Author: Samuel Smiles

Chapter IV.—Work.

"Arise therefore, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee."
—l CHRONICLES xxii. 16.

"Work as if thou hadst to live for aye;
Worship as if thou wert to die to-day."—TUSCAN PROVERB.

"C’est par le travail qu’on regne."—LOUIS XIV

"Blest work! if ever thou wert curse of God,
What must His blessing be!"—J. B. SELKIRK.

"Let every man be OCCUPIED, and occupied in the highest employment of which his nature is capable, and die with the consciousness that he has done his best"—Sydney Smith.

WORK is one of the best educators of practical character. It evokes and disciplines obedience, self-control, attention, application, and perseverance; giving a man deftness and skill in his special calling, and aptitude and dexterity in dealing with the affairs of ordinary life.

Work is the law of our being—the living principle that carries men and nations onward. The greater number of men have to work with their hands, as a matter of necessity, in order to live; but all must work in one way or another, if they would enjoy life as it ought to be enjoyed.

Labour may be a burden and a chastisement, but it is also an honour and a glory. Without it, nothing can be accomplished. All that is great in man comes through work; and civilisation is its product. Were labour abolished, the race of Adam were at once stricken by moral death.

It is idleness that is the curse of man—not labour. Idleness eats the heart out of men as of nations, and consumes them as rust does iron. When Alexander conquered the Persians, and had an opportunity of observing their manners, he remarked that they did not seem conscious that there could be anything more servile than a life of pleasure, or more princely than a life of toil.

When the Emperor Severus lay on his deathbed at York, whither he had been borne on a litter from the foot of the Grampians, his final watchword to his soldiers was, "LABOREMUS" (we must work); and nothing but constant toil maintained the power and extended the authority of the Roman generals.

In describing the earlier social condition of Italy, when the ordinary occupations of rural life were considered compatible with the highest civic dignity, Pliny speaks of the triumphant generals and their men, returning contentedly to the plough. In those days the lands were tilled by the hands even of generals, the soil exulting beneath a ploughshare crowned with laurels, and guided by a husbandman graced with triumphs: "IPSORUM TUNC MANIBUS IMPERATORUM COLEBANTUR AGRI: UT FAS EST CREDERE, GAUDENTE TERRA VOMERE LAUREATO ET TRIUMPHALI ARATORE." (1) It was only after slaves became extensively employed in all departments of industry that labour came to be regarded as dishonourable and servile. And so soon as indolence and luxury became the characteristics of the ruling classes of Rome, the downfall of the empire, sooner or later, was inevitable.

There is, perhaps, no tendency of our nature that has to be more carefully guarded against than indolence. When Mr. Gurney asked an intelligent foreigner who had travelled over the greater part of the world, whether he had observed any one quality which, more than another, could be regarded as a universal characteristic of our species, his answer was, in broken English, "Me tink dat all men LOVE LAZY." It is characteristic of the savage as of the despot. It is natural to men to endeavour to enjoy the products of labour without its toils. Indeed, so universal is this desire, that James Mill has argued that it was to prevent its indulgence at the expense of society at large, that the expedient of Government was originally invented. (2)

Indolence is equally degrading to individuals as to nations. Sloth never made its mark in the world, and never will. Sloth never climbed a hill, nor overcame a difficulty that it could avoid. Indolence always failed in life, and always will. It is in the nature of things that it should not succeed in anything. It is a burden, an incumbrance, and a nuisance—always useless, complaining, melancholy, and miserable.

Burton, in his quaint and curious, book—the only one, Johnson says, that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise—describes the causes of Melancholy as hingeing mainly on Idleness. "Idleness," he says, "is the bane of body and mind, the nurse of naughtiness, the chief mother of all mischief, one of the seven deadly sins, the devil’s cushion, his pillow and chief reposal.... An idle dog will be mangy; and how shall an idle person escape? Idleness of the mind is much worse than that of the body: wit, without employment, is a disease—the rust of the soul, a plague, a hell itself. As in a standing pool, worms and filthy creepers increase, so do evil and corrupt thoughts in an idle person; the soul is contaminated.... Thus much I dare boldly say: he or she that is idle, be they of what condition they will, never so rich, so well allied, fortunate, happy—let them have all things in abundance and felicity that heart can wish and desire, all contentment—so long as he, or she, or they, are idle, they shall never be pleased, never well in body or mind, but weary still, sickly still, vexed still, loathing still, weeping, sighing, grieving, suspecting, offended with the world, with every object, wishing themselves gone or dead, or else carried away with some foolish phantasie or other." (3)

Burton says a great deal more to the same effect; the burden and lesson of his book being embodied in the pregnant sentence with which it winds up:- "Only take this for a corollary and conclusion, as thou tenderest thine own welfare in this, and all other melancholy, thy good health of body and mind, observe this short precept, Give not way to solitariness and idleness. BE NOT SOLITARY—BE NOT IDLE." (4)

The indolent, however, are not wholly indolent. Though the body may shirk labour, the brain is not idle. If it do not grow corn, it will grow thistles, which will be found springing up all along the idle man’s course in life. The ghosts of indolence rise up in the dark, ever staring the recreant in the face, and tormenting him:

"The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices,
Make instrument to scourge us."

True happiness is never found in torpor of the faculties, (5) but in their action and useful employment. It is indolence that exhausts, not action, in which there is life, health, and pleasure. The spirits may be exhausted and wearied by employment, but they are utterly wasted by idleness. Hense a wise physician was accustomed to regard occupation as one of his most valuable remedial measures. "Nothing is so injurious," said Dr. Marshall Hall, "as unoccupied time." An archbishop of Mayence used to say that "the human heart is like a millstone: if you put wheat under it, it grinds the wheat into flour; if you put no wheat, it grinds on, but then ’tis itself it wears away."

