Thursday, December 16, 2010

My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do: you may say to a man, "Sir, I am your most humble servant." You are not his must humble servant. You may say, "These are bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved at such times." You don't mind the times. You tell a man, "I am sorry you had such bad weather the last day of your journey, and were so much wet." You don't care six-pence whether he is wet or dry. You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society: but don't think foolishly.


I sometimes say more than I mean, in jest; and people are apt to believe me serious: however, I am more candid than I was when I was younger. As I know more of mankind, I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man, upon easier terms than I was formerly.

Samuel Johnson (1783) in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Why do you weep and grieve so sorely when you hear
the fate of the Argives, hear the fall of Troy?
That is the gods' work, spinning threads of death
through the lives of mortal men,
and all to make a song for those to come...

Homer, The Odyssey (Book 8, line 645, as translated by Robert Fagles)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Talking of conversation.... There must, in the first place, be knowledge, there must be materials;--in the second place, there must be a command of words;--in the third place, there must be imagination, to place things in such views as they are not commonly seen in;--and in the fourth place, there must be presence of mind, and a resolution that is not to be overcome by failures...

Samuel Johnson (1783) in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson