Never forget that others will depend upon you, and that you cannot depend upon them.--DUMAS, FILS.
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, which we ascribe to Heaven.--SHAKESPEARE.
The best education in the world is that got by struggling to obtain a living.--WENDELL PHILLIPS.
Every person has two educations, one which he receives from others, and one, more important, which he gives himself.--GIBBON.
What the superior man seeks is in himself: what the small man seeks is in others.--CONFUCIUS.
Who waits to have his task marked out, Shall die and leave his errand unfulfilled. LOWELL.
In battle or business, whatever the game, In law, or in love, it's ever the same: In the struggle for power, or scramble for pelf, Let this be your motto, "Rely on yourself." SAXE.
Let every eye negotiate for itself, And trust no agent. SHAKESPEARE.
"Colonel Crockett makes room for himself!" exclaimed a backwoods congressman in answer to the exclamation of the White House usher to "Make room for Colonel Crockett!" This remarkable man was not afraid to oppose the head of a great nation. He preferred being right to being president. Though rough, uncultured, and uncouth, Crockett was a man of great courage and determination.
Garfield was the youngest member of the House of Representatives when he entered, but he had not been in his seat sixty days before his ability was recognized and his place conceded. He stepped to the front with the confidence of one who belonged there. He succeeded because all the world in concert could not have kept him in the background, and because when once in the front he played his part with an intrepidity and a commanding ease that were but the outward evidences of the immense reserves of energy on which it was in his power to draw.
[Illustration: James A. Garfield (missing from book)]
"Take the place and attitude which belong to you," says Emerson, "and all men acquiesce. The world must be just. It leaves every man with profound unconcern to set his own rate."
Grant was no book soldier. Some of his victories were contrary to all instructions in military works. He did not dare to disclose his plan to invest Vicksburg, and he even cut off all communication on the Mississippi River for seven days that no orders could reach him from General Halleck, his superior officer; for he knew that Halleck went by books, and he was proceeding contrary to all military theories. He was making a greater military history than had ever been written up to that time. He was greater than all books of tactics. The consciousness of power is everything. That man is strongest who owes most to himself.
"Man, it is within yourself," says Pestalozzi, "it is in the inner sense of your power that resides nature's instrument for your development."
Richard Arkwright, the thirteenth child, in a hovel, with no education, no chance, gave his spinning model to the world, and put a sceptre in England's right hand such as the queen never wielded.
"A person under the firm persuasion that he can command resources virtually has them," says Livy.
Solario, a wandering gypsy tinker, fell deeply in love with the daughter of the painter Coll' Antonio del Fiore, but was told that no one but a painter as good as the father should wed the maiden. "Will you give me ten years to learn to paint, and so entitle myself to the hand of your daughter?" Consent was given, Coll' Antonio thinking that he would never be troubled further by the gypsy. About the time that the ten years were to end the king's sister showed Coll' Antonio a Madonna and Child, which the painter extolled in terms of the highest praise. Judge of his surprise on learning that Solario was the artist. But later, his son-in-law surprised him even more by his rare skill.
Louis Philippe said he was the only sovereign in Europe fit to govern, for he could black his own boots.
When asked to name his family coat-of-arms, a self-made President of the United States replied, "A pair of shirtsleeves."
"Poverty is uncomfortable, as I can testify," said James A. Garfield; "but nine times out of ten the best thing that can happen to a young man is to be tossed overboard and compelled to sink or swim for himself. In all my acquaintance I have never known a man to be drowned who was worth the saving."
It is not the men who have inherited most, except it be in nobility of soul and purpose, who have risen highest; but rather the men with no "start" who have won fortunes, and have made adverse circumstances a spur to goad them up the steep mount, where
"Fame's proud temple shines afar."
To such men, every possible goal is accessible, and honest ambition has no height that genius or talent may tread, which has not felt the impress of their feet.
