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Rectitude of understanding is indeed the most useful, as well as the most noble of human endowments, as it is the sovereign guide and director in every branch of civil and social intercourse.
Upon whatever occasion this enlightening faculty is exerted, it is always sure to act with distinguished eminence; but its chief and peculiar province seems to lie in the commerce of the world. Accordingly we may observe that those who have conversed more with men than with books; whose wisdom is derived rather from experience than contemplation; generally possess this happy talent with superior perfection. For good sense, though it cannot be acquired, may be improved; and the world, I believe, will ever be found to afford the most kindly soil for its cultivation. MELMOTH.
STUDIES serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. The chief use for delight is in privateness, and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots, and marshalling of affairs, come best from those who are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humour of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience; for na tural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by duty; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experi ence. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them: for they teach not their own use, but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and
confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that should be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not.
ON SATIRICAL WIT.
-TRUST me, this unwary pleasantry of thine will 300ner or later bring thee into scrapes and difficulties, which no after-wit can extricate thee out of. In these sallies, too oft I see, it happens, that the person laughed at considers himself in the light of a person injured, with all the rights of such a situation belonging to him; and when thou viewest him in that light too, and reckonest upon his friends, his family, his kindred, and allies, and musterest up with them the many recruits which will list under him from a sense of common danger; 'tis no extravagant arithmetic to say, that for every ten jokes, thou hast got an hundred enemies; and, till thou hast gone on, and raised a swarm of wasps about thine ears, and art half stung to death by them, thou wilt never be convinced it is so.
I cannot suspect it in the man whom I esteem, that there is the least spur from spleen or malevolence of
intent in these sallies. I believe and know them to be truly honest and sportive; but consider, that fools cannot distinguish this, and that knaves will not; and thou knowest not what it is, either to provoke the one, or to make merry with the other: whenever they associate for mutual defence, depend upon it they will carry on the war in such a manner against thee, my dear friend, as to make thee heartily sick of it, and of thy life too.
Revenge from some baneful corner shall level a tale of dishonour at thee, which no innocence of heart or integrity of conduct shall set right. The fortunes of thy house shall totter-thy character, which fed the way to them, shall bleed on every side of it-thy faith questioned-thy works belied-thy wit forgotten-thy learning trampled on. To wind up the last scene of thy tragedy, CRUELTY and COWARDICE, twin ruffians, hired and set on by MALICE in the dark, shall strike together at all thy infirmities and mistakes: the best of us, my friend, lie open there; and trust me when to gratify a private appetite, it is once resolved upon, that an innocent and an helpless creature shall be sacrificed, it is an easy matter to pick up sticks enough from any thicket where it has strayed, to make a fire to offer it up with. STERNE.
HAMLET'S INSTRUCTIONS TO THE PLAYERS.
SPEAK the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lieve the town crier had spoke my lines. And do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus; but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh! it offends me to the soul, to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings; who (for the most part,) are capable of nothing but inexplica
ble dumb shows and noise: I could have such a fellow whipp'd for o'erdoing termagant; it out-herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it.
Be not too tame neither; but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is from the purpose of playing; whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show Virtue her own feature, Scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure. Now this overdone or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve: the censure of one of which must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. Oh! there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, (not to speak it profanely,) that, neither having the accent of Christian, nor the gait of Christian, Pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed, that I have thought some of Nature's journeymen had made them, and not made them well; they imitated humanity so abominably.
And let those that play your clowns, speak no more than is set down for them: for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too; though, in the mean time, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered :— that's villanous: and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. SHAKSPEARE.
THE PRESENT CONDITION OF MAN
HEAV'N from all creatures hides the book of Fate,
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar; Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore. What future bliss he gives not thee to know, But gives that Hope to be thy blessing now. Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never IS, but always TO be blest: The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo, the poor Indian whose untutor'd mind
He asks no Angel's wing, no Seraph's fire:
Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense,