Monday, January 27, 2014

"Self Help; with illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance" by Samuel Smiles

"Self Help; with illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance" is a very early self help book  by Scottish writer, Samuel Smiles. (US Edition)  (UK Edition)

The book may have been written in 1859, but most readers will find it familiar:

“Heaven helps those who help themselves” is a well-tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experience.  The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength.  Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates. 

I never use to credit self-help, but with the passing of the years, I no longer see it as foolish to give yourself pep talks.  They don't replace action, but you have to tell yourself something and why not have a supportive inner self?

Wait, I am not writing a self help book . . .

Admiral Hobson, who broke the boom at Vigo in 1702, . . .  was working as a tailor’s apprentice near Bonchurch, in the Isle of Wight, when the news flew through the village that a squadron of men-of-war was sailing off the island.  He sprang from the shopboard, and ran down with his comrades to the beach, to gaze upon the glorious sight.  The boy was suddenly inflamed with the ambition to be a sailor; and springing into a boat, he rowed off to the squadron, gained the admiral’s ship, and was accepted as a volunteer.  Years after, he returned to his native village full of honours, and dined off bacon and eggs in the cottage where he had worked as an apprentice. 

But the greatest tailor of all is unquestionably Andrew Johnson, the present President of the United States—a man of extraordinary force of character and vigour of intellect.  In his great speech at Washington, when describing himself as having begun his political career as an alderman, and run through all the branches of the legislature, a voice in the crowd cried, “From a tailor up.”  It was characteristic of Johnson to take the intended sarcasm in good part, and even to turn it to account.  “Some gentleman says I have been a tailor.  That does not disconcert me in the least; for when I was a tailor I had the reputation of being a good one, and making close fits; I was always punctual with my customers, and always did good work.”

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