HOW TO GET ON IN THE WORLD; or, A LADDER TO PRACTICAL SUCCESS.
by MAJOR A. R. CALHOUN.
PUBLISHED BY THE CHRISTIAN HERALD, Louis KLOPSCH, Proprietor, BIBLE HOUSE, NEW YORK.
Copyright 1895, BY LOUIS KLOPSCH.
PRESS AND BINDERY OF HISTORICAL PUBLISHING CO., PHILADELPHIA.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. What is Success?
II. The Importance of Character
III. Home Influences
V. Courage and Determined Effort
VI. The Importance of Correct Habits
VII. As to Marriage
VIII. Education as Distinguished from Learning
IX The Value of Experience
X. Selecting a Calling
XI. We Must Help Ourselves
XII. Successful Farming
XIII. As to Public Life
XIV. The Need of Constant Effort
XV. Some of Labor's Compensations
XVI. Patience and Perseverance
XVII. Success but Seldom Accidental
XVIII. Cultivate Observation and Judgment
XIX. Singleness of Purpose
XX. Business and Brains
XXI. Put Money in Thy Purse Honestly
XXII. A Sound Mind in a Sound Body
XXIII. Labor Creates the Only True Nobility
XXIV. The Successful Man is Self-Made
XXV. Unselfishness and Helpfulness
HOW TO GET ON IN THE WORLD
WHAT IS SUCCESS?
It has been said that "Nothing Succeeds Like Success." What is Success? If we consult the dictionaries, they will give us the etymology of this much used word, and in general terms the meaning will be "the accomplishment of a purpose." But as the objects in nearly every life differ, so success cannot mean the same thing to all men.
The artist's idea of success is very different from that of the business man, and the scientist differs from both, as does the statesman from all three. We read of successful gamblers, burglars or freebooters, but no true success was ever won or ever can be won that sets at defiance the laws of God and man.
To win, so that we ourselves and the world shall be the better for our having lived, we must begin the struggle, with a high purpose, keeping ever before our minds the characters and methods of the noble men who have succeeded along the same lines.
The young man beginning the battle of life should never lose sight of the fact that the age of fierce competition is upon us, and that this competition must, in the nature of things, become more and more intense. Success grows less and less dependent on luck and chance. Preparation for the chosen field of effort, an industry that increasing, a hope that never flags, a patience that never grows weary, a courage that never wavers, all these, and a trust in God, are the prime requisites of the man who would win in this age of specialists and untiring activity.
The purpose of this work is not to stimulate genius, for genius is law unto itself, and finds its compensation in its own original productions. Genius has benefited the world, without doubt, but too often its life compensation has been a crust and a garret. After death, in not a few cases, the burial was through charity of friends, and this can hardly be called an adequate compensation, for the memorial tablet or monument that commemorates a life of privation, if not of absolute wretchedness.
It is, perhaps, as well for the world that genius is phenomenal; it is certainly well for the world that success is not dependent on it, and that every young man, and young woman too, blessed with good health and a mind capable of education, and principles that are true and abiding, can win the highest positions in public and private life, and dying leave behind a heritage for their children, and an example for all who would prosper along the same lines. And all this with the blessed assurance of hearing at last the Master's words: "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might." There is a manly ring in this fine injunction, that stirs like a bugle blast. "But what can my hands find to do? How can I win? Who will tell me the work for which I am best fitted? Where is the kindly guide who will point out to me the life path that will lead to success?" So far as is possible it will be the purpose of this book to reply fully to these all important questions, and by illustration and example to show how others in the face of obstacles that would seem appalling to the weak and timid, carefully and prayerfully prepared themselves for what has been aptly called "the battle of life," and then in the language of General Jackson, "pitched in to win."
A copy line, in the old writing books, reads, "Many men of many minds." It is this diversity of mind, taste and inclination that opens up to us so many fields of effort, and keeps any one calling or profession from being crowded by able men. Of the incompetents and failures, who crowd every field of effort, we shall have but little to say, for to "Win Success" is our watchword.
What a great number of paths the observant young man sees before him! Which shall he pursue to find it ending in victory? Victory when the curtain falls on this brief life, and a greater victory when the death-valley is crossed and the life eternal begins?
The learned professions have widened in their scope and number within the past thirty years. To divinity, law, and medicine, we can now add literature, journalism, engineering and all the sciences. Even art, as generally understood, is now spoken of as a profession, and there are professors to teach its many branches in all the great universities. Any one of these professions, if carefully mastered and diligently pursued, promises fame, and, if not fortune, certainly a competency, for the calling that does not furnish a competency for a man and his family, can hardly be called a success, no matter the degree of fame it brings.
"Since Adam delved and Eve span," agriculture has been the principal occupation of civilized man. With the advance of chemistry, particularly that branch known as agricultural chemistry, farming has become more of a science, and its successful pursuit demands not only unceasing industry, but a high degree of trained intelligence. Of late years farming has rather fallen into disrepute with ambitious young men, who long for the excitement and greater opportunities afforded by our cities; but success and happiness have been achieved in farming, and the opportunities for both will increase with proper training and a correct appreciation of a farmer's life.
"Business" is a very comprehensive word, and may properly embrace every life-calling; but in its narrow acceptance it is applied to trade, commerce and manufactures. It is in these three lines of business that men have shown the greatest energy and enterprise, and in which they have accomplished the greatest material success. As a consequence, eager spirits enter these fields, encouraged by the examples of men who from small beginnings, and in the face of obstacles that would have daunted less resolute men, became merchant princes and the peers of earth's greatest.
In the selection of your calling do not stand hesitating and doubting too long. Enter somewhere, no matter how hard or uncongenial the work, do it with all your might, and the effort will strengthen you and qualify you to find work that is more in accord with your talents.
Bear in mind that the first condition of success in every calling, is earnest devotion to its requirements and duties. This may seem so obvious a remark that it is hardly worth making. And yet, with all its obviousness the thing itself is often forgotten by the young. They are frequently loath to admit the extent and urgency of business claims; and they try to combine with these claims, devotion to some favorite, and even it may be conflicting, pursuit. Such a policy invariably fails. We cannot travel every path. Success must be won along one line. You must make your business the one life purpose to which every other, save religion, must be subordinate.
"Eternal vigilance," it has been said, "is the price of liberty." With equal truth it may be said, "Unceasing effort is the price of success." If we do not work with our might, others will; and they will outstrip us in the race, and pluck the prize from our grasp. "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong," in the race of business or in the battle of professional life, but usually the swiftest wins the prize, and the strongest gains in the strife.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARACTER.
That "Heaven helps those who help themselves," is a maxim as true as it is ancient. The great and indispensable help to success is character.
Character is crystallized habit, the result of training and conviction. Every character is influenced by heredity, environment and education; but these apart, if every man were not to a great extent the architect of his own character, he would be a fatalist, an irresponsible creature of circumstances, which, even the skeptic must confess he is not. So long as a man has the power to change one habit, good or bad, for another, so long he is responsible for his own character, and this responsibility continues with life and reason.
A man may be a graduate of the greatest university, and even a great genius, and yet be a most despicable character. Neither Peter Cooper, George Peabody nor Andrew Carnegie had the advantage of a college education, yet character made them the world's benefactors and more honored than princes.
"You insist," wrote Perthes to a friend, "on respect for learned men. I say, Amen! But at the same time, don't forget that largeness of mind, depth of thought, appreciation of the lofty, experience of the world, delicacy of manner, tact and energy in action, love of truth, honesty, and amiability—that all these may be wanting in a man who may yet be very learned."
When someone in Sir Walter Scott's hearing made a remark as to the value of literary talents and accomplishments, as if they were above all things to be esteemed and honored, he observed, "God help us! What a poor world this would be if that were the true doctrine! I have read books enough, and observed and conversed with enough of eminent and splendidly-cultured minds, too, in my time; but I assure you, I have heard higher sentiments from the lips of the poor uneducated men and women, when exerting the spirit of severe, yet gentle heroism under difficulties and afflictions, or speaking their simple thoughts as to circumstances in the lot of friends and neighbors, than I ever yet met with out of the Bible."
In the affairs of life or of business, it is not intellect that tells so much as character—not brains so much as heart—not genius so much as self-control, patience, and discipline, regulated by judgment. Hence there is no better provision for the uses of either private or public life, than a fair share of ordinary good sense guided by rectitude. Good sense, disciplined by experience and inspired by goodness, issued in practical wisdom. Indeed, goodness in a measure implies wisdom—the highest wisdom—the union of the worldly with the spiritual. "The correspondences of wisdom and goodness," says Sir Henry Taylor, "are manifold; and that they will accompany each other is to be inferred, not only because men's wisdom makes them good, but because their goodness makes them wise."
The best sort of character, however, can not be formed without effort. There needs the exercise of constant self-watchfulness, self-discipline, and self-control. There may be much faltering, stumbling, and temporary defeat; difficulties and temptations manifold to be battled with and overcome; but if the spirit be strong and the heart be upright, no one need despair of ultimate success. The very effort to advance—to arrive at a higher standard of character than we have reached—is inspiring and invigorating; and even though we may fall short of it, we can not fail to be improved by every honest effort made in an upward direction.
