Tact often succeeds where force fails. Lilly
quotes the old fable of the Sun and the Wind :
" It is pretily noted of a contention betweene
the Winde and the Sunne, who should
24 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
have the victorye. A Gentleman walking
abroad, the \Yinde thought to blowe off his
cloake, which with great blastes and bluster-
ings striuing to vnloose it, made it to stick
faster to his backe, for the more the Winde
encreased the closer his cloake clapt to his
body : then the Sunne, shining with his hot
beams, began to warm this gentleman, who
waxing somewhat faint in this faire weather,
did not only put off his cloake but his coate,
which the Wynde perceiuing, yeelded the con-
quest to the Sunne."
Always remember that men are more easily
led than driven, and that in any case it is
better to guide than to coerce.
" What thou wilt
Thou rather shalt enforce it with thy smile,
Than hew to't with thy sword." l
It is a good rule in politics, " pas trop
Try to win, and still more to deserve, the
confidence of those with whom you are
brought in contact. Many a man has owed
ii TACT 25
his influence far more to character than to
ability. Sydney Smith used to say of Francis
Homer, who, without holding any high office,
exercised a remarkable personal influence in
the Councils of the Nation, that he had the
Ten Commandments stamped upon his coun-
Try to meet the wishes of others as far as
you rightly and wisely can ; but do not be
afraid to say "No."
Anybody can say " Yes," though it is not
every one who can say " Yes " pleasantly ;
but it is far more difficult to say " No."
Many a man has been ruined because he
could not do so. Plutarch tells us that the
inhabitants of Asia Minor came to be vassals
only for not having been able to pronounce
one syllable, which is "No." And if in the
Conduct of Life it is essential to say "No," it
is scarcely less necessary to be able to say it
pleasantly. We ought always to endeavour
that everybody with whom we have any
transactions should feel that it is a pleasure
to do business with us and should wish to
come again. Business is a matter of senti-
26 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
ment and feeling far more than many sup-
pose ; every one likes being treated with
kindness and courtesy, and a frank pleasant
manner will often clench a bargain more
effectually than a half per cent.
Almost any one may make himself pleas-
ant if he wishes. " The desire of pleasing is
at least half the art of doing it : " 1 and, on
the other hand, no one will please others who
does not desire to do so. If you do riot ac-
quire this great gift while you are young,
you will find it much more difficult after-
wards. Many a man has owed his outward
success in life far more to good manners than
to any solid merit ; while, on the other hand,
many a worthy man, with a good heart and
kind intentions, makes enemies merely by
the roughness of his manner. To be able
to please is, moreover, itself a great pleas-
ure. Try it, and you will not be disap-
Be wary and keep cool. A cool head is as
necessary as a warm heart. In any negotia-
tions, steadiness and coolness are invaluable ;
1 Chesterfield's Letters.
ii TACT 27
while they will often carry you in safety
through times of danger and difficulty.
If you come across others less clever than
you are, you have no right to look down on
them. There is nothing more to be proud of
in inheriting great ability, than a great estate.
The only credit in either case is if they are
used well. Moreover, many a man is much
cleverer than he seems. It is far more easy to
read books than men. In this the eyes are a
great guide. " When the eyes say one thing
and the tongue another, a practised man
relies on the language of the first." 1
Do not trust too much to professions of
extreme goodwill. Men do not fall in love
with men, nor women with women, at first
sight. If a comparative stranger protests
and promises too much, do not place implicit
confidence in what he says. If not insincere,
he probably says more than he means, and
perhaps wants something himself from you.
Do not therefore believe that every one is a
friend, merely because he professes to be so ;
nor assume too lightly that any one is an
28 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
We flatter ourselves by claiming to be
rational and intellectual beings, but it would
be a great mistake to suppose that men are
always guided by reason. We are strange
inconsistent creatures, and we act quite as
often, perhaps oftener, from prejudice or pas-
sion. The result is that you are more likely
to carry men with you by enlisting their feel-
ings, than by convincing their reason. This
applies, moreover, to companies of men even
more than to individuals.
