Genius is that quality or character of the mind which is inventive, or generates; which gives to the world new ideas in science, art, literature, morals, or religion, which recognizes no set rules or principles, but is a law unto itself, and rejoices in its own originality; which admitting of a direction, never follows the old beaten track, but strikes out for a new course; which has no fears of public opinion, nor leans upon public favor – always leads but never follows, which admits no truth unless convinced by experiment, reflection, or investigation, and never bows to the ipse dixit of any man, or society, or creed.
Talent is that power or capacity of mind which reasons rapidly from cause to effect; which sees through a thing at a glance, and comprehends the rules and principles upon which it works; which can take in knowledge without laborious mental study, and needs no labored illustrations to impress a principle or a fact, no matter how abstruse, hidden, complex, or intricate. Differing from genius by following rules and principles, but capable of comprehending the works of genius – imitating with ease, and thereby claiming a certain kind of originality, talent is the able, comprehensive agent while genius is the master director.
Haines and Yaggy
So it’s by talent- and a measure of practice- that I understand this, and it’s by genius that I immediately know I that for should contrast the arts in which my talents are most obvious and the sciences by which my genius is most frequently inspired.
I remember Scott Adams rediscovering this ex nihilo in a Wall Street Journal op-ed a couple of years ago.
My most recent and perhaps most pressing idea for a writing project happens to follow quite neatly from the accompanying postulate:
Hath God given you genius and learning? It was not that you might amuse or deck yourself with it and kindle a blaze which should only serve to attract and dazzle the eyes of men. It was intended to be the means of leading both yourself and them to the Father of light. And it will be your duty, according to the peculiar turn of that genius and capacity, either to endeavor to promote and adorn human life, or, by a more direct application of it to divine subjects, to plead the cause of religion, to defend its truths, to enforce and recommend its practice, to deter men from courses which would be dishonorable to God and fatal to themselves, and to try the utmosts efforts of all the solemnity and tenderness with which you can clothe your addresses, to lead them into the paths of virtue and happiness.