Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Scotch Stories and Lectures, Humorous and Amusing
Lecture — The Way of Life

Some time ago I read a little volume by Emerson, bearing the title, The Conduct of Life. I read the great American's book in the earnest hope that I might find in it a few thoughts which would assist me in steering my own course. I expected to have pointed out to me “footprints on the sands of time,” which would in some measure point me the way I should go. Well, I liked Mr. Emerson’s book; but I did not find in it anything I could turn to much practical account. Mr. Emerson's lamp did certainly give forth a kind of light; but it was of such a sort as seemed to me only to aid in “making the darkness visible;” and yet, I must tell you, I had pleasure in reading it. A single thought contained in it I do not at present remember; but I recollect distinctly my feelings in reading it were akin to those I have experienced when, stretched on the green sward on a glorious summer day, I have, shading my eyes, gazed into the soft blue vault of heaven, and carelessly mused on the wondrous mysteries of existence, catching at times sweet glimpses of thought whioh give joy for the moment, but can never be definitely recalled; or, when walking alone by the shore on a placid summer night, I have gazed in rapture on the scene, sometimes pausing in a strange ecstacy of thought as the idea flashed across me that earth, air, sea, and sky, and all its countless worlds, with their bright reflected forms, had each moment, in my eye, a new creation. My little orb of sight embraced the great material universe: might I not at some future time travel quick as thought from star to star?

It is thoughts such as these that Emerson’s Conduct oj Life resembles; and so I had pleasure in the book. If ever I should have the joy of meeting Emerson in the everlasting city, or in the green fields of Eden, we shall have some jokes about his Conduct of Life, I will certainly tell him that it would be much easier for any mortal to find out the way of life for himself, than to find out the meaning of his mystic sayings. I do not feel that Mr. Emerson stands at all in my way as I enter on this subject

In speaking of the way of life, my desire shall be to impart to you, in as simple a form as possible, all I have learnt, either from books or experience, calculated to guide me through the perplexing paths of active business life. I will therefore avoid, as much as possible, theorizing, and be as practical as I can. If I do attempt to be flowery and eloquent occasionally, these ingredients will be introduced only in such quantity as may be necessary to make your humble servant pleasant to see and hear.

The Way of Life!—look to it, and they that travel on it!— Happy childhood, with its uncounted hours of sunny joys; hopeful youth, with its bright dreams and ardent aspirations; life’s prime, with its passionate raptures of love, joy, sorrow, pride, anger, and ambition, all ruling by turns. The noon-day past, life’s charms begin to fade. A serious aspect now is worn. The traveller now looks backwards and upwards. The cords that bound him firmly to the world are breaking, one by one. Old age succeeds. The vale of years has such a company that parting should be pleasure. Vice parts with sin and suffering; while virtue, ripened for entrance on the true and good, feels that to die is gain.

These thoughts map out our course. What, then, can we say that will serve childhood in speaking of the way of life? In other words, What can we tell the parents present that will be of advantage to their children? One of the first things parents should teach their children is the beautiful hymn of Dr. Watts:—

“How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hotur,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

“In works of labour or of skill
I should be busy too,
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.”

These thoughts could hardly be conveyed in better language; and I know no ideas more important to the happiness of the traveller on the way of life. That children should be taught them early is very important. We must therefore make an effort to make all children understand that, if they would be happy, they must be busy. To tell a child this in words is not sufficient. The precept must be enforced by example. When Mrs. M‘Larty told either her sons or daughters to do any piece of work, they answered, in the language of their mother—“I canna be fashed;” but when Mrs. Mason set to work, and got the girls to help her, and by their united efforts converted the close, dingy, comfortless room into a bright and cheery apartment, the girls were really instructed. Children, I think, would be less apt to look on their lessons as irksome if they saw their parents taking pleasure in acquiring a mastery of some branch of knowledge; and all parents, we know, would add to their own happiness by some such exercise in their leisure hours. If parents fully understood the pleasures of constant occupation, the first lessons taught our children would be very different from what they are. Just look for a moment at the first lessons taught the children of our humbler towns and villages. The children are all in the streets, and following their natural instincts. They are busy; but they are sitting in Turkish fashion, making dirt pies, while their parents, seated in some lazy corner, are gazing vacantly, chatting listlessly, and smoking at intervals, a passing cart or canal-boat occasionally rousing them to more active staring. These parents are giving, and these children are receiving, their first lessons for their direction on the way of life. And so, in all likelihood, when these children become men and women, they will lounge, and doze, and smoke, and spit, and stare, just as their parents did, and all around them will look as slatternly and comfortless as ever. The same “middens” will stand in full view. The same “dubs” will lie before every door, and on the same spot the next generation will busily bake their dirt pies, seeing precisely the same sights their fathers saw. Such, we know, is the style of the first lessons in not a few places we could name. People who have lived all their lives in localities so very select that they have never had an opportunity of viewing the picture we have sketched, may have indirect proof that such scenes do exist, even while promenading before the most tasteful villas in our most stylish watering places. Look to the beach. Right before each garden gate lies a huge accumulation of earth and stones, with every sort of decaying vegetable matter, hurled there week after week by the youthful dirt pie bakers, who have now grown men, and become gardeners or gardeners' assistants, and from their early training believe a dunghill right before even a palace door the right thing in the right place. To every town and village of bonny Scotland we would say—“Reform this system of teaching altogether. Resolve that your children shall never see you lounging amongst a gaping idle crowd,—that they shall not learn to think dirt their natural element, by being set to play in filthy gutters. Let their earliest remembrances of their father be, seeing him in his leisure hours making everything tidy, sweeping with a will all round the cottage, whitewashing its walls, planting daisies in the little strip of ground beneath each window, and then sitting down with book in hand, holding converse with the world’s great thinkers!”

