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The Wit and Wisdom of George Eliot

Quotes From Her Works

[George Eliot]

Note: I'm a computer programmer, not a literary scholar. In 1996, I was looking through an old history of English literature and the section on George Eliot caught my eye, particularly the discussion of Middlemarch. I read the novel and was hooked; I read 4 more Eliot novels that same year.

Surprisingly to me, this page has frequent visitors. (And even more since Mitsuharu Matsuoka added a link to my page.) If you have any personal recommendations of other books by or about George Eliot, I would be glad to hear them.

After reading Ina Taylor's biography of Eliot, I realized I should have followed Alexander Main's lead and given my page the title: Wise, Witty and Tender Sayings in Prose and Verse selected from the works of George Eliot!



A man's mind - what there is of it - has always the advantage of being masculine - as the smallest birch-tree is of a higher kind than the most soaring palm - and even his ignorance is of a sounder quality.
"As to his blood, I suppose the family quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant." (Mrs. Cadwallader)
Destiny stands by sarcastic with our dramatis personae folded in her hand.
It was a time, according to a noticeable article in the Pioneer, when the crying needs of the country might well counteract a reluctance to public action on the part of men whose minds had from long experience acquired breadth as well as concentration, decision of judgement as well as tolerance, dispassionateness as well as energy - in fact, all those qualities which in the melancholy experience of mankind have been the least disposed to share lodgings.
"I wouldn't talk of phlebotomy, I would empty a pot of leeches upon him." (Mrs. Cadwallader, again!)
Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot?
[T]his power of generalizing which gives men so much the superiority in mistake over the dumb animals, ...
It was the sense that there was a grand existence in thought and effective action lying around him, while his self was being narrowed into the miserable isolation of egoistic fears, and vulgar anxieties for events that might allay such fears.
"I don't want to stand winking and blinking and thinking." (Mrs. Dollop)
"People glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbours." (Dorothea Casaubon)
"And, of course, men know best about everything, except what women know better." (Dorothea's sister, Celia Chettam)
But the effect of [Dorothea's] being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Silas Marner

"There's my grandfather had his stables full o' horses, and kept a good house, too, and in worse times, by what I can make out; and so might I, if I hadn't four good-for-nothing fellows to hang on me like horse-leeches. I've been too good a father to you all - that's what it is. But I shall pull up, sir." (Squire Cass speaking to his son, Godfrey. Having 3 brothers myself, I found this funny!)
"I'm ready as a mawkin can be - there's nothing awanting to frighten the crows, now I've got my ear-droppers in." (Priscilla Lammeter talking to her sister, Nancy.)
[Eppie] was perfectly quiet now, but not asleep ... that wide-gazing calm which makes us older human beings, with our inward turmoil, feel a certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel before a steady glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending trees over a silent pathway.
"And as for the farm, if anything turns out wrong, as it can't but do in these times, there's nothing kills a man so soon as having nobody to find fault with but himself. It's a deal the best way o' being master, to let somebody else do the ordering, and keep the blaming in your own hands. It 'ud save many a man a stroke, I believe." (Priscilla - she's great!)