You may leave your millions to your son, but have you really given him anything? You cannot transfer the discipline, the experience, the power which the acquisition has given you; you cannot transfer the delight of achieving, the joy felt only in growth, the pride of acquisition, the character which trained habits of accuracy, method, promptness, patience, dispatch, honesty of dealing, politeness of manner have developed. You cannot transfer the skill, sagacity, prudence, foresight, which lie concealed in your wealth. It meant a great deal for you, but means nothing to your heir. In climbing to your fortune, you developed the muscle, stamina, and strength which enabled you to maintain your lofty position, to keep your millions intact. You had the power which comes only from experience, and which alone enables you to stand firm on your dizzy height. Your fortune was experience to you, joy, growth, discipline, and character; to him it will be a temptation, an anxiety, which will probably dwarf him. It was wings to you, it will be a dead weight to him; it was education to you and expansion of your highest powers; to him it may mean inaction, lethargy, indolence, weakness, ignorance. You have taken the priceless spur--necessity--away from him, the spur which has goaded man to nearly all the great achievements in the history of the world.
You thought it a kindness to deprive yourself in order that your son might begin where you left off. You thought to spare him the drudgery, the hardships, the deprivations, the lack of opportunities, the meagre education, which you had on the old farm. But you have put a crutch into his hand instead of a staff; you have taken away from him the incentive to self-development, to self-elevation, to self-discipline and self-help, without which no real success, no real happiness, no great character is ever possible. His enthusiasm will evaporate, his energy will be dissipated, his ambition, not being stimulated by the struggle for self-elevation, will gradually die away. If you do everything for your son and fight his battles for him, you will have a weakling on your hands at twenty-one.
"My life is a wreck," said the dying Cyrus W. Field, "my fortune gone, my home dishonored. Oh, I was so unkind to Edward when I thought I was being kind. If I had only had firmness enough to compel my boys to earn their living, then they would have known the meaning of money." His table was covered with medals and certificates of honor from many nations, in recognition of his great work for civilization in mooring two continents side by side in thought, of the fame he had won and could never lose. But grief shook the sands of life as he thought only of the son who had brought disgrace upon a name before unsullied, the wounds were sharper than those of a serpent's tooth.
During the great financial crisis of 1857 Maria Mitchell, who was visiting England, asked an English lady what became of daughters when no property was left them. "They live on their brothers," was the reply. "But what becomes of the American daughters," asked the English lady, "when there is no money left?" "They earn it," was the reply.
Men who have been bolstered up all their lives are seldom good for anything in a crisis. When misfortune comes, they look around for somebody to lean upon. If the prop is not there down they go. Once down, they are as helpless as capsized turtles, or unhorsed men in armor. Many a frontier boy has succeeded beyond all his expectations simply because all props were knocked out from under him and he was obliged to stand upon his own feet.
"A man's best friends are his ten fingers," said Robert Collyer, who brought his wife to America in the steerage. Young men who are always looking for something to lean upon never amount to anything.
There is no manhood mill which takes in boys and turns out men. What you call "no chance" may be your "only chance." Don't wait for your place to be made for you; make it yourself. Don't wait for somebody to give you a lift; lift yourself. Henry Ward Beecher did not wait for a call to a big church with a large salary. He accepted the first pastorate offered him, in a little town near Cincinnati. He became literally the light of the church, for he trimmed the lamps, kindled the fires, swept the rooms, and rang the bell. His salary was only about $200 a year,--but he knew that a fine church and great salary cannot make a great man. It was work and opportunity that he wanted. He felt that if there was anything in him work would bring it out.
"Physiologists tell us," says Waters, "that it takes twenty-eight years for the brain to attain its full development. If this is so, why should not one be able, by his own efforts, to give this long-growing organ a particular bent, a peculiar character? Why should the will not be brought to bear upon the formation of the brain as well as of the backbone?" The will is merely our steam power, and we may put it to any work we please. It will do our bidding, whether it be building up a character, or tearing it down. It may be applied to building up a habit of truthfulness and honesty, or of falsehood and dishonor. It will help build up a man or a brute, a hero or a coward. It will brace up resolution until one may almost perform miracles, or it may be dissipated in irresolution and inaction until life is a wreck. It will hold you to your task until you have formed a powerful habit of industry and application, until idleness and inaction are painful, or it will lead you into indolence and listlessness until every effort will be disagreeable and success impossible.