Indolence is usually full of excuses; and the sluggard, though unwilling to work, is often an active sophist. "There is a lion in the path ;" or "The hill is hard to climb;" or "There is no use trying—I have tried, and failed, and cannot do it." To the sophistries of such an excuser, Sir Samuel Romilly once wrote to a young man:- "My attack upon your indolence, loss of time, &c., was most serious, and I really think that it can be to nothing but your habitual want of exertion that can be ascribed your using such curious arguments as you do in your defence. Your theory is this: Every man does all the good that he can. If a particular individual does no good, it is a proof that he is incapable of doing it. That you don’t write proves that you can’t; and your want of inclination demonstrates your want of talents. What an admirable system!—and what beneficial effects would it be attended with, if it were but universally received!"

It has been truly said, that to desire to possess, without being burdened with the trouble of acquiring, is as much a sign of weakness, as to recognise that everything worth having is only to be got by paying its price, is the prime secret of practical strength. Even leisure cannot be enjoyed unless it is won by effort. If it have not been earned by work, the price has not been paid for it. (6)

There must be work before and work behind, with leisure to fall back upon; but the leisure, without the work, can no more be enjoyed than a surfeit. Life must needs be disgusting alike to the idle rich man as to the idle poor man, who has no work to do, or, having work, will not do it. The words found tattooed on the right arm of a sentimental beggar of forty, undergoing his eighth imprisonment in the gaol of Bourges in France, might be adopted as the motto of all idlers: "LE PASSE M’A TROMPE; LE PRESENT ME TOURMENTE; L’AVENIR M’EPOUVANTE;"—(The past has deceived me; the present torments me; the future terrifies me)

The duty of industry applies to all classes and conditions of society. All have their work to do in the irrespective conditions of life—the rich as well as the poor. (7) The gentleman by birth and education, however richly he may be endowed with worldly possessions, cannot but feel that he is in duty bound to contribute his quota of endeavour towards the general wellbeing in which he shares. He cannot be satisfied with being fed, clad, and maintained by the labour of others, without making some suitable return to the society that upholds him. An honest highminded man would revolt at the idea of sitting down to and enjoying a feast, and then going away without paying his share of the reckoning. To be idle and useless is neither an honour nor a privilege; and though persons of small natures may be content merely to consume— FRUGES CONSUMERE NATI—men of average endowment, of manly aspirations, and of honest purpose, will feel such a condition to be incompatible with real honour and true dignity.

"I don’t believe," said Lord Stanley (now Earl of Derby) at Glasgow, "that an unemployed man, however amiable and otherwise respectable, ever was, or ever can be, really happy. As work is our life, show me what you can do, and I will show you what you are. I have spoken of love of one’s work as the best preventive of merely low and vicious tastes. I will go further, and say that it is the best preservative against petty anxieties, and the annoyances that arise out of indulged self-love. Men have thought before now that they could take refuge from trouble and vexation by sheltering themselves as it were in a world of their own. The experiment has, often been tried, and always with one result. You cannot escape from anxiety and labour—it is the destiny of humanity.... Those who shirk from facing trouble, find that trouble comes to them. The indolent may contrive that he shall have less than his share of the world’s work to do, but Nature proportioning the instinct to the work, contrives that the little shall be much and hard to him. The man who has only himself to please finds, sooner or later, and probably sooner than later, that he has got a very hard master; and the excessive weakness which shrinks from responsibility has its own punishment too, for where great interests are excluded little matters become great, and the same wear and tear of mind that might have been at least usefully and healthfully expended on the real business of life is often wasted in petty and imaginary vexations, such as breed and multiply in the unoccupied brain." (8)

Even on the lowest ground—that of personal enjoyment—constant useful occupation is necessary. He who labours not, cannot enjoy the reward of labour. "We sleep sound," said Sir Walter Scott, "and our waking hours are happy, when they are employed; and a little sense of toil is necessary to the enjoyment of leisure, even when earned by study and sanctioned by the discharge of duty."

It is true, there are men who die of overwork; but many more die of selfishness, indulgence, and idleness. Where men break down by overwork, it is most commonly from want of duly ordering their lives, and neglect of the ordinary conditions of physical health. Lord Stanley was probably right when he said, in his address to the Glasgow students above mentioned, that he doubted whether "hard work, steadily and regularly carried on, ever yet hurt anybody."

Then, again, length of YEARS is no proper test of length of LIFE. A man’s life is to be measured by what he does in it, and what he feels in it. The more useful work the man does, and the more he thinks and feels, the more he really lives. The idle useless man, no matter to what extent his life may be prolonged, merely vegetates.

The early teachers of Christianity ennobled the lot of toil by their example. "He that will not work," said Saint Paul, "neither shall he eat;" and he glorified himself in that he had laboured with his hands, and had not been chargeable to any man. When St. Boniface landed in Britain, he came with a gospel in one hand and a carpenter’s rule in the other; and from England he afterwards passed over into Germany, carrying thither the art of building. Luther also, in the midst of a multitude of other employments, worked diligently for a living, earning his bread by gardening, building, turning, and even clockmaking. (9)

It was characteristic of Napoleon, when visiting a work of mechanical excellence, to pay great respect to the inventor, and on taking his leave, to salute him with a low bow. Once at St. Helena, when walking with Mrs. Balcombe, some servants came along carrying a load. The lady, in an angry tone, ordered them out of the way, on which Napoleon interposed, saying, "Respect the burden, madam." Even the drudgery of the humblest labourer contributes towards the general wellbeing of society; and it was a wise saying of a Chinese Emperor, that "if there was a man who did not work, or a woman that was idle, somebody must suffer cold or hunger in the empire."

The habit of constant useful occupation is as essential for the happiness and wellbeing of woman as of man. Without it, women are apt to sink into a state of listless ENNUI and uselessness, accompanied by sick headache and attacks of "nerves." Caroline Perthes carefully warned her married daughter Louisa to beware of giving way to such listlessness. "I myself," she said, "when the children are gone out for a half-holiday, sometimes feel as stupid and dull as an owl by daylight; but one must not yield to this, which happens more or less to all young wives. The best relief is WORK, engaged in with interest and diligence. Work, then, constantly and diligently, at something or other; for idleness is the devil’s snare for small and great, as your grandfather says, and he says true." (10)

Constant useful occupation is thus wholesome, not only for the body, but for the mind. While the slothful man drags himself indolently through life, and the better part of his nature sleeps a deep sleep, if not morally and spiritually dead, the energetic man is a source of activity and enjoyment to all who come within reach of his influence. Even any ordinary drudgery is better than idleness. Fuller says of Sir Francis Drake, who was early sent to sea, and kept close to his work by his master, that such "pains and patience in his youth knit the joints of his soul, and made them more solid and compact." Schiller used to say that he considered it a great advantage to be employed in the discharge of some daily mechanical duty—some regular routine of work, that rendered steady application necessary.