The Mill on the Floss

"... for [Tom]'s had a fine sight more schoolin' nor I ever got; all the learnin' my father ever paid for was a bit o' birch at one end and the alphabet at th' other." (Mr. Tulliver)
Plotting covetousness and deliberate contrivance in order to compass a selfish end are nowhere abundant but in the world of the dramatist; they demand too intense a mental action for many of our fellow parishioners to be guilty of them. It is easy enough to spoil the lives of our neighbours without taking so much trouble; we can do it by lazy acquiescence and lazy omission, by trivial falsities for which we hardly know a reason, by small frauds neutralized by small extravagancies, by maladroit flatteries and clumsily improvised insinuations.
"Well, well, neighbour Tulliver, you may be right, you may be right:
When land is gone and money's spent,
Then learning is most excellent.
I remember seeing those two lines wrote on a window at Buxton. But us that have got no learning had better keep our money, eh, neighbour Pullet?" (Mr. Glegg)
Childhood has no forebodings, but then, it is soothed by no memories of outlived sorrow.
That a creature made - in a genealogical sense - out of a man's rib, and in this particular case maintained in the highest respectability without any trouble of her own, should be normally in a state of contradiction to the blandest propositions and even to the most accommodating concessions was a mystery in the scheme of things to which [Mr. Glegg] had often in vain sought a clue in the early chapters of Genesis.
[Mr. Stelling] believed in all these things as a Swiss hotel-keeper believes in the beauty of the scenery around him and in the pleasure it gives to artistic visitors.
There is no sense of ease like the ease we felt in those scenes where we were born, where objects became dear to us before we had known the labour of choice ... [A]nd is not the striving after something better and better in our surroundings, the grand characteristic that distinguishes man from the brute - or, to satisfy a scrupulous accuracy of definition, that distinguishes the British man from the foreign brute? But heaven knows where that striving might lead us if our affections had not a trick of twining round those old inferior things, if the loves and sanctities of our life had no deep immovable roots in memory. ... And there is no better reason for preferring this elderberry bush than that it stirs an early memory, that it is no novelty in my life, speaking to me merely through my present sensibilities to form and colour, but the long companion of my existence that wove itself into my joys when joys were vivid.
... by a logical confusion to which Fortune, being a female as well as blindfold, is peculiarly liable ...
If you think a lad of thirteen would not have been so childish, you must be an exceptionally wise man, who, although you are devoted to a civil calling, requiring you to look bland rather than formidable, yet never since you had a beard threw yourself into a martial attitude and frowned before the looking glass. It is doubtful whether our soldiers would be maintained if there were not pacific people at home who like to fancy themselves soldiers. War, like other dramatic spectacles, might possibly cease for want of a "public".
Mrs. Glegg paused, for speaking with much energy for the good of others is naturally exhausting.
There is no hopelessness so sad as that of early youth, when the soul is made up of wants and has no long memories, no superadded life in the life of others, though we who look on think lightly of such premature despair as if our vision of the future lightened the blind sufferer's present.
It is something cruelly incomprehensible to youthful natures, this sombre sameness in middle-aged and elderly people whose life had resulted in disappointment and discontent, to whose faces a smile becomes so strange that the sad lines all about the lips and brow seem to take no notice of it and it hurries away again for want of a welcome.
"No compliment can be eloquent except as an expression of indifference." (Maggie)
"Love is natural, but surely pity and faithfulness and memory are natural too." (Maggie)
Phillip had been right when he told [Maggie] that she knew nothing of renunciation; she had thought it was quiet ecstasy; she saw it face to face now - that sad patient loving strength which holds the clue of life - and saw that the thorns were forever pressing on its brow.
"We can't choose happiness either for ourselves or for another; we can't tell where that will lie. We can only choose whether we will indulge ourselves in the present moment or whether we will renounce that for the sake of obeying the divine voice within us, for the sake of being true to all the motives that sanctify our lives. I know this belief is hard; it has slipped away from me again and again; but I have felt that if I let it go forever, I should have no light through the darkness of this life." (Maggie)
... the insight that comes ... from a life vivid and intense enough to have created a wide, fellow feeling with all that is human.
"I too am an erring mortal, liable to stumble, apt to come short of my most earnest efforts; your lot has been harder than mine, your temptation greater, let us help each other to stand and walk without more falling!" - to have [said] this would have demanded courage, deep pity, self-knowledge, generous trust; would have demanded a mind that tasted no piquancy in evil-speaking, that felt no self-exaltation in condemning, that cheated itself with no large words in the belief that life can have any moral end, any high religion, which excludes the striving after perfect truth, justice, and love towards the individual men and women who come across our own path.
It was naturally disappointing to Dr. Kenn, after two years of superfluous incense from his feminine parishioners, to find them suddenly maintaining their views in opposition to his; but then, they maintained them in opposition to a Higher Authority, which they had venerated longer. That Authority had furnished a very explicit answer to persons who might inquire where their social duties began and might be inclined to take wide views as to the starting point. The answer had not turned on the ultimate good of society, but on "a certain man" who was found in trouble by the wayside.

