Gleanings from the Past #73

Testimony and Argument


Samuel Johnson

[…] Sir James Johnston happened to say that he paid no regard to the arguments of counsel at the bar of the House of Commons, because they were paid for speaking. [Samuel] Johnson: “Nay, Sir, argument is argument. You cannot help paying regard to their arguments, if they are good. If it were testimony, you might disregard it, if you knew that it was purchased There is a beautiful image in Bacon,* upon this subject — testimony is like an arrow shot from a long bow, the force of it depends on the strength of the hand that draws it. Argument is like an arrow from a cross-bow, which has equal force though shot by a child.”

*Dr Johnson’s memory deceived him. The passage referred to is not Bacon’s, but [Robert] Boyle’s and may be found, with a slight variation, in Johnson’s Dictionary, under the word — CROSS-BOW.

— James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1830 Edition), 1791


Happy the man, of mortals happiest he,
Whose quiet mind from vain desires is free;
Whom neither hopes deceive, nor fears torment.
But lives at peace, within himself content.

— George Granville, Epistles to Mrs. Higgins, 1690

Happy the man whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound.
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread.
Whose flocks supply him with attire.
Whose trees in Summer yield him shade;
In Winter, fire.

— Alexander Pope, “Ode to Solitude”, 1700

(Note: Pope wrote to Henry Cromwell in a letter dated July 17, 1709, that the above verse was written when he was “not twelve years old”.)


The best anagram I have met with, is one which was shown me by the Duchess de la Tremouille. She was the sister of the Duke de Bouillon and of Marshal Turrenne, and her name was Marie de la Tour; in Spanish, Maria de la Torre, which a Spanish anagrammatist found to be exactly Amor de la Tierra.

— Urbain Chevreau, cited in Adversaria, Ana and Table Talk, 1869

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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