A. F. Morrison
THE USE OF LIFE
THE USE OF LIFE
y-ry, J&An L<JobQ<^k f J*J
THE RIGHT HON.
SIK JOHN LUBBOCK, BAKT., M.P
F.R.S., D.C.L., LL.D.
. , , .
MACMILLAN AND CO.
v4W rights reserved
BY MACMILLAN AND CO.
Set up and electrotyped September, 1894. Reprinted
XnrfcrotitJ ^rrss :
J. S. Gushing & Co. Berwick & Smith.
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
THE GREAT QUESTION ....
ON MONEY MATTERS 41
RECREATION . . 62
HEALTH . 78
NATIONAL EDUCATION . . ... 94
ON LIBRARIES ... . . . . 127
ON READING . . . . . . . .139
PATRIOTISM . . . 150
CITIZENSHIP . . . . . . . . 168
SOCIAL LIFE 188
HOPE . .
CHARITY . ... . , 253
CHARACTER . . 264
ON PEACE AND HAPPINESS 281
THE GREAT QUESTION
THE most important thing to learn in life,
is how to live. There is nothing men are so
anxious to keep as life, and nothing they take
so little pains to keep well.
This is no simple matter. " Life," said
Hippocrates, at the commencement of his
medical Aphorisms, " Life is short, Art is
long, Opportunity fleeting, Experiment un-
certain, and Judgment difficult."
Happiness and success in life do not de-
pend on our circumstances, but on ourselves.
"More men have ruined themselves than have
ever been destroyed by others : more houses
and cities have perished at the hands of man,
than storms or earthquakes have ever de-
stroyed." There are two sorts of ruin; one
is the work of time, the other of men.
2 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
Of , all, irtuiofi/ftitie ruin of Man is the sad-
de^tj, ( <ajad, -a, Man's worst enemy, as Seneca
saidi, is iKe one, m ihe breast. " Many men/'
says La Bruyere, "spend much of their time
in making the rest miserable." In too many
cases "lusty blood in youth hath attempted
those things which akyng bones repented in
age," l for " what is past and done, Clotho
cannot weave again, nor Atropos recall." 2
Men love themselves, not wisely but too
I am sometimes accused of being opti-
mistic. But I have never ignored or denied
the troubles and sorrows of life : I have
never said that men are happy, only that
they might be ; that if they are not so, the
fault is generally their own : that most of us
throw away more happiness than we enjoy.
This makes it all the more melancholy.
" For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these : it might have been." 3
In many cases what we call evil is good
misapplied, or carried to excess. A wheel, or
1 Lilly. 2 Lucian. 3 Whittier.
I THE GREAT QUESTION 3
even a cog, out of place throws the whole
machinery out of gear, and if we place our-
selves out of harmony with the constitution
of the universe we must expect to suffer ac-
cordingly. Courage in excess becomes fool-
hardiness, affection weakness, thrift avarice.
It is proverbial that what is one man's meat
is another man's poison. No one has ever
been able to show that any change in the laws
of Nature would be for the better. A man
falls and breaks his leg, but no change in the
law of gravity would be an improvement.
The Persians^ attributed happiness to Or-
muzd, the Spirit of Good, and misfortune to
Ahriman, the Demon of Evil. But in reality
we bring the troubles of life on ourselves by
our own errors errors in both senses, by
doing what we know all the time to be wrong;
but also, and perhaps almost as much, by our
mistakes. So far as the first class of errors
are concerned, we have implanted in us an
infallible guide. If we do wrong it is with
our eyes open ; for if they are not open, un-
less indeed we have wilfully shut them, we
may act unwisely, but it is not sin.
4 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
As regards the second class of errors, we
must trust to reason ; to that of parents, of
elders, of friends : to our education and to
ourselves. Indeed our education is part of
ourselves ; we have all at any rate one pupil
whom we must teach and educate.
What we teach ourselves, becomes much
more a part of our being than what we learn
from others. Education does not end when
we leave school ; it has indeed scarcely begun.
