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"Luck." What an odd subject! This may explain the difficulty I have found in treating it to my liking. If you find my remarks somewhat angular, pray place that to the difficulty of consulting writers upon it. Should you find my sentences brusque and disconnected, and not worked up into an oratorical effort, abounding in musical passages, and well-rounded periods, your good nature will, I hope, leniently judge me, insomuch that a busy life like mine leaves little opportunity for literary work, beyond that which midnight hours afford.
However, such as you may find my facts, opinions, and conclusions, they are at your service.
Like the birds of evil omen amongst the ancients, there are some words in our language which, harmless and insignificant in themselves, have become
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powerful for evil, from the associations connected with them. Amongst these, I know of few more notable than the word "luck," and its converse, "unlucky."
In one form or other, this idea of "luck," as indicated by such words as destiny, fate, chance, or fortune, has, from very early times, largely influenced the actions, successes, and failures of ordinary life; nor has it been without effect on the developement and decay of national life. And yet it is remarkable how very little has been written upon it, directly. It is true that we find references to it in many authors, ancient and modern, and it is equally true that the word itself is in common circulation amongst us; still, there is an indefiniteness about it, involving in itself certain elements of danger, which, it appears to me, to be desirable to analyse, determine, and confront.
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Wisdom and Folly.
PROVERBS AND SONGS.--POET AND REVIEWER.--PROFESSOR AND JOURNALIST.--FIGURE OF SPEECH.--GENERAL BELIEF IN "LUCK."
That there has been a wide-spread belief in "luck," is evident from the citation of a few proverbs,--so often the terse concentration of the folly and wisdom of mankind. For instance, how often do we hear such sayings as, "Better be born lucky than rich;" "As luck would have it;" "He is more lucky than wise;" When luck turns, look out;" "It's like my luck."
Somebody has pithily said, "Give me the writing of the ballads of the people, and let who will make the laws," meaning thereby, that what is in everybody's mouth has much greater force than the musty and involved verbiage of our statute books. In this sense I may cite the old song, beginning:--
"There's nae luck aboot the hoose,
There's nae luck at a';
There's nae luck aboot the hoose
When my gudeman's awa'."
It may be said such proverbs and songs are only in the mouths of the vulgar, and that a man of
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refinement ignores them. Very well, let us hear what a man of sentiment and culture says. The poet Beattie, in the first stanzas of Book II. of The Minstrel, sings--
"Of chance or change, let not man complain,
Else shall he never, never cease to wail,
For, from the imperial dome, to where the swain
Rears the lone cottage in the silent dale,
All feel the assault of Fortune's fickle gale."
Those who assert that in these enlightened days mankind is not influenced by a belief in "luck," will of course say, that this is but the sentimental effusion of a poet's fancy, and that modern thought disregards and despises such utterances as whimsical and absurd.
What shall we say then, to an accomplished writer in the Quarterly Review for April, 1876, who, in the first page of an elaborate critique on Lord Albemarle's "Fifty years of my Life," states that, the noble author was justified in arriving at the conclusion, "that chance had willed" that he should achieve distinction, goes on to say that, "the personal qualities which, combined with luck, enable men to rise above the common level, appear to be hereditary in his race?"
Not less significant of the hold the word "luck" is taking of our modern language and ideas, is a
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Gospel of Labour.
sentiment uttered by Professor Sidney Colvin, in a lecture delivered by him, on "Giotto's Gospel of Labour," reproduced in Macmillan, for April, 1877. Speaking of the immortal sculptures of Giotto, at Florence, in the fifteenth century, the Professor says:--
"We all dream dreams, I suppose, and make up in our imagination, things we should like to do in reality. But it is only the very lucky who ever live to see their dreams come true."
Since the delivery of this lecture, I have met with an article on "luck," in a late number of the Queen (London newspaper), beginning thus:--
"Most people, and almost all gamblers, believe in the existence of luck--luck, as a circumstance of life, not to be commanded by prudence, nor repelled by folly--luck, which shapes silver spoons for the mouths of some, and knots up halters for the necks of others, without the effort or deserving of either, and the process of shaping and of knotting beginning from the birth--luck, which brings to naught the best-laid schemes, or mysteriously repairs the most astounding blunders--luck, which governs the whole affairs of men, now with cruel and now with benevolent despotism, whether it be destruction or preservation, discomfiture or success. And looked at
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superficially, as a thing, not a result, it would almost seem as if the gamblers, and superstitious folk generally, were right in their belief; and that conduct was of small avail, while luck was of supreme importance. We cannot make out, else, why some people succeed so gloriously in all that they undertake--and this without apparent effort or foresight--while others, who take pains, fail just as ignominiously, and as much without apparent fault." The article, after a column or so of lively rattle, ascribing a good many results to "luck," ends thus:--"And yet it is but adding evil to evil to give up the fight and lie down, groaning, 'It is my luck.' By energy and perseverence even the shadowy things of life may be fought and subdued; and courage, common sense, determination not to be beaten, and the careful exercise of prudence and foresight, may in time beat off that dogging shape of misfortune, and substitute, instead of the good luck which gives without endeavour, the success which comes by earnest striving and determined courage."
Looking at the 'old saws and modern instances,' I have cited, is there not a cause for my attack on the phantom "luck"? I hope that some trusty knight will ere long break the spell which this
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shadowy goblin has already cast over many stout intellects as well as faint hearts. Meantime, as a common "man-at-arms," I can do no less than give battle as best I may.
There are of course, many who use the word, as they tell you, merely as a figure of speech.
To figures of speech, which involve no sinister or demoralising consequences, there can be no objection. For instance, we describe a daily recurring astronomical phenomenon, by saying, "The sun rises." But we know very well that the sun does not really rise, and we simply continue to express the incorrect ideas of our ignorant ancestors, in the picturesque terms they used. In this way, use gives law to language, often at the cost of a misstatement of fact. In a similar manner, many people thoughtlessly say, "Mr. Tomkins is a lucky fellow," yet probably meaning nothing more than that he is a successful man. Were that all, we might regard such an expression as nothing more than a harmless solecism.
But, it does not end here. Is it not the fact, that if you ask your acquaintances the direct question, "Do you believe in luck?" nine, out of ten will say "No." And yet so interwoven in our language and ideas is a belief in "luck," that the probability is, if you carry on the discussion for
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five minutes, nine out of ten will, directly or indirectly, commit themselves to an acknowledgment of a belief, less or more, in "luck."
Having now, as I think, established my first position, that a belief in "luck" is more or less general, I shall endeavour to ascertain what claim a belief in "luck," good or bad, has upon us.
In doing this, it is quite possible I may, of necessity, follow the fashion of a man who offers battle to a phantom. Nevertheless, I shall attempt to throw a little light on the subject, and, as light is an element which phantoms of every form are generally reputed to avoid, I trust I may be able to render some small aid in banishing this one to the abodes of many of the goblins grim, which, in the days of "auld lang syne," our credulous fathers created to torment themselves, but which we, their wiser sons, have in many cases consigned to the limbo of forgotten things.
I propose, then, to attempt some definition of the belief in "luck"; to offer some remarks on its absurdity; to give a few illustrations of its pernicious influence; and, as my object is positive as well as negative, I shall try to point out the only "luck" worth having, giving some examples which have come under my own observation; and, whilst I avow an unshaken belief in the existence of an
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The Best Possible.
all-wise Providence, I shall endeavour to show that, if a man's course through life be not altogether in his own hands, at any rate, what the French call "the best possible," is so, and that he
"Who does the best his circumstance allows,
Does well, acts nobly--angels could no more."
In the remarks I may have to make, I would have my object clearly understood.
I care not to contend with empty beliefs--as such--I have to do with them only so far as they excite men to action, or deter them from it. And, though I may not succeed in causing you to think with me, that the English language would be neither less forcible nor less useful, were all such words as "luck" expunged from it,--still, if I can induce anyone who thinks his daily life is more or less under what he calls "lucky" or "unlucky" influences, to cast such a belief aside; to take in hand weapons of truertemper; to be self-reliant, patient, persevering; that he may carve out--it may be--a life of renown, but assuredly, a life, useful, and therefore happy. If I can do this, I am not solicitous about his belief; if he will keep it, why, let him hang it up, like men do antique weapons, amongst other rusty old relics, to be looked at, or, if he so pleases, to
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be talked about now and then, as a memorial of the follies or passions of a past age, but, in all other respects, totally useless.
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A Fantastic Cobweb.
DEFINITION OF BELIEF IN "LUCK."--CAUSE OR EFFECT.--DESTINY AND FATE.--GENERAL IDEA OF "LUCK."
Now, what is "luck?" Is it a cause, or is it an effect?
If it be a cause, let those who say so define its nature and explain the mode of its operation. If it be merely an effect, let us be told something of the cause which produces it. For my part, I hold a very decided opinion that it is neither cause nor effect, but simply a fantastic cobweb of the imagination, which calls for the brush of common sense to sweep it away.
In my investigation of this subject, I have found various opinions held regarding it.
Some consider "luck" as akin to the destiny to which the classic Greeks declared the gods themselves were subject; or allied to Mahometan fatalism--inscrutable, unchangeable, supreme; whilst others again, suppose that like the ancient goddess fortune, "luck" blindly casts about its favours, observing no law, showering down success upon knaves or fools, quite as often as upon better
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and wiser men. This last idea of "luck," being, as I think, the one most generally held.