"The first thing I have to impress upon you is," says J. T. Davidson, "that a good name must be the fruit of one's own exertion. You cannot possess it by patrimony; you cannot purchase it with money; you will not light on it by chance; it is independent of birth, station, talents, and wealth; it must be the outcome of your own endeavor, and the reward of good principles and honorable conduct. Of all the elements of success in life none is more vital than self-reliance,--a determination to be, under God, the creator of your own reputation and advancement. If difficulties stand in the way, if exceptional disadvantages oppose you, all the better, as long as you have pluck to fight through them. I want each young man here (you will not misunderstand me) to have faith in himself and, scorning props and buttresses, crutches and life-preservers, to take earnest hold of life. Many a lad has good stuff in him that never comes to anything because he slips too easily into some groove of life; it is commonly those who have a tough battle to begin with that make their mark upon their age."
When Beethoven was examining the work of Moscheles, he found written at the end "Finis, with God's help." He wrote under it "Man, help yourself."
A young man stood listlessly watching some anglers on a bridge. He was poor and dejected. At length, approaching a basket filled with fish, he sighed, "If now I had these I would be happy. I could sell them and buy food and lodgings." "I will give you just as many and just as good," said the owner, who chanced to overhear his words, "if you will do me a trifling favor." "And what is that?" asked the other. "Only to tend this line till I come back; I wish to go on a short errand." The proposal was gladly accepted. The old man was gone so long that the young man began to get impatient. Meanwhile the fish snapped greedily at the hook, and he lost all his depression in the excitement of pulling them in. When the owner returned he had caught a large number. Counting out from them as many as were in the basket, and presenting them to the youth, the old fisherman said, "I fulfill my promise from the fish you have caught, to teach you whenever you see others earning what you need to waste no time in foolish wishing, but cast a line for yourself."
A white squall caught a party of tourists on a lake in Scotland, and threatened to capsize the boat. When it seemed that the crisis was really come the largest and strongest man in the party, in a state of intense fear, said, "Let us pray." "No, no, my man," shouted the bluff old boatman; "let the little man pray. You take an oar." The greatest curse that can befall a young man is to lean.
The grandest fortunes ever accumulated or possessed on earth were and are the fruit of endeavor that had no capital to begin with save energy, intellect, and the will. From Croesus down to Rockefeller the story is the same, not only in the getting of wealth, but also in the acquirement of eminence; those men have won most who relied most upon themselves.
It has been said that one of the most disgusting sights in this world is that of a young man with healthy blood, broad shoulders, presentable calves, and a hundred and fifty pounds, more or less, of good bone and muscle, standing with his hands in his pockets longing for help.
"The male inhabitants in the Township of Loaferdom, in the County of Hatework," says a printer's squib, "found themselves laboring under great inconvenience for want of an easily traveled road between Poverty and Independence. They therefore petitioned the Powers that be to levy a tax upon the property of the entire county for the purpose of laying out a macadamized highway, broad and smooth, and all the way down hill to the latter place."
"It is interesting to notice how some minds seem almost to create themselves," says Irving, "springing up under every disadvantage, and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles."
"Every one is the artificer of his own fortune," says Sallust.
Man is not merely the architect of his own fortune, but he must lay the bricks himself. Bayard Taylor, at twenty-three, wrote: "I will become the sculptor of my own mind's statue." His biography shows how often the chisel and hammer were in his hands to shape himself into his ideal. "I have seen none, known none, of the celebrities of my time," said Samuel Cox. "All my energy was directed upon one end, to improve myself."
"Man exists for culture," says Goethe; "not for what he can accomplish, but for what can be accomplished in him."
