Part 3 out of 7
(9) Writing to an abbot at Nuremberg, who had sent him a store of
turning-tools, Luther said: "I have made considerable progress in
clockmaking, and I am very much delighted at it, for these drunken
Saxons need to be constantly reminded of what the real time is;
not that they themselves care much about it, for as long as their
glasses are kept filled, they trouble themselves very little as to
whether clocks, or clockmakers, or the time itself, go right."--
Michelet's LUTHER (Bogue Ed.), p. 200.
(10) 'Life of Perthes," ii. 20.
(11) Lockhart's 'Life of Scott' (8vo. Ed.), p. 442.
(12) Southey expresses the opinion in 'The Doctor', that the character
of a person may be better known by the letters which other persons
write to him than by what he himself writes.
(13) 'Dissertation on the Science of Method.'
(14) The following passage, from a recent article in the PALL MALL
GAZETTE, will commend itself to general aproval:- "There can be no
question nowadays, that application to work, absorption in
affairs, contact with men, and all the stress which business
imposes on us, gives a noble training to the intellect, and
splendid opportunity for discipline of character. It is an
utterly low view of business which regards it as only a means of
getting a living. A man's business is his part of the world's
work, his share of the great activities which render society
possible. He may like it or dislike it, but it is work, and as
such requires application, self-denial, discipline. It is his
drill, and he cannot be thorough in his occupation without putting
himself into it, checking his fancies, restraining his impulses,
and holding himself to the perpetual round of small details--
without, in fact, submitting to his drill. But the perpetual call
on a man's readiness, sell-control, and vigour which business
makes, the constant appeal to the intellect, the stress upon the
will, the necessity for rapid and responsible exercise of judgment
--all these things constitute a high culture, though not the
highest. It is a culture which strengthens and invigorates if it
does not refine, which gives force if not polish--the FORTITER IN
RE, if not the SUAVITER IN MODO. It makes strong men and ready
men, and men of vast capacity for affairs, though it does not
necessarily make refined men or gentlemen."
(15) On the first publication of his 'Despatches,' one of his friends
said to him, on reading the records of his Indian campaigns: "It
seems to me, Duke, that your chief business in India was to
procure rice and bullocks." "And so it was," replied Wellington:
"for if I had rice and bullocks, I had men; and if I had men, I
knew I could beat the enemy."
(16) Maria Edgeworth, 'Memoirs of R. L. Edgeworth,' ii. 94.
(17) A friend of Lord Palmerston has communicated to us the following
anecdote. Asking him one day when he considered a man to be in
the prime of life, his immediate reply was, "Seventy-nine!"
"But," he added, with a twinkle in his eye, "as I have just
entered my eightieth year, perhaps I am myself a little past it."
(18) 'Reasons of Church Government,' Book II.
(19) Coleridge's advice to his young friends was much to the same
effect. "With the exception of one extraordinary man," he says,
"I have never known an individual, least of all an individual of
genius, healthy or happy without a profession: i.e., some regular
employment which does not depend on the will of the moment, and
which can be carried on so far mechanically, that an average
quantum only of health, spirits, and intellectual exertion are
requisite to its faithful discharge. Three hours of leisure,
unalloyed by any alien anxiety, and looked forward to with delight
as a change and recreation, will suffice to realise in literature
a larger product of what is truly genial, than weeks of
compulsion.... If facts are required to prove the possibility of
combining weighty performances in literature with full and
independent employment, the works of Cicero and Xenophon, among
the ancients--of Sir Thomas More, Bacon, Baxter, or (to refer at
once to later and contemporary instances) Darwin and Roscoe, are
at once decisive of the question."
--BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA, Chap. xi.
(20) Mr. Ricardo published his celebrated 'Theory of Rent,' at the
urgent recommendation of James Mill (like his son, a chief clerk
in the India House), author of the 'History of British India.'
When the 'Theory of Rent' was written, Ricardo was so dissatisfied
with it that he wished to burn it; but Mr. Mill urged him to
publish it, and the book was a great success.
(21) The late Sir John Lubbock, his father, was also eminent as a
mathematician and astronomer.
(22) Thales, once inveighing in discourse against the pains and care
men put themselves to, to become rich, was answered by one in the
company that he did like the fox, who found fault with what he
could not obtain. Thereupon Thales had a mind, for the jest's
sake, to show them the contrary; and having upon this occasion for
once made a muster of all his wits, wholly to employ them in the
service of profit, he set a traffic on foot, which in one year
brought him in so great riches, that the most experienced in that
trade could hardly in their whole lives, with all their industry,
have raked so much together.
--Montaignes ESSAYS, Book I., chap. 24.
(23) "The understanding," says Mr. Bailey, "that is accustomed to
pursue a regular and connected train of ideas, becomes in some
measure incapacitated for those quick and versatile movements
which are learnt in the commerce of the world, and are
indispensable to those who act a part in it. Deep thinking and
practical talents require indeed habits of mind so essentially
dissimilar, that while a man is striving after the one, he will be
unavoidably in danger of losing the other." "Thence," he adds,
"do we so often find men, who are 'giants in the closet,' prove
but 'children in the world.'"--'Essays on the Formation and
Publication of Opinions,' pp.251-3.
(24) Mr. Gladstone is as great an enthusiast in literature as
Canning was. It is related of him that, while he was waiting
in his committee-room at Liverpool for the returns coming in
on the day of the South Lancashire polling, he occupied himself
in proceeding with the translation of a work which he was then
preparing for the press.
"It is not but the tempest that doth show
The seaman's cunning; but the field that tries
The captain's courage; and we come to know
Best what men are, in their worst jeopardies."--DANIEL.
"If thou canst plan a noble deed,
And never flag till it succeed,
Though in the strife thy heart should bleed,
Whatever obstacles control,
Thine hour will come--go on, true soul!
Thou'lt win the prize, thou'lt reach the goal."--C. MACKAY.
"The heroic example of other days is in great part the source of
the courage of each generation; and men walk up composedly to the
most perilous enterprises, beckoned onwards by the shades of the
brave that were."--HELPS.
"That which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."--TENNYSON.
THE world owes much to its men and women of courage. We do not
mean physical courage, in which man is at least equalled by the
bulldog; nor is the bulldog considered the wisest of his species.
The courage that displays itself in silent effort and endeavour--
that dares to endure all and suffer all for truth and duty--is
more truly heroic than the achievements of physical valour, which
are rewarded by honours and titles, or by laurels sometimes
steeped in blood.
It is moral courage that characterises the highest order of
manhood and womanhood--the courage to seek and to speak the
truth; the courage to be just; the courage to be honest; the
courage to resist temptation; the courage to do one's duty. If
men and women do not possess this virtue, they have no security
whatever for the preservation of any other.
Every step of progress in the history of our race has been made in
the face of opposition and difficulty, and been achieved and
secured by men of intrepidity and valour--by leaders in the van
of thought--by great discoverers, great patriots, and great
workers in all walks of life. There is scarcely a great truth or
doctrine but has had to fight its way to public recognition in the
face of detraction, calumny, and persecution. "Everywhere," says
Heine, "that a great soul gives utterance to its thoughts, there
also is a Golgotha."
"Many loved Truth and lavished life's best oil,
Amid the dust of books to find her,
Content at last, for guerdon of their toil,
With the cast mantle she had left behind her.
Many in sad faith sought for her,
Many with crossed hands sighed for her,
But these, our brothers, fought for her,
At life's dear peril wrought for her,
So loved her that they died for her,
Tasting the raptured fleetness
Of her divine completeness." (1)
Socrates was condemned to drink the hemlock at Athens in his
seventy-second year, because his lofty teaching ran counter to the
prejudices and party-spirit of his age. He was charged by his
accusers with corrupting the youth of Athens by inciting them to
despise the tutelary deities of the state. He had the moral
courage to brave not only the tyranny of the judges who condemned
him, but of the mob who could not understand him. He died
discoursing of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul; his
last words to his judges being, "It is now time that we depart--I
to die, you to live; but which has the better destiny is unknown
to all, except to the God."
How many great men and thinkers have been persecuted in the name
of religion! Bruno was burnt alive at Rome, because of his
exposure of the fashionable but false philosophy of his time.
When the judges of the Inquisition condemned him, to die, Bruno
said proudly: "You are more afraid to pronounce my sentence than I
am to receive it."
To him succeeded Galileo, whose character as a man of science is
almost eclipsed by that of the martyr. Denounced by the priests
from the pulpit, because of the views he taught as to the motion
of the earth, he was summoned to Rome, in his seventieth year, to
answer for his heterodoxy. And he was imprisoned in the
Inquisition, if he was not actually put to the torture there. He
was pursued by persecution even when dead, the Pope refusing a
tomb for his body.
Roger Bacon, the Franciscan monk, was persecuted on account of his
studies in natural philosophy, and he was charged with, dealing in
magic, because of his investigations in chemistry. His writings
were condemned, and he was thrown into prison, where he lay for
ten years, during the lives of four successive Popes. It is even
averred that he died in prison.
Ockham, the early English speculative philosopher, was
excommunicated by the Pope, and died in exile at Munich, where he
was protected by the friendship of the then Emperor of Germany.
The Inquisition branded Vesalius as a heretic for revealing man to
man, as it had before branded Bruno and Galileo for revealing the
heavens to man. Vesalius had the boldness to study the structure
of the human body by actual dissection, a practice until then
almost entirely forbidden. He laid the foundations of a science,
but he paid for it with his life. Condemned by the Inquisition,
his penalty was commuted, by the intercession of the Spanish king,
into a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; and when on his way back,
while still in the prime of life, he died miserably at Zante, of
fever and want--a martyr to his love of science.
When the 'Novum Organon' appeared, a hue-and-cry was raised
against it, because of its alleged tendency to produce "dangerous
revolutions," to "subvert governments," and to "overturn the
authority of religion;" (2) and one Dr. Henry Stubbe (whose name
would otherwise have been forgotten) wrote a book against the new
philosophy, denouncing the whole tribe of experimentalists as "a
Bacon-faced generation." Even the establishment of the Royal
Society was opposed, on the ground that "experimental philosophy
is subversive of the Christian faith."
While the followers of Copernicus were persecuted as infidels,
Kepler was branded with the stigma of heresy, "because," said he,
"I take that side which seems to me to be consonant with the Word
of God." Even the pure and simpleminded Newton, of whom Bishop
Burnet said that he had the WHITEST SOUL he ever knew--who was a
very infant in the purity of his mind--even Newton was accused of
"dethroning the Deity" by his sublime discovery of the law of
gravitation; and a similar charge was made against Franklin for
explaining the nature of the thunderbolt.
Spinoza was excommunicated by the Jews, to whom he belonged,
because of his views of philosophy, which were supposed to be
adverse to religion; and his life was afterwards attempted by an
assassin for the same reason. Spinoza remained courageous and
self-reliant to the last, dying in obscurity and poverty.
