The cosmopolite is intellectually expatriated, he has plucked up his roots; he has stripped off the clothes in which his fellow countrymen are swaddled; like young Fauconbridge from England who wooed Lady Portia of Belmont, “he has bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour everywhere.” He comes to all experience open-minded, he is unhampered by any set of religious principles acquired in babyhood, whether at Mecca, Rome, Geneva or Canterbury; his conscience has not been molded by a Louisiana mammy, nor by a Thuringian, Catalan or Gaelic nurse; he makes up his own mind about controverted matters, about Picasso, about Dr. Donne, about King Edward’s abdication, about the Bible, about democracy. He lets the reins dangle on the neck of reason, and reason carries him where it will. He leans to generalizations, to abstractions, and makes up his own mind about human values; he seeks truth, he admires beauty wherever he finds it, he strives to make himself familiar with “the best that has been thought and said;” his emotions are aroused, not by associations purely personal to himself, of home, of his school, his college, the hills beyond the paternal acres, the waters lapping on the beach where he launched his dory, but by what links him to the universal. He is a little cold blooded. If “provincial” be the opposite to “cosmopolitan,” then it would appear to be an adjective that would commend itself to most Americans; but, perhaps the truer opposite to cosmopolitan is not provincial but national.
(Henry Dwight Sedgwick, “The Importance of the Provincial,” The North American Review, Vol. CCXLIII, No. 2, 1937, pp. 373–374).
When Emerson was on one of his earlier visits to England, large numbers of fine gentlemen whom he met desired him to introduce them to Carlyle. Some of these were crack-brained egoists, others actuated, as he saw, by curiosity, and he saved such from the catastrophes they invited by saying, mildly, “Why should you wish to have aquafortis thrown over you?” In one case Emerson’s name introduced to him a vegetarian, with whom Carlyle went to walk. Unfortunately, his companion expatiated too much upon his then favorite topic, upon which Carlyle broke out with, “There’s Piccadilly; there it has been for a hundred years, and there it will be when you and your damned potato-gospel are dead and forgotten.”
(Moncure D. Conway, Thomas Carlyle. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1881, pp. 121–122).
The fickleness of fortune is one of those proverbial truths which has not grown old with time; and still, as in the old time, it is in the world of politics that her strangest whims and most startling infidelities are displayed. Happily the vicissitudes of political life bear a very different signification from that which attached to them in former times, and we can contemplate their possibility, and study their progress, with scarcely severer twinges of sympathy than we should feel for pieces that were unexpectedly taken in a game of chess. The fall of greatness was a thing to be mourned over in days when men were really great, and when they really fell. Now, they mount to so moderate an elevation, that when the turn of fortune comes they have not far to fall. The rulers of a democratic state are blessed with immunities of the same kind as those which are enjoyed by the rider of a humble domestic animal. His rate of progression may be moderate, and the figure which he displays to bystanders may not be impressive; but when his own imperfect horsemanship, or the temper of the animal on whom his fate depends, condemn him to quit the saddle, the catastrophe is more disfiguring than dangerous in its results. But the position of a politician is as precarious as ever it was, though the tumbles to which he is exposed are no longer terrible.
(Lord Salisbury, “The Position of Parties,” The Quarterly Review, Vol. CXXXIII, 1872, p. 558).
“Do the Duty which lies nearest thee, which thou knowest to be a Duty! Thy second Duty will already have become clearer.”
The dying out of religious practices from the life of the people tends more than anything else to the impoverishment of their speech. For the last three hundred years spoken English has been filled with Biblical allusions, and if the Bible ceases to be read in the schools we must expect these to die out, as the proverbs of the saints died out after the Reformation.
(“The Whitewashing of English,” The Living Age, Vol. CCLII, 1907, p. 186).
You see those immense volumes lying upon my desk. In them, for more than thirty years, I have written whatever is most striking that my reading presents. Sometimes I limit myself to simple references; at other times I transcribe, word for word, special passages. Often I accompany them with notes, and also I place there those thoughts of the moment, those sudden illuminations, which are extinguished without result if the flash is not made permanent by writing. Carried by the revolutionary whirlwind into different European countries, never have I been without those selections; and you cannot imagine with what pleasure I look over that immense collection. Each passage awakens a crowd of interesting ideas and melancholy remembrances a thousand times sweeter than what are called pleasures. I see pages dated at Geneva, Rome, Venice, Lausanne. I cannot see the names of those cities without recalling those of excellent friends whom I have left in them, and who formerly consoled my exile. Often I turn to a page written from my dictation by a beloved child, whom the tempest has separated from me. I stretch out my arms and fancy I hear him speak to me. One date recalls to my mind the time when, upon the banks of a frozen river, I ate with a French bishop a dinner which we had ourselves prepared. That day I was merry, and could join in a laugh with that good man, who now waits for me in a better world; but the preceding night I had passed in an open vessel, without fire or light, seated with my family upon chests, without being able to lie down or rest one moment, listening to the hostile cries of some watermen who did not cease to threaten us, and being able to stretch over cherished forms only a miserable mat to protect them from a heavy snow which fell incessantly.
(Joseph de Maistre; quoted in William Alexander, “De Maistre and Romanism,” The North American Review, Vol. LXXIX, 1854, No. 165, pp. 378–379).
When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the World, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it come off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away timid adventurers.
(Oliver Wendell Holmes, Elsie Venner. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1883, p. 7).