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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
C.N. Douglas, comp.  Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical.  1917.
 
Willmott
 
  A book becomes a mirror, with the author’s face shining over it. Talent only gives an imperfect image,—the broken glimmer of a countenance. But the features of genius remain unruffled. Time guards the shadow. Beauty, the spiritual Venus,—whose children are the Tassos, the Spensers, the Bacons,—breathes the magic of her love, and fixes the face forever.  1
  A cultivated reader of history is domesticated in all families; he dines with Pericles, and sups with Titian.  2
  A discursive student is almost certain to fall into bad company. Ten minutes with a French novel or a German rationalist have sent a reader away with a fever for life.  3
  A first book has some of the sweetness of a first love.  4
  A good reader is nearly as rare as a good writer. People bring their prejudices, whether friendly or adverse. They are lamp and spectacles, lighting and magnifying the page.  5
  Addison acknowledged that he would rather inform than divert his reader; but he recollected that a man must be familiar with wisdom before he willingly enters on Seneca and Epictetus. Fiction allures him to the severe task by a gayer preface. Embellished truths are the illuminated alphabet of larger children.  6
  Art, not less eloquently than literature, teaches her children to venerate the single eye. Remember Matsys. His representations of miser-life are breathing. A forfeited bond twinkles in the hard smile. But follow him to an altar-piece. His Apostle has caught a stray tint from his usurer. Features of exquisite beauty are seen and loved; but the old nature of avarice frets under the glow of devotion. Pathos staggers on the edge of farce.  7
  Association is the delight of the heart, not less than of poetry. Alison observes that an autumn sunset, with its crimson clouds, glimmering trunks of trees, and wavering tints upon the grass, seems scarcely capable of embellishment. But if in this calm and beautiful glow the chime of a distant bell steal over the fields, the bosom heaves with the sensation that Dante so tenderly describes.  8
  Attention makes the genius; all learning, fancy, and science depend upon it. Newton traced back his discoveries to its unwearied employment. It builds bridges, opens new worlds, and heals diseases; without it taste is useless, and the beauties of literature are unobserved.  9
  Books, of which the principles are diseased or deformed, must be kept on the shelf of the scholar, as the man of science preserves monsters in glasses. They belong to the study of the mind’s morbid anatomy, and ought to be accurately labelled. Voltaire will still be a wit, notwithstanding he is a scoffer; and we may admire the brilliant spots and eyes of the viper, if we acknowledge its venom and call it a reptile.  10
  Criticism must never be sharpened into anatomy. The delicate veins of fancy may be traced, and the rich blood that gives bloom and health to the complexion of thought be resolved into its elements. Stop there. The life of the imagination, as of the body, disappears when we pursue it.  11
  Education is the apprenticeship of life.  12
  Every fresh acquirement is another remedy against affliction and time.  13
  Few footprints of the great remain in the sand before the ever-flowing tide. Long ago it washed out Homer’s. Curiosity follows him in vain; Greece and Asia perplex us with a rival Stratford-upon-Avon. The rank of Aristophanes is only conjectured from his gift to two poor players in Athena. The age made no sign when Shakespeare, its noblest son, passed away.  14
  From numberless books the fluttering reader, idle and inconstant, bears away the bloom that only clings to the outer leaf; but genius has its nectaries, delicate glands, and secrecies of sweetness, and upon these the thoughtful mind must settle in its labor, before the choice perfume of fancy and wisdom is drawn forth.  15
  Genius finds its own road and carries its own lamp.  16
  History is a great painter, with the world for canvas, and life for a figure. It exhibits man in his pride, and nature in her magnificence,—Jerusalem bleeding under the Roman, or Lisbon vanishing in flame and earthquake. History must be splendid. Bacon called it the pomp of business. Its march is in high places, and along the pinnacles and points of great affairs.  17