Were such a style of “ first lesson” adopted, it would do much to sweeten and brighten the lives of your children; and it would give them never-failing sources of pleasure in storing their minds with charming pictures of their early days, which would dwell in their memories as things of beauty that give joy for ever. These hints to very humble parents may be taken advantage of by parents in higher circles. Those have not done their entire duty to their children when they have paid high school fees for them, or engaged a learned governess or tutor for their instruction. Doing that is all right and proper; but in addition, the parents must be careful of the lessons they themselves teach their children; for whether parents are willing or not, their children will take lessons from them; and if, as is sometimes the case, the son never sees his father but in the evening, and he is then lazily dozing at the fireside, or with a jolly friend enjoying a glass of toddy, I do not think that the lesson of the parent will be of advantage to the child. The conclusion the boy draws, who receives such lessons, is, I must at present do as papa desires me; but when I get the chance, I will do just as he does, and that will be, smoke my cigar, take a jolly glass of toddy, and not trouble my head about learning.

I feel I could speak a long time about this matter, but I must hasten on, merely adding—If parents in easy circumstances would give their children a chance of happiness, they must do all in their power to teach them that if they would be happy they must be busy, and busy, too, in something that is useful to the world; explaining to them that he who cuts a fine statue, paints a fine picture, writes an exquisite poem, or tells a good story, is just as useful as he who grows grain, or he who brings our coals from the bowels of the earth.

In glancing first at the way of life, after childhood I saw youth—hopeful youth, with its bright dreams and ardent aspirations. In treating of childhood I spoke to parents of their children. What I have to say to youth I address directly to the youths themselves. I counselled parents to teach their children, that if they would be happy they must be busy. If there be any young men or women present whose parents have not taught them this, they will be pleased to remember that it is the first lesson I give them. If you would go cheerfully on the way of life you must keep yourselves constantly employed. The great majority of young people must in youth learn some trade or business by which to earn a living. To acquire a sufficient knowledge of any trade or profession requires very diligent application. If such application is not heartily given, the neglect will embitter all your after-existence. The young lawyer who would be useful and happy in his profession must give his nights and days to the study of laws. He must learn the principles of equity on which they are based, and the way in which they have been applied to difficult and complicated cases. He must be very familiar with all the pleadings of the great masters of the law. The young tailor must be equally diligent in becoming expert at seaming, stitching, and rantering, and must give all his heart to the “pinking” of a buttonhole. Unless he does so he will be what tailors call a “poor snob” for life, and will certainly lead a very miserable existence. No matter what your work is, that must have your entire attention. Young lawyers often think they would have made famous soldiers, and young tailors often think they would have made great actors. Well, perhaps they might have done so; but at present they are required to give proof of their ability by becoming great at their present occupations. This should always be remembered —that a man really great will excel in whatever he applies himself to; and this, too, should be borne in mind—that more men have acquired both honours and riches as lawyers than have won prizes as soldiers, and that for one great actor who has made a fortune there are a thousand tailors who have risen to fortune, if not to fame. If a youth has chosen, or has had chosen for him, a business for which he is peculiarly unsuited, a change should be made as soon as possible; but when this cannot be conveniently managed, the youth should work on with a good heart, and give his leisure hours to the study of something for which he may think himself suited. He is quite sure latterly (if he is really willing to work) to find in his way work suited to both his tastes and his talents; the first and chief attention being given as due to that which is to bring your bread and butter. Your hours of leisure should be all devoted systematically to some ennobling pursuit.

