Quotes from an essay concerning human understanding

Locke, and to be well acquainted with his writings, and would perhaps take it ill to have this pretension questioned; yet appear either wholly unable, or unaccustomed, to draw the natural consequence from any one of his principal positions? Why, for instance, do we still continue so unsettled in the first principles and foundation of morals? From the same principles it may be collected that all such pompous theories of morals, however seemingly diversified, yet amount ultimately to the same thing, being all built upon the same false bottom of innate notions; and from the history of this science we may see that they have received no manner of improvement as indeed by the supposition of their innateness they become incapable of any from the days of Plato to our own; but must always take the main point, the ground of obligation, for granted: which is in truth the shortest and safest way of proceeding for such self-taught philosophers, and saves a deal of trouble in seeking reasons for what they advance, where none are to be found.

Locke went a far different way to work, at the very entrance on his Essay, pointing out the true origin of all our passions and affections, i. From whence also it may well be concluded that moral propositions are equally capable of certainty, and that such certainty is equally reducible to strict demonstration here as in other sciences, since they consist of the very same kind of ideas [viz.

In the same plain and popular introduction, when he has been proving that men think not always, [a position which, as he observes, letter to Molyneux, August 4, , was then admitted in a commencement act at Cambridge for probable, and which few there now-a-days are found weak enough to question] how come we not to attend him through the genuine consequences of that proof? This would soon let us into the true nature Edition: current; Page: [ xii ] of the human constitution, and enable us to determine whether thought, when every mode of it is suspended, though but for an hour, can be deemed an essential property of our immaterial principle, or mind, and as such inseparable from some imaginary substance, or substratum, [words by the by, so far as they have a meaning, taken entirely from matter, and terminating in it] any more than motion, under its various modifications, can be judged essential to the body, or to a purely material system.

Whereas, if we could be persuaded to quit every arbitrary hypothesis, and trust to fact and experience, a sound sleep any night would yield sufficient satisfaction in the present case, which thus may derive light even from the darkest parts of nature; and which will the more merit our regard, since the same point has been in some measure confirmed to us by revelation, as our author has likewise shown in his introduction to the Reasonableness of Christianity.

The abovementioned essay contains some more refined speculations which are daily gaining ground among thoughtful and intelligent persons, notwithstanding the neglect and the contempt to which studies of this kind Edition: current; Page: [ xiii ] are frequently exposed. And when we consider the force of bigotry, and the prejudice in favour of antiquity which adheres to narrow minds, it must be matter of surprise to find so small a number of exceptions made to some of his disquisitions which lie out of the common road.

Letters between him and Molyneux and Limborch. And happy are those inquirers who can discern the extent of their faculties!

John Locke Quotes

Connected in some sort with the forementioned essay, and in their way equally valuable, are his tracts on Education and the early Conduct of the Understanding; both worthy, as we apprehend, of a more careful perusal than is commonly bestowed upon them, the latter more especially, which seems to be little known and less attended to.

It contains an easy popular illustration Edition: current; Page: [ xiv ] of some discoveries in the foregoing essay, particularly that great and universal law of nature, the support of so many mental powers, v. The former tract abounds with no less curious and entertaining than useful observations on the various tempers and dispositions of youth: with proper directions for the due regulation and improvement of them, and just remarks on the too visible defects in that point; nor should it be looked upon as merely fitted for the instruction of schoolmasters or nurses, but as affording matter of reflection to men of business, science, and philosophy.

The several editions of this treatise, which has been much esteemed by foreigners, with the additions made to it abroad, may be seen in Gen. The public rights of mankind, the great object of political union; the authority, extent, and bounds of civil government in consequence of such union; these were subjects which engaged, as they deserved, his most serious attention. Witness his famous Letter from a Person of Quality, giving an account of the debates and resolutions in the house of lords concerning a bill for establishing passive Obedience, and enacting new oaths to inforce it: [V.

Nor will it be improper to remark how seasonable a recollection of Mr. Nor was the religious liberty of mankind less dear to our author than their civil rights, or less ably asserted by him. How closely does he pursue the adversary through all his subterfuges, and strip intolerance of all her pleas!

