Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
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S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
 
Charles Lamb
 
  I am constitutionally susceptible of noises. A carpenter’s hammer, in a warm summer’s noon, will fret me into more than midsummer madness. But those unconnected, unset sounds are nothing to the measured malice of music.
Charles Lamb.    
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  I know that a sweet child is the sweetest thing in nature, not even excepting the delicate creatures which bear them; but the prettier the kind of a thing is, the more desirable it is that it should be pretty of its kind. One daisy differs not much from another in glory; but a violet should look and smell the daintiest.
Charles Lamb.    
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  The more any object is spiritualized, the more delightful it is. There is much delight in the tragical representation of those things which in reality would be sights full of amazement and horror. The ticklings of fancy are more delightful than the touches of sense. How does poetry insinuate and turn about the minds of men! Anacreon might take more delight in one of his odes than in one of his cups; Catullus might easily find more sweetness in one of his epigrams than in the lips of a Lesbia. Sappho might take more complacency in one of her verses than in her practices. The nearer anything comes to mental joy, the purer and choicer it is. It is the observation not only of Aristotle, but of every one almost, “Some things delight merely because of their novelty;” and that surely upon this account, because the mind, which is the spring of joy, is more fixed and intense upon such things. The rose-bud thus pleases more than the blown rose.
Charles Lamb.    
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  “To love the little platoon we belong to in society is the germ of all public affections.” True, most true! The innocent associations of childhood, the kind mother who taught us to whisper the first faint accents of prayer, and watched with anxious face over our slumbers, the ground on which our little feet first trod, the pew in which we first sat during public worship, the school in which our first rudiments were taught, the torn Virgil, the dog-eared Horace, the friends and companions of our young days, the authors who first told us the history of our country, the songs that first made our hearts throb with noble and generous emotions, the burying-place of our fathers, the cradles of our children, are surely the first objects which nature tells us to love. Philanthropy, like charity, must begin at home. From this centre our sympathies may extend in an ever-extending circle.
Charles Lamb.    
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  If there be a regal solitude it is a sick bed. How the patient lords it there! what caprices he acts without control! how king-like he sways his pillow—tumbling, and tossing, and shifting, and lowering, and thumping, and flatting, and moulding it, to the ever-varying requisitions of his throbbing temples!
Charles Lamb.    
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  To be strong-backed and neat-bound is the desideratum of a volume. Magnificence comes after. This, when it can be afforded, is not to be lavished upon all kinds of books indiscriminately. I would not dress a set of Magazines, for instance, in full suit. The dishabille, or half-binding (with Russia backs ever), is our costume. A Shakspeare or a Milton (unless the first editions) it were mere foppery to trick out in gay apparel. The possession of them confers no distinction. The exterior of them (the things themselves being so common), strange to say, raises no sweet emotions, no tickling sense of property in the owner…. In some respects, the better a book is, the less it demands from binding…. But where a book is at once both good and rare,—where the individual is almost the species, and, when that perishes,
        We know not where is that Promethean torch
That can its life relumine—
… no casket is rich enough, no casing sufficiently durable, to honour and keep safe such a jewel.
Charles Lamb: Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading.    
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  I can read anything which I call a book. There are things in that shape which I cannot allow for such. In this catalogue of books which are no books—biblia a-biblia—I reckon Court Calendars, Directories, Pocket Books, Draught Boards bound and lettered on the back, Scientific Treatises, Almanacs, Statutes at Large: the works of Hume, Gibbon, Robertson, Beattie, Soame Jenyns, and generally all those volumes which “no gentleman’s library should be without:” the Histories of Flavius Josephus (that learned Jew), and Paley’s Moral Philosophy. With these exceptions, I can read almost anything. I bless my stars for a taste so catholic, so unexcluding.
Charles Lamb: Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading.    
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  Much depends upon when and where you read a book. In the five or six impatient minutes before the dinner is quite ready, who would think of taking up the Fairy Queen for a stop-gap, or a volume of Bishop Andrews’s sermons?  8
  Milton almost requires a solemn service of music to be played upon before you enter upon him. But he brings his music, to which who listens had need bring docile thoughts, and purged ears.  9
  Winter evenings—the world shut out—with less of ceremony the gentle Shakspeare enters. At such a season the Tempest, or his own Winter’s Tale.—These two poets you cannot avoid reading aloud—to yourself, or (as it chances) to some single person listening. More than one—and it degenerates into an audience.
Charles Lamb: Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading.    
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  Above all, those insufferable concertos, and pieces of music, as they are called, do plague and embitter my apprehension.—Words are something; but to be exposed to an endless battery of mere sounds; to be long a dying; to lie stretched upon a rack of roses; to keep up languor by unintermitted effort; to pile honey upon sugar, and sugar upon honey, to an interminable tedious sweetness; to fill up sound with feeling, and strain ideas to keep pace with it; to gaze on empty frames, and be forced to make the pictures for yourself; to read a book all stops, and be obliged to supply the verbal matter; to invent extempore tragedies to answer to the vague gestures of an inexplicable rambling mime,—these are faint shadows of what I have undergone from a series of the ablest-executed pieces of this empty instrumental music.
Charles Lamb: Essays of Elia: A Chapter on Ears.    
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  What a place to be in is an old library! It seems as though all the souls of all the writers that have bequeathed their labours to these Bodleians were reposing here, as in some dormitory, or middle state. I do not want to handle, to profane the leaves, their winding-sheets. I could as soon dislodge a shade. I seem to inhale learning, walking amid their foliage; and the odour of their old moth-scented coverings is fragrant as the first bloom of those sciential apples which grew amid the happy orchard.
Charles Lamb: Essays of Elia: Oxford in the Vacation.    
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