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Character by Samuel Smiles

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"Unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man"--DANIEL.

"Character is moral order seen through the medium, of an
individual nature.... Men of character are the conscience of
the society to which they belong."--EMERSON.

"The prosperity of a country depends, not on the abundance of its
revenues, nor on the strength of its fortifications, nor on the
beauty of its public buildings; but it consists in the number of
its cultivated citizens, in its men of education, enlightenment,
and character; here are to be found its true interest, its chief
strength, its real power."--MARTIN LUTHER.

Character is one of the greatest motive powers in the world. In
its noblest embodiments, it exemplifies human nature in its
highest forms, for it exhibits man at his best.

Men of genuine excellence, in every station of life--men of
industry, of integrity, of high principle, of sterling honesty of
purpose--command the spontaneous homage of mankind. It is
natural to believe in such men, to have confidence in them, and to
imitate them. All that is good in the world is upheld by them,
and without their presence in it the world would not be worth
living in.

Although genius always commands admiration, character most secures
respect. The former is more the product of brain-power, the
latter of heart-power; and in the long run it is the heart that
rules in life. Men of genius stand to society in the relation of
its intellect, as men of character of its conscience; and while
the former are admired, the latter are followed.

Great men are always exceptional men; and greatness itself is but
comparative. Indeed, the range of most men in life is so limited,
that very few have the opportunity of being great. But each man
can act his part honestly and honourably, and to the best of his
ability. He can use his gifts, and not abuse them. He can strive
to make the best of life. He can be true, just, honest, and
faithful, even in small things. In a word, he can do his Duty in
that sphere in which Providence has placed him.

Commonplace though it may appear, this doing of one's Duty
embodies the highest ideal of life and character. There may be
nothing heroic about it; but the common lot of men is not heroic.
And though the abiding sense of Duty upholds man in his highest
attitudes, it also equally sustains him in the transaction of the
ordinary affairs of everyday existence. Man's life is "centred in
the sphere of common duties." The most influential of all the
virtues are those which are the most in request for daily use.
They wear the best, and last the longest. Superfine virtues, which
are above the standard of common men, may only be sources of
temptation and danger. Burke has truly said that "the human
system which rests for its basis on the heroic virtues is sure to
have a superstructure of weakness or of profligacy."

When Dr. Abbot, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, drew the
character of his deceased friend Thomas Sackville, (1) he did not
dwell upon his merits as a statesman, or his genius as a poet, but
upon his virtues as a man in relation to the ordinary duties of
life. "How many rare things were in him!" said he. "Who more
loving unto his wife? Who more kind unto his children?--Who more
fast unto his friend?--Who more moderate unto his enemy?--Who
more true to his word?" Indeed, we can always better understand
and appreciate a man's real character by the manner in which he
conducts himself towards those who are the most nearly related to
him, and by his transaction of the seemingly commonplace details
of daily duty, than by his public exhibition of himself as an
author, an orator, or a statesman.

At the same time, while Duty, for the most part, applies to the
conduct of affairs in common life by the average of common men, it
is also a sustaining power to men of the very highest standard of
character. They may not have either money, or property, or
learning, or power; and yet they may be strong in heart and rich
in spirit--honest, truthful, dutiful. And whoever strives to do
his duty faithfully is fulfilling the purpose for which he was
created, and building up in himself the principles of a manly
character. There are many persons of whom it may be said that
they have no other possession in the world but their character,
and yet they stand as firmly upon it as any crowned king.

Intellectual culture has no necessary relation to purity or
excellence of character. In the New Testament, appeals are
constantly made to the heart of man and to "the spirit we are of,"
whilst allusions to the intellect are of very rare occurrence. "A
handful of good life," says George Herbert, "is worth a bushel of
learning." Not that learning is to be despised, but that it must
be allied to goodness. Intellectual capacity is sometimes found
associated with the meanest moral character with abject servility
to those in high places, and arrogance to those of low estate. A
man may be accomplished in art, literature, and science, and yet,
in honesty, virtue, truthfulness, and the spirit of duty, be
entitled to take rank after many a poor and illiterate peasant.

"You insist," wrote Perthes to a friend, "on respect for learned
men. I say, Amen! But, at the same time, don't forget that
largeness of mind, depth of thought, appreciation of the lofty,
experience of the world, delicacy of manner, tact and energy in
action, love of truth, honesty, and amiability--that all these
may be wanting in a man who may yet be very learned." (2)

When some one, in Sir Walter Scott's hearing, made a remark as to
the value of literary talents and accomplishments, as if they were
above all things to be esteemed and honoured, he observed, "God
help us! what a poor world this would be if that were the true
doctrine! I have read books enough, and observed and conversed
with enough of eminent and splendidly-cultured minds, too, in my
time; but I assure you, I have heard higher sentiments from the
lips of poor UNEDUCATED men and women, when exerting the spirit of
severe yet gentle heroism under difficulties and afflictions, or
speaking their simple thoughts as to circumstances in the lot of
friends and neighbours, than I ever yet met with out of the Bible.
We shall never learn to feel and respect our real calling and
destiny, unless we have taught ourselves to consider everything as
moonshine, compared with the education of the heart." (3)

Still less has wealth any necessary connection with elevation of
character. On the contrary, it is much more frequently the cause
of its corruption and degradation. Wealth and corruption, luxury
and vice, have very close affinities to each other. Wealth, in
the hands of men of weak purpose, of deficient self-control, or of
ill-regulated passions, is only a temptation and a snare--the
source, it may be, of infinite mischief to themselves, and often
to others.

On the contrary, a condition of comparative poverty is compatible
with character in its highest form. A man may possess only his
industry, his frugality, his integrity, and yet stand high in the
rank of true manhood. The advice which Burns's father gave him
was the best:

"He bade me act a manly part, though I had ne'er a farthing,
For without an honest manly heart no man was worth regarding."

One of the purest and noblest characters the writer ever knew was
a labouring man in a northern county, who brought up his family
respectably on an income never amounting to more than ten
shillings a week. Though possessed of only the rudiments of
common education, obtained at an ordinary parish school, he was a
man full of wisdom and thoughtfulness. His library consisted of
the Bible, 'Flavel,' and 'Boston'--books which, excepting the
first, probably few readers have ever heard of. This good man
might have sat for the portrait of Wordsworth's well-known
'Wanderer.' When he had lived his modest life of work and worship,
and finally went to his rest, he left behind him a reputation for
practical wisdom, for genuine goodness, and for helpfulness in
every good work, which greater and richer men might have envied.

When Luther died, he left behind him, as set forth in his will,
"no ready money, no treasure of coin of any description." He was
so poor at one part of his life, that he was under the necessity
of earning his bread by turning, gardening, and clockmaking. Yet,
at the very time when he was thus working with his hands, he was
moulding the character of his country; and he was morally
stronger, and vastly more honoured and followed, than all the
princes of Germany.

Character is property. It is the noblest of possessions. It is
an estate in the general goodwill and respect of men; and they who
invest in it--though they may not become rich in this world's
goods--will find their reward in esteem and reputation fairly and
honourably won. And it is right that in life good qualities
should tell--that industry, virtue, and goodness should rank the
highest--and that the really best men should be foremost.

Simple honesty of purpose in a man goes a long way in life, if
founded on a just estimate of himself and a steady obedience to
the rule he knows and feels to be right. It holds a man straight,
gives him strength and sustenance, and forms a mainspring of
vigorous action. 'No man," once said Sir Benjamin Rudyard, "is
bound to be rich or great,--no, nor to be wise; but every man is
bound to be honest." (4)

But the purpose, besides being honest, must be inspired by sound
principles, and pursued with undeviating adherence to truth,
integrity, and uprightness. Without principles, a man is like a
ship without rudder or compass, left to drift hither and thither
with every wind that blows. He is as one without law, or rule, or
order, or government. "Moral principles," says Hume, "are social
and universal. They form, in a manner, the PARTY of humankind
against vice and disorder, its common enemy."

Epictetus once received a visit from a certain magnificent orator
going to Rome on a lawsuit, who wished to learn from the stoic
something of his philosophy. Epictetus received his visitor
coolly, not believing in his sincerity. "You will only criticise
my style," said he; "not really wishing to learn principles."--
"Well, but," said the orator, "if I attend to that sort of thing;
I shall be a mere pauper, like you, with no plate, nor equipage,
nor land."--"I don't WANT such things," replied Epictetus; "and
besides, you are poorer than I am, after all. Patron or no
patron, what care I? You DO care. I am richer than you. I don't
care what Caesar thinks of me. I flatter no one. This is what I
have, instead of your gold and silver plate. You have silver
vessels, but earthenware reasons, principles, appetites. My mind
to me a kingdom is, and it furnishes me with abundant and happy
occupation in lieu of your restless idleness. All your
possessions seem small to you; mine seem great to me. Your desire
is insatiate--mine is satisfied." (5)

Talent is by no means rare in the world; nor is even genius. But
can the talent be trusted?--can the genius? Not unless based on
truthfulness--on veracity. It is this quality more than any
other that commands the esteem and respect, and secures the
confidence of others. Truthfulness is at the foundation of all
personal excellence. It exhibits itself in conduct. It is
rectitude--truth in action, and shines through every word and
deed. It means reliableness, and convinces other men that it can
be trusted. And a man is already of consequence in the world when
it is known that he can be relied on,--that when he says he knows
a thing, he does know it,--that when be says he will do a thing,
he can do, and does it. Thus reliableness becomes a passport to
the general esteem and confidence of mankind.

In the affairs of life or of business, it is not intellect that
tells so much as character,--not brains so much as heart,--not
genius so much as self-control, patience, and discipline,
regulated by judgment. Hence there is no better provision for the
uses of either private or public life, than a fair share of
ordinary good sense guided by rectitude. Good sense, disciplined
by experience and inspired by goodness, issues in practical
wisdom. Indeed, goodness in a measure implies wisdom--the
highest wisdom--the union of the worldly with the spiritual.
"The correspondences of wisdom and goodness," says Sir Henry
Taylor, "are manifold; and that they will accompany each other is
to be inferred, not only because men's wisdom makes them good, but
because their goodness makes them wise." (6)

It is because of this controlling power of character in life that
we often see men exercise an amount of influence apparently out of
all proportion to their intellectual endowments. They appear to
act by means of some latent power, some reserved force, which acts
secretly, by mere presence. As Burke said of a powerful nobleman
of the last century, "his virtues were his means." The secret is,
that the aims of such men are felt to be pure and noble, and they
act upon others with a constraining power.

Though the reputation of men of genuine character may be of slow
growth, their true qualities cannot be wholly concealed. They may
be misrepresented by some, and misunderstood by others; misfortune
and adversity may, for a time, overtake them but, with patience
and endurance, they will eventually inspire the respect and
command the confidence which they really deserve.