Such then are some of the forms of the belief in "luck" which I find afloat in the world.
But, seeing that some of them are in a great measure obsolete, I shall leave the Book of Destiny to the admirers of classic romance, and Eastern Fatalism to Moslem devotees, and proceed at once to consider that form of belief in "luck," which I have indicated, as being most current amongst us, namely:--a certain undefinable something, which exerts a powerful influence over the affairs of men, causing success or failure, irrespective of any attempts to procure the one or avert the other.
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NO EFFECT WITHOUT A CAUSE.--BELIEF IN "LUCK."--EVIDENCE OF MAN'S WEAKNESS.--FORTUNES OF MR. OLIVER HIGHLOW.--FARMER BROWN AND HIS "LUCK."--SINISTER INFLUENCE.
At the outset, then, I adopt, in its fullest sense, the axiom, that there can be no effect without a producing cause; that causation lies at the foundation of every result.
Were I dealing only with an abstract belief in such ideas as destiny, fate, chance, fortune and "luck," I might at this point close this lecture, because all such ideas set the truest axioms at defiance, and, carried to their legitimate extent, at once insult God and degrade man.
But, as I am not dealing with beliefs in the abstract, but with their effects on the characters and prospects of many amongst us, and, indeed, of mankind at large, I shall endeavour to portray these effects as faithfully and earnestly as I am able, the more so as I think a belief in "luck" may be considered an indication of one of those imprints on human character which confirms the great Scriptural doctrine of man's innate weakness.
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Thus, we find man--whether Christian, Moslem, heathen or atheist--in obedience to this great necessity of his nature, ever clinging to something without himself for support and help; vine-like, stretching forth his tendrils here and there, that he may the more effectually bring forth fruit to his liking.
There are several modes in which a belief in "luck" operates.
Here is one. Mr. Oliver Highlow is a young fellow just out of his apprenticeship. He begins business for himself, and makes a fair start with stock and prospects of average quality. He calculates perhaps a little too favorably, for he has great expectations. By and by he begins to find being "in business on one's own occount" is not quite such smooth sailing as he supposed; his goods are not just the thing, and don't sell in consequence. "That's unlucky," a friend says. However, bills have to be met, and he finds a customer somehow, not quite to his liking, price too low, still not a bad makeshift. Next time you meet him he tells you "how unlucky he has been." At his next venture he looks more ahead, takes time by the forelock, and buys in his goods well. He has paying prices offered, but no, he holds for more money, last operation left a loss, and this
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Oliver Loses his Money.
one must make up. At length, he has an offer to his mind. A customer clears him out at a very handsome figure. Credit rather long certainly, but then, the price is long also. Probably his high priced debtor fails, and Oliver loses his money.
Next time you meet him, he tells you "how unlucky he is." Note that "is." Before, he only had been unlucky. You, being his friend, condole with him on account of his losses, but more, because you see clearly enough, that this feeling of "ill luck" is sticking to him.
He tries again, and from unskilfulness, want of caution, or, possibly, from circumstances which no amount of skill or caution could have prevented, he is again unsuccessful.
He is now in danger of being altogether disheartened, for, as he tells you, "It's of no use; he is always unlucky." Then, indeed, if no friendly, hand be stretched out to help, he is in real peril, for, oppressed with a belief that "his luck's against him," he is fast sinking into the slough of despond, a broken-spirited, downcast man. Poor fellow! Would that some good angel would inspire him
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once again with new hope, and tell him that
"A man with the tiller in his hand,
May steer against the current,
Or, may glide down idly with the stream,
Till his vessel founder in the whirlpool."
Not always, however, does a belief in "luck" rise spontaneously in the mind of its victim.
Let farmer Brown but fail in several successive undertakings, and there are generally ignorant people enough about him prepared to speak of him as "an unlucky man." If his cattle fall over an unfenced precipice, if his children sicken in a damp and unwholesome house, if his late sown seed produces bad crops, which the rains injure or the birds destroy, the generality of people pity him, and, without looking deeper than the surface, throw the blame on his bad "luck," and say nothing about bad fencing, damp houses, and laziness. The conviction is forced upon him, whether he will or no, that he is "an unlucky man;" for when once a man is said to be under the influence of an evil destiny, he is in great danger of being mesmerised into the belief that he really is so. Under such conditions every unusual circumstance, nay, the most ordinary reverses, are pronounced so
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Luck or Laziness.
many sure indications, that "farmer Brown is an unlucky man."
Do I hear somebody saying, "You have drawn some pictures of disaster, true and natural enough, but we don't clearly see what luck had to do with these men's failures; indeed, we think that their misfortunes arose from want of skill, judgment, or caution, and then, when they had acquired these, from their lack of perseverance, much more than from their ill-luck." Just so, but, may I ask, what destroyed this perseverance at the very time it was most needed? What but the conviction that they were "always unlucky," that, "their luck was against them;" and therefore, as you may have heard them say, "It was of no use their persevering."
"Luck," as you observe, had no influence on their failure, but their "belief in luck" had a great deal.
I assert, then, there is danger in a man cherishing, even that tacit acquiescence in a belief in "luck" which many, otherwise well-informed people, do. Probably a man does not attach much importance to it, and if he has not journeyed far on the track of life, lays plans, and makes calculations, with very little reference to its influence. He often thinks nothing of it till a critical period in his
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affairs occurs; not, perhaps, until calamities overtake him, unusually difficult to trace to their hidden, but real causes, and then, at a moment, when he needs every power he possesses to stem the adverse torrent, the belief in this sinister influence breaks forth: just as we have seen instances of people, with a dormant tendency to insanity, being apparently of sound mind till some harrassing circumstance has aroused the dangerous predisposition, and then the poor fellow sinks at once and for ever into hopeless imbecility.
I do not think I speak too strongly. Indeed, so much do I fear from this tacit acquiescence, this secret belief in "luck," that I cannot too earnestly advise my young friends to cut it up, root and branch, for the beginning of a belief like this is as the letting out of water; you may be able to mark its commencement, but who can say whither it shall carry him; who can say, "Hitherto shalt thou come but no farther."
I have no faith in these under-currents of belief, which are laid down on no chart, and which are all the more to be dreaded because of this very indefiniteness. Let me advise every young man to steer clear of them altogether, or, like the unwary mariner, he may find himself within the ever-narrowing circles of a Maelstrom, when, though
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his sails be all spread, and he toils on from day to day, he sinks under an influence he cannot resist, and feels that he is hastening to a doom he cannot avert.
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MR. GOBIG'S "LUCK," AND WHAT CAME OF IT.--SPARTAN WOLF.--VICTIMS.
I now come to the avowed believers in "luck." They are quite certain that "luck" is one of the "powers that be." One true instance of the consequences resulting from a belief in "luck" is, perhaps, for this class of people, better than many arguments. I shall therefore narrate the experience of a man with whom I was acquainted long ago. Mr. Gobig was a carpenter in a very humble way, with little education, not much skill, and no money; but he was frugal, industrious and enterprising. These latter qualities soon began to tell. For a few years he had a hard battle with the usual difficulties which beset a man in an upward struggle. But, in spite of them all, he made steady progress. Gradually extending his operations, he left his tools and his bench, and engaged in various enterprises with caution and success.
It was the old story. Energy, patience, skill, industry, caution, courage, and perseverence told,
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Wealth and Position.
as they usually do tell; and Mr. Gobig rose to wealth and position. His friends now began to speak of him as a "lucky man," and it was said of him, as it is so often said of successful men, that whatever he touched succeeded. At this period of our acquaintance, I noticed that he had yielded to the belief that he was a "favourite of fortune," in other words, that he was "a lucky man." I soon saw that Gobig was less cautious than had been his wont. Many a quiet remonstrance did I make to him, but he always said, "You see what it is to be lucky." For a while, to use a common saying, "fortune seemed to favour him," and he would laugh at my short "lectures against luck" as he called them. The more he yielded to a belief in his "luck," the less he manifested of the ancient qualities, which I pointed out to him were at the foundation of his prosperity. At length disaster began to assail him. More and more things went against him. His enterprises failed, many of his speculations resulted in heavy losses.
Then his acquaintance began to say, "Gobig's luck has deserted him," until at last he was looked upon as "an unlucky man."
Worse than all, he began to regard himself as "an unlucky man." This sinister and fatal belief
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pursued him like an evil genie, until he became a broken, hopeless and ruined man.
It is one of the anomalies not uncommon in daily life, that a man should prefer to ascribe his success, not so much to the sterling qualities Gobig had displayed in his earlier career, as to such a deceptive "Will o' the wisp" as "luck." I suppose, by some strange hallucination, he feels more flattered by being regarded as "a child of fortune," and does not awake to the delusion till it is too late, and he abandons himself to the sinister belief that he is "an unlucky man," and then, like my poor friend Gobig, his doom is sealed.