Thousands can bear testimony to the truth of the saying of Greuze, the French painter, that work—employment, useful occupation—is one of the great secrets of happiness. Casaubon was once induced by the entreaties of his friends to take a few days entire rest, but he returned to his work with the remark, that it was easier to bear illness doing something, than doing nothing.

When Charles Lamb was released for life from his daily drudgery of desk-work at the India Office, he felt himself the happiest of men. "I would not go back to my prison," he said to a friend, "ten years longer, for ten thousand pounds." He also wrote in the same ecstatic mood to Bernard Barton: "I have scarce steadiness of head to compose a letter," he said; "I am free! free as air! I will live another fifty years.... Would I could sell you some of my leisure! Positively the best thing a man can do is—Nothing; and next to that, perhaps, Good Works." Two years—two long and tedious years passed; and Charles Lamb’s feelings had undergone an entire change. He now discovered that official, even humdrum work —"the appointed round, the daily task"—had been good for him, though he knew it not. Time had formerly been his friend; it had now become his enemy. To Bernard Barton he again wrote: "I assure you, NO work is worse than overwork; the mind preys on itself— the most unwholesome of food. I have ceased to care for almost anything.... Never did the waters of heaven pour down upon a forlorner head. What I can do, and overdo, is to walk. I am a sanguinary murderer of time. But the oracle is silent."

No man could be more sensible of the practical importance of industry than Sir Walter Scott, who was himself one of the most laborious and indefatigable of men. Indeed, Lockhart says of him that, taking all ages and countries together, the rare example of indefatigable energy, in union with serene self-possession of mind and manner, such as Scott’s, must be sought for in the roll of great sovereigns or great captains, rather than in that of literary genius. Scott himself was most anxious to impress upon the minds of his own children the importance of industry as a means of usefulness and happiness in the world. To his son Charles, when at school, he wrote:- "I cannot too much impress upon your mind that LABOUR is the condition which God has imposed on us in every station of life; there is nothing worth having that can be had without it, from the bread which the peasant wins with the sweat of his brow, to the sports by which the rich man must get rid of his ENNUI.... As for knowledge, it can no more be planted in the human mind without labour than a field of wheat can be produced without the previous use of the plough. There is, indeed, this great difference, that chance or circumstances may so cause it that another shall reap what the farmer sows; but no man can be deprived, whether by accident or misfortune, of the fruits of his own studies; and the liberal and extended acquisitions of knowledge which he makes are all for his own use. Labour, therefore, my dear boy, and improve the time. In youth our steps are light, and our minds are ductile, and knowledge is easily laid up; but if we neglect our spring, our summers will be useless and contemptible, our harvest will be chaff, and the winter of our old age unrespected and desolate." (11)

Southey was as laborious a worker as Scott. Indeed, work might almost be said to form part of his religion. He was only nineteen when he wrote these words:- "Nineteen years! certainly a fourth part of my life; perhaps how great a part! and yet I have been of no service to society. The clown who scares crows for twopence a day is a more useful man; he preserves the bread which I eat in idleness." And yet Southey had not been idle as a boy—on the contrary, he had been a most diligent student. He had not only read largely in English literature, but was well acquainted, through translations, with Tasso, Ariosto, Homer, and Ovid. He felt, however, as if his life had been purposeless, and he determined to do something. He began, and from that time forward he pursued an unremitting career of literary labour down to the close of his life—"daily progressing in learning," to use his own words—"not so learned as he is poor, not so poor as proud, not so proud as happy."

The maxims of men often reveal their character. (12) That of Sir Walter Scott was, "Never to be doing nothing." Robertson the historian, as early as his fifteenth year, adopted the maxim of "VITA SINE LITERIS MORS EST" (Life without learning is death). Voltaire’s motto was, "TOUJOURS AU TRAVAIL" (Always at work). The favourite maxim of Lacepede, the naturalist, was, "VIVRE C’EST VEILLER" (To live is to observe): it was also the maxim of Pliny. When Bossuet was at college, he was so distinguished by his ardour in study, that his fellow students, playing upon his name, designated him as "BOS-SUETUS ARATRO" (The ox used to the plough). The name of VITA-LIS (Life a struggle), which the Swedish poet Sjoberg assumed, as Frederik von Hardenberg assumed that of NOVA- LIS, described the aspirations and the labours of both these men of genius.

We have spoken of work as a discipline: it is also an educator of character. Even work that produces no results, because it IS work, is better than torpor,—inasmuch as it educates faculty, and is thus preparatory to successful work. The habit of working teaches method. It compels economy of time, and the disposition of it with judicious forethought. And when the art of packing life with useful occupations is once acquired by practice, every minute will be turned to account; and leisure, when it comes, will be enjoyed with all the greater zest.

Coleridge has truly observed, that "if the idle are described as killing time, the methodical man may be justly said to call it into life and moral being, while he makes it the distinct object not only of the consciousness, but of the conscience. He organizes the hours and gives them a soul; and by that, the very essence of which is to fleet and to have been, he communicates an imperishable and spiritual nature. Of the good and faithful servant, whose energies thus directed are thus methodized, it is less truly affirmed that he lives in time than that time lives in him. His days and months and years, as the stops and punctual marks in the record of duties performed, will survive the wreck of worlds, and remain extant when time itself shall be no more." (13)

It is because application to business teaches method most effectually, that it is so useful as an educator of character. The highest working qualities are best trained by active and sympathetic contact with others in the affairs of daily life. It does not matter whether the business relate to the management of a household or of a nation. Indeed, as we have endeavoured to show in a preceding chapter, the able housewife must necessarily be an efficient woman of business. She must regulate and control the details of her home, keep her expenditure within her means, arrange everything according to plan and system, and wisely manage and govern those subject to her rule. Efficient domestic management implies industry, application, method, moral discipline, forethought, prudence, practical ability, insight into character, and power of organization—all of which are required in the efficient management of business of whatever sort.