Were I young again I think I would, as I did while quite a boy, join a debating society. I cannot boast of the great advantage I derived from my connection with the association of young orators; but I can very truly boast of the great happiness I experienced while a member of the “Western Self-Culture Society.” I am old enough to take stock pretty accurately of all life’s joys, and I rank very highly the pleasure yielded to hard-working young tradesmen in the debating society. The labours of the day over—drudgery, masters, and foremen all forgotten—a cozy room, bright gas light, cheerful young faces, and then—I must use the phrase— “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” How often have I, after spending an evening in our club, enjoyed whole nights of rapturous thought as I recalled the things I had said, and thought of the better things I might have said, and would say the next time the question came up. That was indeed a very happy time in my life. Knowing more of life now, I feel very grateful to God that I was so directed to spend my leisure hours. If I could live my life over again I would give the subjects debated in such a club more earnest attention, and be more anxious than I was to exhibit truth, and less anxious than I was to exhibit the weak sides of my clubmates. The debating club, then, you see, is my favourite as a pastime in leisure hours. Many, I know, would turn their leisure to better account by devoting it to the study of any of the sciences or languages. A profound acquaintanceship with these will fit one for offices of honour and usefulness, which many an accomplished debater could not fill; and if I am any judge of the signs of the times, glancing at the speed with which the iron horse is galloping us right round the world, I would say that to devote your leisure to acquiring a great variety of languages would be one of the most certain ways of humble youth going right on to fortune. There would be no harm in both studying languages and practising debating. I believe a young man may excel in both, and perhaps be a first-rate shoemaker at the same time.

To those who may have neither taste nor talent for such pursuits in their leisure hours, music will perhaps have charms, or they may find great enjoyment in the cultivation of flowers. The youth who, so soon as he has taken his supper, devotes himself earnestly to the fiddle or flute, or even the pianoforte, is almost sure to prove a good member of society. And he whose whole heart is set on taking the first prize at the district flower show is one who will in all likelihood prove a good neighbour. In speaking of these lighter matters, I hope the young present will understand that I take it for granted that they all know that truth in word and action is essential to progress on “ the way of life.” I have spoken at this length about attention to work, and the diligent occupation of leisure, because I thought these matters which many young people might not understand. Some, I feared, might labour under the delusion that it would be very jolly to have nothing to do, which is as great a mistake as any one can fall into. As to truth in word and action, I repeat, I take it lor granted that all understand that any departure from truth is not only inful, but stupid, and is a certain bar to all true progress. On, then, my young Mends, by the straight, narrow path of honour! Duty is the only road to happiness. All the tempting short cuts of roguery are the snares prepared for folly, and only fools will be deceived by them. My parting words to youth shall be the wisest uninspired words I know. They are Shakespeare’s, and should be engraven on the heart of every youth:—

"But above all, to thine own self be true,
And it mnst follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

In speaking to men and women of the way of life, I have reached a field so broad that I am at a loss where to break ground.

The captain who had started for the first time on a long, a difficult, and a dangerous voyage, through seas which he had never sailed, would do well to examine carefully the charts prepared by voyagers who had gone before, and to have well fixed in his memory the various points where dangers were to be encountered, where hidden rocks were to be avoided, and dangerous currents contended with. The voyager who took not such precautions would have little chance of making a very successful passage; nay, he would be almost certain to perish on some unknown shore. Now, the voyage of life is a very difficult and dangerous passage, and every one must act both as pilot and captain for himself. How important, then, is it that, when they reach that period of life when they take full command of their own actions, they should seek to profit by the experience of the great and good who have gone before! This experience is to be found largely in good books. “ Good books !” Some may think this a very vague expression, so I must qualify it by saying that valuable experience will be found in almost all books which have been popular for one hundred or more years. This is the sort of reading which I think young men and women will find most profitable. I have no objection to them reading, for recreation, the last “sensation” novel; bat if they would profit by their reading, let them read the grand old masters, where they will meet with lumps of thought and great “ruggs” of common sense. I often regret that, in groping my way in the world of letters, no one ever told me that 1 should read certain important books. I was never told to read “Plutarch’s Lives;” I was never told to read the works of Plato; I was never told to read Burton. The fact is, I never got from any one the slightest hint what books I should read. I just stumbled upon these masters I have named, and found them full of wisdom. I am quite sure young men and women would do well to be guided, for a time at least, in the selection of their books by my hint,— to read books that have been popular for a hundred years Shakespeare has been rising in favour during three centuries; and at his next centenary the ploughman bard is likely still to be holding his place. But some may ask if I am really recommending young men and women to attach importance to Burns and Shakespeare, a loose-living exciseman and a writer of plays. Well, I myself do not feel inclined to worship either of them; but there they are, acknowledged as our first intellects, and so I would have young people to drink deeply at their wells of wisdom. When I was very young I often read the address by Burns to his young friend. I thought it then, and still think it, worthy of great attention. Burns was in a hearty, healthful, serious mood, and he sat down, pen in hand, to write to his young friend. I have no doubt he prayed heaven and the muses to inspire him to write an epistle that in all future time would be of service to young men, and so he produced this string of pearls

“I lang lia’e thought, my youthfu’ friend,
A something to have sent you,
Though it should serve nae ither end
Than just a kind memento;

Bat how the subject-theme may gang,
Let time an’ chance determine;
Perhaps it may torn out a sang,
Perhaps tom out a sermon.

