S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Censure, says a late ingenious author, is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent. It is a folly for an eminent man to think of escaping it, and a weakness to be affected with it. All the illustrious persons of antiquity, and indeed of every age in the world, have passed through this fiery persecution. There is no defence against reproach but obscurity; it is a kind of concomitant to greatness, as satires and invectives were an essential part of a Roman triumph.
A conscientious person would rather doubt his own judgment than condemn his species. He would say, I have observed without attention, or judged upon erroneous maxims; I trusted to profession, when I ought to have attended to conduct. Such a man will grow wise, not malignant, by his acquaintance with the world. But he that accuses all mankind of corruption ought to remember that he is sure to convict only one. In truth, I should much rather admit those whom at any time I have disrelished the most to be patterns of perfection, than seek a consolation to my own unworthiness in a general communion of depravity with all about me.
Edmund Burke: Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777.
It is undoubtedly true, though it may seem paradoxical,but, in general, those who are habitually employed in finding and displaying faults are unqualified for the work of reformation; because their minds are not only unfurnished with patterns of the fair and good, but by habit they come to take no delight in the contemplation of those things. By hating vices too much, they come to love men too little. It is, therefore, not wonderful that they should be indisposed and unable to serve them.
Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.
I know no manner of speaking so offensive as that of giving praise and closing it with an exception; which proceeds (where men do not do it to introduce malice and make calumny more effectual) from the common error of considering man as a perfect creature. But, if we rightly examine things, we shall find that there is a sort of economy in Providence, that one shall excel where another is defective, in order to make men more useful to each other, and mix them in society. This man having this talent, and that man another, is as necessary in conversation, as one professing one trade, and another another, is beneficial in commerce. The happiest climate does not produce all things; and it was so ordered, that one part of the earth should want the product of another, for uniting mankind in a general correspondence and good understanding. It is, therefore, want of sense as well as good nature, to say, Simplicius has a better judgment, but not so much wit as Latius; for that these have not each others capacities is no more a diminution to either, than if you should say, Simplicius is not Latius, or Latius not Simplicius.
Shallow wits, superficial critics, and conceited fops, are with me so many blind men in respect of excellences. They can behold nothing but faults and blemishes, and indeed see nothing that is worth seeing. Show them a poem, it is stuff; a picture, it is daubing. They find nothing in architecture that Ls not irregular, or in music that is not out of tune. These men should consider that it is their envy which deforms everything, and that the ugliness is not in the object, but in the eye. And as for nobler minds, whose merits are either not discovered, or are misrepresented by the envious part of mankind, they should rather consider their defamers with pity than indignation. A man cannot have an idea of perfection in another, which he was never sensible of in himself.
When one considers the turn which conversation takes in almost every set of acquaintance, club, or assembly in this town or kingdom, one cannot but observe that, in spite of what I am every day saying, and all the moral writers since the beginning of the world have said, the subject of discourse is generally upon one anothers faults. This, in a great measure, proceeds from self-conceit, which were to be endured in one or other individual person; but the folly has spread itself almost over all the species; and one cannot only say Tom, Jack, or Will, but, in general, that man is a coxcomb. From this source it is, that any excellence is faintly received, any imperfection unmercifully exposed.