There is a certain jargon, which, in French, I should call un Persiflage d'Affaires, that a foreign Minister ought to be perfectlymaster of, and may be used very advantageously at great entertainments, in mixed companies, and in all occasions where he must speak, and should say nothing. Well turned and well spoken, it seems to mean something, though in truth it means nothing. It is a kind of political badinage, which prevents or removes a thousand difficulties, to which a foreign Minister is exposed in mixed conversations.
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Great merit or great failings will make you respected or despised; but trifles, little attentions, mere nothings, either done or neglected, will make you either liked or disliked, in the general run of the world. Examine yourself, why you like such and such people and dislike such and such others; and you will find that those different sentiments proceed from very slight causes.
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The law before us, my lords, seems to be the effect of that practice of which it is intended likewise to be the cause, and to be dictated by the liquor of which it so effectually promotes the use; for surely it never before was conceived by any man entrusted with the administration of public affairs, to raise taxes by the destruction of the people.
The vulgar look upon a man, who is reckoned a fine speaker, as a phenomenon, a supernatural being, and endowed with some peculiargift of Heaven; they stare at him, if he walks in the park, and cry, that is he. You will, I am sure, view him in a juster light, and nulla formidine. You will consider him only as a man of good sense, who adorns common thoughts with the graces of elocution, and the elegancy of style. The miracle will then cease.
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I am not of the opinion generally entertained in this country [England], that man lives by Greek and Latin alone; that is, by knowing a great many words of two dead languages, which nobody living knows perfectly, and which are of no use in the common intercourse of life. Useful knowledge, in my opinion, consists of modern languages, history, and geography; some Latin may be thrown into the bargain, in compliance with custom, and for closet amusement.
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Never yield to that temptation, which, to most young men, is very strong, of exposing other people's weaknesses and infirmities, for the sake either of diverting the company, or of showing your own superiority. You may get the laugh on your side by it for the present; but you will make enemies by it for ever; and even those who laugh with you then, will, upon reflection, fear, and consequently hate you.
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I often wish for the end of the wretched remnant of my life; and that wish is a rational one; but then the innate principle of self-preservation, wisely implanted in our natures, for obvious purposes, opposes that wish, and makes us endeavour to spin out our thread as long as we can, however decayed and rotten it may be.