Thoughts at Fourscore (4)
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LETTER III.


"Endeavour thus to live; these rules regard;
 These helps solicit; and a steadfast seat
 Shall then be yours among the happy few
 Who dwell on earth, yet breathe empyreal air—
 Sons of the morning."

 WORDSWORTH.


MEN OF THE FUTURE,—In books is registered all that remains of the wisdom of the Past, and all the general knowledge of the Present.  There is, therefore, no means of becoming a well-informed man, except by reading.  There can be no exception to the truth of this remark, unless for general travellers, who see society under varied forms, and in many climes, and thus test human nature for themselves.  But you have to labour for bread; and, unless an irrepressible spirit of adventure be native to a man's constitution, it is not likely that he will venture to make the tour of Europe, depending on the chances of obtaining labour as a means of living, while he observes foreign manners.

    The book—the book, must be your great resource.  And what a world of enjoyment—what a never­failing solace in the midst of hardships—does reading open to you!  How eloquently true are these words of Sir John Herschel—the son of the great working man who discovered Georgium Sidus, with the telescope fashioned by his own hands!

    "Were I to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead under every variety of circumstances, and be a source of happiness and cheerfulness to me during life, and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading. . . . Give a man this taste, and the means of gratifying it, and you can hardly fail of making him a happy man. . . . You place him in contact with the best society in every period of history,—with the wisest, the wittiest, the tenderest, the bravest, and the purest characters who have adorned humanity.  You make him a denizen of all nations, a contemporary of all ages.  The world has been created for him" (Address an the opening of the Eton Library, 1833).

    No feeble words of mine can be necessary to enforce the truth thus admirably set forth, by one of the greatest living men of science.  I know that it is felt by many of you.  I only wish it were felt by all.  Our enfranchisement would then become an immediate possession.  For, never let it be forgotten that it is the want of knowledge among the millions which keeps us out of the possession of Freedom.  Even the intelligent are prevented from breaking their bonds, by the unintelligent.  Ponder on this, while at labour; and you will see a depth of truth in it that will make your hearts burn to spread knowledge.  All history will confirm it: you will, age after age, see the intelligent Few bursting their bonds—but in vain!—the unintelligent Many bring back slavery, more or less resembling the Past.  "Knowledge is power" is the profoundest axiom of the profoundest English thinker: perhaps, it is the most profound saying ever uttered since man­kind existed.

    In my second letter, I observed that some "feel an unconquerable aversion to the rigid study of any single branch of science or literature, and yet contrive to amass together an immense fund of rich and varied information."  It is chiefly to this class of minds, among working men, that I now address myself.  Our noble English tongue affords almost boundless materials for their taste: it is a mine of mental opulence that the longest life, even with complete leisure, spent in reading, cannot exhaust.  The only difficulty is to make selections.

    First and foremost, let me say—SHAKSPERE should be the young Englishman's familiar acquaintance.  You may mark off some five hundred authors in a book-catalogue, and if you were to read over all they ever wrote, they would not furnish you with a tithe of Shakspere's wisdom.  His knowledge of the human heart, his acquaintance with the laws of mind, are alike the source of wonder.  The deepest thinkers discover the greatest riches in him.  "The inexhaustible mine of virgin treasure in our Shakspere" is a phrase of Coleridge—the greatest genius, scholar, and philosopher combined, of his own day.  This is the summary of his testimony to Shakspere's value:­-


"I have been almost daily reading him since I was ten years old:—the thirty intervening years have been unintermittingly, and not fruitlessly, employed in the study of Greek, Latin, English, Italian, Spanish, and German,—and the last fifteen years, in addition, far more intensely, in the analysis of the laws of life and reason as they exist in man,—and upon every step I have made forward in taste, in acquisition of facts from history or my own observation, and in knowledge of the different laws of being and their apparent exceptions, from accidental collision of disturbing forces,—at every new accession of information, after every successful exercise or meditation, and every fresh presentation of experience, I have unfailingly discovered a proportionate increase of wisdom and intuition in Shakspere."


    If Coleridge, after fifty-five years of refined training, found an author who lived two centuries before him always in advance of him on subjects which demand the greatest stretch of the human powers,—what must be the value of that author to working men who can never command a one-hundredth part of Coleridge's other means of instruction, nor a tenth part of his leisure for learning!

    It will be replied by some, that Shakspere has blots.  True: and so has the sun,—but you must look through a piece of smoked glass to see them.  Read him, working men,—read England's—the world's—your Shakspere; and if the glory of his brightness does not make you forgetful of his 'blots'—your experience will be very different from that of any thinking man I have ever met.

    You will not expect me to spend many syllables on other poets—though the theme would be tempting.  In a word—next to Shakspere, you cannot say that you are acquainted with the true standard of poetry unless you have companioned with the sublimity of Milton, the fervour of Byron, the feeling of Burns, the thought of Wordsworth, the beauty of Keats.

    Prose fiction: you ought to be acquainted with it; but, to become "novel readers" in the common acceptation of the term—you ought to shun as you would dram-drinking, or taking opium.  I have known people reduced to sheer imbecility by each of the three corrupting and ruinous habits; and the novel-drunk imbeciles were the most imbecile.  If the thirst for knowledge moves you to read, you will be jealous over yourselves, and not willingly read for excitement's sake.  It is the knowledge of character you will find in Fielding, Smollett, Scott, and Dickens,—and not the exciting interest of their stories,—that will lead you to relieve an hour with their volumes, when overworn with labour, and unfit for sterner thought or study.

    But sterner thought than that of poetry or prose fiction must employ your leisure, if you would turn it to solid account in acquiring the Knowledge which is Power.  There is the mighty volume of Nature to be studied—that volume in which the learning of our times is a thousand times richer than all the ages preceding.  Astronomy, Geology, Chemistry, Mechanics, Zoology, Botany,—of these, and all the branch sciences into which they are divided,—the books of our contemporaries contain treasures of experimental knowledge the value of which to mankind is beyond price, even now; but only in the great Future, when all shall share the benefits of knowledge, will the full value of Science be known.  The great tendency of the thought of our age is to science; and if you be ignorant of it, you can scarcely be said to belong to the age in which you live.

    The nomenclature of all these sciences may be easily mastered,—and how cheaply! William and Robert Chambers, in the three-halfpenny numbers of their ` Information for the People,' furnish you with it. In their recent issue, too, of this work, they have added an outline of all that is new in science,—while they point you to authorities who deal with their subjects more deeply. And even if the works they refer to are beyond your reach, when the technical terms of a science are mastered, and an outline of it is laid up in the mind, you can scarcely take up a newspaper, or a fugitive periodical, in this scientific age, without finding some fragment of information, which you can add to your stores of that species of knowledge.

    Independent of the great practical uses of science, it is the elevation which some branches of it,—such as Astronomy,—give to the mind; it is the reliance on fact, and on fact only, which it teaches the judgment, for which you ought to cleave to science with ardour.  Science is transforming the world—it is leading us on to changes that will render the reign of the power of craft and force impossible.  In it are concentred our firmest hopes for universal human happiness; and you must not, you cannot, unless you be faithless to yourselves, remain ignorant of Science.

    And then, the Laws of Mind, with all the acute and curious discussions concerning them, from the time of the Greeks till now: no man who takes any pride in being esteemed a thinker, can remain ignorant of them.  Let me entreat any of you who feel an aversion to rigid study, not to be impelled from opening a volume on Mental Philosophy by the prevalent notions, attached by superficial people, to the word 'Metaphysics.'  None of you who have not made the experiment know what keen delight is to be reaped from a page of such inquiries.  I need not profess to you that I feel rapture in conversing with the mind of Shakspere or Milton; but I declare to you that I have often had far more ecstatic pleasure in a solitary hour at midnight devoted to Locke on the Understanding, or Jonathan Edwards on the Will,—and even to some inferior metaphysicians,—than I have enjoyed from any volume of poetry.  In my humble opinion the range of that man's intellectual powers must be contracted, who can derive no intense pleasure from discussions on the very nature and laws of these powers.

    I do not say that this species of inquiry can rank with physical science in practical value; and it would be absurd to say that metaphysical inquiries generally are attended with certainty—the grand charm of physical science.  But, as a healthy exercise for the powers of the mind, an hour—if it be even an hour of battle—with Berkeley or Locke, with Hume or Butler, with Hartley or Dugald Stewart, will be found of value, of incalculable value: strengthened by contest about the impalpable, the mind will be found stronger and of keener appetite when it turns to the real and practical.

    Moral Philosophy is a realm of inquiry into which you can scarcely fail to be led, if you enter on a course of metaphysical reading.  The doctrines of morals are intimately connected with religion, and, for reasons which must be evident to you, I shall here avoid all discussion on such subjects, simply observing that, as a moral teacher and exemplar I regard Christ as the highest and most worshipful.  My views of creeds have altered, in the lapse of years, and with reflection; but ever since I was able to think, my opinion, in this respect, has remained unaltered.  Yet, as I know that none of my order who have learned their alphabet are unacquainted with their New Testament—I leave this weighty subject to the heart and mind of every reader—re-commending it to his own unbiassed, unprejudiced, and most conscientious consideration.

    A very important theme for you, young working men, remains to be treated.  And feeling it to be so, I deem it necessary to treat it more largely.  Poetry elevates and refines the man, and unfolds to him the resources of expression; Science brings us within the sympathies of the present, and even gives us some glimpses into the Future and mental Philosophy sharpens the intellect and unfolds to us, at least, some of the laws of our own thoughts; but the Past, and what mankind have thought and done in it, and how they caused the Present to be what it is—the busy and diversified, the exciting and instructive volume of History must be read to find the important solution of these pregnant questions.  "Read history with the greatest attention," says Locke, "for to be ignorant of what happened before one was born, is to be always a child."  A profound remark; and, indeed, Locke could not pen a shallow one.

    The key to the condition of society and of the individual man, now, is to be found in the record of the Past.  History will show you how events have necessitated succeeding events—till it brings you to a comprehension of the result, the Present.  And he who most fully understands how the Past has produced the Present, is most likely to foresee what kind of Future will arise.

    The causes why the Many have been, through so many ages, and in all climes, subject to the Few; the impediments to knowledge; the sources of opinions which still divide the world; these, and considerations of less importance—such as the allusions of poets, which often cannot be understood without history—make a knowledge of it imperatively necessary.  It is here especially that you will find the fine remarks I have already quoted to be verified; that you will be placed "in contact with the best society, . . . with the wisest, the wittiest, the tenderest, the bravest, and the purest characters who have adorned humanity"; that each of you will be made "a denizen of all nations, a contemporary of all ages."

    A plan is, above all things, necessary in reading history properly.  I am talking to young men, and therefore consider them as having opportunity to carry it out, by perseverance,—even if a few years (of their very spare hours) be employed in so doing.

    First, then, let me recommend you to read Plutarch's Lives.  You will find the translation by the Langhornes easy of access (and you should not read an earlier translation).  The interest of the portraits drawn by the biographer is indescribable.  If you next take up the translation of Rollin's 'Ancient History,' you will enter on it with the advantage of having, as one may say, a private acquaintance with each great character whom Rollin successively introduces on the historic stage.