It has been said of Sheridan that, had he possessed reliableness
of character, he might have ruled the world; whereas, for want of
it, his splendid gifts were comparatively useless. He dazzled and
amused, but was without weight or influence in life or politics.
Even the poor pantomimist of Drury Lane felt himself his superior.
Thus, when Delpini one day pressed the manager for arrears of
salary, Sheridan sharply reproved him, telling him he had
forgotten his station. "No, indeed, Monsieur Sheridan, I have
not," retorted Delpini; "I know the difference between us
perfectly well. In birth, parentage, and education, you are
superior to me; but in life, character, and behaviour, I am
superior to you."

Unlike Sheridan, Burke, his countryman, was a great man of
character. He was thirty-five before be gained a seat in
Parliament, yet he found time to carve his name deep in the
political history of England. He was a man of great gifts, and of
transcendent force of character. Yet he had a weakness, which
proved a serious defect--it was his want of temper; his genius
was sacrificed to his irritability. And without this apparently
minor gift of temper, the most splendid endowments may be
comparatively valueless to their possessor.

Character is formed by a variety of minute circumstances, more or
less under the regulation and control of the individual. Not a
day passes without its discipline, whether for good or for evil.
There is no act, however trivial, but has its train of
consequences, as there is no hair so small but casts its shadow.
It was a wise saying of Mrs. Schimmelpenninck's mother, never to
give way to what is little; or by that little, however you may
despise it, you will be practically governed.

Every action, every thought, every feeling, contributes to the
education of the temper, the habits, and understanding; and
exercises an inevitable influence upon all the acts of our future
life. Thus character is undergoing constant change, for better or
for worse--either being elevated on the one hand, or degraded on
the other. "There is no fault nor folly of my life," says Mr.
Ruskin, "that does not rise up against me, and take away my joy,
and shorten my power of possession, of sight, of understanding.
And every past effort of my life, every gleam of rightness or good
in it, is with me now, to help me in my grasp of this art and its
vision." (7)

The mechanical law, that action and reaction are equal, holds true
also in morals. Good deeds act and react on the doers of them;
and so do evil. Not only so: they produce like effects, by the
influence of example, on those who are the subjects of them. But
man is not the creature, so much as he is the creator, of
circumstances: (8) and, by the exercise of his freewill, he can
direct his actions so that they shall be productive of good rather
than evil. "Nothing can work me damage but myself," said St.
Bernard; "the harm that I sustain I carry about with me; and I am
never a real sufferer but by my own fault."

The best sort of character, however, cannot be formed without
effort. There needs the exercise of constant self-watchfulness,
self-discipline, and self-control. There may be much faltering,
stumbling, and temporary defeat; difficulties and temptations
manifold to be battled with and overcome; but if the spirit be
strong and the heart be upright, no one need despair of ultimate
success. The very effort to advance--to arrive at a higher
standard of character than we have reached--is inspiring and
invigorating; and even though we may fall short of it, we cannot
fail to be improved by every, honest effort made in an upward

And with the light of great examples to guide us--representatives
of humanity in its best forms--every one is not only justified,
but bound in duty, to aim at reaching the highest standard of
character: not to become the richest in means, but in spirit; not
the greatest in worldly position, but in true honour; not the most
intellectual, but the most virtuous; not the most powerful and
influential, but the most truthful, upright, and honest.

It was very characteristic of the late Prince Consort--a man
himself of the purest mind, who powerfully impressed and
influenced others by the sheer force of his own benevolent nature
--when drawing up the conditions of the annual prize to be given
by Her Majesty at Wellington College, to determine that it should
be awarded, not to the cleverest boy, nor to the most bookish boy,
nor to the most precise, diligent, and prudent boy,--but to the
noblest boy, to the boy who should show the most promise of
becoming a large-hearted, high-motived man. (9)

Character exhibits itself in conduct, guided and inspired by
principle, integrity, and practical wisdom. In its highest form,
it is the individual will acting energetically under the influence
of religion, morality, and reason. It chooses its way
considerately, and pursues it steadfastly; esteeming duty above
reputation, and the approval of conscience more than the world's
praise. While respecting the personality of others, it preserves
its own individuality and independence; and has the courage to be
morally honest, though it may be unpopular, trusting tranquilly to
time and experience for recognition.

Although the force of example will always exercise great influence
upon the formation of character, the self-originating and
sustaining force of one's own spirit must be the mainstay. This
alone can hold up the life, and give individual independence and
energy. "Unless man can erect himself above himself," said
Daniel, a poet of the Elizabethan era, "how poor a thing is man!"
Without a certain degree of practical efficient force--compounded
of will, which is the root, and wisdom, which is the stem of
character--life will be indefinite and purposeless--like a body
of stagnant water, instead of a running stream doing useful work
and keeping the machinery of a district in motion.

When the elements of character are brought into action by
determinate will, and, influenced by high purpose, man enters upon
and courageously perseveres in the path of duty, at whatever cost
of worldly interest, he may be said to approach the summit of his
being. He then exhibits character in its most intrepid form, and
embodies the highest idea of manliness. The acts of such a man
become repeated in the life and action of others. His very words
live and become actions. Thus every word of Luther's rang through
Germany like a trumpet. As Richter said of him, "His words were
half-battles." And thus Luther's life became transfused into the
life of his country, and still lives in the character of modern

On the other hand, energy, without integrity and a soul of
goodness, may only represent the embodied principle of evil. It
is observed by Novalis, in his 'Thoughts on Morals,' that the
ideal of moral perfection has no more dangerous rival to contend
with than the ideal of the highest strength and the most energetic
life, the maximum of the barbarian--which needs only a due
admixture of pride, ambition, and selfishness, to be a perfect
ideal of the devil. Amongst men of such stamp are found the
greatest scourges and devastators of the world--those elect
scoundrels whom Providence, in its inscrutable designs, permits to
fulfil their mission of destruction upon earth. (10)

Very different is the man of energetic character inspired by a
noble spirit, whose actions are governed by rectitude, and the law
of whose life is duty. He is just and upright,--in his business
dealings, in his public action, and in his family life--justice
being as essential in the government of a home as of a nation. He
will be honest in all things--in his words and in his work. He
will be generous and merciful to his opponents, as well as to
those who are weaker than himself. It was truly said of Sheridan
--who, with all his improvidence, was generous, and never gave

"His wit in the combat, as gentle as bright,
Never carried a heart-stain away on its blade."

Such also was the character of Fox, who commanded the affection
and service of others by his uniform heartiness and sympathy. He
was a man who could always be most easily touched on the side of
his honour. Thus, the story is told of a tradesman calling upon
him one day for the payment of a promissory note which he
presented. Fox was engaged at the time in counting out gold. The
tradesman asked to be paid from the money before him. "No," said
Fox, "I owe this money to Sheridan; it is a debt of honour; if any
accident happened to me, he would have nothing to show." "Then,"
said the tradesman, "I change MY debt into one of honour;" and he
tore up the note. Fox was conquered by the act: he thanked the
man for his confidence, and paid him, saying, "Then Sheridan must
wait; yours is the debt of older standing."

The man of character is conscientious. He puts his conscience
into his work, into his words, into his every action. When
Cromwell asked the Parliament for soldiers in lieu of the decayed
serving-men and tapsters who filled the Commonwealth's army, he
required that they should be men "who made some conscience of what
they did;" and such were the men of which his celebrated regiment
of "Ironsides" was composed.

The man of character is also reverential. The possession of this
quality marks the noblest, and highest type of manhood and
womanhood: reverence for things consecrated by the homage of
generations--for high objects, pure thoughts, and noble aims--
for the great men of former times, and the highminded workers
amongst our contemporaries. Reverence is alike indispensable to
the happiness of individuals, of families, and of nations.
Without it there can be no trust, no faith, no confidence, either
in man or God--neither social peace nor social progress. For
reverence is but another word for religion, which binds men to
each other, and all to God.

"The man of noble spirit," says Sir Thomas Overbury, "converts all
occurrences into experience, between which experience and his
reason there is marriage, and the issue are his actions. He moves
by affection, not for affection; he loves glory, scorns shame, and
governeth and obeyeth with one countenance, for it comes from one
consideration. Knowing reason to be no idle gift of nature, he is
the steersman of his own destiny. Truth is his goddess, and he
takes pains to get her, not to look like her. Unto the society of
men he is a sun, whose clearness directs their steps in a regular
motion. He is the wise man's friend, the example of the
indifferent, the medicine of the vicious. Thus time goeth not
from him, but with him, and he feels age more by the strength of
his soul than by the weakness of his body. Thus feels he no pain,
but esteems all such things as friends, that desire to file off
his fetters, and help him out of prison." (11)

Energy of will--self-originating force--is the soul of every
great character. Where it is, there is life; where it is not,
there is faintness, helplessness, and despondency. "The strong
man and the waterfall," says the proverb, "channel their own
path." The energetic leader of noble spirit not only wins a way
for himself, but carries others with him. His every act has a
personal significance, indicating vigour, independence, and self-
reliance, and unconsciously commands respect, admiration, and
homage. Such intrepidity of character characterised Luther,
Cromwell, Washington, Pitt, Wellington, and all great leaders
of men.

"I am convinced," said Mr. Gladstone, in describing the qualities
of the late Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons, shortly after
his death--"I am convinced that it was the force of will, a sense
of duty, and a determination not to give in, that enabled him to
make himself a model for all of us who yet remain and follow him,
with feeble and unequal steps, in the discharge of our duties; it
was that force of will that in point of fact did not so much
struggle against the infirmities of old age, but actually repelled
them and kept them at a distance. And one other quality there is,
at least, that may be noticed without the smallest risk of
stirring in any breast a painful emotion. It is this, that Lord
Palmerston had a nature incapable of enduring anger or any
sentiment of wrath. This freedom from wrathful sentiment was not
the result of painful effort, but the spontaneous fruit of the
mind. It was a noble gift of his original nature--a gift which
beyond all others it was delightful to observe, delightful also to
remember in connection with him who has left us, and with whom we
have no longer to do, except in endeavouring to profit by his
example wherever it can lead us in the path of duty and of right,
and of bestowing on him those tributes of admiration and affection
which he deserves at our hands."

The great leader attracts to himself men of kindred character,
drawing them towards him as the loadstone draws iron. Thus, Sir
John Moore early distinguished the three brothers Napier from the
crowd of officers by whom he was surrounded, and they, on their
part, repaid him by their passionate admiration. They were
captivated by his courtesy, his bravery, and his lofty
disinterestedness; and he became the model whom they resolved to
imitate, and, if possible, to emulate. "Moore's influence," says
the biographer of Sir William Napier, "had a signal effect in
forming and maturing their characters; and it is no small glory to
have been the hero of those three men, while his early discovery
of their mental and moral qualities is a proof of Moore's own
penetration and judgment of character."

