John Ruskin was a good deal of a fool, especially when he asked some one, presumably his reader, “Will you go and gossip with your housemaid or your stable-boy when you may talk with kings and queens?” The correct answer is YES. It is not wholesome to live too much with royalty; the fare is too rich for the untitled stomach. Moreover, you often learn more by talking with the stable-boy than by interviewing the college professor.
(Warren Barton Blake, “Books We Re-read,” The Century, Vol. LXXXVIII, 1914, p. 632).
“Let us love one another and laugh. Time passes, and we shall soon laugh no longer —and meanwhile common living is a burden, and earnest men are in siege upon us all around. Let us suffer absurdities, for this is only to suffer one another.”
Every stage and condition of life has limitations and conditions peculiar to it. Youth yearns for the strength of manhood, not suspecting that the vigor of manhood is mortgaged as soon as developed to new and proportionate service. The poor fancy that the wealth which seems far from giving happiness to a neighbor, if theirs, would leave them nothing to desire. When they acquire wealth, power, or station, however, they either find it involves corresponding duties and cares, or that it tempts to self-indulgence, weakens the moral energies, impairs the health, provokes jealousy and envy, and in a thousand ways eats away the pleasure with which, when seen through the spectrum of poverty or obscurity, it seemed so prolific.
“Vois ce fleuve,” said Béranger, pointing to the Loire; “plus il monte, plus il est troublé“.
No one has turned his experience of life to much account who has not realized that happiness, like the yam, is nourished and sustained by those providential restrictions and limitations which grow with its growth and strengthen with its strength, and which, by revealing to us, put us on our guard against, our besetting sins and infirmities.
(John Bigelow, “The Wit and Wisdom of the Haytians,” Harper’s Magazine, Vol. LI, 1875, p. 438).
It is now orthodox to regard social stigma as a form of oppression, to be discarded on our collective quest for inner freedom. But the political philosophers and novelists of former times would have been horrified by such a view. In almost all matters that touched upon the core requirements of social order, they believed that the genial pressure of manners, morals, and customs — enforced by the various forms of disapproval, stigma, shame, and reproach — was a more powerful guarantor of civilized and lawful behavior than the laws themselves. Inner sanctions, they argued, more dependably maintain society than such external ones as policemen and courts. That is why the moralists of the eighteenth century, for example, rarely touched upon murder, theft, rape, or criminal deception; instead, they were passionately interested in the small-scale mores on which social order depends and which, properly adhered to, make such crimes unthinkable.
(Roger Scruton, “Bring Back Stigma,” City Journal, Vol. X, 2000, p. 68).
What does the mind enjoy in books? Either the style or nothing. But, someone says, what about the thought? The thought, that is the style, too.
(Charles Maurras; quoted in F.O. Matthiessen, The Achievement of T.S. Eliot. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935).
Every historian must have a thesis, some principle of illumination to guide him, and the value of his work will largely depend upon the sanity and profundity of that thesis. But I would suggest that, the subject-matter of history being what it is, we should be chary of becoming too dogmatic about any principle of interpretation which we put forward. For history works under conditions wholly unlike those of the natural sciences, and historic truth must be something very different from mathematical truth, or even from biological truth. […]
The older school, of the type of Buckle and Guizot, believed that they had established historical laws of universal validity, and provided a clockwork uniformity of effects and causes. It would appear that they misunderstood the kind of material with which they had to deal. M. Bergson has shown us that half the blunders of philosophy are due to the application of the methods and ideals of physical science to spheres of thought where they are strictly inapplicable. In the kaleidoscope of the past we cannot, as a rule, sort out effects and causes with any precision, nor can we weigh events in the meticulous scales which science demands. Even when causes are reasonably plain, their classification eludes us. We cannot tell which is the causa causans, which are proximate, or efficient, or final. We must be content with generalisations which are only generalisations and not laws, with broad effects and massed colours. The weakness of the scientific historian is that he underrates the complexity of human nature. He would turn mankind into automata, motives into a few elementary emotions, and the infinitely varied web of life into a simple geometrical pattern. Order and simplicity are great things, but they must be natural to the subject and not due to the blindness of the historian.
(John Buchan, The Causal and the Casual in History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929, pp. 10–12).
Há lugares que é preciso visitar de dia e há lugares que só de noite abrem sua alma. Assim é Ouro Preto. As igrejas em cima das colinas tornaram-se silhuetas escuras. Na praça deserta, já não se vê o gládio que do teto da Penitenciária indica o monumento de Tiradentes. Não saem fantasmas de meia-noite da fechada igreja de São Francisco de Assis, mas sabe-se atrás dela o cemitério. De longe, um último par de sapatos martela as pedras da ladeira. Extintos todos os ruídos do mundo. Calma. Enfim, interrompem-na os sinos (sinos noturnos como nunca os ouvi desde já tantos anos na Europa). Sinos de São Francisco de Assis, sinos da Penitenciária, respondendo, e enfim, os últimos, os sinos do Carmo, ao lado de minha casa. Assim adormeci: em Ouro Preto, no Brasil, em casa.
(Otto Maria Carpeaux, “Ouro Preto (8 de julho de 1711)“, O Estado de S. Paulo, Ano 5, No. 238, 8 de Julho de 1961).