Men grind and grind in the mill of a truism, and nothing comes out but what was put in. But the moment they desert the tradition for a spontaneous thought, then poetry, wit, hope, virtue, learning, anecdote, and all flock to their aid.
There is not less wit nor less invention in applying rightly a thought one finds in a book, than in being the first author of that thought. Cardinal du Perron has been heard to say that the happy application of a verse of Virgil has deserved a talent.
Books come at my call and return when I desire them; they are never out of humor and they answer all my questions with readiness. Some present in review before me the events of past ages; others reveal to me the secrets of Nature. These teach me how to live, and those how to die; these dispel my melancholy by their mirth, and amuse me by their sallies of wit. Some there are who prepare my soul to suffer everything, to desire nothing, and to become thoroughly acquainted with itself. In a word, they open the door to all the arts and sciences.
Who, born for the universe, narrow'd his mind, And to party gave up what was meant for mankind; Though fraught with all learning, yet straining his throat To persuade Tommy Townshend to lend him a vote. Who too deep for his hearers still went on refining, And thought of convincing while they thought of dining: Though equal to all things, for all things unfit; Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit.