411: Wit.

Every witticism is an inexact thought; what is perfectly true is imperfectly witty.

(Walter Savage Landor, Aphorisms. London: George Allen, 1897, p. 153).

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411: Wit.

410: Nay.

The maker of laws, gentlemen, should be in advance of his age. It is his business to ascertain the tendency of erroneous notions popularly held, to see the exact direction in which the ideas of a nation are tending; he labours for the future rather than for the present, and for the rising generation rather than for the one that is passing away. But if you call in the masses to make the laws, can they rise above their own level? Nay. The more faithfully an assembly represents the opinions held by the crowd, the less it will know about government, the less lofty its ideas will be, and the more vague and vacillating its policy, for the crowd is and always will be simply a crowd, and this especially with us in France. Law involves submission to regulations; man is naturally opposed to rules and regulations of all kinds, especially if they interfere with his interests; so is it likely that the masses will enact laws that are contrary to their own inclinations? No.

(Honoré de Balzac, The Country Doctor. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1911, pp. 164–165).

410: Nay.

409: Likely to Die Without a Word Written.

He, to whom three languages have an equal value, may perhaps be excused if he make no use of any of them. None, save the vainest optimist, ever set his thoughts upon paper without difiiculty, and the difliculty is immeasurably increased when three or four idioms conflict in the brain. Moreover, vast learning is the foe of expression. A scholar who is determined to exhaust human knowledge before he begins to write, is likely to die without a word written.

(Charles Whibley, “Musings Without Method,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. CLXXV, 1904, p. 579).

409: Likely to Die Without a Word Written.

408: The Name of Napoleon.

Joseph Bonaparte was sent out as the emperor’s lieutenant-general to take the command of an invading army of 50,000 men, which Massena was collecting in Italy. He left Paris January 9, 1806. On the 27th Miot received orders to set out on the 30th for Joseph’s head-quarters, and to place himself at his disposal for employment in the administration of the Neapolitan kingdom. Just before starting, he had an interview with Napoleon. He was instructed to inform Joseph of the design of making him king of Naples. “I will call him Napoleon; he shall be my son,” said the Emperor of his elder brother.

“I recognise as kindred only those who serve me. It is not to the name of Bonaparte that my fortune is attached, it is to the name of Napoleon. With my fingers and my pen I beget children. I can only love, at my time of day, those whom I esteem. Joseph must forget all the bonds and relationships of childhood. Let him make himself respected. Let him acquire glory; let him break a leg in battle, then I shall respect him. Let him renounce his old ideas; let him no longer fear fatigue. It is only by despising it, and abandoning oneself to it, that one becomes something; and not in coursing hares at Morfontaine. Look at me, for example; the campaign which I have just finished, its stir and movement have made me fat. I believe that if all the kings of Europe formed a coalition against me, I should become ridiculously corpulent, — je gagnerais une panse ridicule.” […]

“You have understood me,” the emperor added; “I can no longer have relatives of mine in obscurity. Those who will not rise with me shall no longer be members of my family. I will make of it a family of kings, or rather of viceroys; for the king of Italy, the king of Naples, and others too, whom I do not name, shall all be connected with a federative system, I consent even to forget what two of my brothers have done in opposition to me: let Lucien abandon his wife, and I give him a sovereignty. As to Jerome, he has already in part repaired his injuries. After he has had a year’s cruising, I will marry him to a princess; but I will never permit Lucien’s wife, a — (que la femme de Lucien, qu’une c…n), to seat herself by my side.”

(Napoleon; quoted in “Count Miot de Melito and the French Revolution,” The National Review, Vol. VIII, 1859, pp. 137–138).

408: The Name of Napoleon.

407: He Preferred Not To.

It is pleasant to record that Oxford did not leave him without some knowledge of Scripture and even a slight prejudice in favour of Christianity, as anecdotes were left to prove. When up for his viva voce at Oxford he was asked to say a few words on Balaam’s death. He paused for a moment trying to remember any details of the holy man’s demise, and then in broken tones replied that the circumstances of Balaam’s death were so painful that he preferred not to refer to them.

(Shane Leslie, Memoir of John Edward Courtenay Bodley. London: Jonathan Cape, 1930, pp. 13–14).

407: He Preferred Not To.

406: The Pain of Being a Man.

I called on Dr. Johnson one morning, when Mrs. Williams, the blind lady, was conversing with him. She was telling him where she had dined the day before. “There were several gentlemen there,” said she, “and when some of them came to the tea-table, I found that there had been a good deal of hard drinking.” She closed this observation with a common and trite moral reflection; which, indeed, is very ill-founded, and does great injustice to animals — “I wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts of themselves!” “I wonder, Madam,” replied the Doctor, “that you have not penetration enough to see the strong inducement to this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

(James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Vol. 10. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1846, pp. 54–55).

406: The Pain of Being a Man.

405: Not Unlikely.

Historians tell us that at Waterloo the Imperial Guard when called upon to surrender declared, “La garde meurt et on est rend pas;” and after this fashion the reply will be quoted through all literature, despite Victor Hugo’s terser, and, without doubt, more truthful version. There was nothing so melodramatic uttered as the historian affirms; Victor Hugo says that “Cambronne answered, ‘Merde.’” And it is not unlikely that he did.

(Henry J. Fox, “Plagiarism and the Law of Quotation,” The Methodist Review, Vol. LXI, 1879, pp. 70–71)

405: Not Unlikely.