When young Professor Tyndall was in the government service, he had no definite aim in life until one day a government official asked him how he employed his leisure time. "You have five hours a day at your disposal," said he, "and this ought to be devoted to systematic study. Had I at your age some one to advise me as I now advise you, instead of being in a subordinate position, I might have been at the head of my department." The very next day young Tyndall began a regular course of study, and went to the University of Marburg, where he became noted for his indomitable industry. He was so poor that he bought a cask, and cut it open for a bathtub. He often rose before daylight to study, while the world was slumbering about him.
Labor is the only legal tender in the world to true success. The gods sell everything for that, nothing without it. You will never find success "marked down." The door to the temple of success is never left open. Every one who enters makes his own door which closes behind him to all others.
Circumstances have rarely favored great men. They have fought their way to triumph over the road of difficulty and through all sorts of opposition. A lowly beginning and a humble origin are no bar to a great career. The farmers' boys fill many of the greatest places in legislatures, in syndicates, at the bar, in pulpits, in Congress, to-day. Boys of lowly origin have made many of the greatest discoveries, are presidents of our banks, of our colleges, of our universities. Our poor boys and girls have written many of our greatest books, and have filled the highest places as teachers and journalists. Ask almost any great man in our large cities where he was born, and he will tell you it was on a farm or in a small country village. Nearly all of the great capitalists of the city came from the country. "'T is better to be lowly born."
The founder of Boston University left Cape Cod for Boston to make his way with a capital of only four dollars. Like Horace Greeley, he could find no opening for a boy; but what of that? He made an opening. He found a board, and made it into an oyster stand on the street corner. He borrowed a wheelbarrow, and went three miles to an oyster smack, bought three bushels of oysters, and wheeled them to his stand. Soon his little savings amounted to $130, and then he bought a horse and cart. This poor boy with no chance kept right on till he became the millionaire Isaac Rich.
Chauncey Jerome, the inventor of machine-made clocks, started with two others on a tour through New Jersey, they to sell the clocks, and he to make cases for them. On his way to New York he went through New Haven in a lumber wagon, eating bread and cheese. He afterward lived in a fine mansion in New Haven.
Self-help has accomplished about all the great things of the world. How many young men falter, faint, and dally with their purpose because they have no capital to start with, and wait and wait for some good luck to give them a lift. But success is the child of drudgery and perseverance. It cannot be coaxed or bribed; pay the price and it is yours. Where is the boy to-day who has less chance to rise in the world than Elihu Burritt, apprenticed to a blacksmith, in whose shop he had to work at the forge all the daylight, and often by candle-light? Yet, he managed, by studying with a book before him at his meals, carrying it in his pocket that he might utilize every spare moment, and studying nights and holidays, to pick up an excellent education in the odds and ends of time which most boys throw away. While the rich boy and the idler were yawning and stretching and getting their eyes open, young Burritt had seized the opportunity and improved it. At thirty years of age he was master of every important language in Europe and was studying those of Asia.
What chance had such a boy for distinction? Probably not a single youth will read this book who has not a better opportunity for success. Yet he had a thirst for knowledge, and a desire for self-improvement, which overcame every obstacle in his pathway. A wealthy gentleman offered to pay his expenses at Harvard; but no, he said he could get his education himself, even though he had to work twelve or fourteen hours a day at the forge. Here was a determined boy. He snatched every spare moment at the anvil and forge as though it were gold. He believed, with Gladstone, that thrift of time would repay him in after years with usury, and that waste of it would make him dwindle. Think of a boy working nearly all the daylight in a blacksmith's shop, and yet finding time to study seven languages in a single year!
If the youth of America who are struggling against cruel circumstances, to do something and be somebody in the world, could only understand that ninety per cent. of what is called genius is merely the result of persistent, determined industry, is in most cases downright hard work, that it is the slavery to a single idea which has given to many a mediocre talent the reputation of being a genius, they would be inspired with new hope. It is interesting to note that the men who talk most about genius are the men who like to work the least. The lazier the man, the more he will have to say about great things being done by genius.
The greatest geniuses have been the greatest workers. Sheridan was considered a genius, but it was found that the "brilliants" and "off-hand sayings" with which he used to dazzle the House of Commons were elaborated, polished and repolished, and put down in his memorandum book ready for any emergency.