Argument is always a little dangerous. It
often leads to coolness and misunderstand-
ings. You may gain your argument and lose
your friend, which is probably a bad bargain.
If you must argue admit, all you can, but
try and show that some point has been over-
looked. Very few people know when they
have had the worst of an argument, and if
they do, they do not like it. Moreover, if
they know they are beaten, it does not fol-
low that they are convinced. Indeed it is
perhaps hardly going too far to say that it
is very little use trying to convince any one
by argument. State your case as clearly
ii TACT 29
and concisely as possible, and if you shake
his confidence in his own opinion it is as
much as you can expect. It is the first step
Conversation is an art in itself, and it is by
no means those who have most to tell who
are the best talkers ; though it is certainly
going too far to say with Lord Chesterfield
that "there are very few Captains of Foot
who are not much better company than ever
were Descartes or Sir Isaac Newton."
I will not say that it is as difficult to be a
good listener as a good talker, but it is cer-
tainly by no means easy, and very nearly as
important. You must not receive everything
that is said as a critic or a judge, but sus-
pend your judgment, and try to enter into
the feelings of the speaker. If you are kind
and sympathetic your advice will be often
sought, and you will have the satisfaction of
feeling that you have been a help and com-
fort to many in distress and trouble.
Do not expect too much attention when
you are young. Sit, listen, and look on.
Bystanders proverbially see most of the
30 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP
game; and you can notice what is going on
just as well, if not better, when you are not
noticed yourself. It is almost as if you
possessed a cap of invisibility.
To save themselves the trouble of thinking,
which is to most people very irksome, men
will often take you at your own valuation.
" On ne vaut dans ce monde," says La
Bruyere, " que ce que Ton veut valoir."
Do not make enemies for yourself ; you can
make nothing worse.
"Answer not a fool according to his folly,
Lest thou also be like unto him." l
Remember that "a soft answer turneth away
wrath"; but even an angry answer is less
foolish than a sneer : nine men out of ten
would rather be abused, or even injured, than
laughed at. They will forget almost anything
sooner than being made ridiculous.
" It is pleasanter to be deceived than to be
undeceived." Trasilaus, an Athenian, went
mad, and thought that all the ships in the
Piraeus belonged to him, but having been
cured by Crito, he complained bitterly that he
n TACT 81
had been robbed. It is folly, says Lord Ches-
terfield, " to lose a friend for a jest : but, in my
mind, it is not a much less degree of folly, to
make an enemy of an indifferent and neutral
person for the sake of a bon-mot."
Do. not be too ready to suspect a slight, or
think you are being laughed at to say with
Scrub in the Strategem, " I am sure they
talked of me, for they laughed consumedly."
On the other hand, if you are laughed at, try
to rise above it. If you can join in heartily,
you will turn the tables and gain rather than
lose. Every one likes a man who can enjoy a
laugh at his own expense and justly so, for
it shows good-humour and good-sense. If you
laugh at yourself, other people will not laugh
Have the courage of your opinions. You
must expect to be laughed at sometimes, and
it will do you no harm. There is nothing
ridiculous in seeming to be what you really
are, but a good deal in affecting to be what
you are not. People often distress themselves,
get angry, and drift into a coolness with
others, for some quite imaginary grievance.
32 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
Be frank, and yet reserved. Do not talk
much about yourself ; neither of yourself, for
yourself, nor against yourself : but let other
people talk about themselves, as much as they
will. If they do so it is because they like it,
and they will think all the better of you for
listening to them. At any rate do not show
a man, unless it is your duty, that you think
he is a fool or a blockhead. If you do, he has
good reason to complain. You may be wrong
in your judgment ; he will, and with some
justice, form the same opinion of you.
Burke once said that he could not draw an
indictment against a nation, and it is very
unwise as well as unjust to attack any class
or profession. Individuals often forget and
forgive, but Societies never do. Moreover,
even individuals will forgive an injury much
more readily than an insult. Nothing rankles
so much as being made ridiculous. You
will never gain your object by putting people
out of humour, or making them look ridicu-
Goethe in his Conversations with JEcker-
mann commended our countrymen. Their
ir TACT 33
entrance and bearing in Society, he said,
were so confident and quiet that one would
think they were everywhere the masters, and
the whole world belonged to them. Ecker-
mann replied that surely young Englishmen
were no cleverer, better educated, or better
hearted than young Germans. " That is not
the point," said Goethe; "their superiority
does not lie in such things, neither does it lie
in their birth and fortune : it lies precisely in
their having the courage to be what nature
made them. There is no half ness about them.