    I recommend the books to you which combine, in my humble opinion, real excellence with easiness of access.  Some of you, no doubt, know that a revolution is taking place in the writing of history.  Niebuhr, the great German scholar and thinker, has been to history what Bacon was to philosophy: he has set it on new foundations.  A large part of ancient history is now considered to be mythical merely, and not fact.  If Grote's magnificent 'History of Greece' be within your reach, you will see this distinction made in the spirit of Niebuhr's philosophy.  In Rollin you must make allowances for credulity; but, at the same time, you must give the writer credit for relating his vast story as he found it related in the old writers.

    Ferguson's 'History' of Rome may follow Rollin.  It is not democratic in spirit, although it is the narrative of a republic; but it is clear and orderly.  Niebuhr's History is the grand work; but having been only recently translated, it is dear and difficult to get hold of: a remark which, I am sorry to say, is also applicable to the excellent work of Dr. Arnold—the nearest approach to Niebuhr's, and even preferred to his, by some competent judges.

    After Ferguson you will enter on the most superb treat you will ever experience in history,—the transcendent 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' by Gibbon.  Critics differ in their estimate of his style; but, with all its occasional exuberance, it is regarded as a most masterly adaptation to his subject.  As a word-painting it is perfect—for all his figures live and move before you; and the accuracy of his facts and critical knowledge have lately been tested by Guizot, who has gone laboriously over all his authorities.

    Let me here recommend you, however (and in the instance of Gibbon alone), to lay down the book at the end of the 14th chapter, and to read the three first centuries of Neander's 'Ecclesiastical History.'  Remember, you are now crossing the great Bridge which connects Ancient and Modern History—(for such is the valuable work Gibbon has performed for mankind)—and you must perform the passage with all circumspection.  The history of the Church colours all that follows in Europe, and you must be acquainted with it.  Taking up the 'Decline and Fall' again, at the 15th chapter, take care to read Neander, thenceforth, as nearly as possible, century for century, with Gibbon, till you come to the end of his work—when you will be left to finish Neander or to read the remainder at some other time.  There is even another divergence which you will find of advantage,—namely, when you have come to the splendid chapter in which Gibbon enters on the history of Mahomet, procure, if possible, Sale's translation of the Koran, and read over the very learned and interesting 'Preliminary Discourse' of the translator.  It will give an increased zest to your perusal of Gibbon, as well as prepare you for a finer appreciation of the philosophy of his highly-written chapter.  I might have recommended other divergencies, but I am indisposed to bewilder you.  What I have recommended, let me entreat you to observe.

    You will now be prepared for the history of your own, or any other modern country.

    We have, now, a really good History of England: Mr. Green's.  We have, besides, the works of Freeman, Macaulay, Froude, and others, who, in various styles of excellence, have produced histories of different periods of our History—but none of them have given us a complete History.

    Prescott's Histories of Mexico and Peru, Motley's Dutch Republic, D'Aubigne's 'History of the Reformation,' are all excellent books, and so is Hallam on the 'Middle Ages'—though some may call it antiquated.

    The most important portions of modern history to us, are the history of our own Commonwealth, and that of the French Revolution.  Mr. Carlyle's 'French Revolution' you are sure to read; but also read Thiers'; and Lamartine's 'Girondists.'  John Forster's 'Lives of Eliot, Hampden, Pym,' etc., must be read, in order to get a thorough understanding of our great Commonwealth period; and your reading will not be complete unless you read Mr. Carlyle's 'Letters of Oliver Cromwell.'

    I might have mentioned fifty other books of high value; but the perusal of those which I have mentioned will furnish you with their names; and if time and opportunity permit, you can extend the catalogue for yourselves practically.

    Methods for arranging your knowledge, for classifying it, and securing it, as you proceed, so as to make it available for life, I will endeavour to suggest in a future letter.


 
LETTER IV.


"Child of a nobler chivalry
 Than e'er was known by devotee
 Who bore the Cross to Palestine,—
 Would'st thou make the victory thine?
 The battle must with skill be fought:
 The close-knit panoply of Thought
 Thou must calmly, bravely don:—
 Youthful soldier, gird it on!"


MEN OF THE FUTURE,—The digestion and arrangement of your knowledge, it must be evident to you, should be carefully attended to, while you are searching for facts, and collecting the materials of information.  It is possible for a man to be a laborious reader, and yet to be unable to bring forth his knowledge for the enlightenment of others,—through want of a clear arrangement of it, in his own mind.  Such a man's brain resembles a bag, well filled it may be, but wherein the material contents are jumbled and shaken together,—so that nothing can be found when it is wanted; or if it be readily found, it is by mere chance of its being shaken out first.

    Solid knowledge is only to be gained by the practice of making written notes,—I do not mean of every book that you read; but of such volumes as contain a clear development of some particular branch of science, a distinct and judicious record of some important period of history, or a logical disquisition on some great questions in morals or criticism.

    Do not be startled with the apparent difficulty of accomplishing these labours.  I remember that your leisure hours are few; but I am recommending what I have proved, by experience, to be practicable for young working men.  A note-book is of the first value to you.  Do not make extracts upon loose scraps of paper.  That was my error, before I was twenty; and then, feeling restless until I had arranged and systematised these fragments, I began to enter them in a volume—but to transcribe the multifarious pile was too much for patience.  Have a note-book, though it may cost you a few shillings: fill it up, regularly; and form your index to it, as you go on.  The occasional writing will be a relief to three or four hours' close reading; and a valuable thought, once entered into your book, will be a treasure for life.

    I recommend one general note-book to you, because I am sure you will find it much more serviceable and convenient than several note-books.  When a young man discovers his own great blame, in having trifled away precious time, and awakes, with something like a passion, to the determination of having solid knowledge, he is in danger of systematising too far.  I felt all this, about twenty-one; for although I had not trifled as some trifle,—I felt that I had been very blamable in squandering many precious hours wherein rich knowledge might have been gathered.  Not satisfied with the one note-book, I began to form sectional books, for theological extracts, scientific extracts, philological extracts, and so on.  But the systematising faculty once awakened, there was no end to the desire of rearrangement;—till I clearly saw that the one general note-book, with its regular index, was, after all, the best thing I could have.

    There are some books, however, which it would not satisfy you to have read, and culled for a few extracts.  You will feel the necessity of performing a greater labour upon them: I mean, if your minds be really and earnestly intent on attaining perfect knowledge—or, at least, skill—in some particular department of inquiry.  It will depend on the bent of particular minds to determine what books these may be; but an analysis—do not be alarmed at the word—of some books must be performed.

    One of the books which I analysed by writing, most perfectly, when about twenty-one, was Dr. Blair's 'Lectures on Rhetoric and the Belles Lettres.'  It contains rules for composition, critical remarks on the style and taste and genius of the most celebrated writers, and, in brief, a complete introduction to the art and mystery of expressing thought in language.  Better books than Dr. Blair's—for aught I know—may have been published; but I have read none of the more modern works on 'Elocution,' 'Style,' and so on.  I have taken them up, and glanced over them; but seeing nothing new or profound in them, I have not thought it necessary to read them through.  And I question whether any of you, if you perform for yourselves what I did, with Blair, will ever think it necessary to read slight works on taste and style, afterwards.  From the time that the true principles of taste and style are distinctly and fully seated in your mind, you will go on to form your own judgments on whatever you read, and to do this with confidence.

    My analysis was written on common letter-paper doubled, so that each sheet formed eight pages,—which I found to be a convenient form for reading afterwards.  It extended, as well as I remember, to fifty or sixty pages, and contained every rule given by Blair for the judgment of style, and every description of the figures of rhetoric, with the chief examples,—but all compressed into the smallest compass, so that every subject might be viewed rapidly, presented at once to the mind.  Some seven or eight years after it was written, I gave this analysis away to a young man; but I am sure it would do him little good,—because it was not the work of his own brain after reading Blair's text.

    Another labour of this kind which I performed about the same period, was an analysis of Dr. Samuel Clarke's famous 'Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God.'  I do not think so highly of this work as I did then; but, presenting, as it does, the most perfect display of the à priori argument for a Deity, it not only put me in possession of the strongest reasonings on this important subject, but it was a grand training in logic.  With Chancellor King's 'Inquiry into the Doctrines of the Primitive Christian Church,' I performed a similar labour; and, whatever modifications my opinions have since undergone, I reckon none of these labours to have been valueless.

    Could I realise Byron's fervid wish, 'Give me my youth again!' I would begin, much sooner, with a labour I entered upon much later—that of drawing up a chronology of History.  To make this fully available to the memory, it should not be a mere list of dates, with some notable battle, birth or death of a remarkable person, or important political transaction affixed to the year.  Ages, rather than years, should be numbered; they should be characterised by their respective development of ideas; and the names of the great men who figured in them, should be associated in the mind.  The ages, thus chronologised, would be of very disproportionate lengths: the Mythical Age of Greece, for instance, would comprise hundreds of years,—while the Age of Pericles would comprise but a few.  The importance of its deeds, the advancement of its civilisation, and the greater splendour of its leading characters,—would often, however, direct you to the propriety of singling out a comparatively short period, and classing it as an Age in your chronology, and consequently, in your mind.  I know nothing that can be thought of greater importance than your obtaining this clearly-defined knowledge of history—so as to enable you to say, at once, who lived in such an age, and what distinguished such an age, in any country.

    I refrain from prescribing other subjects for your labour of analysis.  They must be determined, as I observed before, by the bent of different minds.  Once begun, this kind of labour will grow into a keen delight.  You will feel that you have mastered what was before so imperfectly possessed.  You will bear the knowledge about with you, and be able, easily, to summon it forth for practical use; while an occasional lapse of memory can be readily supplied by a reference to your written notes.

    And now, how glowing will be the sense of a new power which you will be conscious of attaining—that of expressing ideas correctly, forcibly, gracefully.  Your analysis of other men's thoughts and systems cannot fail to give you this power; and you will feel yourselves impelled, almost irresistibly, to the composition of independent essays on favourite subjects of thought.  Even if these should never see the light, in the form of fugitive articles in any of the numerous cheap periodicals of our time, they will often be reverted to, in your meditative hours, and read with pleasure,—or, perhaps, with a consciousness of your mental growth since the period at which they were penned.

    Examples of the Essay, as a distinct form of writing, abound in our language,—from the stately and majestic compositions of Lord Bacon (a little volume which contains greater riches of thought than any book of English prose, that could be named);—to the clear and graceful sentences of Addison, in the Spectator;—and the homely and unadorned Mother English of Cobbett.  Let none of these be neglected, when they come in your way: indeed, Bacon should be possessed by you, and read and re-read by you.  His wisdom was even more profound than Shakspere's: his name is second in English literature, only because his powers were less versatile than those of our incomparable dramatist.

