Copyright
John Lubbock.

The use of life; online

. (page 9 of 14)
Online LibraryJohn LubbockThe use of life; → online text (page 9 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Our little lot denies ; but Heaven decrees
To all, the gift of ministering ease ;
The gentler offices of patient love,
Beyond all flattery and all praise above." l

A bad-tempered man punishes himself, no
doubt, more than others.

" Thus always teasing others, always teased,
His only pleasure is to be displeased," 2

1 Hannah More. 2 Pope.



194 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

and being never pleased, he is never happy.
But unquestionably he does much to make
others unhappy also. To make those around
us happy does not require any great sacri-
fice ; but mere good intentions are not enough.
It requires tact and study and practice. To
do anything well, good or bad, you must
practise.

A kind and sympathetic manner will do
wonders. An old proverb tells us that
" Manners makyth man," and it is doubtless
true that many a man has been made by his
manner and many ruined by the want of it.
Even when a Prime Minister selects his
Cabinet, he does not look altogether to wis-
dom or eloquence or ability or character, but
partly also to manner, to those who can
get on well with others.

Roughness is not strength ; it is indeed
often the cloak of weakness. Shakespeare in
his wonderful picture of Julius Caesar tells us
that

" His life was gentle and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, ' This was a man.' "



xii SOCIAL LIFE 195

" Concord and Discord are sometimes sup-
posed to be connected with a chord in music.
They have really a deeper meaning a Union
or Jarring of hearts."

And if it is necessary to find fault, at least
speak kindly ; especially to children, for " the
little cradle of the child is more easily dark-
ened than the starry heaven of the man." 2
Rubens, we are told, was able by a single
stroke to convert a laughing into a crying
child. In life we can all do so. Even a
word is enough. In all cases

" Speak gently ! 'tis a little thing

Dropped in the heart's deep well ;
The good, the joy that it may bring,
Eternity shall tell." 3

It is also a good rule to blame in private,
and praise in public. What is said in private
will be accepted in a better spirit, will be felt
to be kindly meant, and will really have more
effect ; while praise in public is much more
inspiriting, and a richer reward.

Above all things, if you have occasion to

1 Sir H. Maxwell's Meridiana.
2 Jean Paul Richter. 3 Langford.



196 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

find fault, do it gravely, as if with regret ;
never show anger or annoyance if you can
help it. " I would have punished you," said
Archytas to his slave, "if I had not been
angry." If you are angry at least pause and
think before you speak. Matthew Arnold
quotes as characteristic of the highest culture
" its inexhaustible indulgence, its consideration
of circumstances, its severe judgment of actions
joined to its merciful judgment of persons."

Death will soon make all equal. Antici-
pate this then, and treat every one with
courtesy, as befits a gentleman.

If you can help it, never leave a friend in
anger, or even in coolness. Remember that
any parting may be the last.

Some words are like rays of sunshine, others
like barbed arrows or the bite of a serpent.
And if hard words cut so deep, how much
pleasure can kind ones give !

Good words, said George Herbert, " cost
little and are worth much," for

" Many a shaft at random sent,
Finds mark the Archer little meant !
And many a word at random spoken,
May soothe or wound a heart that's broken."



XII



SOCIAL LIFE 197



It is not always necessary even to speak.
When Peter had denied Christ, we are told
that "the Lord looked upon Peter." That
sad look of reproach was enough. Peter went
out and wept bitterly.

As it is true that a look can give acute pain,
so also one kind glance of the eye will often
make a heart dance with joy. After a long
separation how we long for the warm wel-
come on which we know that we can reckon ;
while as we meet in the morning a kind smile
will brighten the darkest day.

Do not be too reserved. Do not be afraid
of showing your affection. It is not enough
to love if you seem cold. Be warm and ten-
der, thoughtful and affectionate. Men are
more helped by sympathy than by service ;
love is more than money, and a kind word
will give more pleasure than a present.

When Benjamin West was asked what had
made him a painter, " It was," he said, " my
mother's kiss." "If the Home duties," said
Confucius, " are well performed, what need is
there to go afar to offer sacrifice."

Be very careful in the selection of your



198 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

friends, " the most valuable and fairest fur-
niture of life." 1 Keep good company, says
George Herbert, " and you will be of the
number." "Tell me whom you live with/'
says a Spanish proverb, " and I will tell you
who you are." A man who is not a good
friend to himself cannot be so to any one

else.