"Instead of saying that man is the creature of circumstance, it would be nearer the mark to say that man is the architect of circumstance. It is character which builds an existence out of circumstance. Our strength is measured by our plastic power. From the same materials one man builds palaces, another hovels; one warehouses, another villas. Bricks and mortar are mortar and bricks, until the architect can make them something else. Thus it is that in the same family, in the same circumstances, one man rears a stately edifice, while his brother, vacillating and incompetent, lives forever amid ruins; the block of granite which was an obstacle on the pathway of the weak, becomes a stepping-stone on the pathway of the strong."
When the elements of character are brought into action by determinate will, and influenced by high purpose, man enters upon and courageously perseveres in the path of duty, at whatever cost of worldly interest, he may be said to approach the summit of his being. He then exhibits character in its most intrepid form, and embodies the highest idea of manliness. The acts of such a man become repeated in the life and action of others. His very words live and become actions. Thus every word of Luther's rang through Germany like a trumpet. As Richter said of him, "His words were half-battles." And thus Luther's life became transfused into the life of his country, and still lives in the character of modern Germany.
Speaking of the courageous character of John Knox, Carlyle says, with characteristic force: "Honor to all the brave and true; everlasting honor to John Knox, one of the truest of the true! That, in the moment while he and his cause, amid civil broils, in convulsion and confusion, were still but struggling for life, he sent the schoolmaster forth to all comers, and said, 'Let the people be taught;' this is but one, and, indeed, an inevitable and comparatively inconsiderable item in his great message to men. This message, in its true compass, was, 'Let men know that they are men; created by God, responsible to God; whose work in any meanest moment of time what will last through eternity.'
. . . This great message Knox did deliver, with a man's voice and strength, and found a people to believe him. Of such an achievement, were it to be made once only, the results are immense. Thought, in such a country, may change its form, but cannot go out; the country has attained majority; thought, and a certain spiritual manhood, ready for all work that man can do, endures there. The Scotch national, character originated in many circumstances; first of all, in the Saxon stuff there was to work on; but next, and beyond all else except that, in the Presbyterian Gospel of John Knox."
Washington left behind him, as one of the greatest treasures of his country, the example of a stainless life—of a great, honest, pure, and noble character—a model for his nation to form themselves by in all time to come. And in the case of Washington, as in so many other great leaders of men, his greatness did not so much consist in his intellect, his skill and his genius, as in his honor, his integrity, his truthfulness, his high and controlling sense of duty—in a word, in his genuine nobility of character.
Men such as these are the true life-blood of the country to which they belong. They elevate and uphold it, fortify and ennoble it, and shed a glory over it by the example of life and character which they have bequeathed. "The names and memories of great men," says an able writer, "are the dowry of a nation. Widowhood, overthrow, desertion, even slavery cannot take away from her this sacred inheritance . . . Whenever national life begins to quicken . . . the dead heroes rise in the memories of men, and appear to the living to stand by in solemn spectatorship and approval. No country can be lost which feels herself overlooked by such glorious witnesses. They are the salt of the earth, in death as well as in life. What they did once, their descendants have still and always a right to do after them; and their example lives in their country, a continual stimulant and encouragement for him who has the soul to adopt it."
It would be well for every young man, eager for success and anxious to form a character that will achieve it, to commit to memory the advice of Bishop Middleton:
Persevere against discouragements. Keep your temper. Employ leisure in study, and always have some work in hand. Be punctual and methodical in business, and never procrastinate. Never be in a hurry. Preserve self-possession, and do not be talked out of a conviction. Rise early, and be an economist of time. Maintain dignity without the appearance of pride; manner is something with everybody, and everything with some. Be guarded in discourse, attentive, and slow to speak. Never acquiesce in immoral or pernicious opinions.
Be not forward to assign reasons to those who have no right to ask. Think nothing in conduct unimportant or indifferent. Rather set than follow examples. Practice strict temperance; and in all your transactions remember the final account.
"A careful preparation is half the battle." Everything depends on a good start and the right road. To retrace one's steps is to lose not only time but confidence. "Be sure you are right then go ahead" was the motto of the famous frontiersman, Davy Crockett, and it is one that every young man can adopt with safety.
Bear in mind there is often a great distinction between character and reputation. Reputation is what the world believes us for the time; character is what we truly are. Reputation and character may be in harmony, but they frequently are as opposite as light and darkness. Many a scoundrel has had a reputation for nobility, and men of the noblest characters have had reputations that relegated them to the ranks of the depraved, in their day and generation.
It is most desirable to have a good reputation. The good opinion of our associates and acquaintances is not to be despised, but every man should see to it that the reputation is deserved, otherwise his life is false, and sooner or later he will stand discovered before the world.
Sudden success makes reputation, as it is said to make friends; but very often adversity is the best test of character as it is of friendship.
It is the principle for which the soldier fights that makes him a hero, not necessarily his success. It is the motive that ennobles all effort. Selfishness may prosper, but it cannot win the enduring success that is based on the character with a noble purpose behind it. This purpose is one of the guards in times of trouble and the reason for rejoicing in the day of triumph.
"Why should I toil and slave," many a young man has asked, "when I have only myself to live for?" God help the man who has neither mother, sister nor wife to struggle for and who does not feel that toil and the building up of character bring their own reward.
The home feeling should be encouraged for it is one of the greatest incentives to effort. If the young man have not parents or brothers and sisters to keep, or if he find himself limited in his leisure hours to the room of a boarding house, then if he can at all afford it, he should marry a help-meet and found a home of his own. "I was very poor at the time," said a great New York publisher, "but regarding it simply from a business standpoint, the best move I ever made in my life was to get married. Instead of increasing my expense's as I feared, I took a most valuable partner into the business, and she not only made a home for me, but she surrendered to me her well-earned share of the profits."
A wise marriage is most assuredly an influence that helps. Every young man who loves his mother, if living, or reveres her memory if dead, must recall with feelings of holy emotion, his own home. Blest, indeed is he, over whom the influence of a good home continues.
Home is the first and most important school of character. It is there that every civilized being receives his best moral training, or his worst; for it is there that he imbibes those principles that endure through manhood and cease only with life.
It is a common saying that "Manners make the man;" and there is a second, that "Mind makes the man;" but truer than either is a third, that "Home makes the man." For the home-training not only includes manners and mind, but character. It is mainly in the home that the heart is opened, the habits are formed, the intellect is awakened, and character moulded for good or for evil.
From that source, be it pure or impure, issue the principles and maxims that govern society. Law itself is but the reflex of homes. The tiniest bits of opinion sown in the minds of children in private life afterward issue forth to the world, and become its public opinion; for nations are gathered out of nurseries, and they who hold the leading strings of children may even exercise a greater power than those who wield the reins of government.
It is in the order of nature that domestic life should be preparatory to social, and that the mind and character should first be formed in the home. There the individuals who afterward form society are dealt with in detail, and fashioned one by one. From the family they enter life, and advance from boyhood to citizenship. Thus the home may be regarded as the most influential school of civilization. For, after all, civilization mainly resolves itself into a question of individual training; and according as the respective members of society are well or ill trained in youth, so will the community which they constitute be more or less humanized and civilized.
Thus homes, which are the nurseries of children who grow up into men and women, will be good or bad according to the power that governs them. Where the spirit of love and duty pervades the home—where head and heart bear rule wisely there—where the daily life is honest and virtuous—where the government is sensible, kind and loving, then may we expect from such a home an issue of healthy, useful, and happy beings, capable, as they gain the requisite strength of following the footsteps of their parents, of walking uprightly, governing themselves wisely, and contributing to the welfare of those about them.
On the other hand, if surrounded by ignorance, coarseness, and selfishness, they will unconsciously assume the same character, and grow up to adult years rude, uncultivated, and all the more dangerous to society if placed amidst the manifold temptations of what is called civilized life. "Give your child to be educated by a slave," said an ancient Greek, "and, instead of one slave, you will then have two."
The child cannot help imitating what he sees. Everything is to him a model—of manner, of gesture, of speech, of habit, of character. "For the child," says Richter, "the most important era of life is childhood, when he begins to color and mould himself by companionship with others. Every new educator effects less than his predecessor; until at last, if we regard all life as an educational institution, a circumnavigator of the world is less influenced by all the nations he has seen than by his nurse."
No man can select his parents or make for himself the early environment that affects character so powerfully, but he can found a home no matter how humble, at the outset, that will make his own future secure, as well as the future of those for whose existence he is responsible.
The poorest dwelling, presided over by a virtuous, thrifty, cheerful, and cleanly woman, may be the abode of comfort, virtue, and happiness; it may be the scene of every ennobling relation in family life; it may be endeared to a man by many delightful associations; furnishing a sanctuary for the heart, a refuge from the storms of life, a sweet resting-place after labor, a consolation in misfortune, a pride in prosperity, and a joy at all times.
