Eclectic School Readings: Stories from Life
by Orison Swett Marden
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To make a life, as well as to make a living, is one of the supreme objects for which we must all struggle. The sooner we realize what this means, the greater and more worthy will be the life which we shall make.

In putting together the brief life stories and incidents from great lives which make up the pages of this little volume, the writer's object has been to show young people that, no matter how humble their birth or circumstances, they may make lives that will be held up as examples to future generations, even as these stories show how boys, handicapped by poverty and the most discouraging surroundings, yet succeeded so that they are held up as models to the boys of to-day.

No boy or girl can learn too early in life the value of time and the opportunities within reach of the humblest children of the twentieth century to enable them to make of themselves noble men and women.

The stories here presented do not claim to be more than mere outlines of the subjects chosen, enough to show what brave souls in the past, souls animated by loyalty to God and to their best selves, were able to accomplish in spite of obstacles of which the more fortunately born youths of to-day can have no conception.

It should never be forgotten, however, in the strivings of ambition, that, while every one should endeavor to raise himself to his highest power and to attain to as exalted and honorable a position as his abilities entitle him to, his first object should be to make a noble life.

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Miss Margaret Connolly in the preparation of this volume.






For the structure that we raise, Time is with materials filled; Our to-days and yesterdays Are the blocks with which we build.


To-day! To-day! It is ours, with all its magic possibilities of being and doing. Yesterday, with its mistakes, misdeeds, lost opportunities, and failures, is gone forever. With the morrow we are not immediately concerned. It is but a promise yet to be fulfilled. Hidden behind the veil of the future, it may dimly beckon us, but it is yet a shadowy, unsubstantial vision, one that we, perhaps, never may realize. But to-day, the Here, the Now, that dawned upon us with the first hour of the morn, is a reality, a precious possession upon the right use of which may depend all our future of happiness and success, or of misery and failure; for

"This day we fashion Destiny, our web of Fate we spin."

Lest he should forget that Time's wings are swift and noiseless, and so rapidly bear our to-days to the Land of Yesterday, John Ruskin, philosopher, philanthropist, and tireless worker though he was, kept constantly before his eyes on his study table a large, handsome block of chalcedony, on which was graven the single word "To-day." Every moment of this noble life was enriched by the right use of each passing moment.

A successful merchant, whose name is well-known throughout our country, very tersely sums up the means by which true success may be attained. "It is just this," he says: "Do your best every day, whatever you have in hand."

This simple rule, if followed in sunshine and in storm, in days of sadness as well as days of gladness, will rear for the builder a Palace Beautiful more precious than pearls of great price, more enduring than time.


A picturesque, as well as pathetic figure, was Henry Clay, the little "Mill Boy of the Slashes," as he rode along on the old family horse to Mrs. Darricott's mill. Blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and bare-footed, clothed in coarse shirt and trousers, and a time-worn straw hat, he sat erect on the bare back of the horse, holding, with firm hand, the rope which did duty as a bridle. In front of him lay the precious sack, containing the grist which was to be ground into meal or flour, to feed the hungry mouths of the seven little boys and girls who, with the widowed mother, made up the Clay family.

It required a good deal of grist to feed so large a family, especially when hoecake was the staple food, and it was because of his frequent trips to the mill, across the swampy region called the "Slashes," that Henry was dubbed by the neighbors "The Mill Boy of the Slashes."

The lad was ambitious, however, and, very early in life, made up his mind that he would win for himself a more imposing title. He never dreamed of winning world-wide renown as an orator, or of exchanging his boyish sobriquet for "The Orator of Ashland." But he who forms high ideals in youth usually far outstrips his first ambition, and Henry had "hitched his wagon to a star."

This awkward country boy, who was so bashful, and so lacking in self-confidence that he hardly dared recite before his class in the log schoolhouse, DETERMINED TO BECOME AN ORATOR.

Henry Clay, the brilliant lawyer and statesman, the American Demosthenes who could sway multitudes by his matchless oratory, once said, "In order to succeed a man must have a purpose fixed, then let his motto be VICTORY OR DEATH." When Henry Clay, the poor country boy, son of an unknown Baptist minister, made up his mind to become an orator, he acted on this principle. No discouragement or obstacle was allowed to swerve him from his purpose. Since the death of his father, when the boy was but five years old, he had carried grist to the mill, chopped wood, followed the plow barefooted, clerked in a country store,—did everything that a loving son and brother could do to help win a subsistence for the family.

In the midst of poverty, hard work, and the most pitilessly unfavorable conditions, the youth clung to his resolve. He learned what he could at the country schoolhouse, during the time the duties of the farm permitted him to attend school. He committed speeches to memory, and recited them aloud, sometimes in the forest, sometimes while working in the cornfield, and frequently in a barn with a horse and an ox for his audience.

In his fifteenth year he left the grocery store where he had been clerking to take a position in the office of the clerk of the High Court of Chancery. There he became interested in law, and by reading and study began at once to supplement the scanty education of his childhood. To such good purpose did he use his opportunities that in 1797, when only twenty years old, he was licensed by the judges of the court of appeals to practice law.

When he moved from Richmond to Lexington, Kentucky, the same year to begin practice for himself, he had no influential friends, no patrons, and not even the means to pay his board. Referring to this time years afterward, he said, "I remember how comfortable I thought I should be if I could make one hundred pounds Virginia money (less than five hundred dollars) per year; and with what delight I received the first fifteen-shilling fee."

Contrary to his expectations, the young lawyer had "immediately rushed into a lucrative practice." At the age of twenty-seven he was elected to the Kentucky legislature. Two years later he was sent to the United States Senate to fill out the remainder of the term of a senator who had withdrawn. In 1811 he was elected to Congress, and made Speaker of the national House of Representatives. He was afterward elected to the United States Senate in the regular way.

Both in Congress and in the Senate Clay always worked for what he believed to be the best interests of his country. Ambition, which so often causes men to turn aside from the paths of truth and honor, had no power to tempt him to do wrong. He was ambitious to be president, but would not sacrifice any of his convictions for the sake of being elected. Although he was nominated by his party three times, he never became president. It was when warned by a friend that if he persisted in a certain course of political conduct he would injure his prospects of being elected, that he made his famous statement, "I would rather be right than be president."

Clay has been described by one of his biographers as "a brilliant orator, an honest man, a charming gentleman, an ardent patriot, and a leader whose popularity was equaled only by that of Andrew Jackson."

Although born in a state in which wealth and ancient ancestry were highly rated, he was never ashamed of his birth or poverty. Once when taunted by the aristocratic John Randolph with his lowly origin, he proudly exclaimed, "I was born to no proud paternal estate. I inherited only infancy, ignorance, and indigence."

He was born in Hanover County, Virginia, on April 12, 1777, and died in Washington, June 29, 1852. With only the humble inheritance which he claimed—"infancy, ignorance, and indigence"—Henry Clay made himself a name that wealth and a long line of ancestry could never bestow.


The teeming life of the streets has vanished; the voices of the children have died away into silence; the artisan has dropped his tools, the artist has laid aside his brush, the sculptor his chisel. Night has spread her wings over the scene. The queen city of Greece is wrapped in slumber.

But, in the midst of that hushed life, there is one who sleeps not, a worshiper at the shrine of art, who feels neither fatigue nor hardship, and fears not death itself in the pursuit of his object. With the fire of genius burning in his dark eyes, a youth works with feverish haste on a group of wondrous beauty.

But why is this master artist at work, in secret, in a cellar where the sun never shone, the daylight never entered? I will tell you. Creon, the inspired worker, the son of genius, is a slave, and the penalty of pursuing his art is death.

When the Athenian law debarring all but freemen from the exercise of art was enacted, Creon was at work trying to realize in marble the vision his soul had created. The beautiful group was growing into life under his magic touch when the cruel edict struck the chisel from his fingers.

"O ye gods!" groans the stricken youth, "why have ye deserted me, now, when my task is almost completed? I have thrown my soul, my very life, into this block of marble, and now—"

Cleone, the beautiful dark-haired sister of the sculptor, felt the blow as keenly as her brother, to whom she was utterly devoted. "O immortal Athene! my goddess, my patron, at whose shrine I have daily laid my offerings, be now my friend, the friend of my brother!" she prayed.

Then, with the light of a new-born resolve shining in her eyes, she turned to her brother, saying:—

"The thought of your brain shall live. Let us go to the cellar beneath our house. It is dark, but I will bring you light and food, and no one will discover our secret. You can there continue your work; the gods will be our allies."

It is the golden age of Pericles, the most brilliant epoch of Grecian art and dramatic literature.

The scene is one of the most memorable that has ever been enacted within the proud city of Athens.

In the Agora, the public assembly or market place, are gathered together the wisdom and wit, the genius and beauty, the glory and power, of all Greece.