There is a contagiousness in every example of energetic conduct.
The brave man is an inspiration to the weak, and compels them, as
it were, to follow him. Thus Napier relates that at the combat of
Vera, when the Spanish centre was broken and in flight, a young
officer, named Havelock, sprang forward, and, waving his hat,
called upon the Spaniards within sight to follow him. Putting
spurs to his horse, he leapt the abbatis which protected the
French front, and went headlong against them. The Spaniards were
electrified; in a moment they dashed after him, cheering for "EL
CHICO BLANCO!" (the fair boy), and with one shock they broke
through the French and sent them flying downhill. (12)

And so it is in ordinary life. The good and the great draw others
after them; they lighten and lift up all who are within reach of
their influence. They are as so many living centres of beneficent
activity. Let a man of energetic and upright character be
appointed to a position of trust and authority, and all who serve
under him become, as it were, conscious of an increase of power.
When Chatham was appointed minister, his personal influence was at
once felt through all the ramifications of office. Every sailor
who served under Nelson, and knew he was in command, shared the
inspiration of the hero.

When Washington consented to act as commander-in-chief, it was
felt as if the strength of the American forces had been more than
doubled. Many years late; in 1798, when Washington, grown old,
had withdrawn from public life and was living in retirement at
Mount Vernon, and when it seemed probable that France would
declare war against the United States, President Adams wrote to
him, saying, "We must have your name, if you will permit us to use
it; there will be more efficacy in it than in many an army." Such
was the esteem in which the great President's noble character and
eminent abilities were held by his countrymen! (13)

An incident is related by the historian of the Peninsular War,
illustrative of the personal influence exercised by a great
commander over his followers. The British army lay at Sauroren,
before which Soult was advancing, prepared to attack, in force.
Wellington was absent, and his arrival was anxiously looked for.
Suddenly a single horseman was seen riding up the mountain alone.
It was the Duke, about to join his troops. One of Campbell's
Portuguese battalions first descried him, and raised a joyful cry;
then the shrill clamour, caught up by the next regiment, soon
swelled as it ran along the line into that appalling shout which
the British soldier is wont to give upon the edge of battle, and
which no enemy ever heard unmoved. Suddenly he stopped at a
conspicuous point, for he desired both armies should know he was
there, and a double spy who was present pointed out Soult, who was
so near that his features could be distinguished. Attentively
Wellington fixed his eyes on that formidable man, and, as if
speaking to himself, he said: "Yonder is a great commander; but he
is cautious, and will delay his attack to ascertain the cause of
those cheers; that will give time for the Sixth Division to
arrive, and I shall beat him"--which he did. (14)

In some cases, personal character acts by a kind of talismanic
influence, as if certain men were the organs of a sort of
supernatural force. "If I but stamp on the ground in Italy," said
Pompey, "an army will appear." At the voice of Peter the Hermit,
as described by the historian, "Europe arose, and precipitated
itself upon Asia." It was said of the Caliph Omar that his
walking-stick struck more terror into those who saw it than
another man's sword. The very names of some men are like the
sound of a trumpet. When the Douglas lay mortally wounded on the
field of Otterburn, he ordered his name to be shouted still louder
than before, saying there was a tradition in his family that a
dead Douglas should win a battle. His followers, inspired by the
sound, gathered fresh courage, rallied, and conquered; and thus,
in the words of the Scottish poet:-

"The Douglas dead, his name hath won the field." (15)

There have been some men whose greatest conquests have been
achieved after they themselves were dead. "Never," says Michelet,
"was Caesar more alive, more powerful, more terrible, than when
his old and worn-out body, his withered corpse, lay pierced with
blows; he appeared then purified, redeemed,--that which he had
been, despite his many stains--the man of humanity." (16) Never
did the great character of William of Orange, surnamed the Silent,
exercise greater power over his countrymen than after his
assassination at Delft by the emissary of the Jesuits. On the
very day of his murder the Estates of Holland resolved "to
maintain the good cause, with God's help, to the uttermost,
without sparing gold or blood;" and they kept their word.

The same illustration applies to all history and morals. The
career of a great man remains an enduring monument of human.
energy. The man dies and disappears; but his thoughts and acts
survive, and leave an indelible stamp upon his race. And thus the
spirit of his life is prolonged and perpetuated, moulding the
thought and will, and thereby contributing to form the character
of the future. It is the men that advance in the highest and best
directions, who are the true beacons of human progress. They are
as lights set upon a hill, illumining the moral atmosphere around
them; and the light of their spirit continues to shine upon all
succeeding generations.

It is natural to admire and revere really great men. They hallow
the nation to which they belong, and lift up not only all who live
in their time, but those who live after them. Their great example
becomes the common heritage of their race; and their great deeds
and great thoughts are the most glorious of legacies to mankind.
They connect the present with the past, and help on the increasing
purpose of the future; holding aloft the standard of principle,
maintaining the dignity of human character, and filling the mind
with traditions and instincts of all that is most worthy and
noble in life.

Character, embodied in thought and deed, is of the nature of
immortality. The solitary thought of a great thinker will dwell
in the minds of men for centuries until at length it works itself
into their daily life and practice. It lives on through the ages,
speaking as a voice from the dead, and influencing minds living
thousands of years apart. Thus, Moses and David and Solomon,
Plato and Socrates and Xenophon, Seneca and Cicero and Epictetus,
still speak to us as from their tombs. They still arrest the
attention, and exercise an influence upon character, though their
thoughts be conveyed in languages unspoken by them and in their
time unknown. Theodore Parker has said that a single man like
Socrates was worth more to a country than many such states as
South Carolina; that if that state went out of the world to-day,
she would not have done so much for the world as Socrates. (17)

Great workers and great thinkers are the true makers of history,
which is but continuous humanity influenced by men of character--
by great leaders, kings, priests, philosophers, statesmen, and
patriots--the true aristocracy of man. Indeed, Mr. Carlyle has
broadly stated that Universal History is, at bottom, but the
history of Great Men. They certainly mark and designate the
epochs of national life. Their influence is active, as well as
reactive. Though their mind is, in a measure; the product of
their age, the public mind is also, to a great extent, their
creation. Their individual action identifies the cause--the
institution. They think great thoughts, cast them abroad, and the
thoughts make events. Thus the early Reformers initiated the
Reformation, and with it the liberation of modern thought.
Emerson has said that every institution is to be regarded as but
the lengthened shadow of some great man: as Islamism of Mahomet,
Puritanism of Calvin, Jesuitism of Loyola, Quakerism of Fox,
Methodism of Wesley, Abolitionism of Clarkson.

Great men stamp their mind upon their age and nation--as Luther
did upon modern Germany, and Knox upon Scotland. (18) And if there
be one man more than another that stamped his mind on modern
Italy, it was Dante. During the long centuries of Italian
degradation his burning words were as a watchfire and a beacon to
all true men. He was the herald of his nation's liberty--braving
persecution, exile, and death, for the love of it. He was always
the most national of the Italian poets, the most loved, the most
read. From the time of his death all educated Italians had his
best passages by heart; and the sentiments they enshrined
inspired their lives, and eventually influenced the history
of their nation. "The Italians," wrote Byron in 1821,
"talk Dante, write Dante, and think and dream Dante, at this
moment, to an excess which would be ridiculous, but that he
deserves their admiration." (19)

A succession of variously gifted men in different ages--extending
from Alfred to Albert--has in like manner contributed, by their
life and example, to shape the multiform character of England. Of
these, probably the most influential were the men of the
Elizabethan and Cromwellian, and the intermediate periods--
amongst which we find the great names of Shakspeare, Raleigh,
Burleigh, Sidney, Bacon, Milton, Herbert, Hampden, Pym, Eliot,
Vane, Cromwell, and many more--some of them men of great force,
and others of great dignity and purity of character. The lives of
such men have become part of the public life of England, and their
deeds and thoughts are regarded as among the most cherished
bequeathments from the past.

So Washington left behind him, as one of the greatest treasures of
his country, the example of a stainless life--of a great, honest,
pure, and noble character--a model for his nation to form
themselves by in all time to come. And in the case of Washington,
as in so many other great leaders of men, his greatness did not so
much consist in his intellect, his skill, and his genius, as in
his honour, his integrity, his truthfulness, his high and
controlling sense of duty--in a word, in his genuine nobility
of character.

Men such as these are the true lifeblood of the country to which
they belong. They elevate and uphold it, fortify and ennoble it,
and shed a glory over it by the example of life and character
which they have bequeathed. "The names and memories of great
men," says an able writer, "are the dowry of a nation. Widowhood,
overthrow, desertion, even slavery, cannot take away from her this
sacred inheritance.... Whenever national life begins to
quicken.... the dead heroes rise in the memories of men, and
appear to the living to stand by in solemn spectatorship and
approval. No country can be lost which feels herself overlooked
by such glorious witnesses. They are the salt of the earth, in
death as well as in life. What they did once, their descendants
have still and always a right to do after them; and their example
lives in their country, a continual stimulant and encouragement
for him who has the soul to adopt it." (20)

But it is not great men only that have to be taken into account in
estimating the qualities of a nation, but the character that
pervades the great body of the people. When Washington Irving
visited Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott introduced him to many of his
friends and favourites, not only amongst the neighbouring farmers,
but the labouring peasantry. "I wish to show you," said Scott,
"some of our really excellent plain Scotch people. The character
of a nation is not to be learnt from its fine folks, its fine
gentlemen and ladies; such you meet everywhere, and they are
everywhere the same." While statesmen, philosophers, and divines
represent the thinking power of society, the men who found
industries and carve out new careers, as well as the common body
of working-people, from whom the national strength and spirit are
from time to time recruited, must necessarily furnish the vital
force and constitute the real backbone of every nation.

Nations have their character to maintain as well as individuals;
and under constitutional governments--where all classes more or
less participate in the exercise of political power--the national
character will necessarily depend more upon the moral qualities of
the many than of the few. And the same qualities which determine
the character of individuals, also determine the character of
nations. Unless they are highminded, truthful, honest, virtuous,
and courageous, they will be held in light esteem by other
nations, and be without weight in the world. To have character,
they must needs also be reverential, disciplined, self-
controlling, and devoted to duty. The nation that has no higher
god than pleasure, or even dollars or calico, must needs be in a
poor way. It were better to revert to Homer's gods than be
devoted to these; for the heathen deities at least imaged human
virtues, and were something to look up to.

As for institutions, however good in themselves, they will avail
but little in maintaining the standard of national character. It
is the individual men, and the spirit which actuates them, that
determine the moral standing and stability of nations.
Government, in the long run, is usually no better than the people
governed. Where the mass is sound in conscience, morals, and
habit, the nation will be ruled honestly and nobly. But where
they are corrupt, self-seeking, and dishonest in heart, bound
neither by truth nor by law, the rule of rogues and wirepullers
becomes inevitable.

