S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
The honest and just bounds of observation by one person upon another extend no further but to understand him sufficiently, whereby not to give him offence, or whereby to be able to give him faithful counsel, or whereby to stand upon reasonable guard and caution in respect of a mans self: but to be speculative into another man to the end to know how to work him, or wind him, or govern him, proceedeth from a heart that is double and cloven, and not entire and ingenuous.
You should not only have attention to everything, but a quickness of attention, so as to observe, at once, all the people in the room; their motions, their looks, and their words; and yet without staring at them, and seeming to be an observer. This quick and unobserved observation is of infinite advantage in life, and is to be acquired with care; and, on the contrary, what is called absence, which is a thoughtlessness and want of attention about what is doing, makes a man so like either a fool or a madman, that, for my part, I see no real difference. A fool never has thought, a madman has lost it; and an absent man is, for the time, without it.
Lord Chesterfield: To his Son, July 25, N. S., 1741.
How little of our knowledge of mankind is derived from intentional accurate observation! Most of it has, unsought, found its way into the mind from the continual presentations of the objects to our unthinking view. It is a knowledge of sensation more than of reflection. Such knowledge is vague and superficial. There is no science of human nature in it.
An observant man, in all his intercourse with society and the world, carries a pencil constantly in his hand, and, unperceived, marks on every person and thing the figure expressive of its value, and therefore instantly on meeting that person or thing again knows what kind and degree of attention to give it. This is to make something of experience.
To behold is not necessarily to observe, and the power of comparing and combining is only to be obtained by education. It is much to be regretted that habits of exact observation are not cultivated in our schools: to this deficiency may be traced much of the fallacious reasoning, the false philosophy, which prevails.
We pass by common objects or persons without noticing them, whereas we turn back to look again at those which deserve our admiration, our regard, our respect. This was the original meaning of respect and respectable.