  History presents the pleasantest features of poetry and fiction, the majesty of the epic, the moving accidents of the drama, the surprises and moral of the romance. Wallace is a ruder Hector; Robinson Crusoe is not stranger that Crœsus; the Knights of Ashby never burnish the page of Scott with richer lights of lance and armor than the Carthaginians, winding down the Alps, cast upon Livy.  18
  Honest fiction may be made to supplement the pulpit.  19
  How deep is the magic of sound may be learned by breaking some sweet verses into prose. The operation has been compared to gathering dew-drops, which shine like jewels upon the flower, but run into water in the hand. The elements remain, but the sparkle is gone.  20
 
 
  Humor is the pensiveness of wit.  21
  In literature and art memory is a synonyme for invention. It is the life-blood of imagination, which faints and dies when the veins are empty.  22
  It is not enough for a reader to be unprejudiced. He should remember that a book is to be studied, as a picture is hung. Not only must a bad light be avoided, but a good one obtained. This taste supplies. It puts a history, a tale, or a poem in a just point of view, and there examines the execution.  23
  It is only dislocated minds whose movements are spasmodic.  24
  It is supposable that, in the eyes of angels, a struggle down a dark lane and a battle of Leipsic differ in nothing but excess of wickedness.  25
  It is that faculty by which we discover and enjoy the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime in literature, art, and nature; which recognizes a noble thought, as a virtuous mind welcomes a pure sentiment by an involuntary glow of satisfaction. But while the principle of perception is inherent in the soul, it requires a certain amount of knowledge to draw out and direct it.  26
  It is the empiric who never fails.  27
  Joy and grief are never far apart. In the same street the shutters of one house are closed, while the curtains of the next are brushed by shadows of the dance. A wedding-party returns from church, and a funeral winds to its door. The smiles and the sadness of life are the tragi-comedy of Shakespeare. Gladness and sighs brighten and dim the mirror he beholds.  28
  Literature is the immortality of speech.  29
  Many books belong to sunshine, and should be read out of doors. Clover, violets, and hedge roses breathe from their leaves; they are most lovable in cool lanes, along field paths, or upon stiles overhung by hawthorn, while the blackbird pipes, and the nightingale bathes its brown feathers in the twilight copse.  30
  Newton found that a star, examined through a glass tarnished by smoke, was diminished into a speck of light. But no smoke ever breathed so thick a mist as envy or detraction.  31
  No canvas absorbs color like memory.  32
  Occasionally a single anecdote opens a character: biography has its comparative anatomy, and a saying or a sentiment enables the skilful hand to construct the skeleton.  33
  Of many large volumes the volumes the index is the best portion and the usefullest. A glance through the casement gives whatever knowledge of the interior is needful. An epitome is only a book shortened; and as a general rule, the worth increases as the size lessons.  34
  One interesting feature of criticism is seen in the ease with which it discovers what Addison called the specific quality of an author. In Livy, it will be the manner of telling the story; in Sallust, personal identification with the character; in Tacitus, the analysis of the deed into its motive. If the same test be applied to painters, it will find the prominent faculty of Correggio to be manifested in harmony of effect; of Poussin, in the sentiment of his landscapes; and of Raffaelle, in the general comprehension of his subject.  35
  Philosophical studies are beset by one peril, a person easily brings himself to think that he thinks; and a smattering of science encourages conceit. He is above his companions. A hieroglyphic is a spell. The gnostic dogma is cuneiform writing to the million. Moreover, the vain man is generally a doubter. It is Newton who sees himself in a child on the sea shore, and his discoveries in the colored shells.  36
  Poetical taste is the only magician whose wand is not broken. No hand, except its own, can dissolve the fabric of beauty in which it dwells. Genii, unknown to Arabian fable, wait at the portal. Whatever is most precious from the loom or the mine of fancy is poured at its feet. Love, purified by contemplation, visits and cheers it; unseen musicians are heard in the dark; it is Psyche in the palace of Cupid.  37
  Poetry deserves the honor it obtains as the eldest offspring of literature, and the fairest. It is the fruitfulness of many plants growing into one flower and sowing itself over the world in shapes of beauty and color, which differ with the soil that receives and the sun that ripens the seed. In Persia, it comes up the rose of Hafiz; in England, the many-blossomed tree of Shakespeare.  38