" Well chosen friendship, the most noble
Of virtues, all our joys makes double,
And into halves divides our trouble." 2

The wise choice of female friends is quite
as important. Many wise men have been
wrecked by the Sirens, since the time of

Solomon.

" Whose heart, though large,
Beguiled by fair idolatresses fell
To idols foul." 3

Friendship, said Lilly, "is the jewel of
human life," and a friendless man is much to
be pitied, especially as it is probably his own

fault.

" No one is so accursed by fate,
No one so utterly desolate,
But some heart, though unknown,
Kesponds unto his own." 4

1 Cicero. 2 Denham. 3 Milton. 4 Longfellow.



xii SOCIAL LIFE 199

Surely it cannot be necessary, as Keble
sadly says, that we should all be isolated and
alone.

" Each in his hidden sphere of joy or woe
Our hermit spirits dwell and range apart,
Our eyes see all around in gloom or glow
Hues of their own, fresh borrowed from the heart,"

though no doubt it is well to have the option
of sometimes being alone, for it is difficult to
love your neighbour if you can never get
away from him.

It will almost inevitably happen that from
time to time you will think you have cause
of complaint. If so, be patient and reason-
able. Look at it from your friend's point of
view. Do nothing in a hurry. Nature never
does. " Most haste, worst speed," says the
old proverb. But above all, never quarrel in
a hurry. Think it over well. Take time.
However vexed you may be overnight, things
will often look very different in the morn-
ing.

If you have written a clever and conclusive,
but scathing letter, keep it back till the next
day, and it will very often never go at all.



200 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

Make the very best friends you can. A
bad friend is much worse than none at all.

" Enter not into the path of the wicked,
And go not in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, pass not by it,

Turn from it, and pass away.

" For they sleep not,

Except they have done mischief;
And their sleep is taken away,
Unless they cause some to fall.

" For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence.

" But the path of the just

Is as the shining light,

That shineth more and more

Unto the perfect day." 1

But though it is a great mistake to make
friends of the wicked and foolish, it is unwise
to make enemies of them, for they are very
numerous.

Lamb wittily observes that " presents en-
dear absents," but kindness and patience and
sympathy will do much more.

Friends may well claim all that you can

1 Proverbs.



xii SOCIAL LIFE 201

afford to give ; but they are not entitled to
ask you to lend.

" Neither a borrower nor lender be,"
says Shakespeare,

" For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry."

And Solomon warns us,

" He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it ;
But he that hateth suretyship is sure." 1

Friends will protect you from many dan-
gers, and ward off many sorrows. When
Augustus was brought to shame by his
daughter Julia, " None of these things," he
said, " would have happened to me, if either
Agrippa or Maecenas had lived."

And when you have made good friends
keep them.

"Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel." 2

Give them no cause of complaint, however
slight.

And if death separates, there is still the

1 Proverbs. 2 Shakespeare.



202 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

sweet hope of seeing them again. It cannot
make up to us for the loss, but still

" 'Tis sweet, as year by year we lose
Friends out of sight, in faith to muse
How grows in Paradise our store." l

The most important step in life is marriage.
Love seems to beautify and inspire all nature.
It raises the earthly caterpillar into the ethe-
real butterfly, it paints the feathers in spring,
it lights the glowworm's lamp, it wakens the
song of birds, and inspires the poet's lay.
Even inanimate Nature seems to feel the
spell, and flowers glow with the richest col-
ours.

A man, says Simonides, " cannot have any
greater blessing than a good wife, or any
greater curse than a bad one."

" A continual dropping in a very rainy day
And a contentious woman are alike." 2

" It is better to dwell in a corner of the house-top,
Than with a brawling woman in a wide house." 3

As regards the selection, it is probably not
easy to give advice of much value. Some

i Keble. * Proverbs. 3 Ibid.



XII



SOCIAL LIFE 203



considerations indeed are almost self-evident.
It is not well to marry too early. When two
very young people marry, it is, says Sir H.
Taylor, " as if one sweet-pea should be put as
a prop to another." Do not marry for money,
nor without money. Those who marry for
money " show themselves to be less than
money by over- valuing that to all the content
and wise felicity of their lives : and when
they have counted the money and their sor-
rows together, how willingly would they buy
with the loss of all that money " l the life
they have sold.