Genius has been well defined as the infinite capacity for taking pains. If men who have done great things could only reveal to the struggling youth of to-day how much of their reputations was due to downright hard digging and plodding, what an uplift of inspiration and encouragement they would give. How often I have wished that the discouraged, struggling youth could know of the heart-aches, the head-aches, the nerve-aches, the disheartening trials, the discouraged hours, the fears and despair involved in works which have gained the admiration of the world, but which have taxed the utmost powers of their authors. You can read in a few minutes or a few hours a poem or a book with only pleasure and delight, but the days and months of weary plodding over details and dreary drudgery often required to produce it would stagger belief.
The greatest works in literature have been elaborated and elaborated, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, often rewritten a dozen times. The drudgery which literary men have put into the productions which have stood the test of time is almost incredible. Lucretius worked nearly a lifetime on one poem. It completely absorbed his life. It is said that Bryant rewrote "Thanatopsis" a hundred times, and even then was not satisfied with it. John Foster would sometimes linger a week over a single sentence. He would hack, split, prune, pull up by the roots, or practice any other severity on whatever he wrote, till it gained his consent to exist. Chalmers was once asked what Foster was about in London. "Hard at it," he replied, "at the rate of a line a week." Dickens, one of the greatest writers of modern fiction, was so worn down by hard work that he looked as "haggard as a murderer." Even Lord Bacon, one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived, left large numbers of MSS. filled with "sudden thoughts set down for use." Hume toiled thirteen hours a day on his "History of England." Lord Eldon astonished the world with his great legal learning, but when he was a student too poor to buy books, he had actually borrowed and copied many hundreds of pages of large law books, such as Coke upon Littleton, thus saturating his mind with legal principles which afterward blossomed out into what the world called remarkable genius. Matthew Hale for years studied law sixteen hours a day. Speaking of Fox, some one declared that he wrote "drop by drop." Rousseau says of the labor involved in his smooth and lively style: "My manuscripts, blotted, scratched, interlined, and scarcely legible, attest the trouble they cost me. There is not one of them which I have not been obliged to transcribe four or five times before it went to press. . . . Some of my periods I have turned or returned in my head for five or six nights before they were fit to be put to paper."
It is said that Waller spent a whole summer over ten lines in one of his poems. Beethoven probably surpassed all other musicians in his painstaking fidelity and persistent application. There is scarcely a bar in his music that was not written and rewritten at least a dozen times. His favorite maxim was, "The barriers are not yet erected which can say to aspiring talent and industry 'thus far and no further.'" Gibbon wrote his autobiography nine times, and was in his study every morning, summer and winter, at six o'clock; and yet youth who waste their evenings wonder at the genius which can produce "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," upon which Gibbon worked twenty years. Even Plato, one of the greatest writers that ever lived, wrote the first sentence in his "Republic" nine different ways before he was satisfied with it. Burke's famous "Letter to a Noble Lord," one of the finest things in the English language, was so completely blotted over with alterations when the proof was returned to the printing-office that the compositors refused to correct it as it was, and entirely reset it. Burke wrote the conclusion of his speech at the trial of Hastings sixteen times, and Butler wrote his famous "Analogy" twenty times. It took Virgil seven years to write his Georgics, and twelve years to write the Aeneid. He was so displeased with the latter that he attempted to rise from his deathbed to commit it to the flames.
Haydn was very poor; his father was a coachman and he, friendless and lonely, married a servant girl. He was sent away from home to act as errand boy for a music teacher. He absorbed a great deal of information, but he had a hard life of persecution until he became a barber in Vienna. Here he blacked boots for an influential man, who became a friend to him. In 1798 this poor boy's oratorio, "The Creation," came upon the musical world like the rising of a new sun which never set. He was courted by princes and dined with kings and queens; his reputation was made; there was no more barbering, no more poverty. But of his eight hundred compositions, "The Creation" eclipsed them all. He died while Napoleon's guns were bombarding Vienna, some of the shot falling in his garden. The greatest creations of musicians were written with an effort, to fill the "aching void" in the human heart.
