*

A man may have done well for years, and then he may fail; he will hear of his failure. Or he may have done well for years, and still do well, but the critic may have tired of praising him, or there may have sprung up some new idol of the instant, some 'dust a little gilt,' to whom they now prefer to offer sacrifice. Here is the obverse and the reverse of that empty and ugly thing called popularity. Will any man suppose it worth gaining?

*

Among sayings that have a currency in spite of being wholly false upon the face of them for the sake of a half-truth upon another subject which is accidentally combined with the error, one of the grossest and broadest conveys the monstrous proposition that it is easy to tell the truth and hard to tell a lie. I wish heartily it were. But the truth is one; it has first to be discovered, then justly and exactly uttered.

*

For such things as honour and love and faith are not only nobler than food and drink, but indeed I think that we desire them more, and suffer more sharply for their absence.

*

There is a strong feeling in favour of cowardly and prudential proverbs. The sentiments of a man while he is full of ardour and hope are to be received, it is supposed, with some qualification. But when the same person has ignominiously failed and begins to eat up his words, he should be listened to like an oracle. Most of our pocket wisdom is conceived for the use of mediocre people, to discourage them from ambitious attempts, and generally console them in their mediocrity. And since mediocre people constitute the bulk of humanity, this is no doubt very properly so. But it does not follow that the one sort of proposition is any less true than the other, or that Icarus is not to be more praised, and perhaps more envied, than Mr. Samuel Budgett the successful merchant.

*

'You know it very well, it cannot in any way help that you should brood upon it, and I sometimes wonder whether you and I--who are a pair of sentimentalists--are quite good judges of plain men.'

*

For, after all, we are vessels of a very limited content. Not all men can read all books; it is only in a chosen few that any man will find his appointed food; and the fittest lessons are the most, palatable, and make themselves welcome to the mind.

*

It is all very fine to talk about tramps and morality. Six hours of police surveillance (such as I have had) or one brutal rejection from an inn-door change your views upon the subject like a course of lectures. As long as you keep in the upper regions, with all the world bowing to you as you go, social arrangements have a very handsome air; but once get under the wheels and you wish society were at the devil. I will give most respectable men a fortnight of such a life, and then I will offer them twopence for what remains of their morality.

*

I hate cynicism a great deal worse than I do the devil; unless, perhaps, the two were the same thing? And yet 'tis a good tonic; the cold tub and bath-towel of the sentiments; and positively necessary to life in cases of advanced sensibility.

*

Most men, finding themselves the authors of their own disgrace, rail the louder against God or destiny. Most men, when they repent, oblige their friends to share the bitterness of that repentance.

*

Delay, they say, begetteth peril; but it is rather this itch of doing that undoes men.

*

Every man has a sane spot somewhere.

*

That is never a bad wind that blows where we want to go.

*

It is a great thing if you can persuade people that they are somehow or other partakers in a mystery. It makes them feel bigger.

*

But it is an evil age for the gypsily inclined among men. He who can sit squarest on a three-legged stool, he it is who has the wealth and glory.

*

For truth that is suppressed by friends is the readiest weapon of the enemy.

*

But O, what a cruel thing is a farce to those engaged in it!

*

It is not always the most faithful believer who makes the cunningest apostle.

The Pocket R. L. S. Page 47

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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