Do not imagine that in marriage you can
go on living your " own substantive life with
the additional embellishment of some grace-
ful, simple, gay, easy-hearted creature, who
would lie light upon the surface of one's be-
ing, be at hand whenever solitude and serious
pursuits had become irksome, and never be in
the way when she was not wanted. Visions
these are ; merely dreams of our Epicurean
youth." 2

1 Jeremy Taylor, The Marriage Ring.

2 Sir H. Taylor, Notes from Life.



204 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

Homer, says Jeremy Taylor, " adds many
soft appellations to the character of a hus-
band's duty. Thou art to be a Father and
Mother to her, and a Brother : and with great
reason, unless the state of marriage should be
no better than the condition of an orphan.
For she that is bound to leave Father and
Mother, and Brother for thee, either is miser-
able like a poor fatherless child, or else ought
to find all these, and more, in thee." l

If you have the least doubt about it, do
not marry. The married state is either very
happy or very miserable.

Marriage is a great responsibility. Do not
trust altogether to, or be beguiled by, the eye,
for " marriages are not to be contracted by
the hands and eye, but with reason and the
hearts." 2

A good wife is a helpmeet, not in material
things only, but in those of the mind also.
" Base men," says Shakespeare, " being in
love have then a nobility in their natures
more than is native to them." And if even
base men are so powerfully affected for good,

1 The Marriage Ring. 2 Jeremy Taylor,



xii SOCIAL LIFE 205

how much more those who have nobility
already in their nature ! For

"And there are souls that seem to dwell
Above this earth, so rich a spell
Floats round their steps, where'er they move,
From hopes fulfilled and mutual love." 1

" Marriage," says Jeremy Taylor, " is divine
in its institution, sacred in its union, holy in
the mystery, sacramental in its signification,
honourable in its appellative, religious in its
employments : it is advantage to the societies
of men, and it is < holiness to the Lord.' " 2

If a marriage is happy, says Tertullian,
"how are we to find words to express that
happiness ? . . . Together they pray, to-
gether they worship, together they fast . . .
together in difficulties, in adversities, in re-
freshments. Neither hides anything from the
other, neither is a burden to the other. Christ
joys when He sees such things. To these He
sends His peace. Where two are, there is
He, and where He is, the evil one is not."

You take your wife, in the solemn and
beautiful words of our marriage service, " for

1 Keble. 2 The Marriage Ring.



206 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sick-
ness and in health, to love and to cherish, till
death you do part."

"A happy marriage," says Stanley, "is a
new beginning of life, a new starting-point
for happiness and usefulness ; it is the great
opportunity once for all to leave the past,
with all its follies and faults and errors, far,
far behind us for ever, and to press forward
with new hopes, and new courage, and new
strength into the future which opens before
us. A happy home is the best likeness of
heaven; a home where husband and wife,
father and mother, brother and sister, child
and parent, each in their several ways, help
each the other forward in their different course
as no other human being can ; for none else
has the same opportunities ; none else so
knows the character of any other ; none else
has such an interest at stake in the welfare,
and the fame, and the grace, and the good-
ness of any one else as of those who are bone
of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, in whose
happiness and glory we ourselves become
happy and glorious, in whose misery we be-



xii SOCIAL LIFE 207

come miserable, by whose selfishness and
weakness and worldliness we are dragged
down to earth, by whose purity and nobleness
and strength we are raised up, almost against
our will, to duty, to heaven, and to God."

Finally, children are a great, but none the
less a delightful, responsibility. They are
sometimes spoken of as " sent," and improvi-
dent parents excuse themselves by saying that
" if God sends mouths, He will send food to fill
them," but Matthew Arnold justly observes
that there is no justification for bringing poor
little children into the world whom you can-
not keep decently, in reasonable comfort and
not too precariously.

Let them grow up in the sunshine of love ;
if their childhood is blest with the genial
warmth of affection, they will better endure
the cold of life.

