S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Sir James Mackintosh
The variety and splendour of the lives of such men render it often difficult to distinguish the portion of time which ought to be admitted into history from that which should be preserved for biography. Generally speaking, these two parts are so distinct and unlike that they cannot be confounded without much injury to both: either when the biographer hides the portrait of the individual by a crowded and confined picture of events, or when the historian allows unconnected narratives of the lives of men to break the thread of history. Perhaps nothing more can be universally laid down than that the biographer never ought to introduce public events except as far as they are absolutely necessary to the illustration of character, and that the historian should rarely digress into biographical particulars except as far as they contribute to the clearness of his narrative of political occurrences.
Sir Isaac Newton and Milton were equally men of genius. Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Godolphin were ministers of great abilities, though they did not possess either the brilliant talents of Bolingbroke or the commanding genius of Chatham.
Law, said Dr. Johnson, is the science in which the greatest powers of the understanding are applied to the greatest number of facts; and no one who is acquainted with the variety and multiplicity of the subjects of jurisprudence, and with the prodigious powers of discrimination employed upon them, can doubt the truth of this observation.
There is not, in my opinion, in the whole compass of human affairs so noble a spectacle as that which is displayed in the progress of jurisprudence; where we may contemplate the cautions and unwearied exertions of wise men through a long course of ages, withdrawing every case, as it arises, from the dangerous power of discretion, and subjecting it to inflexible rules, extending the dominion of justice and reason, and gradually contracting within the narrowest possible limits the domain of brutal force and arbitrary will.
As the mind of Johnson was robust, but neither nimble nor graceful, so his style was void of all grace and ease, and, being the most unlike of all styles to the natural effusion of a cultivated mind, had the least pretensions to the praise of eloquence.
Every fiction since Homer has taught friendship, patriotism, generosity, contempt of death. These are the highest virtues; and the fictions which taught them were, therefore, of the highest, though not of unmixed, utility.
My only consolation is in that Being under whose severe but paternal chastisement I am bent down to the ground. The philosophy which I have learned only teaches me that virtue and friendship are the greatest of human blessings, and that their loss is irreparable. It aggravates my calamity, instead of consoling me under it. My wounded heart seeks another consolation. Governed by these feelings, which have in every age and region of the world actuated the human mind, I seek relief and I find it in the soothing hope and consolatory opinion that a Benevolent Wisdom inflicts the chastisement as well as bestows the enjoyments of human life; that superintending goodness will one day enlighten the darkness which surrounds our nature and hangs over our prospects; that this dreary and wretched life is not the whole of man; that an animal so sagacious and provident, and capable of such proficiency in science and virtue, is not like the beasts that perish; that there is a dwelling-place prepared for the spirits of the just, and that the ways of God will yet be vindicated to man.
Sir James Mackintosh: On the death of his wife, to Rev. Dr. Parr.
A writer [Lord Macaulay] of consummate ability . The admirable writer whose language has occasioned this illustrationwho at an early age has mastered every species of compositionwill doubtless hold fast to simplicity, which survives all the fashions of deviation from it, and which a man of a genius so fertile has few temptations to forsake.
Sir James Mackintosh: Progress of Ethical Philos., in Encyc. Brit., and in his Miscell. Works.