Enthroned in regal state sits Pericles, president of the assembly, soldier, statesman, orator, ruler, and "sole master of Athens." By his side sits his beautiful partner, the learned and queenly Aspasia. Phidias, one of the greatest sculptors, if not the greatest the world has known, who "formed a new style characterized by sublimity and ideal beauty," is there. Near him is Sophocles, the greatest of the tragic poets. Yonder we catch a glimpse of a face and form that offers the most striking contrast to the manly beauty of the poet, but whose wisdom and virtue have brought Athens to his feet. It is the "father of philosophy," Socrates. With his arm linked in that of the philosopher, we see—but why prolong the list? All Greece has been bidden to Athens to view the works of art.

The works of the great masters are there. On every side paintings and statues, marvelous in detail, exquisite in finish, challenge the admiration of the crowd and the criticism of the rival artists and connoisseurs who throng the place. But even in the midst of masterpieces, one group of statuary so far surpasses all the others that it rivets the attention of the vast assembly.

"Who is the sculptor of this group?" demands Pericles. Envious artists look from one to the other with questioning eyes, but the question remains unanswered. No triumphant sculptor comes forward to claim the wondrous creation as the work of his brain and hand. Heralds, in thunder tones, repeat, "Who is the sculptor of this group?" No one can tell. It is a mystery. Is it the work of the gods? or—and, with bated breath, the question passes from lip to lip, "Can it have been fashioned by the hand of a slave?"

Suddenly a disturbance arises at the edge of the crowd. Loud voices are heard, and anon the trembling tones of a woman. Pushing their way through the concourse, two officers drag a shrinking girl, with dark, frightened eyes, to the feet of Pericles. "This woman," they cry, "knows the sculptor; we are sure of this; but she will not tell his name."

Neither threats nor pleading can unlock the lips of the brave girl. Not even when informed that the penalty of her conduct was death would she divulge her secret. "The law," says Pericles, "is imperative. Take the maid to the dungeon."

Creon, who, with his sister, had been among the first to find his way to the Agora that morning, rushed forward, and, flinging himself at the ruler's feet, cried "O Pericles! forgive and save the maid. She is my sister. I am the culprit. The group is the work of my hands, the hands of a slave."

An intense silence fell upon the multitude, and then went up a mighty shout,—"To the dungeon, to the dungeon with the slave."

"As I live, no!" said Pericles, rising. "Not to the dungeon, but to my side bring the youth. The highest purpose of the law should be the development of the beautiful. The gods decide by that group that there is something higher in Greece than an unjust law. To the sculptor who fashioned it give the victor's crown."

And then, amid the applause of all the people, Aspasia placed the crown of olives on the youth's brow, and tenderly kissed the devoted sister who had been the right hand of genius.



David Farragut was acting as cabin boy to his father, who was on his way to New Orleans with the infant navy of the United States. The boy thought he had the qualities that make a man. "I could swear like an old salt," he says, "could drink as stiff a glass of grog as if I had doubled Cape Horn, and could smoke like a locomotive. I was great at cards, and was fond of gambling in every shape. At the close of dinner one day," he continues, "my father turned everybody out of the cabin, locked the door, and said to me, 'David, what do you mean to be?'

"'I mean to follow the sea,' I said.

"'Follow the sea!' exclaimed father, 'yes, be a poor, miserable, drunken sailor before the mast, kicked and cuffed about the world, and die in some fever hospital in a foreign clime!'

"'No, father,' I replied, 'I will tread the quarterdeck, and command as you do.'

"'No, David; no boy ever trod the quarterdeck with such principles as you have and such habits as you exhibit. You will have to change your whole course of life if you ever become a man.'

"My father left me and went on deck. I was stunned by the rebuke, and overwhelmed with mortification. 'A poor, miserable, drunken sailor before the mast, kicked and cuffed about the world, and die in some fever hospital!' 'That's my fate, is it? I'll change my life, and I WILL CHANGE IT AT ONCE. I will never utter another oath, never drink another drop of intoxicating liquor, never gamble,' and, as God is my witness," said the admiral, solemnly, "I have kept these three vows to this hour."


The event which proved David Glasgow Farragut's qualities as a leader happened before he was thirteen.

He was with his adopted father, Captain Porter, on board the Essex, when war was declared with England in 1812. A number of prizes were captured by the Essex, and David was ordered by Captain Porter to take one of the captured vessels, with her commander as navigator, to Valparaiso. Although inwardly quailing before the violent-tempered old captain of the prize ship, of whom, as he afterward confessed, he was really "a little afraid," the boy assumed the command with a fearless air.

On giving his first order, that the "main topsail be filled away," the trouble began. The old captain, furious at hearing a command given aboard his vessel by a boy not yet in his teens, replied to the order, with an oath, that he would shoot any one who dared touch a rope without his orders. Having delivered this mandate, he rushed below for his pistols.

The situation was critical. If the young commander hesitated for a moment, or showed the least sign of submitting to be bullied, his authority would instantly have fallen from him. Boy as he was, David realized this, and, calling one of the crew to him, explained what had taken place, and repeated his order. With a hearty "Aye, aye, sir!" the sailor flew to the ropes, while the plucky midshipman called down to the captain that "if he came on deck with his pistols, he would be thrown overboard."

David's victory was complete. During the remainder of the voyage none dared dispute his authority. Indeed his coolness and promptitude had won for him the lasting admiration of the crew.


The great turning point which placed Farragut at the head of the American navy was reached in 1861, when Virginia seceded from the Union, and he had to choose between the cause of the North and that of the South. He dearly loved his native South, and said, "God forbid that I should have to raise my hand against her," but he determined, come what would, to "stick to the flag."

So it came about that when, in order to secure the control of the Mississippi, the national government resolved upon the capture of New Orleans, Farragut was chosen to lead the undertaking. Several officers, noted for their loyalty, good judgment, and daring, were suggested, but the Secretary of the Navy said, "Farragut is the man."

The opportunity for which all his previous noble life and brilliant services had been a preparation came to him when he was sixty-one years old. The command laid upon him was "the certain capture of the city of New Orleans." "The department and the country," so ran his instructions, "require of you success. ... If successful, you open the way to the sea for the great West, never again to be closed. The rebellion will be riven in the center, and the flag, to which you have been so faithful, will recover its supremacy in every state."

On January 9, 1862, Farragut was appointed to the command of the western gulf blockading squadron. "On February 2," says the National Cyclopedia of American Biograph, "he sailed on the steam sloop Hartford from Hampton Roads, arriving at the appointed rendezvous, Ship Island, in sixteen days. His fleet, consisting of six war steamers, sixteen gunboats, twenty-one mortar vessels, under the command of Commodore David D. Porter, and five supply ships, was the largest that had ever sailed under the American flag. Yet the task assigned him, the passing of the forts below New Orleans, the capture of the city, and the opening of the Mississippi River through its entire length was one of difficulty unprecedented in the history of naval warfare."

Danger or death had no terror for the brave sailor. Before setting out on his hazardous enterprise, he said: "If I die in the attempt, it will only be what every officer has to expect. He who dies in doing his duty to his country, and at peace with his God, has played the drama of life to the best advantage."

The hero did not die. He fought and won the great battle, and thus executed the command laid upon him,—"the certain capture of the city of New Orleans." The victory was accomplished with the loss of but one ship, and 184 men killed and wounded,—"a feat in naval warfare," says his son and biographer, "which has no precedent, and which is still without a parallel, except the one furnished by Farragut himself, two years later, at Mobile."


"Without vision the people perish"

Without a high ideal an individual never climbs. Keep your eyes on the mountain top, and, though you may stumble and fall many times in the ascent, though great bowlders, dense forests, and roaring torrents may often bar the way, look right on, never losing sight of the light which shines away up in the clear atmosphere of the mountain peak, and you will ultimately reach your goal.

When the late Horace Maynard, LL.D., entered Amherst College, he exposed himself to the ridicule and jibing questions of his fellow-students by placing over the door of his room a large square of white cardboard on which was inscribed in bold outlines the single letter "V." Disregarding comment and question, the young man applied himself to his work, ever keeping in mind the height to which he wished to climb, the first step toward which was signified by the mysterious "V."

Four years later, after receiving the compliments of professors and students on the way he had acquitted himself as valedictorian of his class, young Maynard called the attention of his fellow-graduates to the letter over his door. Then a light broke in upon them, and they cried out, "Is it possible that you had the valedictory in mind when you put that 'V' over your door?"

"Assuredly I had," was the emphatic reply.

On he climbed, from height to height, becoming successively professor of mathematics in the University of Tennessee, lawyer, member of Congress, attorney-general of Tennessee, United States minister to Constantinople, and, finally, postmaster-general.

Honorable ambition is the leaven that raises the whole mass of mankind. Ideals, visions, are the stepping-stones by which we rise to higher things.

"Still, through our paltry stir and strife, Glows down the wished ideal, And longing molds in clay what life Carves in the marble real;

"To let the new life in, we know, Desire must ope the portal,— Perhaps the longing to be so Helps make the soul immortal."