"No man can tell but he that loves his
children, how many delicious accents make
a man's heart dance in the pretty conversa-
tion of those dear pledges ; their childishness,
their stammering, their little angers, their
innocence, their imperfections, their necessi-



208 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP, xn

ties, are so many little emanations of joy
and comfort to him that delights in their per-
sons and society ; but he that loves not his
Wife and Children, feeds a Lioness at home,
and broods a nest of Sorrows ; and Blessing
itself cannot make him happy; so that all
the Commandments of God injoyning a man
to love his wife, are nothing but so many
Necessities and Capacities of joy." *

1 Jeremy Taylor.



CHAPTER XIII

INDUSTRY

NEVER waste anything, but, above all,
never waste time. To-day comes but once
and never returns. Time is one of Heaven's
richest gifts ; and once lost is irrecoverable.

" Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
For what has been, has been ; and I have had my
hour." l

Do not spend your time so now, that you
will reproach yourself hereafter. There are
no sadder thoughts than " Too late," and " It
might have been." Time is a trust, and for
every minute of it you will have to account.
Be " spare of sleep, spare of diet, and sparest
of time."

Nelson once said that he attributed all his

1 Dry den.
p 209



210 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

success in life to having always been a quarter
of an hour before his time.

" The young," said Lord Melbourne, "should
never hear any language but this: you have
your own way to make, and it depends upon
your own exertions whether you starve or
not."

Industry, moreover, is not only essential to
success, but has a most healthy influence on
the moral character. "Never be idle," said
Jeremy Taylor, but "fill up all the spaces of
thy time with a severe and useful employ-
ment ; for lust easily creeps in at these empti-
nesses where the soul is unemployed, and the
body is at ease ; for no easy, healthful, idle
person was ever chaste if he could be tempted ;
but of all employments, bodily labour is the
most useful, and of the greatest benefit for
driving away the devil."

Time and Earth, in the words of Keble,
" are the preparations for Heaven and Eter-
nity ; and such as we make our moments
here, such will God make our ages in the
world to come."

To do something however small, to make



xin INDUSTRY 211

others happier and better, is the highest am-
bition, the most elevating hope, which can in-
spire a human being.

Pietro Medici is said to have once em-
ployed Michael Angelo to make a statue
out of snow. That was a stupid waste of
precious time. But if Michael Angelo' s time
was precious to the world, our time is just as
precious to ourselves, and yet we too often
waste it in making statues of snow, and, even
worse, in making idols of mire.

" We all complain," said the great Roman
philosopher and statesman, Seneca, " of the
shortness of time, and yet we have more than
we know what to do with. Our lives are
spent either in doing nothing at all, or in
doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing
nothing that we ought to do. We are always
complaining that our days are few ; and act-
ing as though there would be no end to them."

It is astonishing what can be done by
economy of time. " Nehemiah could find
time to dart up a successful prayer to the
Throne of Grace whilst he stood waiting
behind the King of Persia's chair."



212 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

And yet, fill up our time as well and as
wisely as we may, even the most fortunate
of us must leave many things undone, many
books unread, many a glorious sight unseen,
many a country un visited.

One great, I might almost say the great
element, of success and happiness in life, is
the capacity for honest solid work. Cicero
said that what was required was first audac-
ity, what was second was audacity, and what
was third was audacity. Self-confidence is
no doubt useful, but it would be more correct
to say that what was wanted was firstly per-
severance, secondly perseverance, and thirdly
perseverance. Work is not of course, any
more than play, the object of Life ; both are
means to the same end.

Work is as necessary for peace of mind as
for health of body. A day of worry is more
exhausting than a week of work. Worry
upsets our whole system, work keeps it in
health and order. Exercise of the muscles
keeps the body in health, and exercise of the
brain brings peace of mind. " By work of the
Mind one secures the repose of the Heart." l

1 Jancourt.



XIII



INDUSTRY 213



" Give a girl any true work that will make
her active in the dawn, and weary at night,
with the consciousness that her fellow-creat-
ures have indeed been the better for her day.
and the powerless sorrow of her enthusiasm
will transform itself into a majesty of radiant
and beneficent peace."

Do what you will, only do something.
Even attempts to find the philosopher's
stone and to square the circle have borne
some fruit.