It goes on through life. " How well it would
be," said Seneca, " if men would but exercise
their brains, as they do their bodies, and take
as much pains for virtue as they do for
Some races are indeed fatalists. Every-
thing in their view is ordained, and what
will happen must happen, whether they will
or no. Man they regard as an automaton,
the mere plaything of a superior power. The
first point then to be considered is whether
there is or is not a Science of Life. Can we
steer our ship over the Ocean of Time, or are
we condemned to drift ? " Man is man, and
master of his fate," or if he is not, the fault
I THE GREAT QUESTION 5
lies at his own door. " What you wish to be,
that you are ; for such is the force of our will,
joined to the Supreme, that whatever we
wish to be, seriously, and with a true inten-
tion, that we become." l
If then we have this power over our destiny
it becomes of the utmost importance to ask our-
selves what we wish to be, and how we can make
the most of the rich estate of Life. Some men
have a purpose in life, and some have none . Our
first object should be to make the most and best
of ourselves. " The aim of every man," said
Humboldt, shall be to secure " the highest and
most harmonious development of his powers
to a complete and consistent whole ; " to quote
Jean Paul Richter again, " to make as much
out of oneself as could be made out of the
stuff." We must not, however, attempt this
merely with a selfish object, or we are fore-
doomed to failure. " No man's private fort-
une," as Bacon said, " can be an end any way
worthy of his existence." The best and great-
est minds Plato and Aristotle, Buddha and
St. Paul would never have been content
1 Jean Paul Richter.
6 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
to perfect themselves merely for them-
I will assume then that we are to make the
best of ourselves for the sake of others ; and
let me at once point out what an interesting
task we have in that case set before us. The
well-known Greek maxim yv&Qi veavrov points
to the importance as well as the difficulty of
knowing ourselves. Montaigne says in his
quaint way, " Je n'ai vue monstre ou miracle
au monde plus expres que moi mesme ; " and
Sir T. Browne, whose life was as little event-
ful or exciting as a life could well be, assures
us that to himself it seemed " a miracle of
thirty years which to relate were not history
but a piece of poetry, and would sound like a
To offer advice has proved a somewhat
thankless task from the days of Rehoboam to
those of Lord Chesterfield ; nor do I forget
the sad fate of the New Zealand Convert of
whom his chief told the missionary that " he
gave us so much advice that at last we put
him to death." Yet those who will not ac-
cept " counsel at first hand cheap, will buy re-
i THE GREAT QUESTION 7
pentance at second hand dear." My object
then is to make some suggestions, in their
own interest, to those who wish to be, and to
do, something ; to make the most of them-
selves and of their lives.
It is sad, indeed, to see how man wastes
his opportunities. How many could be made
happy, with the blessings which are recklessly
wasted or thrown away !
Take care that your pleasures are real and
not imaginary. We do many things because
they are called pleasure, which we should
hate if they went by any other name. Many
people think they are having pleasure, merely
because they are doing nothing useful. Others
seem to use the word as if it applied only to
the senses, while, on the contrary, the pleas-
ures of the mind are both more exquisite and
We neglect, or recklessly injure, the only
body we have, and on the health of which
that of the mind so greatly depends ; we do
not derive half the enjoyment we might from
works of Art ; I wonder what proportion of
8 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
our people in London have ever been to the
National Gallery ? we do not train ourselves
to appreciate the interests of Science ; how
many have been to the British Museum ? or
have trained themselves to appreciate it ; we
do not enjoy the beauties of the Earth on
which we live, or of the Sky over our heads ;
we make perhaps more use of music, though
much less than we might ; we boast that,
while Animals have instinct only, Man is a
reasoning Being, and yet how little our
boasted intellect has added to the happiness
of Mankind. It might even be doubted, it
has indeed been questioned by Cynics, whether,
on the whole, the possession of a mind has
not been a " damnosa hereditas," a source of
suffering rather than of enjoyment. Animals
do not distress themselves, and we do. " Man
disquieteth himself in a vain shadow." We
torment ourselves with doubts and fears,
cares and anxieties. Mystery encompasseth
us on all sides, but we must not be impatient
Yet though we need riot be anxious, we
must be on our guard. We must be watch-
i THE GREAT QUESTION 9
ful even in matters where we fancy ourselves
least liable to err. " There is, I believe,"
says Lord Chesterfield, "more judgment re-
quired for the proper conduct of our virtues,
than for avoiding their opposite vices. Vice
in its true light is so deformed, that it shocks
us at first sight, and would hardly ever seduce
us if it did not, at first, wear the mask of
some virtue." We have all met persons,
who, with much that is good, have allowed
themselves to be seduced into uncharitableness
and hardness of heart. Lord Palmerston once
brought on himself some theological criticism,
by asserting that all children were born good,
but at any rate, it really takes some trouble
before any one becomes altogether wicked.