He was a famous artist whom kings and queens and emperors delighted to honor. The emperor of all the Russias had sent him an affectionate letter, written by his own hand; the empress, a magnificent emerald ring set with diamonds; the king of his own beloved Norway, who had listened reverently, standing with uncovered head, while he, the king of violinists, played before him, had bestowed upon him the Order of Vasa; the king of Copenhagen presented him with a gold snuffbox, encrusted with diamonds; while, at a public dinner given him by the students of Christiana, he was crowned with a laurel wreath. Not all the thousands who thronged to hear him in London could gain entrance to the concert hall, and in Liverpool he received four thousand dollars for one evening's performance.

Yet the homage of the great ones of the earth, the princely gifts bestowed upon him, the admiration of the thousands who hung entranced on every note breathed by his magic violin, gave less delight than the boy of fourteen experienced when he received from an old man, whose heart his playing had gladdened, the present of four pairs of doves, with a card suspended by a blue ribbon round the neck of one, bearing his own name, "Ole Bull."

The soul of little Ole Bull had always been attuned to melody, from the time when, a toddling boy of four, he had kissed with passionate delight the little yellow violin given him by his uncle. How happy he was, as he wandered alone through the meadows, listening with the inner ear of heaven-born genius to the great song of nature. The bluebells, the buttercups, and the blades of grass sang to him in low, sweet tones, unheard by duller ears. How he thrilled with delight when he touched the strings of the little red violin, purchased for him when he was eight years old. His father destined him for the church, and, feeling that music should form part of the education of a clergyman, he consented to the mother's proposition that the boy should take lessons on the violin.

Ole could not sleep for joy, that first night of ownership; and, when the house was wrapped in slumber, he got up and stole on tiptoe to the room where his treasure lay. The bow seemed to beckon to him, the pretty pearl screws to smile at him out of their red setting. "I pinched the strings just a little," he said. "It smiled at me ever more and more. I took up the bow and looked at it. It said to me it would be pleasant to try it across the strings. So I did try it just a very, very little, and it did sing to me so sweetly. At first I did play very soft. But presently I did begin a capriccio, which I like very much, and it did go ever louder and louder; and I forgot that it was midnight and that everybody was asleep. Presently I hear something crack; and the next minute I feel my father's whip across my shoulders. My little red violin dropped on the floor, and was broken. I weep much for it, but it did no good. They did have a doctor to it next day, but it never recovered its health."

He was given another violin, however, and, when only ten, he would wander into the fields and woods, and spend hours playing his own improvisations, echoing the song of the birds, the murmur of the brook, the thunder of the waterfall, the soughing of the wind among the trees, the roar of the storm.

But childhood's days are short. The years fly by. The little Ole is eighteen, a student in the University of Christiana, preparing for the ministry. His brother students beg him to play for a charitable association. He remembers his father's request that he yield not to his passion for music, but being urged for "sweet charity's sake," he consents.

The youth's struggle between the soul's imperative demand and the equally imperative parental dictate was pathetic. Meanwhile the position of musical director of the Philharmonic and Dramatic Societies becoming vacant, Ole was appointed to the office; and, seeing that it was useless to contend longer against the genius of his son, the disappointed father allowed him to accept the directorship.

When fairly launched on a musical career, his trials and disappointments began. Wishing to assure himself whether he had genius or not, he traveled five hundred miles to see and hear the celebrated Louis Spohr, who received the tremulous youth coldly, and gave him no encouragement. No matter, he would go to the city of art. In Paris he heard Berlioz and other great musicians. Entranced he listened, in his high seat at the top of the house, to the exquisite notes of Malibran.

His soul feasted on music, but his money was fast dwindling away, and the body could not be sustained by sweet sounds. But the poor unknown violinist, who was only another atom in the surging life of the great city, could earn nothing. He was on the verge of starvation, but he would not go back to Christiana. He must still struggle and study. He became ill of brain fever, and was tenderly nursed back to life by the granddaughter of his kind landlady, pretty little Felicie Villeminot, who afterward became his wife. He had drained the cup of poverty and disappointment to the dregs, but the tide was about to turn.

He was invited to play at a concert presided over by the Duke of Montebello, and this led to other profitable engagements. But the great opportunity of his life came to him in Bologna. The people had thronged to the opera house to hear Malibran. She had disappointed them, and they were in no mood to be lenient to the unknown violinist who had the temerity to try to fill her place.

He came on the stage. He bowed. He grew pale under the cold gaze of the thousands of unsympathetic eyes turned upon him. But the touch of his beloved violin gave him confidence. Lovingly, tenderly, he drew the bow across the strings. The coldly critical eyes no longer gazed at him. The unsympathetic audience melted away. He and his violin were one and alone. In the hands of the great magician the instrument was more than human. It talked; it laughed; it wept; it controlled the moods of men as the wind controls the sea.

The audience scarcely breathed. Criticism was disarmed. Malibran was forgotten. The people were under the spell of the enchanter. Orpheus had come again. But suddenly the music ceased. The spell was broken. With a shock the audience returned to earth, and Ole Bull, restored to consciousness of his whereabouts by the storm of applause which shook the house, found himself famous forever.

His triumph was complete, but his work was not over, for the price of fame is ceaseless endeavor. But the turning point had been passed. He had seized the great opportunity for which his life had been a preparation, and it had placed him on the roll of the immortals.


The teakettle was singing merrily over the fire; the good aunt was bustling round, on housewifely cares intent, and her little nephew sat dreamily gazing into the glowing blaze on the kitchen hearth.

Presently the teakettle ceased singing, and a column of steam came rushing from its pipe. The boy started to his feet, raised the lid from the kettle, and peered in at the bubbling, boiling water, with a look of intense interest. Then he rushed off for a teacup, and, holding it over the steam, eagerly watched the latter as it condensed and formed into tiny drops of water on the inside of the cup.

Returning from an upper room, whither her duties had called her, the thrifty aunt was shocked to find her nephew engaged in so profitless an occupation, and soundly scolded him for what she called his trifling. The good lady little dreamed that James Watt was even then unconsciously studying the germ of the science by which he "transformed the steam engine from a mere toy into the most wonderful instrument which human industry has ever had at its command."

This studious little Scottish lad, who, because too frail to go to school, had been taught at home, was very different from other boys. When only six or seven years old, he would lie for hours on the hearth, in the little cottage at Greenock, near Glasgow, where he was born in 1736, drawing geometrical figures with pieces of colored chalk. He loved, too, to gaze at the stars, and longed to solve their mysteries. But his favorite pastime was to burrow among the ropes and sails and tackles in his father's store, trying to find out how they were made and what purposes they served.

In spite of his limited advantages and frail health, at fifteen he was the wonder of the public school, which he had attended for two years. His favorite studies were mathematics and natural philosophy. He had also made good progress in chemistry, physiology, mineralogy, and botany, and, at the same time, had learned carpentry and acquired some skill as a worker in metals.

So studious and ambitious a youth scarcely needed the spur of poverty to induce him to make the most of his talents. The spur was there, however, and, at the age of eighteen, though delicate in health, he was obliged to go out and battle with the world.

Having first spent some time in Glasgow, learning how to make mathematical instruments, he determined to go to London, there to perfect himself in his trade.

Working early and late, and suffering frequently from cold and hunger, he broke down under the unequal strain, and was obliged to return to his parents for a time until health was regained.

Always struggling against great odds, he returned to Glasgow when his trade was mastered, and began to make mathematical instruments, for which, however, he found little sale. Then, to help eke out a living, he began to make and mend other instruments,—fiddles, guitars, and flutes,—and finally built an organ,—a very superior one, too,—with several additions of his own invention.

A commonplace incident enough it seemed, in the routine of his daily occupation, when, one morning, a model of Newcomen's engine was brought to him for repair, yet it marked the turning point in his career, which ultimately led from poverty and struggle to fame and affluence.

Watt's practiced eye at once perceived the defects in the Newcomen engine, which, although the best then in existence could not do much better or quicker work than horses. Filled with enthusiasm over the plans which he had conceived for the construction of a really powerful engine, he immediately set to work, and spent two months in an old cellar, working on a model. "My whole thoughts are bent on this machine," he wrote to a friend. "I can think of nothing else."

So absorbed had he become in his new work that the old business of making and mending instruments had declined. This was all the more unfortunate as he was no longer struggling for himself alone. He had fallen in love with, and married, his cousin, Margaret Miller, who brought him the greatest happiness of his life. The neglect of the only practical means of support he had reduced Watt and his family to the direst poverty. More than once his health failed, and often the brave spirit was almost broken, as when he exclaimed in heaviness of heart, "Of all the things in the world, there is nothing so foolish as inventing."

Five years had passed since the model of the Newcomen engine had been sent to him for repair before he succeeded in securing a patent on his own invention. Yet five more long years of bitter drudgery, clutched in the grip of poverty, debt, and sickness, did the brave inventor, sustained by the love and help of his noble wife, toil through. On his thirty-fifth birthday he said, "To-day I enter the thirty-fifth year of my life, and I think I have hardly yet done thirty-five pence worth of good in the world; but I cannot help it."