From one who knew so well how to direct the researches of the human mind, it was natural to expect that Christianity and the scriptures would not be neglected, but rather hold the chief place in his inquiries. These were accordingly the object of his more mature meditations; which were no less successfully employed upon them, as may be seen in part above.

March 23, In his Paraphrase and Notes upon the epistles of St. Paul, how fully does our author obviate the erroneous doctrines that of absolute reprobation in particular , which had been falsely charged upon the apostle! And to Mr. Paul; touching the propriety and pertinence of whose writings to their several subjects and occasions, he appears to have formed the most just conception, and thereby confessedly led the way to some of our best modern interpreters. Vide Pierce, pref.

I cannot dismiss this imperfect account of Mr. Locke and his works, without giving way to a painful reflection; which the consideration of them naturally excites. When we view the variety of those very useful and important subjects which have been treated in so able a manner by our author, and become sensible of the numerous national obligations due to his memory on that account, with what indignation must we behold the remains of that great and good man, lying under a mean, mouldering tomb-stone, [which but too strictly verifies the prediction he had given of it, and its little tablet, as ipsa brevi peritura ] in an obscure country church-yard — by the side of a forlorn wood—while so many superb monuments are daily erected to perpetuate names and characters hardly worth preserving!

Books and treatises written, or supposed to be written, by Mr. Exceptions of Mr. Having heard that some of Mr. Palmer, he was so obliging as to offer that a search should be made after them, and orders given for communicating all that could be found there; but as this notice comes unhappily too late to be made use of on the present occasion, I can only take the liberty of intimating it along with some other sources of intelligence, which I have endeavoured to lay open, and which may probably afford matter for a supplemental volume, as abovementioned.

He was born at Wrington, another market-town in the same county. John Locke, the father, was first a clerk only to a neighbouring justice of the peace, Francis Baber, of Chew Magna, but by col. After the restoration he practised as an attorney, and was clerk of the sewers in Somersetshire. Locke had one younger brother, an attorney, married, but died issueless, of a consumption. By the interest of col. Popham, our author was admitted a scholar at Westminster, and thence elected to Christ-Church in Oxon. He took the degree of bachelor of arts in , and that of master in After some time he applied himself very closely to the study of medicine; not with any design of practising as a physician, but principally for the benefit of his own constitution, which was but weak.

And we find he gained such esteem for his skill, even among the most learned of the faculty of his time, that Dr. John Locke, who, if we consider his genius, and penetrating and exact judgment, or the purity of his morals, has scarce any superiour, and few equals, now living. In the year , sir William Swan being appointed envoy from the English court to the elector of Brandenburgh, and some other German princes, Mr.

Locke Edition: current; Page: [ xxi ] attended him in the quality of his secretary: but returning to England again within the year, he applied himself with great vigour to his studies, and particularly to that of natural philosophy. The occasion of their acquaintance was this. Lord Ashley, by a fall, had hurt his breast in such a manner, that there was an abscess formed in it under his stomach.

He was advised to drink the mineral waters at Astrop, which engaged him to write to Dr. Thomas, a physician of Oxford, to procure a quantity of those waters, which might be ready against his arrival. Thomas being obliged to be absent from Oxford at that time, desired his friend Mr. Locke to execute this commission. Locke was obliged to wait on his lordship to make an excuse for it. Lord Ashley received him with great civility, according to his usual manner, and was satisfied with his excuses.

Upon his rising to go away, his lordship, who had already received great pleasure from his conversation, detained him to supper, and engaged him to dine with him the next day, and even to drink the waters, that he might have the more of his company. When his lordship left Oxford to go to Sunning-Hill, where he drank the waters, he made Mr. Locke promise to come thither, as he did in the summer of the year Edition: current; Page: [ xxii ] Lord Ashley afterward returned, and obliged him to promise that he would come and lodge at his house.

Locke went thither, and though he had never practised physic, his lordship confided intirely in his advice, with regard to the operation which was to be performed by opening the abscess in his breast; which saved his life, though it never closed. After this cure, his lordship entertained so great an esteem for Mr. Locke, that though he had experienced his great skill in medicine, yet he regarded this as the least of his qualifications.