Business qualities have, indeed, a very large field of action. They mean aptitude for affairs, competency to deal successfully with the practical work of life—whether the spur of action lie in domestic management, in the conduct of a profession, in trade or commerce, in social organization, or in political government. And the training which gives efficiency in dealing with these various affairs is of all others the most useful in practical life. (14) Moreover, it is the best discipline of character; for it involves the exercise of diligence, attention, self-denial, judgment, tact, knowledge of and sympathy with others.

Such a discipline is far more productive of happiness5 as well as useful efficiency in life, than any amount of literary culture or meditative seclusion; for in the long run it will usually be found that practical ability carries it over intellect, and temper and habits over talent. It must, however, he added that this is a kind of culture that can only be acquired by diligent observation and carefully improved experience. "To be a good blacksmith," said General Trochu in a recent publication, "one must have forged all his life: to be a good administrator one should have passed his whole life in the study and practice of business."

It was characteristic of Sir Walter Scott to entertain the highest respect for able men of business; and he professed that he did not consider any amount of literary distinction as entitled to be spoken of in the same breath with a mastery in the higher departments of practical life—least of all with a first-rate captain.

The great commander leaves nothing to chance, but provides for every contingency. He condescends to apparently trivial details. Thus, when Wellington was at the head of his army in Spain, he directed the precise manner in which the soldiers were to cook their provisions. When in India, he specified the exact speed at which the bullocks were to be driven; every detail in equipment was carefully arranged beforehand. And thus not only was efficiency secured, but the devotion of his men, and their boundless confidence in his command. (15)

Like other great captains, Wellington had an almost boundless capacity for work. He drew up the heads of a Dublin Police Bill (being still the Secretary for Ireland), when tossing off the mouth of the Mondego, with Junot and the French army waiting for him on the shore. So Caesar, another of the greatest commanders, is said to have written an essay on Latin Rhetoric while crossing the Alps at the head of his army. And Wallenstein when at the head of 60,000 men, and in the midst of a campaign with the enemy before him, dictated from headquarters the medical treatment of his poultry-yard.

Washington, also, was an indefatigable man of business. From his boyhood he diligently trained himself in habits of application, of study, and of methodical work. His manuscript school-books, which are still preserved, show that, as early as the age of thirteen, he occupied himself voluntarily in copying out such things as forms of receipts, notes of hand, bills of exchange, bonds, indentures, leases, land-warrants, and other dry documents, all written out with great care. And the habits which he thus early acquired were, in a great measure, the foundation of those admirable business qualities which he afterwards so successfully brought to bear in the affairs of government.

The man or woman who achieves success in the management of any great affair of business is entitled to honour,—it may be, to as much as the artist who paints a picture, or the author who writes a book, or the soldier who wins a battle. Their success may have been gained in the face of as great difficulties, and after as great struggles; and where they have won their battle, it is at least a peaceful one, and there is no blood on their hands.

The idea has been entertained by some, that business habits are incompatible with genius. In the Life of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, (16) it is observed of a Mr. Bicknell—a respectable but ordinary man, of whom little is known but that he married Sabrina Sidney, the ELEVE of Thomas Day, author of ’Sandford and Merton’—that "he had some of the too usual faults of a man of genius: he detested the drudgery of business." But there cannot be a greater mistake. The greatest geniuses have, without exception, been the greatest workers, even to the extent of drudgery. They have not only worked harder than ordinary men, but brought to their work higher faculties and a more ardent spirit. Nothing great and durable was ever improvised. It is only by noble patience and noble labour that the masterpieces of genius have been achieved.

Power belongs only to the workers; the idlers are always powerless. It is the laborious and painstaking men who are the rulers of the world. There has not been a statesman of eminence but was a man of industry. "It is by toil," said even Louis XIV., "that kings govern." When Clarendon described Hampden, he spoke of him as "of an industry and vigilance not to be tired out or wearied by the most laborious, and of parts not to be imposed on by the most subtle and sharp, and of a personal courage equal to his best parts." While in the midst of his laborious though selfimposed duties, Hampden, on one occasion, wrote to his mother: "My lyfe is nothing but toyle, and hath been for many yeares, nowe to the Commonwealth, nowe to the Kinge.... Not so much tyme left as to doe my dutye to my deare parents, nor to sende to them." Indeed, all the statesmen of the Commonwealth were great toilers; and Clarendon himself, whether in office or out of it, was a man of indefatigable application and industry.

The same energetic vitality, as displayed in the power of working, has distinguished all the eminent men in our own as well as in past times. During the Anti-Corn Law movement, Cobden, writing to a friend, described himself as "working like a horse, with not a moment to spare." Lord Brougham was a remarkable instance of the indefatigably active and laborious man; and it might be said of Lord Palmerston, that he worked harder for success in his extreme old age than he had ever done in the prime of his manhood— preserving his working faculty, his good-humour and BONHOMMIE, unimpaired to the end. (17) He himself was accustomed to say, that being in office, and consequently full of work, was good for his health. It rescued him from ENNUI. Helvetius even held, that it is man’s sense of ENNUI that is the chief cause of his superiority over the brute,—that it is the necessity which he feels for escaping from its intolerable suffering that forces him to employ himself actively, and is hence the great stimulus to human progress.

Indeed, this living principle of constant work, of abundant occupation, of practical contact with men in the affairs of life, has in all times been the best ripener of the energetic vitality of strong natures. Business habits, cultivated and disciplined, are found alike useful in every pursuit—whether in politics, literature, science, or art. Thus, a great deal of the best literary work has been done by men systematically trained in business pursuits. The same industry, application, economy of time and labour, which have rendered them useful in the one sphere of employment, have been found equally available in the other.