The philosophy of Descartes was denounced as leading to
irreligion; the doctrines of Locke were said to produce
materialism; and in our own day, Dr. Buckland, Mr. Sedgwick, and
other leading geologists, have been accused of overturning
revelation with regard to the constitution and history of
the earth. Indeed, there has scarcely been a discovery
in astronomy, in natural history, or in physical science,
that has not been attacked by the bigoted and narrow-minded
as leading to infidelity.
Other great discoverers, though they may not have been charged
with irreligion, have had not less obloquy of a professional and
public nature to encounter. When Dr. Harvey published his theory
of the circulation of the blood, his practice fell off, (3) and
the medical profession stigmatised him as a fool. "The few good
things I have been able to do," said John Hunter, "have been
accomplished with the greatest difficulty, and encountered the
greatest opposition." Sir Charles Bell, while employed in his
important investigations as to the nervous system, which issued in
one of the greatest of physiological discoveries, wrote to a
friend: "If I were not so poor, and had not so many vexations to
encounter, how happy would I be!" But he himself observed that
his practice sensibly fell off after the publication of each
successive stage of his discovery.
Thus, nearly every enlargement of the domain of knowledge, which
has made us better acquainted with the heavens, with the earth,
and with ourselves, has been established by the energy, the
devotion, the self-sacrifice, and the courage of the great spirits
of past times, who, however much they have been opposed or reviled
by their contemporaries, now rank amongst those whom the
enlightened of the human race most delight to honour.
Nor is the unjust intolerance displayed towards men of science in
the past, without its lesson for the present. It teaches us to be
forbearant towards those who differ from us, provided they observe
patiently, think honestly, and utter their convictions freely and
truthfully. It was a remark of Plato, that "the world is God's
epistle to mankind;" and to read and study that epistle, so as to
elicit its true meaning, can have no other effect on a well-
ordered mind than to lead to a deeper impression of His power,
a clearer perception of His wisdom, and a more grateful sense
of His goodness.
While such has been the courage of the martyrs of science, not
less glorious has been the courage of the martyrs of faith. The
passive endurance of the man or woman who, for conscience sake, is
found ready to suffer and to endure in solitude, without so much
as the encouragement of even a single sympathising voice, is an
exhibition of courage of a far higher kind than that displayed in
the roar of battle, where even the weakest feels encouraged and
inspired by the enthusiasm of sympathy and the power of numbers.
Time would fail to tell of the deathless names of those who
through faith in principles, and in the face of difficulty,
danger, and suffering, "have wrought righteousness and waxed
valiant" in the moral warfare of the world, and been content to
lay down their lives rather than prove false to their
conscientious convictions of the truth.
Men of this stamp, inspired by a high sense of duty, have in past
times exhibited character in its most heroic aspects, and continue
to present to us some of the noblest spectacles to be seen in
history. Even women, full of tenderness and gentleness, not less
than men, have in this cause been found capable of exhibiting the
most unflinching courage. Such, for instance, as that of Anne
Askew, who, when racked until her bones were dislocated, uttered
no cry, moved no muscle, but looked her tormentors calmly in the
face, and refused either to confess or to recant; or such as that
of Latimer and Ridley, who, instead of bewailing their hard fate
and beating their breasts, went as cheerfully to their death as a
bridegroom to the altar--the one bidding the other to "be of good
comfort," for that "we shall this day light such a candle in
England, by God's grace, as shall never be put out;" or such,
again, as that of Mary Dyer, the Quakeress, hanged by the Puritans
of New England for preaching to the people, who ascended the
scaffold with a willing step, and, after calmly addressing those
who stood about, resigned herself into the hands of her
persecutors, and died in peace and joy.
Not less courageous was the behaviour of the good Sir Thomas More,
who marched willingly to the scaffold, and died cheerfully there,
rather than prove false to his conscience. When More had made his
final decision to stand upon his principles, he felt as if he had
won a victory, and said to his son-in-law Roper: "Son Roper, I
thank Our Lord, the field is won!" The Duke of Norfolk told him
of his danger, saying: "By the mass, Master More, it is perilous
striving with princes; the anger of a prince brings death!". "Is
that all, my lord?" said More; "then the difference between you
and me is this--that I shall die to-day, and you to-morrow."
While it has been the lot of many great men, in times of
difficulty and danger, to be cheered and supported by their wives,
More had no such consolation. His helpmate did anything but
console him during his imprisonment in the Tower. (4) She could not
conceive that there was any sufficient reason for his continuing
to lie there, when by merely doing what the King required of him,
he might at once enjoy his liberty, together with his fine house
at Chelsea, his library, his orchard, his gallery, and the society
of his wife and children. "I marvel," said she to him one day,
"that you, who have been alway hitherto taken for wise, should now
so play the fool as to lie here in this close filthy prison, and
be content to be shut up amongst mice and rats, when you might be
abroad at your liberty, if you would but do as the bishops have
done?" But More saw his duty from a different point of view: it
was not a mere matter of personal comfort with him; and the
expostulations of his wife were of no avail. He gently put her
aside, saying cheerfully, "Is not this house as nigh heaven as my
own?"--to which she contemptuously rejoined: "Tilly vally
More's daughter, Margaret Roper, on the contrary, encouraged her
father to stand firm in his principles, and dutifully consoled and
cheered him during his long confinement. Deprived of pen-and-ink,
he wrote his letters to her with a piece of coal, saying in one of
them: "If I were to declare in writing how much pleasure your
daughterly loving letters gave me, a PECK OF COALS would not
suffice to make the pens." More was a martyr to veracity: he
would not swear a false oath; and he perished because he was
sincere. When his head had been struck off, it was placed on
London Bridge, in accordance with the barbarous practice of the
times. Margaret Roper had the courage to ask for the head to be
taken down and given to her, and, carrying her affection for her
father beyond the grave, she desired that it might be buried with
her when she died; and long after, when Margaret Roper's tomb was
opened, the precious relic was observed lying on the dust of what
had been her bosom.
Martin Luther was not called upon to lay down his life for his
faith; but, from the day that he declared himself against the
Pope, he daily ran the risk of losing it. At the beginning of his
great struggle, he stood almost entirely alone. The odds against
him were tremendous. "On one side," said he himself, "are
learning, genius, numbers, grandeur, rank, power, sanctity,
miracles; on the other Wycliffe, Lorenzo Valla, Augustine, and
Luther--a poor creature, a man of yesterday, standing wellnigh
alone with a few friends." Summoned by the Emperor to appear at
Worms; to answer the charge made against him of heresy, he
determined to answer in person. Those about him told him that he
would lose his life if he went, and they urged him to fly.
"No," said he, "I will repair thither, though I should find
there thrice as many devils as there are tiles upon the housetops!"
Warned against the bitter enmity of a certain Duke George,
he said--"I will go there, though for nine whole days running
it rained Duke Georges."
Luther was as good as his word; and he set forth upon his perilous
journey. When he came in sight of the old bell-towers of Worms,
he stood up in his chariot and sang, "EIN FESTE BURG IST UNSER
GOTT."--the 'Marseillaise' of the Reformation--the words and
music of which he is said to have improvised only two days before.
Shortly before the meeting of the Diet, an old soldier, George
Freundesberg, put his hand upon Luther's shoulder, and said to
him: "Good monk, good monk, take heed what thou doest; thou art
going into a harder fight than any of us have ever yet been in.
But Luther's only answer to the veteran was, that he had
"determined to stand upon the Bible and his conscience."
Luther's courageous defence before the Diet is on record, and
forms one of the most glorious pages in history. When finally
urged by the Emperor to retract, he said firmly: "Sire, unless I
am convinced of my error by the testimony of Scripture, or by
manifest evidence, I cannot and will not retract, for we must
never act contrary to our conscience. Such is my profession of
faith, and you must expect none other from me. HIER STEHE ICH:
ICH KANN NICHT ANDERS: GOTT HELFE MIR!" (Here stand I: I cannot do
otherwise: God help me!). He had to do his duty--to obey the
orders of a Power higher than that of kings; and he did it
at all hazards.
Afterwards, when hard pressed by his enemies at Augsburg, Luther
said that "if he had five hundred heads, he would lose them all
rather than recant his article concerning faith." Like all
courageous men, his strength only seemed to grow in proportion to
the difficulties he had to encounter and overcome. "There is no
man in Germany," said Hutten, "who more utterly despises death
than does Luther." And to his moral courage, perhaps more than
to that of any other single man, do we owe the liberation of
modern thought, and the vindication of the great rights of
the human understanding.
The honourable and brave man does not fear death compared with
ignominy. It is said of the Royalist Earl of Strafford that, as
he walked to the scaffold on Tower Hill, his step and manner were
those of a general marching at the head of an army to secure
victory, rather than of a condemned man to undergo sentence of
death. So the Commonwealth's man, Sir John Eliot, went alike
bravely to his death on the same spot, saying: "Ten thousand
deaths rather than defile my conscience, the chastity and purity
of which I value beyond all this world." Eliot's greatest
tribulation was on account of his wife, whom he had to leave
behind. When he saw her looking down upon him from the Tower
window, he stood up in the cart, waved his hat, and cried: "To
heaven, my love!--to heaven!--and leave you in the storm!" As
he went on his way, one in the crowd called out, "That is the most
glorious seat you ever sat on;" to which he replied: "It is so,
indeed!" and rejoiced exceedingly. (5)
Although success is the guerdon for which all men toil, they have
nevertheless often to labour on perseveringly, without any glimmer
of success in sight. They have to live, meanwhile, upon their
courage--sowing their seed, it may be, in the dark, in the hope
that it will yet take root and spring up in achieved result. The
best of causes have had to fight their way to triumph through a
long succession of failures, and many of the assailants have died
in the breach before the fortress has been won. The heroism they
have displayed is to be measured, not so much by their immediate
success, as by the opposition they have encountered, and the
courage with which they have maintained the struggle.
The patriot who fights an always-losing battle--the martyr who
goes to death amidst the triumphant shouts of his enemies--the
discoverer, like Columbus, whose heart remains undaunted through
the bitter years of his "long wandering woe"--are examples of the
moral sublime which excite a profounder interest in the hearts of
men than even the most complete and conspicuous success. By the
side of such instances as these, how small by comparison seem the
greatest deeds of valour, inciting men to rush upon death and die
amidst the frenzied excitement of physical warfare!
But the greater part of the courage that is needed in the world is
not of a heroic kind. Courage may be displayed in everyday life
as well as in historic fields of action. There needs, for
example, the common courage to be honest--the courage to resist
temptation--the courage to speak the truth--the courage to be
what we really are, and not to pretend to be what we are not--the
courage to live honestly within our own means, and not dishonestly
upon the means of others.
A great deal of the unhappiness, and much of the vice, of the
world is owing to weakness and indecision of purpose--in other
words, to lack of courage. Men may know what is right, and yet
fail to exercise the courage to do it; they may understand the
duty they have to do, but will not summon up the requisite
resolution to perform it. The weak and undisciplined man is at
the mercy of every temptation; he cannot say "No," but falls
before it. And if his companionship be bad, he will be all the
easier led away by bad example into wrongdoing.