The good home is the best of schools, not only in youth but in age. There young and old best learn cheerfulness, patience, self-control and the spirit of service and of duty. Isaak Walton, speaking of George Herbert's mother, says she governed the family with judicious care, not rigidly nor sourly, "but with such a sweetness and compliance with the recreations and pleasures of youth, as did incline them to spend much of their time in her company, which was to her great content."
The home is the true school of courtesy, of which woman is always the best practical instructor. "Without woman," says the Provencal proverb, "men were but ill-licked cubs." Philanthropy radiates from the home as from a centre. "To love the little platoon we belong to in society," said Burke "is the germ of all public affections." The wisest and the best have not been ashamed to own it to be their greatest joy and happiness to sit "behind the heads of the children" in the inviolable circle of home. A life of purity and duty there is not the least effectual preparative for a life of public work and duty; and the man who loves his home will not the less fondly love and serve his country.
At an address before a girls' school in Boston, ex-President John Quincy Adams, then an old man, said with much feeling: "As a child I enjoyed perhaps the greatest of blessings that can be bestowed upon man—that of a mother who was anxious and capable to form the characters of her children rightly. From her I derived whatever instruction (religious especially and moral) has pervaded a long life—I will not say perfectly, or as it ought to be; but I will say, because it is only justice to the memory of her I revere, that in the course of that life, whatever imperfection there has been or deviation from what she taught me, the fault is mine and not hers."
So much depends on the home, for it is the corner-stone of society and good government, that it is to be regretted, for the sake of young women, as well as of young men, that our modern life offers so many opportunities to neglect it.
As the home affects the character entirely through the associations, it follows that the young man who has left his home behind him should continue the associations whose memories comfort him. He should never go to a place for recreation where he would not be willing and proud to take his mother on his arm. He should never have as friends men to whom he would not be willing, if need be, to introduce his sister.
These are among the influences that help to success. But association is a matter of such great importance as to deserve fuller treatment.
The old proverb, "Tell me your company and I will tell you what you are," is as true to-day as when first uttered. In the preparation for success, association is one of the most powerful factors, so powerful, indeed, that if the associations are not of the right kind, failure is inevitable.
As one diseased sheep may contaminate a flock, so one evil associate— particularly if he be daring, may seriously injure the morals of many. Every young man can recall the evil influence of one bad boy on a whole school, but he cannot so readily point to the schoolmate, whose example and influence were for good; because goodness, though more potent, never makes itself so conspicuous as vice.
Criminals, preparing for the scaffold, have confessed that their entrance into a life of crime began in early youth, when the audacity of some unprincipled associate tempted them from the ways of innocence. Through all the years of life, even to old age, the life and character are influenced by association. If this be true in the case of the more mature and experienced, its force is intensified where the young, imaginative and susceptible, are concerned.
Man is said to be "an imitative animal." This is certainly true as to early education, and the tendency to imitate remains to a greater or less extent throughout life. Imitation is responsible for all the queer changes of fashion; and the desire to be "in the swim," as it is called, is entirely due to association.
In school days, the influence of a good home may counteract the effect of evil associates, whom the boy meets occasionally, but when the boy has grown to manhood, and finds himself battling with the world, away from home and well-tried friends, it is then that he is in the greatest danger from pernicious associates.
The young man who comes to the city to seek his fortune is more apt to be the victim of vile associates than the city raised youth whose experience of men is larger, and who is fortunate in his companionship. The farmer's son, who finds himself for the first time in a great city—alone and comparatively friendless, appears to himself to have entered a new world, as in truth he has. The crowds of hurrying, well-dressed people impress him forcibly as compared with his own clumsy gait, and roughly clad figure. The noise confuses him. The bustle of commerce amazes him; and for the time he is as desolate in feeling as if he were in the centre of a desert, instead of in the throbbing heart of a great city.
No matter how blessed with physical and mental strength the young man may be, under these circumstances he is very apt, for the time at least, to underestimate his own strength. He is powerfully impressed by what he deems the smartness or the superior manners of those whom he meets in his boarding house, or with whom he is associated in his business, say in a great mercantile establishment. It requires a great deal of moral courage for him to bear in a manly way the ridicule, covert or open, of the companions who regard him as a "hay-seed" or a "greenhorn." His Sunday clothes, which he wore with pride when he attended meeting with his mother, he is apt to regard with a feeling of mortification; and, perhaps, he secretly determines to dress as well as do his companions when he has saved enough money.
This is a crucial period in the life of every young man who is entering on a business career, and particularly so to him coming from the rural regions. He finds, perhaps, that his associates smoke or drink, or both; things which he has hitherto regarded with horror. He finds, too, they are in the habit of resorting to places of amusement, the splendor and mysteries of which arouse his curiosity, if not envy, as he hears them discussed.
Before leaving home, and while his mother's arms were still about him, he promised her to be moral and industrious, to write regularly, and to do nothing which she would not approve. If he had the right stuff in him, he would adhere manfully to the resolution made at the beginning; but, if he be weak or is tempted by false pride, or a prurient curiosity to "see the town," he is tottering on the edge of a precipice and his failure, if not sudden, is sure to come in time.
Cities are represented to be centres of vice, and it cannot be denied that the temptations in such places are much greater than on a farm or in a quiet country village, but at the same time, cities are centres of wealth and cultivation, places where philanthropy is alive and where organized effort has provided places of instruction and amusement for all young men, but particularly for that large class of youths who come from the country to seek their fortunes. Churches abound, and in connection with them there are societies of young people, organized for good work, which are ever ready, with open arms, to welcome the young stranger. Then, in all our cities and towns, there are to be found, branches of that most admirable institution, the Young Men's Christian Association. Not only are there companions to be met in these associations of the very best kind, but the buildings are usually fitted up with appliances for the improvement of mind and body. Here are gymnasiums, where strength and grace can be cultivated under the direction of competent teachers. Here are to be found well organized libraries. Here, particularly in the winter season, there are classes where all the branches of a high school are taught; and there are frequent lectures on all subjects of interest by the foremost teachers of the land.
If the young man falls under these influences, and he will experience not the slightest difficulty in doing so; indeed, he will find friendly hands extended to welcome and to help, the result on his character must be most beneficial. The clumsiness of rural life will soon depart; he will regard his home-made suit with as much pleasure as if it were made by a fashionable tailor, and he will soon learn to distinguish between the vicious and the virtuous, while he imitates the one and regards the other with indifference or contempt.
Next to the association of companions met in every day life nothing so powerfully influences the character of the young as association with good books, particularly those that relate to the lives of men who have struggled up to honor from small beginnings.
With such associations, and a capacity for honest persistent work, success is assured at the very threshold of effort.
COURAGE AND DETERMINED EFFORT.
Carlyle has said that the first requisite to success is carefully to find your life work and then bravely to carry it out. No soldier ever won a succession of triumphs, and no business man, no matter how successful in the end, who did not find his beginning slow, arduous and discouraging. Courage is a prime essential to prosperity. The young man's progress may be slow in comparison with his ambition, but if he keeps a brave heart and sticks persistently to it, he will surely succeed in the end.
The forceful, energetic character, like the forceful soldier on the battle-field, not only moves forward to victory himself, but his example has a stimulating influence on others.
Energy of character has always a power to evoke energy in others. It acts through sympathy, one of the most influential of human agencies. The zealous, energetic man unconsciously carries others along with him. His example is contagious and compels imitation. He exercises a sort of electric power, which sends a thrill through every fibre, flows into the nature of those about him, and makes them give out sparks of fire.
Dr. Arnold's biographer, speaking of the power of this kind exercised by him over young men, says: "It was not so much an enthusiastic admiration for true genius, or learning, or eloquence, which stirred the heart within them; it was a sympathetic thrill, caught from a spirit that was earnestly at work in the world—whose work was healthy, sustained and constantly carried forward in the fear of God—a work that was founded on a deep sense of its duty and its value."
The beginner should carefully study the lives of men whose undaunted courage has won in the face of obstacles that would cow weaker natures.
It is in the season of youth, while the character is forming, that the impulse to admire is the greatest. As we advance in life we crystallize into habit and "Nil admirari" too often becomes our motto. It is well to encourage the admiration of great characters while the nature is plastic and open to impressions; for if the good are not admired—as young men will have their heroes of some sort— most probably the great bad may be taken by them for models. Hence it always rejoiced Dr. Arnold to hear his pupils expressing admiration of great deeds, or full of enthusiasm for persons or even scenery.
"I believe," said he, "that 'Nil admirari' is the devil's favorite text; and he could not choose a better to introduce his pupils into the more esoteric parts of his doctrine. And therefore I have always looked upon a man infected with the disorder of anti-romance as one who has lost the finest part of his nature and his best protection against everything low and foolish."
Great men have evoked the admiration of kings, popes and emperors. Francis de Medicis never spoke to Michael Angelo without uncovering, and Julius III made him sit by his side while a dozen cardinals were standing. Charles V made way for Titian; and one day when the brush dropped from the painter's hand, Charles stooped and picked it up, saying, "You deserve to be served by an emperor."