Poor Watt! He had traveled with bleeding feet along the same thorny path trod by the great inventors and benefactors of all ages. But, in spite of all obstacles, he persevered; and, after ten years of inconceivable labor and hardship, during which his beautiful wife died, he had a glorious triumph. His perfected steam engine was the wonder of the age. Sir James Mackintosh placed him "at the head of all inventors in all ages and nations." "I look upon him," said the poet Wordsworth, "considering both the magnitude and the universality of his genius, as, perhaps, the most extraordinary man that this country ever produced."

Wealthy beyond his desires,—for he cared not for wealth,—crowned with the laurel wreath of fame, honored by the civilized world as one of its greatest benefactors, the struggle over, the triumph achieved, on August 19, 1819, he lay down to rest.


"Look, Grandfather; see what the letters have done!" exclaimed a delighted boy, as he picked up the piece of parchment in which Grandfather Coster had carried the bark letters cut from the trees in the grove, for the instruction and amusement of his little grandsons.

"See what the letters have done!" echoed the old man. "Bless me, what does the child mean?" and his eyes twinkled with pleasure, as he noted the astonishment and pleasure visible on the little face. "Let me see what it is that pleases thee so, Laurence," and he eagerly took the parchment from the boy's hand.

"Bless my soul!" cried the old man, after gazing spellbound upon it for some seconds. The track of the mysterious footprint in the sand excited no more surprise in the mind of Robinson Crusoe than Grandfather Coster felt at the sight which met his eyes. There, distinctly impressed upon the parchment, was a clear imprint of the bark letters; though, of course, they were reversed or turned about.

But you twentieth-century young folks who have your fill of story books, picture books, and reading matter of all kinds, are wondering, perhaps, what all this talk about bark letters and parchment and imprint of letters means.

To understand it, you must carry your imagination away back more than five centuries—quite a long journey of the mind, even for "grown-ups"—to a time when there were no printed books, and when very, very few of the rich and noble, and scarcely any of the so-called common people, could read. In those far-off days there were no public libraries, and no books except rare and expensive volumes, written by hand, mainly by monks in their quiet monasteries, on parchment or vellum.

In the quaint, drowsy, picturesque town of Haarlem, in Holland, with its narrow, irregular, grass-grown streets and many-gabled houses, the projecting upper stories of which almost meet, one particular house, which seems even older than any of the others, is pointed out to visitors as one of the most interesting sights of the ancient place. It was in this house that Laurence Coster, the father of the art of printing, the man—at least so runs the legend—who made it possible for the poorest and humblest to enjoy the inestimable luxury of books and reading, lived and loved and dreamed more than five hundred years ago.

Coster was warden of the little church which stood near his home, and his days flowed peacefully on, in a quiet, uneventful way, occupied with the duties of his office, and reading and study, for he was one of those who had mastered the art of reading. A diligent student, he had conned over and over, until he knew them by heart, the few manuscript volumes owned by the little church of which he was warden.

A lover of solitude, as well as student and dreamer, the church warden's favorite resort, when his duties left him at leisure, was a dense grove not far from the town. Thither he went when he wished to be free from all distraction, to think and dream over many things which would appear nonsensical to his sober, practical-minded neighbors. There he indulged in day dreams and poetic fancies; and once, when in a sentimental mood, he carved the initials of the lady of his love on one of the trees.

In time a fair young wife and children came, bringing new brightness and joy to the serious-minded warden. With ever increasing interests, he passed on from youth to middle life, and from middle life to old age. Then his son married, and again the patter of little feet filled the old home and made music in the ears of Grandfather Coster, whom the baby grandchildren almost worshiped.

To amuse the children, and to impart to them whatever knowledge he himself possessed, became the delight of his old age. Then the habit acquired in youth of carving letters in the bark of the trees served a very useful purpose in furthering his object. He still loved to take solitary walks, and many a quiet summer afternoon the familiar figure of the venerable churchwarden, in his seedy black cloak and sugar-loaf hat, might be seen wending its way along the banks of the River Spaaren to his favorite resort in the grove.

One day, while reclining on a mossy couch beneath a spreading beech tree, amusing himself by tearing strips of bark from the tree that shaded him, and carving letters with his knife, a happy thought entered his mind. "Why can I not," he mused within himself, "cut those letters out, carry them home, and, while using them as playthings, teach the little ones how to read?"

The plan worked admirably. Long practice had made the old man quite expert in fashioning the letters, and many hours of quiet happiness were spent in the grove in this pleasing occupation. One afternoon he succeeded in cutting some unusually fine specimens, and, chuckling to himself over the delight they would give the children, he wrapped them carefully, placing them side by side in an old piece of parchment which he happened to have in his pocket. The bark from which they had been cut being fresh and full of sap, and the letters being firmly pressed upon the parchment, the result was the series of "pictures" which delighted the child and gave to the world the first suggestion of a printing press.

And then a mighty thought flashed across the brain of the poor, humble, unknown churchwarden, a thought the realization of which was destined not only to make him famous for all time, but to revolutionize the whole world. The first dim suggestion came to him in this form, "By having a series of letters and impressing them over and over again on parchment, cannot books be printed instead of written, and so multiplied and cheapened as to be brought within the reach of all?"

The remainder of his life was given up to developing this great idea. He cut more letters from bark, and, covering the smooth surface with ink, pressed them upon parchment, thus getting a better impression, though still blurred and imperfect. He then cut letters from wood instead of bark, and managed to invent himself a better and thicker ink, which did not blur the page. Next, he cut letters from lead, and then from pewter. Every hour was absorbed in the work of making possible the art of printing. His simple-minded neighbors thought he had lost his mind, and some of the more superstitious spread the report that he was a sorcerer. But, like all other great discoverers, he heeded not annoyances or discouragements. Shutting himself away from the prying curiosity of the ignorant and superstitious, he plodded on, making steady, if slow, advance toward the realization of his dream.

"One day, while old Coster was thus busily at work," says George Makepeace Towle, "a sturdy German youth, with a knapsack slung across his back, trudged into Haarlem. By some chance this youth happened to hear how the churchwarden was at work upon a wild scheme to print books instead of writing them. With beating heart, the young man repaired to Coster's house and made all haste to knock at the churchwarden's humble door."

The "sturdy German youth" who knocked at Laurence Coster's door was Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of modern printing. Coster invited him to enter. Gutenberg accepted the invitation, and then stated the object of his visit. He desired to learn more about the work on which Coster was engaged. Delighted to have a visitor who was honestly interested in his work, the old man eagerly explained its details to the youth, and showed him some examples of his printing.

Gutenberg was much impressed by what he saw, but still more by the possibilities which he dimly foresaw in Coster's discovery. "But we can do much better than this," he said with the enthusiasm of youth. "Your printing is even slower than the writing of the monks. From this day forth I will work upon this problem, and not rest till I have solved it."

Johann Gutenberg kept his word. He never rested until he had given the art of printing to the world. But to Laurence Coster, in the first place, if legend speaks truth, we owe one of the greatest inventions that has ever blessed mankind.


"Jim, you've too good a head on you to be a wood chopper or a canal driver," said the captain of the canal boat for whom young Garfield had engaged to drive horses along the towpath.

"Jim" had always loved books from the time when, seated on his father's knee, he had with his baby lips pronounced after him the name "Plutarch." Mr. Garfield had been reading "Plutarch's Lives," and was much astonished when, without hesitation or stammering, his little son distinctly pronounced the name of the Greek biographer. Turning to his wife, with a glow of love and pride, the fond father said, "Eliza, this boy will be a scholar some day."

Perhaps the near approach of death had clarified the father's vision, but when, soon after, the sorrowing wife was left a widow, with an indebted farm and four little children to care for, she saw little chance for the fulfillment of the prophecy.

Even in his babyhood the boy whose future greatness the father dimly felt had learned the lesson of self-reliance. The familiar words which so often fell from his lips—"I can do that"—enabled him to conquer difficulties before which stouter hearts than that of a little child might well have quailed.

The teaching of his good mother, that "God will bless all our efforts to do the best we can," became a part of the fiber of his being. "What will He do," asked the boy one day, "when we don't do the best we can?" "He will withhold His blessing; and that is the greatest calamity that could possibly happen to us," was the reply, which made a deep impression on the mind of the questioner.

In spite of almost constant toil, and very meager schooling,—only a few weeks each year,—James Garfield excelled all his companions in the log schoolhouse. Besides solving at home in the long winter evenings, by the light of the pine fire, all the knotty problems in Adams' Arithmetic—the terror of many a schoolboy—he found time to revel in the pages of "Robinson Crusoe" and "Josephus." The latter was his special favorite.

Before he was fifteen, Garfield had successfully followed the occupations of farmer, wood chopper, and carpenter. No matter what his occupation was he always managed to find some time for reading.