" Words/' said Dr. Johnson, " are the
daughters of Earth, and Deeds are the sons
of Heaven," and whatever you do, do thor-
oughly. Put your heart into it. Cultivate
all your faculties : you must either use them
or lose them. We are told of Hezekiah that
" in every work that he began, ... he did
it with all his heart, and prospered." 2

" The story of genius even, so far as it can
be told at all, is the story of persistent indus-
try in the face of obstacles, and some of the
standard geniuses give us their word for it
that genius is little more than industry. A

1 Ruskiii. ' 2 2 Chron.



214 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

woman like ' George Eliot ' laughs at the
idea of writing her novels by inspiration.
' Genius,' President Dwight used to tell the
boys at Yale, i is the power of making
efforts.' " l

Begging is after all harder than working,
and taking it altogether, does not pay so
well. Every man, moreover, should stand
upon his own feet. A ploughman on his
feet, says Franklin, is higher than a gentle-
man on his knees.

Cobbett, speaking of his celebrated English
grammar, tells us that : "I learned grammar
when I was a private soldier on the pay of
sixpence a day. The edge of my berth, or
that of the guard bed, was my seat to study
in ; my knapsack was my bookcase ; a bit of
board lying on my lap was my writing-table ;
and the task did not demand anything like a
year of my life. . I had no money to purchase
candle or oil ; in winter time it was rarely
that I could get any evening light but that of
the fire, and only my turn even of that. ...
Think not lightly of the farthing that I had

1 Garnett.



XIII



INDUSTRY 215



to give, now and then, for ink, pen, or paper.
That farthing was, alas ! a great sum to me :
I was as tall as I am now ; I had great health
and great exercise. The whole of the money,
not expended for us at market, was twopence
a week for each man. I remember, and well
I may, that upon one occasion I, after all ab-
solutely necessary expenses, had, on a Friday,
made shift to have a halfpenny in reserve,
which I had destined for the purchase of a
red herring in the morning; but, when I
pulled off my clothes at night, so hungry
then as to be hardly able to endure life, I
found that I had lost my halfpenny ! I
buried my head under the miserable sheet
and rug, and cried like a child ! And, again.
I say, if I, under circumstances like these,
could encounter and overcome this task, is
there, can there be, in the whole world, a
youth to find an excuse for the non-perform-
ance?"

Cobbett had no money, but he had energy
and courage. " Most men," says Bacon,
" seem neither to understand their riches nor
their strength : of the former they believe



216 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

greater things than they should ; of the latter
much less. Self-reliance and self-denial will
teach a man to drink out of his own cistern,
and eat his own sweet bread, and to learn
and labour truly to get his living, and care-
fully to expend the good things committed to
his trust."

There is an Oriental proverb that

" Good striving
Brings thriving :
Better a dog that works
Than a lion who shirks."

"Work," says Nature to Man, "in every
hour, paid or unpaid; see only that thou
work, and thou canst not escape the reward :
whether thy work be fine or coarse, planting
corn or writing epics, so only it be honest
work, done to thine own approbation, it shall
earn a reward to the senses as well as to the
thought ; no matter how often defeated, you
are born to victory. The reward of a thing
well done, is to have done it." 1

The great wizard, Michael Scott, as Sir
Walter Scott has told us, found he could only

1 Emerson.



xin INDUSTRY 217

secure himself against his familiar Devil by
constantly providing him with employment.
The same applies to us all. St. Paul says
that the Evil Spirit having been driven out
of a man, returned when he found the house
empty, and entered in with seven other
spirits worse than himself.

Idleness is not rest. It is more tiring than
work. The Romans had a proverb, " Difficilis
in otio quies." It is difficult to rest if you
are doing nothing.

Never hurry. Nature never does. The
first piece of advice which a Swiss guide gives
to a young mountaineer, and that to which
he returns most often, is that one should go
" immer langsam," slowly and steadily; or
"plus doucement on monte, plus vite on ar-
rive au sommet," not trying to walk too fast,
but not loitering. By all means pause now
and then ; even the strong ox requires to do so,
and the furlong, or " furrow long," measures
the distance after which it is well to give
him a rest. But in life also the great secret
of progress is never to hurry and never to
loiter. " Haste," says an Eastern proverb,



218 THE USE OF LIFE CHAP.

" cometh of the Evil One, but patience open-
eth the gate of felicity."

Many people seem to think that they can
save time by hurrying. It is a great mis-
take. It is well to move briskly ; but it is far
more important to do a thing well, than to


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryJohn LubbockThe use of life; → online text (page 9 of 14)