"law of divine retaliations in the world," may be employed to justify a hardhearted refusal to pity or relieve those who suffer from their own folly or imprudence. "Honesty is the best policy" is a proverb which may be. taken as limited to what Coleridge called "prudential morality; " but it was not intended to supersede the "higher law" which it omits to express. "Wordly wisdom," which is the basis of so much proverbial and aphoristic lore, has its proper sphere and its pertinence and value within that sphere, but woe to the man who makes it the one law of his life and knows no other!

The aphorism is the only other form of this ethical popular wisdom which can be considered here. It is to be distinguished from the proverb, but, like

the proverb, it is not easy to define it briefly and precisely, as distinguished from the apothegm, the maxim, and certain other forms among the dozen discussed in the Century Dictionary synonyms. The New English Dictionary (Oxford), after referring to its original scientific meaning, explains it thus: "Any principle or precept expressed in few words; a short pithy sentence containing a truth of general import; a maxim." The first illustrative quotation under this head is from Marlowe (Faustus, i. 9), 1590: "Is not thy common talk from aphorisms?" and the second is from Howell (Foraine Travel, 1642): " "T is an old Aphorisme, Oderunt omnes quem metuunt." [All hate whom they fear]. The next is from Henry More (App. Antidote, 1687):

"That sensible aphorism of Seneca, Better is a living Dog than a dead Lion."

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John Morley, in his admirable essay on "Aphorisms" (included in his Studies in Literature, 1891) asks "What is wisdom? and answers the question thus: "That sovereign word is used for two different things. It may stand for knowledge, learning, science, systematic reasoning; or it may mean, as Coleridge has defined it, common sense in an uncommon degree; that is to say, the unsystematic truths that come to shrewd, penetrating, and observant minds, from their own experience of life and their daily commerce with the world, and that is called the wisdom of life, or the wisdom of the world, or the wisdom of time and the ages." And this second

kind of wisdom naturally "embodies itself in the short and pregnant form of proverb, sentence, maxim, and aphorism. The essence of aphorism is the compression of a mass of thought and observation into a single saying. It is the very opposite of dissertation and declamation; its distinction is not so much ingenuity as good sense brought to a point; it ought to be neither enigmatical nor flat, neither a truism on the one hand, nor a riddle on the other. These wise sayings

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are the guiding oracles which man has found out for himself in that great business of ours, of learning how to be, to do, to do without, and to depart. Their range extends from prudential kitchen maxims, such as Franklin set forth in the sayings of Poor Richard about thrift in time and

money, up to such great and high moralities of life as are the prose maxims of Goethe-just as Bacon's essays extend from precepts as to building and planting up to solemn reflections on truth, death, and the vicissitudes of things. They cover the whole field of man as he is, and life as it is, not of either as they ought to be; friendship, ambition, money, studies, business, public duty, in all their actual laws and conditions as they are, and not as the ideal moralist may wish that they were."


Many of the shrewdest of these " ralities of human nature" are very ancient, dating back to Solomon, Æsop, Homer, and the Greek dramatists and orators. Erasmus collected four or five thousand of them from all ancient literature in his Adagia. "As we turn

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