He had recently read some of Marryat's novels, "Sindbad the Sailor," "The Pirate's Own Book," and others of a similar nature, which had smitten him with a virulent attack of sea fever. This is a mental disease which many robust, adventurous boys are apt to contract in their teens. Garfield felt that he must "sail the ocean blue." The glamour of the sea was upon him. Everything must give way before it. His mother, however, could not be induced to assent to his plans, and, after long pleading, would only compromise by agreeing that he might, if he could, secure a berth on one of the vessels navigating Lake Erie.

He was rudely repulsed by the owner of the first vessel to whom he applied, a brutal, drunken creature, who answered his request for employment with an oath and a rough "Get off this schooner in double quick, or I'll throw you into the dock." Garfield turned away in disgust, his ardor for the sea somewhat dampened by the man's appearance and behavior. In this mood he met his cousin, formerly a schoolmaster, then captain of a canal boat, with whom he at once engaged to drive his horses.

After a few months on the towpath, young Garfield contracted another kind of fever quite unlike that from which he had been suffering previously, and went home to be nursed out of it by his ever faithful mother.

During his convalescence he thought a great deal over his cousin's words,—"Jim, you've got too good a head on you to be a wood chopper or a canal driver." "He who wills to do anything will do it," he had learned from his mother's lips when a mere baby, and then and there he said in his heart, "I will be a scholar; I will go to college." And so, out of his sea fever and towpath experience was born the resolution that made the turning point in his career.

Action followed hot upon resolve. He lost no time in applying himself to the work of securing an education. Alternately chopping wood and carpentering, farming and teaching school, ringing bells and sweeping floors, he worked his way through seminary and college. His strong will and resolute purpose to make the most of himself not only enabled him to obtain an education, but raised him from the towpath to the presidential chair.


A kindly act is a kernel sown, That will grow to a goodly tree, Shedding its fruit when time has flown Down the gulf of Eternity. JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY.

In the restless desire for acquisition,—acquisition of money, of power, or of fame,—there is danger of selfishness, self-absorption, closing the doors of our hearts against the demands of brotherly love, courtesy, and kindness.

"I cannot afford to help," say the poor in pocket; "all I have is too little for my own needs." "I should like to help others," says the ambitious student, whose every spare moment is crowded with some extra task, "but I have no money, and cannot afford to take the time from my studies to give sympathy or kind words to the suffering and the poor." Says the busy man of affairs: "I am willing to give money, but my time is too valuable to be spent in talking to sick people or shiftless, lazy ones. That sort of work is not in my line. I leave it to women and the charitable organizations."

The business man forgets, as do many of us, the truth expressed by Ruskin, that "a little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money." A few kind words, a little sympathy and encouragement have often brought sunshine and hope into the lives of men and women who were on the verge of despair.

The great demand is on people's hearts rather than on their purses. In the matter of kindness we can all afford to be generous whether we have money or not. The schoolboy may give it as freely as the millionaire. No one is so driven by work that he has not time, now and then, to say a kind word or do a kind deed that will help to brighten life for another. If the prime minister of England, William E. Gladstone, could find time to carry a bunch of flowers to a little sick crossing-sweeper, shall we not be ashamed to make for ourselves the excuse, "I haven't time to be kind"?


Clad in a homespun tow shirt, shrunken, butternut-colored, linsey-woolsey pantaloons, battered straw hat, and much-mended jacket and shoes, with ten dollars in his pocket, and all his other worldly goods packed in the bundle he carried on his back, Horace Greeley, the future founder of the New York Tribune, started to seek his fortune in New York.

A newspaper had always been an object of interest and delight to the little delicate, tow-haired boy, and at the mature age of six he had made up his mind to be a printer. His love of reading was unusual in one so young. Before he was six he had read the Bible and "Pilgrim's Progress" through.

Like the children of all poor farmers, Horace was put to work as soon as he was able to do anything. But he made the most of the opportunities given him to attend school, and his love of reading; stimulated him to unusual efforts to procure books. By selling nuts and bundles of kindling wood at the village store, before he was ten he had earned enough money to buy a copy of Shakespeare and of Mrs. Hemans's poems. He borrowed every book that could be found within a radius of seven miles of his home, and by many readings he had made himself familiar with the score of old volumes in his log-cabin home.

Mrs. Sarah K. Bolton draws a pleasing picture of the farmer boy reading at night after the day's work on the farm was done. "He gathered a stock of pine knots," she says, "and, lighting one each night, lay down by the hearth and read, oblivious to all around him. The neighbors came and made their friendly visits, and ate apples and drank cider, as was the fashion, but the lad never noticed their coming or their going. When really forced to leave his precious books for bed, he would repeat the information he had learned, or the lessons for the next day to his brother, who usually, most ungraciously, fell asleep before the conversation was half completed."

"Ah!" said Zaccheus Greeley, Horace's father, when the boy one day, in a fit of abstraction, tried to yoke the "off" ox on the "near" side: "Ah! that boy will never know enough to get on in the world. He'll never know more than enough to come in when it rains!"

Yet this boy knew so much that when at fourteen he secured a place as printer in a newspaper office at East Poultney, Vermont, he was looked up to by his fellow-printers as equal in learning to the editor himself.

At first they tried to make merry at his expense, poking fun at his odd-looking garments, his uncouth appearance, and his pale, delicate face and almost white hair, which subsequently won for him the nickname of "Ghost." But when they saw that Horace was too good humored and too much in earnest with his work to be disturbed by their teasing, they gave it up. In a short time he became a general favorite, not only in the office, but in the town of Poultney, whose debating and literary societies soon recognized him as leader. Even the minister, the lawyer, and the school-teachers looked up to the poor, retiring young printer, who was a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge, ready at all times to speak or to write an essay on any subject.

But the Poultney newspaper was obliged to suspend soon after Horace had learned his trade, and, penniless,—for every cent of his earnings beyond what furnished the bare necessaries of life had been sent home to his parents in the wilderness,—he faced the world once more.

After working in different small towns wherever he could get a "job," reading, studying, enlarging his knowledge all the time when not in the office, he made up his mind to go to New York, "to be somebody," as he put it.

When he stepped off the towboat at Whitehall, near the Battery, that sunny morning in August, 1831, with only the experience of a score of years in life, a stout heart, quick brain, nimble fingers, and an abiding faith in God as his capital, his prospects certainly were not very alluring.

"An overgrown, awkward, white-headed, forlorn-looking boy; a pack suspended on a staff over his right shoulder; his dress unrivaled in sylvan simplicity since the primitive fig leaves of Eden; the expression of his face presenting a strange union of wonder and apathy: his whole appearance gave you the impression of a runaway apprentice in desperate search of employment. Ignorant alike of the world and its ways, he seemed to the denizens of the city almost like a wanderer from another planet."

Such was the impression Horace Greeley made on a New Yorker on his first arrival in that city which was to be the scene of his future work and triumphs.

He tramped the streets all that day, Friday, and the next, looking for work, everywhere getting the same discouraging reply, "No, we don't want any one."

At last, when weary and disheartened, his ten dollars almost gone, he had decided to shake the dust of New York from his feet, the foreman of a printing office engaged him to do some work that most of the men in the office had refused to touch. The setting up of a Polyglot Testament, with involved marginal references, was something new for the supposed "green" hand from the country. But when the day was done, the young printer was no longer looked upon as "green" by his fellow-workers, for he had done more and better work than the oldest and most experienced hands who had tried the Testament.

But, oh, what hard work it was, beginning at six o'clock in the morning, and working long after the going down of the sun, by the light of a candle stuck in a bottle, to earn six dollars a week, most of which was sent to his dear ones at home.

After nearly ten years more of struggle and privation, Greeley entered upon the great work of his life—the founding and editing of the New York Tribune. He had very little money to start with, and even that little was borrowed. But he had courage, truth, honesty, a noble purpose, and rare ability and industry to supplement his small financial capital. He needed them all in the work he had undertaken, for he was handicapped not only by lack of means, but also by the opposition of some of the New York papers.

In spite of the adverse conditions he succeeded in establishing one of the greatest and most popular newspapers in the country. The Tribune became the champion of the oppressed, the guardian of justice, the defender of truth, a power for good in the land. Through his paper Greeley became a tribune of the people. No thought of making money hampered him in his work. Unselfishly he wrought as editor, writer, and lecturer for the good of his country and the uplifting of mankind. "He who by voice or pen," he said, "strikes his best blow at the impostures or vices whereby our race is debased and paralyzed, may close his eyes in death, consoled and cheered by the reflection that he has done what he could for the emancipation and elevation of his kind."

Well, then, might he rejoice in his life work, for his voice and pen had to the last been active in thus serving the race.