The only true barrier against the despotism of public opinion,
whether it be of the many or of the few, is enlightened individual
freedom and purity of personal character. Without these there can
be no vigorous manhood, no true liberty in a nation. Political
rights, however broadly framed, will not elevate a people
individually depraved. Indeed, the more complete a system of
popular suffrage, and the more perfect its protection, the more
completely will the real character of a people be reflected, as by
a mirror, in their laws and government. Political morality can
never have any solid existence on a basis of individual
immorality. Even freedom, exercised by a debased people, would
come to be regarded as a nuisance, and liberty of the press but a
vent for licentiousness and moral abomination.

Nations, like individuals, derive support and strength from the
feeling that they belong to an illustrious race, that they are the
heirs of their greatness, and ought to be the perpetuators of
their glory. It is of momentous importance that a nation should
have a great past (21) to look back upon. It steadies the life of
the present, elevates and upholds it, and lightens and lifts it
up, by the memory of the great deeds, the noble sufferings, and
the valorous achievements of the men of old. The life of nations,
as of men, is a great treasury of experience, which, wisely used,
issues in social progress and improvement; or, misused, issues in
dreams, delusions, and failure. Like men, nations are purified
and strengthened by trials. Some of the most glorious chapters in
their history are those containing the record of the sufferings by
means of which their character has been developed. Love of
liberty and patriotic feeling may have done much, but trial and
suffering nobly borne more than all.

A great deal of what passes by the name of patriotism in these
days consists of the merest bigotry and narrow-mindedness;
exhibiting itself in national prejudice, national conceit, amid
national hatred. It does not show itself in deeds, but in
boastings--in howlings, gesticulations, and shrieking helplessly
for help--in flying flags and singing songs--and in perpetual
grinding at the hurdy-gurdy of long-dead grievances and long-
remedied wrongs. To be infested by SUCH a patriotism as this is,
perhaps, amongst the greatest curses that can befall any country.

But as there is an ignoble, so is there a noble patriotism--the
patriotism that invigorates and elevates a country by noble work--
that does its duty truthfully and manfully--that lives an honest,
sober, and upright life, and strives to make the best use of the
opportunities for improvement that present themselves on every
side; and at the same time a patriotism that cherishes the memory
and example of the great men of old, who, by their sufferings in
the cause of religion or of freedom, have won for themselves a
deathless glory, and for their nation those privileges of free
life and free institutions of which they are the inheritors and

Nations are not to be judged by their size any more than

"it is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make Man better be."

For a nation to be great, it need not necessarily be big, though
bigness is often confounded with greatness. A nation may be very
big in point of territory and population and yet be devoid of true
greatness. The people of Israel were a small people, yet what a
great life they developed, and how powerful the influence they
have exercised on the destinies of mankind! Greece was not big:
the entire population of Attica was less than that of South
Lancashire. Athens was less populous than New York; and yet how
great it was in art, in literature, in philosophy, and in
patriotism! (22)

But it was the fatal weakness of Athens that its citizens had no
true family or home life, while its freemen were greatly
outnumbered by its slaves. Its public men were loose, if not
corrupt, in morals. Its women, even the most accomplished, were
unchaste. Hence its fall became inevitable, and was even more
sudden than its rise.

In like manner the decline and fall of Rome was attributable to
the general corruption of its people, and to their engrossing love
of pleasure and idleness--work, in the later days of Rome, being
regarded only as fit for slaves. Its citizens ceased to pride
themselves on the virtues of character of their great forefathers;
and the empire fell because it did not deserve to live. And so
the nations that are idle and luxurious--that "will rather lose a
pound of blood," as old Burton says, "in a single combat, than a
drop of sweat in any honest labour"--must inevitably die out, and
laborious energetic nations take their place.

When Louis XIV. asked Colbert how it was that, ruling so great and
populous a country as France, he had been unable to conquer so
small a country as Holland, the minister replied: "Because, Sire,
the greatness of a country does not depend upon the extent of its
territory, but on the character of its people. It is because of
the industry, the frugality, and the energy of the Dutch that your
Majesty has found them so difficult to overcome."

It is also related of Spinola and Richardet, the ambassadors sent
by the King of Spain to negotiate a treaty at the Hague in 1608,
that one day they saw some eight or ten persons land from a little
boat, and, sitting down upon the grass, proceed to make a meal of
bread-and-cheese and beer. "Who are those travellers asked the
ambassadors of a peasant. "These are worshipful masters, the
deputies from the States," was his reply. Spinola at once
whispered to his companion, "We must make peace: these are not men
to be conquered."

In fine, stability of institutions must depend upon stability of
character. Any number of depraved units cannot form a great
nation. The people may seem to be highly civilised, and yet be
ready to fall to pieces at first touch of adversity. Without
integrity of individual character, they can have no real strength,
cohesion, soundness. They may be rich, polite, and artistic; and
yet hovering on the brink of ruin. If living for themselves only,
and with no end but pleasure--each little self his own little god
--such a nation is doomed, and its decay is inevitable.

Where national character ceases to be upheld, a nation may be
regarded as next to lost. Where it ceases to esteem and to
practise the virtues of truthfulness, honesty, integrity, and
justice, it does not deserve to live. And when the time arrives
in any country when wealth has so corrupted, or pleasure so
depraved, or faction so infatuated the people, that honour, order,
obedience, virtue, and loyalty have seemingly become things of the
past; then, amidst the darkness, when honest men--if, haply,
there be such left--are groping about and feeling for each
other's hands, their only remaining hope will be in the
restoration and elevation of Individual Character; for by that
alone can a nation be saved; and if character be irrecoverably
lost, then indeed there will be nothing left worth saving.


(1) Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, Lord High Treasurer under Elizabeth
and James I.

(2) 'Life of Perthes,' ii. 217.

(3) Lockhart's 'Life of Scott.'

(4) Debate on the Petition of Right, A.D. 1628.

(5) The Rev. F. W. Farrer's 'Seekers after God,' p. 241.

(6) 'The Statesman,' p. 30.

(7) 'Queen of the Air,' p. 127

(8) Instead of saying that man is the creature of Circumstance, it
would be nearer the mark to say that man is the architect of
Circumstance. It is Character which builds an existence out of
Circumstance. Our strength is measured by our plastic power.
From the same materials one man builds palaces, another hovels:
one warehouses, another villas. Bricks and mortar are mortar and
bricks, until the architect can make them something else. Thus it
is that in the same family, in the same circumstances, one man
rears a stately edifice, while his brother, vacillating and
incompetent, lives for ever amid ruins: the block of granite,
which was an obstacle on the pathway of the weak, becomes a
stepping-stone on the pathway of the strong."--G. H. Lewes, LIFE

(9) Introduction to 'The Principal Speeches and Addresses of
H.R.H. the Prince Consort' (1862), pp. 39-40.

(10) Among the latest of these was Napoleon "the Great," a man of
abounding energy, but destitute of principle. He had the lowest
opinion of his fellowmen. "Men are hogs, who feed on gold," he
once said: "Well, I throw them gold, and lead them whithersoever I
will." When the Abbe de Pradt, Archbishop of Malines, was setting
out on his embassy to Poland in 1812, Napoleon's parting
instruction to him was, "Tenez bonne table et soignez les femmes,"
--of which Benjamin Constant said that such an observation,
addressed to a feeble priest of sixty, shows Buonaparte's profound
contempt for the human race, without distinction of nation or sex.

(11) Condensed from Sir Thomas Overbury's 'Characters' (1614).

(12) 'History of the Peninsular War,' v. 319.--Napier mentions
another striking illustration of the influence of personal
qualities in young Edward Freer, of the same regiment (the 43rd),
who, when he fell at the age of nineteen, at the Battle of the
Nivelle, had already seen more combats and sieges than he could
count years. "So slight in person, and of such surpassing beauty,
that the Spaniards often thought him a girl disguised in man's
clothing, he was yet so vigorous, so active, so brave, that the
most daring and experienced veterans watched his looks on the
field of battle, and, implicitly following where he led, would,
like children, obey his slightest sign in the most difficult

(13) When the dissolution of the Union at one time seemed
imminent, and Washington wished to retire into private life,
Jefferson wrote to him, urging his continuance in office. "The
confidence of the whole Union," he said, "centres in you. Your
being at the helm will be more than an answer to every argument
which can be used to alarm and lead the people in any quarter into
violence and secession.... There is sometimes an eminence of
character on which society has such peculiar claims as to control
the predilection of the individual for a particular walk of
happiness, and restrain him to that alone arising from the present
and future benedictions of mankind. This seems to be your
condition, and the law imposed on you by Providence in forming
your character and fashioning the events on which it was to
operate; and it is to motives like these, and not to personal
anxieties of mine or others, who have no right to call on you for
sacrifices, that I appeal from your former determination, and urge
a revisal of it, on the ground of change in the aspect of
things."--Sparks' Life of Washington, i. 480.

(14) Napier's 'History of the Peninsular War,' v. 226.

(15) Sir W. Scott's 'History of Scotland,' vol. i. chap. xvi.

(16) Michelet's 'History of Rome,' p. 374.

(17) Erasmus so reverenced the character of Socrates that he said,
when he considered his life and doctrines, he was inclined to put
him in the calendar of saints, and to exclaim, "SANCTE SOCRATES,
ORA PRO NOBIS.'" (Holy Socrates, pray for us!

(18) "Honour to all the brave and true; everlasting honour to John
Knox one of the truest of the true! That, in the moment while he
and his cause, amid civil broils, in convulsion and confusion,
were still but struggling for life, he sent the schoolmaster forth
to all corners, and said, 'Let the people be taught:' this is but
one, and, and indeed, an inevitable and comparatively
inconsiderable item in his great message to men. This message, in
its true compass, was, 'Let men know that they are men created by
God, responsible to God who work in any meanest moment of time
what will last through eternity...' This great message Knox did
deliver, with a man's voice and strength; and found a people to
believe him. Of such an achievement, were it to be made once
only, the results are immense. Thought, in such a country, may
change its form, but cannot go out; the country has attained
MAJORITY thought, and a certain manhood, ready for all work that
man can do, endures there.... The Scotch national character
originated in many circumstances: first of all, in the Saxon stuff
there was to work on; but next, and beyond all else except that,
is the Presbyterian Gospel of John Knox."--(Carlyle' s

(19) Moore's 'Life of Byron,' 8vo. ed. p.484.--Dante was a
religious as well as a political reformer. He was a reformer
three hundred years before the Reformation, advocating the
separation of the spiritual from the civil power, and declaring
the temporal government of the Pope to be a usurpation. The
following memorable words were written over five hundred and sixty
years ago, while Dante was still a member of the Roman Catholic
Church:- "Every Divine law is found in one or other of the two
Testaments; but in neither can I find that the care of temporal
matters was given to the priesthood. On the contrary, I find that
the first priests were removed from them by law, and the later
priests, by command of Christ, to His disciples."--DE MONARCHIA,
lib. iii. cap. xi.