" In the vicious ways of the world, it merci-
fully f alleth out that we become not extempore
wicked, but it taketh some time and pains to
undo ourselves. We fall not from virtue, like
Vulcan from heaven, in a day." l
And if we turn from the individual to the
race, is not the neglect of our advantages even
more startling? Mankind may still confess
1 Sir T. Browne.
10 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
with Newton, that we are but as children play-
ing on the seashore, and gathering here and
there a prettier shell or a more delicate sea-
weed than usual, while the great ocean of
truth lies all undiscovered before us. There
is no single substance, the full uses and prop-
erties of which are yet known to us : we
labour from morning to night ; and yet if we
could but avail ourselves more fully of the
properties of matter and the forces of nature,
it is probable that an hour or two would fully
supply all our bodily and reasonable wants,
and leave us ample time for the cultivation of
the mind and the affections. Steam is not
even yet fully utilised : the uses of electricity
were unknown in our childhood, and we are
only now beginning to understand them ; the
force of rivers still runs in the main to waste.
What terrible sufferings might have been
avoided if Anaesthetics had been sooner dis-
covered ! It would require a volume to com-
plete the illustrations which might be given.
No one can doubt that a thousand other dis-
coveries lie before us, even perhaps under our
very eyes. Is it not then astonishing that the
i THE GREAT QUESTION 11
so-called Christian nations, waste, and worse
than waste, millions of money to ruin one
another, and fight like beasts for territory,
" while the great ocean of truth lies undis-
covered before them " ? 1
In the last generation we were content to let-
many of our children grow up without know-
ing how to read and write. Even now, we
hear some persons deprecate " over-education,"
though, to do them justice, what in most cases
they really mean, is an education out of rela-
tion to the daily life. Some there still are,
who grudge the expense, not perceiving that
Ignorance costs more than Education. But if
our children have now nearly all some educa-
tion, it may well be doubted, though I will not
here enter into the question, whether we have
yet adopted the most suitable system. I will
only say that we seem to have unduly neg-
lected moral education in our schools, and one
result has been a very common theory, that if
you break some of the commandments you
will no doubt be doing very wrong, and will
probably make others miserable, but you will,
12 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
at least in this life, add to your own happiness
and be yourself the better off : that self-in-
dulgence, avarice, intemperance, idleness, and
other " pleasant vices " may be unjustifiable,
but would be for one's own benefit though at
the expense of others ; that a life of ease and
pleasure is what every one, if he thought only
of himself, would naturally desire ; and that
to be good and virtuous, however right and
noble, involves much self-denial even of inno-
cent amusements, and taken as a whole, is a
life of self-sacrifice.
" Alas ! what boots it with incessant care
To tend the homely slighted shepherd's trade,
And strictly meditate the thankless muse ?
Were it not better done, as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair ? " 1
The very reverse is the truth. So far from
its being the privilege of vice to be without
restraint and confinement, the evil man is, on
the contrary, a slave to the worst of masters,
his own passions.
So, again, some young men have an idea
i THE GREAT QUESTION 13
that there is something u manly" in vice.
But any weak fool can be vicious. To be
virtuous you must be a man ; to be virtuous
is to be truly free ; vice is the real slavery.
A particular course of conduct does not de-
grade because it is wrong ; it is wrong because
it degrades. If by some extraordinary sub-
version of morals, wrong became right, it
would still be fatal to happiness and peace
I will not quote any theologian in support
of the thesis that sin and sorrow are insepa-
rable, but on such a point will rather rely on
the evidence of a consummate man of the
world, Lord Chesterfield, who in one of his
letters to his son after some other wise advice,
concludes by saying, " Such are the rewards
that always crown virtue, and such the char-
acters that you should imitate, if you would
be a great and good man, which is the only
way to be a happy one."
