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THE FIRST WIT OF THE PRESENT AGE,
THE FIRST WIT OF ANY AGE,
ARE INSCRIBED BY
MARY COWDEN CLARKE,
OF A CERTAIN AGE, AND NO WIT AT ALL.
T has been thought, that the wisest and wittiest of SHAKESPEARE's sayings, collected into such a form as to be readily carried about in the pocket, would furnish the means of employing
the otherwise idle half-hour that sometimes occurs in the life of the busiest person; who might thus beguile the tedium of expectation, the listlessness of waiting, the annoyance of delay, or even alleviate the feverishness of suspense and anxiety, by committing to memory these reflections of the greatest human intellect, and so making their elevating influence a part of every-day life.
Among these Proverbs will be found some of the axioms of Shakespeare which have actually become proverbial; and this may account for some sentences
appearing here, which, strictly speaking, come rather under the latter than the former denomination.
It is curious to notice how Shakespeare has paraphrased some of our commonest proverbs in his own choice and elegant diction. Thus: 'Make hay while the sun shines,' becomes
"The sun shines hot; and if we use delay,
Cold biting winter mars our hoped-for hay;"
and in Lightly come, lightly go,' we have—
"Too light winning
Makes the prize light."
Again; 'Let bygones be bygones,' grows into —
"Let us not burden our remembrances
With a heaviness that 's gone;"
whilst, There's many a true word spoken in jest,' reappears in
"Jesters do oft prove prophets;"
and some old proverbs he has even given verbatim ; as, The weakest goes to the wall;' and, 'They laugh that win.'
So congenial to the mind of Shakespeare was the proverbial form, with its mixture of ideality and matter-of-fact worldly wisdom, that he has frequently repeated the same maxims, couched in varied terms.