johnson and blake on generalization

“Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature. Particular manners can be known to few, and therefore few only can judge how nearly they are copied. The irregular combinations of fanciful invention may delight awhile, by that novelty of which the common satiety of life sends us all in quest: but the pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted, and the mind can only repose on the stability of truth.”

Samuel Johnson, Preface to Shakespeare (1755)

“What is general nature? Is there such a thing? What is general knowledge? Is there such a thing? Strictly speaking all knowledge is particular.”

“To generalize is to be an idiot. To particularize is the alone distinction of merit. General knowledges are those knowledges that idiots possess.”

William Blake, On Reynolds (1798)

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