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"Imitation Is The Sincerest Of Flattery"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Charles Caleb Colton, an English clergyman, sportsman, and wine merchant, was also the author of two volumes of aphorisms published as Lacon; or Many Things in Few Words Addressed to Those Who Think. In the preface the author quite frankly acknowledges his purpose to be moral, his method to be the combination of "profundity with perspicuity, wit with judgment, solidity with vivacity, truth with novelty, and all of them with liberality." The need for moral instruction is obvious, he declares, when one observes how remarkable the age is for "good reasoning and bad conduct, for sound rules and corrupt manners, when virtue fills our heads, but vice our hearts." A recurrent theme is the nature of flattery. Colton writes, for instance: "Adroit observers will find, that some who affect to dislike flattery, may yet be flattered indirectly, by a well seasoned abuse and ridicule of their rivals" (p. 59). In another instance, he quips: "There is a very cunning flattery, which great minds sometimes pay themselves, by condescending to admire efforts corresponding with, but vastly inferior to their own" (p. 348). With even stronger scorn, he notes: "Flattery is often a traffic of mutual meanness, where, although both parties intend deception, neither are [sic] deceived" (p. 439). A more tolerant view provides one of his best-known maxims. He writes:

Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.