Happy are they who live in the dream of their own existence, and see all things in the light of their own minds; who walk by faith and hope; to whom the guiding star of their youth still shines from afar, and into whom the spirit of the world has not entered! They have not been "hurt by the archers", nor has the iron entered their souls. The world has no hand on them.
Any one may mouth out a passage with a theatrical cadence, or get upon stilts to tell his thoughts; but to write or speak with propriety and simplicity is a more difficult task. Thus it is easy to affect a pompous style, to use a word twice as big as the thing you want to express; it is not so easy to pitch upon the very word that exactly fits it.
Society is a more level surface than we imagine. Wise men or absolute fools are hard to be met with, as there are few giants or dwarfs. The heaviest charge we can bring against the general texture of society is that it is commonplace. Our fancied superiority to others is in some one thing which we think most of because we excel in it, or have paid most attention to it; whilst we overlook their superiority to us in something else which they set equal and exclusive store by.
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It has been the resolution of mankind in all ages of the world. No people, no age, ever threw away the fruits of past wisdom, or the enjoyment of present blessings, for visionary schemes of ideal perfection. It is the knowledge of the past, the actual infliction of the present, that has produced all changes, all innovations, and all improvements - not (as is pretended) the chimerical anticipation of possible advantages, but the intolerable pressure of long-established, notorious, aggravated, and growing abuses.
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The great have private feelings of their own, to which the interests of humanity and justice must curtsy. Their interests are so far from being the same as those of the community, that they are in direct and necessary opposition to them; their power is at the expense of OUR weakness; their riches of OUR poverty; their pride of OUR degradation; their splendour of OUR wretchedness; their tyranny of OUR servitude.
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With women, the great business of life is love; and they generally make a mistake in it. They consult neither the heart nor the head, but are led away by mere humour and fancy. If instead of a companion for life, they had to choose a partner in a country-dance or to trifle away an hour with, their mode of calculation would be right. They tie their true-lover's knot with idle, thoughtless haste, while the institutions of society render it indissoluble.
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He who expects from a great name in politics, in philosophy, in art, equal greatness in other things, is little versed in human nature. Our strength lies in our weakness. The learned in books are ignorant of the world. He who is ignorant of books is often well acquainted with other things; for life is of the same length in the learned and unlearned; the mind cannot be idle; if it is not taken up with one thing, it attends to another through choice or necessity; and the degree of previous capacity in one class or another is a mere lottery.
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Tears may be considered as the natural and involuntary resource of the mind overcome by some sudden and violent emotion, before ithas had time to reconcile its feelings to the change in circumstances: while laughter may be defined to be the same sort of convulsive and involuntary movement, occasioned by mere sur prise or contrast (in the absence of any more serious emotion), before it has time to reconcile its belief to contradictory appearances.
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We are the creatures of imagination, passion, and self-will, more than of reason or even of self-interest. Even in the common transactions and daily intercourse of life, we are governed by whim, caprice, prejudice, or accident. The falling of a teacup puts us out of temper for the day; and a quarrel that commenced about the pattern of a gown may end only with our lives.
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This is the test and triumph of originality, not to show us what has never been, and what we may therefore very easily never have dreamt of, but to point out to us what is before our eyes and under our feet, though we have had no suspicion of its existence, for want of sufficient strength of intuition, of determined grasp of mind to seize and retain it.
Violence ever defeats its own ends. Where you cannot drive you can always persuade. A gentle word, a kind look, a god-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles. There is a secret pride in every human heart than revolts at tyranny. You may order and drive an individual, but you cannot make him respect you.
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