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Henry Fielding, “Tom Jones”

19 Dec

IT is possible, however, that Mr. Allworthy saw enough to render him a little uneasy; for we are not always to conclude that a wise man is not hurt, because he doth not cry out and lament himself, like those of a childish or effeminate temper. But indeed it is possible he might see some faults in the captain without any uneasiness at all; for men of true wisdom and goodness are contented to take persons and things as they are, without complaining of their imperfections, or attempting to amend them. They can see a fault in a friend, a relation, or an acquaintance, without ever mentioning it to the parties themselves, or to any others; and this often without lessening their affection. Indeed, unless great discernment be tempered with this overlooking disposition, we ought never to contract friendship but with a degree of folly which we can deceive: for I hope my friends will pardon me when I declare, I know none of them without a fault; and I should be sorry if I could imagine I had any friend who could not see mine. Forgiveness of this kind we give and demand in turn. It is an exercise of friendship, and perhaps none of the least pleasant. And this forgiveness we must bestow, without desire of amendment. There is, perhaps no surer mark of folly, than an attempt to correct the natural infirmities of those we love. The finest composition of human nature, as well as the finest china, may have a flaw in it; and this, I am afraid, in either case, is equally incurable; though, nevertheless, the pattern may remain of the highest value.

An Essay on Man

26 May

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;

The proper study of Mankind is Man.

Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,

A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:

With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,

With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,

He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;

In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;

In doubt his mind or body to prefer;

Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;

Alike in ignorance, his reason such,

Whether he thinks too little or too much:

Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;

Still by himself abus’d, or diasbus’d;

Created half to rise, and half to fall;

Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;

Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;

The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

–Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”, Second epistle, 1-18 (1734)