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A lively blockhead in company is a public benefit. Silence or dulness by the side of folly looks like wisdom.
A man who does not endeavour to seem more than he is will generally be thought nothing of. We habitually make such large deductions for pretence and imposture that no real merit will stand against them. It is necessary to set off our good qualities with a certain air of plausibility and self-importance, as some attention to fashion is necessary.
It is well that there is no one without a fault, for he would not have a friend in the world: he would seem to belong to a different species.
Let a man?s talents or virtues be what they may, we feel satisfaction in his society only as he is satisfied in himself. We cannot enjoy the good qualities of a friend if he seems to be none the better for them.
Man is an intellectual animal, therefore an everlasting contradiction to himself. His senses centre in himself, his ideas reach to the ends of the universe; so that he is torn in pieces between the two without the possibility of its ever being otherwise. A mere physical being or a pure spirit can alone be satisfied with itself.
Obstinate silence implies either a mean opinion of ourselves, or a contempt for our company; and it is the more provoking, as others do not know to which of these causes to attribute it?whether humility or pride.
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.
The best way to make ourselves agreeable to others is by seeming to think them so. If we appear fully sensible of their good qualities they will not complain of the want of them in us.
The most silent people are generally those who think most highly of themselves. They fancy themselves superior to every one else, and, not being sure of making good their secret pretensions, decline entering the lists altogether. Thus they ?lay the flattering unction to their souls? that they could have said better things than others, or that the conversation was beneath them.
The surest hindrance of success is to have too high a standard of refinement in our own minds, or too high an opinion of the judgment of the public. He who is determined not to be satisfied with anything short of perfection will never do anything to please himself or others.
There are many who talk on from ignorance rather than from knowledge, and who find the former an inexhaustible fund of conversation.
True modesty and true pride are much the same thing. Both consist in setting a just value on ourselves?neither more nor less.
Vulgar prejudices are those which arise out of accident, ignorance, or authority; natural prejudices are those which arise out of the constitution of the human mind itself.
We have more faith in a well-written romance while we are reading it than in common history. The vividness of the representations in the one case more than counterbalances the mere knowledge of the truth of facts in the other.
Women never reason and therefore they are, comparatively, seldom wrong. They judge instinctively of what falls under their immediate observation or experience, and do not trouble themselves about remote or doubtful consequences. If they make no profound discoveries, they do not involve themselves in gross absurdities. It is only by the help of reason and logical inference, according to Hobbes, that ?man becomes excellently wise or excellently foolish.?