Dante also, still clinging to 'the Church he wished to reform,'
thus anticipated the fundamental doctrine of the Reformation:-
"Before the Church are the Old and New Testament; after the
Church are traditions. It follows, then, that the authority
of the Church depends, not on traditions, but traditions
on the Church."

(20) 'Blackwood's Magazine,' June, 1863, art. 'Girolamo

(21) One of the last passages in the Diary of Dr. Arnold, written
the year before his death, was as follows:- "It is the misfortune
of France that her 'past' cannot be loved or respected--her
future and her present cannot be wedded to it; yet how can the
present yield fruit, or the future have promise, except their
roots be fixed in the past? The evil is infinite, but the blame
rests with those who made the past a dead thing, out of which no
healthful life could be produced."--LIFE, ii. 387-8, Ed. 1858.

(22) A public orator lately spoke with contempt of the Battle of
Marathon, because only 192 perished on the side of the Athenians,
whereas by improved mechanism and destructive chemicals, some
50,000 men or more may now be destroyed within a few hours. Yet
the Battle of Marathon, and the heroism displayed in it, will
probably continue to be remembered when the gigantic butcheries of
modern times have been forgotten.


"So build we up the being that we are,
Thus deeply drinking in the soul of things,
We shall be wise perforce." WORDSWORTH.

"The millstreams that turn the clappers of the world
arise in solitary places."--HELPS.

"In the course of a conversation with Madame Campan, Napoleon
Buonaparte remarked: 'The old systems of instruction seem to be
worth nothing; what is yet wanting in order that the people should
be properly educated?' 'MOTHERS,' replied Madame Campan. The
reply struck the Emperor. 'Yes!' said he 'here is a system of
education in one word. Be it your care, then, to train up mothers
who shall know how to educate their children.'"--AIME MARTIN.

"Lord! with what care hast Thou begirt us round!
Parents first season us. Then schoolmasters
Deliver us to laws. They send us bound
To rules of reason."--GEORGE HERBERT.

HOME is the first and most important school of character. It is
there that every human being receives his best moral training, or
his worst; for it is there that he imbibes those principles of
conduct which endure through manhood, and cease only with life.

It is a common saying that "Manners make the man;" and there is a
second, that "Mind makes the man;" but truer than either is a
third, that "Home makes the man." For the home-training includes
not only manners and mind, but character. It is mainly in the
home that the heart is opened, the habits are formed, the
intellect is awakened, and character moulded for good or for evil.

From that source, be it pure or impure, issue the principles and
maxims that govern society. Law itself is but the reflex of
homes. The tiniest bits of opinion sown in the minds of children
in private life afterwards issue forth to the world, and become
its public opinion; for nations are gathered out of nurseries, and
they who hold the leading-strings of children may even exercise a
greater power than those who wield the reins of government. (1)

It is in the order of nature that domestic life should be
preparatory to social, and that the mind and character should
first be formed in the home. There the individuals who afterwards
form society are dealt with in detail, and fashioned one by one.
From the family they enter life, and advance from boyhood to
citizenship. Thus the home may be regarded as the most
influential school of civilisation. For, after all, civilisation
mainly resolves itself into a question of individual training; and
according as the respective members of society are well or ill-
trained in youth, so will the community which they constitute be
more or less humanised and civilised.

The training of any man, even the wisest, cannot fail to be
powerfully influenced by the moral surroundings of his early
years. He comes into the world helpless, and absolutely dependent
upon those about him for nurture and culture. From the very first
breath that he draws, his education begins. When a mother once
asked a clergyman when she should begin the education of her
child, then four years old, he replied: "Madam, if you have not
begun already, you have lost those four years. From the first
smile that gleams upon an infant's cheek, your opportunity

But even in this case the education had already begun; for the
child learns by simple imitation, without effort, almost through
the pores of the skin. "A figtree looking on a figtree becometh
fruitful," says the Arabian proverb. And so it is with children;
their first great instructor is example.

However apparently trivial the influences which contribute to form
the character of the child, they endure through life. The child's
character is the nucleus of the man's; all after-education is but
superposition; the form of the crystal remains the same. Thus the
saying of the poet holds true in a large degree, "The child is
father of the man;" or, as Milton puts it, "The childhood shows
the man, as morning shows the day." Those impulses to conduct
which last the longest and are rooted the deepest, always have
their origin near our birth. It is then that the germs of virtues
or vices, of feelings or sentiments, are first implanted which
determine the character for life.

The child is, as it were, laid at the gate of a new world, and
opens his eyes upon things all of which are full of novelty and
wonderment. At first it is enough for him to gaze; but by-and-by
he begins to see, to observe, to compare, to learn, to store up
impressions and ideas; and under wise guidance the progress which
he makes is really wonderful. Lord Brougham has observed that
between the ages of eighteen and thirty months, a child learns
more of the material world, of his own powers, of the nature of
other bodies, and even of his own mind and other minds, than he
acquires in all the rest of his life. The knowledge which a child
accumulates, and the ideas generated in his mind, during this
period, are so important, that if we could imagine them to be
afterwards obliterated, all the learning of a senior wrangler at
Cambridge, or a first-classman at Oxford, would be as nothing to
it, and would literally not enable its object to prolong his
existence for a week.

It is in childhood that the mind is most open to impressions, and
ready to be kindled by the first spark that falls into it. Ideas
are then caught quickly and live lastingly. Thus Scott is said to
have received, his first bent towards ballad literature from his
mother's and grandmother's recitations in his hearing long before
he himself had learned to read. Childhood is like a mirror, which
reflects in after-life the images first presented to it. The first
thing continues for ever with the child. The first joy, the first
sorrow, the first success, the first failure, the first
achievement, the first misadventure, paint the foreground of
his life.

All this while, too, the training of the character is in progress
--of the temper, the will, and the habits--on which so much of
the happiness of human beings in after-life depends. Although man
is endowed with a certain self-acting, self-helping power of
contributing to his own development, independent of surrounding
circumstances, and of reacting upon the life around him, the bias
given to his moral character in early life is of immense
importance. Place even the highest-minded philosopher in the
midst of daily discomfort, immorality, and vileness, and he will
insensibly gravitate towards brutality. How much more susceptible
is the impressionable and helpless child amidst such surroundings!
It is not possible to rear a kindly nature, sensitive to evil,
pure in mind and heart, amidst coarseness, discomfort, and

Thus homes, which are the nurseries of children who grow up into
men and women, will be good or bad according to the power that
governs them. Where the spirit of love and duty pervades the home
--where head and heart bear rule wisely there--where the daily
life is honest and virtuous--where the government is sensible,
kind, and loving, then may we expect from such a home an issue of
healthy, useful, and happy beings, capable, as they gain the
requisite strength, of following the footsteps of their parents,
of walking uprightly, governing themselves wisely, and
contributing to the welfare of those about them.

On the other hand, if surrounded by ignorance, coarseness, and
selfishness, they will unconsciously assume the same character,
and grow up to adult years rude, uncultivated, and all the more
dangerous to society if placed amidst the manifold temptations of
what is called civilised life. "Give your child to be educated by
a slave," said an ancient Greek, "and instead of one slave, you
will then have two."

The child cannot help imitating what he sees. Everything is to
him a model--of manner, of gesture, of speech, of habit, of
character. "For the child," says Richter, "the most important era
of life is that of childhood, when he begins to colour and mould
himself by companionship with others. Every new educator effects
less than his predecessor; until at last, if we regard all life as
an educational institution, a circumnavigator of the world is less
influenced by all the nations he has seen than by his nurse." (2)
Models are therefore of every importance in moulding the nature of
the child; and if we would have fine characters, we must
necessarily present before them fine models. Now, the model most
constantly before every child's eye is the Mother.

One good mother, said George Herbert, is worth a hundred
schoolmasters. In the home she is "loadstone to all hearts, and
loadstar to all eyes." Imitation of her is constant--imitation,
which Bacon likens to "a globe of precepts." But example is far
more than precept. It is instruction in action. It is teaching
without words, often exemplifying more than tongue can teach. In
the face of bad example, the best of precepts are of but little
avail. The example is followed, not the precepts. Indeed,
precept at variance with practice is worse than useless, inasmuch
as it only serves to teach the most cowardly of vices--hypocrisy.
Even children are judges of consistency, and the lessons of the
parent who says one thing and does the opposite, are quickly seen
through. The teaching of the friar was not worth much, who
preached the virtue of honesty with a stolen goose in his sleeve.

By imitation of acts, the character becomes slowly and
imperceptibly, but at length decidedly formed. The several acts
may seem in themselves trivial; but so are the continuous acts of
daily life. Like snowflakes, they. fall unperceived; each flake
added to the pile produces no sensible change, and yet the
accumulation of snowflakes makes the avalanche. So do repeated
acts, one following another, at length become consolidated in
habit, determine the action of the human being for good or for
evil, and, in a word, form the character.

It is because the mother, far more than the father, influences the
action and conduct of the child, that her good example is of so
much greater importance in the home. It is easy to understand how
this should be so. The home is the woman's domain--her kingdom,
where she exercises entire control. Her power over the little
subjects she rules there is absolute. They look up to her for
everything. She is the example and model constantly before their
eyes, whom they unconsciously observe and imitate.

Cowley, speaking of the influence of early example, and ideas
early implanted in the mind, compares them to letters cut in the
bark of a young tree, which grow and widen with age. The
impressions then made, howsoever slight they may seem, are never
effaced. The ideas then implanted in the mind are like seeds
dropped into the ground, which lie there and germinate for a time,
afterwards springing up in acts and thoughts and habits. Thus the
mother lives again in her children. They unconsciously mould
themselves after her manner, her speech, her conduct, and her
method of life. Her habits become theirs; and her character is
visibly repeated in them.

This maternal love is the visible providence of our race. Its
influence is constant and universal. It begins with the education
of the human being at the out-start of life, and is prolonged by
virtue of the powerful influence which every good mother exercises
over her children through life. When launched into the world,
each to take part in its labours, anxieties, and trials, they
still turn to their mother for consolation, if not for counsel, in
their time of trouble and difficulty. The pure and good thoughts
she has implanted in their minds when children, continue to grow
up into good acts, long after she is dead; and when there is
nothing but a memory of her left, her children rise up and
call her blessed.

It is not saying too much to aver that the happiness or misery,
the enlightenment or ignorance, the civilisation or barbarism of
the world, depends in a very high degree upon the exercise of
woman's power within her special kingdom of home. Indeed, Emerson
says, broadly and truly, that "a sufficient measure of
civilisation is the influence of good women." Posterity may be
said to lie before us in the person of the child in the mother's
lap. What that child will eventually become, mainly depends upon
the training and example which he has received from his first and
most influential educator.

