A villain must be a thing of power, handled with delicacy and grace. He must be wicked enough to excite our aversion, strong enough to arouse our fear, human enough to awaken some transient gleam of sympathy. We must triumph in his downfall, yet not barbarously nor with contempt, and the close of his career must be in harmony with all its previous development.
And what universal politeness has been fostered by the terror that superstition breeds, what delicate euphemisms containing the very soul of courtesy!
Again, in the stress of modern life, how little room is left for that most comfortable vanity which whispers in our ears that failures are not faults! Now we are taught from infancy that we must rise or fall upon our own merits; that vigilance wins success, and incapacity means ruin.
Anyone, however, who has had dealings with dates knows that they are worse than elusive, they are perverse. Events do not happen at the right time, nor in their proper sequence. That sense of harmony with place and season which is so strong in the historian--if he be a readable historian--is lamentably lacking in history, which takes no pains to verify his most convincing statements.
But self-satisfaction, if as buoyant as gas, has an ugly trick of collapsing when full blown, and facts are stony things that refuse to melt away in the sunshine of a smile.
Humor brings insight and tolerance. Irony brings a deeper and less friendly understanding.
It has been well said that tea is suggestive of a thousand wants, from which spring the decencies and luxuries of civilization.
It is not depravity that afflicts the human race so much as a general lack of intelligence.
It is not what we learn in conversation that enriches us. It is the elation that comes of swift contact with tingling currents of thought.
Memory cheats us no less than hope by hazing over those things that we would fain forget; but who that has plodded on to middle age would take back upon his shoulders ten of the vanished years, with their mingled pleasures and pains? Who would return to the youth he is forever pretending to regret?
Necessity knows no Sunday.
No man pursues what he has at hand. No man recognizes the need of pursuit until that which he desires has escaped him.
People who cannot recognize a palpable absurdity are very much in the way of civilization.
The pessimist is seldom an agitating individual. His creed breeds indifference to others, and he does not trouble himself to thrust his views upon the unconvinced.
The worst in life, we are told, is compatible with the best in art. So too the worst in life is compatible with the best in humour.
There is nothing in the world so enjoyable as a thorough-going monomania.
We have but the memories of past good cheer, we have but the echoes of departed laughter. In vain we look and listen for the mirth that has died away. In vain we seek to question the gray ghosts of old-time revelers.
Whatever has "wit enough to keep it sweet" defies corruption and outlasts all time; but the wit must be of that outward and visible order which needs no introduction or demonstration at our hands.
Wit is a pleasure-giving thing, largely because it eludes reason; but in the apprehension of an absurdity through the working of the comic spirit there is a foundation of reason, and an impetus to human companionship.
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