  Romance is the truth of imagination and boyhood. Homer’s horses clear the world at a bound. The child’s eye needs no horizon to its prospect. The oriental tale is not too vast. Pearls dropping from trees are only falling leaves in autumn. The palace that grew up in a night merely awakens a wish to live in it. The impossibilities of fifty years are the commonplaces of five.  39
  Some imitation is involuntary and unconscious.  40
  Talents, to strike the eye of posterity, should be concentrated. Rays, powerless while they are scattered, burn in a point.  41
  Taste is improved by cultivation.  42
  Taste is not stationary. It grows every day, and is improved by cultivation, as a good temper is refined by religion. In its most advanced state it takes the title of judgment. Hume quotes Fontenelle’s ingenious distinction between the common watch that tells the hours, and the delicately constructed one that marks the seconds and smallest differences of time.  43
  Taste is often one of the aspects of fashion.  44
  The advice of a scholar, whose piles of learning were set on fire by imagination, is never to be forgotten. Proportion an hour’s reflection to an hour’s reading, and so dispirit the book into the student.  45
  The amplest knowledge has the largest faith. Ignorance is always incredulous. Tell an English cottager that the belfries of Swedish churches are crimson, and his own white steeple furnishes him with a contradiction.  46
  The drama embraces and applies all the beauties and decorations of poetry. The sister arts attend and adorn it. Painting, architecture, and music are her handmaids. The costliest lights of a people’s intellect burn at her show. All ages welcome her.  47
  The drama is the book of the people.  48
  The exhibition of real strength is never grotesque. Distortion is the agony of weakness. It is the dislocated mind whose movements are spasmodic.  49
  The fame of a battlefield grows with its years; Napoleon storming the Bridge of Lodi, and Wellington surveying the towers of Salamanca, affect us with fainter emotions than Brutus reading in his tent at Philippi, or Richard bearing down with the English chivalry upon the white armies of Saladin.  50
  The importance of the romantic element does not rest upon conjecture. Pleasing testimonies abound. Hannah More traced her earliest impressions of virtue to works of fiction; and Adam Clarke gives a list of tales that won his boyish admiration. Books of entertainment led him to believe in a spiritual world; and he felt sure of having been a coward, but for romances. He declared that he had learned more of his duty to God, his neighbor and himself from Robinson Crusoe than from all the books, except the Bible, that were known to his youth.  51
  The light of genius never sets, but sheds itself upon other faces, in different hues of splendor. Homer glows in the softened beauty of Virgil, and Spenser revives in the decorated learning of Gray.  52
  The ponderous tomes are bales of the mind’s merchandise.  53
  There is no reason why the brown hand of labor should not hold Thomson as well as the sickle. Ornamental reading shelters and even strengthens the growth of what is merely useful. A cornfield never returns a poorer crop because a few wild-flowers bloom in the hedge. The refinement of the poor is the triumph of Christian civilization.  54
  To study history is to study literature.  55
  We are not only pleased, but turned, by a feather. The history of man is a calendar of straws. “If the nose of Cleopatra had been shorter,” said Pascal, in his brilliant way, “Antony might have kept the world.”  56
  We waste the power in impatience which, if otherwise employed, might remedy the evil.  57
  What philosopher of the schoolroom, with the mental dowry of four summers, ever questions the power of the wand that opened the dark eyes of the beautiful princess, or subtracts a single inch from the stride of seven leagues?  58
  Whatever is beautiful is also profitable.  59
  Whatever is pure is also simple. It does not keep the eye on itself. The observer forgets the window in the landscape it displays. A fine style gives the view of fancy—its figures, its trees, or its palaces,—without a spot.  60
  Winckelmann wished to live with a work of art as a friend. The saying is true of pen and pencil. Fresh lustre shoots from Lycidas in a twentieth perusal. The portraits of Clarendon are mellowed by every year of reflection.  61
 
 
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