Frederick Douglass, America's most representative colored man, born a slave, was reared in bondage, liberated by his own exertions, educated and advanced by sheer pluck and perseverance to distinguished positions in the service of his country, and to a high place in the respect and esteem of the whole world.
When a man like Lord Cavanagh, without arms or legs, manages to put himself into Parliament, when a man like Francis Joseph Campbell, a blind man, becomes a distinguished mathematician, a musician, and a great philanthropist, we get a hint as to what it means to make the most possible out of ourselves and opportunities. Perhaps ninety-nine out of a hundred under such unfortunate circumstances would be content to remain helpless objects of charity for life. If it is your call to acquire money power instead of brain power, to acquire business power instead of professional power, double your talent just the same, no matter what it may be.
A glover's apprentice of Glasgow, Scotland, who was too poor to afford even a candle or a fire, and who studied by the light of the shop windows in the streets, and when the shops were closed climbed the lamp-post, holding his book in one hand, and clinging to the lamp-post with the other,--this poor boy, with less chance than almost any boy in America, became the most eminent scholar of Scotland.
Francis Parkman, half blind, became one of America's greatest historians in spite of everything, because he made himself such. Personal value is a coin of one's own minting; one is taken at the worth he has put into himself. Franklin was but a poor printer's boy, whose highest luxury at one time was only a penny roll, eaten in the streets of Philadelphia. Richard Arkwright, a barber all his earlier life, as he rose from poverty to wealth and fame, felt the need of correcting the defects of his early education. After his fiftieth year he devoted two hours a day, snatched from his sleep, to improving himself in orthography, grammar, and writing.
Michael Faraday was a poor boy, son of a blacksmith, who apprenticed him at the age of thirteen to a bookbinder in London. Michael laid the foundations of his future greatness by making himself familiar with the contents of the books he bound. He remained at night, after others had gone, to read and study the precious volumes. Lord Tenterden was proud to point out to his son the shop where his father had shaved for a penny. A French doctor once taunted Fléchier, Bishop of Nismes, who had been a tallow-chandler in his youth, with the meanness of his origin, to which he replied, "If you had been born in the same condition that I was, you would still have been but a maker of candles."
The Duke of Argyle, walking in his garden, saw a Latin copy of Newton's "Principia" on the grass, and supposing that it had been taken from his library, called for some one to carry it back. Edmund Stone, however, the son of the duke's gardener, claimed it. "Yours?" asked the surprised nobleman. "Do you understand geometry, Latin, and Newton?" "I know a little of them," replied Edmund. "But how," asked the duke, "came you by the knowledge of all these things?" "A servant taught me to read ten years since," answered Stone. "Does one need to know anything more than the twenty-four letters, in order to learn everything else that one wishes?" The duke was astonished. "I first learned to read," said the lad; "the masons were then at work upon your house. I approached them one day and observed that the architect used a rule and compasses, and that he made calculations. I inquired what might be the meaning and use of these things, and I was informed that there was a science called arithmetic. I purchased a book of arithmetic and learned it. I was told that there was another science called geometry; I bought the necessary books and learned geometry. By reading I found that there were good books on these sciences in Latin, so I bought a dictionary and learned Latin. I understood, also, that there were good books of the same kind in French; I bought a dictionary, and learned French. This, my lord, is what I have done; it seems to me that we may learn everything when we know the twenty-four letters of the alphabet."
Edwin Chadwick, in his report to the British Parliament, stated that children, working on half time, that is, studying three hours a day and working the rest of their time out of doors, really made the greatest intellectual progress during the year. Business men have often accomplished wonders during the busiest lives by simply devoting one, two, three, or four hours daily to study or other literary work.
James Watt received only the rudiments of an education at school, for his attendance was irregular on account of delicate health. He more than made up for all deficiencies, however, by the diligence with which he pursued his studies at home. Alexander V. was a beggar; he was "born mud, and died marble." William Herschel, placed at the age of fourteen as a musician in the band of the Hanoverian Guards, devoted all his leisure to philosophical studies. He acquired a large fund of general knowledge, and in astronomy, a science in which he was wholly self-instructed, his discoveries entitle him to rank with the greatest astronomers of all time.