Woman, above all other educators, educates humanly. Man is the
brain, but woman is the heart of humanity; he its judgment, she
its feeling; he its strength, she its grace, ornament, and solace.
Even the understanding of the best woman seems to work mainly
through her affections. And thus, though man may direct the
intellect, woman cultivates the feelings, which mainly determine
the character. While he fills the memory, she occupies the heart.
She makes us love what he can only make us believe, and it is
chiefly through her that we are enabled to arrive at virtue.

The respective influences of the father and the mother on the
training and development of character, are remarkably illustrated
in the life of St. Augustine. While Augustine's father, a poor
freeman of Thagaste, proud of his son's abilities, endeavoured to
furnish his mind with the highest learning of the schools, and was
extolled by his neighbours for the sacrifices he made with that
object "beyond the ability of his means"--his mother Monica, on
the other hand, sought to lead her son's mind in the direction of
the highest good, and with pious care counselled him, entreated
him, advised him to chastity, and, amidst much anguish and
tribulation, because of his wicked life, never ceased to pray for
him until her prayers were heard and answered. Thus her love at
last triumphed, and the patience and goodness of the mother were
rewarded, not only by the conversion of her gifted son, but also
of her husband. Later in life, and after her husband's death,
Monica, drawn by her affection, followed her son to Milan, to
watch over him; and there she died, when he was in his thirty-
third year. But it was in the earlier period of his life that her
example and instruction made the deepest impression upon his mind,
and determined his future character.

There are many similar instances of early impressions made upon a
child's mind, springing up into good acts late in life, after an
intervening period of selfishness and vice. Parents may do all
that they can to develope an upright and virtuous character in
their children, and apparently in vain. It seems like bread cast
upon the waters and lost. And yet sometimes it happens that long
after the parents have gone to their Rest--it may be twenty years
or more--the good precept, the good example set before their sons
and daughters in childhood, at length springs up and bears fruit.

One of the most remarkable of such instances was that of the
Reverend John Newton of Olney, the friend of Cowper the poet. It
was long subsequent to the death of both his parents, and after
leading a vicious life as a youth and as a seaman, that he became
suddenly awakened to a sense of his depravity; and then it was
that the lessons which his mother had given him when a child
sprang up vividly in his memory. Her voice came to him as it were
from the dead, and led him gently back to virtue and goodness.

Another instance is that of John Randolph, the American statesman,
who once said: "I should have been an atheist if it had not been
for one recollection--and that was the memory of the time when my
departed mother used to take my little hand in hers, and cause me
on my knees to say, 'Our Father who art in heaven!'"

But such instance must, on the whole, be regarded as exceptional.
As the character is biassed in early life, so it generally
remains, gradually assuming its permanent form as manhood is
reached. "Live as long as you may," said Southey, "the first
twenty years are the longest half of your life," and they are by
far the most pregnant in consequences. When the worn-out
slanderer and voluptuary, Dr. Wolcot, lay on his deathbed, one of
his friends asked if he could do anything to gratify him. "Yes,"
said the dying man, eagerly, "give me back my youth." Give him but
that, and he would repent--he would reform. But it was all
too late! His life had become bound and enthralled by the
chains of habit.' (3)

Gretry, the musical composer, thought so highly of the importance
of woman as an educator of character, that he described a good
mother as "Nature's CHEF-D'OEUVRE." And he was right: for good
mothers, far more than fathers, tend to the perpetual renovation
of mankind, creating, as they do, the moral atmosphere of the
home, which is the nutriment of man's moral being, as the physical
atmosphere is of his corporeal frame. By good temper, suavity,
and kindness, directed by intelligence, woman surrounds the
indwellers with a pervading atmosphere of cheerfulness,
contentment, and peace, suitable for the growth of the purest as
of the manliest natures.

The poorest dwelling, presided over by a virtuous, thrifty,
cheerful, and cleanly woman, may thus be the abode of comfort,
virtue, and happiness; it may be the scene of every ennobling
relation in family life; it may be endeared to a man by many
delightful associations; furnishing a sanctuary for the heart, a
refuge from the storms of life, a sweet resting-place after
labour, a consolation in misfortune, a pride in prosperity, and a
joy at all times.

The good home is thus the best of schools, not only in youth but
in age. There young and old best learn cheerfulness, patience,
self-control, and the spirit of service and of duty. Izaak
Walton, speaking of George Herbert's mother, says she governed her
family with judicious care, not rigidly nor sourly, "but with such
a sweetness and compliance with the recreations and pleasures of
youth, as did incline them to spend much of their time in her
company, which was to her great content."

The home is the true school of courtesy, of which woman is always
the best practical instructor. "Without woman," says the
Provencal proverb, "men were but ill-licked cubs." Philanthropy
radiates from the home as from a centre. "To love the little
platoon we belong to in society," said Burke, "is the germ of all
public affections." The wisest and the best have not been ashamed
to own it to be their greatest joy and happiness to sit "behind
the heads of children" in the inviolable circle of home. A life
of purity and duty there is not the least effectual preparative
for a life of public work and duty; and the man who loves his home
will not the less fondly love and serve his country. But while
homes, which are the nurseries of character, may be the best of
schools, they may also be the worst. Between childhood and
manhood how incalculable is the mischief which ignorance in the
home has the power to cause! Between the drawing of the first
breath and the last, how vast is the moral suffering and disease
occasioned by incompetent mothers and nurses! Commit a child to
the care of a worthless ignorant woman, and no culture in after-
life will remedy the evil you have done. Let the mother be idle,
vicious, and a slattern; let her home be pervaded by cavilling,
petulance, and discontent, and it will become a dwelling of misery
--a place to fly from, rather than to fly to; and the children
whose misfortune it is to be brought up there, will be morally
dwarfed and deformed--the cause of misery to themselves as well
as to others.

Napoleon Buonaparte was accustomed to say that "the future good or
bad conduct of a child depended entirely on the mother." He
himself attributed his rise in life in a great measure to the
training of his will, his energy, and his self-control, by his
mother at home. "Nobody had any command over him," says one of
his biographers, "except his mother, who found means, by a mixture
of tenderness, severity, and justice, to make him love, respect,
and obey her: from her he learnt the virtue of obedience."

A curious illustration of the dependence of the character of
children on that of the mother incidentally occurs in one of Mr.
Tufnell's school reports. The truth, he observes, is so well
established that it has even been made subservient to mercantile
calculation. "I was informed," he says, "in a large factory,
where many children were employed, that the managers before they
engaged a boy always inquired into the mother's character, and if
that was satisfactory they were tolerably certain that her
children would conduct themselves creditably. NO ATTENTION WAS

It has also been observed that in cases where the father has
turned out badly--become a drunkard, and "gone to the dogs"--
provided the mother is prudent and sensible, the family will be
kept together, and the children probably make their way honourably
in life; whereas in cases of the opposite sort, where the mother
turns out badly, no matter how well-conducted the father may be,
the instances of after-success in life on the part of the children
are comparatively rare.

The greater part of the influence exercised by women on the
formation of character necessarily remains unknown. They
accomplish their best work in the quiet seclusion of the home and
the family, by sustained effort and patient perseverance in the
path of duty. Their greatest triumphs, because private and
domestic, are rarely recorded; and it is not often, even in the
biographies of distinguished men, that we hear of the share which
their mothers have had in the formation of their character, and in
giving them a bias towards goodness. Yet are they not on that
account without their reward. The influence they have exercised,
though unrecorded, lives after them, and goes on propagating
itself in consequences for ever.

We do not often hear of great women, as we do of great men. It is
of good women that we mostly hear; and it is probable that by
determining the character of men and women for good, they are
doing even greater work than if they were to paint great pictures,
write great books, or compose great operas. "It is quite true,"
said Joseph de Maistre, "that women have produced no CHEFS-
DOEUVRE. They have written no 'Iliad,' nor 'Jerusalem Delivered,'
nor 'Hamlet,' nor 'Phaedre,' nor 'Paradise Lost,' nor 'Tartuffe;'
they have designed no Church of St. Peter's, composed no
'Messiah,' carved no 'Apollo Belvidere,' painted no 'Last
Judgment;' they have invented neither algebra, nor telescopes, nor
steam-engines; but they have done something far greater and better
than all this, for it is at their knees that upright and virtuous
men and women have been trained--the most excellent productions
in the world."

De Maistre, in his letters and writings, speaks of his own mother
with immense love and reverence. Her noble character made all
other women venerable in his eyes. He described her as his
"sublime mother"--"an angel to whom God had lent a body for a
brief season." To her he attributed the bent of his character, and
all his bias towards good; and when he had grown to mature years,
while acting as ambassador at the Court of St. Petersburg, he
referred to her noble example and precepts as the ruling
influence in his life.

One of the most charming features in the character of Samuel
Johnson, notwithstanding his rough and shaggy exterior, was the
tenderness with which he invariably spoke of his mother (5)--a
woman of strong understanding, who firmly implanted in his mind,
as he himself acknowledges, his first impressions of religion. He
was accustomed, even in the time of his greatest difficulties, to
contribute largely, out of his slender means, to her comfort; and
one of his last acts of filial duty was to write 'Rasselas'
for the purpose of paying her little debts and defraying
her funeral charges.

George Washington was only eleven years of age--the eldest of
five children--when his father died, leaving his mother a widow.
She was a woman of rare excellence--full of resources, a good
woman of business, an excellent manager, and possessed of much
strength of character. She had her children to educate and bring
up, a large household to govern, and extensive estates to manage,
all of which she accomplished with complete success. Her good
sense, assiduity, tenderness, industry, and vigilance, enabled her
to overcome every obstacle; and as the richest reward of her
solicitude and toil, she had the happiness to see all her children
come forward with a fair promise into life, filling the spheres
allotted to them in a manner equally honourable to themselves, and
to the parent who had been the only guide of their, principles,
conduct, and habits. (6)

The biographer of Cromwell says little about the Protector's
father, but dwells upon the character of his mother, whom he
describes as a woman of rare vigour and decision of purpose: "A
woman," he says, "possessed of the glorious faculty of self-help
when other assistance failed her; ready for the demands of fortune
in its extremest adverse turn; of spirit and energy equal to her
mildness and patience; who, with the labour of her own hands, gave
dowries to five daughters sufficient to marry them into families
as honourable but more wealthy than their own; whose single pride
was honesty, and whose passion was love; who preserved in the
gorgeous palace at Whitehall the simple tastes that distinguished
her in the old brewery at Huntingdon; and whose only care, amidst
all her splendour, was for the safety of her son in his dangerous
eminence." (7)

We have spoken of the mother of Napoleon Buonaparte as a woman of
great force of character. Not less so was the mother of the Duke
of Wellington, whom her son strikingly resembled in features,
person, and character; while his father was principally
distinguished as a musical composer and performer. (8) But,
strange to say, Wellington's mother mistook him for a dunce; and,
for some reason or other, he was not such a favourite as her other
children, until his great deeds in after-life constrained her to
be proud of him.