Nothing can be more certain than that the character can only be
sustained and strengthened by its own energetic action. The will,
which is the central force of character, must be trained to habits
of decision--otherwise it will neither be able to resist evil nor
to follow good. Decision gives the power of standing firmly, when
to yield, however slightly, might be only the first step in a
downhill course to ruin.
Calling upon others for help in forming a decision is worse than
useless. A man must so train his habits as to rely upon his own
powers and depend upon his own courage in moments of emergency.
Plutarch tells of a King of Macedon who, in the midst of an
action, withdrew into the adjoining town under pretence of
sacrificing to Hercules; whilst his opponent Emilius, at the same
time that he implored the Divine aid, sought for victory sword in
hand, and won the battle. And so it ever is in the actions of
Many are the valiant purposes formed, that end merely in words;
deeds intended, that are never done; designs projected, that are
never begun; and all for want of a little courageous decision.
Better far the silent tongue but the eloquent deed. For in life
and in business, despatch is better than discourse; and the
shortest answer of all is, DOING. "In matters of great concern,
and which must be done," says Tillotson, "there is no surer
argument of a weak mind than irresolution--to be undetermined
when the case is so plain and the necessity so urgent. To be
always intending to live a new life, but never to find time
to set about it,--this is as if a man should put off eating
and drinking and sleeping from one day to another, until
he is starved and destroyed."
There needs also the exercise of no small degree of moral courage
to resist the corrupting influences of what is called "Society."
Although "Mrs. Grundy" may be a very vulgar and commonplace
personage, her influence is nevertheless prodigious. Most men,
but especially women, are the moral slaves of the class or caste
to which they belong. There is a sort of unconscious conspiracy
existing amongst them against each other's individuality. Each
circle and section, each rank and class, has its respective
customs and observances, to which conformity is required at the
risk of being tabooed. Some are immured within a bastile of
fashion, others of custom, others of opinion; and few there are
who have the courage to think outside their sect, to act outside
their party, and to step out into the free air of individual
thought and action. We dress, and eat, and follow fashion, though
it may be at the risk of debt, ruin, and misery; living not so
much according to our means, as according to the superstitious
observances of our class. Though we may speak contemptuously
of the Indians who flatten their heads, and of the Chinese
who cramp their toes, we have only to look at the deformities
of fashion amongst ourselves, to see that the reign of
"Mrs. Grundy" is universal.
But moral cowardice is exhibited quite as much in public as in
private life. Snobbism is not confined to the toadying of the
rich, but is quite as often displayed in the toadying of the poor.
Formerly, sycophancy showed itself in not daring to speak the
truth to those in high places; but in these days it rather shows
itself in not daring to speak the truth to those in low places.
Now that "the masses" (6) exercise political power, there is a
growing tendency to fawn upon them, to flatter them, and to speak
nothing but smooth words to them. They are credited with virtues
which they themselves know they do not possess. The public
enunciation of wholesome because disagreeable truths is avoided;
and, to win their favour, sympathy is often pretended for views,
the carrying out of which in practice is known to be hopeless.
It is not the man of the noblest character--the highest-cultured
and best-conditioned man--whose favour is now sought, so much as
that of the lowest man, the least-cultured and worst-conditioned
man, because his vote is usually that of the majority. Even men
of rank, wealth, and education, are seen prostrating themselves
before the ignorant, whose votes are thus to be got. They are
ready to be unprincipled and unjust rather than unpopular. It is
so much easier for some men to stoop, to bow, and to flatter, than
to be manly, resolute, and magnanimous; and to yield to prejudices
than run counter to them. It requires strength and courage to
swim against the stream, while any dead fish can float with it.
This servile pandering to popularity has been rapidly on the
increase of late years, and its tendency has been to lower and
degrade the character of public men. Consciences have become more
elastic. There is now one opinion for the chamber, and another
for the platform. Prejudices are pandered to in public, which in
private are despised. Pretended conversions--which invariably
jump with party interests are more sudden; and even hypocrisy now
appears to be scarcely thought discreditable.
The same moral cowardice extends downwards as well as upwards.
The action and reaction are equal. Hypocrisy and timeserving
above are accompanied by hypocrisy and timeserving below. Where
men of high standing have not the courage of their opinions, what
is to be expected from men of low standing? They will only follow
such examples as are set before them. They too will skulk, and
dodge, and prevaricate--be ready to speak one way and act another
--just like their betters. Give them but a sealed box, or some
hole-and-corner to hide their act in, and they will then enjoy
Popularity, as won in these days, is by no means a presumption in
a man's favour, but is quite as often a presumption against him.
"No man," says the Russian proverb, "can rise to honour who is
cursed with a stiff backbone." But the backbone of the
popularity-hunter is of gristle; and he has no difficulty in
stooping and bending himself in any direction to catch the breath
of popular applause.
Where popularity is won by fawning upon the people, by withholding
the truth from them, by writing and speaking down to the lowest
tastes, and still worse by appeals to class-hatred, (7) such a
popularity must be simply contemptible in the sight of all honest
men. Jeremy Bentham, speaking of a well-known public character,
said: "His creed of politics results less from love of the many
than from hatred of the few; it is too much under the influence of
selfish and dissocial affection." To how many men in our own day
might not the same description apply?
Men of sterling character have the courage to speak the truth,
even when it is unpopular. It was said of Colonel Hutchinson by
his wife, that he never sought after popular applause, or prided
himself on it: "He more delighted to do well than to be praised,
and never set vulgar commendations at such a rate as to act
contrary to his own conscience or reason for the obtaining them;
nor would he forbear a good action which he was bound to, though
all the world disliked it; for he ever looked on things as they
were in themselves, not through the dim spectacles of vulgar
"Popularity, in the lowest and most common sense," said Sir John
Pakington, on a recent occasion, (9) "is not worth the having. Do
your duty to the best of your power, win the approbation of your
own conscience, and popularity, in its best and highest sense, is
sure to follow."
When Richard Lovell Edgeworth, towards the close of his life,
became very popular in his neighbourhood, he said one day to his
daughter: "Maria, I am growing dreadfully popular; I shall be good
for nothing soon; a man cannot be good for anything who is very
popular." Probably he had in his mind at the time the Gospel
curse of the popular man, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak
well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets."
Intellectual intrepidity is one of the vital conditions of
independence and self-reliance of character. A man must have the
courage to be himself, and not the shadow or the echo of another.
He must exercise his own powers, think his own thoughts, and speak
his own sentiments. He must elaborate his own opinions, and form
his own convictions. It has been said that he who dare not form
an opinion, must be a coward; he who will not, must be an idler;
he who cannot, must be a fool.
But it is precisely in this element of intrepidity that so many
persons of promise fall short, and disappoint the expectations of
their friends. They march up to the scene of action, but at every
step their courage oozes out. They want the requisite decision,
courage, and perseverance. They calculate the risks, and weigh
the chances, until the opportunity for effective effort has
passed, it may be never to return.
Men are bound to speak the truth in the love of it. "I had rather
suffer," said John Pym, the Commonwealth man, "for speaking the
truth, than that the truth should suffer for want of my speaking."
When a man's convictions are honestly formed, after fair and full
consideration, he is justified in striving by all fair means to
bring them into action. There are certain states of society and
conditions of affairs in which a man is bound to speak out, and be
antagonistic--when conformity is not only a weakness, but a sin.
Great evils are in some cases only to be met by resistance; they
cannot be wept down, but must be battled down.
The honest man is naturally antagonistic to fraud, the truthful
man to lying, the justice-loving man to oppression, the pureminded
man to vice and iniquity. They have to do battle with these
conditions, and if possible overcome them. Such men have in all
ages represented the moral force of the world. Inspired by
benevolence and sustained by courage, they have been the mainstays
of all social renovation and progress. But for their continuous
antagonism to evil conditions, the world were for the most part
given over to the dominion of selfishness and vice. All the great
reformers and martyrs were antagonistic men--enemies to falsehood
and evildoing. The Apostles themselves were an organised band of
social antagonists, who contended with pride, selfishness,
superstition, and irreligion. And in our own time the lives of
such men as Clarkson and Granville Sharpe, Father Mathew and
Richard Cobden, inspired by singleness of purpose, have shown what
highminded social antagonism can effect.
It is the strong and courageous men who lead and guide and rule
the world. The weak and timid leave no trace behind them; whilst
the life of a single upright and energetic man is like a track of
light. His example is remembered and appealed to; and his
thoughts, his spirit, and his courage continue to be the
inspiration of succeeding generations.
It is energy--the central element of which is will--that
produces the miracles of enthusiasm in all ages. Everywhere it is
the mainspring of what is called force of character, and the
sustaining power of all great action. In a righteous cause the
determined man stands upon his courage as upon a granite block;
and, like David, he will go forth to meet Goliath, strong in heart
though an host be encamped against him.
Men often conquer difficulties because they feel they can. Their
confidence in themselves inspires the confidence of others. When
Caesar was at sea, and a storm began to rage, the captain of the
ship which carried him became unmanned by fear. "What art thou
afraid of?" cried the great captain; "thy vessel carries Caesar!"
The courage of the brave man is contagious, and carries others
along with it. His stronger nature awes weaker natures into
silence, or inspires them with his own will and purpose.
The persistent man will not be baffled or repulsed by opposition.
Diogenes, desirous of becoming the disciple of Antisthenes, went
and offered himself to the cynic. He was refused. Diogenes still
persisting, the cynic raised his knotty staff, and threatened to
strike him if he did not depart. "Strike!" said Diogenes; "you
will not find a stick hard enough to conquer my perseverance."
Antisthenes, overcome, had not another word to say, but forthwith
accepted him as his pupil.
Energy of temperament, with a moderate degree of wisdom, will
carry a man further than any amount of intellect without it.
Energy makes the man of practical ability. It gives him VIS,
force, MOMENTUM. It is the active motive power of character;
and if combined with sagacity and self-possession, will
enable a man to employ his powers to the best advantage
in all the affairs of life.
Hence it is that, inspired by energy of purpose, men of
comparatively mediocre powers have often been enabled to
accomplish such extraordinary results. For the men who have most
powerfully influenced the world have not been so much men of
genius as men of strong convictions and enduring capacity for
work, impelled by irresistible energy and invincible
determination: such men, for example, as were Mahomet, Luther,
Knox, Calvin, Loyola, and Wesley.
Courage, combined with energy and perseverance, will overcome
difficulties apparently insurmountable. It gives force and
impulse to effort, and does not permit it to retreat. Tyndall
said of Faraday, that "in his warm moments he formed a resolution,
and in his cool ones he made that resolution good." Perseverance,
working in the right direction, grows with time, and when steadily
practised, even by the most humble, will rarely fail of its
reward. Trusting in the help of others is of comparatively little
use. When one of Michael Angelo's principal patrons died, he
said: "I begin to understand that the promises of the world are
for the most part vain phantoms, and that to confide in one's
self, and become something of worth and value, is the best
and safest course."