George Washington was the son of a widow, born under the roof of a Westmoreland farmer; almost from infancy his lot had been the lot of an orphan. No academy had welcomed him to its shade, no college crowned him with its honors; to read, to write, to cipher, these had been his degrees in knowledge. Shakespeare learned little more than reading and writing at school, but by self-culture he made himself the great master among literary men. Burns, too, enjoyed few advantages of education, and his youth was passed in almost abject poverty.
James Ferguson, the son of a half-starved peasant, learned to read by listening to the recitations of one of his elder brothers. While a mere boy he discovered several mechanical principles, made models of mills and spinning-wheels, and by means of beads on strings worked out an excellent map of the heavens. Ferguson made remarkable things with a common penknife. How many great men have mounted the hill of knowledge by out-of-the-way paths. Gifford worked his intricate problems with a shoemaker's awl on a bit of leather. Rittenhouse first calculated eclipses on his plow-handle. A will finds a way.
Julius Caesar, who has been unduly honored for those great military achievements in which he appears as the scourge of his race, is far more deserving of respect for those wonderful Commentaries, in which his military exploits are recorded. He attained distinction by his writings on astronomy, grammar, history, and several other subjects. He was one of the most learned men and one of the greatest orators of his time. Yet his life was spent amid the turmoil of a camp or the fierce struggle of politics. If he found abundant time for study, who may not? Frederick the Great, too, was busy in camp the greater part of his life, yet whenever a leisure moment came, it was sure to be devoted to study. He wrote to a friend, "I become every day more covetous of my time, I render an account of it to myself, and I lose none of it but with great regret."
Columbus, while leading the life of a sailor, managed to become the most accomplished geographer and astronomer of his time.
When Peter the Great, a boy of seventeen, became the absolute ruler of Russia, his subjects were little better than savages, and in himself, even, the passions and propensities of barbarism were so strong that they were frequently exhibited during his whole career. But he determined to transform himself and the Russians into civilized people. He instituted reforms with great energy, and at the age of twenty-six started on a visit to the other countries of Europe for the purpose of learning about their arts and institutions. At Saardam, Holland, he was so impressed with the sights of the great East India dockyard, that he apprenticed himself to a shipbuilder, and helped build the St. Peter, which he promptly purchased. Continuing his travels, after he had learned his trade, he worked in England in paper-mills, saw-mills, rope-yards, watchmaker's shops, and other manufactories, doing the work and receiving the treatment of a common laborer.
While traveling, his constant habit was to obtain as much information as he could beforehand with regard to every place he was to visit, and he would demand, "Let me see all." When setting out on his investigations, on such occasions, he carried his tablets in his hand, and whatever he deemed worthy of remembrance was carefully noted down. He would often leave his carriage, if he saw the country people at work by the wayside as he passed along, and not only enter into conversation with them, on agricultural affairs, but accompany them to their houses, examine their furniture, and take drawings of their implements of husbandry. Thus he obtained much minute and correct knowledge, which he would scarcely have acquired by other means, and which he afterward turned to admirable account in the improvement of his own country.
The ancients said, "Know thyself;" the nineteenth century says, "Help thyself." Self-culture gives a second birth to the soul. A liberal education is a true regeneration. When a man is once liberally educated, he will generally remain a man, not shrink to a manikin, nor dwindle to a brute. But if he is not properly educated, if he has merely been crammed and stuffed through college, if he has merely a broken-down memory from trying to hold crammed facts enough to pass the examination, he will continue to shrink and shrivel and dwindle, often below his original proportions, for he will lose both his confidence and self-respect, as his crammed facts, which never became a part of himself, evaporate from his distended memory. Many a youth has made his greatest effort in his graduating essay. But, alas! the beautiful flowers of rhetoric blossomed only to exhaust the parent stock, which blossoms no more forever.