“Ye’ll try the world fa* soon, my lad,
An’, Andrew, dear, believe me,
Ye’ll find mankind an unco squad,
An’ muckle they may grieve ye:

For care an’ trouble set your thought,
Ev’n when your end’s attained;
An’ a* your views may come to nought
Where ev’ry nerve is strained.

“I’ll no say men are villains a’;
The real, harden’d wicked,
Wha ha’e nae check but human law,
Are to a few restricked;

But, och! mankind are unco weak,
An’ little to be trusted;
If self the wavering balance shake,
It’s rarely right adjusted!

“Yet they wha fa’ in fortune’s strife,
Their fate we should na censure,
For still th’ important end of life
They equally may answer;

A man may ha’e an honest heart,
Tho’ poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak’ a neibor’s part,
Yet ha’e nae cash to spare him.

“Ayp free, aff han’ your story tell,
When wi’ a bosom crony;
But still keep something to yoursel’
Ye scarcely tell to ony.

Conceal yoursel’ as weel’s ye can
Frae critical dissection;
But keek through ev’ry other man
Wi’ sharpen’d, sly inspection.

“The sacred lowe o* weel-plac’d love,
Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th* illicit rove,
Tho’ naething should divulge its

I waive the quantum o’ the sin,
The hazard of concealing;
But, och! it hardens a’ within.
An’ petrifies the feeling!

"To catch dame Fortune's golden smile,
Assiduous wait upon her;
An* gather gear by ev’ry wile
That’s justified by honour;

Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Nor for a train-attendant,
But for the glorious privilege
Of being independent

“The fear o’ hell’s a hangman’s whip
To baud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your honour grip,
Let that aye be your border;

Its slightest touches, instant pause—
Debar a’ side pretences;
An' resolutely keep its laws,
Uncaring consequences.

"The great Creator to revere
Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching cant forbear,
An’ ev’n the rigid feature;

Yet ne’er with wits profane to range,
Be complaisance extended;
An Atheist laugh’s a poor exchange
For Deity oifended!

"When ranting round in pleasure’s ring,
Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gi’e a random sting,
It may be little minded;

But when on life we're tempest driv’n,
A conscience but a canker,
A correspondence fix’d wi’ Heav’n
Is sure a noble anchor!

"Adieu! dear, amiable youth,
Your heart can ne’er be wanting!
May prudence, fortitude, an' truth
Brect your brow undaunting!

In ploughman phrase, (God send yon speed)
Still daily to grow wiser;
An’ may yon better reck the rede
Than ever did th’ adviser!”

These lines are well worthy of having a place in every memory, as they contain all the advice that Robert Burns thought most important for the direction of the young on the way of life. I have often compared them with lines of a similar character by Shakespeare, a portion of which I have already quoted. They occur in “ Hamlet,” and are spoken by Polonius to his son Laertes, who is about to leave on his travels. I take it for granted that Shakespeare here makes the old man give expression to the thoughts which he knew would be of service to the young men of all future ages. I shall give you them in full:—

“Give thy thoughts no tongue
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade.
Beware Of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,

Bear *t, that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give evexy man thine ear, but few thy voice:
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be:
For loan oft loses both itself and friend;

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all,—To thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.’'

These are very wise words, having, like the lines of Burns, much of sagacity and not a little of selfishness. In his last sentence, in god-like thought Shakespeare far transcends the ploughman bard. Well, such are the directions for your guidance on the way of life by two undoubtedly great men. It will be found profitable to compare them with the counsellings of another. There will be no harm if my lecture should turn out a sermon,—not a bit; and so I follow the train of thought that naturally arises. The other Teacher is He who “ spake as never man spake.” How mean and earthly do the words of the greatest mortals look beside the jewels of thought that dropped from His lips when He preached upon the mount! We cannot read that sermon too often; nor can we study too frequently that •perfect compass for our direction on the way of life—-the Lord’s Prayer. “ Our Father who art in heaven how true, and pure, and beautiful our lives must be before we can appropriately use these words! “ Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heavenhow all that is sinful flees before the soul earnest in this petition! "Give us this day our daily breadall the sins and sufferings of men would cease, if we sought only our daily bread. “ And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtorsthe heart that can in faith utter these simple words must be a fountain of love,—forgive us as we forgive ! I repeat, we cannot study too frequently that perfect compass for our direction on the way of life—the Lord’s Prayer. It is impossible to make a single sinful word or action square with a single sentence of it. The thought I am at present striving to convey is best expressed by Solomon:—“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace : a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.” And this understanding, I think, is most likely to be found in good books, and above all in “The Book.” But the idea of my lecture is to give you the benefit of my understanding in directing you on the way of life, so I must proceed. Well, what gives most concern to young men and women who have just arrived at the years of maturity ? The young men, as a class, are most concerned about money, while the young women think most frequently about love. Well, it might be proper to tell the young men to temper their thoughts about fortune with thoughts of love, and the young women to season their thoughts of love with cash calculations; for experience is ever exhibiting the truth, that money without love can never give happiness, and that “ A kiss and a drink of cold water make a very ‘wersh* breakfast!” A happy human life is a well-concerted harmony, where all the chords of our nature are touched in turn, each giving its quota of sweet sounds, which, blending in beauty, produce happiness. The young man, then, who would walk wisely the way of life will diligently exert his every energy that he may be able honestly to provide for a household; and while he is so doing he will earnestly woo the star of love. Ambition, though often abused, is a noble attribute of our nature, and is properly exercised when it has for its aim a comfortable home, a charming wife, and lovely children. One young man told me lately that he had a sweetheart, and if he had a situation more to his mind he would marry immediately. I asked what his wages were ? He admitted they were fully a pound a-week. My advice to him was,—