Descartes embodied his rules for practical
life in four maxims : one to submit himself to
the laws and religion in which he was brought
up ; another, to act on all those occasions
14 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
which call for action promptly and according
to the best of his judgment, and to abide the
result without repining; the third, to seek
happiness in limiting the desires, rather than
in attempting to satisfy them ; while the last
is to make the search after truth the business
of his life.
Lilly, in his once very popular Euphues,
thus sums up his counsel : "Go to bed with
the Lam.be, and rise with the Larke ; be merry,
but with modesty ; be sober, but not too sullen ;
be valiant, but not too venturous; let your
attire be comely ; your diet wholesome, but
not excessive ; thy pastime as the word im-
porteth, to pass the time in honest recreation ;
mistrust no man without cause, neither be
credulous without proof ; be not light to fol-
low every man's opinion, neither obstinate to
stand in your own conceits; serve God, fear
God, love God, and God will bless you, as
either your hearts can wish, or your friends
Nor is it only the thoughtless, the selfish,
the wicked, who in the unscrupulous pursuit
of what they suppose to be their own interests,
i THE GREAT QUESTION 15
make both themselves and others miserable.
It must be admitted that many worthy people,
and many good books, with no doubt the best
intentions, fall into, what is in essence, a very
similar error. They have represented a life
of sin as a life of pleasure ; they have pictured
virtue as self-sacrifice, austerity as religion.
The Inquisition was of course an extreme
case ; many of the Inquisitors were, I doubt
not, excellent people, kind and even merciful
in their nature, but they entirely mistook the
very essence of Christianity. Even in every-
day life we meet with worthy people who
seem to think that whatever is pleasant must
be wrong, that the true spirit of religion is
crabbed, sour, and gloomy ; that the bright,
sunny, radiant nature which surrounds us is
an evil and not a blessing ; a temptation
devised by the Spirit of Evil and not one of
the greatest delights showered on us in such
profusion by the Author of all Good.
Cowper in two beautiful lines has told us
" The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown."
16 THE USE OF LIFE
It is no doubt true that we cannot go
through life without sorrow. Even apart
from the griefs which the limits of life bring
on us all inevitably in the loss of those we
love, our existence here is so complex, the
world is still so young, we are as yet so far
from comprehending the necessities of our
own existence, the nature and properties of
the substances and forces which surround us,
that we must expect much sorrow and suffer-
ing. But Cowper asserts that the path of
sorrow, and that path "alone," leads to
heaven, so that a happy life here must in-
evitably involve misery hereafter. That en-
tirely erroneous idea has caused much anxiety,
trouble, and self-questioning to many anxious
souls. Many a bright young nature has suf-
fered pangs of self-reproach, and tormented
itself merely on account of its own happiness,
whereas it should be thankful for such a gift,
and feel that it has the inestimable privilege
of brightening the path of others who from
sorrow or ill-health have no longer in them-
selves the same well-spring of joy and sun-
shine. Cowper was very far indeed from
i THE GREAT QUESTION 17
being a Puritan, yet is not his teaching tinged
with the spirit of those, who, as Macaulay
tells us, objected to bear-baiting, not because
it caused pain to the bear, but because it gave
pleasure to the spectators ?
Many people distress and torment them-
selves about the mystery of existence. Yet
" a good man and a wise man may at times
be angry with the world, at times grieve for
it ; but be sure no man was ever discontented
with the world who did his duty in it." 1
" The riddle of the world is understood
Only by him who feels that God is good." 2
There is no duty, said Seneca, " the fulfil-
ment of which will not make us happier, nor
any temptation for which there is no remedy."
Accuse not Nature, says Milton,
" She hath done her part, do thou but thine."
We may be sure that the Creator would not
have made all Nature beauty to the eye, and
music to the ear, if we had not been meant
to enjoy it thoroughly, and " it is almost im-
possible to estimate what peace a man brings
1 Southey. 2 Whittier.
18 THE USE OF LIFE
to others, and what joy to himself by manag-
ing himself aright." 1
If this age be, as in many respects I think
it is, the most wonderful, interesting, and en-
lightened the world has ever seen, that is our
good fortune, not our own doing ; it is some-
thing, not to be proud of, but to be thankful
While, however, we should be grateful, and
enjoy to the full the innumerable blessings of
life, we cannot expect to have no sorrows or
anxieties. Life has been described by Wai-
pole as "a comedy to those who think, a
tragedy to those who feel." It is indeed a
tragedy at times and a comedy very often,
but as a rule it is what we choose to make it.