Most of the early English writers were men of affairs, trained to business; for no literary class as yet existed, excepting it might be the priesthood. Chaucer, the father of English poetry, was first a soldier, and afterwards a comptroller of petty customs. The office was no sinecure either, for he had to write up all the records with his own hand; and when he had done his "reckonings" at the custom-house, he returned with delight to his favourite studies at home—poring over his books until his eyes were "dazed" and dull.

The great writers in the reign of Elizabeth, during which there was such a development of robust life in England, were not literary men according to the modern acceptation of the word, but men of action trained in business. Spenser acted as secretary to the Lord Deputy of Ireland; Raleigh was, by turns, a courtier, soldier, sailor, and discoverer; Sydney was a politician, diplomatist, and soldier; Bacon was a laborious lawyer before he became Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor; Sir Thomas Browne was a physician in country practice at Norwich; Hooker was the hardworking pastor of a country parish; Shakspeare was the manager of a theatre, in which he was himself but an indifferent actor, and he seems to have been even more careful of his money investments than he was of his intellectual offspring. Yet these, all men of active business habits, are among the greatest writers of any age: the period of Elizabeth and James I. standing out in the history of England as the era of its greatest literary activity and splendour.

In the reign of Charles I., Cowley held various offices of trust and confidence. He acted as private secretary to several of the royalist leaders, and was afterwards engaged as private secretary to the Queen, in ciphering and deciphering the correspondence which passed between her and Charles I.; the work occupying all his days, and often his nights, during several years. And while Cowley was thus employed in the royal cause, Milton was employed by the Commonwealth, of which he was the Latin secretary, and afterwards secretary to the Lord Protector. Yet, in the earlier part of his life, Milton was occupied in the humble vocation of a teacher. Dr. Johnson says, "that in his school, as in everything else which he undertook, he laboured with great diligence, there is no reason for doubting" It was after the Restoration, when his official employment ceased, that Milton entered upon the principal literary work of his life; but before he undertook the writing of his great epic, he deemed it indispensable that to "industrious and select reading" he should add "steady observation" and "insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs." (18)

Locke held office in different reigns: first under Charles II. as Secretary to the Board of Trade and afterwards under William III. as Commissioner of Appeals and of Trade and Plantations. Many literary men of eminence held office in Queen Anne’s reign. Thus Addison was Secretary of State; Steele, Commissioner of Stamps; Prior, Under-Secretary of State, and afterwards Ambassador to France; Tickell, Under-Secretary of State, and Secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland; Congreve, Secretary of Jamaica;, and Gay, Secretary of Legation at Hanover.

Indeed, habits of business, instead of unfitting a cultivated mind for scientific or literary pursuits, are often the best training for them. Voltaire insisted with truth that the real spirit of business and literature are the same; the perfection of each being the union of energy and thoughtfulness, of cultivated intelligence and practical wisdom, of the active and contemplative essence—a union commended by Lord Bacon as the concentrated excellence of man’s nature. It has been said that even the man of genius can write nothing worth reading in relation to human affairs, unless he has been in some way or other connected with the serious everyday business of life.

Hence it has happened that many of the best books, extant have been written by men of business, with whom literature was a pastime rather than a profession. Gifford, the editor of the ’Quarterly,’ who knew the drudgery of writing for a living, once observed that "a single hour of composition, won from the business of the day, is worth more than the whole day’s toil of him who works at the trade of literature: in the one case, the spirit comes joyfully to refresh itself, like a hart to the waterbrooks; in the other, it pursues its miserable way, panting and jaded, with the dogs and hunger of necessity behind." (19)

The first great men of letters in Italy were not mere men of letters; they were men of business—merchants, statesmen, diplomatists, judges, and soldiers. Villani, the author of the best History of Florence, was a merchant; Dante, Petrarch, and Boccacio, were all engaged in more or less important embassies; and Dante, before becoming a diplomatist, was for some time occupied as a chemist and druggist. Galileo, Galvani, and Farini were physicians, and Goldoni a lawyer. Ariosto’s talent for affairs was as great as his genius for poetry. At the death of his father, he was called upon to manage the family estate for the benefit of his younger brothers and sisters, which he did with ability and integrity. His genius for business having been recognised, he was employed by the Duke of Ferrara on important missions to Rome and elsewhere. Having afterwards been appointed governor of a turbulent mountain district, he succeeded, by firm and just governments in reducing it to a condition of comparative good order and security. Even the bandits of the country respected him. Being arrested one day in the mountains by a body of outlaws, he mentioned his name, when they at once offered to escort him in safety wherever he chose.

It has been the same in other countries. Vattel, the author of the ’Rights of Nations,’ was a practical diplomatist, and a firstrate man of business. Rabelais was a physician, and a successful practitioner; Schiller was a surgeon; Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderon, Camoens, Descartes, Maupertius, La Rochefoucauld, Lacepede, Lamark, were soldiers in the early part of their respective lives.

In our own country, many men now known by their writings, earned their living by their trade. Lillo spent the greater part of his life as a working jeweller in the Poultry; occupying the intervals of his leisure in the production of dramatic works, some of them of acknowledged power and merit. Izaak Walton was a linendraper in Fleet Street, reading much in his leisure hours, and storing his mind with facts for future use in his capacity of biographer. De Foe was by turns horse-factor, brick and tile maker, shopkeeper, author, and political agent.

Samuel Richardson successfully combined literature, with business; writing his novels in his back-shop in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, and selling them over the counter in his front-shop. William Hutton, of Birmingham, also successfully combined the occupations of bookselling and authorship. He says, in his Autobiography, that a man may live half a century and not be acquainted with his own character. He did not know that he was an antiquary until the world informed him of it, from having read his ’History of Birmingham,’ and then, he said, he could see it himself. Benjamin Franklin was alike eminent as a printer and bookseller—an author, a philosopher and a statesman.