    Some of you will think I have prescribed what it is beyond the power of working men to accomplish.  If you think so, try, at least, to compass as much of it as you can.  But do not, I conjure you, yield to these weak and cowardly fears of your own ability.  You have no conception of what you can do, till you can enter earnestly and devotedly upon a trial.  Think of the hours you have mis-spent in trifling,—the years that have rolled away without solid advancement in knowledge.  Be resolved that the Future, with you, shall not be like the Past.  Three—five—seven—even ten years may remain to some of you, to be devoted to diligent study, before the season arrives when you must mix with the deeper cares of life.  Think of how much you can do in these years; and resolve you will do it.

    Let me, now, turn to a subject on which I feel increasing anxiety—the formation of a large and effective band of public speakers and teachers, for my own order.  The want of these is our greatest want.  At present books are doing all, or nearly all, that is effectually done for us.  The speakers who, for some years past, have been most cordially received by working men, were unable to help forward the great work of intellectual regeneration and advancement.  They possessed no stores of reading: they were not men of cultivated minds.  Oppression had girt them up to political antagonism; and they went forth to rouse their order and to speak out its mind against class-tyranny.  Their history will make an important chapter, one day, in the political and social chronicle of Britain; but this will only be when Time has taught the thinker to excuse their errors, from a consideration of their wrongs, and their deep sense of those wrongs.

    No fact in the modern history of the working classes is more to be regretted than the desertion of them by the more intellectual of their order.  I do not mean that these, in every instance, deserted the interests of working men; but that they suffered themselves to be repulsed and beaten off from teaching their own order, by the violence of a few who were mis-led and mis-taught; and offered their talents to the middle classes.  Some of them, doubt less, have done good service in that direction.  But, too often, they have contracted a conventional smoothness which unfits them to return to the teaching of working men; and which has had a worse tendency—the creation of a belief among the suffering and oppressed that these now 'respectable' orators never were heartily attached to the ranks from which they sprung.

    If, when spurned and reviled by the mis-taught few, they had sought other audiences of their own order, they might have created a new and powerful, because more moral agency, for winning the enfranchisement of the toiling classes than any that has hitherto existed.  I aim to inspire some of you with the resolve to train yourselves so as to be able to create this new agency.  The latent faculty of the orator often exists where neither the possessor nor any of his young acquaintances suspect it to dwell.  First attempts at speech-making, even in a limited circle, much more in an enlarged one, are, proverbially, frequent failures.

    There is but one effectual preparation for all young men who yearn to become real instructors by public speaking—that of writing out their thoughts, and committing the main body of the writing to memory.  I own, I have known some 'Popular' speakers who never, in their lives, made this preparation; but I must declare that I wondered how they became popular,—seeing that what they uttered might rather be called sounds than thoughts.  Sounds, too, of a somewhat wearisome monotony: there was so little change of words,—so bald and barren a uniformity of phrases.

    Let me recommend to every young working man who has never 'spoken in public,'—to use the common phrase,—but feels desirous of devoting himself, wholly or in part, to the instruction of his order, to form, at first, an association with a few select spirits who are intent on the same purpose,—that they may assemble weekly as a 'Mutual Improvement Society,' or Discussion Club.  Such was my beginning, when about sixteen years of age; and I must be forgiven, if you please, for offering advice as taught by experience; because I feel more sure of being right, while so doing, than I could if I were to counsel you upon theory.

    In the little society to which I refer, and which was formed at Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire, we discussed such questions as 'Which is the best of our kings since the Norman Conquest, and which the worst ?'   'Is Astronomy or Geography the more important science?'  'Is the miser or the spendthrift the more pernicious member of society?'  I might record twenty other questions which remain, pleasingly associated, in my memory.  I only mention these, to show that we chose subjects which could be discussed with some certainty of coming to a correct conclusion.  In another little association which I joined about twenty, we entered on questions of a profounder nature, chiefly in theology and metaphysics.  In both societies, we took the chair by routine, and not by election.  The chairman of one week, at the close of the night's discussion, produced three questions to the meeting, of which one was selected; and he himself opened the debate; the following week.  This was our most essential rule; for it did not leave both question and discussion to chance.

    Either the reading of a written essay on, the question, or a speech was permitted to every member. I almost invariably wrote, and read, my essay; and the consequence was, the gradual formation of a style, and a consciousness of facility and copiousness of expression, compared with the members who always spoke extemporaneously.  I recommend the same to you; and am certain you will prove the benefit of it.

    When some period has been passed in a preparatory school of this kind, you can try your skill in the delivery of an oration at some of the numerous institutions which now abound.  But do not read your essay there.  Rather have every syllable you propose uttering committed to memory, and deliver it by rote—if you fear to fail—than lecture, that is, read, before an audience which is assembled to hear, and not to discuss.  No man who reads a discourse to an audience can make a due impression on their minds and hearts.

    A good field of exercise will be opened to many of you, in some of our numerous Literary and Mechanics' Institutions.  Repetitions of a discourse are not possible there; and the healthful demand upon your thinking powers will be great.

    My humble concluding advice shall be grounded, again, on experience.  Persevere with writing out your discourse entire until you acquire a consciousness of power to talk freely and effectively, with only a part of your oration prepared in writing, and fixed in the mind by reading it over repeatedly.  The peroration or winding-up of a discourse (and which is called 'the application' among the preachers), I found to be the first preparation in writing that I could lay aside.  When the main body of a discourse has been successfully gone through, a speaker, tolerably well practised, easily finds utterance to enforce what he has pleaded.  Next, I found it possible to express myself with facility in the main body of a discourse—so long as I took care to sketch out the chief points of an argument, and to collect the facts to support it.  But it was long before I was satisfied to omit the preparation of a written exordium (or 'introduction,' as it is termed in the pulpit), and to fix it, almost word for word, in my memory.

    Let it encourage you, however, to learn, that thought and practice at length enable a public speaker to appear at his post without trepidation, when all written preparation has been abandoned.  He may, now and then, resort to it; especially when grappling with some new difficulty in thought, and feeling the necessity of simplifying his propositions so that all who hear him may understand him.  But, with the mind trained through years, stored through laborious hours or nights of reading, and the tongue practised in forms of expression,—all becomes easy; and a man whose heart is in his work deserts his arm-chair, in a moment, to address 'winged words' to thousands, feeling the highest ecstasy in the fervid outpouring of his heart and intellect.

    Such a man many of you may become.  Aspire to it—for the ambition is noble.  Read, think, devise, and act!  Look around on the sufferings of your order.  Remember that their woes can never be permanently assuaged till Knowledge is diffused.  Be not content to live merely to perform your manual labour, to get a scanty recompense, to eat and drink, to sleep,—and then to rise to-morrow to pursue the same dull round: a round of stagnant thought, of sterile existence.  'Be each a soldier in the strife.'  Let the band of moral champions for Progress and Enfranchisement be multiplied by each of you trying to do something in the struggle, and out of the trial there cannot fail to come—victory.


 
LETTER V.


"Tell out thy heart with truth, and be no ape
 Of other men's perfection in the grace
 Of speech.  Who speaketh from the heart, will reach
 The heart. That citadel once gained, the man,
 The crowd, obey their helmsman, who thus guides
 The bark of human purposes to port."

OLD DRAMA.


MEN OF THE FUTURE,—I am gratified to learn, by many letters, as well as some conversations with young men, that my humble exhortations to you have not been fruitless; and that a fervid desire is growing up among you, not only to perfect your own knowledge, but to be instrumental in teaching others.  I am earnestly asked to describe more at large the parts or divisions of a public address,—to give rules for its composition,—and, what is still more difficult, for its delivery.  Let it be understood that in endeavouring to comply with these requests, I am only affording you the imperfect judgment and taste of an individual.  What I may say will be found to differ with the judgment and taste, more or less, of others, it may be of deeper discernment and more perfect taste than myself.  You will regard what I say as the simple fruit of reflection and experience; and not as dictation, but as friendly advice.

    First, of the parts or divisions of a public address, or oration.  In some works on Rhetoric, you will find these minutely separated into many.  I think three terms are sufficient for describing them: the exordium—the subject—the peroration.

    1. The exordium, or introduction, is so necessary a part of an oration, that no skilful speaker ever omits it.  The resources of a man's mind are more fully discovered by his introduction than by any other part of his speech.  A commonplace mind displays no skill in the construction of an exordium.  He seems to begin as a matter of course, and to get into his subject as well as he can; and the consequence is that his audience becomes wearied, before he has uttered half-a-dozen sentences.  A question, an anecdote, a striking saying,—either his own, or the axiomatic remark of some great intellect,—such are the resources of the real orator, to awaken and fix attention, from the commencement.  Very often, the wonder or curiosity of his hearers is raised to learn how he will make the beginning wind into the subject; and at other times it seems to plunge them into its depths and difficulties at once, and they are engrossed with its importance, from the first sentence, and become eager to accompany him into an entire sifting of its perplexities.  An audience, however, is always sensitive under an exordium which is too startling; and an experienced speaker takes care not to excite expectation too much.  He finds it best to be natural, above all, in his opening sentences.  Gesture is almost always avoided, in an opening, by the best speakers: however striking are their first sentences, they do not 'stretch forth the hand'—but let them fall on the mind by their own weight and vigour.

    The length of an exordium cannot be prescribed by fixed rule; but must be determined by the nature of the subject.  It looks poverty-stricken in thought to have short introductions, perpetually; but the demand that must be made upon the time of an audience, while treating some pregnant subjects, requires that the exordium be curtailed.  On the other hand, a long introduction is often employed, by an adept in speaking, to clear up the treatment of the subject, by dismissing some points that would otherwise encumber it.

    Figure and embellishment may often be used with great effect in an introduction.  Mellifluous sentences uttered during the first ten or fifteen minutes of a discourse, win the ear, like an overture, in music.  A speaker whose highest aim is to instruct, rather than please, will condescend to use them, in his introduction.  I do not mean that musical sentences are to be despised, at any time, or in any part of a discourse; but strength is the great quality of speech to be cultivated.  To be harmonious, or even pretty, in his phrases, is pleasing in a speaker; but he must wield force to produce great effects—and this can only be displayed in terse, vigorous periods.

    2. The subject or main body of a public discourse, should have two attributes; clearness and fulness.  If some question in morals or metaphysics be treated, clearness is, above all, necessary,—for argument must be largely resorted to. If the discourse be upon science, fulness is more requisite.  If the theme be history, biography, or politics, a clear and, so far as time will allow, a full statement of facts—often in chronological order—will be absolutely necessary.  In the latter case, the memory must be stored; for it looks lame or lazy to refer to dates upon paper.  He who aims to be a workman worthy of his profession, will never condescend to take out papers, however small, to assist his memory.  He had better run the risk (if unavoidable, and only then) of being a little inaccurate, than resort to memorandums: he will lose less by it, in the estimation of his audience.  A young orator should most resolutely determine, while making his preparations, not simply to store his facts well up in the memory,—but to endeavour to recite them without inflicting weariness on his hearers.  No matter how dull and prosily an historian may relate an event, Genius can dress it up—group its figures as in a picture—breathe upon them, and give them life.  Some brief reflection, too, or pithy remark, should be skilfully thrown in, occasionally, to relieve the narrative,—if the discourse be historical.  Yet these should not seem far fetched.  It is better to give the graphic narrative simply, than to mar it with conceits.  Never mind the hypercritics who say, you have 'no philosophy,' and can only relate what you have read.  The people want more of these relations of what you have read.  It is the teaching from fact which is most needed.  If the people are to be trained to read, you must tell them what there is in books.  Declamation has too long constituted the stock-in-trade of public speakers; and that is the cause why the people have profited so little by it.