Bear in mind that nothing so discourages or unfits a man for an effort as idleness. "Idleness," says Burton, in that delightful old book "The Anatomy of Melancholy," "is the bane of body and mind, the nurse of naughtiness, the chief mother of all mischief, one of the seven deadly sins, the devil's cushion, his pillow and chief reposal . . . An idle dog will be mangy; and how shall an idle person escape? Idleness of the mind is much worse than that of the body; wit, without employment, is a disease—the rust of the soul, a plague, a hell itself. As in a standing pool, worms and filthy creepers increase, so do evil and corrupt thoughts in an idle person; the soul is contaminated . . . Thus much I dare boldly say: he or she that is idle, be they of what condition they will, never so rich, so well allied, fortunate, happy—let them have all things in abundance, all felicity that heart can wish and desire, all contentment—so long as he, or she, or they, are idle, they shall never be pleased, never well in body or mind, but weary still, sickly still, vexed still, loathing still, weeping, sighing, grieving, suspecting, offended with the world, with every object, wishing themselves gone or dead, or else carried away with some foolish fantasy or other.".
Barton says a great deal more to the same effect.
It has been truly said that to desire to possess without being burdened by the trouble of acquiring is as much a sign of weakness as to recognize that everything worth having is only to be got by paying its price is the prime secret of practical strength. Even leisure cannot be enjoyed unless it is won by effort. If it have not been earned by work, the price has not been paid for it.
But apart from the supreme satisfaction of winning, the effort required to accomplish anything is ennobling, and, if there were no other success it would be its own reward.
"I don't believe," said Lord Stanley, in an address to the young men of Glasgow, "that an unemployed man, however amiable and otherwise respectable, ever was, or ever can be, really happy. As work is our life, show me what you can do, and I will show you what you are. I have spoken of love of one's work as the best preventive of merely low and vicious tastes. I will go farther and say that it is the best preservative against petty anxieties and the annoyances that arise out of indulged self-love. Men have thought before now that they could take refuge from trouble and vexation by sheltering themselves, as it wore, in a world of their own. The experiment has often been tried and always with one result. You cannot escape from anxiety or labor—it is the destiny of humanity . . . Those who shirk from facing trouble find that trouble comes to them.
"The early teachers of Christianity ennobled the lot of toil by their example. 'He that will not work,' said St. Paul, 'neither shall he eat;' and he glorified himself in that he had labored with his hands and had not been chargeable to any man. When St. Boniface landed in Britain, he came with a gospel in one hand, and a carpenter's rule in the other; and from England he afterward passed over into Germany, carrying thither the art of building. Luther also, in the midst of a multitude of other employments, worked diligently for a living, earning his bread by gardening, building, turning, and even clock-making."
Coleridge has truly observed, that "if the idle are described as killing time, the methodical man may be justly said to call it into life and moral being, while he makes it the distinct object, not only of the consciousness, but of the conscience. He organizes the hours and gives them a soul; and by that, the very essence of which is to fleet and to have been, he communicates an imperishable and spiritual nature. Of the good and faithful servant, whose energies thus directed are thus methodized, it is less truly affirmed that he lives in time than that time lives in him. His days and months and years, as the stops and punctual marks in the record of duties performed, will survive the wreck of worlds, and remain extant when time itself shall be no more."
Washington, also, was an indefatigable man of business. From his boyhood he diligently trained himself in habits of application, of study and of methodical work. His manuscript school-books, which are still preserved, show that, as early as the age of thirteen, he occupied himself voluntarily, in copying out such things as forms of receipts, notes of hand, bills of exchange, bonds, indentures, leases, land warrants and other dry documents, all written out with great care. And the habits which lie thus early acquired were, in a great measure the foundation of those admirable business qualities which he afterward so successfully brought to bear in the affairs of the government.
The man or woman who achieves success in the management of any great affair of business is entitled to honor—it may be, to as much as the artist who paints a picture, or the author who writes a book, or the soldier who wins a battle. Their success may have been gained in the face of as great difficulties, and after as great struggles; and where they have won their battle it is at least a peaceful one and there is no blood on their hands.
Courage, combined with energy and perseverance, will overcome difficulties apparently insurmountable. It gives force and impulse to effort and does not permit it to retreat. Tyndall said of Faraday, that "in his warm moments he formed a resolution and in his cool ones he made that resolution good." Perseverance, working in the right direction, grows with time and when steadily practiced, even by the most humble, will rarely fail of its reward. Trusting in the help of others is of comparatively little use. When one of Michael Angelo's principal patrons died, he said: "I begin to understand the promises of the world are for the most part vain phantoms and that to confide in one's self and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course."
It ought to be a first principle, in beginning life to do with earnestness what we have got to do. If it is worth doing at all, it is worth doing earnestly. If it is to be done well at all it must be done with purpose and devotion.
Whatever may be our profession, let us mark all its bearings and details, its principles, its instruments, its applications. There is nothing about it should escape our study. There is nothing in it either too high or too low for our observation and knowledge. While we remain ignorant of any part of it, we are so far crippled in its use; we are liable to be taken at a disadvantage. This may be the very point the knowledge of which is most needed in some crisis, and those versed in it will take the lead, while we must be content to follow at a distance.
Our business, in short, must be the main drain of our intellectual activities day by day. It is the channel we have chosen for them they must follow in it with a diffusive energy, filling every nook and corner. This is a fair test of professional earnestness. When we find our thoughts running after our business, and fixing themselves with a familiar fondness upon its details, we may be pretty sure of our way. When we find them running elsewhere and only resorting with difficulty to the channel prepared for them, we may be equally sure we have taken a wrong turn. We cannot be earnest about anything which does not naturally and strongly engage our thoughts.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CORRECT HABITS.
As has been stated, habit is the basis of character. Habit is the persistent repetition of acts physical, mental, and moral. No matter how much thought and ability a young man may have, failure is sure to follow bad habits. While correct habits depend largely on self- discipline, and often on self-denial, bad habits, like pernicious weeds, spring up unaided and untrained to choke out the plants of virtue. It is easy to destroy the seed at the beginning, but its growth is so rapid, that its evil effects may not be perceptible till the roots have sapped every desirable plant about it.
No sane youth ever started out with the resolve to be a thief, a tramp, or a drunkard. Yet it is the slightest deviation from honesty that makes the first. It is the first neglect of a duty that makes the second. And it is the first intoxicating glass that makes the third. It is so easy not to begin, but the habit once formed and the man is a slave, bound with galling, cankering chains, and the strength of will having been destroyed, only God's mercy can cast them off.
Next to the moral habits that are the cornerstone of every worthy character, the habit of industry should be ranked. In "this day and generation," there is a wild desire on the part of young men to leap into fortune at a bound, to reach the top of the ladder of success without carefully climbing the rounds, but no permanent prosperity was ever gained in this way.
There have been men, who through chance, or that form of speculation, that is legalized gambling, have made sudden fortunes; but as a rule these fortunes have been lost in the effort to double them by the quick and speculative process.
Betters and gamblers usually die poor. But even where young men have made a lucky stroke, the result is too often a misfortune. They neglect the necessary, persistent effort. The habit of industry is ignored. Work becomes distasteful, and the life is wrecked, looking for chances that never come.
There have been exceptional cases, where men of immoral habits, but with mental force and unusual opportunities have won fortunes. Some of these will come to the reader's mind at once, but he will be forced to confess that he would not give up his manhood and comparative poverty, in exchange for such material success.
The best equipment a young man can have for the battle of life is a conscience void of offense, sound common sense, and good health. Too much importance cannot be attached to health. It is a blessing we do not prize till it is gone. Some are naturally delicate and some are naturally strong, but by habit the health of the vigorous may be ruined, and by opposite habits the delicate may be made healthful and strong.
No matter the prospects and promises of overwork, it is a species of suicide to continue it at the expense of health. Good men in every department and calling, stimulated by zeal and an ambition commendable in itself, have worked till the vital forces were exhausted, and so were compelled to stop all effort in the prime of life and on the threshold of success.
The best preservers of health are regularity in correct hygienic habits, and strict temperance. Alexander Stephens, of Georgia, it is said contracted consumption when a child, and his friends did not believe he would live to manhood, yet by correct habits, he not only lived the allotted time of the Psalmist, but he did an amount of work that would have been impossible to a much stronger man, without his method of life.
It should not be forgotten that good health is quite as much dependent on mental as on physical habits. Worry, sensitiveness, and temper have hastened to the grave many an otherwise splendid character.
The man of business must needs be subject to strict rule and system. Business, like life, is managed by moral leverage; success in both depending in no small degree upon that regulation of temper and careful self-discipline, which give a wise man not only a command over himself, but over others. Forbearance and self-control smooth the road of life, and open many ways which would otherwise remain closed. And so does self-respect; for as men respect themselves, so will they usually, respect the personality of others.
It is the same in politics as in business. Success in that sphere of life is achieved less by talent than by temper, less by genius than by character. If a man have not self-control, he will lack patience, be wanting in tact, and have neither the power of governing himself nor managing others. When the quality most needed in a prime minister was the subject of conversation in the presence of Mr. Pitt, one of the speakers said it was "eloquence;" another said it was "knowledge;" and a third said it was "toil." "No," said Pitt, "it is patience!" And patience means self-control, a quality in which he himself was superb. His friend George Rose has said of him that he never once saw Pitt out of temper.