Coming down to our own time, we find Ebenezer Elliott successfully carrying on the business of a bar-iron merchant in Sheffield, during which time he wrote and published the greater number of his poems; and his success in business was such as to enable him to retire into the country and build a house of his own, in which he spent the remainder of his days. Isaac Taylor, the author of the ’Natural History of Enthusiasm,’ was an engraver of patterns for Manchester calico-printers; and other members of this gifted family were followers of the same branch of art.

The principal early works of John Stuart Mill were written in the intervals of official work, while he held the office of principal examiner in the East India House,—in which Charles Lamb, Peacock the author of ’Headlong Hall,’ and Edwin Norris the philologist, were also clerks. Macaulay wrote his ’Lays of Ancient Rome’ in the War Office, while holding the post of Secretary of War. It is well known that the thoughtful writings of Mr. Helps are literally "Essays written in the Intervals of Business." Many of our best living authors are men holding important public offices—such as Sir Henry Taylor, Sir John Kaye, Anthony Trollope, Tom Taylor, Matthew Arnold, and Samuel Warren.

Mr. Proctor the poet, better known as "Barry Cornwall," was a barrister and commissioner in lunacy. Most probably he assumed the pseudonym for the same reason that Dr. Paris published his ’Philosophy in Sport made Science in Earnest’ anonymously— because he apprehended that, if known, it might compromise his professional position. For it is by no means an uncommon prejudice, still prevalent amongst City men, that a person who has written a book, and still more one who has written a poem, is good for nothing in the way of business. Yet Sharon Turner, though an excellent historian, was no worse a solicitor on that account; while the brothers Horace and James Smith, authors of ’The Rejected Addresses,’ were men of such eminence in their profession, that they were selected to fill the important and lucrative post of solicitors to the Admiralty, and they filled it admirably.

It was while the late Mr. Broderip, the barrister, was acting as a London police magistrate, that he was attracted to the study of natural history, in which he occupied the greater part of his leisure. He wrote the principal articles on the subject for the ’Penny Cyclopaedia,’ besides several separate works of great merit, more particularly the ’Zoological Recreations,’ and ’Leaves from the Notebook of a Naturalist.’ It is recorded of him that, though he devoted so much of his time to the production of his works, as well as to the Zoological Society and their admirable establishment in Regent’s Park, of which he was one of the founders, his studies never interfered with the real business of his life, nor is it known that a single question was ever raised upon his conduct or his decisions. And while Mr. Broderip devoted himself to natural history, the late Lord Chief Baron Pollock devoted his leisure to natural science, recreating himself in the practice of photography and the study of mathematics, in both of which he was thoroughly proficient.

Among literary bankers we find the names of Rogers, the poet; Roscoe, of Liverpool, the biographer of Lorenzo de Medici; Ricardo, the author of ’Political Economy and Taxation; (20) Grote, the author of the ’History of Greece;’ Sir John Lubbock, the scientific antiquarian; (21) and Samuel Bailey, of Sheffield, the author of ’Essays on the Formation and Publication of Opinions,’ besides various important works on ethics, political economy, and philosophy.

Nor, on the other hand, have thoroughly-trained men of science and learning proved themselves inefficient as first-rate men of business. Culture of the best sort trains the habit of application and industry, disciplines the mind, supplies it with resources, and gives it freedom and vigour of action—all of which are equally requisite in the successful conduct of business. Thus, in young men, education and scholarship usually indicate steadiness of character, for they imply continuous attention, diligence, and the ability and energy necessary to master knowledge; and such persons will also usually be found possessed of more than average promptitude, address, resource, and dexterity.

Montaigne has said of true philosophers, that "if they were great in science, they were yet much greater in action;... and whenever they have been put upon the proof, they have been seen to fly to so high a pitch, as made it very well appear their souls were strangely elevated and enriched with the knowledge of things." (22)

At the same time, it must be acknowledged that too exclusive a devotion to imaginative and philosophical literature, especially if prolonged in life until the habits become formed, does to a great extent incapacitate a man for the business of practical life. Speculative ability is one thing, and practical ability another; and the man who, in his study, or with his pen in hand, shows himself capable of forming large views of life and policy, may, in the outer world, be found altogether unfitted for carrying them into practical effect.

Speculative ability depends on vigorous thinking—practical ability on vigorous acting; and the two qualities are usually found combined in very unequal proportions. The speculative man is prone to indecision: he sees all the sides of a question, and his action becomes suspended in nicely weighing the pros and cons, which are often found pretty nearly to balance each other; whereas the practical man overleaps logical preliminaries, arrives at certain definite convictions, and proceeds forthwith to carry his policy into action. (23)

Yet there have been many great men of science who have proved efficient men of business. We do not learn that Sir Isaac Newton made a worse Master of the Mint because he was the greatest of philosophers. Nor were there any complaints as to the efficiency of Sir John Herschel, who held the same office. The brothers Humboldt were alike capable men in all that they undertook— whether it was literature, philosophy, mining, philology, diplomacy, or statesmanship.

Niebuhr, the historian, was distinguished for his energy and success as a man of business. He proved so efficient as secretary and accountant to the African consulate, to which he had been appointed by the Danish Government, that he was afterwards selected as one of the commissioners to manage the national finances; and he quitted that office to undertake the joint directorship of a bank at Berlin. It was in the midst of his business occupations that he found time to study Roman history, to master the Arabic, Russian, and other Sclavonic languages, and to build up the great reputation as an author by which he is now chiefly remembered.

Having regard to the views professed by the First Napoleon as to men of science, it was to have been expected that he would endeavour to strengthen his administration by calling them to his aid. Some of his appointments proved failures, while others were completely successful. Thus Laplace was made Minister of the Interior; but he had no sooner been appointed than it was seen that a mistake had been made. Napoleon afterwards said of him, that "Laplace looked at no question in its true point of view. He was always searching after subtleties; all his ideas were problems, and he carried the spirit of the infinitesimal calculus into the management of business." But Laplace’s habits had been formed in the study, and he was too old to adapt them to the purposes of practical life.