He advised him to turn his thoughts another way, and would not suffer him to practise medicine out of his house, except among some of his particular friends. He urged him to apply himself to the study of political and religious matters, in which Mr. Locke made so great a progress, that lord Ashley began to consult him upon all occasions. By his acquaintance with this lord, our author was introduced to the conversation of some of the most eminent persons of that age: such as, Villiers duke of Buckingham, the lord Hallifax, and other noblemen of the greatest wit and parts, who were all charmed with his conversation.

The liberty which Mr. Locke took with men of that rank, had something in it very suitable to his character. Locke was there, after some compliments, cards were brought in, before scarce any conversation had passed between them. Locke looked upon them for some time, while they were at play: and taking his pocket-book, began to write with great attention. One of the lords observing him, asked him what he was writing? Locke had no occasion to read much of this conversation; those noble persons saw the ridicule of it, and diverted Edition: current; Page: [ xxiii ] themselves with improving the jest.

They quitted their play, and entering into rational discourse, spent the rest of their time in a manner more suitable to their character. In our author attended the earl and countess of Northumberland into France; but did not continue there long, because the earl dying in his journey to Rome, the countess, whom he had left in France with Mr. Locke, came back to England sooner than was at first designed.

This province he executed with great care, and to the full satisfaction of his noble patron. The young lord being of a weakly constitution, his father thought to marry him betimes, lest the family should be extinct by his death. He was too young, and had too little experience, to choose a wife for himself; and lord Ashley having the highest opinion of Mr. This, it must be owned, was no easy province; for though lord Ashley did not require a great fortune for his son, yet he would have him marry a lady of a good family, an agreeable temper, and a fine person; and above all a lady of good education, and of good understanding, whose conduct would be very different from that of the generality of court-ladies.

Notwithstanding all these difficulties, our author undertook the business, and acquitted himself in it happily. From this marriage sprung seven children, all of them healthy. The eldest son, afterward the noble author of the Characteristics, was committed to the care of Mr. Locke in his education. Here was a great genius, and a great master to direct and guide it, and the success was every way equal to what might be expected. It is said, that this noble author always Edition: current; Page: [ xxiv ] spoke of Mr.

Locke with the highest esteem, and manifested on all occasions a grateful sense of his obligations to him: but there are some passages in his works, in which he speaks of Mr. Tyrrell, Dr. Thomas, and some other friends, who met frequently in his chamber to converse together on philosophical subjects; but his employments and avocations prevented him from finishing it then—About this time, it is supposed, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society.

In , his great patron Lord Ashley was created earl of Shaftesbury, and lord high chancellor of England; and appointed him secretary of the presentation to benefices; which place he held till the end of the year , when his lordship resigned the great seal. Locke, to whom the earl had communicated his most secret affairs, was disgraced together with him: and assisted the earl in publishing some treatises, which were designed to excite the people to watch the conduct of the Roman catholics, and to oppose the arbitrary designs of the court.

In he travelled into France, on account of his health. At Montpelier he staid a considerable time; and there his first acquaintance arose with Mr. From Montpelier he went to Paris, where he contracted a friendship with Mr. Justel, whose house was at that time the place of resort for men of letters: and there he saw Mr. Guenelon, the famous physician of Amsterdam, who read lectures in anatomy with great applause. He became acquainted likewise with Mr. The earl of Shaftesbury being restored to favour at court, and made president of the council in , thought proper to send for Mr.

Locke's "Essay," Book I

Locke to London. But that nobleman did not continue long in his post; for refusing to comply with the designs of the court, which aimed at the establishment of popery and arbitrary power, fresh crimes were laid to his charge, and he was sent to the Tower. When the earl obtained his discharge from that place, he retired to Holland; and Mr. Locke not thinking himself safe in England, followed his noble patron thither, who died soon after. Guenelon, who introduced him to many learned persons of Amsterdam. Here Mr. Locke contracted a friendship with Mr. Limborch, professor of divinity among the remonstrants, and the most learned Mr.

Le Edition: current; Page: [ xxvi ] Clerc, which he cultivated after his return into England, and continued to the end of his life.

List of Contents

During his residence in Holland, he was accused at court of having writ certain tracts against the government, which were afterward discovered to be written by another person, and upon that suspicion he was deprived of his place of student of Christ-Church. Fell, the dean: in obedience to this command, the necessary information was given by his lordship, who at the same time wrote to our author, to appear and answer for himself, on the first of January ensuing: but immediately receiving an express command to turn him out, was obliged to comply therewith, and accordingly Mr.