He died on November 29, 1872, at the age of sixty-one. So great a man had Horace Greeley, the poor New Hampshire farmer boy, become that the whole nation mourned for his death. The people felt that in him they had lost one of their best friends. A workman who attended his funeral expressed the feeling of his fellow-workmen all over the land when he said, "It is little enough to lose a day for Horace Greeley who spent many a day working for us." "I've come a hundred miles to be at the funeral of Horace Greeley," said a farmer.

The great tribune had deserved well of the people and of his country.


Perhaps some would feel inclined to ridicule rather than applaud the patience of a poor Chinese woman who tried to make a needle from a rod of iron by rubbing it against a stone.

It is doubtful whether she succeeded or not, but, so the story runs, the sight of the worker plying her seemingly hopeless task, put new courage and determination into the heart of a young Chinese student, who, in deep despondency, stood watching her.

Because of repeated failures in his studies, ambition and hope had left him. Bitterly disappointed with himself, and despairing of ever accomplishing anything, the young man had thrown his books aside in disgust. Put to shame, however, by the lesson taught by the old woman, he gathered his scattered forces together, went to work with renewed ardor, and, wedding Patience and Energy, became, in time, one of the greatest scholars in China.

When you know you are on the right track, do not let any failures dim your vision or discourage you, for you cannot tell how close you may be to victory. Have patience and stick, stick, stick. It is eternally true that he

"Who steers right on Will gain, at length, however far, the port."


"Try to come home a somebody!" Long after Leon Gambetta had left the old French town of Cahors, where he was born October 30, 1838, long after the gay and brilliant streets of Paris had become familiar to him, did the parting words of his idolized mother ring in his ears, "Try to come home a somebody!" Pinched for food and clothes, as he often was, while he studied early and late in his bare garret near the Sorbonne, the memory of that dear mother cheered and strengthened him.

He could still feel her tears and kisses on his cheek, and the tender clasp of her hand as she pressed into his the slender purse of money which she had saved to release him from the drudgery of an occupation he loathed, and to enable him to become a great lawyer in Paris. How well he remembered her delight in listening to him declaim the speeches of Thiers and Guizot from the pages of the National, which she had taught him to read when but a mere baby, and from which he imbibed his first lessons in republicanism,—lessons that he never afterward forgot.

Such deep root had they taken that he could not be induced to change his views by the fathers of the preparatory school at Monfaucon, whither he had been sent to be trained for the priesthood. Finally despairing of bringing the young radical to their way of thinking, the Monfaucon fathers sent him home to his parents. "You will never make a priest of him," they wrote; "he has a character that cannot be disciplined."

His father, an honest but narrow-minded Italian, whose ideas did not soar beyond his little bazaar and grocery store, was displeased with the boy, who was then only ten years old. He could not understand how one so young dared to think his own thoughts and hold his own opinions. The neighbors held up their hands in dismay, and prophesied, "He will end his days in the Bastile." His mother wept and blamed herself and the National as the cause of all the trouble.

How little the fond mother, the disappointed father, or the gloomily foreboding neighbors dreamt to what heights those early lessons they now so bitterly deplored were to lead!

When at sixteen Leon Gambetta returned from the Lyceum to which he had been sent on his return from the Monfaucon seminary, his wide reading and deep study had but intensified and broadened the radicalism of his childhood. He longed to go to Paris to study law, but his father insisted that he must now confine his thoughts to selling groceries and yards of ribbon and lace, as he expected his son to succeed him in the business.

Poor, foolish Joseph Gambetta! he would confine the young eagle in a barnyard. But the eagle pined and drooped in his cage, and then the loving mother—ah, those loving mothers, will their boys ever realize how much they owe them!—threw open the doors and gave him freedom, an opportunity to win fame and fortune in the great city of Paris.

And now what mattered it that his clothes were poor, that his food was scant, and that it was often bitterly cold in his little garret. If not for his own sake, he MUST for hers "come home a somebody."

The doors which led to a wider future were already opening. The professors at the Sorbonne appreciated his great intellect and originality. "You have a true vocation," said one. "Follow it. But go to the bar, where your voice, which is one in a thousand, will carry you on, study and intelligence aiding. The lecture room is a narrow theater. If you like, I will write to your father to tell him what my opinion of you is." And he wrote, "The best investment you ever made would be to spend what money you can divert from your business in helping your son to become an advocate."

To such good purpose did the young student use his time that within two years he won his diploma. Still too young to be admitted to the bar, he spent a year studying life in Paris, listening to the debates in the Corps Legislatif, reading and debating in the radical club which he had organized, making himself ready at every point for the great opportunity which gained him a national reputation and made him the idol of the masses.

In 1868 his masterly defense of Delescluze, the radical editor, against the prosecution of the Imperial government, brought the brilliant but hitherto unknown young lawyer prominently before the public. He lost his case, but won fame. Gambetta had waited eighteen months for his first brief, and five times eighteen months for his first great case. This case proved to be the initial step that led him from victory to victory, until, after the fall of Napoleon at Sedan, he became practically Dictator of France. He was, more than any one man, the maker of the French Republic, whose rights and liberties he ever defended, even at the risk of his life. He died December 31, 1882.

Well had he fulfilled the hopes and ambitions of his loving mother, well had he answered the pathetic appeal, "Try to come home a somebody."


"Sir, I am a prisoner of war, and demand to be treated as such," was the spirited reply of Andrew Jackson to a British officer who had commanded him to clean his boots.

This was characteristic of the future hero of New Orleans, and president of the United States, whose independent spirit rebelled at the insolent command of his captor.

The officer drew his sword to enforce obedience, but, nothing daunted, the youth, although then only fourteen, persisted in his refusal. He tried to parry the sword thrusts aimed at him, but did not escape without wounds on head and arm, the marks of which he carried to his grave.

Stubborn, self-willed, and always dominated by the desire to be a leader, Andrew Jackson was by no means a model boy. But his honesty, love of truth, indomitable will and courage, in spite of his many faults, led him to greatness.

He was born with fighting blood in his veins, and, like other eminent men who have risen to the White House, poor. His father, an Irish immigrant, died before his youngest son was born,—in 1767,—and life held for the boy more hard knocks than soft places. His mother, who was ambitious to make him a clergyman, tried to secure him some early advantages of schooling. Andrew, however, was not of a studious disposition, nor at all inclined to the ministry, and made little effort to profit by even the limited opportunities he had.

But despite all the disadvantages of environment and mental traits by which he was handicapped, he was bound by the force of certain other traits to be a winner in the battle of life. The quality to which his success is chiefly owing is revealed by the words of a school-fellow, who, in spite of Jackson's slender physique and lack of physical strength at that time, felt the force of his iron will. Speaking of their wrestling matches at school, this boy said, "I could throw him [Jackson] three times out of four, but he never would stay throwed. He was dead game and never would give up."

A boy who "never would stay throwed," and "never would give up" would succeed though the whole world tried to bar his progress.

When, at the age of fifteen, he found himself alone in the world, homeless and penniless, he adapted himself to anything he could find to do.

Worker in a saddler's shop, school-teacher, lawyer, merchant, judge of the Supreme Court, United States senator, soldier, leader, step by step the son of the poor Irish immigrant rose to the highest office to which his countrymen could elect him—the presidency of the United States.

Rash, headstrong, and narrow-minded, Andrew Jackson fell into many errors during his life, but, notwithstanding his shortcomings, he persistently tried to live up to his boyhood's motto, "Ask nothing but what is right—submit to nothing wrong."


He was only a little, barefooted errand boy, the son of a poor blacksmith. His school life ended in his thirteenth year. The extent of his education then was limited to a knowledge of the three "R's." As he trudged on his daily rounds, through the busy streets of London, delivering newspapers and books to the customers of his employer, there was little difference, outwardly, between him and scores of other boys who jostled one another in the narrow, crowded thoroughfares. But under the shabby jacket of Michael Faraday beat a heart braver and tenderer than the average; and, under the well-worn cap, a brain was throbbing that was destined to illuminate the world of science with a light that would never grow dim.

Less than any one else, perhaps, did the boy dream of future greatness. For a year he served his employer faithfully in his capacity of errand boy, and, in 1805, at the age of fourteen, was apprenticed to a bookseller for seven years, as was the custom in England, to learn the combined trades of bookbinding and book-selling.

The young journeyman had to exercise all his self-control to confine his attention to the outside of the books which passed through his hands. In his spare moments, however, he made himself familiar with the inside of many of them, eagerly devouring such works on science, electricity, chemistry, and natural philosophy, as came within his reach. He was especially delighted with an article on electricity, which he found in a volume of the "Encyclopedia Britannica," which had been given him to bind. He immediately began work on an electrical machine, from the very crudest materials, and, much to his delight, succeeded. It was a red-letter day in his young life when a kind-hearted customer, who had noticed his interest in scientific works, offered to take him to the Royal Institution, to attend a course of lectures to be given by the great Sir Humphry Davy. From this time on, his thoughts were constantly turned toward science. "Oh, if I could only help in some scientific work, no matter how humble!" was the daily cry of his soul. But not yet was his prayer to be granted. His mettle must be tried in the school of patience and drudgery. He must fulfill his contract with his master. For seven years he was faithful to his work, while his heart was elsewhere. And all that time, in the eagerness of his thirst for knowledge, he was imbibing facts which helped him to plan electrical achievements, the possibilities of which have not, to this day, been exhausted,—or even half realized. Like Franklin, he seemed to forecast the scientific future for ages.

