their defeat and retire in silence to their ships.

It is difficult to discover the estimation in which one man holds another's powers of mind by seeing them together. The soundest intellect and the keenest wit will sometimes shrink at the vivacity, and pay an apparent deference to the energy, of mere cleverness; as Faust, when overcome by loud sophistry, exclaims, "He who is determined to be right, and has but a tongue, will be right undoubtedly."

You wonder that your friend listens with such patience to your catalogue of his peculiar faults and vices; while he thinks that you are but enumerating those distinctions which separate him from the multitude, and is somewhat flattered at finding himself an object of your continual attention.

He who, after considering the merits of a system, turns instantly to the attack upon it, does not always pursue the most judicious mode for the discovery of truth or the detection of error; and moreover, he does not allow his own mind sufficient influence. Perhaps the mind from its manifold stores would have added strength to the system. Perhaps it would have detected the fallacy without having recourse to the arguments advanced against it by others. The most fatal bigotry may certainly be produced by reading only one side of a question, but at the same time it is not altogether wise to treat the intellect as a mere court of justice, and always to bring the accuser and the accused immediately to confront one another.
It is not to be forgotten that two waves of light may interfere in such a manner as to produce total darkness.

Wretched indeed is the mental state of that man who, by a strange fatality, is doomed to perceive the reflection of his own weak and inconclusive nature in all the works of others; and seeing that, and that only, scatters his censure with lavish profusion, in the vain hope that he is manifesting his own intellectual superiority.

You may be forgiven for an injury which, when made known to the world, will render you alone the object of its ridicule.

When a subtle distinction is drawn between two characters, those who can discern its nature, in their delight at an intellectual triumph, will often neglect to perceive the injustice of its application.

There are many who do not perceive that in the endeavor to remove those ornaments which in their opinion conceal and finally subdue the best qualities of the heart, they are destroying the strongest aids to virtue. Romance, refinement, sensibility, are terms which of themselves will always provoke the idle laughter of the selfish, the coarse, and the hard-hearted. But it is vexatious to behold the real friends of virtue priding themselves on their strength of mind, and joining with the worldly and the hard-hearted to decry that which often immediately proceeds from principles which they themselves would desire to see established, and acting upon which they have undertaken so perilous an enterprise with such unwortliy allies. I know it may be said that it is against the excess that their ridicule is directed. But let them feel certain that an intercourse with the world will destroy all that they would wish to be destroyed -- and, alas! much more; and that they will never have cause to reproach their consciences with any omission in this matter.

It were certainly charitable, and perhaps just, to suppose that it is in their haste to regain the paths of innocence, that the guilty so often add stupidity to guilt.

If there is any one thing in which wisdom is pre-eminently conspicuous, it is in the wonderful ease with which its possessor is enabled to set apart the materials from which a correct opinion may be formed. The fool perceives one circumstance, and cannot withhold his facile judgment. The man who suffers under prudence without wisdom, collects a vast body of disorderly facts which only serve to perplex his wearied understanding. That power of giving the best advice on sudden emergencies, and of conjecturing with felicity about future events, which the historian ascribes to Themistocles, and which might have been ascribed to Caesar, and perhaps to Bonaparte, is mainly to be attributed to their avoiding these opposite errors of foolish prudence and imprudent folly.

Few will at first be pleased with those thoughts which are entirely new to them, and which, if true, they feel to be truths which they should never have discovered for themselves.

Perhaps if the power of becoming beautiful were granted to the ugliest of mankind, he would only wish to be so changed that, when changed, he might be considered a very handsome likeness of his former self.

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