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ternity. For this, two reasons may be given. Proverbs are founded on nature ; and as nature and man are generally uniform, it is no wonder that different people, under similar circumstances, have come to similar conclusions. Another reason is, their short and portable form, which adapted them for communication from one nation to another.
The exposition of “ Ancient Pastimes, Cusa TOMS," &c. which forms the second part, was necessary to elucidate the proverbs: one exhibits the mind; the other, the living manners of the period. In this portion of the work, I chiefly relied on Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the People, Brand's Observations on Popular Antiquities, and the voluminous works of Grose.
“ VULGAR ERRORS” form the third subject, and complete the picture of the olden time: these I chiefly collected from Sir Thomas Browne's Inquiry into Common and Vulgar Errors, Fovargue's Catalogue of Vulgar Errors, and Barrington's Observations on the Ancient Statutes.
At the conclusion is placed, under a different arrangement, an “ Analysis of the Wisdom of the Ancients, and of the Fathers of the Church :" we have thus the wisdom of the people derived from experience, to contrast with the wisdom of
the Schools, of Poets, Philosophers, and the Founders of the Christian faith. The intention is, to form a Supplemental volume on the “ Wisdom of the Moderns,” including the beauties, ranged aphoristically, of the most celebrated writers, from the period of the revival of learning to the present time.
The work will then be complete, condensing, in a small compass, the essence of universal knowtedge, natural and acquired.
PROVERBS are the book of life, the salt of knowledge, and the gatherings of ages. Like pebbles smoothed by the flood, they have flowed down the stream of time, divested of extraneous matter, rounded into harmonious couplets, or clenched into useful maxims. Less ornate and redundant than the productions of modern literature; they are far more instructive: they are the manual of practical wisdom compiled from the school of experience; and their precepts, as the actual results of real life, circumstance, and occasion, are far preferable to the erring deductions of the speculative inquirer.
From the antiquity of PROVERBS, they may be defined the primitive language of mankind, in which knowledge was preserved, prior to the invention of letters. In the early stages of society, its progress is retarded by three causes: the scarcity of words to express ideas; the feebleness of memory, from the absence oî intellectual exertion; and the want of a durable character, by which the discoveries of one generation may be retained and transmitted to another. Proverbs are well adapted for removing these first obstacles to improvement: by a figurative expression, they supply the place of verbal description; their brevity is an aid to memory; while, by being connected with local circumstances and surrounding objects, they form a visible type, in which passing occurrences and observations may be recorded. Accordingly, we find
that all nations have had recourse to aphoristic language, and doubtless it was in this style the first knowledge of the world, its laws, morals, husbandry, and observations on the weather, were preserved. *
It would be an error, however, to suppose that popular adages comprise only the vulgar philosophy of the people, since the highest sources of human intelligence have contributed to the great intellectual reservoir. In the verses of poets, in the classic historians of Greece and Rome, in the sayings of philosophers and great statesmen, in the responses of oracles, the maxims of the Eastern magi and sages, the learning of the Chinese and Hindoos, the writings of the Fathers and Schoolmen, and those of later date, we often detect the germ of those ancient thoughts which now circulate under the humble guise of an old saying. There is scarcely a celebrated name from the days of Hesiod, who has not added to the great mass of aphoristic literature. It is a treasure constantly accumulating; as the world grows older, the proverbial avalanche augments in bulk, till at length it will comprise a brief abstract of the wisdom of all ages, from the beginning to the end of time. To describe proverbs as only the remains of an ancient philosophy” is much too limited; they are the fruits of all philosophy, ancient and modern : what was formerly a bright thought, or apposite allusion, consecrated to the learned, becomes, in process of time, the common property of the people. We thus see the generation of proverbs, and how the wisdom of poets and philosophers becomes the every-day wisdom of the populace, divested only of the redundancy of the original. Our own age will, doubt
less, contribute to the general stock, leaving behind an aphoristic deposit, characteristic of the manners and genius of the times, and requiring the aid of future paræmiographers to collect and elucidate.
In this view of the subject, proverbial literature becomes a most interesting subject of inquiry, not only from the antiquity of its origin, but as the ground-work of human knowledge, and great storehouse of facts and experience. With the exception, however, of Mr. D’IsRAELI, scarcely a writer of celebrity has deemed the. philosophy of proverbs worthy of investigation. Men of letters have been more intent on cultivating the barren field of “ points and particles,"—of words and sounds —the mere instruments of thought; while the thoughts themselves, clothed in the most ancient costume, have been comparatively neglected. I will endeavour, in some degree, to supply this omission.
The first point of view in which the OLD SAYINGS are interesting, is from the light they throw on the history of nations. From the proverbs of a people, we may learn the chief peculiarities in their moral and physical state—not only their “ wit, spirit, and intelligence," as Lord Bacon observes, but their customs, domestic avocations, and natural scenery. How easy it is, for example, to collect the condition of the ancient Gäel from their short sayings and apothegms—that they were a melancholic people, simple, superstitious—and living enveloped in mountains and mist. Scotland is, in like manner, embodied in her popular sayings. The Scottish proverbs exceed those of any nation, in number, point, humour, and shrewdness. They are figura