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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
C.N. Douglas, comp.  Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical.  1917.
 
Sydney Smith
 
  A great deal of talent is lost in the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves a number of obscure men who have only remained in obscurity because their timidity has prevented them from making a first effort.  1
  A man can do without his own approbation in much society, but he must make great exertions to gain it when he lives alone.  2
  A true sarcasm is like a sword-stick; it appears, at first sight, to be much more innocent than it really is, till, all of a sudden, there leaps something out of it—sharp and deadly and incisive—which makes you tremble and recoil.  3
  All affectation and display proceed from the supposition of possessing something better than the rest of the world possesses. Nobody is vain in possessing two legs and two arms; because that is the precise quantity of either sort of limb which everybody possesses.  4
  All mankind are happier for having been happy; so that, if you make them happy now, you make them happy twenty years hence by the memory of it.  5
  All musical people seem to be happy. It is the engrossing pursuit,—almost the only innocent and unpunished passion.  6
  Among the smaller duties of life, I hardly know any one more important than that of not praising where praise is not due. Reputation is one of the prizes for which men contend: it is, as Mr. Burke calls it, “the cheap defense and ornament of nations.” It produces more labor and more talent than twice the wealth of a country could ever rear up. It is the coin of genius, and it is the imperious duty of every man to bestow it with the most scrupulous justice and the wisest economy.  7
  Avoid shame, but do not seek glory: nothing so expensive as glory.  8
  Brevity in writing is what charity is to all other virtues—righteousness is nothing without the one, nor authorship without the other.  9
  Duelling, though barbarous in civilized, is a highly civilized institution among barbarous people; and when compared to assassination, is a prodigious victory gained over human passions.  10
  Ennui, wretchedness, melancholy, groans, and sighs are the offering which these unhappy Methodists make to a Deity, who has covered the earth with gay colors, and scented it with rich perfumes; and shown us, by the plan and order of His works, that He has given to man something better than a bare existence, and scattered over His creation a thousand superfluous joys, which are totally unnecessary to the mere support of life.  11
  Errors to be dangerous must have a great deal of truth mingled with them; it is only from this alliance that they can ever obtain an extensive circulation; from pure extravagance, and genuine, unmingled falsehood, the world never has, and never can sustain any mischief.  12
  Every good picture is the best of sermons and lectures. The sense informs the soul. Whatever you have, have beauty.  13
  Fortitude, justice, and candor are very necessary instruments of happiness, but they require time and exertion.  14
  Heat, ma’am! it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.  15
  His dress was a volcano of silk with lava buttons.  16
  How nature delights and amuses us by varying even the character of insects; the ill-nature of the wasp, the sluggishness of the drone, the volatility of the butterfly, the slyness of the bug!  17
  I believe one reason why women are generally so much more cheerful than men is because they can work with the needle, and so endlessly vary their employment.  18
  I endeavor in vain to give my parishioners more cheerful ideas of religion; to teach them that God is not a jealous, childish, merciless tyrant; that He is best served by a regular tenor of good actions, not by bad singing, ill-composed prayers, and eternal apprehensions. But the luxury of false religion is to be unhappy!  19
  I have come to the conclusion that mankind consume twice too much food.  20
 
 
  I once gave a lady two-and-twenty receipts against melancholy: one was a bright fire; another, to remember all the pleasant things said to her; another, to keep a box of sugarplums on the chimney-piece and a kettle simmering on the hob. I thought this mere trifling at the moment, but have in after life discovered how true it is that these little pleasures often banish melancholy better than higher and more exalted objects; and that no means ought to be thought too trifling which can oppose it either in ourselves or in others.  21
  I shall never apologize to you for egotism. I think very few men writing to their friends have enough of it.  22
  If idleness do not produce vice or malevolence, it commonly produces melancholy.  23
  If men are to be fools, it were better that they were fools in little matters than in great; dullness, turned up with temerity, is a livery all the worse for the facings; and the most tremendous of all things is a magnanimous dunce.  24