A strong temper is not necessarily a bad temper. But the stronger the temper, the greater is the need of self-discipline and self-control. Dr. Johnson says men grow better as they grow older, and improve with experience; but this depends upon the width and depth and generousness of their nature. It is not men's faults that ruin them so much as the manner in which they conduct themselves after the faults have been committed. The wise will profit by the suffering they cause, and eschew them for the future; but there are those on whom experience exerts no ripening influence, and who only grow narrower and bitterer, and more vicious with time.
What is called strong temper in a young man, often indicates a large amount of unripe energy, which will expend itself in useful work if the road be fairly opened to it. It is said of Girard that when he heard of a clerk with a strong temper, he would readily take him into his employment, and set him to work in a room by himself; Girard being of opinion that such persons were the best workers, and that their energy would expend itself in work if removed from the temptation of quarrel.
There is a great difference between a strong temper, "a righteous indignation," and that irritability that curses its possessor and all who come near him.
Mr. Motley compares William the Silent to Washington, whom he in many respects resembled. The American, like the Dutch patriot, stands out in history as the very impersonation of dignity, bravery, purity, and personal excellence. His command over his feelings, even in moments of great difficulty and danger, was such as to convey the impression, to those who did not know him intimately, that he was a man of inborn calmness and almost impassiveness of disposition. Yet Washington was by nature ardent and impetuous; his mildness, gentleness politeness, and consideration for others, were the result of rigid self-control and unwearied self-discipline, which he diligently practiced even from his boyhood. His biographer says of him, that "his temperament was ardent, his passions strong, and, amidst the multiplied scenes of temptation and excitement through which he passed, it was his constant effort, and ultimate triumph, to check the one and subdue the other." And again: "His passions were strong, and sometimes they broke out with vehemence, but he had the power of checking them in an instant. Perhaps self-control was the most remarkable trait of his character. It was in part the effect of discipline; yet he seems by nature to have possessed this power in a degree which has been denied to other men."
The Duke of Wellington's natural temper, like that of Napoleon, was strong in the extreme and it was only by watchful self-control that he was enabled to restrain it. He studied calmness and coolness in the midst of danger, like any Indian chief. At Waterloo, and elsewhere, he gave his orders in the most critical moments without the slightest excitement, and in a tone of voice almost more than usually subdued.
Abraham Lincoln in his early manhood was quick tempered and combative, but he soon learned self-control and, as all know, became as patient as he was forceful and sympathetic. "I got into the habit of controlling my temper in the Black Hawk war," he said to Colonel Forney, "and the good habit stuck to me as bad habits do to so many."
Patience is a habit that pays for its own cultivation and the biographies of earth's greatest men, prove that it was one of their most conspicuous characteristics.
One who loves right can not be indifferent to wrong, or wrong-doing. If he feels warmly, he will speak warmly, out of the fullness of his heart. We have, however, to be on our guard against impatient scorn. The best people are apt to have their impatient side, and often the very temper which makes men earnest, makes them also intolerant. "Of all mental gifts, the rarest is intellectual patience; and the last lesson of culture is to believe in difficulties which are invisible to ourselves."
One of Burns' finest poems, written in his twenty-eighth year, is entitled "A Bard's Epitaph." It is a description, by anticipation, of his own life. Wordsworth has said of it:
"Here is a sincere and solemn avowal; a public declaration from his own will; a confession at once devout, poetical, and human; a history in the shape of a prophecy." It concludes with these lines:
"Reader, attend—whether thy soul Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole, Or darkling grubs this earthly hole In low pursuit; Know—prudent, cautious self-control, Is Wisdom's root."
Truthfulness is quite as much a habit and quite as amendable to cultivation as falsehood. Deceit may meet with temporary success, but he who avails himself of it can be sure that in the end his "sin will find him out." The credit of the truthful, reliable man stands when the cash of a trickster might be doubted. "His word is as good as his bond," is one of the highest compliments that can be paid to the business man.
Be truthful not only in great things, but in all things. The slightest deviation from this habit may be the beginning of a career of duplicity, ending in disgrace.
But truthfulness, like the other virtues, should not be regarded as a trade mark, a means to success. It brings its own reward in the nobility it gives the character. An exception might be made here as to that form of military deceit known as "stratagem," but it is the duty of the enemy to expect it, and so guard against it. The word of a soldier involves his honor, and if he pledges that word, to even a foeman, he will keep it with his life.
Like our own Washington, Wellington was a severe admirer of truth. An illustration may be given. When afflicted by deafness, he consulted a celebrated aurist, who, after trying all remedies in vain, determined, as a last resource, to inject into the ear a strong solution of caustic. It caused the most intense pain, but the patient bore it with his usual equanimity. The family physician accidentally calling one day, found the duke with flushed cheeks and blood-shot eyes, and when he rose he staggered about like a drunken man. The doctor asked to be permitted to look at his ear, and then he found that a furious inflammation was going on, which, if not immediately checked, must shortly reach the brain and kill him. Vigorous remedies were at once applied, and the inflammation was checked. But the hearing of that ear was completely destroyed. When the aurist heard of the danger his patient had run, through the violence of the remedy he had employed, he hastened to Apsley House to express his grief and mortification; but the duke merely said: "Do not say a word more about it—you did all for the best." The aurist said it would be his ruin when it became known that he had been the cause of so much suffering and danger to his grace. "But nobody need know any thing about it: keep your own counsel, and, depend upon it, I won't say a word to any one." "Then your grace will allow me to attend you as usual, which will show the public that you have not withdrawn your confidence from me?" "No," replied the duke, kindly but firmly; "I can't do that, for that would be a lie." He would not act a falsehood any more than he would speak one.
But lying assumes many forms—such as diplomacy, expediency, and moral reservation; and, under one guise or another, it is found more or less pervading all classes of society. Sometimes it assumes the form of equivocation or moral dodging—twisting and so stating the things said as to convey a false impression—a kind of lying which a Frenchman once described as "walking round about the truth."
There are even men of narrow minds and dishonest natures, who pride themselves upon their Jesuitical cleverness in equivocation, in their serpent-wise shirking of the truth and getting out of moral backdoors, in order to hide their real opinions and evade the consequences of holding and openly professing them. Institutions or systems based upon any such expedients must necessarily prove false and hollow. "Though a lie be ever so well dressed," says George Herbert, "it is ever overcome." Downright lying, though bolder and more vicious, is even less contemptible than such kind of shuffling and equivocation.
AS TO MARRIAGE.
Mention has been made of the great influence on character of the right kind of a home, in childhood and youth. The right kind of a home depends almost entirely on the right kind of a wife or mother.
The old saying, "Marry in haste and repent at leisure," will never lose its force. "Worse than the man whose selfishness keeps him a bachelor till death, is the young man, who, under an impulse he imagines to be an undying love, marries a girl as poor, weak, and selfish as himself. There have been cases where marriage under such circumstances has aroused the man to effort and made him, particularly if his wife were of the same character, but these are so exceptional as to form no guide for people of average common sense.
Again, there have been men, good men, whose lives measured by the ordinary standards were successful, who never married; but those who hear or read of them, have the feeling that such careers were incomplete.
The most important voluntary act of every man and woman's life, is marriage, and God has so ordained it. Hence it is an act which should be love-prompted on both sides, and only entered into after the most careful and prayerful deliberation.
It is natural for young people of the opposite sex, who are much thrown together, and so become in a way essential to each other's happiness, to end by falling in love. It is said that "love is blind," and the ancients so painted their mythological god, Cupid. It is very certain that the fascination is not dependent on the will; it is a divine, natural impulse, which has for its purpose the continuance of the race.
Here, then, in all its force, we see the influence of association, which has been already treated of. The young man whose associations are of the right kind is sure to be brought into contact with the good daughters of good mothers. With such association, love and marriage should add to life's success and happiness, provided, always, that the husband's circumstances warrant him in establishing and maintaining a home.
Granting, then, the right kind of a wife, and the ability to make a home, the young man, with the right kind of stuff in him, takes a great stride in the direction of success when he marries.
No wise person will marry for beauty mainly. It may exercise a powerful attraction in the first place, but it is found to be of comparatively little consequence afterward. Not that beauty of person is to be underestimated, for, other things being equal, handsomeness of form and beauty of features are the outward manifestations of health. But to marry a handsome figure without character, fine features unbeautified by sentiment or good nature, is the most deplorable of mistakes. As even the finest landscape, seen daily, becomes monotonous, so does the most beautiful face, unless a beautiful nature shines through it. The beauty of to-day becomes commonplace to-morrow; whereas goodness, displayed through the most ordinary features, is perennially lovely. Moreover, this kind of beauty improves with age, and time ripens rather than destroys it. After the first year, married people rarely think of each other's features, whether they be classically beautiful or otherwise. But they never fail to be cognizant of each other's temper. "When I see a man," says Addison, "with a sour, riveted face, I can not forbear pitying his wife; and when I meet with an open, ingenuous countenance, I think of the happiness of his friends, his family, and his relations."
