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Over this cover is a loose paper jacket on which is written, “Extracts made by James Madison in 1759, M. How she acquired the “Commonplace Book” is unknown, but it may have been given to her by Dolley Madison as a memento, following JM’s death. Unwilling to charge JM with mistakenly writing “1759” for “1769,” they are driven to the surmise that he was merely recording when he received the notebook as a Christmas gift. 3 and 24, below) that JM copied at least some of his notes from rough jottings made earlier; and hence the sequence of material may not necessarily indicate the order in which he did the reading. When our Taste happens to change, it is not owing to Argument or Persuasion, but to some Physical Alteration in our Bodies, or to some prevailing & aspiring Passion of the mind. 49.90 Sometimes we impute to an unlucky or cross Accident those chagrins, whose origin is entirely in the intemperature of our humours or in some disposition of the Air that oppresses our Machine. An Englishman receiving Sentence of Death, appears with less agitation than an Italian condemned to a small pecuniary fine. This twenty-four-page notebook has a rough, brown-paper cover. Cutts, a daughter of Dolley Madison’s sister, Anna, was a favorite niece of the Madisons. Although the present editors cannot convincingly explain why JM wrote that date, they cannot agree with her interpretation of its significance. 86 Suppose two Men equally Ingenius & Skillful, of whom one has had a Regular Education, & the other has acquired his Skill by the dint of his own Labour; the former is more capable than the latter to communicate his Knowledge to another. Snodgrass.87 Nothing makes one say & commit so many Silly things as the desire of appearing witty. 24.89 The Passion we have for one kind of Painting or Poetry more than for another arises not from reason but from Taste, & our Taste depends on the organization of our bodies & the dispositions or situations of our Minds. That which is sufficient to move an Italian makes no Impression upon an Englishman.
At the top of the first page of the notes, JM wrote “Dec. 1759,” a date falling within his ninth year of age. p 8.21 There are times when some Persons are ever in the right. These affect us most, who are most affected themselves.78 If a Rope-dancer dances on a Rope, a foot or two from the Ground, he will not move us so much as if he danced a dozen or 20 foot from the ground.79 C. It should seem that Ca[e]sar excell’d Cicero in the Art of Persuasion.80 Those pieces, which move our Passions, please us more, than those wch. It seems more difficult to keep up a correspondance with the mind than with the Heart. One says smartly that Heroes Valet[s] a Chambres are the greatest Enemies to the[ir] Glory. 2084 The Strongest & Soundest Minds often possess the weakest & most sickly bodies. Locke.85 —— says, she has had a Melancholy Christmas, having been at two Burials. The French are much addicted to Grimace.94 The British Climate more than any other, requires such Entertainmts.
On the one hand, there are nearly accurate transcriptions of poetry from two magazines, and, on the other, notes upon selections from three fairly difficult books, supplemented by JM’s comments and other interpolations. The Arts of Poetry & Painting are neve[r] more applauded than when they are most successful in moving us to Pity. ().77 At an Assembly, we take notice of those Gamesters who play highest, rather than those who play best. As Heaviness (Tedium vitae) is more burthensome & disagreeable than Ignorance, we prefer the Pleasure of being moved to that of being instructed. 9.81 The mind has but an imperfect Notion of Passions wch. The Heart attains to its full strength much earlier than the Mind; & it is almost impossible, methinks, for a Man of 25 Years of Age not to have felt all those Passions, of which his constitution can be Sensible. 17.82 No Man deserves our admiration unless he be viewed at a certain Distance. The French are wiser than they seem, & the Spaniards seem wiser than they are. Ess.93 Englishmen go to France for their finishing stroke of Breeding.
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This manuscript volume is in part a copybook and in part a notebook, all written by JM in his youth with the exception of the final six lines. 13.23 Patience works greater Effects than Activity. But that Liberty should be used with extreme caution; because nothing justifies it but Success; for which who can be answerable? Mark how it Rises:—Yon’ tall Mountain Shrouds Its height in Heaven, & tow’rs above the Clouds. For me the Wheat’s fat Kidneys crown the Plains And mine’s the Blood the mellow Grape contains. ’Tis the art of moving men, as one Pleases; An Art that is acquired chiefly by a person’s seeming to be moved & penetrated with those very Sentiments he intends to inspire.