    Examples of perseverance, self-sacrifice, honour, uprightness, heroism, patriotism, philanthropy, and all true nobleness—how do they abound in biography and history!  Can the people have better subjects for reflection than the sayings and doings of the great and good?  Is not the bare recital of such themes calculated to produce more healthy thought in them, than all the vapid declamation which is esteemed so original in some talkers?  And how easy it is for young speakers to get up a discourse upon such subjects!  This great and useful business of public speech has been too long represented as a mystery: a something which only the most 'highly-gifted,' as they are called, could possibly perform with any chance of success.  It has been supposed it must 'all come out of a man's own head,' or 'he must have a head like an almanac,' as they say in old Lincolnshire—to be a public speaker.  Believe me, there is no inspiration about it.  Read and think—that is the whole secret.  Even deficiencies in voice and utterance may be remedied by practice.  Remember, Demosthenes is said to have been compelled to talk with pebbles in his mouth to cure a shuffle in his speech; and to shout to the roaring waves, to strengthen his puny voice—and what did he not become!  Who has equalled him?

    Even when treating poetry, it is better to treat of the life of the poet, as the basis of the theme.  All great poets of whose lives we know anything, have had deeply eventful lives.  They were all great wrestlers with men and things: had all to sound the depths of sorrow, or to join in the stern combat with opposition, pride and tyranny, or malice, or to experience the pangs of neglect and disappointment.  What fruitful themes for reflection—for appeals to the heart of the listener!  Specimens of poetry, let me observe, should always be recited.  I have never known but one person who could enchain the attention of an audience by reading poetry—my excellent friend, W. J. Fox; but then his reading is perfect music.  An imperfect reciter always pleases more than even a tolerable reader.

    Neither is the possession of the first poetry, in the memory, a treasure to be despised.  I regard my committing to memory of the first three books of 'Paradise Lost,' of the whole play of 'Hamlet,' and of some thousands of lines of Byron, Burns, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Scott, Keats, etc., at twenty-one, as my best helps to the riches of language, and the fit placing of words.  The frequent repetition of these, while I sat at 'work, not only watered the dryness of the repetition of Latin verbs, and so on, but it inevitably led to reflection on the reason why one word was employed in lieu of another.  If a man wants a rich English vocabulary, he can find it in Milton and Shakspere—or nowhere.  Do not complain of leanness of language, young men : commit the masters of the language to memory—not by niggardly patches, but by large portions.  "This, like everything else you recommend to us, requires time and labour"—you will reply.  Just so: can you expect to acquire mental, any more than sordid, riches—by idleness, or indulgence in sleep, or trifling?

    But I am wandering away from the 'subject': another word or two, and I will leave it.  Orderly arrangement for the eye, of dates, or facts, assists the memory a great deal.  You will find the eye, even while you are delivering your subject, going down a leaf, to a certain place, for a fact or date.  So much does the memory depend on locality.  Just as you remember the position upon a page where you found a particular remark in a book.  Never destroy, or copy into another form, your list of dates or facts—unless you mean to lose the remembrance of what it contained.

    3. The peroration, or winding-up of a discourse, must be anxiously provided for by the young orator—if he wishes to fasten what he has set forth in 'the subject ' upon the mind.  It must not, therefore be lifeless.  Warmth, vigour, intensity, must be employed.  Beware, however, of rant, and turgid and unmeaning phrases.  Rather seek to get deeper hold of the heart and mind, up to the last moment—than to excite.  The appeal to duty should now be the great theme.  Let not your audience leave you without the feeling that they have something to do.  Strive to make the idler and trifler leave the room with a sense of self-blame and uneasiness—but not without hope.  But remember, if you be idle and trifling yourself, you cannot do this with any true effect.  Let there be a moral aim in your peroration.  But you cannot enforce this, or attempt to enforce it, without being conscience-stricken, if you be immoral yourself.  How closely must the life of the successful teacher blend with his teachings, or his conscious hypocrisy will destroy his vigour, and render him unnatural!  And if he come often before the same audience, they will soon see through his affectation, and his teachings will become useless.

    The peroration you will find to be the first part of a discourse, the writing out of which you can dispense with.  In the course of years, the mind learns to glance back quickly over 'the subject,'—to recall its chief points and press them vividly on the attention of an audience,—and to draw matter of earnest exhortation from the whole, combining it with applications to the particular time, place, or circumstances of the hearers.  The real power of a man's energy and enthusiasm is displayed, if he have any, in his peroration; his understanding, reason, and memory, in his 'subject'; and his invention, in his exordium.

    With some reluctance, I add a few words on the delivery of a public discourse.  My first advice is—be yourselves, and not imitators.  You had better lack some graces, than borrow those which will look ungraceful in you.  The daw, you know, was a seemly, though sober-coloured bird, in her own feathers; but when she borrowed the peacock's plumes, all the crowd of birds pecked at her.  To be any man's ape, however great he be, can only be apish.  Sooner or later, imitation brings a man into derision, and then into neglect.  Remember that all truly great men were themselves.  Look at the individuality of every celebrated man.  Who was Shakspere's model?  By whom did Milton, Burns, Byron, or Shelley form themselves?  They looked at models, ay, and that intensely; but their own strength would not permit them to be imitators.

    So it is in oratory.  Every sensible man is eager to see and hear the pattern men of the day: but he does not try to imitate them.  The pattern men are no imitators—or they would cease to be pattern men.  Who does W. J. Fox imitate?  No one.  He is utterly unlike any other living speaker; and is the most polished, and, perhaps, the most perfect of them all.  But if we hear any one, in London, affect to imitate his modulations, or the march of his sentences—there is a laugh at the imitator, as a man who dare not walk on his own legs.  People talk of George Dawson as an imitator of Thomas Carlyle.  Nothing can be more ridiculously untrue.  The massive strength of Mr. Carlyle's conversation and thought is utterly distinct from the perpetual succession of brilliant points in the oratory of Mr. Dawson.  I know no two men more unlike.  I hold Dawson to be as thoroughly original in his oratory as any public speaker I ever heard.  If he had been an imitator, the name of so young a man would not have been noised through England.

    "What action do I recommend?" is a question put by several.  I answer again—be yourselves—be natural.  If any general rule can be given, it is that you should never begin with action, and should restrain it all the way through, rather than cultivate it.  It will depend much on your temperament whether you can use it with success.  In some parts of 'the subject,' but especially in the peroration, action is not only admissible—but what some people would think an approach to storm may occasionally be tolerated.  Passion may often have its way, and with great grace, in the latter part of a discourse; but be rational when you begin; it is only an auctioneer orator who tears away from the beginning, and always seems to cry 'going, going,' with a threat of his outstretched arm, like a hammer.

    I must confess, I am old-fashioned enough to admire good action in oratory; but it is not often beheld—indeed the two remarkable living men I have mentioned, use little action of any kind.  And yet Demosthenes was great by action; but it was greater in Pericles to fold his hands in his cloak, and still strike the people with awe, "like Jove with his thunderbolts," as saith, magniloquently, Walter Savage Landor.


 
LETTER VI.


"Let us read with method, and propose to ourselves an end to which all our studies may point. The use of our reading is to aid us in thinking."—GIBBON.


MEN OF THE FUTURE,—Being assured; by many letters, as well as various conversations, that a goodly number of you have entered diligently on the course of historical reading I presumed to recommend to you, some months ago,—I now beg to introduce to your notice the names of a few books in miscellaneous literature, which will be found to be greatly beneficial to you.

    The love and contemplation of Nature, are rich sources of happiness.  As a help for creating these healthful habits of the mind, I know no book like White's 'Natural History of Selborne.'  Those of you who may not have read this unpretending volume, little know what a gem of a book it is.  Yet you must not expect sentiment in it.  It is a simple record of minute facts and observations on birds, flowers, and, in short, on the commonest appearances in the natural world; but it is highly suggestive, and never fails to induce inquiry and reflection; and, thence, to lead the mind to the cultivation of cheerfulness.  Every young working man should read this book.  It will lead the dweller in a populous city out into the country, where his mind and body will, at once, derive health; and to the country resident it will open up sources of intelligent and quiet enjoyment which, for lack of reading it, he might have failed to perceive were within his reach.  Walton's 'Angler,' is usually classed with White's 'Selborne.'  It is not so unexceptionable in excellence; but no devoted reader will remain unacquainted with it.  I write but mere hints; and have no room for enlarged commendatory descriptions.  Suffice it to say, that these books must not be judged by their titles.  They contain a world of worth which must be proved to be properly estimated.

    Should the reader feel indisposed to seek delight in the quiet path of contemplation, to which books, like these, are valuable helps, he can have no objection to receive delight and instruction from the more stirring narratives of travellers.  No novel or romance unfolds such powerful excitement as books of travel. The escape of Clapperton, naked, from his pursuers in the heart of Africa; the opening of the Tombs of the Kings by Belzoni; and fifty other equally exciting narratives of reality might be instanced, as far out-rivalling the highly-wrought descriptions of merely imaginary writers.  Bruce, Mungo Park, Richardson, Rae Wilson, Stephens,—in a word, any describer of his adventures in Africa or Egypt, will be read with interest.  Borrow's 'Bible in Spain,' and 'Gypsies in Spain'; Lamartine's 'Pilgrimage to the Holy Land'; Sir Francis Head's 'Rough Notes'; Brydone's 'Tour in Sicily and Malta'; Matthews's 'Diary of an Invalid'; Davis's 'Sketches of China'; Basil Hall's 'Loochoo'; may each be recommended as first-rate books of travel,—and are all within reach by subscribers to any ordinary library, while some of them are published in a very cheap form.  I forbear to mention volumes which are less accessible; but if I appeal to any young working man whose mental appetite is fully set on edge, he will do as I did when younger—seize on every volume of travels and voyages that comes in his way, be it modern or out of date; and he will never find his time lost in reading it; for every such volume will extend his knowledge of the world and of man.

    So many books of this description have been published since the foregoing sentences were written, that I must forbear to mention any of them; for, in truth, I have found time to read but few of them.

    Books which serve to create or direct a taste for Art, should also be read by young working men, whenever the opportunity offers.  Among the works which I remember most gratefully, as having assisted me in this direction, when younger, are Lady Morgan's 'Life of Salvator Rosa' (one of the most eloquently-written books in the language); Benvenuto Cellini's 'Memoirs' (which Horace Walpole said was more interesting than any novel); and Sir Joshua Reynolds' 'Discourses' (more abstruse than either of the other two); and some descriptions of the galleries in England by Hazlitt, in the London Magazine.  I know not whether Hazlitt's sketches were ever collected in a volume: they were among the most delightful things in the best magazine, for original articles, ever published in England;—for Charles Lamb, Allan Cunningham, Hazlitt, John Keats, John Clare, and others, were contributors to the London, in its palmy days,—and every number was hailed with eagerness; though Thomas Campbell was then editing the New Monthly, and Hogg, and 'Christopher North,' and 'Delta' were rendering each number of Blackword a rich literary treat.—I speak of threescore years ago.