I have, in the instances I have cited, endeavoured to depict the successive steps by which a man who has, in the first instance, thought little about "luck," is gradually drawn within its fatal influence, till, at length he comes to think he can accomplish nothing. He ceases to blame himself for failure when he tries, though, in truth, he soon loses the spirit even to try, and if a ray of hope now and then enters his dreary prison-house, like Sterne's poor captive, he looks up weary and hopeless, for the belief in "luck" has entered like iron into his soul.
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It is deeply painful to see a man, capable of high endeavour, abandon himself to despair. The ocean of life sees no more of his ventures. Nothing of his ancient self remains to him, and he melts away like a jelly-fish stranded on the debris of the shore.
In truth, men too often carry this belief in "luck" about with them, as the Spartan youth carried the wolf--under their cloaks,--and, when the pinch comes, as it does sooner or later, when our enterprises are failing, when we no longer see our way clearly, when, in fact, through the thickening clouds of disaster we do not see our way at all, then this belief in "luck," like the Spartan wolf, devours our vital energy, destroys our waning hope, and we fall victims to its silent and remorseless influence.
That a man should carry about with him so singular a belief would be ludicrous were it not so full of danger.
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A "LUCKY" SHILLING.--COLD DIGGERS' SUCCESS NOT DUE TO "LUCK."--HUNT'S CLAIM.--DIGGERS'LOGIC.--NO GRAPES ON THORNS.
Let us return to the avowed believers in "luck." Let us hear what they have to say.
"We know very well," they begin, "that want of success, in the instances you have given may be traced to ascertainable causes, and, that luck had little to do with their failure. But how do you explain a case like this. Two men pass along a street, the latter of the two picks up a shilling, which the foremost had not observed--and we want to know, to what the finder owes the shilling, if not to luck."
My reply would be, as a matter of course, that the finder used his eyes to better purpose than the other. They would probably persist in saying that "luck" gave the man the shilling, declaring, as you will observe, "luck" to be a cause. Possibly, they may clinch the assertion by saying that, "the finding of the shilling clearly made the man lucky." You will perceive the coin is now said to be the cause, and "luck" the effect.
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In this instance of a common mode of explanation, we have a curious jumbling of cause and effect, indeed so cleverly is the transposition effected in this metaphysical thimble-rigging, that you do not at once quite clearly see, under which thimble you are to look for the pea.
"Very well," say the believers in "luck," "let that pass, but what do you say about the gold diggings. How is it, when two parties select each their claim, probably adjoining, and, we will suppose both to have equal skill, energy, perseverance and money; both use pick and shovel manfully, digging, tunnelling, washing, and crushing. They look for similar results, so many ounces a man, or so much to the ton--and yet, though both have used similar means, under pretty parallel circumstances, they don't reach the same end, for one reaps a golden harvest, whilst the other hardly gets a grain. Now, if luck has not something to do with that, we wish to know what has? Is not this a verification of the old proverb, 'Give a man luck and you may throw him into the sea.'"
I suppose I am to consider this case as something very like a poser.
Let us examine it.
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1. The circumstances, mental and physical, are said, but are really only supposed, to be equal.
2. The results are not equal, one washing out nuggets, the other nothing better than mud or mundic.
3. There being no assignable cause for this difference in results, and a cause being necessary to account for results of any sort,--"therefore," say the advocates of this singular belief, "luck must be the cause."
Such a style of reasoning is, at least, curious, though neither conclusive nor correct. The only thing evident is, that they are so anxious to assign a cause, that they give you "luck," or what, in point of fact, is no cause at all. Again, it is assumed that the circumstances are equal; but who can assure us of an absolute equality? Is it not a fact that our very small and partial knowledge, is very soon at fault in such recondite investigations?
You may watch the two parties day by day, and confining your observations, as you must do, mainly to the surface, you are not in a position to decide upon their respective conditions. Keen observation, skilful patience, indomitable perseverance, physical endurance, and sufficient money, are the absolute and indispensable requisites for success. Will any believer in "luck" pretend to pronounce
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Farmer Brown's Horseshoe.
authoritatively that both parties of diggers occupy a position of exact equality in every one of these respects?
I think not. But, until he can so speak, I apprehend I may fairly claim an arrest of judgment.
To say that one digger succeeds because he is "lucky," or that another fails because he is "unlucky," is equivalent to Farmer Brown's conclusion--on hearing that one of his horses had that morning broken a leg, and, learning at the same time, that the rusty horseshoe he had nailed over the stable-door, years before, had fallen to the ground, consoles himself by saying that, "nothing better might have been expected, seeing the lucky horseshoe was no longer over the stable-door."
The absurdity of ascribing the broken leg to the "lucky" horseshoe, is palpable enough to be simply ridiculous. The cause of want of success in the digger may not be evident, but to say that "luck" caused it, is, I think, equally absurd.
One thing is certain, the gold was there before the diggers came upon the field. But how it came to be in one little spot, and not in the adjoining claim, whether by land slip, upheaval of strata, change of fusing current, or through the operation of some other of Nature's latent forces or hidden laws, we cannot say.
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Permit me to cite a familiar but parallel instance.
Farmer Smith cannot fatten a bullock on his land, whilst his neighbour Jones has fat cattle in abundance. They are both industrious and skilful, and in other respects, in circumstances apparently similar, their lands also looking very much alike. Then, what causes such different results? Will the believers in "luck" say that Farmer Smith's cattle won't fatten because he is "unlucky"? or, shall we invite an analytical chymist to ascertain the reason. He carefully analyses the soil on both farms, and finds that Smith's land is destitute of all fattening constituents, whilst Jones's land has them in abundance. It follows I think, not that Farmer Smith was "unlucky," but that his land, having no fat in it, none could be got out of it; for as the Latin proverb hath it, Ex nihilo nihil fit. Ancient wisdom and modern research both agreeing that "out of nothing nothing comes."
In every goldfield there are, of course, a few striking instances of success, and many cases of failure. Let me cite one instance of great success, with which many of you are familiar.
In 1867 the Thames Goldfield was opened in this Colony. Numerous straggling parties prospected the district with varying success. Amongst them, one party achieved great results.
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On the Scent.
Four men, three of whom knew nothing of gold digging, formed themselves into a party. For some time they hunted for gold, like the rest, with indifferent success; beyond washing out "the colour" here and there, they did nothing. At length, one of them rambling along the shore with pick and pan in hand, found a bit of gold at the mouth of a small creek. Returning to his "mates" with the piece of gold, they started next morning to prospect the stream.
Here and there picking up pieces of quartz showing gold, they "fossicked" about, tracking the "run of gold," paying little attention to the pretty tree ferns or graceful nikau palms which fringed the stream, nor yet to the lofty forest trees arching overhead, which would have made a lover of natural beauty forget that gold was there. Not so with these unsophisticated gold hunters. They were on the scent, and saw no beauty in anything but gold.
Creeping up the stream, which now gurgled amongst moss-covered masses of rock, or in tiny cascades fell musically into placid pools, which would have delighted a lover of the picturesque, but which had no charms for these simple diggers, who the livelong day looked for nothing, worked for nothing, wished for nothing more beautiful than bits of shining gold. At length they came to
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a waterfall, so full of beauty, with its wealth of ferns and foliage, its bare rock and sparkling water, that even they, mad for gold, stopped awhile, lit their pipes, and looked on admiringly.
Crawling up the precipitous sides of the ravine, they resumed operations in the stream above the waterfall, but found no trace of gold. The short winter's day was almost gone, and the sun was sending his last rays shimmering across the blue waters of the Gulf of Hauraki. Returning, wet and weary, they let themselves down the face of the waterfall; one of them saw a shining speck in the face of the sandstone rock, over which the water fell. Was it the reflection of a glinting sunbeam? No. Shading the tiny spot with his hand, he saw indeed a golden "speck," and striking in his pick he dislodged a piece of solid gold. Passing from hand to hand the shining fragment, they lost no time in "pegging out their claim." Less sensible than before of the beauty which the deepening shadows cast upon the quiet pools from fern tree, rock and forest, they retraced their steps down stream. The spot they had "pegged out" was the far-famed Hunt's claim, out of which these four men took, in a few months, gold to the value of £120,000. Henceforth, in the slang of the day, they were "lucky diggers." Long afterwards, I asked one of
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Equal to the Opportunity.
them if he considered "luck" had anything to do with their success. "None whatever," he replied, "we kept our eyes open, and the gold being there, we saw it, and got it."
That I call the logic of common sense. The gold being there, their observation, patience, and resources were equal to its discovery. Had but one of the factors varied ever so minutely; had the discoverer not used his eyes at the exact moment, when almost the last ray of the setting sun illuminated the golden speck; he would have been unequal to the opportunity, and the treasure would have fallen into other hands. In this instance of so-called "luck," we have certain clearly marked causes, so exactly balanced as to produce simply legitimate results.
As regards unsuccessful diggers, the gold did not exist in the holes they dug, and therefore could not be extracted from them, any more than a man can pluck grapes from thorns.
In my conversations respecting "luck," I have repeatedly had such instances cited to prove the existence of this vicious principle of action. In all these cases I have little doubt that defective knowledge, want of perseverance, or inadequate resources have been the real cause of failure. Of how
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many cases have we heard, where a party of diggers had thrown up a claim in weary disgust, just at a point where, a little more patience, a little further labour, a little more money, would have produced the results that so richly repaid their successors. Just as, when a house is on fire, an inmate of the top storey hastily improvises a rope, down which he hurriedly descends, to find, when too late, that his rope is too short, and he drops to the pavement bruised or maimed, whilst his companion, adding a few more feet to the rope, descends in safety.