And George Eliot herself, in a letter about The Mill on the Floss:

[T]he only effect I ardently long to produce by my writings, is that those who read them should be better able to imagine and to feel the pains and the joys of those who differ from themselves in everything but the broad fact of being struggling erring human creatures.

Daniel Deronda

I like to mark the time, and connect the course of individual lives with the historic stream, for all classes of thinkers. This was the period when the broadening of gauge in crinolines seemed to demand an agitation for the general enlargement of churches, ballrooms, and vehicles.
[I]t is well known that in gambling, for example, whether of the business or the holiday sort, a man who has the strength of mind to leave off when he has only ruined others, is a reformed character. ... Reformation, where a man can afford to do without it, can hardly be other than genuine.
"I was a young fellow once, and now I am getting an old and wise one. Old, at any rate; which is a gift that comes to everybody if they live long enough, so it raises no jealousy." (Lord Brackenshaw)
It is a common sentence that Knowledge is power, but who hath duly considered or set forth the power of Ignorance? ... Of a truth, Knowledge is power, but it is a power reined by scruple, having a conscience of what must be and what may be; whereas Ignorance is a blind giant who, let him but wax unbound, would make it a sport to seize the pillars that hold up the long-wrought fabric of human good, and turn all the places of joy dark as a buried Babylon.
For in general mortals have a great power of being astonished at the presence of an effect towards which they have done everything, and at the absence of an effect towards which they have done nothing but desire it.
A fish honestly invited to come and be eaten has a clear course in declining, but how if it finds itself swimming against a net?
Gwendolen's ideas were pitiably crude; but many grand difficulties of life are apt to force themselves on us in our crudity. And to judge wisely I suppose we must know how things appear to the unwise; that kind of appearance making the larger part of the world's history.
"Oh, child, men's men: gentle or simple, they're much of a muchness." (The miller's wife, speaking to her daughter)
To make a little difference for the better was what he was not contented to live without; but how make it. It is one thing to see your road, another to cut it.
[Deronda] wanted some way of keeping emotion and its progeny of sentiments - which make the savours of life - substantial and strong in the face of a reflectiveness that threatened to nullify all differences. To pound the objects of sentiment into small dust, yet keep sentiment alive and active, was something like the famous recipe for making cannon - to first take a round hole and then enclose it with iron; whatever you do keeping fast hold of your round hole.
The most powerful movement of feeling with a liturgy is the prayer which seeks for nothing special, but is a yearning to escape from the limitations of our own weakness and an invocation of all Good to enter and abide with us; or else a self-oblivious lifting up of gladness, a Gloria in excelsis that such Good exists; both the yearning and the exultation gathering their utmost force from the sense of communion in a form which has expressed them both, for long generations of struggling fellow-men.
"I make it a virtue to be content with my middlingness; it is always pardonable, so that one does not ask others to take it for superiority." (Deronda)
"There's no disappointment in memory, and one's exaggerations are always on the good side." (Deronda)
"I suppose our keen feeling for ourselves might end in giving us a keen feeling for others, if, when we are suffering acutely, we were to consider that others go through the same sharp experience." (Deronda)
"The refuge you are needing from personal trouble is the higher, the religious life, which holds an enthusiasm for something more than our own appetites and vanities. The few may find themselves in it simply by an elevation of feeling; but for us who have to struggle for our wisdom, the higher life must be a region in which the affections are clad with knowledge." (Deronda)
Hans: "[Y]ou can't conceive what a great fellow I'm going to be. The seed of immortality has sprouted within me."
Deronda: "Only a fungoid growth, I daresay - a crowing disease in the lungs."
"Nature designed Mirah to fall in love with me. The amalgamation of races demands it - the mitigation of human ugliness demands it - the affinity of contrasts assures it. I am the utmost contrast to Mirah - a bleached Christian, who can't sing two notes in tune. Who has a chance against me?" (Hans)
But the fuller nature desires to be an agent, to create, and not merely to look on: strong love hungers to bless, and not merely to behold blessing. And while there is warmth enough in the sun to feed an energetic life, there will still be men to feel, "I am lord of this moment's change, and will charge it with my soul."
... that mingling of inconsequence which belongs to us all, and not unhappily, since it saves us from many effects of mistake, ...
Our consciences are not all of the same pattern, an inner deliverance of fixed laws: they are the voice of sensibilities as various as our memories (which also have their kinship and likeness).
"For the same reason that the cleverest men in the country don't get themselves or their ideas into Parliament: because the blockheads are too many for 'em." (Pash)
"I undervalued her heart. [Mrs. Cohen] is capable of rejoicing that another's plant blooms though her own be withered." (Mordecai)
"In fact, [Mordecai's] mind seems so broad that I find my own correct opinions lying in it quite commodiously, and how they are to be brought into agreement with the vast remainder is his affair, not mine." (Hans)
Amy: "Dear me, Mab! ... Such things are going on every day."
Mab: "And pray, Amy, why do you insist on the number nine being so wonderful? I am sure that is happening every day."
Mirah: "Shall I tell you what is the difference between you and me, Ezra? You are a spring in the drought, and I am an acorn-cup; the waters of heaven fill me, but the least little shake leaves me empty."
Mordecai: "Why, what has shaken thee?"
Mirah: "Thoughts. Thoughts that come like the breeze and shake me - bad people, wrong things, misery - and how they might touch our life."
Mordecai: "We must take our portion, Mirah. It is there. On whose shoulder would we lay it, that we might be free?"
Those who have been indulged by fortune and have always thought of calamity as what happens to others, feel a blind incredulous rage at the reversal of their lot, and half believe that their wild cries will alter the course of the storm.
All that brief experience of a quiet home which had once seemed a dulness to be fled from, now came back to [Gwendolen] as a restful escape, a station where she found the breath of morning and the unreproaching voice of birds.
There is a way of looking at our life daily as an escape, and taking the quiet return of morn and evening - still more the starlike out-glowing of some pure fellow-feeling, some generous impulse breaking our inward darkness - as a salvation that reconciles us to hardship.
[I]n each of our lives harvest and spring-time are continually one, until Death himself gathers us and sows us anew in his invisible fields.

