Friday, October 25, 2013

Bagehot, Babbage, La Rochefoucauld

A visit to Carpe Librum turned up a Folio paperback of La Rochefoucauld, and about the first dip into it showed me the maxim that the Gutenberg Project's version gives as
304.--We may forgive those who bore us, we cannot forgive those whom we bore.
 Quite so, but something about the form of it brought to mind a passage of Bagehot's in his remarks on Sidney Smith:
A great deal of excellent research has been spent on the difference between "humour" and "wit", into which metaphysical problem "our limits", of course, forbid us to enter. There is, however, between them, the distinction of dry sticks and green sticks; there is in humour a living energy, a diffused potency, a noble sap; it grows upon the character of the humorist. Wit is part of the machinery of the intellect; as Madame de Stael says, "La gaiete de l'esprit est facile a tous les hommes d'esprit". We wonder Mr. Babbage does not invent a punning-engine; it is just as possible as a calculating one.
("The First Edinburgh Reviewers", collected in Literary Studies)

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