Can anyone affirm that "ill luck" maimed the one, or that "good luck" rescued the other? Is it not self-evident that observation and material, a little less or a little more, account for the difference in result?
To return to the gold digger. Figs are not to be gathered off thistles, nor is gold to be found anywhere but where Nature has placed it. The indications of its presence may be more or less precarious, and its precise location may appear to be unregulated by any law. Nevertheless, we must remember that, in Nature's great laboratory, nothing is left to chance or "luck;" that every effect has its producing cause; that law is ever
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at the basis of the apparently accidental; and that throughout her wide dominion, law reigns supreme.
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DOMINION OF LAW.
I think I hear a murmur of dissent from some of the advocates of "luck." Let us hear them.
"You misunderstand us, sir. We do not assert that luck has anything to do with the location of the gold, for we believe, as you do, that all things in nature, mineral or vegetable, are subject to the laws impressed upon them by their Creator. We only asserted that luck exerted an influence on the man, not the mineral."
Very well. Then are we to understand that the laws of God relate only to inanimate matter; that, whilst all inferior things are thus governed--the chef d'oeuvre of the Great Architect--His great masterpiece, man--must be alone excepted. I think not.
The poet renders a nobler homage when he exclaims:--
"God sees with equal eye, as Lord of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall;
Atoms or systems, into ruin hurled,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world."
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Prepared for Failure.
The earth makes an annual revolution round the sun, and a child knows that in doing so, it obeys law. A comet traverses its vast eliptic once in a thousand years, and it also is obedient to the same pervading power. Plants we place beneath the microscope, and minerals we submit to the analysis of the laboratory, and thus, having scrutinized, measured, and weighed, we declare authoritatively, that every delicate fibre, every sparkling crystal, every golden atom, exists in obedience to law.
But can we thus scrutinize, measure, and weigh the mind of man, its weakness and its strength, its passions and its powers.
This, with all our attainments, we cannot yet do.
Until then let the digger and all other toilers depend upon a perseverance which never wavers, upon a courage which never quails, hoping for success, yet prepared for failure. And to these trusty qualities, with the necessary means, and skill, we may more rationally direct them, than leave them to the delusion of looking for success to any influence which "luck" may be supposed to exert. Withal, remembering that for various and sufficient reasons,
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, gang aft agley."
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GAMBLING AND GAMES OF CHANCE NOT INFLUENCED BY "LUCK".--CARDS AND DICE.--RUIN, THE DOOM OF GAMBLERS--A TOSS UP--A MILLION DITTO.--LAW OF AVERAGE OR COMBINATION OF CHANCES.
There is one pursuit into which "luck" so called, largely and avowedly enters, namely, gambling.
Whether we watch a card party in a luxurious drawing-room, in the saloon of a steamboat, ramble through a gambling hall at Monaco, enter the dingy parlor of a low "public", or look into a dirty Maori hut, we see there the people--civilized or savage--shuffling,dealing, cutting, or playing, with dainty finger or grimey hand. We hear, in the curious jargon current amongst them all, such words as, "luck's against me;" "what a run of luck Swipey has had;" "what an unlucky dog Dick Stormer is;" "was ever such luck as mine?" grunts old Lord Pipkin; "or mine?" from a fat dowager; "or mine?" from a gay and rather fast demoiselle.
Gambling is the stronghold of believers in "luck," and, as such, calls for more notice than a popular lecture can give.
Games of chance, as they are called, are accompanied by so many variations, by so many different
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combinations, by so much uncertainty, by so many unexpected and startling events, apparently not accounted for by any known causes, that it is not surprising that many persons regard gambling, and games of chance, as, in the main, ruled by "luck", or, in other words, as a series of results obtained without any producing cause.
This very general belief, however, is an erroneous one. Various writers and mathematicians, of greater or less eminence, in relation to the doctrine of chances or probabilities, have, by a series of most elaborate calculations, demonstrated that each separate event at cards or dice, however apparently the result of chance, is not so in fact, but is one of the links in an enormously prolonged chain of combinations and sequences.
A writer, in the Cornhill Magazine for 1872, on "Gambling Superstitions," cites the following instance of a set of unprecedented throws of dice. "In the year 1812, a Mr. Ogden wagered a thousand guineas to one that, 'seven' would not be thrown with a pair of dice, ten successive times. The wager was accepted, and, strange to say, his opponent threw 'seven' nine times running. At this point, Mr. Ogden offered four hundred and seventy guineas to be off the bet. His opponent declined. He cast yet once more, and threw 'nine,' so that
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Mr. Ogden won his guinea. Here we have an instance of a most remarkable series of throws, the like of which has never been recorded before or since." The writer then makes a series of elaborate calculations, proving that the probability or chance of throwing "seven" ten times running, is more than sixty millions to one.
Strange "hands" occasionally turn up at cards. A writer in All the Year Round for October, 1876, narrates a remarkable instance which occurred at the military cantonment at Jubbulpore, in India. "The cards used on this occasion had been played with before, and were shuffled and cut in the usual way. When the fifty-two cards had been dealt, and the hands looked at, the combinations were such as might well astonish the players. The dealer was found to have all the thirteen spades; his partner had eleven clubs; his antagonist, on the left, had twelve hearts; and he on the right, twelve diamonds. Mr. Richard A. Procter, whose works on astronomy are well known, has gone at some length into this subject of strange "hands" at cards; his mathematical attainments enabling him to do readily that which would be formidable to less practised calculators. Mr. Procter found that the odds are more than thirty millions to one against spades turning up thirteen times in succession. This is pretty well,
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Maturity of Chances.
but it is nothing to the row of figures which this skilful computer has ascertained to represent the odds against such an extremely unlikely deal as the Jubbulpore combination ever occurring again. It is stupendous, eight hundred millions of millions to one against the event." The writer in Cornhill, already quoted, affirms that there is an absolute certainty that, in the long run, these and all other combinations at cards and dice, in obedience to an almost inexorable law, will occur with absolute certainty, as often as their respective chances warrant. Gamblers often attach great importance to what is called "the maturity of chances." But what gambler can wait for such a long deferred "maturity?" Whilst he plays and waits, he, and thousands more, meet the gamblers' doom, and go down to certain ruin.
Thus, one of the greatest authorities on games of chance, declares that "the results of the labours of eminent mathematicians ought to terrify the most reckless gamester, by laying open to him the infinite and almost certain dangers to which he exposes his fortune and his happiness, when he engages himself in that labyrinth of chances, which, sooner or later, must overwhelm him."
After a careful examination of authorities, and a matured consideration of the subject, I am
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convinced that "luck" has no influence whatever in determining the results of games of chance. Every "hand," or combination, is but the result of inexorable law, and simply forms one of the links of a chain, the units of which are to be counted by millions. At rare intervals, there are great winners at the gambling table, say, in some such proportion as one to a million; the series of combinations being, in that case, to be reckoned pro forma at a million and one.
"We by no means question," says the Cornhill writer, before quoted, "the possibility that money may be gained quite safely by gambling." But the odds in favor of the gambling banks are enormous, and, to use an expressive vulgarism, the gambling bank practically says to its customers, "Heads I win, tails you lose."
That is all.
It would be idle to say to a gambler, "Have nothing to do with 'luck,' for it will deceive you." But I do say to him, most earnestly, "Have nothing to do with gambling, that most selfish and contemptible vice, for if you persist in it, it will certainly ruin you."
A common instance of a belief in "luck" occurs in the tossing of a coin. How often do we hear of disputes and differences being settled by a "toss
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Heads or Tails.
up." Now, in working out this question of "luck," I have amused myself by tossing a coin a great many times, and have noted the proportion of "heads or tails" resulting from tosses of a coin, say in sets of one hundred each. In measuring the results of each hundred fair tosses, an irregular and uncertain ratio is the result. Sometimes it would be forty-five "heads" to fifty-five "tails," sometimes sixty to forty, thirty-five to sixty-five, fifty-three to forty-seven, and so on. To weary you with a long array of figures would manifestly be out of place in a lecture an hour long. I shall therefore merely give results. Now, if a coin be tossed one million times, you would have a certain ratio as the result. In such an extended basis, every deflection or disturbing influence would have its proportionate weight, and the average established, if not absolutely invariable in any given number of sets of a million each, yet would be found approximately so.
It is true that, in one million tosses in sets of one hundred each, you have a very few instances showing "heads" tossed, say twenty times running, a larger number showing ten "heads" or "tails" tossed successively and so on. But, in a prolonged experiment you would find the law of combination of chances in constant and inexorable operation,
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and the result would, as already stated, establish a certain fixed ratio or average; so proving conclusively that, even in "a toss up," "luck" cannot possibly exert the smallest influence.
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FIRE AND LIFE INSURANCE.--LOCAL COMPANIES ON NARROW BASIS UNSUCCESSFUL.--ART UNIONS.--SUCCESSFUL DRAWS.--LAW OF PROBABILITIES.--THE STOLEN DOLLARS.