“Taste life's glad moments
While the wasting taper glows,
Pluck, ere it withers,
The quickly-fading rose.”

I told him in plain prose that he was a humbug; that he was using his sweetheart shabbily; and that he should get married at once. I told him to tell the young lady that I said so. He answered—“She would say you were a very sensible man.” The young man who has a very moderate wage has no right to make any woman “ heart sick ” by hope deferred; for the sweetheart of such a lover has no certainty that when bis income is increased) it will not still seem too

small; and so life’s joys may be lost in delay. I bad proof not long ago that the fears of my friend with a pound a-Week are sometimes cherished by parties with very handsome incomes. I met in the train one day a very smart young man. He was looking rather glum. He introduced the subject of matrimony. He said to me, “If I were in your position I would get married at once.” I asked what was wrong with his own position. “Oh,” he said, “I am merely a servant, with' a small salary.” I asked what was the amount of his salary. He told me he was in receipt of £140 a-year. My next question was, “Have you a sweetheart?” He said he had. I smiled and said, “And so you are afraid to marry on £140 a-year: you have surely very lofty notions.” I asked if the young lady had any common sense; “ for,” said I, “if she has, she will just be as happy with £140 a-year as she would be with £5,000 a-year.” I told him he should set about getting married without a moment's delay; and more, that he should with his young wife resolve to live on, at most, £100 a-year. I pitched it in to him about his foolish and discontented state of mind. I pointed him to several clusters of cottages we passed, where blithe, wives were peeping from the doors, around which merry children were playing, and asked him if he thought any of these people had £140 a-year. The youth was silent; and the very next time I visited the town from which he came, I heard from a great many sources that he was to be married immediately. The young wife should send me quite a lump of her bride’s-cake.

In telling these incidents I have no intention of saying that every young man who has a pound a-week, or £140 a-year, should get married directly. I only mean that the youths so situated, who have made engagements with young ladies, have in their worldly circumstances no excuse for delay; and so should set about buying their wedding rings immediately; and if they jointly do their duty, in the days of other years they will sing,—

"By working late and early, we’ve come to what you see;
For fortune throve beneath our han’, so eydent aye were we.
The lowe love mak’s labour light; I’m sure ye’ll find it sae,
As kind ye cuddle doon at e’en ’mang clean pease strae.”

Lest my shivering young male friends think I am giving poetical counsel, I will give them courage in a few facts.

Within a very short period I have taken tea in the houses of a large manufacturer, a large iron-master, and a most extensive mill-owner; all of whom were married when very young to penniless lasses; who have all large families, and are each worth perhaps £100,000.

Having said this much for the guidance of young men on the way of life, I must turn for a little to the ladies. I said already that it would be well if women would temper their thoughts of love with cash calculations. The young women who form the majority of my hearers are generally members of families pretty well-to-do. In their homes they have every comfort and many elegancies. Their work is often more ornamental than useful. They have servants to perform for them all the more toilsome of their domestic duties. If they marry they will expect to live in a house at least as good as the one they at present occupy. One servant will be indispensable. During the summer they will expect to spend a short time at the sea-side, where they must have, at least, a decent abode. In short, they will expeat to live in rather a snug way. Well, I would think it profitable exercise for the young ladies of any locality to meet together (privately, of course) and carefully calculate—first, how many young ladies were in the district who would, when married, require all the good things I have mentioned. Then they should count how much money such comforts and elegancies would cost, putting down so much for rent and taxes, so much for servants' wages and keep, so much for fashionable clothing, so much for the summer jaunt, and ditto ditto for one or two winter parties. As a doctor might be required, it would be as well to allow a little for him, and a very little for the support of religion; and, above all, don’t forget to count the food, because the grocer, the baker, and the butcher, all require money. When all these items are counted up and added, you will have a very handsome sum. When you have arrived at the net amount—having already written down the names of the young ladies whose husbands must furnish them with that sum—write opposite each the name of a young man of the district who has the requisite income. I fear that in most districts the ladies would find that such well-to-do beaux were scarce; and so they would resolve either to reduce the standard of their wants, or resolve to die old maids. Except in cases where the husband has really lots of money—I mean by that some thousands—I think every young wife should be her own servant for the first season, at least; and then a “ lassie to help to keep the wean” is quite enough of assistance for any healthy woman. While the young husband is putting forth the strength of his manhood to make, the young wife should be equally energetic to save; and, besides the profit of serving one’s self, I should think the pleasure of it was great. How sweet for the tired husband to be ministered to by

“His ain kind dearie! ”

What a charming flavour the tea has that she makes! How nice the scones that she bakes! And then, when the young wife is not “a’thegither right,” what a splendid breakfast is it that the young guidman prepares—the toast buttered on both sides! But never mind; it is first-rate.