In Strasburg geese are crammed with food several times a day by opening their mouths and forcing the pabulum down the throat with the finger. The geese are shut up in boxes just large enough to hold them, and are not allowed to take any exercise. This is done in order to increase enormously the liver for pâté de fois gras. So are our youth sometimes stuffed with education. What are the chances for success of students who "cut" recitations or lectures, and gad, lounge about, and dissipate in the cities at night until the last two or three weeks, sometimes the last few days, before examination, when they employ tutors at exorbitant prices with the money often earned by hard-working parents, to stuff their idle brains with the pabulum of knowledge; not to increase their grasp or power of brain, not to discipline it, not for assimilation into the mental tissue to develop personal power, but to fatten the memory, the liver of the brain; to fatten it with crammed facts until it is sufficiently expanded to insure fifty per cent. in the examination.
True teaching will create a thirst for knowledge, and the desire to quench this thirst will lead the eager student to the Pierian spring. "Man might be so educated that all his prepossessions would be truth, and all his feelings virtues."
Every bit of education or culture is of great advantage in the struggle for existence. The microscope does not create anything new, but it reveals marvels. To educate the eye adds to its magnifying power until it sees beauty where before it saw only ugliness. It reveals a world we never suspected, and finds the greatest beauty even in the commonest things. The eye of an Agassiz could see worlds which the uneducated eye never dreamed of. The cultured hand can do a thousand things the uneducated hand cannot do. It becomes graceful, steady of nerve, strong, skillful, indeed it almost seems to think, so animated is it with intelligence. The cultured will can seize, grasp, and hold the possessor, with irresistible power and nerve, to almost superhuman effort. The educated touch can almost perform miracles. The educated taste can achieve wonders almost past belief. What a contrast this, between the cultured, logical, profound, masterly reason of a Gladstone and that of the hod-carrier who has never developed or educated his reason beyond what is necessary to enable him to mix mortar and carry brick.
"Culture comes from the constant choice of the best within our reach," says Bulwer. "Continue to cultivate the mind, to sharpen by exercise the genius, to attempt to delight or instruct your race; and, even supposing you fall short of every model you set before you, supposing your name moulder with your dust, still you will have passed life more nobly than the unlaborious herd. Grant that you win not that glorious accident, 'a name below,' how can you tell but that you may have fitted yourself for high destiny and employ, not in the world of men, but of spirits? The powers of the mind cannot be less immortal than the mere sense of identity; their acquisitions accompany us through the Eternal Progress, and we may obtain a lower or a higher grade hereafter, in proportion as we are more or less fitted by the exercise of our intellect to comprehend and execute the solemn agencies of God."
But be careful to avoid that over-intellectual culture which is purchased at the expense of moral vigor. An observant professor of one of our colleges has remarked that "the mind may be so rounded and polished by education, so well balanced, as not to be energetic in any one faculty. In other men not thus trained, the sense of deficiency and of the sharp, jagged corners of their knowledge leads to efforts to fill up the chasms, rendering them at last far better educated men than the polished, easy-going graduate who has just knowledge enough to prevent consciousness of his ignorance. While all the faculties of the mind should be cultivated, it is yet desirable that it should have two or three rough-hewn features of massive strength. Young men are too apt to forget the great end of life which is to be and do, not to read and brood over what other men have been and done."
In a gymnasium you tug, you expand your chest, you push, pull, strike, run, in order to develop your physical self; so you can develop your moral and intellectual nature only by continued effort.
"I repeat that my object is not to give him knowledge but to teach him how to acquire it at need," said Rousseau.
All learning is self-teaching. It is upon the working of the pupil's own mind that his progress in knowledge depends. The great business of the master is to teach the pupil to teach himself.
"Thinking, not growth, makes manhood," says Isaac Taylor. "Accustom yourself, therefore, to thinking. Set yourself to understand whatever you see or read. To join thinking with reading is one of the first maxims, and one of the easiest operations."
"How few think justly of the thinking few: How many never think who think they do."