Edmund Burke, the greatest of English statesmen, was especially happy in his marriage. He never ceased to be a lover, and long years after the wedding he thus describes his wife: "She is handsome; but it is a beauty not arising from features, from complexion, or from shape. She has all three in a high degree, but it is not by these she touches the heart; it is all that sweetness of temper, benevolence, innocence, and sensibility, which a face can express, that forms her beauty. She has a face that just raises your attention at first sight; it grows on you every moment, and you wonder it did no more than raise your attention at first.
"Her eyes have a mild light, but they awe when she pleases; they command, like a good man out of office, not by authority, but by virtue.
"Her stature is not tall; she is not made to be the admiration of everybody, but the happiness of one.
"She has all the firmness that does not exclude delicacy; she has all the softness that does not imply weakness.
"Her voice is a soft, low music—not formed to rule in public assemblies, but to charm those who can distinguish a company from a crowd; it has this advantage—you must come close to her to hear it.
"To describe her body describes her mind—one is the transcript of the other; her understanding is not shown in the variety of matters it exerts itself on, but in the goodness of the choice she makes.
"She does not display it so much in saying or doing striking things, as in avoiding such as she ought not to say or do.
"No person of so few years can know the world better; no person was ever less corrupted by the knowledge of it."
A man's real character will always be more visible in his household than anywhere else; and his practical wisdom will be better exhibited by the manner in which he bears rule there than even in the larger affairs of business or public life. His whole mind may be in his business; but, if he would be happy, his whole heart must be in his home. It is there that his genuine qualities most surely display themselves—there that he shows his truthfulness, his love, his sympathy, his consideration for others, his uprightness, his manliness—in a word, his character. If affection be not the governing principle in a household, domestic life may be the most intolerable of despotisms. Without justice, also, there can be neither love, confidence, nor respect, on which all true domestic rule is founded.
It is by the regimen of domestic affection that the heart of man is best composed and regulated. The home is the woman's kingdom, her state, her world—where she governs by affection, by kindness, by the power of gentleness. There is nothing which so settles the turbulence of a man's nature as his union in life with a high-minded woman. There he finds rest, contentment, and happiness—rest of brain and peace of spirit. He will also often find in her his best counselor, for her instinctive tact will usually lead him right when his own unaided reason might be apt to go wrong. The true wife is a staff to lean upon in times of trial and difficulty; and she is never wanting in sympathy and solace when distress occurs or fortune frowns. In the time of youth, she is a comfort and an ornament of man's life; and she remains a faithful helpmate in maturer years, when life has ceased to be an anticipation, and we live in its realities.
Luther, a man full of human affection, speaking of his wife, said, "I would not exchange my poverty with her for all the riches of Croesus without her." Of marriage he observed: "The utmost blessing that God can confer on a man is the possession of a good and pious wife, with whom he may live in peace and tranquility—to whom he may confide his whole possessions, even his life and welfare." And again he said, "To rise betimes, and to marry young, are what no man ever repents of doing."
Some persons are disappointed in marriage, because they expect too much from it; but many more because they do not bring into the co- partnership their fair share of cheerfulness, kindliness, forbearance, and common sense. Their imagination has perhaps pictured a condition never experienced on this side of heaven; and when real life comes, with its troubles and cares, there is a sudden waking-up as from a dream.
We have spoken of the influence of a wife upon a man's character. There are few men strong enough to resist the influence of a lower character in a wife. If she do not sustain and elevate what is highest in his nature, she will speedily reduce him to her own level. Thus a wife may be the making or the unmaking of the best of men. An illustration of this power is furnished in the life of Bunyan, the profligate tinker, who had the good fortune to marry, in early life, a worthy young woman, of good parentage.
On hearing of the death of his wife, the great explorer, Dr. Livingstone, wrote to a friend: "I must confess that this heavy stroke quite takes the heart out of me. Every thing else that has happened only made me more determined to overcome all difficulties; but after this sad stroke I feel crushed and void of strength. Only three short months of her society, after four years' separation! I married her for love, and the longer I lived with her I loved her the more. A good wife, and a good, brave, kind-hearted mother was she, deserving all the praises you bestowed upon her at our parting dinner, for teaching her own and the native children, too, at Kolobeng. I try to bow to the blow as from our Heavenly Father, who orders all things for us . . . I shall do my duty still, but it is with a darkened horizon that I again set about it."
Besides being a helper, woman is emphatically a consoler. Her sympathy is unfailing. She soothes, cheers, and comforts. Never was this more true than in the case of the wife of Tom Hood, whose tender devotion to him, during a life that was a prolonged illness, is one of the most affecting things in biography. A woman of excellent good sense, she appreciated her husband's genius, and, by encouragement and sympathy, cheered and heartened him to renewed effort in many a weary struggle for life. She created about him an atmosphere of hope and cheerfulness, and nowhere did the sunshine of her love seem so bright as when lighting up the couch of her invalid husband.
Scott wrote beautifully and truthfully:
"Oh, woman, in our hours of ease, Uncertain, coy, and hard to please, And variable as the shade By the light, quivering aspen made, When pain and anguish wring the brow, A ministering angel thou."
EDUCATION AS DISTINGUISHED FROM LEARNING.
Although not the same kind, there is as much difference between education and learning, as there is between character and reputation.
Learning may be regarded as mental capital, in the way of accumulated facts. Education is the drawing out and development of the best that is in the heart, the head, and the hand.
The civilized world has a score of very learned men, to the one who may be said to be thoroughly educated. The learned man may be familiar with many languages, and sciences, and have all the facts of history and literature at his fingers' tip, and yet be as helpless as an infant and as impractical as a fool. An educated man, a man with his powers developed by training, may know no language but his mother tongue, may be ignorant as to literature and art, and yet be well—yes, even superbly educated.
The learned man's mind may be likened to a store house, or magazine, in which there are a thousand wonderful things, some of which he can make of use in the battle of life. He resembles the miser who fills his coffers with gold and keeps it out of circulation. Beyond the selfish joy of possession, his wealth is worthless, and its acquisition has unfitted him for the struggle. The educated man, to continue the illustration, may not be rich, but he knows how to use every cent he owns, and he places it where, under his energy, it will grow into dollars.
Far be it from us to underestimate the value of learning. Many of the world's greatest men have been learned, but without exception such men have also been educated. They have been trained to make their knowledge available for the benefit of themselves and their fellow men.
The athlete who develops his muscles to their greatest capacity of strength and flexibility, and this can only be done by observing strictly the laws of health, is physically an educated man. Every mechanic whose hands and brain have been trained to the expertness required by the master workman, is well-educated in his particular calling. The man who is an expert accountant, or a trained civil engineer, may know nothing of the higher mathematical principles, but he is better educated than the scholar who has only a theoretical knowledge of all the mathematics that have ever been published.
The educated man is the man who can do something, and the quality of his work marks the degree of his education. One might be learned in law in a phenomenal way, and yet, unless he was educated, trained to the practice, he would be beaten in the preparation of a case by a lawyer's clerk.
There are men who can write and talk learnedly on political economy and the laws of trade, and quote from memory all the statistics of the census library, and yet be immeasurably surpassed in practical business, by a young man whose college was the store, and whose university was the counting room.
It should not be inferred from this that learning is not of the greatest value, or that the facts obtained from the proper books are to be ignored. The best investment a young man can make is in good books, the study of which broadens the mind, and the facts of which equip him the better for his life calling.
But books are not valuable only because of the available information they give; when they do not instruct, they elevate and refine.
"Books," said Hazlitt, "wind into the heart; the poet's verse slides into the current of our blood. We read them when young, we remember them when old. We read there of what has happened to others; we feel that it has happened to ourselves. They are to be had everywhere cheap and good. We breathe but the air of books. We owe everything to their authors, on this side barbarism."
A good book is often the best urn of a life, enshrining the best thoughts of which that life was capable; for the world of a man's life is, for the most part, but the world of his thoughts. Thus the best books are treasuries of good words and golden thoughts, which, remembered and cherished, become our abiding companions and comforters. "They are never alone," said Sir Philip Sidney, "that are accompanied by noble thoughts." The good and true thought may in time of temptation be as an angel of mercy, purifying and guarding the soul. It also enshrines the germs of action, for good words almost invariably inspire to good works.
Thus Sir Henry Lawrence prized above all other compositions Wordsworth's "Character of the Happy Warrior," which he endeavored to embody in his own life. It was ever before him as an exemplar. He thought of it continually, and often quoted it to others. His biographer says, "He tried to conform his own life and to assimilate his own character to it; and he succeeded, as all men succeed who are truly in earnest."
Books possess an essence of immortality. They are by far the most lasting products of human effort. Temples crumble into ruin; pictures and statues decay; but books survive. Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds, ages ago. What was then said and thought still speaks to us as vividly as ever from the printed page. The only effect of time has been to sift and winnow out the bad products; for nothing in literature can long survive but what is really good.
To the young man, "thirsting for learning and hungering for education," there are no books more helpful than the biographies of those whom it is well to imitate. Longfellow wisely says:
"Lives of great men all remind us, We can make our lives sublime, And departing leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time—
Footprints which perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn main, A forlorn and ship-wrecked brother, Seeing, may take heart again."
