The battle of the books.., p.14
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       The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces, p.14

           Jonathan Swift
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indeed, rather, could not subsist at all: CURIS ACCUUNT MORTALIA


  Praise is the daughter of present power.

  How inconsistent is man with himself!

  I have known several persons of great fame for wisdom in public

  affairs and counsels governed by foolish servants.

  I have known great Ministers, distinguished for wit and learning,

  who preferred none but dunces.

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  The Battle of the Books and

  Other Short Pieces

  I have known men of great valour cowards to their wives.

  I have known men of the greatest cunning perpetually cheated.

  I knew three great Ministers, who could exactly compute and settle

  the accounts of a kingdom, but were wholly ignorant of their own


  The preaching of divines helps to preserve well-inclined men in the

  course of virtue, but seldom or never reclaims the vicious.

  Princes usually make wiser choices than the servants whom they

  trust for the disposal of places: I have known a prince, more than

  once, choose an able Minister, but I never observed that Minister

  to use his credit in the disposal of an employment to a person whom

  he thought the fittest for it. One of the greatest in this age

  owned and excused the matter from the violence of parties and the

  unreasonableness of friends.

  Small causes are sufficient to make a man uneasy when great ones

  are not in the way. For want of a block he will stumble at a


  Dignity, high station, or great riches, are in some sort necessary

  to old men, in order to keep the younger at a distance, who are

  otherwise too apt to insult them upon the score of their age.

  Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old.

  Love of flattery in most men proceeds from the mean opinion they

  have of themselves; in women from the contrary.

  If books and laws continue to increase as they have done for fifty

  years past, I am in some concern for future ages how any man will

  be learned, or any man a lawyer.

  Kings are commonly said to have LONG HANDS; I wish they had as LONG


  Princes in their infancy, childhood, and youth are said to discover

  prodigious parts and wit, to speak things that surprise and

  astonish. Strange, so many hopeful princes, and so many shameful

  kings! If they happen to die young, they would have been prodigies

  of wisdom and virtue. If they live, they are often prodigies

  indeed, but of another sort.

  Politics, as the word is commonly understood, are nothing but

  corruptions, and consequently of no use to a good king or a good

  ministry; for which reason Courts are so overrun with politics.

  A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.

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  The Battle of the Books and

  Other Short Pieces

  Apollo was held the god of physic and sender of diseases. Both

  wore originally the same trade, and still continue.

  Old men and comets have been reverenced for the same reason: their

  long beards, and pretences to foretell events.

  A person was asked at court, what he thought of an ambassador and

  his train, who were all embroidery and lace, full of bows, cringes,

  and gestures; he said, it was Solomon's importation, gold and apes.

  Most sorts of diversion in men, children, and other animals, is an

  imitation of fighting.

  Augustus meeting an ass with a lucky name foretold himself good

  fortune. I meet many asses, but none of them have lucky names.

  If a man makes me keep my distance, the comfort is he keeps his at

  the same time.

  Who can deny that all men are violent lovers of truth when we see

  them so positive in their errors, which they will maintain out of

  their zeal to truth, although they contradict themselves every day

  of their lives?

  That was excellently observed, say I, when I read a passage in an

  author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there

  I pronounce him to be mistaken.

  Very few men, properly speaking, live at present, but are providing

  to live another time.

  Laws penned with the utmost care and exactness, and in the vulgar

  language, are often perverted to wrong meanings; then why should we

  wonder that the Bible is so?

  Although men are accused for not knowing their weakness, yet

  perhaps as few know their own strength.

  A man seeing a wasp creeping into a vial filled with honey, that

  was hung on a fruit tree, said thus: "Why, thou sottish animal,

  art thou mad to go into that vial, where you see many hundred of

  your kind there dying in it before you?" "The reproach is just,"

  answered the wasp, "but not from you men, who are so far from

  taking example by other people's follies, that you will not take

  warning by your own. If after falling several times into this

  vial, and escaping by chance, I should fall in again, I should then

  but resemble you."

  An old miser kept a tame jackdaw, that used to steal pieces of

  money, and hide them in a hole, which the cat observing, asked why

  he would hoard up those round shining things that he could make no

  use of? "Why," said the jackdaw, "my master has a whole chest

  full, and makes no more use of them than I."

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  The Battle of the Books and

  Other Short Pieces

  Men are content to be laughed at for their wit, but not for their


  If the men of wit and genius would resolve never to complain in

  their works of critics and detractors, the next age would not know

  that they ever had any.

  After all the maxims and systems of trade and commerce, a standerby

  would think the affairs of the world were most ridiculously


  There are few countries which, if well cultivated, would not

  support double the number of their inhabitants, and yet fewer where

  one-third of the people are not extremely stinted even in the

  necessaries of life. I send out twenty barrels of corn, which

  would maintain a family in bread for a year, and I bring back in

  return a vessel of wine, which half a dozen good follows would

  drink in less than a month, at the expense of their health and


  A man would have but few spectators, if he offered to show for

  threepence how he could thrust a red-hot iron into a barrel of

  gunpowder, and it should not take fire.

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  Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces

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