"Nothing Is Little To Him That Feels It With Great Sensibility"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In 1751, Giuseppe Baretti (1719-1789), an Italian language teacher, writer, and lexicographer, came to London and made the acquaintance of Dr. Johnson. Their friendship continued until Johnson's death; and on a number of occasions when Baretti returned to the Continent, Johnson wrote him cordial letters to keep him abreast of the London scene. In this instance Johnson tells Baretti of the activities of some of their mutual friends and devotes a substantial portion of the letter to a melancholy account of his disappointment at changes he discovered when he recently returned to his native Lichfield. He inquires whether Baretti has not also been disappointed upon his return to Milan or "whether time has made any alteration for the better." Men, he writes, borrow happiness from hope, but frequently the hope ends in disappointment. Musing on the effect of everyday things on the meditative mind, Johnson remarks:

Moral sentences appear ostentatious and tumid, when they have no greater occasions than the journey of a wit to his own town: yet such pleasures and such pains make up the general mass of life; and as nothing is little to him that feels it with great sensibility, a mind able to see common incidents in their real state, is disposed by very common incidents to very serious contemplations.