    The works of Disraeli the elder—especially his 'Curiosities of Literature,' 'Calamities of Authors,' and 'Quarrels of Authors,'—belong to the wholly miscellaneous class of books; but working men, after making themselves acquainted with history and general literature, should avail themselves of an opportunity to read these valuable books.  They contain the fruit of the reading of years, by one of the most diligent of readers; and a variety of information may be collected from them that it would not, otherwise, be easy to obtain.

    I shall only add a few words on another branch of literature, and then conclude the present letter.  The most enlarged reading of history would be imperfect without biography.  In fact, some biographies are great treatises of history in themselves—such are the 'Lives' of Plutarch; such is Middleton's 'Life of Cicero,' and such are Mr. Forster's lives of the English Commonwealth men, which I have mentioned in a former paper.  Any biography which throws a light upon history will, therefore, be eagerly read by the earnest student.  But there is a distinct class of biographies which lay open the workings of the heart, and present the portraiture of their subject in such life-like colours, that we seem to be in his presence.  Boswell's 'Life of Johnson' stands first in this class; and I should be inclined to place Moore's 'Life of Byron,' and Lockhart's 'Life of Scott,' immediately after it.  While our language affords a few masterpieces of this class of writing, it is, however, singularly deficient in earnestly-written lives of Howard, Bernard Gilpin, Wickliffe, Sir Thomas More, Sir Walter Raleigh, Daniel Defoe, Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Bacon, Milton, Sir William Jones, and some other of the greatest men our country has produced.  The PEOPLE'S BRITISH PLUTARCH, in fact, has yet to be written.

    Meanwhile such 'Lives' as exist of these illustrious Englishmen should be diligently read by young working men, whenever and wherever they are within reach.  Never mind the prejudiced colouring which is thrown over some of these biographies.  Note deeply the facts: and draw your own conclusions as to the consistency of any particular act related by the biographer.  I forbear to draw up a list of biographies which, however imperfect, are the best worth reading; for I should be tempted to swell it to a great length.  To speak truth, I never thought any biography that ever fell into my hands utterly worthless, however ill-written.  The idiosyncrasy of each particular man presents something worth studying, and treasuring up in the mind.  And if I had to be closed up again within four walls for a year or two, and were to be told that I could only be allowed to select my books from one class of literature,—I should reject poetry, philosophy, history, and language,—and name biography.  It is at once the most deeply instructive and entertaining kind of literature in existence.

    I propose directing your attention to some other branches of literature, in another paper.  In the meantime, do you read and think more earnestly than ever—for the real joys of learning are only tasted by the most earnest student.


 
LETTER VII.


"Read, not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider."  "The unlearned man knoweth not what it is to descend into himself, and to call himself to account ; nor the pleasure of that most pleasant life, which consists in our daily feeling ourselves become better."—B
ACON.


MEN OF THE FUTURE,—No language—not even the glorious Greek—possesses a more magnificent catalogue of the highest class of books—the books of the wise—than our noble English tongue.  I presumed to urge on your zeal the necessity of acquiring an elementary knowledge of science, language, and history, in the outset of study, as your first and most imperative work.  In my last brief letter, I mentioned a few books for occasional reading.  Let me now point you to the richest part of the storehouse of English prose.  I mean to those writers who are evermore the companions of the most highly educated and reflective minds—because their wisdom is enshrined either in the fullest and grandest periods, or it is conveyed with such winning quaintness, as to charm the ear with music, while the mind is won by intelligence.

    Among these transcendent writers there is error to be found, of course: you do not expect to find the product of any human mind without it.  The subjects on which some of them treat may also seem uninviting to some of you.  But if a man be in earnest in his search for wisdom, he will not confine his reading to authors who, he is aware beforehand, think as he thinks.  And if we desire to know all the richness of our language, our walk must be taken into fields of literature, some of which are neither popular nor utilitarian.

    The great name affixed to the motto above must be mentioned first in this list; but I need not dwell upon it, having already commended his book of thought-gems—the 'Essays,' to your notice.  Hooker and Jeremy Taylor—both divines—claim the next place.  They are authors who have carried the harmony of the language to its perfection.  But how diverse their manner?  Note the stately march of this passage of Hooker:


"But so it is, the name of the Light of Nature is made hateful with men; the Star of Reason and Learning, and all other such like helps, beginneth no otherwise to be thought of, than if it were an unlucky comet; or as if God had so accursed it, that it should never shine or give light in things concerning our duty in any way towards Him, but be esteemed as that star in the Revelation, called Wormwood, which, being fallen from heaven, maketh rivers and waters in which it falleth so bitter, that men tasting them die thereof.  A number there are who think they cannot admire as they ought the power and authority of the word of God, if in things divine they should attribute any force to man's reason; for which cause they never use reason so willingly as to disgrace reason.  Their usual and common discourses are unto this effect.  First, 'The natural man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.'  By these, and the like disputes, an opinion hath spread itself very far in the world; as if the way to be ripe in faith were to be raw in wit and judgment; as if reason were an enemy to religion, childish simplicity the mother of ghostly and divine wisdom!"


    And then—the unsurpassable sweetness of these passages of Jeremy Taylor:


"It is a mighty change that is made by the death of every person, and it is visible to us who are alive.  Reckon but from the spritefulness of youth, the fair cheeks and the full eyes of childhood, from the vigorousness and strong flexure of the joints of five-and-twenty, to the hollowness and dead paleness, to the loathsomeness and horror of a three day's burial, and we shall perceive the distance to be very great and very strange.  But so I have seen a Rose newly springing from the clefts of its hood and at first it was fair as the morning, and full with the dew of heaven, as a lamb's-fleece: but when a ruder breath had forced open its virgin modesty, and dismantled its too youthful and unripe retirements, it began to put on darkness, and to decline to softness, and the symptoms of a sickly age; it bowed the head, and broke its stalk, and at night having lost some of its leaves, and all its beauty, it fell into the portion of weeds and worn-out faces."

"As when the sun approaching towards the gates of the morning, he first opens a little eye of heaven, and sends away the spirits of darkness, and gives light to a cock, and calls up the lark to matins, and by-and-by gilds the fringes of a cloud, and peeps over the eastern hills, thrusting out his golden horns, like those which bedecked the brows of Moses when he was forced to wear a veil, because himself had seen the face of God; and still while a man tells the story, the sun gets up higher, till he shows a fair face and a full light, and then he shines one whole day, under a cloud often, and sometimes weeping great and little showers, and sets quickly—so is a man's reason and life."


    Fragments like these may suffice to show any reader of taste that if he would learn where the wealth of our language is to be found, he must not look for it in the slipshod writing of to-day; but must search for it in such unfashionable volumes as the 'Ecclesiastical Polity,' and the 'Holy Living and Dying.'

    Sir Thomas Browne is another of these deeply reflecting and yet richly-ornamental writers.  Some of our every-day authors have not as much thought in an entire volume as he has in a page.  What grandeur of expression as well as depth of reflection there is in this extract:


"A great part of antiquity contented their hopes of subsistency with a transmigration of their souls—a good way to continue their memories, while, having the advantage of plural successions, they could not but act something remarkable in such a variety of beings; and, enjoying the fame of their past selves, make accumulation of glory unto their last durations.  Others, rather than be lost in the uncomfortable night of nothing, were content to recede into the common being, and make one particle of the public soul of all things, which was no more than to return into their unknown and divine original again.  Egyptian ingenuity was more unsatisfied, contriving their bodies in sweet consistencies to attend the return of their souls.  But all was vanity, feeding the wind, and folly.  The Egyptian mummies, which Cambyses or time hath spared, avarice now consumeth.  Mummy is become merchandise; Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams."


    Our glorious Milton's prose often equals the most superb passages in these four writers; and some paragraphs in Sir Walter Raleigh's 'History of the World' are nearly as majestic in style.  Their music, but more often their sententiousness and pregnancy of meaning, is resembled in Owen Feltham's 'Resolves,' in Bishop Hall, and quaint Thomas Fuller.

    In my humble opinion, we have but two living prose writers who will be placed by posterity in the highest class of useful and majestic thinkers: Thomas Carlyle, and Walter Savage Landor.  Many examples of excellence might be selected especially from the 'Sartor Resartus' of Mr. Carlyle; but I forbear.  Mr. Landor's name is less popular; but his learning is richer, his taste infinitely more polished, and his mind not less powerful, than Mr. Carlyle's.  There is not nobler eloquence in the whole compass of the language, than that contained in the following brief extract from the 'Imaginary Conversations.' The dialogue is between Kosciusko, the great Polish patriot, and Poniatowski, the favourite Polish general of Napoleon, who was drowned in the escape from Dresden: the conversation is supposed to take place during Kosciusko's exile.


"K.—We hear many complaints of princes and of fortune; but believe me, Poniatowski, there never was a good or generous action that met with much ingratitude.

"P.—Is it possible you can say so? you, to whom no statues are erected, no hymns are sung in public processions; you, who have no country, and you smile upon such injuries and such losses!

"K—My friend, I have lost nothing: I have received no injury.  I am in the midst of our country day and night.  Absence is not of matter; the body does not make it.  Absence is the invisible and incorporeal mother of ideal beauty.  Were I in Poland, how many things are there which would disturb and perhaps exasperate me!—Here I can think of her as of some departed soul, not yet indeed clothed in light, not exempted from sorrowfulness, but divested of passion, removed from tumult, and inviting to contemplation.  She is dearer to me because she reminds me that I have performed my duty towards her.  Permit me to go on.  I said that a good or generous action never met with much ingratitude.  I do not deny that ingratitude may be very general; but even if we experience it from all quarters, there is still no evidence of its weight or its intensity.  We bear upon our heads an immense column of air; but the nature of things has rendered us insensible of it altogether.  Have not we also a strength and a support against what is equally external—the breath of worthless men?  Very far is that from being much or great, which a single movement of self-esteem tosses up and scatters.  Slaves make out of barbarians a king or emperor; the clumsiest hand can fashion such misshapen images; but the high and discerning spirit spreads out its wings from precipices, raises itself up slowly by great efforts, acquires ease, velocity, and might, by elevation, and suns itself in the smiles of its Creator."


    Some of you will say—"You are again directing us to books many of which are difficult to reach."  True: but let me tell you that I reached and read many of them before I left the stall; and that, too, in an obscure and apparently unfavourable town like Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire.  Only be in earnest about books—make keen and restless inquiries after them—keep them clean when people lend them to you (excuse my telling you that, for it is by no means unimportant, you will find)—and return them punctually—and you will have a wider and wealthier circle of reading than, perhaps, you may have hoped for.  Do not scorn to borrow books, in order to get knowledge.  Look for the time when you shall have it independently; and plod on, unweariedly,—reaping meanwhile a present reward in what you are learning.


 
XIII.

LETTERS TO YOUNG WORKING MEN.