They are complete men. Sometimes complete
fools also, that I heartily admit ; but even
that is something, and has its weight."
In any business or negotiations, be patient.
Many a man would rather you heard his story
than granted his request : many an opponent
has been tired out.
Above all, never lose your temper, and if
you do, at any rate hold your tongue, and try
not to show it.
" Cease from anger, and forsake wrath :
Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil." - 1
34 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
" A soft answer turneth away wrath :
But grievous words stir up anger." l
Never intrude where you are not wanted.
There is plenty of room elsewhere. " Have
I not three kingdoms?" said King James to
the Fly, " and yet thou must needs fly in my
Some people seem to have a knack of saying
the wrong thing, of alluding to any subject
which revives sad memories, or rouses differ-
ences of opinion.
No branch of Science is more useful than the
knowledge of Men. It is of the utmost im-
portance to be able to decide wisely, not only
to know whom you can trust, and whom you
cannot, but how far, and in what, you can
trust them. This is by no means easy. It is
most important to choose well those who are
to work with you, and under you ; to put the
square man in the square hole, and the round
man hi the round hole.
" If you suspect a man, do not employ him :
if you employ him, do not suspect him." 3
1 Proverbs. 2 Selden's Table Talk. 3 Confucius.
it TACT 35
Those who trust are oftener right than those
Confidence should be complete, but not
blind. Merlin lost his life, wise as he was,
for imprudently yielding to Vivien's appeal
to trust her " all in all or not at all."
Be always discreet. Keep your own coun-
sel. If you do not keep it for yourself, you
cannot expect others to keep it for you. " The
mouth of a wise man is in his heart ; the heart
of a fool is in his mouth, for what he know-
eth or thinketh he uttereth."
Use your head. Consult your reason. It
is not infallible, but you will be less likely to
err if you do so.
Speech is, or ought to be silvern, but silence
Many people talk, not because they have
anything to say, but for the mere love of talk-
ing. Talking should be an exercise of the
brain, rather than of the tongue. Talkative-
ness, the love of talking for talk ing's sake, is
almost fatal to success. Men are " plainly
hurried on, in the heat of their talk, to say
quite different things from what they first
36 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
intended, and which they afterwards wish
unsaid : or improper things, which they had
no other end in saying, but only to find em-
ployment to their tongue.
And this unrestrained volubility and wanton-
ness in speech is the occasion of numberless
evils and vexations in life. It begets resent-
ment in him who is the subject of it ; sows the
seed of strife and dissension amongst others ;
and inflames little disgusts and offences, which,
if let alone, would wear away of themselves." 1
" C'est une grande misere," says La Bru-
yere, " que de n'avoir pas assez d'esprit pour
bien parler, ni assez de jugement pour se
taire." Plutarch tells a story of Demaratus,
that being asked in a certain assembly
whether he held his tongue because he was a
fool, or for want of words, he replied, " A fool
cannot hold his tongue." " Seest thou," said
" Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words ?
There is more hope of a fool than of him." 2
1 Dr. Butler's Sermons. 2 Proverbs xxix. 20.
ii TACT 37
Never try to show your own superiority :
few things annoy people more than being
made to feel small.
Do not be too positive in your statements.
You may be wrong, however sure you feel.
Memory plays us curious tricks, and both ears
and eyes are sometimes deceived. Our pre-
judices, even the most cherished, may have no
secure foundation. Moreover, even if you are
right, you will lose nothing by disclaiming
too great certainty.
In action, again, never make too sure, and
never throw away a chance. " There's many
a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip."
It has been said that everything comes to
those who know how to wait ; and when the
opportunity does come, seize it.
"He that wills not, when he may;
When he will, he shall have nay."
If you once let your opportunity go, you
may never have another.