At the head of all biographies stands the Great Biography—the Book of Books. And what is the Bible, the most sacred and impressive of all books—the educator of youth, the guide of manhood, and the consoler of age—but a series of biographies of great heroes and patriarchs, prophets, kings and judges, culminating in the greatest biography of all—the Life embodied in the New Testament? How much have the great examples there set forth done for mankind! How many have drawn from them their best strength, their highest wisdom, their best nurture and admonition! Truly does a great and deeply pious writer describe the Bible as a book whose words "live in the ear like a music that never can be forgotten—like the sound of church-bells which the convert hardly knows how he can forego. Its felicities often seem to be almost things rather than mere words. It is part of the national mind, and the anchor of national seriousness. The memory of the dead passes into it. The potent traditions of childhood are stereotyped in its verses. The power of all the griefs and trials of man is hidden beneath its words. It is the representative of his best moments; and all that has been about him of soft, and gentle, and pure, and penitent, and good, speaks to him forever out of his English Bible. It is his sacred thing, which doubt has never dimmed and controversy never soiled. In the length and breadth of the land there is not an individual with one spark of religiousness about him whose spiritual biography is not in his Saxon Bible."
History itself is best studied in biography. Indeed, history is biography—collective humanity as influenced and governed by individual men. "What is all history," says Emerson, "but the work of ideas, a record of the incomparable energy which his infinite aspirations infuse into man? In its pages it is always persons we see more than principles. Historical events are interesting to us mainly in connection with the feelings, the sufferings, and interests of those by whom they are accomplished. In history we are surrounded by men long dead, but whose speech and whose deeds survive. We almost catch the sound of their voices; and what they did constitutes the interest of history. We never feel personally interested in masses of men; but we feel and sympathize with the individual actors, whose biographies afford the finest and most real touches in all great historical dramas."
As in portraiture, so in biography—there must be light and shade. The portrait-painter does not pose his sitter so as to bring out his deformities; nor does the biographer give undue prominence to the defects of the character he portrays. Not many men are so outspoken as Cromwell was when he sat to Cooper for his miniature: "Paint me as I am," said he, "wart and all." Yet, if we would have a faithful likeness of faces and characters, they must be painted as they are. "Biography," said Sir Walter Scott, "the most interesting of every species of composition, loses all its interest with me when the shades and lights of the principal characters are not accurately and faithfully detailed. I can no more sympathize with a mere eulogist than I can with a ranting hero on the stage."
It is to be regretted that in this day the country is flooded with cheap, trashy fiction, the general tendency of which is not only not educational, but is positively destructive. The desire to read this stuff is as demoralizing as the opium habit.
There are works of fiction, cheap and available, too, whose influence is elevating, and some knowledge of which is essential to the young man who is using his spare hours for the purpose of self-education.
There is no room for doubt that the surpassing interest which fiction, whether in poetry or prose, possesses for most minds arises mainly from the biographic element which it contains. Homer's "Iliad "owes its marvelous popularity to the genius which its author displayed in the portrayal of heroic character. Yet he does not so much describe his personages in detail as make them develop themselves by their actions. "There are in Homer," said Dr. Johnson, "such characters of heroes and combination of qualities of heroes, that the united powers of mankind ever since have not produced any but what are to be found there."
The genius of Shakespeare, also, was displayed in the powerful delineation of character, and the dramatic evolution of human passions. His personages seem to be real—living and breathing before us. So, too, with Cervantes, whose Sancho Panza, though homely and vulgar, is intensely human. The characters in Le Sage's "Gil Bias," in Goldsmith's "Vicar of Wakefield," and in Scott's marvelous muster-roll, seem to us almost as real as persons whom we have actually known; and De Foe's greatest works are but so many biographies, painted in minute detail, with reality so apparently stamped upon every page that it is difficult to believe his Robinson Crusoe and Colonel Jack to have been fictitious persons instead of real ones.
Then we have a fine American literature, which should be read after the history of the country is mastered, the stories of Cooper are fresh and invigorating, and those of Hawthorne are life studies and prose poems. Holmes, Lowell, Emerson, Bayard Taylor, and scores of other American writers, whose pens have added lustre to the country, will well repay the reader.
Good books are among the best of companions; and, by elevating the thoughts and aspirations, they act as preservatives against low associations. "A natural turn for reading and intellectual pursuits," says Thomas Hood, "probably preserved me from the moral ship-wreck so apt to befall those who are deprived in early life of their parental pilotage. My books kept me from the ring, the dogpit, the tavern, the saloon. The closet associate of Pope and Addison, the mind accustomed to the noble though silent discourse of Shakespeare and Milton, will hardly seek or put up with low company and slaves."
It has been truly said that the best books are those which most resemble good actions. They are purifying, elevating, and sustaining; they enlarge and liberalize the mind; they preserve it against vulgar worldliness; they tend to produce high-minded cheerfulness and equanimity of character; they fashion, and shape, and humanize the mind. In the Northern universities, the schools in which the ancient classics are studied are appropriately styled "The Humanity Classes."
Erasmus, the great scholar, was even of opinion that books were the necessaries of life, and clothes the luxuries; and he frequently postponed buying the latter until he had supplied himself with the former. His greatest favorites were the writings of Cicero, which he says he always felt himself the better for reading. "I can never," he says, "read the works of Cicero on 'Old Age,' or 'Friendship,' or his 'Tusculan Disputations,' without fervently pressing them to my lips, without being penetrated with veneration for a mind little short of inspired by God himself."
It is unnecessary to speak of the enormous moral influence which books have exercised upon the general civilization of mankind, from the Bible downward. They contain the treasured knowledge of the human race. They are the record of all labors, achievements, speculations, successes, and failures, in science, philosophy, religion, and morals. They have been the greatest motive-powers in all times. "From the Gospel to the Contrat Social," says De Bonald, "it is books that have made revolutions." Indeed, a great book is often a greater thing than a great battle. Even works of fiction have occasionally exercised immense power on society.
Bear in mind that it is not all we eat that nourishes, but what we digest. The learned man is a glutton as to books, but the educated man knows that, no matter how much is read, benefit is only derived from the thoughts that develop our own thoughts and strengthen our own minds.
THE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE.
"What experience have you had?" This is apt to be the first question put by an employer to the applicant for a place, be he mechanic, clerk, or laborer. If you need a doctor, you would prefer to trust your case to a man of experience, rather than to one fresh from a medical college. Apart from the established reputation, that comes only with time, and natural abilities which count for much, the principal difference between men in every calling is the difference in their experiences.
If this experience is so essential, we must regard as wanting in judgment the young man, who, after a short service, imagines he is as well qualified to conduct the business as his superior in place. No amount of natural ability, and no effort of energy can compensate for the training that comes from experience. Indeed, it is only after we have studied and tested ourselves, and overestimated our talents to our injury, more than once, that experience gives us a proper estimate of our own strength and weakness.
Contact with others is requisite to enable a man to know himself. It is only by mixing freely in the world that one can form a proper estimate of his own capacity. Without such experience, one is apt to become conceited, puffed up, and arrogant; at all events, he will remain ignorant of himself, though he may heretofore have enjoyed no other company.
Swift once said: "It is an uncontroverted truth, that no man ever made an ill-figure who understood his own talents, nor a good one who mistook them." Many persons, however, are readier to take measure of the capacity of others than of themselves. "Bring him to me," said a certain Dr. Tronchin, of Geneva, speaking of Rousseau— "bring him to me that I may see whether he has got anything in him!"—the probability being that Rousseau, who knew himself better, was much more likely to take measure of Tronchin than Tronchin was to take measure of him.
A due amount of self-knowledge is, therefore, necessary for those who would be anything or do anything in the world. It is also one of the first essentials to the formation of distinct personal convictions. Frederick Perthes once said to a young friend, "You know only too well what you can do; but till you have learned what you can not do, you will neither accomplish anything of moment nor know inward peace."
Any one who would profit by experience will never be above asking help. He who thinks himself already too wise to learn of others, will never succeed in doing anything either good or great. We have to keep our minds and hearts open, and never be ashamed to learn, with the assistance of those who are wiser and more experienced than ourselves.
The man made wise by experience endeavors to judge correctly of the things which come under his observation and form the subject of his daily life. What we call common sense is, for the most part, but the result of common experience wisely improved. Nor is great ability necessary to acquire it, so much as patience, accuracy, and watchfulness.
The results of experience are, of course, only to be achieved by living; and living is a question of time. The man of experience learns to rely upon time as his helper. "Time and I against any two," was a maxim of Cardinal Mazarin. Time has been described as a beautifier and as a consoler; but it is also a teacher. It is the food of experience, the soil of wisdom. It may be the friend or the enemy of youth; and time will sit beside the old as a consoler or as a tormentor, according as it has been used or misused, and the past life has been well or ill spent.