Adam Bede

"[A] man who has no feeling for the classics couldn't make a better apology for coming into the world than by increasing the quantity of food to maintain scholars - and rectors who appreciate scholars." (Parson Irwine speaking to Arthur Donnithorne)
"And I found it better for my soul to be humble before the mysteries o' God's dealings; and not be making a clatter about what I could never understand. And they're poor foolish questions after all; for what have we got either inside or outside of us but what comes from God? If we've got a resolution to do right, He gave it to us, I reckon, first or last; but I see plain enough we shall never do it without a resolution, and that's enough for me." (Adam Bede)
"I see clear enough there's more pride nor love in my soul, for I could sooner make a thousand strokes with th' hammer for my father than bring myself to say a kind word to him. And there went plenty o' pride and temper to the strokes, as the devil will be having his finger in what we call our duties as well as our sins. ... [P]erhaps nothing 'ud be a lesson to us if it didn't come too late. It's well we should feel as life's a reckoning we can't make twice over; there's no real making amends in this world, any more nor you can mend a wrong subtraction by doing your addition right." (Adam, after his father's death)
Mr. Craig: "Who's to sit at top o' table, Mr. Massey?"
Bartle Massey: "Why, the broadest man ... and then he won't take up other folk's room; and the next broadest must sit at bottom."
Mr. Poyser: "The missis was saying, Adam, as the preaching was th' only fault to be found with [Dinah], and Mr. Irwine says, 'But you mustn't find fault with her for that, Mrs. Poyser; you forget she's got no husband to preach to. I'll answer for it, you give Poyser many a good sermon.' ..."
Mrs. Poyser: "Yes, it's a small joke sets men laughing when they sit a-staring at one another with a pipe i' their mouths."
Bartle Massey: "I daresay [Dinah]'s like the rest o' the women - thinks two and two'll come to make five, if she cries and bothers enough about it."
Mrs. Poyser: "Ay, ay! One 'ud think an' hear some folks talk, as the men war 'cute enough to count the corns in a bag o' wheat wi' only smelling at it. They can see through a barndoor, they can. Perhaps that's the reason they can see so little o' this side on 't."
Bartle Massey: "Ah! The women are quick enough - they're quick enough. They know the rights of a story before they hear it, and can tell a man what his thoughts are before he knows 'em himself."
Mrs. Poyser: "Like enough, for the men are mostly so slow, their thoughts overrun 'em, an' they can only catch 'em by the tail ... Howiver, I'm not denyin' the women are foolish: God Almighty made 'em to match the men."
Bartle Massey: "Match! Ay, as vinegar matches one's teeth."
Adam could never cease to mourn over that mystery of human sorrow which had been brought so close to him: he could never thank God for another's misery ... "Evil's evil, and sorrow's sorrow, and you can't alter its nature by wrapping it up in other words. Other folks were not created for my sake, that I should think all square when things turn out well for me."