I hope the young ladies will excuse me for so lecturing them. I am anxious to direct them happily on the way of life. And I know many worthy young men avoid marriage just because women have learned to demand far more than their mothers were well pleased with. One gentleman writes to the Times the other day, stating that he is thirty-five years of age, of average personal appearance, of gentlemanly manners and pursuits, has been ten years established in a respectable business, has from £350 to £400 a-year, and would marry if he could get a lady in his own position to accept his hand, but he has been frequently refused. He sends his most recent refusal, in which he is told by his fair friend—who has no objection to himself—that she would require a husband with at least £600 a-year. She tells him that she would require at least £100 for dress, and so on. The gentleman adds: This lady is no aristocrat, but lives in a very quiet way with an old aunt at Clapham Road. What shall we say of such a case?

M Oh! may the stupid silly jade
Be single till she’s musty;
And at fourscore be still a maid—
The unmarried Miss M'Lusky.”

These extravagant notions are the curse of our times, and are the chief source of all our other social evils. The ladies will require to take in a reef, or we will have even more of those ugly customers—Bachelors. I do not know how other men feel when they see a very extravagantly dressed woman, married or single, but in my eyes the costly finery always detracts from her appearance. I often think the finest sight in nature is a family group of working-people enjoying their holiday: the young mother with her infant at her breast; the young father proudly carrying little Mary, while little Jack is trotting by his side,—all evidently poor in world’s gear, but all clean, tidy, innocent, and happy. One of the scenes I saw when recently on the Continent, which dwells in my memory, bears on this subject. Having employed a guide to show us some of the sights of Paris, he took us to various places, and amongst the rest to a very gay place called the Garden of Flowers. It is the chief resort of the too gay ladies of Paris. The place was brilliantly illuminated with variegated lamps; there was veiy fine music, and there was a large concourse of the votaries of sensuous pleasures. Gay as the scene was, I thought the whole affair veiy ugly. Somehow I had the power of stripping off the masks, and seeing the entire miserable company as they were. The sight haunted me for some time, and it looked hideous when contrasted with a scene I witnessed on the day following. Passing through one of the chief squares, I saw, descending the steps of a stately church, a bridal party. The bridegroom was a handsome humble soldier. His bride was dressed in simple white: the only covering of her head was a long white veil. The sun was falling full upon them as they passed me, followed by their little band of friends. They seemed to me a party

“Marching through Emmanuel’s ground,
To fairer worlds on high;”

while the Garden of Flowers I saw as the mouth of hell. Extravagance and false show lead both men and women to the haunts of sin, while modest self-denial and prudent economy lead to the greatest social bliss.