[Second Series: selected from, the 'Northern Tribune ' of 1855.]

LETTER I.


I COMMENCE a second series of familiar and friendly letters to you, my younger brethren, the "Men of the Future," with a deep consciousness of my own imperfections.  But, if we all waited till we had attained our ideal standard of mental and moral excellence, before we attempted to incite others to commence the struggle for attainment, the world would progress but slowly.  However broken and imperfect may be the utterance of mind to mind, yet a few words of earnestness, from one who has experienced the combat with difficulty, may have their fruition in stirring up some to diligence with that faith--together with the encouraging remembrance that my former Letters drew forth acknowledgments of benefit written and spoken, from many scores of young working men--I again venture to, address you.  The last day of 1854 found me engaged in endeavouring to impress a number of young working men in London with a conviction of the Value and Right Use of Time; and this first letter will take its tone, and in part, its expression, from the state of mind, in which I then spoke.

    It seems to me that we are too neglectful of some particular times that might be turned to practical benefit.  In the fall of the leaf, in the bareness and outward death of winter, in the return of the flowers and songs of spring, and in the glory and refulgence of summer, we can all find a common lesson.  Man is a part of the great system of Nature.  His birth and childhood, his youth and manhood, his old age and death, have all their resemblances in the outward growth and decay of things around him.  They remind him of his own little life, its changes, its shortness and uncertainty, and its end.  And a man must be strangely devoid of reflection who does not ask himself at the close of a year--"How have I spent the year which is now ending?  Shall I live through the next year?  And, if so, how shall I deport myself, as I proceed with the pilgrimage I have to make through life?"

    Scarcely any of us, old or young, are without such thoughts.  The worst of it is that, in the majority of cases, these are but passing thoughts: thoughts soon dissipated, and only raised naturally in the mind by the recurrence of the saying, "The last day in the old year is come again!"--or, by the change of the figures 1853 to 1854, or 1854 to 1855.  They are not thoughts that dwell in the mind, and deepen there, and take the healthful form of reflection.  Reflection: the only inward process by which the mind can be raised and strengthened, the heart corrected and improved.  You may surround a man with outward circumstances that will have a powerful effect in ameliorating his character.  On the character of a child outward circumstances are almost all-powerful.  You may mould a child almost as you please, if you thoughtfully study its organization.  It is the "creature of circumstance": that is to say, of education directed to its organization.  And the upgrown man is still the "creature of circumstance"; but now the phrase (which is strictly philosophical) has a more compound meaning.  Man's moral, as well as his intellectual, nature and power are now developed.  Education--that is to say, the institutions, customs, and practices of society (for it is education all the way through with us: our education is not consummated by our having learnt to read and write, at school: educo--to lead out of, to lead on: we are led on, educated, by the entire experience of life)--acting upon our original constitution, and knowledge.  And, now, from knowledge, education, and organization, is evolved a moral power, which has its spring or commencement in the act of reflection.

    What is Reflection--does any one ask?  Thinking--thinking--thinking, until, from all the stores of our knowledge and experience, we collect motives, present them to the mind, keep them before it so as to create, resolve, and act upon it; and still keep them before it, so that our resolve may be strengthened, and our action continued.  I know not in what better way to define reflection.  There are processes of the mind which partake of the nature of reflection without amounting to it, in the value and effective sense of the word.  Thus a man may call up his past experience, and please or sadden himself by looking at it, as he would by looking on an old portrait of himself; but if he collect no motives and form no resolves for action, while doing this he has only been musing: he has not been reflecting in the full and proper sense of the word.  Again, a man may not only recall the experience of the past, but throw forward his imagination into the future: he may say to himself--'Ah, when I was in such and such circumstances, I did so and so?  If the like circumstances recur this coming year, I wonder how I shall act?  And if entirely new circumstances occur, I wonder how I shall act, and what the result will be?'

    Well, but this is only reverie: it is not reflection, in the worthy and potential sense of the word.  Reflection is thinking and thinking on, till motives grow into giants and compel the will, resolve is formed, strengthened, rendered unsubduable, and action--decided and continuous action--is produced.  Reflection is the grand mental lever by which a man's own character is raised and purified, so as to render him consciously more noble to himself, to make him more instrumental of good to all living around him, and, perhaps, to future generations.  Without reflection a man is characterless, save that you call him the mere creature of impulse, and then you have no dependence on him: he may start off and run a race against nothing and nobody to the north, when you are employing all the cogency of reason, and arguing till you sweat, to persuade him that it will be for his unspeakable felicity to go south.  But a reflecting man is a man of character, and you know where to have him when you are talking to him: he does not go by fits and starts, like the creature of impulse: he has a line of action regulated by reason: and he is always valuable as a friend, or an ally in any undertaking, because when you have once won him you are likely to keep him, so long as you act truthfully.

    May I hope that you are men of reflection, and that the very youngest among you come in some degree under that designation?  Then, you will appreciate the object I have in view.  I aim not only to persuade you that Time is valuable, but that the time which remains to each of you--even if some of you have already spent the greater part of your lives--is of more value to you than the time you have already lived; and, therefore ought to be spent with more intelligent husbandry.  If I may illustrate the value of Time by the value of money, I would ask you, which is now of the most value to you, the money, be it ever so little, you have in your pocket now, together with the money you expect to earn next week,--or the money you have already spent in the course of life?  Why, if you have spent hundreds, nay thousands, it is all of less value to you (unless it have secured some beneficial result as interest, or in any other form), than a single sixpence you may now possess, or a single pound you expect to earn next week.  The past is gone and spent: you cannot recover it, by a wish, to spend over again.  It is so with Time: it is so with human life.  The last day of 1854 will never return: that hour to which the clock last pointed can never be recalled.  Thus every remaining day and hour becomes of increased value and importance to us.

    I do not mean anything so foolish as that we are never to recall the past--never to heave a sigh that we have misspent it.  That is utterly impossible with a reflecting mind: and it is reflection that I am enforcing.  I only wish to impress on your minds and my own, a thorough conviction that all remembrance of the past is valueless to us, unless it aids us to make improvement in the future.  The man who has wasted a fortune, and only idly deplores it, whimpers, and tells us if he had his chance to come over again he would do better, is but a foolish fellow, and disproves his own words by his idleness.  He should be doing better now, to make us believe him.

    'Remember that time is money,' says Franklin--and his saying has, doubtless, laid the foundation of many a man's fortune--'Remember that time is money.'  Most true: and we may follow out his idea, and give it more elevated meanings.  Remember that time is Knowledge--that Time is Truth--that Time is Character--that Time is Power--that Time is Usefulness--that Time is Happiness.  All this is equally as true as that Time is Money.  Time is not money, if a man loses the time in which he might have got it: it is only money lost.  Time is Money to the man who uses time to get it.  And, in the same sense, Time is Knowledge, Truth, Character, Power, Usefulness, and Happiness.  And these, my brothers, are the right and noble uses of Time.


 
LETTER II.


    1. The Right Use of Time is to get Knowledge.  You must begin there.  You can neither have Truth, nor Character, nor Power, nor Usefulness, nor Happiness (in the elevated sense) without Knowledge.  What says that ancient Eastern man, in the Book of Proverbs?  They say it was King Solomon; but the highest name could not give value to the words: for beauty and sense they excel many men's words as much as a child's penny necklace is transcended in value by a string of oriental pearls.


    "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that findeth understanding.  For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.  She is more precious than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.  Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.  Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.  Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she will bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her.  She will give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee."


    This is not spoken of any restricted and particular kind of wisdom; but, of all true wisdom--of all knowledge which enlightens and enlarges and purifies the mind.  And that knowledge deserves this eulogium you may easily satisfy yourselves.  Compare an ignorant and illiterate man with one whose powers and capabilities are stored and cultivated, and you see how vast is the superiority of the one to the other.  How low, how grovelling are the tastes and desires of the man whose mind has never been opened by culture!  How rude are his amusements, and sometimes, how brutal!  What narrow and confined notions he has of things--what a blank the great Book of Nature, with all its beauty, appears to him!  True, such a man is often far more to be pitied than blamed.  His "betters" have taken no care of him.  They did not desire to see him get knowledge, and become a man worthy of the name.

    But what then?  Shall we succumb beneath our disadvantages, and be crushed into indolence and helplessness by the faulty arrangements of Society?  That would be to revenge ourselves upon ourselves.  If a working man refuses to educate himself, because he has been unfairly dealt with, he himself must suffer the chief loss.  No: there is a nobler thought than that: it is to resolve to conquer difficulties, and to remember that our conquest will be all the grander because our difficulties were so great.  What is the value of that boast on the part of that "well-born" young man, who was cradled in silk and pillowed on velvet,--who was instructed in grammar and languages, in the history of nations, and the laws and triumphs of science, from his childhood,--who had well-paid masters to wait upon him and smooth every difficulty in his path,--to guide him over the stepping-stones without wetting his feet, and over the flints without cutting his toes,--who was "crammed" and pushed early into a University, cheered forward in the acquirement of learned honours, and who had wealth to purchase a grand library, and to surround himself with the best books in profusion,--what is the value of his boast compared with the real honour due to those who have won a name in the history and literature of their country, in spite of poverty and want, of hardship and neglect?

    How did they do it?  By remembering that the first and most necessary use of Time was to get knowledge.  None of them could command large leisure, any more than yourselves.  They had to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow and the labour of their hands, in the outset of life, like yourselves.  I need not remind you of names.  I have often done so, until I fear to weary you with them.  Recall them, for yourselves; and remember that these distinguished labourers might have said--what some of you may be tempted to say--"I have not time: I must give it up: I shall never be able to make anything out!"  But they were neither mental cowards, nor mental idlers.  They reflected, they gathered motives, they resolved--and they worked and won!  Above all, they were economists of Time.  They did not waste it.  They perceived how precious every spare five minutes was in value.  It is this that you, my brothers, should remember.  You have no leisure days--except your Sundays--to build upon in your calculations for making acquirements.  You may have very few leisure hours in the week.  But how many minutes have you?  How many in the morning--how many at noon--how many in the evening?  How many do you waste on idle and useless--and, perhaps, worse than useless--conversation?  How many in unnecessary sleep?  What say you?  "We must take care of our health."  Then will you have health and ignorance--or sacrifice a little health now, and get knowledge?  Now, I say; for it is now that you can safely forego a measure of sleep; you cannot so safely forego it when you become older.  How much time do you waste in dancing?  I must again--and in spite of the charge of, "Puritanism"--bear my testimony against that consumption of precious time in frivolity.  I do not say it is wrong--I believe it to be right--that on some festive occasions you enjoy a dance; it is against this dancing--dancing--dancing, every week, and many evenings of a week, that I protest.  You may dance all your brains down into your heels; but you will not be the wiser for that.  How much time--I must speak out and reiterate my speaking so long as the accursed evil lasts--how much Time do you waste--do you murder, I mean--in the shuffling about of those dirty bits of pasteboard with the black and red marks upon them?  Never touch these "Devil's books," as a good old Methodist used to call them when I was a boy,--never touch them; never be entangled in their sottish seductions, and in all the petty wrangling and spite--or, otherwise, the empty and silly laughter--that card-playing creates.  It is an employment for knaves or idiots--but not for you.  "We must have relaxation!" do you say?  I am ashamed to hear young men talk about it.  They are, many of them, so relaxed already that one may expect to see the next generation become a race of very effeminate creatures, if the same example goes on.  Relaxation!  Rest!  Think of work--of brain-work--if you mean to get Knowledge.

