S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
I have been always wonderfully delighted with fables, allegories, and the like inventions, which the politest and the best instructors of mankind have always made use of. They take off from the severity of instruction, and enforce it at the same time that they conceal it.
Fables were the first pieces of wit that made their appearance in the world, and have been still highly valued not only in times of the greatest simplicity, but among the most polite ages of mankind. Jothams fable of the trees is the oldest that is extant, and as beautiful as any which have been made since that time. Nathans fable of the poor man and his lamb is likewise more ancient than any that is extant, besides the above-mentioned.
Among all the different ways of giving counsel, I think the finest, and that which pleases the most universally, is fable, in whatsoever shape it appears. If we consider this way of instructing or giving advice, it excels all others, because it is the least shocking, and the least subject to those exceptions which I have before mentioned.
This will appear to us if we reflect, in the first place, that upon the reading of a fable we are made to believe we advise ourselves. We peruse the author for the sake of the story, and consider the precepts rather as our own conclusions than his instructions. The moral insinuates itself imperceptibly; we are taught by surprise, and become wiser and better unawares. In short, by this method a man is so far over-reached as to think he is directing himself, while he is following the dictates of another, and consequently is not sensible of that which is the most unpleasing circumstance in advice.
Thus unto them [the people] a piece of rhetoric is a sufficient argument of logic, an apologue of Æsop beyond a syllogism in Barbara; parables than propositions, and proverbs more powerful than demonstrations.
The difference between a parable and an apologue is, that the former, being drawn from human life, requires probability in the narration, whereas the apologue, being taken from inanimate things or the inferior animals, is not confined strictly to probability. The fables of Æsop are apologues.
In all ages of the world there is nothing with which mankind hath been so much delighted as with those little fictitious stories which go under the name of fables or apologues among the ancient heathens, and of parables in the sacred writings.