There is a moral excellence attainable by all who have the will to strive after it; but there is an intellectual and physical superiority which is above the reach of our wishes, and is granted to a few only.
Human excellence, parted from God, is like a fable flower, which, according to Rabbis, Eve plucked when passing out of paradisesevered from its native root, it is only the touching memorial of a lost Eden; sad, while charmingbeautiful, but dead.
Excellence is never granted to man, but as the reward of labor. It argues, indeed, no small strength of mind to persevere in the habits of industry, without the pleasure of perceiving those advantages which, like the hands of a clock, whilst they make hourly approaches to their point, yet proceed so slowly as to escape observation.
The desire of excellence is the necessary attribute of those who excel. We work little for a thing unless we wish for it. But we cannot of ourselves estimate the degree of our success in what we strive for; that task is left to others. With the desire for excellence comes, therefore, the desire for approbation. And this distinguishes intellectual excellence from moral excellence; for the latter has no necessity of human tribunal; it is more inclined to shrink from the public than to invite the public to be its judge.