With Darn it was different. But Darn had the advantage of some practical training in business, having served as an intendant of the army in Switzerland under Massena, during which he also distinguished himself as an author. When Napoleon proposed to appoint him a councillor of state and intendant of the Imperial Household, Darn hesitated to accept the office. "I have passed the greater part of my life," he said, "among books, and have not had time to learn the functions of a courtier." "Of courtiers," replied Napoleon, "I have plenty about me; they will never fail. But I want a minister, at once enlightened, firm, and vigilant; and it is for these qualities that I have selected you." Darn complied with the Emperor’s wishes, and eventually became his Prime Minister, proving thoroughly efficient in that capacity, and remaining the same modest, honourable, and disinterested man that he had ever been through life.

Men of trained working faculty so contract the habit of labour that idleness becomes intolerable to them; and when driven by circumstances from their own special line of occupation, they find refuge in other pursuits. The diligent man is quick to find employment for his leisure; and he is able to make leisure when the idle man finds none. "He hath no leisure," says George Herbert, "who useth it not." "The most active or busy man that hath been or can be," says Bacon, "hath, no question, many vacant times of leisure, while he expecteth the tides and returns of business, except he be either tedious and of no despatch, or lightly and unworthily ambitious to meddle with things that may be better done by others." Thus many great things have been done during such "vacant times of leisure," by men to whom industry had become a second nature, and who found it easier to work than to be idle.

Even hobbies are useful as educators of the working faculty. Hobbies evoke industry of a certain kind, and at least provide agreeable occupation. Not such hobbies as that of Domitian, who occupied himself in catching flies. The hobbies of the King of Macedon who made lanthorns, and of the King of France who made locks, were of a more respectable order. Even a routine mechanical employment is felt to be a relief by minds acting under high-pressure: it is an intermission of labour—a rest—a relaxation, the pleasure consisting in the work itself rather than in the result.

But the best of hobbies are intellectual ones. Thus men of active mind retire from their daily business to find recreation in other pursuits—some in science, some in art, and the greater number in literature. Such recreations are among the best preservatives against selfishness and vulgar worldliness. We believe it was Lord Brougham who said, "Blessed is the man that hath a hobby!" and in the abundant versatility of his nature, he himself had many, ranging from literature to optics, from history and biography to social science. Lord Brougham is even said to have written a novel; and the remarkable story of the ’Man in the Bell,’ which appeared many years ago in ’Blackwood,’ is reputed to have been from his pen. Intellectual hobbies, however, must not be ridden too hard—else, instead of recreating, refreshing, and invigorating a man’s nature, they may only have the effect of sending him back to his business exhausted, enervated, and depressed.

Many laborious statesmen besides Lord Brougham have occupied their leisure, or consoled themselves in retirement from office, by the composition of works which have become part of the standard literature of the world. Thus ’Caesar’s Commentaries’ still survive as a classic; the perspicuous and forcible style in which they are written placing him in the same rank with Xenophon, who also successfully combined the pursuit of letters with the business of active life.

When the great Sully was disgraced as a minister, and driven into retirement, he occupied his leisure in writing out his ’Memoirs,’ in anticipation of the judgment of posterity upon his career as a statesman. Besides these, he also composed part of a romance after the manner of the Scuderi school, the manuscript of which was found amongst his papers at his death.

Turgot found a solace for the loss of office, from which he had been driven by the intrigues of his enemies, in the study of physical science. He also reverted to his early taste for classical literature. During his long journeys, and at nights when tortured by the gout, he amused himself by making Latin verses; though the only line of his that has been preserved was that intended to designate the portrait of Benjamin Franklin:

"Eripuit caelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis."

Among more recent French statesmen—with whom, however, literature has been their profession as much as politics—may be mentioned De Tocqueville, Thiers, Guizot, and Lamartine, while Napoleon III. challenged a place in the Academy by his ’Life of Caesar.’

Literature has also been the chief solace of our greatest English statesmen. When Pitt retired from office, like his great contemporary Fox, he reverted with delight to the study of the Greek and Roman classics. Indeed, Grenville considered Pitt the best Greek scholar he had ever known. Canning and Wellesley, when in retirement, occupied themselves in translating the odes and satires of Horace. Canning’s passion for literature entered into all his pursuits, and gave a colour to his whole life. His biographer says of him, that after a dinner at Pitt’s, while the rest of the company were dispersed in conversation, he and Pitt would be observed poring over some old Grecian in a corner of the drawing-room. Fox also was a diligent student of the Greek authors, and, like Pitt, read Lycophron. He was also the author of a History of James II., though the book is only a fragment, and, it must be confessed, is rather a disappointing work.

One of the most able and laborious of our recent statesmen—with whom literature was a hobby as well as a pursuit—was the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis. He was an excellent man of business— diligent, exact, and painstaking. He filled by turns the offices of President of the Poor Law Board—the machinery of which he created,—Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, and Secretary at War; and in each he achieved the reputation of a thoroughly successful administrator. In the intervals of his official labours, he occupied himself with inquiries into a wide range of subjects—history, politics, philology, anthropology, and antiquarianism. His works on ’The Astronomy of the Ancients,’ and ’Essays on the Formation of the Romanic Languages,’ might have been written by the profoundest of German SAVANS. He took especial delight in pursuing the abstruser branches of learning, and found in them his chief pleasure and recreation. Lord Palmerston sometimes remonstrated with him, telling him he was "taking too much out of himself" by laying aside official papers after office-hours in order to study books; Palmerston himself declaring that he had no time to read books—that the reading of manuscript was quite enough for him.

Doubtless Sir George Lewis rode his hobby too hard, and but for his devotion to study, his useful life would probably have been prolonged. Whether in or out of office, he read, wrote, and studied. He relinquished the editorship of the ’Edinburgh Review’ to become Chancellor of the Exchequer; and when no longer occupied in preparing budgets, he proceeded to copy out a mass of Greek manuscripts at the British Museum. He took particular delight in pursuing any difficult inquiry in classical antiquity. One of the odd subjects with which he occupied himself was an examination into the truth of reported cases of longevity, which, according to his custom, he doubted or disbelieved. This subject was uppermost in his mind while pursuing his canvass of Herefordshire in 1852. On applying to a voter one day for his support, he was met by a decided refusal. "I am sorry," was the candidate’s reply, "that you can’t give me your vote; but perhaps you can tell me whether anybody in your parish has died at an extraordinary age!"