    Will you make the year 1855 a year of solid acquirements?  Get a blank book ready, and make your entries in it--first of your resolves, and then of your progress.  Be faithful with yourselves.  Write it down when you relapse into negligence, and again resolve; and not only resolve, but do better.  Divide your time, be it ever so scanty.  Whatever you resolve to do, be methodical in doing it, if you mean to do anything well.  Method--method, is half the battle.  Begin, too, at the beginning.  If you determine to learn a language, get hold of the grammar first.  Trust to no 'Hamiltonian' systems for a foundation.  Translated lessons will be a grand help to you when you have laid your foundation in a knowledge of the grammar; but if you attempt to learn a language without first learning the grammar, you will never be more than a smatterer, and be ever finding that you ought to begin over again.  So, with the mathematics; get your Euclid, and stick to him till you thoroughly understand the first book: do not attempt to go further until you have mastered that, though you may have to go through it half-a-dozen times.  I need not commend the acquirement of a language to you.  It will open to you a new and delightful region of thought;--not to mention its practical advantages in unfolding the meanings of words in your own tongue, if it be the Latin you acquire;--or in enabling you to talk a living speech, or read it, if it be the French that you master, or the German, or any other modern tongue.  To master the propositions of Geometry not only familiarizes the mind of a man with mathematical allusions which abound in books, and gives him an acquaintance with great and scientific truths, but schools him in the truest logic: a good acquaintance with Euclid gives the mind a sounder discipline in reasoning than all the treatises on Logic that may be within reach.

    Method should be observed in your endeavour to acquire any other branch of Knowledge, if you mean to acquire it solidly.  In a science, the nomenclature should be mastered.  For instance, in Natural History, or Zoology, the great net-work of divisions into classes, orders, etc., should be mastered, so that you may be able at once to assign an animal to the "Pachydermata," the "Carnivora," the "Ruminantia," the "Rodentia"--and so on.  I need not commend a knowledge of Zoology to you.  Is there a more delightful and healthful employment of the intellect than in tracing the great plan of Nature in her development of the varied faculties of living beings, and their wondrous adaptations to their circumstances?  And Human History--that great register of our race--how imperfect must a man's knowledge of Man be who is unacquainted with what Men have done and said and thought, during these thousands of years, and in different climes?  The facts of History are of course its most useful riches; but these cannot be stored up in the mind, so as to be found when wanted, without Method.  Some familiar acquaintance with Chronology is necessary.  I do not mean that a voluminous chronological table should be committed to memory, beginning with "4004 B.C. the world was created," and ending with "November 5th A.D. 1854, the Battle of Inkermann was fought."  But the memory should be able, in a moment, to recur to the dates of great events, and to the grand eras which were formed by the contemporary existence of certain great men: the representative groups of human greatness.

    I will not weary you with dwelling longer on this head--for, already, I may be charged with repetition.  I will only say--Learn the alphabet, that you maybe able easily to spell: learn to spell that you may be able easily and with delight to read, in the great book of universal and useful Knowledge.


 
LETTER III.


    The right and noble uses of Time, I said, my brothers, were to attain Knowledge, Truth, Character, Power, Usefulness, and Happiness.  With the attainment of Knowledge I have dealt very imperfectly and briefly; and yet I must be more brief in the imperfect remarks I have to offer on what I have suggested to be the other great uses of Time.

    2. The right use of Time is to get hold of Truth.  You cannot reach Truth without first acquiring Knowledge; and you are not likely to reach it without a good deal of Knowledge.  They say Pope was wrong when he said "A little learning is a dangerous thing."  But he was right--never poet was more right, in the way in which he said it.  He did not mean that stolid and lumpish ignorance was preferable to a little knowledge: he meant that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing because, for want of greater, it leads a man to imperfect and erroneous conclusions.  He knew that a totally ignorant man may be compared to a totally blind man, who can neither discern forms nor colours; and a man with a little knowledge to one who sees things under a dim twilight, when neither forms nor colours can be accurately distinguished, for an angular object may appear rounded, and a bright red but a dull brown, by a dim twilight; while the man of large culture and information may be compared to the man who beholds objects in the broad light of noon, when forms and shapes stand out in their symmetry and due proportions, and colours wear their proper brilliancy and beauty.

    An ignorant man usually remains in the mere prejudices given him by those who had the earliest care of him; or he sees nothing, mentally, as it really is.  You ask him for his ideas of great truths; but how formless, how misshapen, how grotesque and unsightly, are the responses to your questions; It is as if you were to resort to a quack-enchanter who professed to "call up spirits from the vasty deep," and, behold, when he has waved his wand for the summoning forth of forms of awful stature and surpassing grandeur and beauty--only owls and bats obey his rod, and flutter before your disappointed vision!  A man of little knowledge is, usually, either a zealot and a bigot,--or he is an intolerable bore,--or he is an overblown nuisance of conceit and vanity.  Some men who are called "learned and able," are really men of little knowledge, and so become bigots.  One pursuit, and that a dull one, narrows the mind, until the man says there is no worthy knowledge but that which he pursues: every other path but his leads to vanity and error, and his only leads to truth.  How does he know, when he has never tried any other road?  Is it worth while to argue with such a man, unless he will give up his premises--his bigotry, in plain language?  Again: a man by fondness for some one pursuit may ignore the excellence and usefulness of all others.  He may be really excellent in his one pursuit; but because he will insist on perpetually and unseasonably introducing it, he becomes what is so expressively called--a bore.  Then there is the Smatterer: the man who deprecates the stupidity of confining yourself to one pursuit, and restlessly attempts many; but only flits, like a butterfly, through the garden of Knowledge, resting nowhere long enough and industriously, to gather ought worth gathering.  He knows so little of anything, that he is not through the A.B.C. of anything; and yet he is all vanity and conceit and self-sufficiency.  Truth!  What does he know about it?  "As much as a horse knows of a new shilling," as they say in Yorkshire.  Yet, if you happen to express a doubt of his correctness when he takes upon himself to "pronounce," he will, very likely, give himself airs, and tell you "You don't understand the subject."


"A little learning is a dangerous thing:
 Drink deep--or taste not of the Pierian spring."


    Drink deep: let your draughts of Knowledge be copious.  Get all the knowledge you can on all subjects: get the clearest and most complete knowledge you can of every subject.  That is the surest mode of arriving at Truth.  If Truth be hid in a well, according to the old proverb, then it must be the man who reaches to the bottom, and searches most carefully, patiently, and perseveringly, who will find her--must it not?  What right has a man to pronounce positively on any subject, if he have not all the data necessary to form an accurate judgment?  Can a man pronounce justly on a question of planetary revolutions, if he does not know that the orbits of the planets are elliptical and not circular?  Can a man be expected to decide a difficult question in chronology who scarcely knows whether Oliver Cromwell lived before or after Julius Cæsar?  Have I any right to pronounce on the value of a man's character without knowing his antecedents?  Has any man a right to sum up, or is he able to sum up, a question of evidence, when he knows scarcely anything of either the nature or rules of evidence?

    Believe me, my brothers, you will find the man of broad, solid, extensive culture to be often the least positive of men on subjects which many people are so positive about.  On such matters he learns to say with Socrates, "All that I know is, that I know nothing."  While on some other subjects which many hold to be full of holy and mysterious Truth, though it is, according to their solemn confession, incomprehensible,--he pronounces positively "Where is your evidence?" he asks.  There is none.  "Then I deny your Truth--comprehensible or in comprehensible," he rejoins; "where there is no evidence there can be no Truth, for there is--nothing!"

    Since Truth cannot be had without evidence, the value of large and complete knowledge becomes more apparent.  Yet I say not that we are always to refuse our credence where our knowledge is incomplete, because the evidence is necessarily scanty; and I must confess that I dislike to witness a supercilious sneer at the masterly reasoner, Butler, when in the famous "Analogy," he urges the fact that we often have to credit only probable evidence; and maintains the wisdom of credence and of action upon it, often when we have but a slight balance of probability.

    It may be deemed that I should have said less about the difficulty of acquiring Truth, and have directed my remarks chiefly to showing Truth's value.  Nay: I have dwelt most strongly on what I feel to be the necessary point: the absolute necessity of earnest and complete search to obtain it.  As for its value, I need not be "so superfluous" as to spend many words in proclaiming it--since all men profess either to have it, as do the majority of mankind; or to be most anxiously seeking for it, as do the little minority.  I need not sound the praise of what all men declare--or nearly all men--that they have found, and that they assert, trumpet-tongued, to be the most valuable possession they have.  I only say--get it, even at the cost of hours, months, and years of laborious search.  Get it because it is the only healthful food on which the mind can grow and flourish.  If a man were shown that his physical food were mixed with slow poison, and that, if he persisted in taking it, his eyesight would fail, his limbs shrink and be crippled, and his whole life soon come to a close, would he not be reckoned either a criminal or a lunatic?  Can a milder judgment be passed on the man who is indifferent about being nourished mentally by the pure and salutary food of Truth, and is content to be poisoned with Error?

    3. The right use of Time is to acquire Character.  We must obtain knowledge to get hold of Truth; and we must get hold of truth, that it may take hold of us.  Tell us not of a man's knowledge, if it does not lead him to grasp at truth: talk not of his seizure of truth, if he does not maintain it with his tongue and embody it in his character, so as to become, most unmistakably and thoroughly, a truthful man.  It is not a right and earnest use of time, it is but amusing ourselves, to search into truths as mere speculations: we must maintain and exemplify the truths.  I don't mean scientific truths, such as gravitation or attraction.  Gravity is independent of our volition; and we can no more increase or destroy the gravity of a single particle of matter than we can add a cubit to our stature, or take one away from it.

    But we can maintain intellectual and exemplify moral truths.  Does a man discover that some doctrine he had hitherto held in common with his so-called "orthodox" friends is unfounded on evidence?  Is that his clear conviction, after large, patient, and persevering search?  Let him say it out, manfully--but courteously; and not seek to curry favour with his orthodox friends.  Does a man dread considerable detriment to his circumstances if he speaks out manfully?  I would rather he spoke out under any circumstances, so that truth could be advantaged; but, under no circumstances can he commit himself to a palpable denial of truth and maintenance of falsehood, and retain character.  He will lose it, even in the eyes of those whom he thus meanly seeks to please.  They will inwardly despise him, while they admit him to the diluted radiance of a moonbeam smile.  Character is never solidly reputable, it wins no true respect, unless it be of a piece with a man's professed convictions.  No man acquires a character worth having who professes to believe certain truths, and to regard the efficacy of moral rules, and who yet lives in the daily and open violation of them.

