From Othello (3.3.329-332):
Dangerous conceits are, in their natures, poisons.
Which at the first are scarce found to distaste,
But with a little act upon the blood.
Burn like the mines of Sulphur
And a similar notion, less direly construed – from Tristram Shandy v.2 ch.19:
I mention this, not only as matter of hypothesis or conjecture upon the progress and establishment of my father’s many odd opinions,—but as a warning to the learned reader against the indiscreet reception of such guests, who, after a free and undisturbed entrance, for some years, into our brains,—at length claim a kind of settlement there,——working sometimes like yeast;—but more generally after the manner of the gentle passion, beginning in jest,—but ending in downright earnest.
From Tristram Shandy, for those days wasted in war with bookcases and shelving:
My father, I say, had a way, when things went extremely wrong with him, especially upon the first sally of his impatience,—of wondering why he was begot,—wishing himself dead;—sometimes worse:——And when the provocation ran high, and grief touched his lips with more than ordinary powers—Sir, you scarce could have distinguished him from Socrates himself.——
I rarely get upset. I can’t take anger – mine or anyone’s – seriously. But when, as earlier today, I do get upset, I soon shed it in the same way Walter Shandy shed his grief – by taking so much pleasure in the chance for expression that I forget altogether the cause. From Tristram Shandy (v. 3, ch. 3):
My father managed his affliction otherwise; and indeed differently from most men either ancient or modern; for he neither wept it away, as the Hebrews and the Romans—or slept it off, as the Laplanders—or hanged it, as the English, or drowned it, as the Germans,—nor did he curse it, or damn it, or excommunicate it, or rhyme it, or lillabullero it.——
——He got rid of it, however.
Will your worships give me leave to squeeze in a story between these two pages?
When Tully was bereft of his dear daughter Tullia, at first he laid it to his heart,—he listened to the voice of nature, and modulated his own unto it.—O my Tullia! my daughter! my child!—still, still, still,—’twas O my Tullia!—my Tullia! Methinks I see my Tullia, I hear my Tullia, I talk with my Tullia.—But as soon as he began to look into the stores of philosophy, and consider how many excellent things might be said upon the occasion—no body upon earth can conceive, says the great orator, how happy, how joyful it made me.
My father was as proud of his eloquence as MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO could be for his life, and, for aught I am convinced of to the contrary at present, with as much reason: it was indeed his strength—and his weakness too.——His strength—for he was by nature eloquent; and his weakness—for he was hourly a dupe to it; and, provided an occasion in life would but permit him to shew his talents, or say either a wise thing, a witty, or a shrewd one—(bating the case of a systematic misfortune)—he had all he wanted.—A blessing which tied up my father’s tongue, and a misfortune which let it loose with a good grace, were pretty equal: sometimes, indeed, the misfortune was the better of the two; for instance, where the pleasure of the harangue was as ten, and the pain of the misfortune but as five—my father gained half in half, and consequently was as well again off, as if it had never befallen him.
The basis for Walter Shandy’s Ass – from St. Jerome’s Life of Hilarion (5th paragraph):
[Satan] therefore tickled his senses and, as is his wont, lighted in his maturing body the fires of lust. This mere beginner in Christ’s school was forced to think of what he knew not, and to revolve whole trains of thought concerning that of which he had no experience. Angry with himself and beating his bosom (as if with the blow of his hand he could shut out his thoughts) “Ass!” he exclaimed, “I’ll stop your kicking, I will not feed you with barley, but with chaff. I will weaken you with hunger and thirst, I will lade you with heavy burdens, I will drive you through heat and cold, that you may think more of food than wantonness.”
Titillabat itaque sensus eius, et pubescenti corpori solita voluptatum incendia suggerebat. Cogebatur tirunculus Christi cogitare quod nesciebat, et eius rei animo pompam volvere, cuius experimenta non noverat. Iratus itaque sibi, et pectus pugnis verberans (quasi cogitationes caede manus posset excludere): Ergo, inquit, aselle, faciam, ut non calcitres: nec te hordeo alam, sed paleis. Fame te conficiam et siti: gravi onerabo pendere, per aestus indagabo et frigora, ut cibum potius quam lasciviam cogites.
From Tristram Shandy. I will for tomorrow find the quote referenced, which Sterne likely took from Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and Burton in his turn from Saint Jerome’s Life of Hilarion
If any thing in this world, which my father said, could have provoked my uncle Toby, during the time he was in love, it was the perverse use my father was always making of an expression of Hilarion the hermit; who, in speaking of his abstinence, his watchings, flagellations, and other instrumental parts of his religion—would say—tho’ with more facetiousness than became an hermit—’That they were the means he used, to make his ass (meaning his body) leave off kicking.’
It pleased my father well; it was not only a laconick way of expressing—but of libelling, at the same time, the desires and appetites of the lower part of us; so that for many years of my father’s life, ’twas his constant mode of expression—he never used the word passions once—but ass always instead of them—So that he might be said truly, to have been upon the bones, or the back of his own ass, or else of some other man’s, during all that time.
From Sir Leslie Stephen’s essay on Sir Thomas Browne in Hours in a Library (first essay in vol. 2 of my 4 vol. edition – a different one is on Gutenberg):
A mind endowed with an insatiable curiosity as to all things knowable and unknowable; an imagination which tinges with poetical hues the vast accumulation of incoherent facts thus stored in a capacious memory; and a strangely vivid humour that is always detecting the quaintest analogies, and, as it were, striking light from the most unexpected collocations of uncompromising materials: such talents are by themselves enough to provide a man with work for life, and to make all his work delightful. To them, moreover, we must add a disposition absolutely incapable of controversial bitterness; ‘a constitution,’ as he says of himself, ‘so general that it consorts and sympathises with all things;’ an absence of all antipathies to loathsome objects in nature, for all theological systems; an admiration even of our natural enemies, the French, the Spaniards, the Italians, and the Dutch; a love of all climates, of all countries; and, in short, an utter incapacity to ‘absolutely detest or hate any essence except the devil.’ … A man so endowed … is admirably qualified to discover one great secret of human happiness. No man was ever better prepared to keep not only one, but a whole stableful of hobbies, nor more certain to ride them so as to amuse himself, without loss of temper or dignity, and without rude collisions against his neighbours. That happy art is given to few, and thanks to his skill in it, Sir Thomas reminds us strongly of the two illustrious brothers Shandy combined in one person. To the exquisite kindliness and simplicity of Uncle Toby he unites the omnivorous intellectual appetite and the humorous pedantry of the head of the family.