  If you wish to keep the mind clear and the body healthy, abstain from all fermented liquors.  25
  It is all nonsense about not being able to work without ale and cider and fermented liquors. Do lions and cart-horses drink ale?  26
  It is always considered as a piece of impertinence in England, if a man of less than two or three thousand a year has any opinion at all upon important subjects.  27
  It is astonishing the influence foolish apothegms have upon the mass of mankind, though they are not unfrequently fallacies.  28
  It is good for any man to be alone with nature and himself, or with a friend who knows when silence is more sociable than talk, “In the wilderness alone, there where nature worships God.” It is well to be in places where man is little and God is great,—where what he sees all around him has the same look as it had a thousand years ago, and will have the same, in all likelihood, when he has been a thousand years in his grave. It abates and rectifies a man, if he is worth the process.  29
  It requires a surgical operation to get a joke well into a Scotch understanding.  30
  It resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated; often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing any one who comes between them.  31
  Let every man be occupied, and occupied in the highest employment of which his nature is capable, and die with the consciousness that he has done his best.  32
  Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love, and to be loved, is the greatest happiness of existence.  33
  Living a good deal alone will, I believe, correct me of my faults; for a man can do without his own approbation in much society, but he must make great exertions to gain it when he lives alone. Without it I am convinced solitude is not to be endured.  34
  Man could direct his ways by plain reason, and support his life by tasteless food; but God has given us wit, and flavor, and brightness, and laughter, and perfumers, to enliven the days of man’s pilgrimage, and to “charm his painted steps over the burning marle.”  35
  Man lives only to shiver and perspire.  36
  Manners are the shadows of virtues; the momentary display of those qualities which our fellows-creatures love and respect. If we strive to become, then, what we strive to appear, manners may often be rendered useful guides to the performance of our duties.  37
  Men who prefer any load of infamy, however great, to any pressure of taxation, however light.  38
  Nature descends down to infinite smallness. Great men have their parasites; and, if you take a large buzzing blue-bottle fly, and look at it in a microscope, you may see twenty or thirty little ugly insects crawling about it, which, doubtless, think their fly to be the bluest, grandest, merriest, most important animal in the universe, and are convinced the world would be at an end if it ceased to buzz.  39
  Never teach false modesty. How exquisitely absurd to teach a girl that beauty is of no value, dress of no use! Beauty is of value; her whole prospects and happiness in life may often depend upon a new gown or a becoming bonnet; if she has five grains of common sense she will find this out. The great thing is to teach her their proper value.  40
  No man, I fear, can effect great benefits for his country without some sacrifice of the minor virtues.  41
  Nothing is so expensive as glory.  42
  Novelty is the foundation of the love of knowledge.  43
  One of the best methods of rendering study agreeable is to live with able men, and to suffer all those pangs of inferiority which the want of knowledge always inflicts.  44
  Praise is the best diet for us, after all.  45
  Pulpit discourses have insensibly dwindled from speaking to reading; a practice of itself sufficient to stifle every germ of eloquence.  46
  Say everything for vice which you can say, magnify any pleasure as much as you please, but don’t believe you have any secret for sending on quicker the sluggish blood, and for refreshing the faded nerve.  47
  Solitude cherishes great virtues, and destroys little ones.  48
  Surprise is so essential an ingredient of wit that no wit will bear repetition; at least, the original electrical feeling produced by any piece of wit can never be renewed.  49
  Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.  50
  That charity alone endures which flows from a sense of duty and a hope to God. This is the charity that treads in secret those paths of misery from which all but the lowest of human wretches have fled; this is that charity which no labor can weary, no ingratitude detach, no horror disgust; that toils, that pardon, that suffers; that is seen by no man, and honored by no man, but, like the great laws of Nature, does the work of God in silence, and looks to a future and better world for its reward.  51
  That garret of the earth—that knuckle end of England—that land of Calvin, oatcakes and sulphur.  52
  The avaricious love of gain, which is so feelingly deplored, appears to us a principle which, in able hands, might be guided to the most salutary purposes. The object is to encourage the love of labor, which is best encouraged by the love of money.  53