No evil, said Socrates, " can happen to a good
man, either in Life or Death," and certainly
the Prophets of Hope have been justified
much more often than the Prophets of Evil ;
but we are too apt to let years of happiness
pass unnoticed, while we count every moment
of sorrow or pain.
We cannot always expect to succeed ; even
1 Imitation of Christ.
i THE GREAT QUESTION 19
Nature fails at times. But "lift not up
thyself with arrogance in thy health and
prosperity ; nor despair of good in any
A well-known passage in the Bible tells us
that " wide is the gate, and broad is the way,
that leadeth to destruction, and many there
be which go in thereat : because strait is the
gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth
unto life, and few there be that find it."
But this I think is often misapplied. We
are not told that the right way is more rough
and painful ; only that it is narrow, and not
easy to find. No doubt there is but one right
road, with by-paths diverging on all sides.
A ship at sea has only one true course ; all
the other points of the compass would lead
her away from " the haven where she would
be." But it does not follow that the right
course is more rough or stormy than any
Of course it cannot be denied that what is
wrong or unwise is often very pleasant, some-
times even delightful, for the moment. To
1 King Alfred's trans, of Boethius.
20 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP
do so would be absurd ; it would be to ques-
tion the very existence of temptation. All I
wish to show is, that in yielding to such im-
pulses we are buying a momentary pleasure
at the expense of future sorrow ; that we are
giving up a great deal for the sake of compar-
atively trivial gain ; that we are selling our
birthright, like Esau, for a mess of pottage ;
and " buying the merry madness of an hour,
by the long penitence of after years." In
fact, it is not going too far to say, and I am
speaking now only of this life, that if we wish
to be happy we must try to be good.
Prosperity and happiness do not by any
means always go together, and many people
are miserable who have, as it would seem,
everything to make them happy. " Fortune
can give much, but it must be the mind that
makes that much enough." l
" My mind to me a Kingdom is,
Such present joys therein I find." 2
"It is not," said Vauvenargues, "in every
one's power to secure wealth, office, or hon-
ours ; but every one may be good, generous,
i Boyle. 2 Dyer.
i THE GREAT QUESTION 21
and wise." The true wealth does not consist
in what we have, but in what we are ; and
the advantages which we enjoy entail corre-
sponding responsibilities." The present state,
says St. Chrysostom, " is merely a theatrical
show, the business of man a play ; wealth and
poverty, the ruler and the ruled, and such like
things, are theatrical representations. But
when this day shall have passed, then the
theatre will be closed and the masks thrown
off. Then each one shall be tried, and his
works ; not each one and his wealth, not each
one and his office, not each one and his dig-
nity, not each one and his power, but each
one and his works." Let us hope that our
works will stand the test.
And what will the test be ? Not how much
we have done, but how much we have tried.
Not whether we have been what is called suc-
cessful in life, but whether we have deserved
to be so.
" How happy he is born and taught
That serveth not another's will ;
Whose armour is his honest thought;
And simple truth his utmost skill." 1
22 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP, i
In fact, the wise and virtuous life, not the
wicked and self-indulgent, will be the truly
happy life, and sin is the real self-sacrifice.
" My son," says Solomon, 1
" My son, forget not my law ;
But let thine heart keep my commandments :
For length of days, and long life,
And peace, shall they add to thee."
FOR success in life tact is more important
than talent, but it is not easily acquired by
those to whom it does not come naturally.
Still something can be done by considering
what others would probably wish.
Never lose a chance of giving pleasure.
Be courteous to all. " Civility," said Lady
Montague, "costs nothing and buys every-
thing." It buys much, indeed, which no
money will purchase. Try then to win
every one you meet. "Win their hearts,"
said Burleigh to Queen Elizabeth, " and you
have all men's hearts and purses."