" 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.
38 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
On such a full sea are we now afloat :
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our venture." l
Be cautious, but not over-cautious ; do not
be too much afraid of making a mistake ; " a
man who never makes a mistake, will make
Always dress neatly : we must dress, there-
fore we should do it well, though not too
well ; not extravagantly, either in time or
money, but taking care to have good mate-
rials. It is astonishing how much people
judge by dress. Of those you come across,
many go mainly by appearances in any case,
and many more have in your case nothing
but appearances to go by. The eyes and ears
open the heart, and a hundred people will see,
for one who will know you. Moreover, if
you are careless and untidy about yourself, it
is a fair, though not absolute, conclusion that
you will be careless about other things also.
When you are in Society study those who
have the best and pleasantest manners.
"Manner," says the old proverb with much
ii TACT 39
truth, if with some exaggeration, "maketh
Man," and " a pleasing figure is a perpetual
letter of recommendation." 1 "Merit and
knowledge will not gain hearts, though they
will secure them when gained. Engage the
eyes by your address, air, and motions ; soothe
the ears by the elegance and harmony of your
diction ; and the heart will certainly (I
should rather say probably) follow." : Every
one has eyes and ears, but few have a sound
judgment. The world is a stage. We are
all players, and every one knows how much
the success of a piece depends upon the way
it is acted.
Lord Chesterfield, speaking of his son, says,
"They tell me he is loved wherever he is
known, and I am very glad of it ; but I would
have him be liked before he is known, and
loved afterwards. . . . You know very little of
the nature of mankind, if you take those things
to be of little consequence ; one cannot be too
attentive to them ; it is they that always en-
gage the heart, of which the understanding is
commonly the bubble."
1 Bacon. 2 Lord Chesterfield.
40 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP, n
The Graces help a man in life almost as
much as the Muses. We all know that " one
man may steal a horse, while another may
not look over a hedge " ; and why ? because
the one will do it pleasantly, the other
disagreeably. Horace tells us that even
Youth and Mercury, the God of Eloquence
and of the Arts, were powerless without the
ON MONEY MATTERS
ECONOMY is not, I fear, sufficiently appre-
ciated in England. Our countrymen work
hard and make good incomes, but other
nations excel us in thrift. " It's what thee'll
spend, my son," said a wise old Quaker, "not
what thee'll make, which will decide whether
thee's to be rich or not." The very word
"thrift" tells its own tale, being derived
from the word " to thrive."
Apart from any question of being rich, it
is wise and right to save, so as to provide for
future needs. It is a mean proverb that,
" When poverty comes in at the door, love
flies out at the window ; " but it would be
sad to see wife or children in want of food,
or clothing, or medical attendance, or rest
and change of air, and to feel that if you
42 THE USE OF LIFE
had been reasonably industrious, or had but
denied yourself some, innocent perhaps, but
unnecessary indulgence, you might have
saved them from suffering and anxiety.
Economy for the mere sake of money is no
doubt mean, but economy for the sake of
independence is right and manly.
Always keep accounts, and keep them
carefully. I do not mean that it is worth
while to put down every detail, but keep
them so that you may know how the money
goes and how much things cost you. No
man who knows what his income is, and
what he is spending, will run into extrava-
gance. Spendthrifts begin by shutting their
eyes to what they are doing. No one would
face the precipice of ruin with his eyes open.
Whatever you do then, live within your
income. Save something, however little,
every year. But above all things, do not
run into debt. If a man, says Dickens (and
though he puts the advice into the mouth of
Mr. Micawber, it is none the less wise), has
an annual income " of twenty pounds, annual
expenditure, nineteen, nineteen, six, result
in ON MONEY MATTERS 43
happiness. Annual income, twenty pounds,
annual expenditure, twenty pounds, nought
and six, result misery." l And yet the differ-
ence is only a shilling.
It is not too strong to say that debt is
slavery. " Who goes a borrowing goes a
sorrowing." Many things in life are dis-
agreeable. Horace Greeley, a man of great
experience, well and truly said, " Hunger,
cold, rags, hard work, contempt, suspicion,
unjust reproaches, are disagreeable ; but debt
is infinitely worse than them all. Never run
into debt. If you have but fifty cents and
can get no more a week, buy a peck of corn,
parch it, and live on it, rather than owe any
man a dollar."