I do not believe that the acquirement of any great sum of money is at all essential to the possession of happiness. Yet a moderate competence is very desirable; and this we may, in the great majority of cases, attain by industry, economy, and perseverance. I know of no other way in which we are so sure to reach an honourable independence. We often hear of men making large sums of money, and shortly after we see them figuring in the Court of Bankruptcy. Real wealth is only created by the diligent labour of either head or hands. Lucky speculations are certainly balanced by speculations that are not lucky; and whether lucky or unlucky, I would have the excitement of speculation avoided, as I know it is certain to extinguish the purest, noblest, most disinterested feelings of our nature. The speculator thinks only of himself and his own concerns. How, I believe our happiness maybe largely multiplied by our earnestly striving to add to the happiness of others. This idea is, I am sorry to say, but little understood by the great mass of men. I have, in all the various circles in which I have moved, seen men acting as if they found pleasure in making their fellow-mortals miserable. When I was very young I worked as a house carpenter, and have often seen poor labouring men doing all they could to injure one another. It was a regular practice amongst the labourers at a building, when any green hand was added to their number, for Pat to give Barney the wink, and up would come the barrow with a double load upon it. This would be repeated, until the poor stranger, exhausted, threw down the “slings,” or perhaps, desperate with his cruel treatment, blackened Barney’s eyes, to learn him the way to fill the barrow for the next green boy that came over. I have seen, too, in the workshop, amongst what should have been more intelligent tradesmen, the same villanous conduct. When any new hand entered the shop who did not please the taste of the old ones—perhaps offending them by refusing to submit to some of their roles anent entry-money or the like—I have seen in the momentary absence of the stranger his job so transposed that the poor fellow was almost certain to make a bungle of his work, and this trick the ignorant blockhead who did it thought clever! Still further up I have seen the same spirit manifested. I have seen in the counting-house, when a new hand was to be initiated into the mysteries of “the Books,” the old clerk craftily conceal some important book from the new-comer,'in order that he might seem stupid in the eyes of their employer. I need hardly add that such conduct is mean in the extreme; and will never give an hour of true happiness to any one. We are always certain to gain by being to every one as kind and obliging as possible. I do not say that we will always meet with gratitude from those to whom we show kindness; but of this I am certain, every kind act has its reward, even in this world; and opportunities for the performance of kind actions are constantly occurring. When, for instance, we may be working side by side with one on whom the weight of years is beginning to tell, it is not the smartest thing we can do, when he falls in any way behind, to call him “ a useless old blockhead.” Years are rapidly creeping over us all. Let us, then, never be wanting in the respect due to age; so that, as a right, we may expect kindly courtesy when we descend into the vale of years. It does not take much breath to tell an old man that he is “looking fresh.” It is as easily said as “You are failing, I see, Tammas,” and yet it produces a much more pleasing feeling in the party to whom it is spoken. I would not have you become flatterers. No; but I would have you on all occasions to speak the truths that are flattering, and leave unspoken the truths the expression of which will give unnecessary pain. Were this policy generally adopted, the wheels of life would turn much more smoothly with us. The most certain way in which we can extend the sum total of human happiness is by constantly respecting the feelings of our own immediate neighbours. When, for instance, we come in contact with a workmate whom we find rather glum, it is not right to conclude that he is a sour sulky fellow, and to treat him accordingly. No; we ought rather to reflect that he has perhaps left a sick wife at home, or has perhaps a darling child in danger; and so we ought to speak to him softly. When we think that he should tell us frankly what is his distress, we ought to remember that any real trouble which deeply affected our own hearts was not much spoken of.

Having said this much in recommending the spirit of kindness to neighbours, I presume you take it for granted that I hold it the bounden duty of every man to do his very utmost to make his own home a paradise. I know of nothing that does such honour to a man as a smiling wife and sportive children. A bachelor may have a passable apology in happy sisters; but a contented wife and merry children are the real evidence that a man is of the right stuff. You all know, of course, that this harmony of human life is a trio in which husband, wife, and children must all sustain their respective parts. If the quality of the music would be kept up, the husband leads off in a fine tenor: the chief tone is a good regular pay, every farthing of which is handed to the wife with a smile on the pay-night. The wife strikes in with the air, which takes form in a clean fireside, a comfortable, well-cooked meal, and a happy, smiling face. The children supply the other portions of the harmony—clean, rosy cheeks held up to be kissed, attention to lessons for school, and cheerful obedience to parents. Where all these parts are sustained, there is true melody, pleasing to man and grateful to God. But how very easily this fine harmony is spoiled. Every wife cannot be entrusted with her husband’s entire earnings. Where this is the case, woe is me for the happiness of that family! And then some husbands, who have good wives, need money to sport with boon companions. Alas, for the happiness of that household! But we will not enter on such serious matters here. Often, where there is nothing criminally wrong, the family harmony is spoiled for want of a little considerate kindness. Bad blood sometimes gets up in something like this way. When Mr. Smith was first presented with his little daughter he looked disappointed, and said he thought she was of the Red Indian tribe. Mrs. Smith was offended, and not long after, when returning from a walk with her husband, seeing grandmother holding up the baby to the window, Mrs. Smith said, “ It is a very plain child that, and it is terribly like the Smiths.” This stuck in Mr. Smith’s throat for years. It was only when the child had developed into a charming little beauty that both parents were ashamed of their folly. A man should let too word escape his lips that will in any way give his wife pain, and a wife should be as careful what she says to her husband as she was that night when she expected he was going to pop the question. Mr. Brown sometimes pleased his wife in something like this way. Mrs. Brown had got a new, highly fashionable bonnet, which she put on, and asked how Mr. Brown liked it Mr. Brown did not like it; and so, looking in Mm Brown’s face, he said, “A bonny bride is easily buskit.” Mm Brown was, of course, highly pleased, and the bonnet scene wound up with a practical illustration of

"Kiss me quick and go, my honey!”