Courage is by no means incompatible with tenderness. On the
contrary, gentleness and tenderness have been found to
characterise the men, not less than the women, who have done the
most courageous deeds. Sir Charles Napier gave up sporting,
because he could not bear to hurt dumb creatures. The same
gentleness and tenderness characterised his brother, Sir William,
the historian of the Peninsular War. (10) Such also was the
character of Sir James Outram, pronounced by Sir Charles Napier to
be "the Bayard of India, SANS PEUR ET SANS REPROCHE"--one of the
bravest and yet gentlest of men; respectful and reverent to women,
tender to children, helpful of the weak, stern to the corrupt, but
kindly as summer to the honest and deserving. Moreover, he was
himself as honest as day, and as pure as virtue. Of him it might
be said with truth, what Fulke Greville said of Sidney: "He was a
true model of worth--a man fit for conquest, reformation,
plantation, or what action soever is the greatest and hardest
among men; his chief ends withal being above all things the good
of his fellows, and the service of his sovereign and country."
When Edward the Black Prince won the Battle of Poictiers, in which
he took prisoner the French king and his son, he entertained them
in the evening at a banquet, when he insisted on waiting upon and
serving them at table. The gallant prince's knightly courtesy and
demeanour won the hearts of his captives as completely as his
valour had won their persons; for, notwithstanding his youth,
Edward was a true knight, the first and bravest of his time--a
noble pattern and example of chivalry; his two mottoes, 'Hochmuth'
and 'Ich dien' (high spirit and reverent service) not inaptly
expressing his prominent and pervading qualities.
It is the courageous man who can best afford to be generous; or
rather, it is his nature to be so. When Fairfax, at the Battle of
Naseby, seized the colours from an ensign whom he had struck down
in the fight, he handed them to a common soldier to take care of.
The soldier, unable to resist the temptation, boasted to his
comrades that he had himself seized the colours, and the boast was
repeated to Fairfax. "Let him retain the honour," said the
commander; "I have enough beside."
So when Douglas, at the Battle of Bannockburn, saw Randolph, his
rival, outnumbered and apparently overpowered by the enemy, he
prepared to hasten to his assistance; but, seeing that Randolph
was already driving them back, he cried out, "Hold and halt! We
are come too late to aid them; let us not lessen the victory they
have won by affecting to claim a share in it."
Quite as chivalrous, though in a very different field of action,
was the conduct of Laplace to the young philosopher Biot, when the
latter had read to the French Academy his paper, "SUR LES
EQUATIONS AUX DIFFERENCE MELEES." The assembled SAVANS, at its
close, felicitated the reader of the paper on his originality.
Monge was delighted at his success. Laplace also praised him for
the clearness of his demonstrations, and invited Biot to accompany
him home. Arrived there, Laplace took from a closet in his study
a paper, yellow with age, and handed it to the young philosopher.
To Biot's surprise, he found that it contained the solutions, all
worked out, for which he had just gained so much applause. With
rare magnanimity, Laplace withheld all knowledge of the
circumstance from Biot until the latter had initiated his
reputation before the Academy; moreover, he enjoined him to
silence; and the incident would have remained a secret had not
Biot himself published it, some fifty years afterwards.
An incident is related of a French artisan, exhibiting the same
characteristic of self-sacrifice in another form. In front of a
lofty house in course of erection at Paris was the usual scaffold,
loaded with men and materials. The scaffold, being too weak,
suddenly broke down, and the men upon it were precipitated to the
ground--all except two, a young man and a middle-aged one, who
hung on to a narrow ledge, which trembled under their weight, and
was evidently on the point of giving way. "Pierre," cried the
elder of the two, "let go; I am the father of a family." "C'EST
JUSTE!" said Pierre; and, instantly letting go his hold, he fell
and was killed on the spot. The father of the family was saved.
The brave man is magnanimous as well as gentle. He does not take
even an enemy at a disadvantage, nor strike a man when he is down
and unable to defend himself. Even in the midst of deadly strife
such instances of generosity have not been uncommon. Thus, at the
Battle of Dettingen, during the heat of the action, a squadron of
French cavalry charged an English regiment; but when the young
French officer who led them, and was about to attack the English
leader, observed that he had only one arm, with which he held his
bridle, the Frenchman saluted him courteously with his sword,
and passed on. (11)
It is related of Charles V., that after the siege and capture of
Wittenburg by the Imperialist army, the monarch went to see the
tomb of Luther. While reading the inscription on it, one of the
servile courtiers who accompanied him proposed to open the grave,
and give the ashes of the "heretic" to the winds. The monarch's
cheek flushed with honest indignation: "I war not with the dead,"
said he; "let this place be respected."
The portrait which the great heathen, Aristotle, drew of the
Magnanimous Man, in other words the True Gentleman, more than two
thousand years ago, is as faithful now as it was then. "The
magnanimous man," he said, "will behave with moderation under both
good fortune and bad. He will know how to be exalted and how to
be abased. He will neither be delighted with success nor grieved
by failure. He will neither shun danger nor seek it, for there
are few things which he cares for. He is reticent, and somewhat
slow of speech, but speaks his mind openly and boldly when
occasion calls for it. He is apt to admire, for nothing is great
to him. He overlooks injuries. He is not given to talk about
himself or about others; for he does not care that he himself
should be praised, or that other people should be blamed. He does
not cry out about trifles, and craves help from none."
On the other hand, mean men admire meanly. They have neither
modesty, generosity, nor magnanimity. They are ready to take
advantage of the weakness or defencelessness of others, especially
where they have themselves succeeded, by unscrupulous methods, in
climbing to positions of authority. Snobs in high places are
always much less tolerable than snobs of low degree, because they
have more frequent opportunities of making their want of manliness
felt. They assume greater airs, and are pretentious in all that
they do; and the higher their elevation, the more conspicuous is
the incongruity of their position. "The higher the monkey
climbs," says the proverb, "the more he shows his tail."
Much depends on the way in which a thing is done. An act which
might be taken as a kindness if done in a generous spirit, when
done in a grudging spirit, may be felt as stingy, if not harsh and
even cruel. When Ben Jonson lay sick and in poverty, the king
sent him a paltry message, accompanied by a gratuity. The sturdy
plainspoken poet's reply was: "I suppose he sends me this because
I live in an alley; tell him his soul lives in an alley."
From what we have said, it will be obvious that to be of an
enduring and courageous spirit, is of great importance in the
formation of character. It is a source not only of usefulness in
life, but of happiness. On the other hand, to be of a timid and,
still more, of a cowardly nature is one of the greatest
misfortunes. A. wise man was accustomed to say that one of the
principal objects he aimed at in the education of his sons and
daughters was to train them in the habit of fearing nothing so
much as fear. And the habit of avoiding fear is, doubtless,
capable of being trained like any other habit, such as the habit
of attention, of diligence, of study, or of cheerfulness.
Much of the fear that exists is the offspring of imagination,
which creates the images of evils which MAY happen, but perhaps
rarely do; and thus many persons who are capable of summoning up
courage to grapple with and overcome real dangers, are paralysed
or thrown into consternation by those which are imaginary. Hence,
unless the imagination be held under strict discipline, we are
prone to meet evils more than halfway--to suffer them by
forestalment, and to assume the burdens which we ourselves create.
Education in courage is not usually included amongst the branches
of female training, and yet it is really of greater importance
than either music, French, or the use of the globes. Contrary to
the view of Sir Richard Steele, that women should be characterised
by a "tender fear," and "an inferiority which makes her lovely,"
we would have women educated in resolution and courage, as a means
of rendering them more helpful, more self-reliant, and vastly more
useful and happy.
There is, indeed, nothing attractive in timidity, nothing loveable
in fear. All weakness, whether of mind or body, is equivalent to
deformity, and the reverse of interesting. Courage is graceful
and dignified, whilst fear, in any form, is mean and repulsive.
Yet the utmost tenderness and gentleness are consistent with
courage. Ary Scheffer, the artist, once wrote to his daughter:-
"Dear daughter, strive to be of good courage, to be gentle-
hearted; these are the true qualities for woman. 'Troubles'
everybody must expect. There is but one way of looking at fate--
whatever that be, whether blessings or afflictions--to behave
with dignity under both. We must not lose heart, or it will be
the worse both for ourselves and for those whom we love.
To struggle, and again and again to renew the conflict
--THIS is life's inheritance." (12)
In sickness and sorrow, none are braver and less complaining
sufferers than women. Their courage, where their hearts are
concerned, is indeed proverbial:
"Oh! femmes c'est a tort qu'on vous nommes timides,
A la voix de vos coeurs vous etes intrepides."
Experience has proved that women can be as enduring as men, under
the heaviest trials and calamities; but too little pains are taken
to teach them to endure petty terrors and frivolous vexations with
fortitude. Such little miseries, if petted and indulged, quickly
run into sickly sensibility, and become the bane of their life,
keeping themselves and those about them in a state of chronic
The best corrective of this condition of mind is wholesome moral
and mental discipline. Mental strength is as necessary for the
development of woman's character as of man's. It gives her
capacity to deal with the affairs of life, and presence of mind,
which enable her to act with vigour and effect in moments of
emergency. Character, in a woman, as in a man, will always be
found the best safeguard of virtue, the best nurse of religion,
the best corrective of Time. Personal beauty soon passes; but
beauty of mind and character increases in attractiveness
the older it grows.
Ben Jonson gives a striking portraiture of a noble woman in
"I meant she should be courteous, facile, sweet,
Free from that solemn vice of greatness, pride;
I meant each softed virtue there should meet,
Fit in that softer bosom to abide.
Only a learned and a manly soul,
I purposed her, that should with even powers,
The rock, the spindle, and the shears control
Of destiny, and spin her own free hours.'
The courage of woman is not the less true because it is for the
most part passive. It is not encouraged by the cheers of the
world, for it is mostly exhibited in the recesses of private life.
Yet there are cases of heroic patience and endurance on the part
of women which occasionally come to the light of day. One of the
most celebrated instances in history is that of Gertrude Von der
Wart. Her husband, falsely accused of being an accomplice in the
murder of the Emperor Albert, was condemned to the most frightful
of all punishments--to be broken alive on the wheel. With most
profound conviction of her husband's innocence the faithful woman
stood by his side to the last, watching over him during two
days and nights, braving the empress's anger and the inclemency
of the weather, in the hope of contributing to soothe his
dying agonies. (13)
But women have not only distinguished themselves for their passive
courage: impelled by affection, or the sense of duty, they have
occasionally become heroic. When the band of conspirators, who
sought the life of James II. of Scotland, burst into his lodgings
at Perth, the king called to the ladies, who were in the chamber
outside his room, to keep the door as well as they could, and give
him time to escape. The conspirators had previously destroyed the
locks of the doors, so that the keys could not be turned; and when
they reached the ladies' apartment, it was found that the bar also
had been removed. But, on hearing them approach, the brave
Catherine Douglas, with the hereditary courage of her family,
boldly thrust her arm across the door instead of the bar; and held
it there until, her arm being broken, the conspirators burst into
the room with drawn swords and daggers, overthrowing the ladies,
who, though unarmed, still endeavoured to resist them.