Fell on the occasion, from Dr. The bishop answered, Nov. So that I believe there is not a man in the world so much master of taciturnity and passion. It being probable that, though he may have been thus cautious here where he knew himself suspected, he has laid himself more open at London, where a general liberty of speaking was used, and where the execrable designs against his majesty and government were managed and pursued. And so we bid you heartily farewell. Given at our court of Whitehall, the 11th day of Nov.

Locke from this college is fully executed. Birch observes, that notwithstanding his many good qualities, he was capable of some excesses in cases where the interest of party could bias him. Life of Tillotson, p. Locke, seems only to prove that all he acted against him might be done with some degree of reluctance; but yet notwithstanding the respect and kindness which he bore toward Mr. Locke, bishop Fell, it seems, on the clearest conviction of his inoffensiveness, under so many trials, had no thoughts of serving him so far as to run the least hazard of suffering for him, or with him.

His candour towards Mr. Fell, annexed in Vol. After the death of king Charles II. William Penn, who had known our author at the university, used his interest with king James to procure a pardon for him; and would have obtained it, if Mr. Locke had not answered, that he had no occasion for a pardon, since he had not been guilty of any crime. In the year , when the duke of Monmouth and his party were making preparations in Holland for his unfortunate enterprize, the English envoy at the Hague had orders to demand Mr.

Locke and eighty-three other persons to be delivered up by the states-general: upon which he lay concealed to the year following. At Amsterdam he formed a weekly assembly, consisting of Mr. Limborch, Mr. Le Clerc, and others, for conversation upon important subjects, and had drawn Edition: current; Page: [ xxxi ] up in Latin some rules to be observed by them; but these conferences were much interrupted by the frequent changes he was forced to make of the places of his residence.

He made an abridgment of it himself, which his friend Mr. About the same time, as Le Clerc informs us, he made several extracts of books, as that of Boyle on Specific Medicines, which is inserted in the second volume of Bibliotheque Universelle; and some others in the following volume. At length the happy revolution in , effected by the courage and good conduct of the prince of Orange, opened a way for Mr.

And upon the restoration of public liberty, he thought it proper to assert his own private rights. He endeavoured therefore to procure his restoration to his place of student of Christ-Church; not that he designed to return thither, but only that it might appear from thence, that he had been unjustly deprived of it. But when he found, that the college could not be prevailed on to dispossess the person who had been elected in his room, and that they would only admit him as a supernumerary student, he desisted from his claim.

It was proposed at a meeting of the heads of houses of the university of Oxford, to censure and discourage the reading of it; and after various debates among themselves, it was concluded, that each head of an house should endeavour to prevent its being read in his college.

Locke had let in more light upon the minds of men than was consistent with the dark designs of some persons. In the same year Mr. His writings had now procured him such high esteem, and he had merited so much of the government, that it would have been easy for him to have obtained a very considerable post; but he contented himself with that of commissioner of appeals, worth about He was offered to go abroad in a public character, and it was left to his choice whether he would be envoy at the court of the emperor, the elector of Brandenbourg, or any other, where he thought the air most suitable to him; but he declined it on account of his ill health.

About this time the public coin was very bad, having been so much clipped, and no care used to remedy it, that it wanted above a third of its due value.


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The effect of this was, that the people thought themselves a great deal richer than indeed they were: for though the coin was not raised in its value by public authority, it was put off in trade for above a third part more than it weighed. Locke had observed this disorder ever since his return to England; and he frequently spoke of it, that some measures might be taken to prevent it. To assist the great men at the head of affairs, who are not always the best judges, to form a right understanding of this matter, and to excite them to rectify this shameful abuse, Mr.

This treatise was shortly followed by two more upon the same subject, in which he obviated all objections, and confuted all his opposers. He fully showed to the world by these discourses, that he was able to reason on trade and business, as on the most abstract parts of science; and that he was none of those philosophers, who spend their lives in search of truths merely speculative, and who by their ignorance of those things which concern the public good, are incapable of serving their country.

These writings recommended him to the notice of the greatest persons, with whom he used to converse very freely.

