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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Viscount Bolingbroke

  • [Henry St. John, an English statesman and writer, born 1678; secretary for war, 1704; secretary of state, 1710; prime minister, 1714; on the death of Queen Anne in that year, and the failure of his attempt to restore the Stuarts, he escaped to France; returned 1723; died 1751.]
  • It is a very easy thing to devise good laws: the difficulty is to make them effective.

  • He wrote of the House of Commons, in a letter to Sir William Wyndham: “You know the nature of that assembly: they grow like hounds, fond of the man who shows them game, and by whose halloo they are used to be encouraged.” Of the mass of mankind he had no high opinion. “The great mistake,” he asserted, “is that of looking upon men as virtuous, thinking they can be made so by laws; and consequently the greatest act of a politician is to render vices serviceable to the cause of virtue.”
  • We see for use, not for curiosity.

  • Mme. de Bawr, a French writer of romances, when asked by Ducis why she lived, replied, “I live from curiosity” (Je vis par curiosité).
  • We can only reason from what is: we can reason on actualities, but not on possibilities.

  • Pope, who put Bolingbroke’s philosophy into verse, asks,—
  • “What can we reason but from what we know?”
  • Essay on Man, I, 18.
  • There is so much trouble in coming into the world, and so much more, as well as meanness, in going out of it, that it is hardly worth while to be here at all.