S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Sir Benjamin Brodie
The failure of the mind in old age is often less the result of natural decay than of disease. Ambition has ceased to operate; contentment brings indolence; indolence, decay of mental power, ennui, and sometimes death. Men have been known to die, literally speaking, of disease induced by intellectual vacuity.
Our minds are so constructed that we can keep the attention fixed on a particular object until we have, as it were, looked all around it; and the mind that possesses this faculty in the highest degree of perfection will take cognizance of relations of which another mind has no perception. It is this, much more than any difference in the abstract power of reasoning, which constitutes the vast difference between the minds of different individuals. This is the history alike of the poetic genius and of the genius of discovery in science. I keep the subject, said Sir Isaac Newton, constantly before me, and wait until the dawnings open by little and little into a full light. It was thus that after long meditation he was led to the invention of fluxions, and to the anticipation of the modern discovery of the combustibility of the diamond. It was thus that Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, and that those views were suggested by Davy which laid the foundation of that grand series of experimental researches which terminated in the decomposition of the earths and alkalies.
Humility leads to the highest distinction, because it leads to self-improvement. Study your own characters; endeavour to learn and to supply your own deficiencies; never assume to yourselves qualities which you do not possess; combine all this with energy and activity, and you cannot predicate of yourselves, nor can others predicate of you, at what point you may arrive at last.