He was received upon his own terms, that he might have his intire liberty, and look upon himself as at his own house. Here he applied himself to his studies as much as his weak health would allow, being seldom absent, because the air of London grew more and more troublesome to him. He came to town only in the summer for three or four months, and if he returned to Oates any thing indisposed, the air of that place soon recovered him.

In Mr. In this he has proved, that the christian religion, as delivered in the scriptures, and free from all corrupt mixtures, is the most reasonable institution in the world. This book was attacked by an ignorant, but zealous divine, Dr. Edwards, in a very rude and scurrilous manner. Locke answered Edwards, and defended his answer with such strength of reason, that he might justly have expected from his adversary a public acknowledgment of his errour, if he had not been one of those writers who have no more shame than reason in them.

Locke was also obliged to Mr. Bold, a worthy and pious clergyman, for vindicating his principles against the cavils of Edwards. Some time before this, Mr.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Quotes

Toland, in explaining some of his notions, used several arguments from Mr. Locke having asserted in his writings, that revelation delivers nothing contrary to reason; these things engaged Dr. Stillingfleet, the learned bishop of Worcester, to publish a treatise in which he endeavoured to defend the doctrine of the trinity, against Mr.

Toland and the unitarians. In this treatise the bishop opposed some of Mr. Locke answered him, and the bishop replied the same year. This reply was confuted, by a second letter of Mr. But the bishop dying some time after this, the dispute ended. In this controversy every body admired the strength of Mr.

Locke, whose reasoning he neither understood, nor the thing itself about which he disputed. This learned bishop had spent the greatest part of his time in the study of ecclesiastical antiquities, and reading a prodigious number of books, but was no great philosopher; nor had he ever accustomed himself to that close way of thinking and reasoning, in which Mr. Locke did so highly excel. In short, never was a controversy managed with so much art and skill on one side; nor, on the other, so unjustly, confusedly, or so little to the credit of the author.

Time, which is the best judge of things, has abundantly manifested this. Locke was appointed one of the commissioners of trade and plantations, a place worth l. The duties of this post he discharged with much care and diligence, and with universal approbation. He continued in it till the year , when upon the increase of his asthmatic disorder, he was forced to resign it. The king was very unwilling to dismiss him, and told our author, that he would be well pleased with his continuance in that office, though he should give little or no attendance; for that he did not desire him to stay in town one day to the hurt of his health.

But Mr. Locke told the king, that he could not in conscience hold a place to which such a salary was annexed, without discharging the duties of it; and therefore he begged leave to resign it. King William had a great esteem for our author, and would sometimes send for him to discourse on public affairs, and to know his sentiments of things. Locke once told the king very plainly, that if the universities were not reformed, and other principles taught there, than had been formerly inculcated, they would either destroy him, or some of his successors, or both.

He had a great knowledge of the world, and was prudent without cunning, easy, affable, and condescending Edition: current; Page: [ xxxvii ] without any mean complaisance. If there was any thing he could not bear, it was ill manners, and a rude behaviour. This was ever ungrateful to him, unless when he perceived that it proceeded from ignorance; but when it was the effect of pride, ill-nature, or brutality, he detested it. He looked on civility not only as a duty of humanity, but of christianity; and he thought that it ought to be more pressed and urged upon men than it commonly is.

He was exact to his word, and religiously performed whatever he promised. He was very scrupulous of giving recommendations of persons whom he did not well know, and would by no means commend those whom he thought not to deserve it. He was naturally very active, and employed himself as much as his health would permit. Sometimes he diverted himself with working in the garden, which he well understood. He loved walking, but not being able to walk much, through the disorder of his lungs, he used to ride out after dinner; and when he could not bear a horse, he went in a chaise.

He always chose to have company with him, though it were but a child, for he took pleasure in talking with children of a good education. He did not differ from others in his diet, but only in that his usual drink was nothing but water; and he thought Edition: current; Page: [ xxxviii ] that was the means, under God, of lengthening his life. To this he also thought the preservation of his sight was in a great measure owing, for he could read by candle-light all sorts of books to the last, if they were not of a very small print, without the use of spectacles.

The last fourteen or fifteen years of his life, he spent chiefly at Oates, seldom coming to town; and during this agreeable retirement, he applied himself to the study of the scriptures. His weakness made him apprehend his death was near. He often spoke of it himself, but always with great composure, though he omitted none of the precautions which his skill in medicine could suggest, in order to prolong his life.

