Aphorisms by John Lyly

John Lyly was born in Kent in 1553 or 1554. He was a student of Magdalen College, Oxford and in 1579 published Euphues, or the Anatomy of Wit, which became one of the very first bestsellers. Euphues is the story of the eponymous hero as he falls in love, betrays his friend to win the girl, then loses the girl to another man, all the while discoursing in high Renaissance style of the relationship between wit and wisdom. The book introduced the literary fad of euphuism (not to be confused with euphemism), the ornate, embellished, verbose style pioneered by Lyly. An euphuism is typically overly-long but also strangely beautiful. If you took a page of euphuistic prose, brought it to a low boil, and let it simmer overnight, you would wake up with an aphorism.Lyly did just that, as these aphorism from Euphues, or the Anatomy of Wit attest:

Things of greatest profit are set forth with least price.

Envy braggeth but draweth no blood, the malicious have more mind to grip than might to cut.

In all perfect shapes a blemish bringeth rather a liking every way to the eyes than a loathing any way to the mind.

That wit is the better if it be the dearer bought.

Is not he accounted most wise whom other men’s harms do make most wary?

A fine wit, a sharp sense, a quick understanding, is able to attain to more in a moment or a very little space than a dull and blockish head in a month.

As the sea-crab swimmeth always against the stream, so wit always striveth against wisdom; and as the bee is oftentimes hurt with her own honey, so is wit not seldom plagued with his own conceit.

The vine water with wine is soon withered … yea, man the more witty he is the less happy he is.

The blind man doth eat many a fly.

They commonly are soonest believed that are best loved, and they liked best whom we have known longest.

Sloth turneth the edge of wit, study sharpeneth the mind; a thing be it ever so easy is hard to the idle, a thing be it never so hard is easy to the wit well employed.