Felix Holt, The Radical

Some attributed [Mr. Sampson's] reticence to a wise incredulity, others to a want of memory, others to simple ignorance.
For there is seldom any wrong-doing which does not carry along with it some downfall of blindly-climbing hopes, some hard entail of suffering, some quickly-satiated desire that survives, with the life in death of old paralytic vice, to see itself cursed by its woeful progeny - some tragic mark of kinship in one brief life to the far-stretching life that went before, and to the life that is to come after, such as has raised the pity and terror of men ever since they began to discern between will and destiny.
"The best happiness I shall ever know, will be to escape the worst misery." (Mrs. Transome)
... a sparse congregation of Independents, who were as little moved by doctrinal zeal as their church-going neighbours, and did not feel themselves deficient in religious liberty, inasmuch as they were not hindered from occasionally slumbering in their pews ...
"I'll never look back and say, 'I had a fine purpose once - I meant to keep my hands clean, and my soul upright, and to look truth in the face; but pray excuse me, I have a wife and children - I must lie and simper a little, else they'll starve!'" (Felix Holt)
"[Truth telling] is apt to be easy to people when they only wound others and not themselves." (Esther Lyon)
"You yourself are a lover of freedom, and a bold rebel against usurping authority. But the right to rebellion is the right to seek a higher rule, and not to wander in mere lawlessness. Wherefore, I beseech you, seem not to say that liberty is licence ... [W]e are well instructed how true liberty can be nought but the transfer of obedience from the will of one or of a few men to that will which is the norm or rule for all men. And though the transfer may sometimes be but an erroneous direction of search, yet is the search good and necessary to the ultimate finding." (Mr. Lyon to Felix)
"[T]here's One knows better than we do -" which, in a lady [Mrs. Muscat] who rarely felt her judgment at a loss, was a concession that showed much piety.
[F]ar from despising gratitude, they regard it as the virtue most of all incumbent - on others towards them.
Consistency? - I never changed my mind,
Which is, and always was, to live at ease.
A panting man thinks of himself as a clever swimmer; but a fish swims much better, and takes his performance as a matter of course.
Blows are sarcasm turned stupid: wit is a form of force that leaves the limbs at rest.
'What I do
And what I dream include thee ...'
(from the epigraph to Chapter 32, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Sonnets from the Portuguese", verse 6)
It is only in that freshness of our time that the choice is possible which gives unity to life, and makes the memory a temple where all relics and all votive offerings, all worship and all grateful joy, are an unbroken history sanctified by one religion.
[Harold Transome] felt the hard pressure of our common lot, the yoke of that mighty resistless destiny laid upon us by the acts of other men as well as our own.
"Why, I shall be able to set up a great library, and lend the books to be dog's-eared and marked with breadcrumbs." (Felix Holt)

Scenes of Clerical Life

The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton

Yet these commonplace people - many of them - bear a conscience, and have felt the sublime prompting to do the painful right; they have their unspoken sorrows, and their sacred joys; their hearts have perhaps gone out towards their first-born, and they have mourned over the irreclaimable dead.
"They say a green Yule makes a fat churchyard; but so does a white Yule too, for that matter. When the stool's rotten enough, no matter who sits on't." (Mrs. Hackitt)
"Yes, it's fine talking," said Mrs. Patten, from her pillow; "old maids' husbands are al'ys well-managed."