At length his legs began to swell; and that swelling increasing every day, his strength diminished visibly. He then saw how short a time he had to live, and prepared to quit this world, with a deep sense of the manifold blessings of God to him, which he took delight in recounting to his friends, and full of a sincere resignation to the divine will, and of firm hopes in his promises of a future life. For some weeks, as he was not able to walk, he was carried about the house in a chair. The day before his death, lady Masham being alone with him, and sitting by his bed, he exhorted her, to regard this world only as a state of preparation for a better; and added, that he had lived long enough, and thanked God for having passed his life so happily, but that this life appeared to him a mere vanity.

He had no sleep that night, but resolved to try to rise next morning, as he did. He was carried into his study, and placed in an easy chair, where he slept a considerable while at different times. Seeming to be a little refreshed, he would be dressed as he Edition: current; Page: [ xxxix ] used to be. He then desired lady Masham, who was reading the psalms low, while he was dressing, to read aloud: she did so, and he appeared very attentive, till the approach of death preventing him, he desired her to break off, and a few minutes after expired, on October 28, , in the seventy-third year of his age.

He was interred in the church-yard of High Lever, in Essex, and the following inscription, placed against the church-wall, was written by himself:. Si qualis fuerit rogas, mediocritate sua contentum se vixisse respondet. Literis innutritus, eousque profecit, ut veritati unice litaret. Virtutes si quas habuit, minores sane quam sibi laudi, tibi in exemplum proponeret.

JOHN LOCKE QUOTES

Vitia una sepeliantur. Thus died this great and most excellent philosopher, who, after he had bestowed many years in matters of science and speculation, happily turned his thoughts to the study of the scriptures, which he carefully examined with the same liberty he had used in the study of the other sciences. There is no occasion to attempt a panegyric on our author. His writings are now well known, and valued, and will last as long as the English language. His character, by P. Coste, is likewise delivered at large in the same place, and need not be repeated here, as it inadvertently was in a former edition.

As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God, who maketh all things. Quam bellum est velle confiteri potius nescire quod nescias, quam ista effutientem nauseare atque ipsum sibi displicere! It is not that I think any name, how great soever, set at the beginning of a book, will be able to cover the faults that are to be found in it.

But there being nothing more to be desired for truth, than a fair unprejudiced hearing, nobody is more likely to procure me that than your lordship, who are allowed to have got so intimate an acquaintance with her, in her more retired recesses. Your lordship is known to have so far advanced your speculations in the most abstract and general knowledge of things, beyond the ordinary reach, or Edition: current; Page: [ xliv ] common methods, that your allowance and approbation of the design of this treatise, will at least preserve it from being condemned without reading; and will prevail to have those parts a little weighed, which might otherwise, perhaps, be thought to deserve no consideration, for being somewhat out of the common road.

Truth scarce ever yet carried it by vote any where at its first appearance: new opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason, but because they are not already common. But truth, like gold, is not the less so for being newly brought out of the mine. It is trial and examination must give it price, and not an antique fashion: and though it be not yet current by the public stamp; yet it may, for all that, be as old as nature, and is certainly not the less genuine.

Your lordship can give great and convincing instances of this, whenever you please to oblige the public with some of those large and comprehensive discoveries you have made of truths hitherto unknown, unless to some few, from whom your lordship has been pleased not wholly to conceal them. This alone were a sufficient reason, were there no other, why I should dedicate this Essay to your lordship; and its having some little correspondence with some parts of that nobler and vast system of the sciences your lordship has made so new, exact, and instructive a draught of, I think it glory enough, if your lordship permit me to boast, that here and there I have fallen into some thoughts not Edition: current; Page: [ xlv ] wholly different from yours.

If your lordship think fit, that, by your encouragement, this should appear in the world, I hope it may be a reason, some time or other, to lead your lordship farther; and you will allow me to say, that you here give the world an earnest of something, that, if they can bear with this, will be truly worth their expectation. This, my lord, shows what a present I here make to your lordship; just such as the poor man does to his rich and great neighbour, by whom the basket of flowers or fruit is not ill taken, though he has more plenty of his own growth, and in much greater perfection.