"Time," says George Herbert, "is the rider that breaks youth." To the young, how bright the new world looks!—how full of novelty, of enjoyment, of pleasure! But as years pass, we find the world to be a place of sorrow as well as of joy. As we proceed through life, many dark vistas open upon us—of toil, suffering, difficulty, perhaps misfortune and failure. Happy they who can pass through and amidst such trials with a firm mind and pure heart, encountering trials with cheerfulness, and standing erect beneath even the heaviest burden!
Thomas A. Edison, the great inventor, in speaking of his success to the writer, said:
"I had when I started out all the patience and perseverance that I have now, but I lacked the experience. Seeing that I had only ten weeks' regular schooling in all my life, I can say with truth that experience has been my school and my only one.
"Many believe that my life has been a success from the start, and I do not try to undeceive them, but as a matter of fact my failures have exceeded my successes as one hundred to one; but even the experience of these failures has been in itself an educator and has enabled me not to repeat them."
The brave man will not be baffled, but tries and tries again until he succeeds. The tree does not fall at the first stroke, but only by repeated strokes and after great labor. We may see the visible success at which a man has arrived, but forget the toil and suffering and peril through which it has been achieved. For the same reason, it is often of advantage for a man to be under the necessity of having to struggle with poverty and conquer it. "He who has battled," says Carlyle, "were it only with poverty and hard toil, will be found stronger and more expert than he who could stay at home from the battle, concealed among the provision wagons, or even rest unwatchfully 'abiding by the stuff.'"
Scholars have found poverty tolerable compared with the privation of intellectual food. Riches weigh much more heavily upon the mind. "I cannot but choose say to Poverty," said Richter, "Be welcome! So that thou come not too late in life." Poverty, Horace tells us, drove him to poetry and poetry introduced him to Varus and Virgil and Maecenas. "Obstacles," says Michelet, "are great incentives. I lived for whole years upon a Virgil and found myself well off."
Many have to make up their minds to encounter failure again and again before they succeed; but if they have pluck, the failure will only serve to rouse their courage and stimulate them to renewed efforts. Talma, the greatest of actors, was hissed off the stage when he first appeared on it. Lacordaire, one of the greatest preachers of modern times, only acquired celebrity after repeated failures. Montalembert said of his first public appearance in the church of St. Roch: He failed completely, and, on coming out, every one said, "Though he may be a man of talent he will never be a preacher." Again and again he tried, until he succeeded, and only two years after his debut, Lacordaire was preaching in Notre Dame to audiences such as few French orators have addressed since the time of Bossuet and Massilon.
When Mr. Cobden first appeared as a speaker at a public meeting in Manchester, he completely broke down and the chairman apologized for his failure. Sir James Graham and Mr. Disraeli failed and were derided at first, and only succeeded by dint of great labor and application. At one time Sir James Graham had almost given up public speaking in despair. He said to his friend Sir Francis Baring: "I have tried it every way—extempore, from notes, and committing it all to memory—and I can't do it. I don't know why it is, but I am afraid I shall never succeed." Yet by dint of perseverance, Graham, like Disraeli, lived to become one of the most effective and impressive of parliamentary speakers.
In every field of effort success has only come after many trials. Morse with his telegraph and Howe with his sewing machine lived in poverty and met with many disappointments before the world came to appreciate the value of their great inventions.
It can be said with truth that these great men could have avoided much of their trouble if they had had the necessary experience. But particularly in the two cases cited before, the inventions were new to the world and it needed that the world should have the experience of their utility as well as the inventors.
Science also has had its martyrs, who have fought their way to light through difficulty, persecution and suffering. We need not refer to the cases of Bruno, Galileo and others, persecuted because of the supposed heterodoxy of their views. But there have been other unfortunates among men of science, whose genius has been unable to save them from the fury of their enemies. Thus Bailly, the celebrated French astronomer (who had been mayor of Paris) and Lavoisier, the great chemist, were both guillotined in the first French Revolution. When the latter, after being sentenced to death by the Commune, asked for a few days' respite to enable him to ascertain the result of some experiments he had made during his confinement, the tribunal refused his appeal, and ordered him for immediate execution, one of the judges saying that "the Republic has no need of philosophers." In England also, about the same time, Dr. Priestley, the father of modern chemistry, had his house burned over his head and his library destroyed, amidst the shouts of "No philosophers!" and he fled from his native country to lay his bones in a foreign land.
Courageous men have often turned enforced solitude to account in executing works of great pith and moment. It is in solitude that the passion for spiritual perfection best nurses itself. The soul communes with itself in loneliness until its energy often becomes intense. But whether a man profits by solitude or not will mainly depend upon his own temperament, training and character. While, in a large-natured man, solitude will make the pure heart purer, in the small-natured man it will only serve to make the hard heart still harder; for though solitude may be the nurse of great spirits, it is the torment of small ones.
Not only have many of the world's greatest benefactors, men whose lives history now records the most successful, had not only to contend with poverty, but it was their misfortune to be misunderstood and to be regarded as criminals. Many a great reformer in religion, science, and government has paid for his opinions by imprisonment. Speaking of these great men, a prominent English writer says: Prisons may have held them, but their thoughts were not to be confined by prison walls. They have burst through and defied the power of their persecutors. It was Lovelace, a prisoner, who wrote:
"Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage; Minds innocent and quiet take That for a hermitage."
It was a saying of Milton that, "who best can suffer, best can do." The work of many of the greatest men, inspired by duty, has been done amidst suffering and trial and difficulty. They have struggled against the tide and reached the shore exhausted, only to grasp the sand and expire. They have done their duty and been content to die. But death hath no power over such men; their hallowed memories still survive to soothe and purify and bless us. "Life," said Goethe, "to us all is suffering. Who save God alone shall call us to our reckoning? Let not reproaches fall on the departed. Not what they have failed in, nor what they have suffered, but what they have done, ought to occupy the survivors."
Thus, it is not ease and facility that try men and bring out the good that is in them, so much as trial and difficulty. Adversity is the touchstone of character. As some herbs need to be crushed to give forth their sweetest odor, so some natures need to be tried by suffering to evoke the excellence that is in them. Hence trials often unmask virtues and bring to light hidden graces.
Suffering may be the appointed means by which the higher nature of man is to be disciplined and developed. Assuming happiness to be the end of being, sorrow may be the indispensable condition through which it is to be reached. Hence St. Paul's noble paradox descriptive of the Christian life—"As chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
Even pain is not all painful. On one side it is related to suffering, and on the other to happiness. For pain is remedial as well as sorrowful. Suffering is a misfortune as viewed from the one side, and a discipline as viewed from the other. But for suffering, the best part of many men's natures would sleep a deep sleep. Indeed, it might almost be said that pain and sorrow were the indispensable conditions of some men's success, and the necessary means to evoke the highest development of their genius. Shelley has said of poets:
"Most wretched men are cradled into poetry by wrong, They learn in suffering what they teach in song."
But the young man meeting with disappointments, as he is sure to do in the beginning of his career, particularly if he be dependent on himself, should take comfort from the thought that others who have risen to success have had to travel the same hard road; and such men have confessed that these trials, these bitter experiences, were the most valuable of their lives.
Life, all sunshine without shade, all happiness without sorrow, all pleasure without pain, were not life at all—at least not human life. Take the lot of the happiest—it is a tangled yarn. It is made up of sorrows and joys; and the joys are all the sweeter because of the sorrows; bereavements and blessings, one following another, making us sad and blessed by turns. Even death itself makes life more loving; it binds us more closely together while here. Dr. Thomas Browne has argued that death is one of the necessary conditions of human happiness, and he supports his argument with great force and eloquence. But when death comes into a household, we do not philosophize—we only feel. The eyes that are full of tears do not see; though in course of time they come to see more clearly and brightly than those that have never known sorrow.
There is much in life that, while in this state, we can never comprehend. There is, indeed, a great deal of mystery in life—much that we see "as in a glass darkly." But though we may not apprehend the full meaning of the discipline of trial through which the best have to pass, we must have faith in the completeness of the design of which our little individual lives form a part.
We have each to do our duty in that sphere of life in which we have been placed. Duty alone is true; there is no true action but in its accomplishment. Duty is the end and aim of the highest life; the truest pleasure of all is that derived from the consciousness of its fulfillment. Of all others, it is the one that is most thoroughly satisfying, and the least accompanied by regret and disappointment. In the words of George Herbert, the consciousness of duty performed "gives us music at midnight."
And when we have done our work on earth—of necessity, of labor, of love, or of duty—like the silk-worm that spins its little cocoon and dies, we too depart. But, short though our stay in life may be, it is the appointed sphere in which each has to work out the great aim and end of his being to the best of his power; and when that is done, the accidents of the flesh will affect but little the immortality we shall at last put on.
SELECTING A CALLING.
In reading the lives of great men, one is struck with a very important fact: that their success has been won in callings for which in early manhood they had no particular liking. Necessity or chance has, in many cases, decided what their life-work should be. But even where the employment was at first uncongenial, a strict sense of duty and a strong determination to master the difficult and to like the disagreeable, conquered in the end.
In these days of fierce competition, no matter how ardent the desire for fame, he is a dreamer who loses sight of the monetary returns of his life-efforts.