RichardWhatelyIt is chiefly in such foggy forms that the metaphysics and theology of Germany, for instance, are exercising a greater influence every day on popular literature. It has been zealously instilled into the minds of many, that Germany has something far more profound to supply than anything hitherto extant in our native literature; though what that profound something is, seems not to be well understood by its admirers. They are, most of them, willing to take it for granted, with an implicit faith, that what seems such hard thinking must be very accurate and original thinking also. What is abstruse and recondite they suppose must be abstruse and recondite wisdom; though, perhaps, it is what, if stated in plain English, they would throw aside as partly trifling truisms, and partly stark folly.

It is a remark that I have heard highly applauded, that a clear idea is generally a little idea, for there are not a few persons who estimate the depth of thought as an unskilful eye would estimate the depth of water. Muddy water is apt to be supposed deeper than it is, because you cannot see to the bottom; very clear water, on the contrary, will always seem less deep than it is, both from the well-known law of refraction, and also because it is so thoroughly penetrated by the sight.

Richard Whately, ed., Bacon’s Essays (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1856), p. ix.