The defence of Lathom House by Charlotte de la Tremouille, the
worthy descendant of William of Nassau and Admiral Coligny, was
another striking instance of heroic bravery on the part of a noble
woman. When summoned by the Parliamentary forces to surrender,
she declared that she had been entrusted by her husband with the
defence of the house, and that she could not give it up without
her dear lord's orders, but trusted in God for protection and
deliverance. In her arrangements for the defence, she is
described as having "left nothing with her eye to be excused
afterwards by fortune or negligence, and added to her former
patience a most resolved fortitude." The brave lady held her
house and home good against the enemy for a whole year--during
three months of which the place was strictly besieged and
bombarded--until at length the siege was raised, after a most
gallant defence, by the advance of the Royalist army.
Nor can we forget the courage of Lady Franklin, who persevered to
the last, when the hopes of all others had died out, in
prosecuting the search after the Franklin Expedition. On the
occasion of the Royal Geographical Society determining to award
the Founder's Medal to Lady Franklin, Sir Roderick Murchison
observed, that in the course of a long friendship with her, he had
abundant opportunities of observing and testing the sterling
qualities of a woman who had proved herself worthy of the
admiration of mankind. "Nothing daunted by failure after failure,
through twelve long years of hope deferred, she had persevered,
with a singleness of purpose and a sincere devotion which were
truly unparalleled. And now that her one last expedition of the
FOX, under the gallant M'Clintock, had realised the two great
facts--that her husband had traversed wide seas unknown to former
navigators, and died in discovering a north-west passage--then,
surely, the adjudication of the medal would be hailed by the
nation as one of the many recompences to which the widow of the
illustrious Franklin was so eminently entitled."
But that devotion to duty which marks the heroic character has
more often been exhibited by women in deeds of charity and mercy.
The greater part of these are never known, for they are done in
private, out of the public sight, and for the mere love of doing
good. Where fame has come to them, because of the success which
has attended their labours in a more general sphere, it has come
unsought and unexpected, and is often felt as a burden. Who has
not heard of Mrs. Fry and Miss Carpenter as prison visitors and
reformers; of Mrs. Chisholm and Miss Rye as promoters of
emigration; and of Miss Nightingale and Miss Garrett as apostles
of hospital nursing?
That these women should have emerged from the sphere of private
and domestic life to become leaders in philanthropy, indicates no
small, degree of moral courage on their part; for to women, above
all others, quiet and ease and retirement are most natural and
welcome. Very few women step beyond the boundaries of home in
search of a larger field of usefulness. But when they have
desired one, they have had no difficulty in finding it. The ways
in which men and women can help their neighbours are innumerable.
It needs but the willing heart and ready hand. Most of the
philanthropic workers we have named, however, have scarcely been
influenced by choice. The duty lay in their way--it seemed
to be the nearest to them--and they set about doing it
without desire for fame, or any other reward but the approval
of their own conscience.
Among prison-visitors, the name of Sarah Martin is much less known
than that of Mrs. Fry, although she preceded her in the work. How
she was led to undertake it, furnishes at the same time
an illustration of womanly trueheartedness and earnest
Sarah Martin was the daughter of poor parents, and was left an
orphan at an early age. She was brought up by her grandmother, at
Caistor, near Yarmouth, and earned her living by going out to
families as assistant-dressmaker, at a shilling a day. In 1819, a
woman was tried and sentenced to imprisonment in Yarmouth Gaol,
for cruelly beating and illusing her child, and her crime became
the talk of the town. The young dressmaker was much impressed by
the report of the trial, and the desire entered her mind of
visiting the woman in gaol, and trying to reclaim her. She had
often before, on passing the walls of the borough gaol, felt
impelled to seek admission, with the object of visiting the
inmates, reading the Scriptures to them, and endeavouring to lead
them back to the society whose laws they had violated.
At length she could not resist her impulse to visit the mother.
She entered the gaol-porch, lifted the knocker, and asked the
gaoler for admission. For some reason or other she was refused;
but she returned, repeated her request, and this time she was
admitted. The culprit mother shortly stood before her. When
Sarah Martin told the motive of her visit, the criminal burst into
tears, and thanked her. Those tears and thanks shaped the whole
course of Sarah Martin's after-life; and the poor seamstress,
while maintaining herself by her needle, continued to spend her
leisure hours in visiting the prisoners, and endeavouring to
alleviate their condition. She constituted herself their chaplain
and schoolmistress, for at that time they had neither; she read to
them from the Scriptures, and taught them to read and write. She
gave up an entire day in the week for this purpose, besides
Sundays, as well as other intervals of spare time, "feeling," she
says, "that the blessing of God was upon her." She taught the
women to knit, to sew, and to cut out; the sale of the articles
enabling her to buy other materials, and to continue the
industrial education thus begun. She also taught the men to
make straw hats, men's and boys' caps, gray cotton shirts,
and even patchwork--anything to keep them out of idleness,
and from preying on their own thoughts. Out of the earnings
of the prisoners in this way, she formed a fund, which she
applied to furnishing them with work on their discharge;
thus enabling them again to begin the world honestly,
and at the same time affording her, as she herself says,
"the advantage of observing their conduct."
By attending too exclusively to this prison-work, however, Sarah
Martin's dressmaking business fell off; and the question arose
with her, whether in order to recover her business she was to
suspend her prison-work. But her decision had already been made.
"I had counted the cost," she said, "and my mind, was made up.
If, whilst imparting truth to others, I became exposed to temporal
want, the privations so momentary to an individual would not admit
of comparison with following the Lord, in thus administering to
others." She now devoted six or seven hours every day to the
prisoners, converting what would otherwise have been a scene of
dissolute idleness into a hive of orderly industry. Newly-
admitted prisoners were sometimes refractory, but her persistent
gentleness eventually won their respect and co-operation. Men old
in years and crime, pert London pickpockets, depraved boys and
dissolute sailors, profligate women, smugglers, poachers, and the
promiscuous horde of criminals which usually fill the gaol of a
seaport and county town, all submitted to the benign influence of
this good woman; and under her eyes they might be seen, for the
first time in their lives, striving to hold a pen, or to master
the characters in a penny primer. She entered into their
confidences--watched, wept, prayed, and felt for all by turns.
She strengthened their good resolutions, cheered the hopeless and
despairing, and endeavoured to put all, and hold all, in the right
road of amendment.
For more than twenty years this good and truehearted woman pursued
her noble course, with little encouragement, and not much help;
almost her only means of subsistence consisting in an annual
income of ten or twelve pounds left by her grandmother, eked out
by her little earnings at dressmaking. During the last two years
of her ministrations, the borough magistrates of Yarmouth, knowing
that her self-imposed labours saved them the expense of a
schoolmaster and chaplain (which they had become bound by law to
appoint), made a proposal to her of an annual salary of œ12 a
year; but they did it in so indelicate a manner as greatly to
wound her sensitive feelings. She shrank from becoming the
salaried official of the corporation, and bartering for money
those serviced which had throughout been labours of love. But the
Gaol Committee coarsely informed her, "that if they permitted her
to visit the prison she must submit to their terms, or be
excluded." For two years, therefore, she received the salary of
œ12 a year--the acknowledgment of the Yarmouth corporation for
her services as gaol chaplain and schoolmistress! She was now,
however, becoming old and infirm, and the unhealthy atmosphere of
the gaol did much towards finally disabling her. While she lay on
her deathbed, she resumed the exercise of a talent she had
occasionally practised before in her moments of leisure--the
composition of sacred poetry. As works of art, they may not
excite admiration; yet never were verses written truer in spirit,
or fuller of Christian love. But her own life was a nobler
poem than any she ever wrote--full of true courage, perseverance,
charity, and wisdom. It was indeed a commentary upon
her own words:
"The high desire that others may be blest
Savours of heaven."
(1) James Russell Lowell.
(2) Yet Bacon himself had written, "I would rather believe all the
faiths in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that
this universal frame is without a mind."
(3) Aubrey, in his 'Natural History of Wiltshire,' alluding to Harvey,
says: "He told me himself that upon publishing that book he fell
in his practice extremely."
(4) Sir Thomas More's first wife, Jane Colt, was originally a young
country girl, whom he himself instructed in letters, and moulded
to his own tastes and manners. She died young, leaving a son and
three daughters, of whom the noble Margaret Roper most resembled
More himself. His second wife was Alice Middleton, a widow, some
seven years older than More, not beautiful--for he characterized
her as "NEC BELLA, NEC PUELLA"--but a shrewd worldly woman, not
by any means disposed to sacrifice comfort and good cheer for
considerations such as those which so powerfully influenced the
mind of her husband.
(5)Before being beheaded, Eliot said, "Death is but a little word;
but ''tis a great work to die.'" In his 'Prison Thoughts' before
his execution, he wrote: "He that fears not to die, fears
nothing.... There is a time to live, and a time to die. A good
death is far better and more eligible than an ill life. A wise
man lives but so long as his life is worth more than his death.
The longer life is not always the better."
(6) Mr. J. S. Mill, in his book 'On Liberty,' describes "the masses,"
as "collective mediocrity." "The initiation of all wise or noble
things," he says, "comes, and must come, from individuals--
generally at first from some one individual. The honour and glory
of the average man is that he is capable of following that
imitation; that he can respond internally to wise and noble
things, and be led to them with his eyes open.... In this age,
the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the
knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the
tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it
is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people
should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and
where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of
eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the
amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it
contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief
danger of the time."--Pp. 120-1.
(7) Mr. Arthur Helps, in one of his thoughtful books, published in
1845, made some observations on this point, which are not less
applicable now. He there said: "it is a grievous thing to see
literature made a vehicle for encouraging the enmity of class to
class. Yet this, unhappily, is not unfrequent now. Some great
man summed up the nature of French novels by calling them the
Literature of Despair; the kind of writing that I deprecate may be
called the Literature of Envy.... Such writers like to throw
their influence, as they might say, into the weaker scale. But
that is not the proper way of looking at the matter. I think, if
they saw the ungenerous nature of their proceedings, that alone
would stop them. They should recollect that literature may fawn
upon the masses as well as the aristocracy; and in these days the
temptation is in the former direction. But what is most grievous
in this kind of writing is the mischief it may do to the working-
people themselves. If you have their true welfare at heart, you
will not only care for their being fed and clothed, but you will
be anxious not to encourage unreasonable expectations in them--
not to make them ungrateful or greedy-minded. Above all, you will
be solicitous to preserve some self-reliance in them. You will be
careful not to let them think that their condition can be wholly
changed without exertion of their own. You would not desire to
have it so changed. Once elevate your ideal of what you wish to
happen amongst the labouring population, and you will not easily
admit anything in your writings that may injure their moral or
their mental character, even if you thought it might hasten some
physical benefit for them. That is the way to make your genius
most serviceable to mankind. Depend upon it, honest and bold
things require to be said to the lower as well as the higher
classes; and the former are in these times much less likely to
have, such things addressed to them."-Claims of Labour, pp. 253-4.
