THE PRESENT Book of Quotations was undertaken in the belief that, notwithstanding the many excellent compilations of the kind already in existence, there was room for another that should glean its materials from a wider area, and that should have more respect to the requirements, both speculative and practical, of the times we live in. The widespread materials at command had never yet been collected into a single volume, and certain modern writings, fraught with a wisdom that supremely deserves our regard, had hardly been quarried in at all.
The Editor has therefore studied to compile a more comprehensive collection; embracing something of this wisdom, which naturally bears more directly on the interests of the present day. To these interests the Editor has all along had an eye, and he has been careful to collect, from ancient sources as well as modern, sayings that seem to reveal an insight into them, and bear pertinently upon them; they are such as are specified in the subtitle, and they are one and all more than passing ones. The aphorisms which wise men have uttered on these vital topics can never fail to deserve our regard, and they will prove edifying to us, even should we, led by a higher wisdom, be inclined to say nay to them. For, as it has been said, The errors of a wise man are more instructive than the truths of a fool. The wise man travels in lofty, farseeing regions; the fool in low-lying, high-fenced lanes; retracing the footsteps of the former, to discover where he deviated, whole provinces of the universe are laid open to us; in the path of the latter, granting even that he has not deviated at all, little is laid open to us but two wheel-ruts and two hedges.
The quotations collected in this book (particularly those bearing on the vital interests referred to) are, it will be generally admitted, the words of wise men; therefore the Editor has endeavoured to ascertain and give the names of their authors, when not known. For, though the truth and worth of the sayings are nowise dependent on their authorship, it is well to know who those were that felt the burden they express, and found relief in uttering them. What was of moment to them, may well be of moment to others, and must be worthy of all regard and well deserving of being laid to heart.
Except in the case of quotations from Shakespeare, the reader will observe that the Editor has quoted only the names of the authors or the books from which they are taken, and has not, as might be expected of him, supplied either chapter or verse. The reason is, he did not think it worth the labour and expense that would have been involved in doing so, while the quotations given are for most part independent of the context, and are perfectly intelligible in their own light. They are all more or less of an aphoristic quality, and the meaning and application are evident to any one who understands the subject of which they treat.
As for the other qualities of these quotations, they will be found to be in general brief in expression and pointed in application, and not a few of them winged as well as barbed. A great many are pregnant in meaning; suggest more than they express; and are the coinage of minds of no ordinary penetration and grasp of thought. While some of them are so simple that a child might understand them, there are others that border on regions in which the clearest-headed and surest-footed might stumble and come to grief.
The collection might have been larger; the quarry of the literature of the present century alone might have supplied materials for as big a book. But the Editors task was to produce a work that should embrace gleanings from different fields of literature, and he could only introduce from that of the present day as much as his limits allowed. Yet, though the quantity given is no index of the quantity available, the Editor hopes the reader will allow that his selection has not been made in the dark, and that what he has given is of the true quality, as well as enough in quantity for most readers to digest. If the quality be good, the quantity is of little account, for what has been said of Reason may be said of Wisdom which is its highest expression: Whoso hath any, hath access to the whole.
The arrangement adopted may not at once commend itself, but it was found to be the best; a topical one would have been too cumbersome, as, in that case, it would have been frequently necessary to introduce the same quotation under several different heads. The arrangement, it will be seen, is alphabetical, and follows the order of the initial letters of the initial word or words.
With these preliminary explanations the Editor leaves his bookthe pleasant labour of more than three yearsin the hands of the public, assured that they will judge of it by its own merits, and that they will be generous enough to acquit him of having compiled either a superfluous or an unserviceable work.