The Napiers were blessed in both parents, but especially in their
mother, Lady Sarah Lennox, who early sought to inspire her sons'
minds with elevating thoughts, admiration of noble deeds, and a
chivalrous spirit, which became embodied in their lives, and
continued to sustain them, until death, in the path of duty
and of honour.

Among statesmen, lawyers, and divines, we find marked mention made
of the mothers of Lord Chancellors Bacon, Erskine, and Brougham--
all women of great ability, and, in the case of the first, of
great learning; as well as of the mothers of Canning, Curran, and
President Adams--of Herbert, Paley, and Wesley. Lord Brougham
speaks in terms almost approaching reverence of his grandmother,
the sister of Professor Robertson, as having been mainly
instrumental in instilling into his mind a strong desire for
information, and the first principles of that persevering energy
in the pursuit of every kind of knowledge which formed his
prominent characteristic throughout life.

Canning's mother was an Irishwoman of great natural ability, for
whom her gifted son entertained the greatest love and respect to
the close of his career. She was a woman of no ordinary
intellectual power. "Indeed," says Canning's biographer, "were we
not otherwise assured of the fact from direct sources, it would be
impossible to contemplate his profound and touching devotion to
her, without being led to conclude that the object of such
unchanging attachment must have been possessed of rare and
commanding qualities. She was esteemed by the circle in which she
lived, as a woman of great mental energy. Her conversation was
animated and vigorous, and marked by a distinct originality of
manner and a choice of topics fresh and striking, and out of the
commonplace routine. To persons who were but slightly acquainted
with her, the energy of her manner had even something of the air
of eccentricity." (9)

Curran speaks with great affection of his mother, as a woman of
strong original understanding, to whose wise counsel, consistent
piety, and lessons of honourable ambition, which she diligently
enforced on the minds of her children, he himself principally
attributed his success in life. "The only inheritance," he used
to say, "that I could boast of from my poor father, was the very
scanty one of an unattractive face and person; like his own; and
if the world has ever attributed to me something more valuable
than face or person, or than earthly wealth, it was that another
and a dearer parent gave her child a portion from the treasure
of her mind." (10)

When ex-President Adams was present at the examination of a girls'
school at Boston, he was presented by the pupils with an address
which deeply affected him; and in acknowledging it, he took the
opportunity of referring to the lasting influence which womanly
training and association had exercised upon his own life and
character. "As a child," he said, "I enjoyed perhaps the greatest
of blessings that can be bestowed on man--that of a mother, who
was anxious and capable to form the characters of her children
rightly. From her I derived whatever instruction (religious
especially, and moral) has pervaded a long life--I will not say
perfectly, or as it ought to be; but I will say, because it is
only justice to the memory of her I revere, that, in the course of
that life, whatever imperfection there has been, or deviation from
what she taught me, the fault is mine, and not hers."

The Wesleys were peculiarly linked to their parents by natural
piety, though the mother, rather than the father, influenced their
minds and developed their characters. The father was a man of
strong will, but occasionally harsh and tyrannical in his dealings
with his family; (11) while the mother, with much strength of
understanding and ardent love of truth, was gentle, persuasive,
affectionate, and simple. She was the teacher and cheerful
companion of her children, who gradually became moulded by her
example. It was through the bias given by her to her sons' minds
in religious matters that they acquired the tendency which, even
in early years, drew to them the name of Methodists. In a letter
to her son, Samuel Wesley, when a scholar at Westminster in 1709,
she said: "I would advise you as much as possible to throw your
business into a certain METHOD, by which means you will learn to
improve every precious moment, and find an unspeakable facility in
the performance of your respective duties." This "method" she went
on to describe, exhorting her son "in all things to act upon
principle;" and the society which the brothers John and Charles
afterwards founded at Oxford is supposed to have been in a great
measure the result of her exhortations.

In the case of poets, literary men, and artists, the influence of
the mother's feeling and taste has doubtless had great effect in
directing the genius of their sons; and we find this especially
illustrated in the lives of Gray, Thomson, Scott, Southey, Bulwer,
Schiller, and Goethe. Gray inherited, almost complete, his kind
and loving nature from his mother, while his father was harsh and
unamiable. Gray was, in fact, a feminine man--shy, reserved, and
wanting in energy,--but thoroughly irreproachable in life and
character. The poet's mother maintained the family, after her
unworthy husband had deserted her; and, at her death, Gray placed
on her grave, in Stoke Pogis, an epitaph describing her as "the
careful tender mother of many children, one of whom alone had the
misfortune to survive her." The poet himself was, at his own
desire, interred beside her worshipped grave.

Goethe, like Schiller, owed the bias of his mind and character to
his mother, who was a woman of extraordinary gifts. She was full
of joyous flowing mother-wit, and possessed in a high degree the
art of stimulating young and active minds, instructing them in the
science of life out of the treasures of her abundant experience. (12)
After a lengthened interview with her, an enthusiastic traveller
said, "Now do I understand how Goethe has become the man he is."
Goethe himself affectionately cherished her memory. "She was
worthy of life!" he once said of her; and when he visited
Frankfort, he sought out every individual who had been kind to his
mother, and thanked them all.

It was Ary Scheffer's mother--whose beautiful features the
painter so loved to reproduce in his pictures of Beatrice, St.
Monica, and others of his works--that encouraged his study of
art, and by great self-denial provided him with the means of
pursuing it. While living at Dordrecht, in Holland, she first
sent him to Lille to study, and afterwards to Paris; and her
letters to him, while absent, were always full of sound motherly
advice, and affectionate womanly sympathy. "If you could but see
me," she wrote on one occasion, "kissing your picture, then, after
a while, taking it up again, and, with a tear in my eye, calling
you 'my beloved son,' you would comprehend what it costs me to use
sometimes the stern language of authority, and to occasion to you
moments of pain. * * * Work diligently--be, above all, modest
and humble; and when you find yourself excelling others, then
compare what you have done with Nature itself, or with the 'ideal'
of your own mind, and you will be secured, by the contrast which
will be apparent, against the effects of pride and presumption."

Long years after, when Ary Scheffer was himself a grandfather, he
remembered with affection the advice of his mother, and repeated
it to his children. And thus the vital power of good example
lives on from generation to generation, keeping the world ever
fresh and young. Writing to his daughter, Madame Marjolin, in
1846, his departed mother's advice recurred to him, and he said:
"The word MUST--fix it well in your memory, dear child; your
grandmother seldom had it out of hers. The truth is, that through
our lives nothing brings any good fruit except what is earned by
either the work of the hands, or by the exertion of one's self-
denial. Sacrifices must, in short, be ever going on if we would
obtain any comfort or happiness. Now that I am no longer young, I
declare that few passages in my life afford me so much
satisfaction as those in which I made sacrifices, or denied myself
enjoyments. 'Das Entsagen' (the forbidden) is the motto of the
wise man. Self-denial is the quality of which Jesus Christ
set us the example." (13)

The French historian Michelet makes the following touching
reference to his mother in the Preface to one of his most popular
books, the subject of much embittered controversy at the time at
which it appeared:- "Whilst writing all this, I have had in my
mind a woman, whose strong and serious mind would not have failed
to support me in these contentions. I lost her thirty years ago
(I was a child then)--nevertheless, ever living in my memory, she
follows me from age to age.

"She suffered with me in my poverty, and was not allowed to share
my better fortune. When young, I made her sad, and now I cannot
console her. I know not even where her bones are: I was too poor
then to buy earth to bury her!"

"And yet I owe her much. I feel deeply that I am the son of
woman. Every instant, in my ideas and words (not to mention
my features and gestures), I find again my mother in myself.
It is my mother's blood which gives me the sympathy I feel
for bygone ages, and the tender remembrance of all those
who are now no more."

"What return then could I, who am myself advancing towards
old age, make her for the many things I owe her? One, for
which she would have thanked me--this protest in favour
of women and mothers." (14)

But while a mother may greatly influence the poetic or artistic
mind of her son for good, she may also influence it for evil.
Thus the characteristics of Lord Byron--the waywardness of his
impulses, his defiance of restraint, the bitterness of his hate,
and the precipitancy of his resentments--were traceable in no
small degree to the adverse influences exercised upon his mind
from his birth by his capricious, violent, and headstrong mother.
She even taunted her son with his personal deformity; and it was
no unfrequent occurrence, in the violent quarrels which occurred
between them, for her to take up the poker or tongs, and hurl them
after him as he fled from her presence. (15) It was this unnatural
treatment that gave a morbid turn to Byron's after-life; and,
careworn, unhappy, great, and yet weak as he was, he carried about
with him the mother's poison which he had sucked in his infancy.
Hence he exclaims, in his 'Childe Harold':-

"Yet must I think less wildly:- I have thought
Too long and darkly, till my brain became,
In its own eddy boiling and o'erwrought,
A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame:

In like manner, though in a different way, the character of Mrs.
Foote, the actor's mother, was curiously repeated in the life of
her joyous, jovial-hearted son. Though she had been heiress to a
large fortune, she soon spent it all, and was at length imprisoned
for debt. In this condition she wrote to Sam, who had been
allowing her a hundred a year out of the proceeds of his acting:-
"Dear Sam, I am in prison for debt; come and assist your loving
mother, E. Foote." To which her son characteristically replied--
"Dear mother, so am I; which prevents his duty being paid to his
loving mother by her affectionate son, Sam Foote."

A foolish mother may also spoil a gifted son, by imbuing his mind
with unsound sentiments. Thus Lamartine's mother is said to have
trained him in altogether erroneous ideas of life, in the school
of Rousseau and Bernardin de St.-Pierre, by which his
sentimentalism, sufficiently strong by nature, was exaggerated
instead of repressed: (16) and he became the victim of tears,
affectation, and improvidence, all his life long. It almost
savours of the ridiculous to find Lamartine, in his 'Confidences,'
representing himself as a "statue of Adolescence raised as a model
for young men." (17) As he was his mother's spoilt child, so he
was the spoilt child of his country to the end, which was bitter
and sad. Sainte-Beuve says of him: "He was the continual object
of the richest gifts, which he had not the power of managing,
scattering and wasting them--all, excepting, the gift of words,
which seemed inexhaustible, and on which he continued to play to
the end as on an enchanted flute." (18)

We have spoken of the mother of Washington as an excellent woman
of business; and to possess such a quality as capacity for
business is not only compatible with true womanliness, but is in a
measure essential to the comfort and wellbeing of every properly-
governed family. Habits of business do not relate to trade
merely, but apply to all the practical affairs of life--to
everything that has to be arranged, to be organised, to be
provided for, to be done. And in all these respects the
management of a family, and of a household, is as much a matter of
business as the management of a shop or of a counting-house. It
requires method, accuracy, organization, industry, economy,
discipline, tact, knowledge, and capacity for adapting means to
ends. All this is of the essence of business; and hence business
habits are as necessary to be cultivated by women who would
succeed in the affairs of home--in other words, who would make
home happy--as by men in the affairs of trade, of commerce, or of

The idea has, however, heretofore prevailed, that women have no
concern with such matters, and that business habits and
qualifications relate to men only. Take, for instance, the
knowledge of figures. Mr. Bright has said of boys, "Teach a boy
arithmetic thoroughly, and he is a made man." And why?--Because
it teaches him method, accuracy, value, proportions, relations.
But how many girls are taught arithmetic well?--Very few indeed.
And what is the consequence?--When the girl becomes a wife, if
she knows nothing of figures, and is innocent of addition and
multiplication, she can keep no record of income and expenditure,
and there will probably be a succession of mistakes committed
which may be prolific in domestic contention. The woman, not
being up to her business--that is, the management of her domestic
affairs in conformity with the simple principles of arithmetic--
will, through sheer ignorance, be apt to commit extravagances,
though unintentional, which may be most injurious to her family
peace and comfort.

