«The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces Contents: Preface I. THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS II. A MEDITATION UPON A BROOMSTICK. III. PREDICTIONS FOR ...»
One argument used to the disadvantage of Providence I take to be a very strong one in its defence. It is objected that storms and tempests, unfruitful seasons, serpents, spiders, flies, and other noxious or troublesome animals, with many more instances of the like kind, discover an imperfection in nature, because human life would be much easier without them; but the design of Providence may clearly be perceived in this proceeding. The motions of the sun and moon - in short, the whole system of the universe, as far as philosophers have been able to discover and observe, are in the utmost degree of regularity and perfection; but wherever God hath left to man the power of interposing a remedy by thought or labour, there he hath placed things in a state of imperfection, on purpose to stir up human industry, without which life would stagnate, or, indeed, rather, could not subsist at all: CURIS ACCUUNT MORTALIA CORDA.
Praise is the daughter of present power.
How inconsistent is man with himself!
I have known several persons of great fame for wisdom in public affairs and counsels governed by foolish servants.
I have known great Ministers, distinguished for wit and learning, who preferred none but dunces.
I have known men of great valour cowards to their wives.
I have known men of the greatest cunning perpetually cheated.
I knew three great Ministers, who could exactly compute and settle the accounts of a kingdom, but were wholly ignorant of their own economy.
The preaching of divines helps to preserve well-inclined men in the course of virtue, but seldom or never reclaims the vicious.
Princes usually make wiser choices than the servants whom they trust for the disposal of places: I have known a prince, more than once, choose an able Minister, but I never observed that Minister to use his credit in the disposal of an employment to a person whom he thought the fittest for it. One of the greatest in this age owned and excused the matter from the violence of parties and the unreasonableness of friends.
Small causes are sufficient to make a man uneasy when great ones are not in the way. For want of a block he will stumble at a straw.
Dignity, high station, or great riches, are in some sort necessary to old men, in order to keep the younger at a distance, who are otherwise too apt to insult them upon the score of their age.
Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old.
Love of flattery in most men proceeds from the mean opinion they have of themselves; in women from the contrary.
If books and laws continue to increase as they have done for fifty years past, I am in some concern for future ages how any man will be learned, or any man a lawyer.
Kings are commonly said to have LONG HANDS; I wish they had as LONG EARS.
Princes in their infancy, childhood, and youth are said to discover prodigious parts and wit, to speak things that surprise and astonish. Strange, so many hopeful princes, and so many shameful kings! If they happen to die young, they would have been prodigies of wisdom and virtue. If they live, they are often prodigies indeed, but of another sort.
Politics, as the word is commonly understood, are nothing but corruptions, and consequently of no use to a good king or a good ministry; for which reason Courts are so overrun with politics.
A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.
Apollo was held the god of physic and sender of diseases. Both wore originally the same trade, and still continue.
Old men and comets have been reverenced for the same reason: their long beards, and pretences to foretell events.
A person was asked at court, what he thought of an ambassador and his train, who were all embroidery and lace, full of bows, cringes, and gestures; he said, it was Solomon's importation, gold and apes.
Most sorts of diversion in men, children, and other animals, is an imitation of fighting.
Augustus meeting an ass with a lucky name foretold himself good fortune. I meet many asses, but none of them have lucky names.
If a man makes me keep my distance, the comfort is he keeps his at the same time.
Who can deny that all men are violent lovers of truth when we see them so positive in their errors, which they will maintain out of their zeal to truth, although they contradict themselves every day of their lives?
That was excellently observed, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.
Very few men, properly speaking, live at present, but are providing to live another time.
Laws penned with the utmost care and exactness, and in the vulgar language, are often perverted to wrong meanings; then why should we wonder that the Bible is so?
Although men are accused for not knowing their weakness, yet perhaps as few know their own strength.
A man seeing a wasp creeping into a vial filled with honey, that was hung on a fruit tree, said thus: "Why, thou sottish animal, art thou mad to go into that vial, where you see many hundred of your kind there dying in it before you?" "The reproach is just," answered the wasp, "but not from you men, who are so far from taking example by other people's follies, that you will not take warning by your own. If after falling several times into this vial, and escaping by chance, I should fall in again, I should then but resemble you."
An old miser kept a tame jackdaw, that used to steal pieces of money, and hide them in a hole, which the cat observing, asked why he would hoard up those round shining things that he could make no use of? "Why," said the jackdaw, "my master has a whole chest full, and makes no more use of them than I."
Men are content to be laughed at for their wit, but not for their folly.
If the men of wit and genius would resolve never to complain in their works of critics and detractors, the next age would not know that they ever had any.
After all the maxims and systems of trade and commerce, a standerby would think the affairs of the world were most ridiculously contrived.
There are few countries which, if well cultivated, would not support double the number of their inhabitants, and yet fewer where one-third of the people are not extremely stinted even in the necessaries of life. I send out twenty barrels of corn, which would maintain a family in bread for a year, and I bring back in return a vessel of wine, which half a dozen good follows would drink in less than a month, at the expense of their health and reason.
A man would have but few spectators, if he offered to show for threepence how he could thrust a red-hot iron into a barrel of