Page images





The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means, and the exercise of ordinary qualities. The common life of every day, with its cares, necessities, and duties, affords ample opportunity for acquiring experience of the best kind, and its most beaten paths provide the true worker with abundant scope for effort, and room for selfimprovement. The road of human welfare lies along the old highway of steadfast well-doing ; and they who are the most persistent, and work in the truest spirit, will usually be the most successful.

Those who look into practical life will find that fortune is usually on the side of the industrious, as the winds and waves are on the side of the best navigators. In the pursuit of even the highest branches of human inquiry, the commoner qualities are found the most useful—such as common sense, attention, application, and perseverance.

The most careful attention and painstaking industry always mark the true workers. The greatest men are not those who depise small things, but those who improve them most carefully. Michael Angelo was one day explaining to a visitor in his studio what he had been doing at a statue since his last visit. "I have retouched

66 But

this part, polished that, softened this feature, brought out that muscle, given some expression to that lip, and more energy to that limb.” these are trifles,” remarked the visitor. “ It may be so," replied the sculptor, “but recollect that trifles make perfection, and that perfection is no


So it was said of Nicholas Poussin, the painter, that the rule of his conduct was, that “whatever was worth doing at all was worth doing well; and when asked late in life by a friend, by what means he had gained so high a reputation in Italy, Poussin emphatically answered, “Because I have neglected nothing."

The difference between men consists very much in the intelligence of their observation. A Russian proverb says of a man who does not observe things, “He goes through the forest, and sees no firewood." “The wise man's eyes are in his head," says Solomon, “but the fool walketh in darkness.”

Sir,” said Johnson on one occasion to a fine gentleman just returned from Italy, “ some men will learn more in the Hampstead stage-coach than others in the tour of Europe.' It is the mind that sees as well as the eye. Where unthinking gazers observe nothing, men of intelligent vision see into the very root of the matter put before their eyes, attentively noting differences, making comparisons, and seeing exactly what the thing means. In this way the telescope was invented by Galileo, and this proved the beginning of the modern science of astronomy. While Captain (afterwards Sir Samuel) Brown was occupied in studying the construction of bridges, with the view of contriving one of a cheap description to be thrown across the Tweed, near which he lived, he was walking in his garden one dewy autumn morning, when he saw a tiny spider's web suspended across his path. The idea immediately occurred to him that a bridge of iron ropes or chains might be made in the same way, and the result was the invention of the Suspension Bridge.

Brunel took his first lessons in forming the Thames Tunnel from the tiny shipworm : he saw how the little creature bored through the wood with its well-armed head, first in one direction, and then in another, till the archway was complete, and then covered over the roof and sides with a kind of varnish; and by copying the work exactly on a large scale, Brunel was at length enabled to accomplish his great engineering work. It is the intelligent eye of the careful observer which gives all these apparently trifling sights their value. So trifling a matter as the sight of seaweed floating past his ship, enabled Columbus to put an end to the mutiny which arose among his sailors at not discovering land, and to assure them that the New World was not far off. There is nothing so small that it should remain forgotten; and no fact, however trivial, but may prove useful in some way or other, if carefully interpreted. Who could have imagined that the famous chalk cliffs of England had been built up by tiny insects, detected only by the help of the microscope, of the same order of creatures that have filled the sea with islands of coral ? And who that contemplates such wonderful results arising from infinitely minute operations, will venture to doubt the power of little things.

It is the close observation of little things which is the secret of success in life, in business, in art, in science, and in every pursuit in life. Human knowledge is but an accumulation of small facts made by successful generations of men, the little bits of knowledge and experience carefully treasured up by them growing into a mighty pyramid. Though many of these facts and observations seemed in the first instance to have but slight significance, they are all found to have their essential uses, and to fit into their proper places.

Adapted from Smiles' Self-Help.


court-e-ous-ly bish-op

car- r-din-al


St. Philip Neri, as old readings say,
Met a young stranger in Rome's streets one day,
And being ever courteously inclined
To give young folks a sober turn of mind,
He fell into discourse with him, and thus
The dialogue they held comes down to us.

Be it so,

Saint.—Tell me what brings you, gentle youth, to

Rome? Youth.—To make myself a scholar, sir, I come. St.-And when you are one, what do you in

tend? Y.—To be a priest, I hope, sir, in the end. St.-Suppose it so; what have you next in view ? Y.-That I may get to be a canon too. St.-Well; and how then ? Y.

Why then, for aught I know, I may be made a bishop. St.

What next? Y.

Why, cardinal 's a high degreeAnd yet my lot it possibly may beSt.—Suppose it was; what then? Y.

Why, who can say, But I've a chance of being pope one day? St. — Well, having worn the mitre and red hat,

And triple crown, what follows after

Y.-Nay, there is nothing further, to be sure,

Upon this earth, that wishing can procure :
When I've enjoyed a dignity so high
As long as God shall please, then I must

die. St.-What! must you die ? fond youth, and at

the best, But wish, and hope, and may-be, all the

rest! Take my advice—whatever may betide, For that, which must be, first of all provide ;

« PreviousContinue »