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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,
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
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.
Such quintessentialised drops of wisdom are surely not ill stored up to support and strengthen us along 'the steep and thorny way' that lies before us; and the poor, who need these consolatory aids even more than the rich, will find the price of this small volume to be such as will enable them also to make it their pocket-companion.
In venturing to put an explanatory note here and there, the object in view was, of course, the convenience of the younger portion only of the public, to whom the peculiarly condensed use which Shakespeare has made of certain words may not be familiar.
CRAVEN HILL COTTAGE, 1847.