While acting on all occasions so as to manifest kindness of heart, we should at the same time do our utmost continually to exhibit a pleasant cheerfulness of manner. A gloomy saint does as much harm in the world as a merry sinner. Children often utter the thoughts upon which men and women silently act. This was the case with the boy whose father was a sulky saint The child, seated on his mother’s knee, after thinking for a long time, said, “Mamma, will papa go to heaven? because if he does, I do not want to go.” This child gave honest expression to a very natural and proper feeling—a desire to avoid ugly gloom, in the presence of which all that is charming dies. One way to keep up our spirits is to think often on the goodness of God, and to keep counting the many blessings he is daily and hourly bestowing upon us; and to all men and women who think aright, every season of the year, and every hour of the day, will appear radiant with good things coming direct to us from His hand. These blessings it is our duty to acknowledge gratefully, in blithe looks and merry words. We ought to be continually, by our life and conversation, enforcing on the downcast in spirit the truth contained in the lines,—

"Ye fearfnl saints, fresh courage take. The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercies, and will break In blessings on your head! ”

A cheerfulness of manner and a kindly consideration for the feelings of others will be found advantageous in even a worldly point of view. I do not believe in the old saw, “There is no friendship in trade.” There should be as much friendship in trade as possible; and the more brains and heart that traders have, they will in proportion infuse the more kindly feeling into their business transactions. I will show you (in confidence) the friendly way of buying and selling cheese.

Having gone to the country to purchase, I was directed to a farmhouse where the kane was for sale. It was the farmer’s first year of the farm, and he had not yet met with a cheese merchant. The cheese were the first ever made by the farmer’s young wife. Both husband and wife received me very kindly. I was at once shown into the cheese^house, the farmer accompanying me, while I noticed the young good wife stood in the passage, listening, I knew, tremblingly, for the verdict of the stranger merchant on the first cheese she had made. I examined the cheese carefully: they were not first-rate, but were a fair article. They were kept in a newly plastered house, and that was against them. After due deliberation, I said, “The cheese are very good, and if we can agree about the price I will buy them.” The young wife now ventured into the cheese-house. There was a grateful look on her face. She said the cheese would have been better had it not been for the new house. I said they were very good. The husband, in stating the price, said, “My brother got 56s. per cwt. for his, and I would not like my goodwife to get less.” I said I was going to offer 54s.; but, and I whispered in the husband’s ear, “You will give me the difference in a luck-penny?* He nodded assent. “ Well,” said I, “ I will take the cheese at 56s., and you can be as good to me with a luck-penny as you like.” The farmer, when he delivered the cheese, spoke to me as an old friend, and told me 1 was a very great favourite with his wife. The selling department is made equally pleasant. In recommending the cheese I tell the story of the way in which they were bought, and being good value, they are easily sold — more than one purchaser remarking, “If your cheese should be no better than your neighbours’, your good humour gives them an additional flavour.” Now, this kindly, happy spirit may be carried into every department of trade.

When shabby or dishonourable people are met with, a kindly spirit may be exhibited by telling them, in the plainest English, of their dishonesty, and then having done with them. I have once or twice found it my duty to tell a man that I thought he was not honourable with me, and in every case I believe I did him good. We must, however, be very careful to discriminate between errors of judgment and errors of intention. Errors of judgment must be patiently borne with, while intentional errors must be treated with that kind of sharp rap on the knuckles which will learn the offender never to do the like again.

Old age is said to be our second childhood. However this may be, I feel I must here treat it as I treated childhood— that is, I must speak of it, not to it. The aged are rarely amongst my hearers, and so what I have to say of age must be said to one and all who are right on the way to the vale of years. There is no more heavenly sight on earth than a venerable couple, who look back to the fragrant memories of a well-spent life, and forward to an early entrance on the enjoyments of eternal life. We can all call to our remembrance some such pair whom we have had the pleasure of knowing, and we can remember that their influence on all around was holy. Many of us, too, can call to mind bad old men and women whom we have known. How we turn in disgust from a dirty old man! how ugly in our sight is a greedy old man! and how utterly abominable do we hold a lecherous old manl Every sin in years grows more ugly.

Well, let both men and women bear in mind that what we are in youth we will become more strikingly in age. Let the young woman given to being slovenly take a lesson every time she meets a dirty old hag. Let the young man who is too anxious to save money examine himself every time he meets with a miserable, narrow-hearted, rich old man. And so with all the vices of our nature. Let us pluck them up by the roots in the days of our youth, that so our better natures may flourish in age. The lives of all men and women should be such that every old lady should be able to sing, with Mrs. Anderson,

“John Anderson my Jo, John,
We’ve seen our bairns’ bairns,
And yet, my dear John Anderson,
I’m happy in your arms!
And sae are ye in mine, John;
I’m sure ye’ll ne’er say no, '
Though the days are gane that we ha’e seen, t
John Anderson, my jo.”

We feel quite sure Mrs. Anderson was not addicted to snuff, and that John was a cleanly old man. Let us, then, all through life, steer our course so that when we enter the vale of years we may take with us pleasant memories, virtuous desires, cleanly habits, and truly Christian charity, which all through life we can, with the help of God, strengthen in our souls, by the practice of the golden rule of Christianity—“Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you.”

If we cherish in our hearts true love for all our fellow-beings, our conduct in life will be regulated by the rudder of the heart, and we will cross life’s main, our sails filled with the breezes of happiness, and leave behind us a track on the water so bright with the undying lustre of goodness that all who come after will bless our steering, our way of life being found, when followed under the guidance of the good Pilot, the most direct course to the haven of the better land.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus