S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
It is a celebrated thought of Socrates, that if all the misfortunes of mankind were cast into a public stock, in order to be equally distributed among the whole species, those who now think themselves the most unhappy would prefer the share they are already possessed of, before that which would fall to them by such a division. Horace [1 Sat. i. 1.] has carried this thought a great deal farther in the motto of my paper, which implies that the hardships or misfortunes we lie under are more easy to us than those of any other person would be, in case we could change conditions with him.
The misery of human life is made up of large masses, each separated from the other by certain intervals. One year the death of a child; years after, a failure in trade; after another longer or shorter interval, a daughter may have married unhappily;in all but the singularly unfortunate the integral parts that comprise the sum total of the unhappiness of a mans life are easily counted and distinctly remembered. The happiness of life, on the contrary, is made up of minute fractions: the little soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a heart-felt compliment in the disguise of playful raillery, and the countless other infinitesimals of pleasurable thought and genial feeling.
Misery is caused for the most part not by a heavy crush of disaster, but by the corrosion of less visible evils, which canker enjoyment and undermine security. The visit of an invader is necessarily rare, but domestic animosities allow no cessation.