At length he was free to follow his bent, and his mind turned at once to Sir Humphry Davy. With a beating heart, divided between hope and fear, he wrote to the great man, telling what he wished, and asking his aid. The scientist, remembering his own day of small things, wrote the youth, politely, that he was going out of town, but would see if he could, sometime, aid him. He also said that "science is a harsh mistress, and, in a pecuniary point of view, but poorly rewards those who devote themselves exclusively to her service."

This was not very encouraging, but the young votary of science was nothing daunted, and toiled at his uncongenial trade, with the added discomfort of an ill-tempered employer, giving all his evenings and odd moments to study and experiments.

Then came another red-letter day. He was growing depressed, and feared that Sir Humphry had forgotten his quasi-promise, when one evening a carriage stopped at the door, and out stepped an important-looking footman in livery, with a note from the famous scientist, requesting the young bookbinder to call on him on the following morning. At last had come the answer to the prayer of little Michael Faraday, as will come the answer to all who back their prayers with patient, persistent hard work, in spite of discouragement, disappointment, and failure. And when, on that never-to-be-forgotten morning, he was engaged by the great scientist at a salary of six dollars a week, with two rooms at the top of the house, to wash bottles, clean the instruments, move them to and from the lecture rooms, and make himself generally useful in the laboratory and out of it, no happier youth could be found in all London.

The door was open; not, indeed, wide, but sufficiently to allow this ardent disciple to work his way into the innermost shrine of the temple of science. Though it took years and years of plodding, incessant work and study, and a devotion to purpose with which nothing was allowed to interfere, it made Faraday, by virtue of his marvelous discoveries in electricity, electro-magnetism, and chemistry, a world benefactor, honored not only by his own country and sovereign, but by other rulers and leading nations of the earth, as one of the greatest chemists and natural philosophers of his time.

So great has been his value to the scientific world, that his theories are still a constant source of inspiration to the workers in those great professions allied to electricity and chemistry. No library is complete without his published works. What wonder that Davy called Faraday his greatest discovery!


The Villa d'Asola, the country residence of the Signor Falieri, was in a state of unusual excitement. Some of the most distinguished patricians of Venice had been bidden to a great banquet, which was to surpass in magnificence any entertainment ever before given, even by the wealthy and hospitable Signer Falieri.

The feast was ready, the guests were assembled, when word came from the confectioner, who had been charged to prepare the center ornament for the table, that he had spoiled the piece. Consternation reigned in the servants' hall. What was to be done? The steward, or head servant, was in despair. He was responsible for the table decorations, and the absence of the centerpiece would seriously mar the arrangements. He wrung his hands and gesticulated wildly. What should he do!

"If you will let me try, I think I can make something that will do." The speaker was a delicate, pale-faced boy, about twelve years old, who had been engaged to help in some of the minor details of preparation for the great event. "You!" exclaimed the steward, gazing in amazement at the modest, yet apparently audacious lad before him. "And who are you?" "I am Antonio Canova, the grandson of Pisano, the stonecutter." Desperately grasping at even the most forlorn hope, the perplexed servant gave the boy permission to try his hand at making a centerpiece.

Calling for some butter, with nimble fingers and the skill of a practiced sculptor, in a short time the little scullion molded the figure of a crouching lion. So perfect in proportion, so spirited and full of life in every detail, was this marvelous butter lion that it elicited a chorus of admiration from the delighted guests, who were eager to know who the great sculptor was who had deigned to expend his genius on such perishable material. Signor Falieri, unable to gratify their curiosity, sent for his head servant, who gave them the history of the centerpiece. Antonio was immediately summoned to the banquet hall, where he blushingly received the praises and congratulations of all present, and the promise of Signer Falieri to become his patron, and thus enable him to achieve fame as a sculptor.

Such, according to some biographers, was the turning point in the career of Antonio Canova, who, from a peasant lad, born in the little Venetian village of Possagno, rose to be the most illustrious sculptor of his age.

Whether or not the story be true, it is certain that when the boy was in his thirteenth year, Signer Falieri placed him in the studio of Toretto, a Venetian sculptor, then living near Asola. But it is equally certain that the fame which crowned Canova's manhood, the title of Marquis of Ischia, the decorations and honors so liberally bestowed upon him by the ruler of the Vatican, kings, princes, and emperors, were all the fruits of his ceaseless industry, high ideals, and unfailing enthusiasm.

The little Antonio began to draw almost as soon as he could hold a pencil, and the gown of the dear old grandmother who so tenderly loved him, and was so tenderly loved in return, often bore the marks of baby fingers fresh from modeling in clay.

Antonio's father having died when the child was but three years old, his grandfather, Pisano, hoped that he would succeed him as village stonecutter and sculptor. Delicate though the little fellow had been from birth, at nine years of age he was laboring, as far as his strength would permit, in Pisano's workshop. But in the evening, after the work of the day was done, with pencil or clay he tried to give expression to the poetic fancies he had imbibed from the ballads and legends of his native hills, crooned to him in infancy by his grandmother.

Under Toretto his genius developed so rapidly that the sculptor spoke of one of his creations as "a truly marvelous production." He was then only thirteen. Later we find him in Venice, studying and working with ever increasing zeal. Though Signor Falieri would have been only too glad to supply the youth's needs, he was too proud to be dependent on others. Speaking of this time, he says: "I labored for a mere pittance, but it was sufficient. It was the fruit of my own resolution, and, as I then flattered myself, the foretaste of more honorable rewards, for I never thought of wealth."

Too poor to hire a workshop or studio, through the kindness of the monks of St. Stefano, he was given a cell in a vacant monastery, and here, at the age of sixteen, he started business as a sculptor on his own account.

Before he was twenty, the youth had become a master of anatomy, which he declared was "the secret of the art," was thoroughly versed in literature, languages, history, poetry, mythology,—everything that could help to make him the greatest sculptor of his age,—and had, even then, produced works of surpassing merit.

Effort to do better was the motto of his life, and he never permitted a day to pass without making some advance in his profession. Though often too poor to buy the marble in which to embody his conceptions, he for many years lived up to a resolution made about this time, never to close his eyes at night without having produced some design.

What wonder that at twenty-five this noble youth, whose incessant toil had perfected genius, was the marvel of his age! What wonder that his famous group, Theseus vanquishing the Minotaur, elicited the enthusiastic admiration of the most noted art critics of Rome! What wonder that the little peasant boy, who had first opened his eyes, in 1757, in a mud cabin, closed them at last, in 1822, in a marble palace, crowned with all of fame and honor and wealth the world could give! But better still, he was loved and enshrined in the hearts of the people, as a friend of the poor, a patron of struggling merit, a man in whom nobility of character overtopped even the genius of the artist.


Dost thou love life? Then, do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of!—FRANKLIN.

Franklin not only understood the value of time, but he put a price upon it that made others appreciate its worth.

A customer who came one day to his little bookstore in Philadelphia, not being satisfied with the price demanded by the clerk for the book he wished to purchase, asked for the proprietor. "Mr. Franklin is very busy just now in the press room," replied the clerk. The man, however, who had already spent an hour aimlessly turning over books, insisted on seeing him. In answer to the clerk's summons, Mr. Franklin hurried out from the newspaper establishment at the back of the store.

"What is the lowest price you can take for this book, sir?" asked the leisurely customer, holding up the volume. "One dollar and a quarter," was the prompt reply. "A dollar and a quarter! Why, your clerk asked me only a dollar just now." "True," said Franklin, "and I could have better afforded to take a dollar than to leave my work."

The man, who seemed to be in doubt as to whether Mr. Franklin was in earnest, said jokingly, "Well, come now, tell me your lowest price for this book." "One dollar and a half," was the grave reply. "A dollar and a half! Why, you just offered it for a dollar and a quarter." "Yes, and I could have better taken that price then than a dollar and a half now."

Without another word, the crestfallen purchaser laid the money on the counter and left the store. He had learned not only that he who squanders his own time is foolish, but that he who wastes the time of others is a thief.


"But I am only nineteen years old, Mr. Riggs," and the speaker looked questioningly into the eyes of his companion, as if he doubted his seriousness in asking him to become a partner in his business.

Mr. Riggs was not joking, however, and he met George Peabody's perplexed gaze smilingly, as he replied: "That is no objection. If you are willing to go in with me and put your labor against my capital, I shall be well satisfied."

This was the turning point in a life which was to leave its impress on two of the world's greatest nations. And what were the experiences that led to it? They were utterly commonplace, and in some respects such as fall to the lot of many country boys to-day.