The combination of chances, or law of averages, to which I have just referred, has been the basis upon which fire and life insurance companies are established, and yet, few would be foolish enough to say that these valuable associations owe any of their success to "luck." But a believer in "luck" may well ask, "What can be more uncertain than the duration of life? What more difficult to account for than fires?" It is true that in life there are ten thousand disturbing influences. In infancy many die. Accidents add an uncertain element difficult to measure. The strong and robust are often unexpectedly cut down, while the weak and feeble live on. Suicide sweeps away its victims, and old age demands its offerings. And yet, accurately compiled tables of mortality have established that a certain ratio in each year, or period of years, die from each of these causes. Thus, upon elements of the utmost possible uncertainty, the
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merest chances, so called, one of the most valuable institutions of modern times has been founded.
Similarly with "fire," what more difficult to measure or control? Dangerous compounds, badly constructed chimneys, carelessness and incendiarism, would seem to have established an uncertainty with which no caution nor calculation could successfully grapple. And yet, from casualties occurring under every possible condition or combination of chances, on the widest basis, has been educed a law of average--precisely the same in principle as the law of average I have shown to be evolved by a million tosses of a coin.
We know very well what often happens, if a man neglects to renew his policy of insurance, or if he declines to insure. In either case, he is his own insurer, and takes a solitary risk of a dangerous character. By so doing, he is acting upon the very narrowest basis possible, and is, in fact, setting at defiance the great law of average. His risk is therefore enormously increased, and loss is often the natural result. Whenever a calamity happens to a man acting in this manner, he is pronounced by thoughtless or ignorant people, to be "unlucky;" whereas, he has simply been foolish, and pays the penalty of his folly. Before the law of average (the true basis of all insurance) was well understood,
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many mistakes were made, and, in consequence, heavy losses incurred.
I remember a local insurance company being set on foot, to insure against losses by fire, in three of the largest manufacturing towns of Yorkshire.
The wealthy manufacturers and merchants of these three towns, and of the area lying between them, had long been paying large sums to the Globe, Sun, Norwich, and other London offices.
Fires had been of rare occurrence in the district, and they established a local insurance company, which would insure themselves, and, so keep the money in the district. Fires, as already stated, had been very rare, and the Local Company was very popular, and well supported; almost every mill-owner and merchant took shares, and insured with the new company. For nine months no fires occurred, and the shareholders were jubilant. But, in the next three months, a succession of large fires took place, which swept away all the paid-up capital and all the premiums, and the company was wound up.
Was this failure due to "luck," or to the want of it? No, to neither one nor the other. The promoters had acted like a man, who, tossing up a coin a hundred times, finds a certain number of "heads" come down, bets that the next hundred
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tosses a similar number will come down "heads" also, but who finds that it comes down chiefly "tails," and loses his venture. Had the operator based his calculations on the ratio of "heads" and "tails," shown by a million tosses, he would have been able to have ascertained the true average of variation. In like manner, the great insurance organizations take a million risks under every conceivable variation of conditions. On this wide basis of average they arrive at an almost certain ratio of loss, arrange their premiums accordingly, and pay large and certain dividends to their shareholders.
In fact, large insurance companies who act in this manner are very much in the position of a gambling bank at a German kursaal or gambling saloon. To quote again from Cornhill: "First, they have the odds in their favor; secondly, a sufficient capital to prevent premature collapse; and, thirdly, having a sufficient number of customers, success is absolutely certain in the long run. The capital of the gambling public doubtless exceeds, collectively, the capital of the gambling banks; but the bank's capital is used collectively; the fortunes of the gambling public are devoured successively, the sticks, which would be irresistible as a faggot, are broken one by one."
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To the Last Shilling.
I observe that "local insurance companies" have recently become very popular in this colony. I commend the principles I have laid down to the promoters of these fashionable speculations; and I warn intending shareholders in these undertakings, that, until they cease to be "local" in every respect but in name and management, they will be enterprises full of danger. I may further warn intending shareholders that all insurance companies involve unlimited liability, which means that every shareholder is liable to the last shirt and the last shilling, to make good the losses of insurers.
Another form of gambling is the lottery. The lottery is commonly supposed to be governed by "luck." The mischievous results were so apparent that public lotteries have been abolished by law, except for purposes of encouraging art, when they assume the name of Art Unions. But in all cases they show results which are the sequences of the law of averages. A curious illustration of this once occurred to myself. Some time ago, an accomplished artist in this colony, found a difficulty in selling his paintings. I believe every artist in this city has to contend with a similar difficulty; for, I regret to say, that the people of Auckland give little encouragement to artists.
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The artist in question, got up an Art Union, to sell twelve of his paintings. I was invited to take a ticket. Though I detest lotteries, as only another kind, and a very bad kind, of gambling, with a view of encouraging the artist, I took five tickets.
Careless about the result to myself, I desired one of my clerks to select the numbers. On the day appointed, to my great surprise, I took four prizes, and, remarkably enough, they were the first, second, third, and fifth. Immediately on this being known, I was congratulated on being extremely "lucky," and was asked to select the numbers for a friend, who intended to subscribe to another Art Union. Believing that the fact of my success in one instance rendered success in a second venture, extremely improbable, I declined. Some time afterwards, I was importuned to subscribe to a third Art Union. I took six tickets, and my anticipations were realised, for I did not draw a single prize, though the numbers were selected as before. I had, probably, in accordance with the law of averages, exhausted the proportion of success coming to me in a long series of events.
A singular instance of the operation of the law of average, or law of probabilities, is given by the writer in Cornhill, already quoted, on the authority
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The Law of Average.
of De Morgan, who had the story from a distinguished naval officer, who was once employed to bring home a cargo of dollars. "At the end of the voyage," he says, "it was discovered that one of the boxes which contained the dollars had been forced; and, on making further search, a large bag of dollars was discovered in the possession of some one on board. The coins in the different boxes were a mixture of all manner of dates and sovereigns, and it occurred to the commander that, if the contents of the boxes were sorted, a comparison of the proportions of the different sorts in the bag, with those which had been opened, would afford strong presumptive evidence one way or the other. This comparison was accordingly made, and the agreement between the distribution of the several coins in the bag and those in the box was such as to leave no doubt as to the former having formed a part of the latter."
The Cornhill writer goes on to say, "If the bag of stolen dollars had been a small one, the inference would have been unsafe, but the great number of the dollars corresponded to a great number of chance trials; and as, in such a large series of trials, the several results would be sure to occur in numbers corresponding to their individual chances, it followed that the numbers of coins of the different
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kinds in the stolen lot would be proportional, or very nearly so, to the numbers of those respective coins in the forced box. Thus, in this case, the thief increased the strength of the evidence against him by every dollar he added to his ill-gotten store."
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Success in Life.
UNSUCCESSFUL MEN.--CONDITIONS AND QUALITIES TO SECURE SUCCESS, CONTROLLED BY SUBTLE INFLUENCES.--PHILOSOPHY AT FAULT.--"KNOW THYSELF."--MAN A MYSTERY.--SAGE AND ORACLE.--SCIENCE NOT AN ACTUAL KNOWING.--LITTLE MORE THAN A DESIRE TO KNOW.--DR. TYNDALL'S MANLY CONFESSION.
Resuming the direct discussion of my subject, I may observe that many instances have doubtless occurred where men have failed in their enterprises, though the necessary elements of success have apparently been in operation.
Before I proceed to the further consideration of this part of my subject, permit me to say that when I assert that certain qualities produce their natural result--success in life--I do not say that this occurs in every case, with the precision of a mathematical rule. Not so; for we have no means of ascertaining what would be that perfect and fitting balance of the qualities, mental and physical, which are to act and re-act upon the conditions of life with which they are to come in contact.
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Moreover, valuable as I consider riches, position, and much that belongs to a "successful man" to be, there are things to be more highly prized even than these. In the wise arrangements of a beneficent Providence, numberless instances have occurred where men have digged and toiled, and written and fought, without securing more than a very humble share of this world's good. Nature's noblemen, who fared hardly all their days, but bequeathed to mankind a right noble legacy of beauty and goodness, of truth, and honor, and knowledge, which, had riches been their portion, might have remained in that regal treasury which God ever opens more liberally to the poor and the lowly, aye, and to the unsuccessful, than to the lofty, the successful, or the great. The failures of men good, capable, and true, are doubtless permitted for good and wise ends, lest success in this life should peril their inheritance to that higher, and holier, and happier state in the life yet to live, which their grand old Book tells them they will certainly enjoy.
With this digression, I proceed to point out those elements which, with their allied qualities, I think, in the main, secure success in life, but which, the believers in "luck" tell us they have often seen in operation without producing the
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An Object in View.
desired result, and arguing therefore that "luck" must be the disturbing cause.
In my experiences of life, I have observed that success has generally been the result of the timely and balanced use of the cardinal qualities of judgment, integrity, skill, energy, perseverance, and common sense.
Show me a man with an object before him, and if he use these qualities rightly, I will show you a man who will succeed. Before such an one Fortune may stop her wheel, and Jupiter shut his book of destiny.
Mind, I say the well-balanced and seasonable use, for whilst, in all cases, each of these qualities may come more or less into play, they are not always, nor necessarily, of equal service.