Mr. Gilfil's Love-Story

I, at least, hardly ever look at a bent old man, or a wizened old woman, but I see also, with my mind's eye, that Past of which they are the shrunken remnant, and the unfinished romance of rosy cheeks and bright eyes seems sometimes of feeble interest and significance, compared with that drama of hope and love which has long ago reached its catastrophe, and left the poor soul, like a dim and dusty stage, with all its sweet garden-scenes and fair perspectives overturned and thrust out of sight.
But who can measure pain? Who can fix the value of a single human consciousness? If human thought in its attempt to grasp the universal, learns to think the anguish of one living being trivial, this is only because human love is feeble, and human wisdom narrow. (A passage at the very end of chapter 5 in the manuscript, but not included in the published editions of the book.)
[They] entered, all with that brisk and cheerful air which a sermon is often observed to produce when it is quite finished.
"[W]e've got some capital rum as we brought from the Cross Keys, an' Dorkis won't let nobody drink it. She says she keeps it for sickness; but for my part, I think it's a pity to drink good rum when your mouth's out o' taste; you may just as well hev doctor's stuff." (Daniel Knott)
But it is with men as with trees: if you lop off their finest branches, into which they were pouring their young life-juice, the wounds will be healed over with some rough boss, some odd excrescence; and what might have been a grand tree expanding into liberal shade, is but a whimsical misshapen trunk. Many an irritating fault, many an unlovely oddity, has come of a hard sorrow, which has crushed and maimed the nature just when it was expanding into plenteous beauty; and the trivial erring life which we visit with our harsh blame, may be but as the unsteady motion of a man whose best limb is withered.

Janet's Repentance

But always there is seed being sown silently and unseen, and everywhere there come sweet flowers without our foresight or labour. We reap what we sow, but Nature has love over and above that justice, and gives us shadow and blossom and fruit that spring from no planting of ours.
But convenience, that admirable branch system from the main line of self-interest, makes us all fellow-helpers in spite of adverse resolutions. It is probable that no speculative or theological hatred would be ultimately strong enough to resist the persuasive power of convenience ...
But a passionate hate, as well as a passionate love, demands some leisure and mental freedom. Persecution and revenge, like courtship and toadyism, will not prosper without a considerable expenditure of time and ingenuity ...
[A]t Milby, in those distant days, as in all other times and places where the mental atmosphere is changing, and men are inhaling the stimulus of new ideas, folly often mistook itself for wisdom, ignorance gave itself airs of knowledge, and selfishness, turning its eyes upward, called itself religion.
Yet surely, surely the only true knowledge of our fellow-man is that which enables us to feel with him - which gives us a fine ear for the heart-pulses that are beating under the mere clothes of circumstance and opinion. Our subtlest analysis of schools and sects must miss the essential truth, unless it be lit up by the love that sees in all forms of human thought and work, the life and death struggles of separate human beings.
[S]ympathy is but a living again through our own past in a new form ...
To moisten the sufferer's parched lips through the long night-watches, to bear up the drooping head, to lift the helpless limbs, to divine the want that can find no utterance beyond the feeble motion of the hand or beseeching glance of the eye - these are offices that demand no self-questionings, no casuistry, no assent to propositions, no weighing of consequences. Within the four walls where the stir and glare of the world are shut out, and every voice is subdued - where a human being lies prostrate, thrown on the tender mercies of his fellow, the moral relation of man to man is reduced to its utmost clearness and simplicity: bigotry cannot confuse it, theory cannot pervert it, passion, awed into quiescence, can neither pollute nor perturb it. As we bend over the sick-bed, all the forces of our nature rush towards the channels of pity, of patience, and of love, and sweep down the miserable choking drift of our quarrels, our debates, our would-be wisdom, and our clamorous selfish desires.
A very commonplace scene, indeed. But what scene was ever commonplace in the descending sunlight, when colour has awakened from its noonday sleep, and the long shadows awe us like a disclosed presence?

