Commonplace vs. Common Sense

Henry Felton, A Dissertation on the Classics (1710):

The first is, that your lordship should never be persuaded into what they call Common-Places, which is a Way of taking an Author to Pieces, and ranging him under proper Heads, that You may readily find what he hath said upon any Point, by consulting an Alphabet. This practice is of no Use but in Circumstantials of Time and Place, Custom, and Antiquity, and in such Instances where Facts are to be remembered, not where the Brain is to be exercised. In these Cases it is of great Use: It Helpeth the Memory, and serveth to keep those Things in a Sort of Order and Succession.

But, my Lord, Common-Placing the Sense of an Author, is such a stupid Undertaking, that, if I may be indulged in saying it they want Common Sense that practice it. What Heaps of this Rubbish have I seen! O the Pains and Labour to record what other People have said, that is taken by those, who have Nothing to say themselves! Your Lordship may depend upon it, the Writings of these Men are never worth the Reading; the Fancy is cramp’d, the Invention spoiled, their Thoughts on every Thing are prevented, if they think at all; but ‘tis the peculiar Happiness of these Collectors of Sense, that they can write without Thinking.

I do most readily agree, that all the bright sparkling Thoughts of the Ancients; their finest Expressions, and noblest Sentiments, are to be met with in these Transcribers: But how wretchedly are they brought in, how miserably put together! Indeed, my Lord, I can compare such Productions to nothing but rich Pieces of Patchwork, sewed together with Packthread.

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