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It is generally supposed that where there is no QUOTATION, there will be found most originality. Our writers usually furnish their pages rapidly with the productions of their own soil: they run up a quickset hedge, or plant a poplar, and get trees and hedges of this fashion much faster than the former landlords procured their timber. The greater part of our writers, in consequence, have become so original, that no one cares to imitate them; and those who never quote, in return are seldom quoted!

This is one of the results of that adventurous spirit which is now stalking forth and raging for its own innovations. We have not only rejected AUTHORITY, but have also cast away EXPERIENCE; and often the unburthened vessel is driving to all parts of the compass, and the passengers no longer know whither they are going. The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by QUOTATION.

It seems, however, agreed, that no one would quote if he could think; and it is not imagined that the well-read may quote from the delicacy of their taste, and the fulness of their knowledge. Whatever is felicitously expressed risks being worse expressed: it is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us. We quote to save proving what has been demonstrated, referring to where the proofs may be found. We quote to screen ourselves from the odium of doubtful opinions, which the world would not willingly accept from ourselves; and we may quote from the curiosity which only a quotation itself can give, when in our own words it would be divested of that tint of ancient phrase, that detail of narrative, and that naivete which we have for ever lost, and which we like to recollect once had an existence.

The ancients, who in these matters were not, perhaps, such blockheads as some may conceive, considered poetical quotation as one of the requisite ornaments of oratory. Cicero, even in his philosophical works, is as little sparing of quotations as Plutarch. Old Montaigne is so stuffed with them, that he owns, if they were taken out of him little of himself would remain; and yet this never injured that original turn which the old Gascon has given to his thoughts. I suspect that Addison hardly ever composed a Spectator which was not founded on some quotation, noted in those three folio manuscript volumes which he previously collected; and Addison lasts, while Steele, who always wrote from first impressions and to the times, with perhaps no inferior genius, has passed away, insomuch that Dr. Beattie once considered that he was obliging the world by collecting Addison’s papers, and carefully omitting Steele’s.

Quotation, like much better things, has its abuses. One may quote till one compiles. The ancient lawyers used to quote at the bar till they had stagnated their own cause. “Retournons a nos moutons,” was the cry of the client. But these vagrant prowlers must be consigned to the beadles of criticism. Such do not always understand the authors whose names adorn their barren pages, and which are taken, too, from the third or the thirtieth hand. Those who trust to such false quoters will often learn how contrary this transmission is to the sense and the application of the original. Every transplantation has altered the fruit of the tree; every new channel the quality of the stream in its remove from the spring-head. Bayle, when writing on “Comets,” discovered this; for having collected many things applicable to his work, as they stood quoted in some modern writers, when he came to compare them with their originals, he was surprised to find that they were nothing for his purpose! the originals conveyed a quite contrary sense to that of the pretended quoters, who often, from innocent blundering, and sometimes from purposed deception, had falsified their quotations. This is an useful story for second-hand authorities!