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WRITING a preface, though it may comprise only a few lines, is often a more perplexing task than composing or compiling the whole of the volume to which it is attached. What does a preface usually convey? Either an apology for presuming to appear in print, with an avowal that the entreaties of private friends have induced the author to face public critics; or some explanation which is essential to the right interpretation of the writer's meaning. I cannot avail myself of either of these general preface constituents; but happily I can say that I am glad to have the opportunity of again greeting my “auld acquaintance,” “the people,” and of assuring them that my sole inducement to publish this volume is a belief that a selection of so pithy and miscellaneous a character as this work, may yield them a degree of the same pleasure in reading that it has afforded me in gathering together.

Most volumes of “ Laconics” contain an undue amount of serious and prosy paragraphs-solidly excellent, I admit, but in my opinion, rather too heavy and monotonous to stimulate those who open them with any continuous interest in the perusal. I have carefully endeavoured to make this collection tolerably attractive and varied; and have sought to condense and revise every sentence culled from the evergreen paths of Intellect and Imagination ; while the delight I experienced in my labour well compensates for the trouble and application bestowed,

Many of the “wise saws and modern instances.” are perfectly original, as also are many of the “Definitions."


Doubtless some readers will meet with an opinion or sentiment objectionable to their particular taste or judgment. I can only beg them graciously to remember that it is very difficult to entirely please all; and if in a literary mélange of this kind there is a fair amount of prominent truth and racy spirit, perhaps the compiler may venture to lay some claims to merciful extenuation of exceptional errors.

My poetry has ever been most kindly received by the public; and I beg to tell them that if anything like a living gem in rhyme has left my pen, the atoms contained in this - Diamond Dust” have greatly contributed to form it. I can only hope that the same elements of gratification which aided me in compiling this volume may carry their influence to the minds of those who honour me by scanning its contents.

November, 1865.


The excellence of aphorisms consists, not so much in the expression of some rare or abstruse sentiment, as in the exhibition of some obvious and useful truth in a few words.

Truth would be more popular with us, if it proposed only to correct the faults of others.

PERFECT valour consists in doing, without witnesses, all we should be capable of doing before the whole world.

WHERE merit exists, do justice to it without scruple. DEATH is simply the soul's change of residence.

The doors of the Temple of Flattery are so low that they can only be entered by crawling.

He who thinks too much of himself will be in danger of being forgotten by the rest of the world.

Those who cry the loudest have usually things of least value to sell.

GUESTS are often invited to witness the ostentation of the host.

The poet yearning after sympathy may at least enjoy one consolation—the thought that many kindred spirits, though unknown to him, know and love him and participate in his sentiments.

We often speak of being settled in life,—we might as well think of casting anchor in the midst of the Atlantic, or talk of the permanent position of a stone that is rolling down hill.

He whom reason rules may be trusted to rule others.

The long morning of Life is spent in making the weapons and the armour which Manhood and Age are to polish and to prove.

WORLDLY joy is a sunflower, which shuts when the gleam of prosperity is over; spiritual joy is an evergreen,-an unfading plant.

, THÈRE is no grief like the grief that does not speak.

Many ways of happiness have been discovered, but all agree there is none so pleasant as loving and being loved.

Truth is a good dog; but beware of barking too close to the heels of an error, lest you get your brains kicked out.

The poet's soul should be like the ocean,-able to carry navies, yet yielding to the touch of a finger.

The wise teacher becomes as the child in part, th in part he may cause the child to become as himself.

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