    I do not say that many men act up to their full convictions concerning moral conduct, at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances.  There was one who was in earnest for moral purity, if ever man was; and yet we find him exclaiming, "Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"  And he had before said, "When I would do good, evil is present with me."  Could that great truthful heart and soul have more plainly confessed his sense of the struggle it takes to attain and preserve moral purity?  Depend upon it, the man who says he never falls, is either never tempted or tried, or he is ignorant of his own nature; or, what is worse, a hypocrite.  The lines of Thomas Moore assert a severe truth respecting the pretender to moral perfection:


"Vain was the man, and false as vain,
     Who said--were he ordained to run
 His long career of life again,
     He would do all that he had done."


    Let us remember, however, that though immaculate perfection of moral character is not to be attained, the right use of Life is to preserve our rectitude as uniformly as possible.  Close reflection and self-examination as to the motives on which we speak and act, and a faithful and oft-repeated lessoning of ourselves on rectitude, will help us to preserve it.  And it is a great advantage of our being creatures of habit, that the more constantly we endeavour to act up to our convictions of moral rectitude, the more deeply rooted will be our attachment to it, the keener our self-condemnation when we fall into error; and by that very sensitiveness our likelihood to err becomes less.

    Let not what has been said of the value of consistency of character--of the necessity of a man's character being of a piece with his professed convictions--lead you into the error of some weak people who make a bugbear of consistency.  "I must do so and so," say they; "it is contrary to what I have hitherto done.  The folks will say I am always changing!"  What of that--if you change for the better?  If you become sensible that you have been going wrong, will you not have indescribable satisfaction in beginning to go right; and will it not be a joyful song to sing aloud that you know it?  Above all things, my brothers, abhor the false pride of "consistency" which refuses to make an apology when you have erred, lest it should render you little and weak in the eyes of your friends, and give your foes a lucky opportunity to sneer at you, and triumph over you.  Remember, that the man who is brave enough to make an apology shows that he is conscious of having some worth of character to fall back upon, however humblingly his apology may seem to lessen him.  And, after all, it is a mistake to suppose that the making of an apology for an error or an offence will lessen us--except with those whose censure is more desirable than their praise: the candid, the virtuous, and the wise will esteem it a mark of the brightest sincerity in us.

    In one word, character must be true to be wise, must be good to be great.  What a soil it is on the image of some of our brightest intellectual men, that they were neither true nor good men!  How we ache with shame before the political scoundrelism of Bolingbroke!--how the heart bleeds at the remembrance of the meanness of Bacon!  We feel as if it would be an unspeakable relief could we annihilate the bad facts in the life of each--that it would cleanse high intellect from the stain of an unnatural slander--that it would doubly enthronize Genius, and render it all-unquestionably worthy of our willing worship.


 
LETTER IV.


    4. The right Use of Time is to gain power.  I have said that we should gain knowledge in order to gain truth, and truth that we may gain character; and I add, that we should gain character that we may gain power.  "Power!" some may object, on first thought; "do you mean to say that is a right use of Time?"  Yes.  Pray, who and what is a powerless man?  Nothing: nobody.  What are the working classes politically?  Nothing: nobody.  They had no votes till lately.  What is a penniless beggar in a company of capitalists?  Nothing: no body.  He has no gift of speech: no power in his tongue.  What is a paralytic where a stone many tons' weight has to be raised by levers?  Nothing: nobody.  He had no nervous force: no power, in his limbs.

    Now a man without the power resulting from character may be compared to any of these.  It is lamentably true that power may be won without character.  But I speak not of the power which enables a man, however vile, to trample on the rights and freedom of others--of "imperial" power, and a throne, which may be gained by wading through a pool of blood wantonly and ferociously shed from the hearts of the innocent and un-offending!  I speak of moral influence which is the most precious of all power--power par excellence for it enables a man to banish evil, and thus bless the world; instead of bruising it, and blighting its fairest fruits--like the Man of the coup d'etat.  The power that we need is not to be obtained by force, nor will it consist in force; but in earnestness of advocacy and energy and persistency of persuasion, backed up by character and example.  We can remove no evils without power; and the world is crowded with them.  A man is not to be blamed for acquiring power; but for making a bad use of it.  Pray, how is the wrong in the world to be remedied, unless men get power to remove it?

    "Oh, never fear!  The world progresses: Truth will spread, and set all right at last!  "Why, what are you talking about?  That rhapsodical and idle talk is ridiculous.  How is the Truth to spread?  Where is it to spread?  Upon the rocks and mountains?  Among the flowers, and over all the trees?  On the billows of the ocean?  Or is it to percolate through the shells and pebbles and sands of the sea-shore?  Man, it must sink into our heads and hearts, to chase away evil!  Truth itself is but an attribute! it must be truthful men that must set the world right.  We must not wait for the fulfilment of that silly dream of Truth, as a kind of imaginary and invisible goddess, flying about the world, setting all right by a sort of incomprehensible necromancy, and bringing with it the Millennium.  The great regeneration, the entire redemption from error, of all mankind, must be brought about by the men who have already grasped truth.  They who have the truth must win a power to spread truth: it never will be spread, except by and from the Few to the Many.

    Do not be deterred, by the clamours of those who are interested in preserving error, from trying to have your own way in spreading truth.  Some people find fault with a man for determination in trying to have his own way.  But there is not a better quality than that in a man, if he thinks his own way right,--if he feels convinced by deep reflection that his own way is right.  A man should be resolved to bite a piece of iron in two, rather than fail in having his own way, if he be solidly convinced that his own way is right.  It is not your silken-tongued, easy-going, creeping-in-slippers people that succeed in spreading Truth: it is the earnest men.

    Truth, as yet, is a dweller in corners and obscure and out-of-the-way places.  Her advocates are mean in worldly rank, and are scorned and persecuted by the great "respectable" world.  She must be brought out and set in the high places; and we must win power, influence, moral authority; in order that we may place her in a commanding and attractive position, that all men may see and worship her.

    5. The right Use of Time is to attain Usefulness.  This is the proper issue of Power: we ought to gain it that we may be useful.  Truth will never spring out of the earth full-armed, like Minerva from the brain of Jupiter, and bend men to her sway.  I repeat, it is truthful men that must spread Truth.  Every disciple of Truth must become a missionary, and must be useful and helpful to his fellows.  If a man could acquire all the knowledge in the world, and not communicate it to others, he would only live for himself, and be a great dumb monument of selfishness.  The leanest horse that drags a cab in the streets of London, the sorriest cur of a dog that guards a house, would be of more real use to mankind than that hugely-knowing, selfish man.  They say that Humboldt--who lived to an illustrious old age in Germany--embraced the whole circle of existent knowledge in his mind: he was the great living example of universal knowledge.  His was a monarchy grander and richer than would be that of all the kingdoms of the earth united!  But, it might have been a barren sceptre, had he not given to the world his 'Cosmos,' and other great works, and aided in various ways the furtherance of science.

    Whatever acquirements a man makes he misses the main purpose of life, if he be not useful.  They who shun exertion are no friends to their species.  How is the wrong in the world--its huge pestilence-breeding heaps of ignorance and error--to be swept away, if all shrink from the labour, and refuse to lay hold of the besom of reform?  Would you have the world become such an Augean stable that no moral Hercules could ever be able to cleanse it?  It would have become so already had it not been for the great moral and intellectual workers who have appeared in different ages.  They had to tuck up their sleeves, and labour in the mud of ignorance and mire of error, often scarcely able to see their way clearly.  And ever and anon the old priests and lovers of the moral muck would come out and raise a hubbub, and cry, "Let it alone, you sacriligious desecrator of the sacred dirt!"--"Ay, ay, let it alone, we are as happy in it as pigs!" the deluded multitude would echo.  And then some would seize the Reformer's besom, and knock it about his ears, and trample him down in the mire, and, perhaps, leave him lifeless there.  So they dealt with many "of whom the world was not worthy."  Oh, if it had not been for these--"the noble army of martyrs"--the world would have become one great dunghill of ignorance and error, of crime and suffering, by this time!  My brothers, let grateful love for the noble memories of those who have made our way clearer and freer than was their own impel us to labour.  Much--incalculably much--remains yet to be done; and there is imperative need of earnest workers.

    One fault of some of the honest labourers in the past should be avoided.  They did not all do their work well.  They swept up the dirt of Error into little heaps, and left it; thinking others would cart it away when better times came.  But behold, the wind of adverse opinion and interest blew the dust about again; and then all had to be done over again!  Do not let us imitate the timidity of some of the early labourers: let us do our work entirely.

    Above all things let us avoid another error.  Do not let us spend life in sweeping where it is already clean, nor of throwing the dirt of error into clean places.  Let us go thoughtfully and carefully to work.  The less fuss we make the better: pretension is not work, remember.  While professing to act for usefulness, let us take care that we are useful.  If some who are not of our party are combating an error manfully, and doing the work of true men, let us beware how we molest them by either word or act.  Let them do their work, and let us mind ours.  Far be it from us to asperse a man who is doing the work of a true man, because he is not exactly with us, does not utter our Shibboleth, or differs from us some hair's-breadth on a particular point.  No error is more common than this; and you, my brethren, will find it very difficult to keep out of it--so infectious is this disease of party.  But you must keep out of it, if you mean to be really and uniformly useful.

    Finally, let us each set earnestly about what we know we can do and ought immediately to do; about removing the evils which are at our doors; not about those which are at the North Pole, or under Equinoctial Line; about the evils which stare us in the face, and seem to say, "Here are the wrongs you can remedy!  These demand your labour for removal!"  Every one of us can do something to make the world better.  There is no man so weak but among the innumerable evils on every hand he can remove one--if he himself be truthful and in earnest.

    6. The right use of Time is to win Happiness.  That will be the fruit of Usefulness.  But I am not disposed to say much on this head.  I would only suggest to you the wisdom of entertaining more moderated and correct ideas of human happiness than prevail with some people.  I cannot agree with some that happiness should be made our supreme care: at least, not in their Epicurean sense.  I hold that we should bend all our energy on doing our duty, and trust that real happiness will be the fruit, but not live in a morbid state of craving for it.  "Are you happy?"  I know is a weak and effeminate question often put to a man.  The really manly and sensible question would be, "Are you truthful, are you useful, are you doing your duty both by example and action?"  Not pleasure--the vulgar idea of happiness--but pain, suffering, loss, persecution, are, too often, the lot of the truthful and active and useful man.  But his suffering would be greater, if he were false and indolent: his conscious degradation would then be intolerably torturous.

    The great martyrs enjoyed a nobler and truer happiness while they were being burnt at the stake than they could have secured by recantation to screen their lives and estates.  They had--as indeed all men have--to choose between two evils; or, rather, between unalloyed evil and evil mixed with good; and they wisely chose the latter.  There is no positive and unalloyed happiness for men on earth.  The highest, the purest, the most transcendent happiness is to be obtained by getting Knowledge, grasping and securing Truth, and attaining Character and Power, and thereby exerting Usefulness.  These, my brothers, are the grand uses of Time.  Let me earnestly and affectionately press them on your memory, your judgment, your resolution, your entire and persevering adoption as the purposes, aims, and ends of your remaining life.



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