Worthless things receive a value, when they are made the offerings of respect, esteem, and gratitude; these you have given me so mighty and peculiar reasons to have, in the highest degree, for your lordship, that if they can add a price to what they go along with, proportionable to their own greatness, I can with confidence brag, I here make your lordship the richest present you ever received. This I am sure, I am under the greatest obligations to seek all occasions to acknowledge a long train of favours I have received from your lordship; favours, though great and important in themselves, yet made much more so by the forwardness, concern, and kindness, and other obliging circumstances, that never failed to accompany them.

To all this, you are pleased to add that which gives yet more weight and relish to all the rest: you vouchsafe to continue me in some degree of your esteem, and allow me a place in your good thoughts; I had almost said friendship. This, my lord, your words and actions so constantly show on all occasions, Edition: current; Page: [ xlvi ] even to others when I am absent, that it is not vanity in me to mention what every body knows: but it would be want of good manners, not to acknowledge what so many are witnesses of, and every day tell me, I am indebted to your lordship for.

I wish they could as easily assist my gratitude, as they convince me of the great and growing engagements it has to your lordship. This I am sure, I should write of the understanding without having any, if I were not extremely sensible of them, and did not lay hold on this opportunity to testify to the world, how much I am obliged to be, and how much I am,.


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  5. I here put into thy hands, what has been the diversion of some of my idle and heavy hours: if it has the good luck to prove so of any of thine, and thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading, as I had in writing it, thou wilt as little think thy money, as I do my pains, ill bestowed. Mistake not this, for a commendation of my work; nor conclude, because I was pleased with the doing of it, that therefore I am fondly taken with it now it is done.

    Its searches after truth, are a sort of hawking and hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great part of the pleasure. Every step the mind takes in its progress towards knowledge, makes some discovery, which is not only new, but the best too, for the time at least. For the understanding, like the eye, judging of objects only by its own sight, cannot but be pleased with what it discovers, having less regret for what has escaped it, because it is unknown. This, Reader, is the entertainment of those who let loose their own thoughts, and follow them in writing; which thou oughtest not to envy them, since they afford thee an opportunity of the like diversion, if thou wilt make use of thy own thoughts in reading.

    It is to them, if they are thy own, that I refer myself: but if they are taken upon trust from others, it is no great matter what they are, they not following truth, but some meaner consideration; and it is not worth while to be concerned, what he says or thinks, who says or thinks only as he is directed by another. If thou judgest for thyself, I know thou wilt judge candidly; and then I shall not be harmed or offended, whatever be thy censure. For though it be certain, that there is nothing in this treatise, of the truth whereof I am not fully persuaded; yet I consider myself as liable to mistakes, as I can think thee, and know that this book must stand or fall with thee, not by any opinion I have of it, but thy own.

    If thou findest little in it new or instructive to thee, thou art not to blame me for it. It was not meant for those that had already mastered this subject, and made a thorough acquaintance with their own understandings; but for my own information, and the satisfaction of a few friends, who acknowledged themselves not to have sufficiently considered it. Were it fit to trouble thee with the history of this Essay, I should tell thee, that five or six friends meeting at my chamber, and discoursing on a subject very remote from this, found themselves quickly at a stand, by the difficulties that rose on every side.

    After we had a while puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer a resolution of those doubts which perplexed us, it came into my thoughts, that we took a wrong course; and Edition: current; Page: [ xlix ] that before we set ourselves upon inquiries of that nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with.

    This I proposed to the company, who all readily assented; and thereupon it was agreed, that this should be our first inquiry. Some hasty and undigested thoughts on a subject I had never before considered, which I set down against our next meeting, gave the first entrance into this discourse; which having been thus begun by chance, was continued by intreaty; written by incoherent parcels; and after long intervals of neglect, resumed again, as my humour or occasions permitted; and at last, in a retirement, where an attendance on my health gave me leisure, it was brought into that order thou now seest it.

    This discontinued way of writing may have occasioned, besides others, two contrary faults, viz. If thou findest any thing wanting, I shall be glad, that what I have writ gives thee any desire, that I should have gone farther: if it seems too much to thee, thou must blame the subject; for when I put pen to paper, I thought all I should have to say on this matter, would have been contained in one sheet of paper, but the farther I went, the larger prospect I had; new discoveries led me still on, and so it grew insensibly to the bulk it now appears in.

