S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
When honour runs parallel with the laws of God and our country, it cannot be too much cherished; but when the dictates of honour are contrary to those of religion and equity, they are the great depravations of human nature.
Honour hath three things in it: the vantage ground to do good; the approach to kings and principal persons; and the raising of a mans own fortunes. He that hath the best of these intentions, when he aspireth, is an honest man; and that prince that can discern of these intentions in another that aspireth is a wise prince.
The winning of honour is but the revealing of a mans virtue and worth without disadvantage; for some in their actions do woo and affect honour and reputation; which sort of men are commonly much talked of, but inwardly little admired: and some, contrariwise, darken their virtue in the show of it; so as they be undervalued in opinion. If a man perform that which hath not been attempted before, or attempted and given over, or hath been achieved, but not with so good circumstance, he shall purchase more honour than by affecting a matter of greater difficulty, or virtue, wherein he is but a follower. If a man so temper his actions as in some one of them he doth content every faction or combination of people, the music will be the fuller. A man is an ill husband of his honour that entereth into any action the failing wherein may disgrace him more than the carrying of it through can honour him. Honour that is gained and broken upon another hath the quickest reflection, like diamonds cut with facets; and, therefore, let a man contend to excel any competitors of his in honour, in outshooting them, if he can, in their own bow. Discreet followers and servants help much to reputation: Omnis fama a domesticis emanat.
A principle of honour, as long as it is connected with virtue, adds no small efficacy to its operation, and no small brilliancy and lustre to its appearance; but honour, the moment that it becomes unconnected with the duties of official function, with the relations of life, and the eternal and immutable laws of morality, and appears in its substance alien to them, changes its nature, and, instead of justifying a breach of duty, aggravates all its mischiefs to an almost infinite degree: by the apparent lustre of the surface it hides from you the baseness and deformity of the ground.
What can be more honourable than to have courage enough to execute the commands of reason and conscience; to maintain the dignity of our nature, and the station assigned us; to be proof against poverty, pain, and death itself; I mean so far as not to do anything that is scandalous or sinful to avoid them: to stand adversity under all shapes with decency and resolution! To do this, is to be great above title and fortune. This argues the soul of a heavenly extraction, and is worthy the offspring of the Deity.
When honours come to us, rather than we to them; when they meet us, as it were, in the vestibule of life, it is well if our enemies can say no more against us than that we are too young for our dignities: it would be much worse for us if they could say that we are too old for them: time will destroy the first objection, but confirm the second.
Thus to contradict our desires, and to conquer the impulses of our ambition, if they do not fall in with what we in our inward sentiments approve, is so much to our interest, and so absolutely necessary to our real happiness, that to contemn all the wealth and power in the world, where they stand in competition with a mans honour, is rather good sense than greatness of mind.
No man of honour, as that word is usually understood, did ever pretend that his honour obliged him to be chaste or temperate, to pay his creditors, to be useful to his country, to do good to mankind, to endeavour to be wise or learned, to regard his word, his promise, or his oath.