For instance, in making a road, a man must have judgment to lay it out properly; skill to use appliances; energy to push on the work; perseverance and courage to cope with difficulties as they arise; and must have that not too abundant faculty sometimes called common sense. If he fail in using any one of these qualities at the fitting time, all the others will have been exercised in vain, and his road will be a failure.
Those who may think they have seen instances, where a supposed possession and apparent practice,
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of these priceless qualities, have not secured success, have to prove to us that their possessor has brought all into operation, as occasion required; or, that like Xenophon, he has laid aside his perseverance, relied upon judgment, and beat a well-timed retreat; or, like Caesar, cast caution to the winds, plunged into the Rubicon, and, with an engrossing energy, committed himself to his purpose; has, in the exercise of a wise decision--
"Taken the instant by the forward top,
For we are old, and on our quick'st decrees,
The inaudible and noiseless foot of time,
Steals, ere we can effect them."
Philosophers have invented appliances for measuring many of the forces of nature, and they predict confidently some of the results of powers thus indicated.
We dip a thermometer into a vessel of water to which heat is applied, and, we know that under a certain pressure, precisely as the liquid metal indicates 212 deg., the water boils.
The chymist dissolves, analyses, and demonstrates with accuracy and precision. Iron pathways traverse the Old World and the New, and the traveller calculates on arriving at his destination at a given hour.
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The Alps have been pierced, and the Andes measured; the depths of the ocean have been sounded, and its minute and curious organisms brought to the light of day. Were it even asked of one of the sons of men, as of old, "Canst thou send lightnings that they may go and say unto thee, 'here we are?'" ten thousand leagues of electric wire might give a triumphant and sublime reply.
But where is the philosopher who has measured the hidden forces, the latent weakness, the subtle volitions of the mind of man? Whose plummet hath sounded its secret depths? Who is prescient enough to forsee the obstacles these powers are to be matched against?
Over the entrance to one of the temples of Apollo, it is said, there was inscribed the famous words of the Grecian sage, "know thyself." This injuction met every enquirer at the oracle. He who would know the secrets of futurity was reminded with silent irony of the prior need of knowing himself.
Man has been a mystery to himself from the beginning. Even his physical mechanism is yet only partially comprehended. As to his mental organization, and the way in which the physical matter of the brain acts upon the incomprehensible
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essence we call mind, he knows little or nothing.
What sets the will in motion? How does that will influence the muscles in the common act of walking?
It is easy to talk of flexors and extensors, but what we have not been told, is, in what way mind acts upon matter, and how matter re-acts upon mind? How does the mind act upon the body, which it so strongly controls, and by which it is so strangely controlled in its turn?
Wiry are the mind and body in an unequal bondage to each other? Why does the body, under an impulse from the mind, move at most but in a narrow circle? Why does the mind, when it pleases, make the circuit of the earth in a moment? How comes it, that in the twinkling of an eye, the mind's swift winged messenger darts to the sun, or sweeps through space to the far distant limits of the universe?
Who can answer, that we may know?
Sage and oracle have long been silent. The ancient temple lies a ruin, desolate and suggestive; but man is still a mystery, uncomprehended, as in days of yore. Century follows century in the silent march of time, and yet, with persistent irony, the old Greek legend grimly says to man in every age, "know
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Science, so called.
thyself," as though he were yet a veritable "know nothing."
Science, so called, for in truth, this proud word of the moderns is not the actual knowing, not even the power to know, little more in fact than the desire to know; science, with its hypotheses and speculations, daring indeed, but some of them, little less wild and grotesque than the myths of the ancients,--science, with its glimmering lantern, still gropes and stumbles amongst the thick darkness which envelopes the origin of matter and life, which surrounds the subtle impulses of the mind of man.
Since writing this lecture I have met with the following manly confession of error, which will do much to render men of science more careful in their experiments, and more cautious in drawing conclusions from them:--Lecturing at the Royal Institution, on January 17, Dr. Tyndall stated "that his more recent researches into the germs which peopled the air were altogether against the theory of spontaneous generation. When his results for a time appeared to be in favour of that theory, he did not hold them back from fear of ridicule. There was a title which was becoming more and more a title of honour--that of a man of
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science--of which he should be altogether unworthy if he did not tread all lower motives under foot, and did he not avow that last year he had been in error."
Let us then not presumptuously ascribe results, even the most trifling, to an influence like that of chance or "luck," merely because we cannot, as yet, discern their latent, but real cause.
Let us not, by our fantastic cobwebs, attempt to fetter the grandly moving laws of Nature and of Nature's God.
Remember, oh man! that secret things belong to the Most High. Seek not to impugn the Supreme Intelligence working, with master hand, the grand mosaic of thy life. With patient silence, wait:--
"Nor order, imperfection name;
All nature, is but art unknown to thee;
All chance, direction which thou canst not sec;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good."
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A Controlling Power.
LAW NOT "LUCK."--THE SUPERNATURAL.--PROVIDENCE THE CONTROLLER.--SUCCESS NEITHER TEST OF EXCELLENCE, NOR REWARD OF MERIT.--MR. PATERIL'S UNSUCCESSFUL BUT NOBLE LIFE.--CHILD'S PUZZLE.--THE DRAMA OF LIFE.--ITS INEQUALITY AND APPARENT INJUSTICE CONSIDERED.
I have said that my object in bringing this subject under your notice is not merely negative, but positive, and, having endeavoured to portray the folly and danger of a belief in "luck," I now proceed to point out what I conceive to be the Potential Influence constantly at work in the affairs of men.
We cannot walk about in the world of wonders in which we live, without seeing a thousand evidences of a creative energy, a constructive skill and a controlling power of illimitable benificence, so all-prevading as to lead us to the inevitable conclusion that there is some Being who has impressed the force of LAW on all sublunary things, but who reserves the right, as He has the power, to change, reverse, or abrogate any law which He has made.
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SUPERNATURAL is a word that some modern philosophers have attempted to laugh out of our dictionaries. But to my mind SUPERNATURAL is an expressive term, which most truly represents the only key capable of unlocking the subtle and otherwise unknowable enigma of life and its vicissitudes.
Learned professors of the art of knowing dispute the doctrine of Providence, and laugh at prayer as a clumsily devised fable.
In confirmation of their opinions they point with scornful finger to the fact that good men often fail in securing the summum bonum, that highest good of human desire, "success in life," whilst the wicked "spreadeth himself as a green bay tree," carrying out to the full the maxim of the Epicureans, "Eat, drink, for to-morrow we die."
"Why is it," they ask, "that Providence, as you call it, does not interfere on behalf of those who believe in such an influence?" And they seek to place us in a dilemma by saying that, "either confusion and injustice appear to be the normal condition of mundane affairs, or that Providence, if He existed, or had the power, would reward the good and punish the bad, and that, as He manifestly does not give mankind
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Success in Life.
their deserts, it follows, that Providence either does not exert his power, or, that His existence is a myth."
This mode of reasoning is that usually employed by those who seek to measure Infinite Wisdom by the two-foot rule of finite knowledge.
In reply I assert that "succes in life" is, of necessity, neither the test of excellence, the reward of merit, nor the measure of happiness. I also say, that the supernatural has revealed to man that there is in him THAT which will not be annihilated, when this seventy years of life, this short tenancy-at-will, has ended. I say that the inconsistencies, feebleness, inequality and suffering of this fragmental part of life point incontestibly to a perfect adjustment in an infinitely prolonged period of existence in the eternal future.
I once knew a noble-minded man, who, in the midst of his commercial operations, devoted himself to the work of benefitting his fellows. Mr. Pateril was ever at the call of the unsuccessful, the wretched, and the fallen, and for a quarter of century devoted his life to the Divine work of making the world better than he found it.
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The great commercial convulsion which swept over England in 1847 carried away the savings of years of toil, leaving him, like an oak riven by the tempest, a ruin in everything but reputation and peace of mind. I well remember Mr. Pateril saying to me, "God hath so willed it, and it is for the best, for had my wealth been permitted to remain to me, I might have forgotten my duty to my fellows and to my God."
So, he ended his useful and noble life, leaving an honored name and a good example to his children, and attended to his last resting-place by the tears and blessings of hundreds who loved him during his life, and revered and honored his memory; so true is it, that "the memory of the just is blessed."
In such a life, "luck," good or bad, had no no place and no influence.
Because a man places before us a confused heap of fragments from some forgotten ruin, we are not therefore to agree with him, if he say that they reveal little of the past, and promise nothing for the future. For, a closer investigation shows us that this confused heap of broken tiles once formed an ancient pavement of intricate and curious pattern, and which, when burnt in the fire, and polished on the wheel of a
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master potter, will produce a mosaic of more than pristine beauty.
Ignorance, prejudice, and pride strangely misinterpret the scenes in the great drama of life.
Pondering one silent midnight hour on this great drama, and the influence Providence exerts upon it, a picture presented itself before me. It was a landscape of singular beauty. A sweet and peaceful valley lay at my feet. As I looked, I saw it was harvest time. Patches of golden corn awaited the merry sickle of the reapers. Cattle quietly grazed in the green and flowery meadows. A river, winding like a streak of silver through noble woods and pretty villages, finds its way to the opal-tinted sea beyond. Noble forests crown the hills, and towering above all, lofty snow-clad peaks reflect the purple glory of the setting sun. Children, reapers, foresters and fishermen add an element of life and enterprise needed to render the scene a picture of rare and perfect beauty.