At eleven the lad was obliged to earn his own living. At that time (1806), his native town, Danvers, Massachusetts, presented few opportunities to the ambitious. He took the best that offered—a position as store boy in the village grocer's.

Four years of faithful work and constant effort at self-culture followed. He was now fifteen. His ambition was growing. He must seek a wider field. Another year passed, and then came the longed-for opening. Joyfully the youth set out for his brother's store, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Here he felt he would have a better chance. But disappointment and disaster were lurking round the corner. Soon after he had taken up his new duties, the store was burned to the ground.

In the meantime, his father had died, and his mother, whom he idolized, needed his help more than ever. Penniless and out of work, but not disheartened, he immediately looked about for another position. Gladly he accepted an offer to work in his uncle's dry goods store in Georgetown, D.C., and here we find him, two years later, at the time when Mr. Riggs made his flattering proposition.

Did influence, a "pull," or financial considerations have anything to do with the merchant's choice of a partner? Nothing whatever. The young man had no money and no "pull," save what his character had made for him. His agreeable personality had won him many friends and his uncle much additional trade. His business qualities had gained him an enviable reputation. "His tact," says Sarah K. Bolton, "was unusual. He never wounded the feelings of a buyer of goods, never tried him with unnecessary talk, never seemed impatient, and was punctual to the minute."

That Mr. Riggs had made no mistake in choosing his partner, the rapid growth of his business conclusively proved. About a year after the partnership had been formed, the firm moved to Baltimore. So well did the business flourish in Baltimore that within seven years the partners had established branch houses in New York and Philadelphia. Finally Mr. Riggs decided to retire, and Peabody, who was then but thirty-five, found himself at the head of the business.

London, which he had visited several times, now attracted him. It offered great possibilities for banking. He went there, studied finance, established a banking business, and thenceforth made London his headquarters.

Wealth began to pour in upon him in a golden stream. But, although he had worked steadily for this, it was not for personal ends. He never married, and, to the end, lived simply and unostentatiously. Through the long years of patient work a great purpose had been shaping his life. Daily he had prayed that God might give him means wherewith to help his fellow-men. His prayer was being answered in overflowing measure.

Business interests constrained him to spend the latter half of his life in London; but absence only deepened his love for his own country. All that great wealth could do to advance the welfare and prestige of the United States was done by the millionaire philanthropist. But above all else, he tried to bring within the reach of poor children that which was denied himself,—a school education.

The Peabody Institute in his native town, with its free library and free course of lectures; the Institute, Academy of Music, and Art Gallery of Baltimore; the Museum of Natural History at Yale University; the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University; the Peabody Academy of Science at Salem, Massachusetts, besides large contributions every year to libraries and other educational and philanthropic institutions all over the country, bear witness to his love for humanity.

Surpassing all this, however, was his establishment of the Peabody fund of three million dollars for the education of the freed slaves of the South, and for the equally needy poor of the white race.

An equal amount had been previously devoted to the better housing of the London poor. A dream almost too good to come true it seemed to the toilers in the great city's slums, when they found their filthy, unhealthy tenements replaced by clean, wholesome dwellings, well supplied with air and sunlight and all modern conveniences and comforts. London presented its generous benefactor with the freedom of the city; a bronze statue was erected in his honor, and Queen Victoria, who would fain have loaded him with titles and honors,—all of which he respectfully declined,—declared his act to be "wholly without parallel." A beautiful miniature portrait of her Majesty, which she caused to be specially made for him, and a letter written by her own hand, were the only gifts he would accept.

Gloriously had his great purpose been fulfilled. He who began life as a poor boy had given to the furtherance of education and for the benefit of the poor in various ways the sum of nine million dollars. The remaining four million dollars of his fortune was divided among his relatives.

England loved and honored him even as his own country did; and when he died in London, November 4, 1869, she offered him a resting place among her immortals in Westminster Abbey. His last wish, however, was fulfilled, and he was laid beside his mother in his native land.

His legacies to humanity are doing their splendid work to-day as they have done in the past, and as they will continue to do in the future, enabling multitudes of aspiring souls to reach heights which but for him they never could have attained. These words of his, too, spoken on the occasion of the dedication of his gift to Danvers,—its free Institute,—will serve for ages as a bugle call to all youths who are anxious to make the most of themselves, and, like him, to give of their best to the world:—

"Though Providence has granted me an unvaried and unusual success in the pursuit of fortune in other lands," he said, "I am still in heart the humble boy who left yonder unpretending dwelling many, very many years ago. ... There is not a youth within the sound of my voice whose early opportunities and advantages are not very much greater than were my own; and I have since achieved nothing that is impossible to the most humble boy among you. Bear in mind, that, to be truly great, it is not necessary that you should gain wealth and importance. Steadfast and undeviating truth, fearless and straightforward integrity, and an honor ever unsullied by an unworthy word or action, make their possessor greater than worldly success or prosperity. These qualities constitute greatness."



"I will paint or die!" So stoutly resolved a poor, friendless boy, on a far-away Ohio farm, amid surroundings calculated to quench rather than to foster ambition. He knew not how his object was to be accomplished, for genius is never fettered by details. He only knew that he would be an artist. That settled it. He had never seen a work of art, or read or heard anything on the subject. It was his soul's voice alone that spoke, and "the soul's emphasis is always right."

Left an orphan at the age of eleven, the boy agreed to work on his uncle's farm for a term of five years for the munificent sum of ten dollars per annum, the total amount of which he was to receive at the end of the five years. The little fellow struggled bravely along with the laborious farm work, never for a moment losing sight of his ideal, and profiting as he could by the few months' schooling snatched from the duties of the farm during the winter.

Toward the close of his five years' service a great event happened. There came to the neighborhood an artist from Washington,—Mr. Uhl, whom he overheard by chance speaking on the subject of art. His words transformed the dream in the youth's soul to a living purpose, and it was then he resolved that he would "paint or die," and that he would go to Washington and study under Mr. Uhl.

On his release from the farm he started for Washington, with a coarse outfit packed away in a shabby little trunk, and a few dollars in his pocket. With the trustfulness of extreme youth, and in ignorance of a great world, he expected to get work that would enable him to live, and, at the same time, find leisure for the pursuit of his real life work. He immediately sought Mr. Uhl, who, with great generosity, offered to teach him without charge.

Then began the weary search for work in a large city already overcrowded with applicants. In his earnestness and eagerness the youth went from house to house asking for any kind of work "that would enable him to study art." But it was all in vain, and to save himself from starvation he was at length forced to accept the position of a day laborer, crushing stones for street paving. Yet he hoped to study painting when his day's work was done!

Mr. Uhl was at this time engaged in painting the portraits of Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett's sons. In the course of conversation with Mrs. Burnett, he spoke of the heroic struggle the youth was making. The author's heart was touched by the pathetic story. She at once wrote a check for one hundred dollars, and handed it to Mr. Uhl, for his protege. With that rare delicacy of feeling which marks all beautiful souls, Mrs. Burnett did not wish to embarrass the struggler by the necessity of thanking her. "Do not let him even write to me," she said to Mr. Uhl. "Simply say to him that I shall sail for Europe in a few days, and this is to give him a chance to work at the thing he cares for so much. It will at least give him a start."

In the throbbing life of the crowded city one heart beat high with hope and happiness that night. A youth lay awake until morning, too bewildered with gratitude and amazement to comprehend the meaning of the good fortune which had come to him. Who could his benefactor be?

Three years later, at the annual exhibition of Washington artists, Mrs. Burnett stood before a remarkably vivid portrait. Addressing the artist in charge of the exhibition, she said: "That seems to me very strong. It looks as if it must be a realistic likeness. Who did it?"

"I am so glad you like it. It was painted by your protege, Mrs. Burnett."

"My protege! My protege! Whom do you mean?"

"Why, the young man you saved from despair three years ago. Don't you remember young W——?"

"W——?" queried Mrs. Burnett.

"The young man whose story Mr. Uhl told you."

Mrs. Burnett then inquired if the portrait was for sale. When informed that the picture was an order and not for sale, she asked if there was anything else of Mr. W——'s on exhibition. She was conducted to a striking picture of a turbaned head, which was pointed out as another of Mr. W——'s works.

"How much does he ask for it?"

"A hundred and fifty dollars."

"Put 'sold' upon it, and when Mr. W—— comes, tell him his friend has bought his picture," said Mrs. Burnett.

On her return home Mrs. Burnett made out a check, which she inclosed in a letter to the young painter. It was mailed simultaneously with a letter from her protege, who had but just heard of her return from Europe, in which he begged her to accept, as a slight expression of his gratitude, the picture she had just purchased. The turbaned head now adorns the hall of Mrs. Burnett's house in Washington.

"I do not understand it even to-day," declares Mr. W——. "I knew nothing of Mrs. Burnett, nor she of me. Why did she do it? I only know that that hundred dollars was worth more to me then than fifty thousand in gold would be now. I lived upon it a whole year, and it put me on my feet."

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