MACAULAY, Thomas Babington Quotes
(1800-1859), English critic and historian
Few of the many wise apothegms which have been uttered from the time of the seven sages of Greece to that of poor Richard, have prevented a single foolish action.
A great writer is the friend and benefactor of his readers.
The real security of Christianity is to be found in its benevolent morality; in its exquisite adaption to the human heart; in the facility with which it accommodates itself to the capacity of every human intellect; in the consolation which it bears to every house of mourning; and in the light with which it brightens the great mystery of the grave.
The opinion of the great body of the reading public, is very materially influenced even by the unsupported assertions of those who assume a right to criticise.
Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly, as when they discuss it freely.
Both in individuals, and in masses, violent excitement is always followed by remission, and often by reaction. We are all inclined to depreciate what we have over-praised, and, on the other hand, to show undue indulgence where we have shown undue rigor.
Those who seem to lead the public taste, are, in general, merely outrunning it in the direction it is spontaneously pursuing.
The best histories may sometimes be those in which a little of the exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judiciously employed.—Something is lost in accuracy, but much is gained in effect.—The fainter lines are neglected, but the great characteristic features are imprinted on the mind forever.
Many politicians lay it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom.—The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.
The difference between one man and another is by no means so great as the superstitious crowd supposes.—But the same feelings which in ancient Rome produced the apotheosis of a popular emperor, and in modern times the canonization of a devout prelate, lead men to cherish an illusion which furnishes them with something to adore.
As in every human character so in every transaction there is a mixture of good and evil: a little exaggeration, a little suppression, a judicious use of epithets, a watchful and searching skepticism with respect to the evidence on one side, a convenient credulity with respect to every report or tradition on the other, may easily make a saint of Laud, or a tyrant of Henry the Fourth.
History has its foreground and its background, and it is principally in the management of its perspective that one artist differs from another. Some events must be represented on a large scale, others diminished; the great majority will be lost in the dimness of the horizon, and a general idea of their joint effect will be given by a few slight touches.
He alone reads history aright, who, observing how powerfully circumstances influence the feelings and opinions of men, how often vices pass into virtues, and paradoxes into axioms, learns to distinguish what is accidental and transitory in human nature from what is essential and immutable.
It is the age that forms the man, not the man that forms the age. Great minds do indeed react on the society which has made them what they are, but they only pay with interest what they have received.
Great minds react on the society which has made them what they are; but they only pay with interest what they have received.
Charles V. said that a man who knew four languages was worth four men; and Alexander the Great so valued learning, that he used to say he was more indebted to Aristotle for giving him knowledge, than to his father Philip for giving him life.
There is no malice like the malice of the renegade.
Children, look in those eyes, listen to that dear voice, notice the feeling of even a single touch that is bestowed upon you by that gentle hand! Make much of it while yet you have that most precious of all good gifts, a loving mother. Read the unfathomable love of those eyes; the kind anxiety of that tone and look, however slight your pain. In after life you may have friends, fond, dear friends, but never will you have again the inexpressible love and gentleness lavished upon you, which none but a mother bestows.
The best portraits are those in which there is a slight mixture of caricature.
Men naturally sympathize with the calamities of individuals; but they are inclined to look on a fallen party with contempt rather than with pity.
There is a very pretty Eastern tale, of which the fate of plagiarists often reminds us. The slave of a magician saw his master wave his wand, and heard him give orders to the spirits who arose at the summons. The slave stole the wand, and waved it himself in the air; but he had not observed that his master used the left hand for that purpose. The spirits thus irregularly summoned, tore the thief to pieces instead of obeying his orders.
He who, in an enlightened and literary society, aspires to be a great poet, must first become a little child.
By poetry we mean the art of employing words in such a manner as to produce an illusion on the imagination; the art of doing by means of words, what the painter does by means of colors.
Politeness has been well defined as benevolence in small things.
A page digested is better than a volume hurriedly read.
We deplore the outrages which accompany revolutions. But the more violent the outrages, the more assured we feel that a revolution was necessary! The violence of these outrages will always be proportioned to the ferocity and ignorance of the people: and the ferocity and ignorance of the people will be proportioned to the oppression and degradation under which they have been accustomed to live.
If the Sunday had not been observed as a day of rest during the last three centuries, I have not the slightest doubt that we should have been at this moment a poorer people and less civilized.
The effective strength of sects, is not to be ascertained merely by counting heads.
Propriety of thought and propriety of diction are commonly found together. Obscurity and affectation are the two greatest faults of style.
Obscurity and affectation are the two great faults of style. Obscurity of expression generally springs from confusion of ideas; and the same wish to dazzle, at any cost, which produces affectation in the manner of a writer, is likely to produce sophistry in his reasoning.
A tact which surpassed the tact of her sex as much as the tact of her sex surpasses the tact of ours.
Alas for human nature, that the wounds of vanity should smart and bleed so much longer than the wounds of affection!
Every age and nation has certain characteristic vices, which prevail almost universally, which scarcely any person scruples to avow, and which even rigid moralists but faintly censure. Succeeding generations change the fashion of their morals with the fashion of their hats and their coaches; take some other kind of wickedness under their patronage, and wonder at the depravity of their ancestors.