The world, said Cobden, " has always been
divided into two classes, those who have
saved, and those who have spent the
thrifty and the extravagant. The building
of all the houses, the mills, the bridges, and
the ships, and the accomplishment of all
other great works which have rendered man
civilised and happy, have been done by the
1 David Copperfield.
44 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
savers, the thrifty ; and those who have
wasted their resources have always been
their slaves. It has been the law of nature
and of Providence that this should be so ;
and I were an impostor if I promised any
class that they should advance themselves
if they were improvident, thoughtless, and
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, said
Plutarch, " gives asylum and security from
their creditors to debtors, when they take
refuge in it ; but the asylum and sanctuary
of frugality is everywhere open to the sober-
minded, affording them joyful and honour-
able and ample space for much ease." Do
not borrow then, and do not lend, except of
course in the way of business. You will
neither get your money nor thanks, for
debtors always think themselves injured.
Give then what you can afford liberally, but
do not expect it back.
If money comes in slowly at first, do not
be discouraged ; it is an ill lane which has
no turning ; and if it happens that money at
first comes easily, do not spend it all, but lay
OX MONEY MATTERS 45
up some for a rainy day y remembering that
good lanes have their turnings as well as bad
ones ; and that as time goes on you will
probably have more and more demands on
your purse. Many a man in business has
been ruined by being too fortunate at first.
Do not be in a hurry to get rich. If, says
Ruskin, " you do not let the price command
the picture, in time the picture will command
Do not make yourself anxious about money.
Though few can expect to make large fort-
unes, any one with industry and economy
may make a livelihood. We often hear of
riches not honestly come by, but the fact is,
that poverty is seldom honestly come by
either. The poor are not those who have
little, but those who want much.
Sir James Paget in one of his interesting
addresses gave statistics as regards his own
pupils, whose careers he had followed. Out of
1000. 200 left the profession, came into fort-
unes, or died early. Of the remaining 800,
600 attained fair, some of them considerable
success. Out of the whole number only 56
46 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
entirely failed. Of these 15 never passed the
examinations, 10 broke down through intem-
perance or dissipation, and out of the whole
1000 only 25 failed through causes apparently
beyond their control. You may rest assured
that in other walks of life, as in medicine, if
you make yourself useful, you will be used.
In fact, no one need have much anxiety
about the real necessaries of life. Nature
needs little and gives much. Luxuries, on
the other hand, are very expensive, and, as
Franklin said, " what keeps one vice would
bring up two children."
Remember that, as the Duke of Wellington
wisely said, high interest means bad security.
Do not put too many eggs in one basket.
However well you may be advised, however
carefully you may have looked into the mat-
ter, something may occur to upset all calcula-
tions. The wisest merchants and bankers make
mistakes. All that any sensible man of busi-
ness expects is to be generally right. We learn
in our earliest years that two and two make
four ; but they also make twenty-two. As
an arithmetical expression it is perfectly true
in ON MONEY MATTERS 47
that if we add two and two we get four,
but in the conduct of life it is a delusion, and
an injudicious application of the lesson has
wrecked many a promising career.
Take things quietly. We are told that
Lord Brougham never could sit still enough
to be photographed, and always came out a
Bagehot used to say that in business many
men were ruined because they could not sit
still in a room.
Every one is in one sense a man of busi-
ness whether he wishes it or no. We have
all duties to perform, a house to manage, our
expenses to regulate, and small matters are
sometimes as difficult and troublesome as
Success in business depends happily much
more on common sense, care and attention,
than on genius. " Keep your shop," says an
old-fashioned proverb, " and your shop will
keep you." Xenophon tells a story to the
same effect : " The King of Persia, wishing
to have a fine horse fattened as soon as
possible, asked one of them who were sup-
48 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.
posed to know most about such subjects, what
would fatten a horse soonest, and was told
6 his master's eye.' '
It is very important to cultivate business-
like habits. An eminent friend of mine