(8) 'Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson' (Bohn's Ed.), p. 32.
(9) At a public meeting held at Worcester, in 1867, in recognition of
Sir J. Pakington's services as Chairman of Quarter Sessions for a
period of twenty-four years, the following remarks, made by Sir
John on the occasion, are just and valuable as they are modest:-
"I am indebted for whatever measure of success I have attained in
my public life, to a combination of moderate abilities, with
honesty of intention, firmness of purpose, and steadiness of
conduct. If I were to offer advice to any young man anxious to
make himself useful in public life, I would sum up the results of
my experience in three short rules--rules so simple that any man
may understand them, and so easy that any man may act upon them.
My first rule would be--leave it to others to judge of what
duties you are capable, and for what position you are fitted; but
never refuse to give your services in whatever capacity it may be
the opinion of others who are competent to judge that you may
benefit your neighbours or your country. My second rule is--when
you agree to undertake public duties, concentrate every energy and
faculty in your possession with the determination to discharge
those duties to the best of your ability. Lastly, I would counsel
you that, in deciding on the line which you will take in public
affairs, you should be guided in your decision by that which,
after mature deliberation, you believe to be right, and not by
that which, in the passing hour, may happen to be fashionable
(10) The following illustration of one of his minute acts of kindness
is given in his biography:- "He was one day taking a long country
walk near Freshford, when he met a little girl, about five years
old, sobbing over a broken bowl; she had dropped and broken it in
bringing it back from the field to which she had taken her
father's dinner in it, and she said she would be beaten on her
return home for having broken it; when, with a sudden gleam of
hope, she innocently looked up into his face, and said, 'But yee
can mend it, can't ee?'
"My father explained that he could not mend the bowl, but the
trouble he could, by the gift of a sixpence to buy another.
However, on opening his purse it was empty of silver, and he had
to make amends by promising to meet his little friend in the same
spot at the same hour next day, and to bring the sixpence with
him, bidding her, meanwhile, tell her mother she had seen a
gentleman who would bring her the money for the bowl next day.
The child, entirely trusting him, went on her way comforted. On
his return home he found an invitation awaiting him to dine in
Bath the following evening, to meet some one whom he specially
wished to see. He hesitated for some little time, trying to
calculate the possibility of giving the meeting to his little
friend of the broken bowl and of still being in time for the
dinner-party in Bath; but finding this could not be, he wrote to
decline accepting the invitation on the plea of 'a pre-
engagement,' saying to us, 'I cannot disappoint her, she trusted
me so implicitly.'"
(11) Miss Florence Nightingale has related the following incident as
having occurred before Sebastopol:- "I remember a sergeant who, on
picket, the rest of the picket killed and himself battered about
the head, stumbled back to camp, and on his way picked up a
wounded man and brought him in on his shoulders to the lines,
where he fell down insensible. When, after many hours, he
recovered his senses, I believe after trepanning, his first words
were to ask after his comrade, 'Is he alive?' 'Comrade, indeed;
yes, he's alive--it is the general.' At that moment the general,
though badly wounded, appeared at the bedside. 'Oh, general, it's
you, is it, I brought in? I'm so glad; I didn't know your honour.
But, ---, if I'd known it was you, I'd have saved you all the
same.' This is the true soldier's spirit."
In the same letter, Miss Nightingale says: "England, from her
grand mercantile and commercial successes, has been called sordid;
God knows she is not. The simple courage, the enduring patience,
the good sense, the strength to suffer in silence--what nation
shows more of this in war than is shown by her commonest soldier?
I have seen men dying of dysentery, but scorning to report
themselves sick lest they should thereby throw more labour on
their comrades, go down to the trenches and make the trenches
their deathbed. There is nothing in history to compare with it....
Say what men will, there is something more truly Christian in the
man who gives his time, his strength, his life, if need be, for
something not himself--whether he call it his Queen, his country,
or his colours--than in all the asceticism, the fasts, the
humiliations, and confessions which have ever been made: and this
spirit of giving one's life, without calling it a sacrifice, is
found nowhere so truly as in England."
(12) Mrs. Grote's 'Life of Ary Scheffer,' pp. 154-5.
(13) The sufferings of this noble woman, together with those of her
unfortunate husband, were touchingly described in a letter
afterwards addressed by her to a female friend, which was
published some years ago at Haarlem, entitled, 'Gertrude von der
Wart; or, Fidelity unto Death.' Mrs. Hemans wrote a poem of great
pathos and beauty, commemorating the sad story in her 'Records of
"Honour and profit do not always lie in the same sack."--GEORGE
"The government of one's self is the only true freedom for the
"It is in length of patience, and endurance, and forbearance, that
so much of what is good in mankind and womankind is shown."--
Against all trials; industry severe
And constant as the motion of the day;
Stern self-denial round him spread, with shade
That might be deemed forbidding, did not there
All generous feelings flourish and rejoice;
Forbearance, charity indeed and thought,
And resolution competent to take
Out of the bosom of simplicity
All that her holy customs recommend."--WORDSWORTH.
Self-control is only courage under another form. It may almost be
regarded as the primary essence of character. It is in virtue of
this quality that Shakspeare defines man as a being "looking
before and after." It forms the chief distinction between man
and the mere animal; and, indeed, there can be no true manhood
Self-control is at the root of all the virtues. Let a man give
the reins to his impulses and passions, and from that moment he
yields up his moral freedom. He is carried along the current
of life, and becomes the slave of his strongest desire for
the time being.
To be morally free--to be more than an animal--man must be able
to resist instinctive impulse, and this can only be done by the
exercise of self-control. Thus it is this power which constitutes
the real distinction between a physical and a moral life, and that
forms the primary basis of individual character.
In the Bible praise is given, not to the strong man who "taketh a
city," but to the stronger man who "ruleth his own spirit." This
stronger man is he who, by discipline, exercises a constant
control over his thoughts, his speech, and his acts. Nine-tenths
of the vicious desires that degrade society, and which, when
indulged, swell into the crimes that disgrace it, would shrink
into insignificance before the advance of valiant self-discipline,
self-respect, and self-control. By the watchful exercise of these
virtues, purity of heart and mind become habitual, and the
character is built up in chastity, virtue, and temperance.
The best support of character will always be found in habit,
which, according as the will is directed rightly or wrongly, as
the case may be, will prove either a benignant ruler or a cruel
despot. We may be its willing subject on the one hand, or its
servile slave on the other. It may help us on the road to good,
or it may hurry us on the road to ruin.
Habit is formed by careful training. And it is astonishing how
much can be accomplished by systematic discipline and drill. See
how, for instance, out of the most unpromising materials--such as
roughs picked up in the streets, or raw unkempt country lads taken
from the plough--steady discipline and drill will bring out the
unsuspected qualities of courage, endurance, and self-sacrifice;
and how, in the field of battle, or even on the more trying
occasions of perils by sea--such as the burning of the SARAH
SANDS or the wreck of the BIRKENHEAD--such men, carefully
disciplined, will exhibit the unmistakable characteristics of true
bravery and heroism!
Nor is moral discipline and drill less influential in the
formation of character. Without it, there will be no proper
system and order in the regulation of the life. Upon it depends
the cultivation of the sense of self-respect, the education of the
habit of obedience, the development of the idea of duty. The most
self-reliant, self-governing man is always under discipline: and
the more perfect the discipline, the higher will be his moral
condition. He has to drill his desires, and keep them in
subjection to the higher powers of his nature. They must obey the
word of command of the internal monitor, the conscience--
otherwise they will be but the mere slaves of their inclinations,
the sport of feeling and impulse.
"In the supremacy of self-control," says Herbert Spencer,
"consists one of the perfections of the ideal man. Not to be
impulsive--not to be spurred hither and thither by each desire
that in turn comes uppermost--but to be self-restrained, self-
balanced, governed by the joint decision of the feelings in
council assembled, before whom every action shall have been fully
debated and calmly determined--that it is which education, moral
education at least, strives to produce." (1)
The first seminary of moral discipline, and the best, as we have
already shown, is the home; next comes the school, and after that
the world, the great school of practical life. Each is
preparatory to the other, and what the man or woman becomes,
depends for the most part upon what has gone before. If they have
enjoyed the advantage of neither the home nor the school, but
have been allowed to grow up untrained, untaught, and
undisciplined, then woe to themselves--woe to the society
of which they form part!
The best-regulated home is always that in which the discipline is
the most perfect, and yet where it is the least felt. Moral
discipline acts with the force of a law of nature. Those subject
to it yield themselves to it unconsciously; and though it shapes
and forms the whole character, until the life becomes crystallized
in habit, the influence thus exercised is for the most part unseen
and almost unfelt.
The importance of strict domestic discipline is curiously
illustrated by a fact mentioned in Mrs. Schimmelpenninck's
Memoirs, to the following effect: that a lady who, with her
husband, had inspected most of the lunatic asylums of England and
the Continent, found the most numerous class of patients was
almost always composed of those who had been only children, and
whose wills had therefore rarely been thwarted or disciplined in
early life; whilst those who were members of large families, and
who had been trained in self-discipline, were far less frequent
victims to the malady.
Although the moral character depends in a great degree on
temperament and on physical health, as well as on domestic and
early training and the example of companions, it is also in the
power of each individual to regulate, to restrain, and to
discipline it by watchful and persevering self-control. A
competent teacher has said of the propensities and habits, that
they are as teachable as Latin and Greek, while they are much more
essential to happiness.
Dr. Johnson, though himself constitutionally prone to melancholy,
and afflicted by it as few have been from his earliest years, said
that "a man's being in a good or bad humour very much depends upon
his will." We may train ourselves in a habit of patience and
contentment on the one hand, or of grumbling and discontent on the
other. We may accustom ourselves to exaggerate small evils, and
to underestimate great blessings. We may even become the victim
of petty miseries by giving way to them. Thus, we may educate
ourselves in a happy disposition, as well as in a morbid one.
Indeed, the habit of viewing things cheerfully, and of thinking
about life hopefully, may be made to grow up in us like any other
habit. (2) It was not an exaggerated estimate of Dr. Johnson to
say, that the habit of looking at the best side of any event is
worth far more than a thousand pounds a year.
Th religious man's life is pervaded by rigid self-discipline and
self-restraint. He is to be sober and vigilant, to eschew evil
and do good, to walk in the spirit, to be obedient unto death, to
withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand; to
wrestle against spiritual wickedness, and against the rulers of
the darkness of this world; to be rooted and built up in faith,
and not to be weary of well-doing; for in due season he shall
reap, if he faint not.
The man of business also must needs be subject to strict rule and
system. Business, like life, is managed by moral leverage;
success in both depending in no small degree upon that regulation
of temper and careful self-discipline, which give a wise man not
only a command over himself, but over others. Forbearance and
self-control smooth the road of life, and open many ways which
would otherwise remain closed. And so does self-respect: for as
men respect themselves, so will they usually respect the
personality of others.