The contemporaries of Sir George Lewis also furnish many striking instances of the consolations afforded by literature to statesmen wearied with the toils of public life. Though the door of office may be closed, that of literature stands always open, and men who are at daggers-drawn in politics, join hands over the poetry of Homer and Horace. The late Earl of Derby, on retiring from power, produced his noble version of ’The Iliad,’ which will probably continue to be read when his speeches have been forgotten. Mr. Gladstone similarly occupied his leisure in preparing for the press his ’Studies on Homer,’ (24) and in editing a translation of ’Farini’s Roman State;’ while Mr. Disraeli signalised his retirement from office by the production of his ’Lothair.’ Among statesmen who have figured as novelists, besides Mr. Disraeli, are Lord Russell, who has also contributed largely to history and biography; the Marquis of Normanby, and the veteran novelist, Lord Lytton, with whom, indeed, politics may be said to have been his recreation, and literature the chief employment of his life.

To conclude: a fair measure of work is good for mind as well as body. Man is an intelligence sustained and preserved by bodily organs, and their active exercise is necessary to the enjoyment of health. It is not work, but overwork, that is hurtful; and it is not hard work that is injurious so much as monotonous work, fagging work, hopeless work. All hopeful work is healthful; and to be usefully and hopefully employed is one of the great secrets of happiness. Brain-work, in moderation, is no more wearing than any other kind of work. Duly regulated, it is as promotive of health as bodily exercise; and, where due attention is paid to the physical system, it seems difficult to put more upon a man than he can bear. Merely to eat and drink and sleep one’s way idly through life is vastly more injurious. The wear-and-tear of rust is even faster than the tear-and-wear of work.

But overwork is always bad economy. It is, in fact, great waste, especially if conjoined with worry. Indeed, worry kills far more than work does. It frets, it excites, it consumes the body—as sand and grit, which occasion excessive friction, wear out the wheels of a machine. Overwork and worry have both to be guarded against. For over-brain-work is strain-work; and it is exhausting and destructive according as it is in excess of nature. And the brain-worker may exhaust and overbalance his mind by excess, just as the athlete may overstrain his muscles and break his back by attempting feats beyond the strength of his physical system.


(1)In the third chapter of his Natural History, Pliny relates in what high honour agriculture was held in the earlier days of Rome; how the divisions of land were measured by the quantity which could be ploughed by a yoke of oxen in a certain time (JUGERUM, in one day; ACTUS, at one spell); how the greatest recompence to a general or valiant citizen was a JUGERUM; how the earliest surnames were derived from agriculture (Pilumnus, from PILUM, the pestle for pounding corn; Piso, from PISO, to grind coin; Fabius, from FABA, a bean; Lentulus, from LENS, a lentil; Cicero, from CICER, a chickpea; Babulcus, from BOS, &c.); how the highest compliment was to call a man a good agriculturist, or a good husbandman (LOCUPLES, rich, LOCI PLENUS, PECUNIA, from PECUS, &c.); how the pasturing of cattle secretly by night upon unripe crops was a capital offence, punishable by hanging; how the rural tribes held the foremost rank, while those of the city had discredit thrown upon them as being an indolent race; and how "GLORIAM DENIQUE IPSAM, A FARRIS HONORE, ’ADOREAM’ APPELLABANT;" ADOREA, or Glory, the reward of valour, being derived from Ador, or spelt, a kind of grain.

(2) ’Essay on Government,’ in ’Encyclopaedia Britannica.’

(3) Burton’s ’Anatomy of Melancholy,’ Part i., Mem. 2, Sub. 6.

(4) Ibid. End of concluding chapter.

(5) It is characteristic of the Hindoos to regard entire inaction as the most perfect state, and to describe the Supreme Being as "The Unmoveable."

(6) Lessing was so impressed with the conviction that stagnant satisfaction was fatal to man, that he went so far as to say: "If the All-powerful Being, holding in one hand Truth, and in the other the search for Truth, said to me, ’Choose,’ I would answer Him, ’O All-powerful, keep for Thyself the Truth; but leave to me the search for it, which is the better for me.’" On the other hand, Bossuet said: "Si je concevais une nature purement intelligente, il me semble que je n’y mettrais qu’entendre et aimer la verite, et que cela seul la rendrait heureux."

(7) The late Sir John Patteson, when in his seventieth year, attended an annual ploughing-match dinner at Feniton, Devon, at which he thought it worth his while to combat the notion, still too prevalent, that because a man does not work merely with his bones and muscles, he is therefore not entitled to the appellation of a workingman. "In recollecting similar meetings to the present," he said, "I remember my friend, John Pyle, rather throwing it in my teeth that I had not worked for nothing; but I told him, ’Mr. Pyle, you do not know what you are talking about. We are all workers. The man who ploughs the field and who digs the hedge is a worker; but there are other workers in other stations of life as well. For myself, I can say that I have been a worker ever since I have been a boy.’... Then I told him that the office of judge was by no means a sinecure, for that a judge worked as hard as any man in the country. He has to work at very difficult questions of law, which are brought before him continually, giving him great anxiety; and sometimes the lives of his fellow-creatures are placed in his hands, and are dependent very much upon the manner in which he places the facts before the jury. That is a matter of no little anxiety, I can assure you. Let any man think as he will, there is no man who has been through the ordeal for the length of time that I have, but must feel conscious of the importance and gravity of the duty which is cast upon a judge."

(8) Lord Stanley’s Address to the Students of Glasgow University, on his installation as Lord Rector, 1869.

(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."

(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.


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Chicago: Samuel Smiles, "Chapter IV.— Work.," Character, trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in Character Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Smiles, Samuel. "Chapter IV.— Work." Character, translted by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in Character, Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Smiles, S, 'Chapter IV.— Work.' in Character, trans. . cited in , Character. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from