    I will not deny, but possibly it might be reduced to a narrower compass than it is; and that some parts of it might be contracted; the way it has been writ in, by catches, and many long intervals of interruption, being apt to cause some repetitions. But to confess the truth, I am now too lazy, or too busy to make it shorter. I am not ignorant how little I herein consult my own reputation, when I knowingly let it go with a fault, so apt to disgust the most judicious, who are always the nicest readers.

    But they who know sloth is apt to content itself with any excuse, will pardon me, if mine has prevailed on me, where, I think, I have a very good one. I will not therefore allege in my defence, that the same notion, having different respects, may Edition: current; Page: [ l ] be convenient or necessary to prove or illustrate several parts of the same discourse; and that so it has happened in many parts of this: but waving that, I shall frankly avow, that I have sometimes dwelt long upon the same argument, and expressed it different ways, with a quite different design.

    I pretend not to publish this Essay for the information of men of large thoughts, and quick apprehensions; to such masters of knowledge, I profess myself a scholar, and therefore warn them beforehand not to expect any thing here, but what, being spun out of my own coarse thoughts, is fitted to men of my own size; to whom, perhaps, it will not be unacceptable, that I have taken some pains to make plain and familiar to their thoughts some truths, which established prejudice, or the abstractedness of the ideas themselves, might render difficult.

    Some objects had need be turned on every side: and when the notion is new, as I confess some of these are to me, or out of the ordinary road, as I suspect they will appear to others; it is not one simple view of it, that will gain it admittance into every understanding, or fix it there with a clear and lasting impression. There are few, I believe, who have not observed in themselves or others, that what in one way of proposing was very obscure, another way of expressing it has made very clear and intelligible; though afterward the mind found little difference in the phrases, and wondered why one failed to be understood more than the other.

    We have our understandings no less different than our palates; and he that thinks the same truth shall be equally relished by every one in the same dress, may as well hope to feast every one with the same sort of cookery: the meat may be the same, and the nourishment good, yet every one not be able to receive it with that seasoning: and it must be dressed another way, if you will have it go down with some, even of strong constitutions.

    The truth is, those who advised me to publish it, advised me, for this reason, to publish it as it is; and since I have been brought to let it go abroad, I desire it should be understood by whoever Edition: current; Page: [ li ] gives himself the pains to read it; I have so little affection to be in print, that if I were not flattered this Essay might be of some use to others, as I think it has been to me, I should have confined it to the view of some friends, who gave the first occasion to it.

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    My appearing therefore in print, being on purpose to be as useful as I may, I think it necessary to make what I have to say, as easy and intelligible to all sorts of readers, as I can. And I had much rather the speculative and quick-sighted should complain of my being in some parts tedious, than that any one, not accustomed to abstract speculations, or prepossessed with different notions, should mistake, or not comprehend my meaning. It will possibly be censured as a great piece of vanity or insolence in me, to pretend to instruct this our knowing age; it amounting to little less, when I own, that I publish this Essay with hopes it may be useful to others.

    But if it may be permitted to speak freely of those, who with a feigned modesty condemn as useless, what they themselves write, methinks it savours much more of vanity or insolence, to publish a book for any other end; and he fails very much of that respect he owes the public, who prints, and consequently expects men should read that, wherein he intends not they should meet with any thing of use to themselves or others: and should nothing else be found allowable in this treatise, yet my design will not cease to be so; and the goodness of my intention ought to be some excuse for the worthlessness of my present.

    It is that chiefly which secures me from the fear of censure, which I expect not to escape more than better writers. I acknowledge the age we live in is not the least knowing, and therefore not the most easy to be satisfied. The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay, often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than constrain others.

    The greatest part of mankind who are given up to labor, and enslaved to the necessity of their mean condition; whose lives are worn out only in the provisions for living. Religion, which should most distinguish us from the beasts, and ought most particularly elevate us, as rational creatures, above brutes, is that wherein men often appear most irrational, and more senseless than beasts themselves.

    All Books Mercedes Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. What Is Literature? What Is Man? Where there is no property there is no injustice.