It is the same in politics as in business. Success in that sphere
of life is achieved less by talent than by temper, less by genius
than by character. If a man have not self-control, he will lack
patience, be wanting in tact, and have neither the power of
governing himself nor of managing others. When the quality most
needed in a Prime Minister was the subject of conversation in the
presence of Mr. Pitt, one of the speakers said it was "Eloquence;"
another said it was "Knowledge;" and a third said it was "Toil,"
"No," said Pitt, "it is Patience!" And patience means self-
control, a quality in which he himself was superb. His friend
George Rose has said of him that he never once saw Pitt out of
temper. (3) Yet, although patience is usually regarded as a
"slow" virtue, Pitt combined with it the most extraordinary
readiness, vigour, and rapidity of thought as well as action.
It is by patience and self-control that the truly heroic character
is perfected. These were among the most prominent characteristics
of the great Hampden, whose noble qualities were generously
acknowledged even by his political enemies. Thus Clarendon
described him as a man of rare temper and modesty, naturally
cheerful and vivacious, and above all, of a flowing courtesy. He
was kind and intrepid, yet gentle, of unblameable conversation,
and his heart glowed with love to all men. He was not a man of
many words, but, being of unimpeachable character, every word he
uttered carried weight. "No man had ever a greater power over
himself.... He was very temperate in diet, and a supreme governor
over all his passions and affections; and he had thereby great
power over other men's." Sir Philip Warwick, another of his
political opponents, incidentally describes his great influence in
a certain debate: "We had catched at each other's locks, and
sheathed our swords in each other's bowels, had not the sagacity
and great calmness of Mr. Hampden, by a short speech, prevented
it, and led us to defer our angry debate until the next morning."
A strong temper is not necessarily a bad temper. But the stronger
the temper, the greater is the need of self-discipline and self-
control. Dr. Johnson says men grow better as they grow older, and
improve with experience; but this depends upon the width, and
depth, and generousness of their nature. It is not men's faults
that ruin them so much as the manner in which they conduct
themselves after the faults have been committed. The wise will
profit by the suffering they cause, and eschew them for the
future; but there are those on whom experience exerts no ripening
influence, and who only grow narrower and bitterer and more
vicious with time.
What is called strong temper in a young man, often indicates a
large amount of unripe energy, which will expend itself in useful
work if the road be fairly opened to it. It is said of Stephen
Gerard, a Frenchman, who pursued a remarkably successful career in
the United States, that when he heard of a clerk with a strong
temper, he would readily take him into his employment, and set him
to work in a room by himself; Gerard being of opinion that such
persons were the best workers, and that their energy would expend
itself in work if removed from the temptation to quarrel.
Strong temper may only mean a strong and excitable will.
Uncontrolled, it displays itself in fitful outbreaks of passion;
but controlled and held in subjection--like steam pent-up within
the organised mechanism of a steam-engine, the use of which is
regulated and controlled by slide-valves and governors and levers
--it may become a source of energetic power and usefulness.
Hence, some of the greatest characters in history have been men of
strong temper, but of equally strong determination to hold their
motive power under strict regulation and control.
The famous Earl of Strafford was of an extremely choleric and
passionate nature, and had great struggles with himself in his
endeavours to control his temper. Referring to the advice of one
of his friends, old Secretary Cooke, who was honest enough to tell
him of his weakness, and to caution him against indulging it, he
wrote: "You gave me a good lesson to be patient; and, indeed, my
years and natural inclinations give me heat more than enough,
which, however, I trust more experience shall cool, and a watch
over myself in time altogether overcome; in the meantime, in this
at least it will set forth itself more pardonable, because my
earnestness shall ever be for the honour, justice, and profit of
my master; and it is not always anger, but the misapplying of it,
that is the vice so blameable, and of disadvantage to those that
let themselves loose there-unto." (4)
Cromwell, also, is described as having been of a wayward and
violent temper in his youth--cross, untractable, and masterless--
with a vast quantity of youthful energy, which exploded in a
variety of youthful mischiefs. He even obtained the reputation of
a roysterer in his native town, and seemed to be rapidly going to
the bad, when religion, in one of its most rigid forms, laid hold
upon his strong nature, and subjected it to the iron discipline of
Calvinism. An entirely new direction was thus given to his energy
of temperament, which forced an outlet for itself into public
life, and eventually became the dominating influence in England
for a period of nearly twenty years.
The heroic princes of the House of Nassau were all distinguished
for the same qualities of self-control, self-denial, and
determination of purpose. William the Silent was so called, not
because he was a taciturn man--for he was an eloquent and
powerful speaker where eloquence was necessary--but because he
was a man who could hold his tongue when it was wisdom not to
speak, and because he carefully kept his own counsel when to have
revealed it might have been dangerous to the liberties of his
country. He was so gentle and conciliatory in his manner that his
enemies even described him as timid and pusillanimous. Yet, when
the time for action came, his courage was heroic, his
determination unconquerable. "The rock in the ocean," says
Mr. Motley, the historian of the Netherlands, "tranquil amid
raging billows, was the favourite emblem by which his friends
expressed their sense of his firmness."
Mr. Motley compares William the Silent to Washington, whom he in
many respects resembled. The American, like the Dutch patriot,
stands out in history as the very impersonation of dignity,
bravery, purity, and personal excellence. His command over his
feelings, even in moments of great difficulty and danger, was such
as to convey the impression, to those who did not know him
intimately, that he was a man of inborn calmness and almost
impassiveness of disposition. Yet Washington was by nature ardent
and impetuous; his mildness, gentleness, politeness, and
consideration for others, were the result of rigid self-control
and unwearied self-discipline, which he diligently practised even
from his boyhood. His biographer says of him, that "his
temperament was ardent, his passions strong, and amidst the
multiplied scenes of temptation and excitement through which he
passed, it was his constant effort, and ultimate triumph, to check
the one and subdue the other." And again: "His passions were
strong, and sometimes they broke out with vehemence, but he had
the power of checking them in an instant. Perhaps self-control
was the most remarkable trait of his character. It was in part
the effect of discipline; yet he seems by nature to have possessed
this power in a degree which has been denied to other men. (*5)
The Duke of Wellington's natural temper, like that of Napoleon,
was irritable in the extreme; and it was only by watchful self-
control that he was enabled to restrain it. He studied calmness
and coolness in the midst of danger, like any Indian chief. At
Waterloo, and elsewhere, he gave his orders in the most critical
moments, without the slightest excitement, and in a tone of voice
almost more than usually subdued. (6)
Wordsworth the poet was, in his childhood, "of a stiff, moody, and
violent temper," and "perverse and obstinate in defying
chastisement." When experience of life had disciplined his
temper, he learnt to exercise greater self-control; but, at the
same time, the qualities which distinguished him as a child were
afterwards useful in enabling him to defy the criticism of his
enemies. Nothing was more marked than Wordsworth's self-respect
and self-determination, as well as his self-consciousness of
power, at all periods of his history.
Henry Martyn, the missionary, was another instance of a man in
whom strength of temper was only so much pent-up, unripe energy.
As a boy he was impatient, petulant, and perverse; but by constant
wrestling against his tendency to wrongheadedness, he gradually
gained the requisite strength, so as to entirely overcome it, and
to acquire what he so greatly coveted--the gift of patience.
A man may be feeble in organization, but, blessed with a happy
temperament, his soul may be great, active, noble, and sovereign.
Professor Tyndall has given us a fine picture of the character of
Faraday, and of his self-denying labours in the cause of science--
exhibiting him as a man of strong, original, and even fiery
nature, and yet of extreme tenderness and sensibility.
"Underneath his sweetness and gentleness," he says, "was the heat
of a volcano. He was a man of excitable and fiery nature; but,
through high self-discipline, he had converted the fire into a
central glow and motive power of life, instead of permitting it to
waste itself in useless passion."
There was one fine feature in Faraday's character which is worthy
of notice--one closely akin to self-control: it was his self-
denial. By devoting himself to analytical chemistry, he might
have speedily realised a large fortune; but he nobly resisted the
temptation, and preferred to follow the path of pure science.
"Taking the duration of his life into account," says Mr. Tyndall,
"this son of a blacksmith and apprentice to a bookbinder had to
decide between a fortune of œ150,000 on the one side, and his
undowered science on the other. He chose the latter, and
died a poor man. But his was the glory of holding aloft
among the nations the scientific name of England for a
period of forty years." (7)
Take a like instance of the self-denial of a Frenchman. The
historian Anquetil was one of the small number of literary men in
France who refused to bow to the Napoleonic yoke. He sank into
great poverty, living on bread-and-milk, and limiting his
expenditure to only three sous a day. "I have still two sous a
day left," said he, "for the conqueror of Marengo and Austerlitz."
"But if you fall sick," said a friend to him, "you will need the
help of a pension. Why not do as others do? Pay court to the
Emperor--you have need of him to live." "I do not need him to
die," was the historian's reply. But Anquetil did not die of
poverty; he lived to the age of ninety-four, saying to a friend,
on the eve of his death, "Come, see a man who dies still full of
Sir James Outram exhibited the same characteristic of noble self-
denial, though in an altogether different sphere of life. Like
the great King Arthur, he was emphatically a man who "forbore his
own advantage." He was characterised throughout his whole career
by his noble unselfishness. Though he might personally disapprove
of the policy he was occasionally ordered to carry out, he never
once faltered in the path of duty. Thus he did not approve of the
policy of invading Scinde; yet his services throughout the
campaign were acknowledged by General Sir C. Napier to have been
of the most brilliant character. But when the war was over, and
the rich spoils of Scinde lay at the conqueror's feet, Outram
said: "I disapprove of the policy of this war--I will accept no
share of the prize-money!"
Not less marked was his generous self-denial when despatched with
a strong force to aid Havelock in fighting his way to Lucknow. As
superior officer, he was entitled to take upon himself the chief
command; but, recognising what Havelock had already done, with
rare disinterestedness, he left to his junior officer the glory of
completing the campaign, offering to serve under him as a
volunteer. "With such reputation," said Lord Clyde, "as Major-
General Outram has won for himself, he can afford to share glory
and honour with others. But that does not lessen the value of the
sacrifice he has made with such disinterested generosity."
If a man would get through life honourably and peaceably, he must
necessarily learn to practise self-denial in small things as well
as great. Men have to bear as well as forbear. The temper has to
be held in subjection to the judgment; and the little demons of
ill-humour, petulance, and sarcasm, kept resolutely at a distance.
If once they find an entrance to the mind, they are very apt
to return, and to establish for themselves a permanent
It is necessary to one's personal happiness, to exercise control
over one's words as well as acts: for there are words that strike
even harder than blows; and men may "speak daggers," though they
use none. "UN COUP DE LANGUE," says the French proverb, "EST PIRE
QU'UN COUP DE LANCE." The stinging repartee that rises to the
lips, and which, if uttered, might cover an adversary with
confusion, how difficult it sometimes is to resist saying it!
"Heaven keep us," says Miss Bremer in her 'Home,' "from the
destroying power of words! There are words which sever hearts
more than sharp swords do; there are words the point of which
sting the heart through the course of a whole life."