Let us suppose that in the persuit of their varied objects, these busy people, in the main, reap the fruits of their toil, but that to some there befall those accidents, as we call them, incidental to humanity in its present condition,
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such as the drowning boy in the river; the woodman struck down by a falling tree; the fishing smack foundering in a sudden squall; the mountain village overwhelmed by an avalanche. Let us suppose that the artist, with marvellous skill, had depicted these events and interwoven them with the autumn and sylvan beauty of the landscape. Let this glorious painting, so full of nature, life, and tragic incident, be cut into a variety of irregular pieces like a child's puzzle. One fragment contains a snowy peak gilded with sunset glory, one a field of golden corn, one a majestic tree, another a rustic cottage, one a drowning boy, one a ruined tower, another a disabled woodman; others, a lofty spire, a shipwreck, a country alehouse with its revellers, one a sturdy laborer, another a dashing equipage, and so with the whole painting, each fragment telling its story of joy or sorrow, of success or failure, of the laughing bride, of the weeping mourner, of happiness and misery, of youth and age, of strength and beauty.
Place all these fragments before a child in perfect ignorance of what the picture as a whole represented, and ask him to piece the fragments together as he would a puzzle.
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The Great Artist.
He takes up each fragment telling its own story. At first he is confused by the medley. He can make nothing of it. Its apparent disorder comfounds him. As he takes up fragment after fragment, he sees toil, pain, joy, sorrow, happiness, wealth, poverty, and gay, perhaps drunken, revelry, like so many tinted cameos. Now he admires the beauty of one, now he weeps with the sorrowful, laughs with the merry, or shudders at calamity, and protests, in his childish way, at the inequality and injustice which the isolated fragments represent.
Shocked with the suffering, wearied with the confusion, and, not having seen the painting in its original and unbroken perfection, he tries, but tries in vain, to bring order out of disorder, regularity out of confusion, until, at length, wearied with a task beyond his feeble powers, he declares that none can put the puzzle together.
Standing by, and silently overlooking the child, we see the artist, whose keen perception and skilful hand had faithfully portrayed this picture of life and nature.
What the child had utterly failed in doing the great artist easily adjusted. Then the eyes of the child were opened, and, at last, he saw
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the picture in all its wondrous beauty and perfect symmetry.
So with life, and man, and Providence. "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face, and we shall know even as we are known."
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ADVENTURE IN MAORIDOM.--DANGEROUS POSITION.--GREAT ESCAPE.--SPECIAL PROVIDENCE.--THE RATIONAL.--THE SUPERNATURAL.--PROVIDENCE A REALITY.
Illustrative of what I mean by a special interference of Providence, permit me to narrate one of my own adventures.
Some years ago, in the troublous times when Kereopa and his savage associates rendered the interior of the North Island of New Zealand very dangerous ground, it became necessary that I should visit some Maori chiefs of my acquaintance, with the view of removing the aukati, imaginary line, or barrier, which prevented a large herd of my cattle passing through the country. I was accompanied by two European friends well acquainted, like myself, with the usages of the Maories, and with the roads and kaingas, or native villages, in that part of the country. I was also accompanied by two Maori chiefs of rank, but who were unacquainted with the route we intended to travel. We had camped out on the plains within a few miles of
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the native settlement of Waotu, where resided a Ngatiraukau chief of high rank, Hori Ngawhare, a friend of mine, and on whose assistance I counted in helping me to get the aukati removed. We made an early start, and, after riding two or three hours, we arrived within a mile of the village, at a point where the track we had been following divided, one track continuing through a little valley to the right, the other running to the left over a gentle eminence. At this point my European friends were in advance, and, as well as myself, knowing the path on the right would lead us directly into the Maori village, followed that track. The two chiefs took the left track. I called them back, pointed to the right track as the proper road. They halted, and unaccountably persisted in saying their road was the right one. I well remember my astonishment at the obstinate ignorance of the Maories, they never having been the road before. I halted, midway between the two tracks. Nothing I could say had the least effect upon the Maories. That three men, well acquainted with the road, should be overruled by two Maories, who were ignorant of both tracks, was preposterous. I again endeavoured to induce the Maories to take the
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track, but in vain. Both Europeans and Maories resolutely halted on their respective tracks. Indignant at the obstinacy of the Maories I again insisted on their taking the track to the right, but in vain. They had nothing to say, but refused to move.
I well remember being in that state of mind when a feather would have turned the balance in favor of the track on which my Europeans had halted.
Suddenly it flashed across my mind that, in the event of any serious difficulty or danger arising, the Maories would sullenly throw their blankets over their heads and do nothing, leaving us to our fate.
That reflection decided me, and I gave the word to follow the Maories and take the left and wrong track. My European friends were indignant and sulkily obeyed.
We now rode on in single file up the gentle eminence. In less than five minutes we reached the summit, and, to our surprise, beheld a party of Maories encamped in the valley below. Drawing rein, with one accord we halted. I shall never forget the sensations of that moment. It was a lovely morning. The
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most perfect stillness reigned. The encampment of Maories in the quiet valley, rude huts scattered here and there, and the great trees of the forest of Waotu lying in grand repose beyond.
Not a word was spoken. None could tell whether the Maories were friends or foes. It was too late to retrace our steps, and I gave the word "forward."
We rode slowly and silently into the valley, not a word of welcome greeted us, the Maories, whoever they were, being as silent and observant as ourselves. At fifty yards from the encampment we halted, and, to our great relief, I saw my old friend Hori Ngawhare amongst them. I knew then that we were safe so far.
As soon as they recognized who we were, they received us cheerfully, but with a strange reticence. After the usual salutations I explained my errand, when the chieftain said to me, "No, you cannot break the aukati. Kereopa, the eye-eater and murderer of missionaries, crossed the river (Waikato) last night with his companions, and is now in the old pah in the forest where you stayed some years ago. This is my word to you: return to your kainga, for Kereopa has sworn to kill the first pakeha (European)he sees."
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A Great Escape.
At these words we became at once fully sensible of our great escape. Had we followed the track my Europeans were so annoyed at leaving, in twenty minutes we should have ridden right into the jaws of Kereopa and his wolfish gang.
I saw at once that to persist in the attempt to carry out my purpose would be madness, and could only end in the certain destruction of the whole party. Whilst we partook of food, my friend Hori, to guard against surprise, posted sentries at every track through the forest. And so, mounting our horses, we turned our faces homeward, and as soon as we reached the open country, set spurs to our horses and quickly left the Waotu and its murderous occupants a long way in the rear.
I afterwards learnt, that, in less than an hour after our departure, Kereopa and his gang rushed into the quiet little valley, furious at our escape.
I thought then, and I think now, that our escape was not due to our "good luck," but was due solely to a direct and special Providential interference. Not that I think we had done anything to merit such an interference, for if the best of men had their deserts, Providence
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would leave them to suffer unaided. But God's mercy is greater than our deservings, and He continually defends us from the consequences of our weakness, our follies, and our sins. "For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Can it be conceived that the unseen but all pervading and forceful Power which plumes the wing of a butterfly that flits its day and dies, which fashions with perfect symmetry a frail and delicate flower, making it "a thing of beauty," but not "a joy for ever," regards man as nothing? Universal life owes to Him its being; and He giveth to every creature its "meat in due season?" Can it be possible that He who does all this, "sitteth in the circle of the heavens" an unconcerned spectator of the actions and sufferings of the chief--the masterpiece--of all His works, man--sinful, imperfect, yet wonderful, immortal man? Like the atmosphere which surrounds our globe, and which neutralizes, absorbs, and annihilates the fetid odours of a great city, or the pestilential miasma of a tropical marsh, converting, in the wonderful alembic of Nature's great laboratory, every death-laden exhalation into the elements necessary
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for the development of prolonged life, and of new forms of use and beauty. So, that almighty love,
"Boundless, as ocean's tide,
Rolls in fullest pride,
Far and wide."
That all-embracing love of God does not leave mankind to struggle unaided in the quagmire of their own imperfection and sin. Therefore, the rational agrees with the supernatural, in this, that He is willing to "help in time of need," and that no man crieth to Him in vain, and, that He interferes directly, as well as indirectly, in the affairs of men. In a word, then, I regard a belief in "luck" as a delusion and a mockery, and I unhesitatingly avow my unwavering belief in Providence as a reality, a verity of verities, an all-pervading and infinitely active and loving power.
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THE "LUCK" WORTH HAVING.--SIR TITUS SALT AND SALTAIRE.--EDUCATED FOR OPPORTUNITIES.--UNIFORMITY NOT A LAW OF NATURE.
When a man girds himself for the storm and battle of life, I want him first of all to believe in Providence; I want him to remove from his mind every particle of belief in any sinister influence whatever, except that which naturally arises from his own deficiency of knowledge, morality, or power.
I want him to make truth, honor, and courage, a part of himself.
