The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 713 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2.


Not a man, woman, or child in ten miles round Guildhall, who really believes this saying.  The inventor of it did not believe it himself.  It was made in revenge by somebody, who was disappointed of a regale.  It is a vile cold-scrag-of-mutton sophism; a lie palmed upon the palate, which knows better things.  If nothing else could be said for a feast, this is sufficient, that from the superflux there is usually something left for the next day.  Morally interpreted, it belongs to a class of proverbs, which have a tendency to make us undervalue money.  Of this cast are those notable observations, that money is not health; riches cannot purchase every thing:  the metaphor which makes gold to be mere muck, with the morality which traces fine clothing to the sheep’s back, and denounces pearl as the unhandsome excretion of an oyster.  Hence, too, the phrase which imputes dirt to acres—­a sophistry so barefaced, that even the literal sense of it is true only in a wet season.  This, and abundance of similar sage saws assuming to inculcate content, we verily believe to have been the invention of some cunning borrower, who had designs upon the purse of his wealthier neighbour, which he could only hope to carry by force of these verbal jugglings.  Translate any one of these sayings out of the artful metonyme which envelops it, and the trick is apparent.  Goodly legs and shoulders of mutton, exhilarating cordials, books, pictures, the opportunities of seeing foreign countries, independence, heart’s ease, a man’s own time to himself, are not muck—­however we may be pleased to scandalise with that appellation the faithful metal that provides them for us.


Our experience would lead us to quite an opposite conclusion.  Temper, indeed, is no test of truth; but warmth and earnestness are a proof at least of a man’s own conviction of the rectitude of that which he maintains.  Coolness is as often the result of an unprincipled indifference to truth or falsehood, as of a sober confidence in a man’s own side in a dispute.  Nothing is more insulting sometimes than the appearance of this philosophic temper.  There is little Titubus, the stammering law-stationer in Lincoln’s Inn—­we have seldom known this shrewd little fellow engaged in an argument where we were not convinced he had the best of it, if his tongue would but fairly have seconded him.  When he has been spluttering excellent broken sense for an hour together, writhing and labouring to be delivered of the point of dispute—­the very gist of the controversy knocking at his teeth, which like some obstinate iron-grating still obstructed its deliverance—­his puny frame convulsed, and face reddening all over at an unfairness in the logic which he wanted articulation to expose, it has

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The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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