  The essence of every species of wit is surprise; which, vi termini, must be sudden; and the sensations which wit has a tendency to excite are impaired or destroyed as often as they are mingled with much thought or passion.  54
  The fact is, that to do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.  55
  The haunts of happiness are varied and rather unaccountable, but I have more often seen heir among little children, and home firesides, and in country houses, than anywhere else—at least, I think so.  56
  The most curious offspring of shame is shyness.  57
  The object of preaching is constantly to remind mankind of what mankind are constantly forgetting; not to supply the defects of human intelligence, but to fortify the feebleness of human resolutions.  58
  The real object of education is to give children resources that will endure as long as life endures; habits that time will ameliorate, not destroy; occupation that will render sickness tolerable, solitude pleasant, age venerable, life more dignified and useful, and death less terrible.  59
  The schoolboy whips his taxed top, the beardless youth manages his taxed horse, with a taxed bridle, on a taxed road; and the dying Englishman, pouring his medicine, which has paid seven per cent., flings himself back on his chintz bed, which has paid twenty-two per cent., and expires in the arms of an apothecary who has paid a license of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death.  60
  The wit of language is so miserably inferior to the wit of ideas that it is very deservedly driven out of good company.  61
  There is but one method, and that is hard labor.  62
  There is nothing of which nature has been more bountiful than poets. They swarm like the spawn of codfish, with a vicious fecundity that invites and requires destruction. To publish verses is become a sort of evidence that a man wants sense; which is repelled, not by writing good verses, but by writing excellent verses.  63
  There is the same difference between their tongues as between the hour and the minute-hand; one goes ten times as fast, and the other signifies ten times as much.  64
  Truth is its handmaid, freedom is its child, peace is its companion, safety walks in its steps, victory follows in its train; it is the brightest emanation from the gospel, it is the attribute of God.  65
  We must despise no sort of talents; they all have their separate duties and uses, all the happiness of man for their object; they all improve, exalt, and gladden life.  66
  We should accustom the mind to keep the best company by introducing it only to the best books.  67
  We talk of human life as a journey, but how variously is that journey performed! There are those who come forth girt, and shod, and mantled, to walk on velvet lawns and smooth terraces, where every gale is arrested and every beam is tempered. There are others who walk on the Alpine paths of life, against driving misery, and through stormy sorrows over sharp afflictions; walk with bare feet and naked breast, jaded, mangled, and chilled.  68
  What I object to Scotch philosophers in general is, that they reason upon man as they would upon a divinity; they pursue truth without caring if it be useful truth.  69
  Whatever you are from nature, keep to it; never desert your own line of talent. Be what nature intended you for, and you will succeed; be anything else, and you will be ten thousand times worse than nothing.  70
  When wit is combined with sense and information; when it is softened by benevolence and restrained by strong principle; when it is in the hands of a man who can use it and despise it, who can be witty and something much better than witty, who loves honor, justice, decency, good-nature, morality, and religion, ten thousand times better than wit,—wit is then a beautiful and delightful part of our nature.  71
  Why destroy present happiness by a distant misery, which may never come at all, or you may never live to see it? For every substantial grief has twenty shadows, and most of them shadows of your own making.  72
  Wit gives to life one of its best flavors; common-sense leads to immediate action, and gives society its daily motion; large and comprehensive views, its annual rotation; ridicule chastises folly and imprudence, and keeps men in their proper sphere; subtlety seizes hold of the fine threads of truth; analogy darts away in the most sublime discoveries; feeling paints all the exquisite passions of man’s soul, and rewards him by a thousand inward visitations for the sorrows that come from without.  73
  You find people ready enough to do the Samaritan, without the oil and twopence.  74
  You pity a man who is lame or blind, but you never pity him for being a fool, which is often a much greater misfortune.  75
  You will find people ready enough to do the Samaritan without the oil and twopence.  76
 
 
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