I want him to educate himself for opportunities, so that, when these call for him to seize them, he may readily and boldly say, "Here am I, send me." I would have a man prepare himself for emergencies, and endeavour to know, in every moment of difficulty, what to do next. I would have him trust nothing to chance, but, like an experienced chess-player, lay his plans beforehand, and, as far as possible, win the battle in his head, before actually engaging in the contest.
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The "Luck" Worth Having.
These, then, are the grounds on which we may cherish a self-dependence, true and noble.
This is the only destiny I believe in. Let a man be his own good genius, fearing nothing more than the evil he finds in himself, or the temptations around him, which are ever appealing to his weakness, his ignorance, or his folly.
As it may possibly be some further illustration of the only "luck" worth having, permit me to narrate some incidents in the life of a man I once knew.
Some forty-five years ago, this man commenced business as a wool-spinner in the manufacturing town of Bradford in Yorkshire. He began in a very small way, and under the usual difficulties attendant on small capital and imperfect knowledge. He purchased wool chiefly in Liverpool. One day a Liverpool wool-broker said to him, "We have had some Stuff lying a long time in our warehouse, whether it is hair or wool we don't know. It is called alpaca. We have offered it to all the wool-spinners of our acquaintance, but they can do nothing with it. Will you try it?" The wool-spinner looked at it, and took a sample away with him, with the understanding
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that he could have it at cost and charges. The spinner experimented upon it in his mill with scant success. The broker urged him to persevere. He did persevere, and, after a hundred failures, succeeded in spinning it into a shining silky thread. At his next visit to Liverpool he arranged to purchase, at a few pence per pound, all the alpaca to be produced for a period of years. He now set to work and adapted his machinery to meet the conditions the alpaca required. He succeeded beyond his expectations, and, as his business increased, he rented one spinning-mill after another, until, in 1851, he had accumulated a large fortune. About that time he purchased a tract of land on the river Aire, near Bradford, on which he erected one of the largest mills in England. He now employed about 3,000 work-people, for whom he built a town of nearly one thousand houses, providing churches, mechanics' institutes, and savings banks, and fitting every house with gas, water, and garden.
This "lucky" man, as people who knew nothing of him, called him, was Sir Titus Salt, and the town he built is Saltaire. As I knew him, he was a plain, silent, unpretending man, but possessed--as the result proved--of clear
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Sir Titus Salt.
perceptions, indomitable perseverance, and great powers of generalisation.
It was my lot frequently to pass, by railway, this town of Saltaire, shortly after it was built, and, on almost every occasion, I was greeted by some of my fellow-travellers with, "What a lucky man Salt is!"
In every case I combatted this opinion, narrating the facts I have detailed to you. It is only due to myself to say that my intimate knowledge of Sir Titus Salt's antecedents and actions enabled me generally to bring the advocates of the "theory of luck" to admit that the grand success he had achieved was due, not to "luck," but, under Providence, to the skill, energy, and perseverance he had so conspicuously displayed.
Permit me to add that this "Prince of Manufacturers," as he was fitly styled, died recently, as he had lived, a Christian man, using his wealth during his lifetime to benefit his fellows, by munificently supporting almost every prominent institution in England, which aimed at ameliorating the condition of mankind, in almost every part of the globe, and, at his death, leaving, amongst other bequests, a sum of thirty thousand pounds to provide
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for ever for the worn-out work-people of Saltaire. Is it surprising that, on the day of his funeral, every mill in the great manufacturing district of Bradford was closed, and that 100,000 people accompanied his remains to their last resting-place?
Now that is the "luck" I believe in. It is the sort of "luck" I desire you to believe in.
It may be said that all men have not similar opportunities. I readily admit it. Nor would the world be wisely governed were it otherwise. Diversity is stamped on the very face of all things. Continent and ocean, mountain and valley, storm and sunshine, rulers and subjects, master and servant, rich and poor, labourers with the head and toilers with the hand, all proclaim that uniformity is NOT a law of nature.
But does this diversity imply injustice? Does unhappiness necessarily follow inequality of condition?
I think not.
The sullen level of a changeless communism may have charms for some; they may admire the pestiferous shores of a dead and waveless sea, undisturbed by change, or life, or motion; but the majority of mankind have ever preferred
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The Sparkle of the Spray.
the dancing sparkle of the spray, and the merry music of the flowing stream.
But, notwithstanding this necessary inequality, Providence gives all men opportunities, not, it may be, of being chieftains or leaders of their race, but, verily, of doing honourable duty amongst the rank-and-file; not as heroes, but as men, ever varying in measure, skill, and talent; capable of filling one or other of the thousand posts in the stirring battle of life, and, though but few may wear the laurel crown, there is yet a fitting prize for every manly, patient soul.
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FORTI ET FIDELI NIHIL DIFFICILE.
Let the young and ardent be on the look-out for opportunities, not by continual waiting, Micawber-like, for "something to turn up," for we must be something more than sacks or stomachs, ready to receive whatever some good genius, or our own "good luck"--so called--may put into them.
No! Let us not wait overmuch for opportunities; if they come not we must make them; we must be more than mere passive recipients; we must, in the main, be our own good angels, and, if our position on Fortune's wheel be at the bottom, why we must put our shoulders to it, and heave it round ourselves.
Rather than seek or wait for possible opportunities, let a man educate himself for them, and there will not be much risk of his not being found in the right place at the right time.
Like the youth who, having applied for a situation to a wealthy Parisian banker, and was refused. As he passed down the court-yard, the banker observed him stoop to pick up a pin.
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A Noble Evangel.
"Ah!" said he, "there is a youth who has acquired habits of observation and economy; that is the man I want," and recalling him, gave him an appointment at once. In course of time this "lucky" young man, as some would call him--this youth, "educated for opportunities," as I should call him--rose to be one of the first bankers in the metropolis of France.
Let me say to each of my young friends,--Lose no time in acquiring every good habit, gather up every bit of useful knowledge, and "whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might." Abandon, at once, and for ever, the gospel of "luck," as a delusion, a mockery, and a snare. Evermore pin thy faith to a nobler evangel:--
"To God, thy fellows,
To thine own self be true."
Depend not on good openings occurring to thee often, for a most faithful mirror of life and man reflects a common experience when he says--
"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune:
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."
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And, now, having endeavoured to show that our "luck" is very much as we make it; that a man's destiny is in his own hands in the main; and that good results generally follow resolute effort well directed, it only remains for me to observe that, since there will be instances in which all that a man can do will not secure the desired end; since the whole history of human belief and action tells us plainly that man is not a perfect and all-powerful being; since the necessities of his nature demand a forlorn-hope somewhere; that, when all has been done that can be done, and when that all has failed; when he is wading through deep waters; when clouds of sorrow are bursting over him; when the tempests of calamity are threatening to overwhelm him; then, in the last extremity, I want him to feel there is a ROCK on which he may firmly stand, a REFUGE where he may safely shelter.
And, not in these sad and solemn hours alone, but in the prosecution of every enterprise, in the sunny days of hopeful effort, in his daily life and actions, I would have him evermore to trust in the kind and paternal dealings of a wise and loving Providence, who is
"Supremely good when He bestows,
Nor less when He denies."
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Duty and Work.
In the manly words of one of the most eminent writers of the age, "I wish him to have valour to sustain the onsets of sorrow; to repel, if possible, threatened danger, or to bear up under the infliction of evil; to submit with grace and dignity to the inevitable; to acquiesce in the worst and severest of trials; and to improve all to high purposes and noble ends, rising out of the depths of distress, and re-appearing after darkness and tears, strong, resolute, serene. Whatever may happen, let us have a man that can recover himself, who, after being crushed and worsted for awhile by sorrow and misfortune, will seize again, with a firm hand, Duty and Work, advance with elastic step to renewed effort, yielding his heart unreluctantly to fresh impulses of pleasure, of duty, and of joy."
Consolation so complete, resources so unfailing, can only be secured by those who believe with the minstrel king of ancient time, that the Lord Almighty is a "God nigh at hand, ready to help in time of need."
To secure success in life, then, let no man trust in adventitious circumstances, for the chapter of accidents is the charter of the fool.
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In a word, if we desire to advance, we must have a definite object in view, whether it be a competence, a fortune, or a duty. Let us, at any cost, have a good object, an animating purpose; for honor, influence, happiness, all, can be ours only by effort well-directed, concentrated, and continuous.
We must not only be able, by dint of anvil and stout arm, to forge any given number of separate, independent links; we must also remember, if we are to accomplish our purpose, that we have to connect these links, to work them into a chain, strong and flexible, with which to bind the numerous circusmtances, floating like the fabled genii, to and fro in the world, and like them, waiting but the command of a master to do our bidding.
What matters it how many links and levers are lying about our feet? A thousand elemental forces may be waiting the laying on of hands; do they not remain elemental, and, therefore, powerless for ever, if we suffer them so to lie, inert?
Young man, let me say to thee, "Forti et fideli nihil difficile! To the brave and faithful nothing is impossible. Up then and be doing. Let thy motto be, "Forward and fear not," for
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The Banner of Victory.
every enterprise worth the undertaking, every triumph worth the winning, has its fortress of difficulty, and, it is only by courage and labour, skilful, energetic, and sustained, that we can hope to plant the banner of victory on the topmost tower.
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