Method, which is the soul of business, is also of essential
importance in the home. Work can only be got through by method.
Muddle flies before it, and hugger-mugger becomes a thing unknown.
Method demands punctuality, another eminently business quality.
The unpunctual woman, like the unpunctual man, occasions dislike,
because she consumes and wastes time, and provokes the reflection
that we are not of sufficient importance to make her more prompt.
To the business man, time is money; but to the business woman,
method is more--it is peace, comfort, and domestic prosperity.

Prudence is another important business quality in women, as in
men. Prudence is practical wisdom, and comes of the cultivated
judgment. It has reference in all things to fitness, to
propriety; judging wisely of the right thing to be done, and
the right way of doing it. It calculates the means, order,
time, and method of doing. Prudence learns from experience,
quickened by knowledge.

For these, amongst other reasons, habits of business are necessary
to be cultivated by all women, in order to their being efficient
helpers in the world's daily life and work. Furthermore, to
direct the power of the home aright, women, as the nurses,
trainers, and educators of children, need all the help and
strength that mental culture can give them.

Mere instinctive love is not sufficient. Instinct, which
preserves the lower creatures, needs no training; but human
intelligence, which is in constant request in a family, needs to
be educated. The physical health of the rising generation is
entrusted to woman by Providence; and it is in the physical nature
that the moral and mental nature lies enshrined. It is only by
acting in accordance with the natural laws, which before she can
follow woman must needs understand, that the blessings of health
of body, and health of mind and morals, can be secured at home.
Without a knowledge of such laws, the mother's love too often
finds its recompence only in a child's coffin. (19)

It is a mere truism to say that the intellect with which woman as
well as man is endowed, has been given for use and exercise, and
not "to fust in her unused." Such endowments are never conferred
without a purpose. The Creator may be lavish in His gifts, but he
is never wasteful.

Woman was not meant to be either an unthinking drudge, or the
merely pretty ornament of man's leisure. She exists for herself,
as well as for others; and the serious and responsible duties she
is called upon to perform in life, require the cultivated head as
well as the sympathising heart. Her highest mission is not to be
fulfilled by the mastery of fleeting accomplishments, on which so
much useful time is now wasted; for, though accomplishments may
enhance the charms of youth and beauty, of themselves sufficiently
charming, they will be found of very little use in the affairs
of real life.

The highest praise which the ancient Romans could express of a
noble matron was that she sat at home and span--"DOMUM MANSIT,
LANAM FECIT." In our own time, it has been said that chemistry
enough to keep the pot boiling, and geography enough to know the
different rooms in her house, was science enough for any woman;
whilst Byron, whose sympathies for woman were of a very imperfect
kind, professed that he would limit her library to a Bible and a
cookery-book. But this view of woman's character and culture is
as absurdly narrow and unintelligent, on the one hand, as the
opposite view, now so much in vogue, is extravagant and unnatural
on the other--that woman ought to be educated so as to be as much
as possible the equal of man; undistinguishable from him, except
in sex; equal to him in rights and votes; and his competitor in
all that makes life a fierce and selfish struggle for place and
power and money.

Speaking generally, the training and discipline that are most
suitable for the one sex in early life, are also the most suitable
for the other; and the education and culture that fill the mind of
the man will prove equally wholesome for the woman. Indeed, all
the arguments which have yet been advanced in favour of the higher
education of men, plead equally strongly in favour of the higher
education of women. In all the departments of home, intelligence
will add to woman's usefulness and efficiency. It will give her
thought and forethought, enable her to anticipate and provide for
the contingencies of life, suggest improved methods of management,
and give her strength in every way. In disciplined mental power
she will find a stronger and safer protection against deception
and imposture than in mere innocent and unsuspecting ignorance; in
moral and religious culture she will secure sources of influence
more powerful and enduring than in physical attractions; and in
due self-reliance and self-dependence she will discover the truest
sources of domestic comfort and happiness.

But while the mind and character of women ought to be cultivated
with a view to their own wellbeing, they ought not the less to be
educated liberally with a view to the happiness of others. Men
themselves cannot be sound in mind or morals if women be the
reverse; and if, as we hold to be the case, the moral condition of
a people mainly depends upon the education of the home, then the
education of women is to be regarded as a matter of national
importance. Not only does the moral character but the mental
strength of man find their best safeguard and support in the moral
purity and mental cultivation of woman; but the more completely
the powers of both are developed, the more harmonious and well-
ordered will society be--the more safe and certain its elevation
and advancement.

When about fifty years since, the first Napoleon said that the
great want of France was mothers, he meant, in other words, that
the French people needed the education of homes, provided over by
good, virtuous, intelligent women. Indeed, the first French
Revolution presented one of the most striking illustrations of the
social mischiefs resulting from a neglect of the purifying
influence of women. When that great national outbreak occurred,
society was impenetrated with vice and profligacy. Morals,
religion, virtue, were swamped by sensualism. The character of
woman had become depraved. Conjugal fidelity was disregarded;
maternity was held in reproach; family and home were alike
corrupted. Domestic purity no longer bound society together.
France was motherless; the children broke loose; and the
Revolution burst forth, "amidst the yells and the fierce violence
of women." (20)

But the terrible lesson was disregarded, and again and again
France has grievously suffered from the want of that discipline,
obedience, self-control, and self-respect which can only be truly
learnt at home. It is said that the Third Napoleon attributed the
recent powerlessness of France, which left her helpless and
bleeding at the feet of her conquerors, to the frivolity and lack
of principle of the people, as well as to their love of pleasure--
which, however, it must be confessed, he himself did not a little
to foster. It would thus seem that the discipline which France
still needs to learn, if she would be good and great, is that
indicated by the First Napoleon--home education by good mothers.

The influence of woman is the same everywhere. Her condition
influences the morals, manners, and character of the people in all
countries. Where she is debased, society is debased; where she is
morally pure and enlightened, society will be proportionately

Hence, to instruct woman is to instruct man; to elevate her
character is to raise his own; to enlarge her mental freedom is to
extend and secure that of the whole community. For Nations are
but the outcomes of Homes, and Peoples of Mothers.

But while it is certain that the character of a nation will be
elevated by the enlightenment and refinement of woman, it is much
more than doubtful whether any advantage is to be derived from her
entering into competition with man in the rough work of business
and polities. Women can no more do men's special work in the
world than men can do women's. And wherever woman has been
withdrawn from her home and family to enter upon other work, the
result has been socially disastrous. Indeed, the efforts of some
of the best philanthropists have of late years been devoted to
withdrawing women from toiling alongside of men in coalpits,
factories, nailshops, and brickyards.

It is still not uncommon in the North for the husbands to be idle
at home, while the mothers and daughters are working in the
factory; the result being, in many cases, an entire subversion of
family order, of domestic discipline, and of home rule. (21) And
for many years past, in Paris, that state of things has been
reached which some women desire to effect amongst ourselves. The
women there mainly attend to business--serving the BOUTIQUE, or
presiding at the COMPTOIR--while the men lounge about the
Boulevards. But the result has only been homelessness,
degeneracy, and family and social decay.

Nor is there any reason to believe that the elevation and
improvement of women are to be secured by investing them with
political power. There are, however, in these days, many
believers in the potentiality of "votes," (22) who anticipate some
indefinite good from the "enfranchisement" of women. It is not
necessary here to enter upon the discussion of this question. But
it may be sufficient to state that the power which women do not
possess politically is far more than compensated by that which
they exercise in private life--by their training in the home
those who, whether as men or as women, do all the manly as well as
womanly work of the world. The Radical Bentham has said that man,
even if he would, cannot keep power from woman; for that she
already governs the world "with the whole power of a despot," (23)
though the power that she mainly governs by is love. And to form
the character of the whole human race, is certainly a power far
greater than that which women could ever hope to exercise as
voters for members of Parliament, or even as lawmakers.

There is, however, one special department of woman's work
demanding the earnest attention of all true female reformers,
though it is one which has hitherto been unaccountably neglected.
We mean the better economizing and preparation of human food, the
waste of which at present, for want of the most ordinary culinary
knowledge, is little short of scandalous. If that man is to be
regarded as a benefactor of his species who makes two stalks of
corn to grow where only one grew before, not less is she to be
regarded as a public benefactor who economizes and turns to the
best practical account the food-products of human skill and
labour. The improved use of even our existing supply would be
equivalent to an immediate extension of the cultivable acreage of
our country--not to speak of the increase in health, economy, and
domestic comfort. Were our female reformers only to turn their
energies in this direction with effect, they would earn the
gratitude of all households, and be esteemed as among the greatest
of practical philanthropists.


(1) Civic virtues, unless they have their origin and consecration in
private and domestic virtues, are but the virtues of the theatre.
He who has not a loving heart for his child, cannot pretend to
have any true love for humanity.--Jules Simon's LE DEVOIR.

(2) 'Levana; or, The Doctrine of Education.'

(3) Speaking of the force of habit, St. Augustine says in his
'Confessions' "My will the enemy held, and thence had made a chain
for me, and bound me. For of a froward will was a lust made; and
a lust served became custom; and custom not resisted became
necessity. By which links, as it were, joined together (whence I
called it a chain) a hard bondage held me enthralled."

(4) Mr. Tufnell, in 'Reports of Inspectors of Parochial School Unions
in England and Wales,' 1850.

(5) See the letters (January 13th, 16th, 18th, 20th, and 23rd, 1759),
written by Johnson to his mother when she was ninety, and he
himself was in his fiftieth year.--Crokers BOSWELL, 8vo. Ed. pp.
113, 114.

(6) Jared Sparks' 'Life of Washington.'

(7) Forster's 'Eminent British Statesmen' (Cabinet Cyclop.) vi. 8.

(8) The Earl of Mornington, composer of 'Here in cool grot,' &c.

(9) Robert Bell's 'Life of Canning,' p. 37.

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