Thus character exhibits itself in self-control of speech as much
as in anything else. The wise and forbearant man will restrain
his desire to say a smart or severe thing at the expense of
another's feelings; while the fool blurts out what he thinks, and
will sacrifice his friend rather than his joke. "The mouth of a
wise man," said Solomon, "is in his heart; the heart of a fool is
in his mouth."
There are, however, men who are no fools, that are headlong in
their language as in their acts, because of their want of
forbearance and self-restraining patience. The impulsive genius,
gifted with quick thought and incisive speech--perhaps carried
away by the cheers of the moment--lets fly a sarcastic sentence
which may return upon him to his own infinite damage. Even
statesmen might be named, who have failed through their inability
to resist the temptation of saying clever and spiteful things at
their adversary's expense. "The turn of a sentence," says
Bentham, "has decided the fate of many a friendship, and, for
aught that we know, the fate of many a kingdom." So, when one is
tempted to write a clever but harsh thing, though it may be
difficult to restrain it, it is always better to leave it in the
inkstand. "A goose's quill," says the Spanish proverb, "often
hurts more than a lion's claw."
Carlyle says, when speaking of Oliver Cromwell, "He that cannot
withal keep his mind to himself, cannot practise any considerable
thing whatsoever." It was said of William the Silent, by one of
his greatest enemies, that an arrogant or indiscreet word was
never known to fall from his lips. Like him, Washington was
discretion itself in the use of speech, never taking advantage of
an opponent, or seeking a shortlived triumph in a debate. And it
is said that in the long run, the world comes round to and
supports the wise man who knows when and how to be silent.
We have heard men of great experience say that they have often
regretted having spoken, but never once regretted holding their
tongue. "Be silent," says Pythagoras, "or say something better
than silence." "Speak fitly," says George Herbert, "or be silent
wisely." St. Francis de Sales, whom Leigh Hunt styled "the
Gentleman Saint," has said: "It is better to remain silent than to
speak the truth ill-humouredly, and so spoil an excellent dish by
covering it with bad sauce." Another Frenchman, Lacordaire,
characteristically puts speech first, and silence next. "After
speech," he says, "silence is the greatest power in the world."
Yet a word spoken in season, how powerful it may be! As the
old Welsh proverb has it, "A golden tongue is in the mouth
of the blessed."
It is related, as a remarkable instance of self-control on the
part of De Leon, a distinguished Spanish poet of the sixteenth
century, who lay for years in the dungeons of the Inquisition
without light or society, because of his having translated a part
of the Scriptures into his native tongue, that on being liberated
and restored to his professorship, an immense crowd attended his
first lecture, expecting some account of his long imprisonment;
but Do Leon was too wise and too gentle to indulge in
recrimination. He merely resumed the lecture which, five years
before, had been so sadly interrupted, with the accustomed formula
"HERI DICEBAMUS," and went directly into his subject.
There are, of course, times and occasions when the expression of
indignation is not only justifiable but necessary. We are bound
to be indignant at falsehood, selfishness, and cruelty. A man of
true feeling fires up naturally at baseness or meanness of any
sort, even in cases where he may be under no obligation to speak
out. "I would have nothing to do," said Perthes, "with the man
who cannot be moved to indignation. There are more good people
than bad in the world, and the bad get the upper hand merely
because they are bolder. We cannot help being pleased with a man
who uses his powers with decision; and we often take his side for
no other reason than because he does so use them. No doubt, I
have often repented speaking; but not less often have I repented
keeping silence." (8)
One who loves right cannot be indifferent to wrong, or wrongdoing.
If he feels warmly, he will speak warmly, out of the fulness of
his heart. As a noble lady (9) has written:
"A noble heart doth teach a virtuous scorn--
To scorn to owe a duty overlong,
To scorn to be for benefits forborne,
To scorn to lie, to scorn to do a wrong,
To scorn to bear an injury in mind,
To scorn a freeborn heart slave-like to bind."
We have, however, to be on our guard against impatient scorn. The
best people are apt to have their impatient side; and often, the
very temper which makes men earnest, makes them also intolerant.
(10) "Of all mental gifts," says Miss Julia Wedgwood, "the rarest
is intellectual patience; and the last lesson of culture is to
believe in difficulties which are invisible to ourselves."
The best corrective of intolerance in disposition, is increase of
wisdom and enlarged experience of life. Cultivated good sense
will usually save men from the entanglements in which moral
impatience is apt to involve them; good sense consisting chiefly
in that temper of mind which enables its possessor to deal with
the practical affairs of life with justice, judgment, discretion,
and charity. Hence men of culture and experience are invariably,
found the most forbearant and tolerant, as ignorant and
narrowminded persons are found the most unforgiving and
intolerant. Men of large and generous natures, in proportion to
their practical wisdom, are disposed to make allowance for the
defects and disadvantages of others--allowance for the
controlling power of circumstances in the formation of character,
and the limited power of resistance of weak and fallible natures
to temptation and error. "I see no fault committed," said Goethe,
"which I also might not have committed." So a wise and good man
exclaimed, when he saw a criminal drawn on his hurdle to Tyburn:
"There goes Jonathan Bradford--but for the grace of God!"
Life will always be, to a great extent, what we ourselves make it.
The cheerful man makes a cheerful world, the gloomy man a gloomy
one. We usually find but our own temperament reflected in the
dispositions of those about us. If we are ourselves querulous, we
will find them so; if we are unforgiving and uncharitable to them,
they will be the same to us. A person returning from an evening
party not long ago, complained to a policeman on his beat that an
ill-looking fellow was following him: it turned out to be only his
own shadow! And such usually is human life to each of us; it is,
for the most part, but the reflection of ourselves.
If we would be at peace with others, and ensure their respect, we
must have regard for their personality. Every man has his
peculiarities of manner and character, as he has peculiarities of
form and feature; and we must have forbearance in dealing with
them, as we expect them to have forbearance in dealing with us.
We may not be conscious of our own peculiarities, yet they exist
nevertheless. There is a village in South America where gotos or
goitres are so common that to be without one is regarded as a
deformity. One day a party of Englishmen passed through the
place, when quite a crowd collected to jeer them, shouting: "See,
see these people--they have got NO GOTOS!"
Many persons give themselves a great deal of fidget concerning
what other people think of them and their peculiarities. Some are
too much disposed to take the illnatured side, and, judging by
themselves, infer the worst. But it is very often the case that
the uncharitableness of others, where it really exists, is but the
reflection of our own want of charity and want of temper. It
still oftener happens, that the worry we subject ourselves to, has
its source in our own imagination. And even though those about us
may think of us uncharitably, we shall not mend matters by
exasperating ourselves against them. We may thereby only expose
ourselves unnecessarily to their illnature or caprice. "The ill
that comes out of our mouth," says Herbert, "ofttimes falls
into our bosom."
The great and good philosopher Faraday communicated the following
piece of admirable advice, full of practical wisdom, the result of
a rich experience of life, in a letter to his friend Professor
Tyndall:- "Let me, as an old man, who ought by this time to have
profited by experience, say that when I was younger I found I
often misrepresented the intentions of people, and that they did
not mean what at the time I supposed they meant; and further,
that, as a general rule, it was better to be a little dull of
apprehension where phrases seemed to imply pique, and quick in
perception when, on the contrary, they seemed to imply kindly
feeling. The real truth never fails ultimately to appear; and
opposing parties, if wrong, are sooner convinced when replied to
forbearingly, than when overwhelmed. All I mean to say is, that
it is better to be blind to the results of partisanship, and quick
to see goodwill. One has more happiness in one's self in
endeavouring to follow the things that make for peace. You can
hardly imagine how often I have been heated in private when
opposed, as I have thought unjustly and superciliously, and yet I
have striven, and succeeded, I hope, in keeping down replies of
the like kind. And I know I have never lost by it." (11)
While the painter Barry was at Rome, he involved himself, as was
his wont, in furious quarrels with the artists and dilettanti,
about picture-painting and picture-dealing, upon which his friend
and countryman, Edmund Burke--always the generous friend of
struggling merit--wrote to him kindly and sensibly: "Believe me,
dear Barry, that the arms with which the ill-dispositions of the
world are to be combated, and the qualities by which it is to be
reconciled to us, and we reconciled to it, are moderation,
gentleness, a little indulgence to others, and a great deal of
distrust of ourselves; which are not qualities of a mean spirit,
as some may possibly think them, but virtues of a great and noble
kind, and such as dignify our nature as much as they contribute to
our repose and fortune; for nothing can be so unworthy of a well-
composed soul as to pass away life in bickerings and litigations--
in snarling and scuffling with every one about us. We must be at
peace with our species, if not for their sakes, at least very much
for our own." (12)
No one knew the value of self-control better than the poet Burns,
and no one could teach it more eloquently to others; but when it
came to practice, Burns was as weak as the weakest. He could not
deny himself the pleasure of uttering a harsh and clever sarcasm
at another's expense. One of his biographers observes of him,
that it was no extravagant arithmetic to say that for every ten
jokes he made himself a hundred enemies. But this was not all.
Poor Burns exercised no control over his appetites, but freely
gave them rein:
"Thus thoughtless follies laid him low
And stained his name."
Nor had he the self-denial to resist giving publicity to
compositions originally intended for the delight of the tap-room,
but which continue secretly to sow pollution broadcast in the
minds of youth. Indeed, notwithstanding the many exquisite poems
of this writer, it is not saying too much to aver that his immoral
writings have done far more harm than his purer writings have done
good; and that it would be better that all his writings should be
destroyed and forgotten provided his indecent songs could be
destroyed with them.
The remark applies alike to Beranger, who has been styled "The
Burns of France." Beranger was of the same bright incisive
genius; he had the same love of pleasure, the same love of
popularity; and while he flattered French vanity to the top of its
bent, he also painted the vices most loved by his countrymen with
the pen of a master. Beranger's songs and Thiers' History
probably did more than anything else to reestablish the Napoleonic
dynasty in France. But that was a small evil compared with the
moral mischief which many of Beranger's songs are calculated to
produce; for, circulating freely as they do in French households,
they exhibit pictures of nastiness and vice, which are enough to
pollute and destroy a nation.
One of Burns's finest poems, written, in his twenty-eighth year,
is entitled 'A Bard's Epitaph.' It is a description, by
anticipation, of his own life. Wordsworth has said of it: "Here
is a sincere and solemn avowal; a public declaration from his own
will; a confession at once devout, poetical and human; a history
in the shape of a prophecy." It concludes with these lines:-
"Reader, attend--whether thy soul
Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole,
Or darkling grubs this earthly hole
In low pursuit;
Know--prudent, cautious self-control,
Is Wisdom's root."
One of the vices before which Burns fell--and it may be said to
be a master-vice, because it is productive of so many other vices
--was drinking. Not that he was a drunkard, but because he
yielded to the temptations of drink, with its degrading
associations, and thereby lowered and depraved his whole nature.
(13) But poor Burns did not stand alone; for, alas! of all vices,