No man can have much kindness for his species, who does not habituate himself to consider upon each successive occasion of social intercourse how that occasion may be most beneficently improved.
Books have by their very nature but a limited operation; though, on account of their permanence, their methodical disquisition, and their easiness of access, they are entitled to the foremost place.
A thinking man, if he will recollect his intellectual history, will find that he has derived inestimable advantage from stimulus and surprise of colloquial suggestions; and if we review the history of literature, will perceive the minds of great acuteness and ability have commonly existed in a cluster.
If once the unambitious and candid circles of enquiring men be swallowed up in the insatiate gulf of noisy assemblies, the opportunity of improvement is instantly annihilated. Activity of thought is shackled by the fear that our associates should disclaim us.
Human beings should meet together, not to enforce, but to enquire. Truth disclaims the alliance of marshalled numbers.
WILLIAM GODWIN 1793
Came the lightning, before us, behind us, on every side, bathing us in flaming minutes at a time. And all the while we were deafened by the unceasing uproar of thunder. It was a weird sight – far aloft the black skeleton of spars and masts from which the sails had been removed; lower down, the sailors clinging like monstrous bugs as they passed the gaskets and furled; beneath them the few set sails, filled backward against the masts, gleaming whitely, wickedly, evilly, in the fearful illumination; and, at the bottom, the deck and bridge and houses of the ship, and a tangled riff-raff of flying ropes, and clumps and bunches of swaying, pulling, hauling, human creatures.
It was a great moment, the master’s moment – caught all aback with all our bulk and tonnage and infinitude of gear, and our heaven-aspiring masts two hundred feet above our heads
And our master was there, in sheeting flame, slender, casual, imperturbable, with two men under him to pass on and enforce his will, and with a horde of inefficients to obey that will, and pull, and haul, and by the sheer leverages of physics manipulate our floating world so that it would endure this fury of the elements.
JACK LONDON 1915
Seemingly it was a plain, with an illimitable view downhill to the east, where one gentle level after another slowly modulated into a distance only to be called distance because it was a softer blue, and more hazy.
The rising sun flooded this falling plain with a perfect level of light, throwing up long shadows of almost imperceptible ridges, and the whole life and play of a complicated ground system – but a transient one; for as we looked at it, the shadows drew in towards the dawn, quivered a last moment behind their mother-banks, and went out as though at a common signal.
Full morning had begun: the river of sunlight, sickeningly in the full face of us moving creatures, poured impartially on every stone of the desert over which we had to go.
All men dream but not equally.
T E LAWRENCE 1920
A journalist is an historian, not indeed of the highest class, nor of the number of those whose works bestow immortality upon others or themselves; yet, like other historians, he distributes for a time reputation or infamy, regulates the opinion of the week, raises hopes and terrors, inflames or allays the violence of the people. He ought therefore to consider himself as subject at least to the first law of history, the obligation to tell truth.
The journalist, indeed, however honest, will frequently deceive, because he will frequently be deceived himself. He is obliged to transmit the earliest intelligence before he knows how far it may be credited; he relates transactions yet fluctuating in uncertainty; he delivers reports of which he knows not the authors.
It cannot be expected that he should know more than he is told, or that he should not sometimes be hurried down the current of a popular clamour. All that he can do is to consider attentively, and determine impartially, to admit no falsehoods by design, and to retract those which he shall have adopted by mistake.
SAMUEL JOHNSON 1758
With the exception of one extraordinary man, I have never known an individual, least of all an individual of genius, healthy or happy without a profession, ie some regular employment, which does not depend on the will of the moment, and which can be carried on so far mechanically that an average quantum only of health, spirits, and intellectual exertion are requisite to its faithful discharge.
Three hours of leisure, unannoyed by any alien anxiety, and looked forward to with delight as a change and recreation, will suffice to realise in literature a larger product of what is truly genial, than weeks of compulsion.
Money and immediate reputation form only an arbitrary and accidental end of literary labour. The hope of increasing them by any given exertion will often prove a stimulant to industry, but the necessity of acquiring them will in all works of genius convert the stimulant into a narcotic.
Motives by excess reverse their very nature, and instead of exciting, stun and stupefy the mind.
For it is one contradistinction of genius from talent, that the predominant end is always compromised in the means; and this is one of the many points, which establish an analogy between genius and virtue.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE 1815-1817
If we make the praise or blame of others the rule of our conduct, we shall be distracted by a boundless variety of irreconcilable judgements, be held in perpetual suspense between contrary impulses, and consult for ever without determination.
SAMUEL JOHNSON 1750
It will be very hard to understand how there be some principles which all men do acknowledge and agree in; and yet there are none of those principles which are not, by depraved custom and ill education, blotted out of the minds of many men: which is to say, that all men admit, but yet many men do deny and dissent from them.
Notwithstanding all this boast of first principles and innate light, we shall be as much in the dark and uncertainty as if there were no such thing at all, it being all one to have no rule, and one that will warp any way; or amongst various and contrary rules, not to know which is the right.
JOHN LOCKE 1690