Steele on Stress

There is scarce a thinking Man in the World, who is involved in the Business of it, but lives under a secret Impatience of the Hurry and Fatigue he suffers, and has formed a Resolution to fix himself, one time or other, in such a State as is suitable to the End of his Being. You hear Men every Day in Conversation profess, that all the Honour, Power, and Riches which they propose to themselves, cannot give Satisfaction enough to reward them for half the Anxiety they undergo in the Pursuit, or Possession of them. While Men are in this Temper (which happens very frequently) how inconsistent are they with themselves? They are wearied with the Toil they bear, but cannot find in their Hearts to relinquish it; Retirement is what they want, but they cannot betake themselves to it; While they pant after Shade and Covert, they still affect to appear in the most glittering Scenes of Life: But sure this is but just as reasonable as if a Man should call for more Lights, when he has a mind to go to Sleep.

——Sir Richard Steele, The Spectator.

Thackeray on Critics

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If authors sneer, it is the critic’s business to sneer at them for sneering. He must pretend to be their superior, or who would care about his opinion?

——William Makepeace Thackeray, The Newcomes.

Excelsior

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It may not be generally known that the young man who carried the banner with the strange device was lucky to die when he did. Had he eventually reached the summit which he sought he would have discovered to his great dismay that he merely constituted the 29th division in the annual outing of the Excelsior Marching and Chowder Club.

——Heywood Broun, “The Excelsior Movement.”

The Tedium of Congress

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I am wearied to death with the life I lead. The business of the Congress is tedious beyond expression. This assembly is like no other that ever existed. Every man in it is a great man, an orator, a critic, a statesman; and therefore every man upon every question must show his oratory, his criticism, and his political abilities. The consequence of this is that business is drawn and spun out to an immeasurable length. I believe if it was moved and seconded that we should come to a resolution that three and two make five, we should be entertained with logic and rhetoric, law, history, politics, and mathematics, and then—we should pass the resolution unanimously in the affirmative.

——John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams, October 9, 1774.

Abigail Adams on Slavery

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I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me—to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upon this subject.

——Abigail Adams, Letter to John Adams, September 24, 1774.