The Impressions of Theophrastus Such

The Characters of Theophrastus
(Translated by R. C. Jebb, 1870.)

Looking Inward

What could be more contemptible than the mood of mind which makes a man measure the justice of divine or human law by the agreeableness of his own shadow and the ample satisfaction of his own desires?

Looking Backward

And for my part, I can call no age absolutely unpoetic: how should it be so, since there are always children to whom the acorns and the swallow's eggs are a wonder ...
If we acknowledge our obligation to the ancients, it is hardly to be done without some flouting of our contemporaries, who with all their faults must be allowed the merit of keeping the world habitable for the refined eulogists of the blameless past.
I gather, too, from the undeniable testimony of [Aristotle's] disciple Theophrastus that there were bores, ill-bred persons, and detractors even in Athens, of species remarkably corresponding to the English, and not yet made endurable by being classic ...
Or I might have been one of those benignant lovely souls who, without astonishing the public and posterity, make a happy difference in the lives close around them, and in this way lift the average of earthly joy.

A Man Surprised at His Originality

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact ...

Only Temper

A man who uses his balmoral to tread on your toes with much frequency and an unmistakable emphasis may prove a fast friend in adversity, but meanwhile your adversity has not arrived and your toes are tender.
There has been plenty of insistence on the evil of swearing by the words of a master, and having the judgment uniformly controlled by a "He said it"; but a much worse woe to befall a man is to have every judgment controlled by an "I said it" - to make a divinity of his own short-sightedness or passion-led aberration and explain the world in its honor.

A Political Molecule

The depth of middle-aged gentlemen's ignorance will never be known, for want of public examinations in this branch.

The Watch-Dog of Knowledge

I have overheard [Pummel] saying to that small upstart, with some severity, "Now don't you pretend to know, because the more you pretend the more I see your ignirance" - a lucidity on his part which has confirmed my impression that the thoroughly self-satisfied person is the only one fully to appreciate the charm of humility in others.
It might seem surprising to us that one strongly convinced of his own value should prefer to exalt an age in which he did not flourish, if it were not for the reflection that the present age is the only one in which anybody has appeared to undervalue him.

The Wasp Credited with the Honeycomb

No premisses require closer scrutiny than those which lead to the constantly echoed conclusion, "He must have known", or "He must have read". I marvel that this facility of belief on the side of knowledge can subsist under the daily demonstration that the easiest of all things to the human mind is not to know and not to read ... the only safe supposition is, that as little of them has been done as the case admits.

False Testimonials

One cannot give a recipe for wise judgment: it resembles appropriate muscular action, which is attained by the myriad lessons in nicety of balance and of aim that only practice can give.
[P]owerful imagination is not false outward vision, but intense inward representation, and a creative energy constantly fed by susceptibility to the veriest minutiæ of experience, which it reproduces and constructs in fresh and fresh wholes; not the habitual confusion of provable fact with the fictions of fancy and transient inclination, but a breadth of ideal association which informs every material object, every incidental fact with far-reaching memories and stored residues of passion, bringing into new light the less obvious relations of human existence.

The Too Ready Writer

Nobody that I know of ever proposed a testimonial to a man for thus volunteering the whole expense of the conversation ... The excessive talker can only be in one gathering at a time, and there is the comfort of thinking that everywhere else other fellow-citizens who have something to say may get a chance of delivering themselves ...

Moral Swindlers

I found [Melissa] disposed to speak pathetically of the disgrace which had fallen on Sir Gavial Mantrap, because of his conduct in relation to ... companies ingeniously devised by him for the punishment of ignorance in people of small means ...

Shadows of the Coming Race

Take me then as a sort of reflective and experienced carp; but do not estimate the justice of my ideas by my facial expressions.

The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!

As for the Irish, it is felt in high quarters that we have always been too lenient towards them; - at least, if they had been harried a little more there might not have been so many of them on the English press, of which they divide the power with the Scotch, thus driving many Englishmen to honest and ineloquent labor.

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