"When You Have Nothing To Say, Say Nothing"
Context: The Spartans who lived in Laconia, Greece, were legendary for their simplicity. Their Council turned down the plea of Athens for help against a foreign invader because it came in the form of an hour-long oration. "Those people talk too much," was their decision. And the threat of Philip of Macedon (382–333 B.C.), "If I enter Laconia, I shall level Lacedaemon to the ground," was answered by the laconic magistrates in a single word: "If." Brevity, the soul of wit, has also been much admired in England. The editor of Punch uttered a famous admonition: "To those thinking about marriage–DON'T." Charles C. Colton, a student at Cambridge University and later canon of Salisbury, could be verbose, as in his Plain and Authentic Narrative of the Sampford Ghost (1810), and as he threatened to be when starting Hypocrisy, a Satire in Three Books (1812), but he caught himself in time and completed only one of the volumes. He was inspired by the publication of Materials for Thinking (1812) by William Burdon (1764–1818) to make use of his own reading of Bacon's Essays and his musings as a famous fisherman, to assemble a collection of edifying aphorisms to which he gave the title Lacon because of the conciseness of its contents. It was a small book that could be tucked into a pocket. Its subtitle, "Many things in few words addressed to those who think," increased its sale to would-be intellectuals so that six editions were sold out by the end of 1821. By 1824 it had enjoyed nineteen editions. A New York publisher, S. Marks, that year issued a reprint of the eighth edition. Colton assembled a second volume which, unfortunately, suffered from the weaknesses of sequels. However, both volumes have been reprinted, both together in 1866. Here is a sampling:
CLXXXIIThose missionaries who embark for India, like some other reformers, begin at the wrong end. They ought first to convert to practical christianity, those of their own countrymen who have crossed the Pacific, on a very different mission, to acquire money by every kind of rapine abroad, in order to squander it in every kind of revelry at home. But example is more powerful than precept, and the poor Hindoo is not slow in discovering how very unlike the Christians he sees, are to that christianity of which he hears.CLXXXIIIWhen you have nothing to say, say nothing; a weak defence strengthens your opponent, and silence is less injurious than a bad reply.CLXXXIVWe know the effects of many things, but the causes of few; experience, therefore, is a surer guide than imagination, and inquiry than conjecture. But those physical difficulties which you cannot account for, be very slow to arraign, for he that would be wiser than nature, would be wiser than God.