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"Be thrifty, but not covetous; therefore give
Thy need, thine honour, and thy friend his due,
Never was scraper brave man. Get to _live_,
Then live, and use it; else it is not true
That thou hast gotten. Surely use alone
Make money not a contemptible stone."

"To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile,
Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by ev'ry wile
That's justify'd by Honour:
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Not for a train attendant;
But for the glorious privilege
Of being Independent."



Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.


This book is intended as a sequel to "Self-Help," and "Character." It
might, indeed, have appeared as an introduction to these volumes; for
Thrift is the basis of Self-Help, and the foundation of much that is
excellent in Character.

The author has already referred to the Use and Abuse of Money; but the
lesson is worthy of being repeated and enforced. As he has already
observed, - Some of the finest qualities of human nature are intimately
related to the right use of money; such as generosity, honesty, justice,
and self-denial; as well as the practical virtues of economy and
providence. On the other hand, there are their counterparts of avarice,
fraud, injustice, and selfishness, as displayed by the inordinate lovers
of gain; and the vices of thoughtlessness, extravagance, and
improvidence, on the part of those who misuse and abuse the means
entrusted to them.

Sir Henry Taylor has observed that "industry must take an interest in
its own fruits, and God has appointed that the mass of mankind shall be
moved by this interest, and have their daily labour sweetened by it."
The earnings and savings of industry should be intelligent for a purpose
beyond mere earnings and savings. We do not work and strive for
ourselves alone, but for the benefit of those who dependent upon us.
Industry must know how to earn, how to spend, and how to save. The man
who knows, like St. Paul, how to spare and how to abound, has a great

Every man is bound to do what he can to elevate his social state, and to
secure his independence. For this purpose he must spare from his means
in order to be independent in his condition. Industry enables men to
earn their living; it should also enable them to learn to live.
Independence can only be established by the exercise of forethought,
prudence, frugality, and self-denial. To be just as well as generous,
men must deny themselves. The essence of generosity is self-sacrifice.

The object of this book is to induce men to employ their means for
worthy purposes, and not to waste them upon selfish indulgences. Many
enemies have to be encountered in accomplishing this object. There are
idleness, thoughtlessness, vanity, vice, intemperance. The last is the
worst enemy of all. Numerous cases are cited in the course of the
following book, which show that one of the best methods of abating the
Curse of Drink, is to induce old and young to practise the virtue of

Much of this book was written, and some of it published, years ago; but
an attack of paralysis, which compelled the author to give up writing
for some time, has delayed its appearance until now. For much of the
information recently received, he is indebted to Edward Crossley, Esq.,
Mayor of Halifax; Edward Akroyd, Esq., Halifax; George Chetwynd, Esq.,
General Post Office; S.A. Nichols, Esq., Over Darwen; Jeremiah Head,
Esq., Middlesborough; Charles W. Sikes, Esq., Huddersfield: and numerous
other correspondents in Durham, Renfrewshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire,
Staffordshire, and South Wales.

The author trusts that the book will prove useful and helpful towards
the purpose for which it is intended.

London, _November,_ 1875.




Private economy - Useful labours - Our birthright - Results of
labour - Necessity for labour - Industry and intellect - Thrift and
civilization - Thrifty industry - Thrifty economy. Pages 1 - 10



Workmen and capital - Habits of economy - Self-indulgence - Results of
thriftlessness - Uses of saved money - Extravagant
living - Bargain-buying - Thrift and unthrift - Johnson on
economy - Self-respect - Self-help - Uncertainty of life - Laws of
mortality - Will nobody help us? - Prosperous times the least
prosperous - National prosperity - Moral independence. Pages 11 - 29



Misery and wealth - The uncivilized - The East End - Edward Denison - Thrift
in Guernsey - Improvidence and misery - Social Degradation - Fatalism of
improvidence - Self-taxation - Slowness of progress. Pages 30 - 40



Earnings of operatives - Colliers and iron-workers - Earnings of
colliers - The revellers - Lord Elcho and the colliers - High wages and
heavy losses - High wages and drink - Sensual indulgence - Indifference to
well-being - Hugh Miller's experience - Mr. Roebuck's advice - Survival of
slavery - Extinction of slavery - Power unexercised - Earnings and
character - Ignorance is power - Results of ignorance - Increase of
knowledge - Education not enough - Words of Sir Arthur Helps - Divine uses
of knowledge - Public school education - Words of William Felkin. Pages
41 - 64



Spirit of order - Examples of economy - David Hume - Rev. Robert
Walker - Self-application - Distinguished miners - Geo. Stephenson - James
Watt - Working for independence - Working for higher things - Work and
culture - Richardson and Gregory - Results of application - Distinguished
artists - Canova and Lough - John Lough - Lough's success - Words of Lord
Derby - James Nasmyth - Bridgewater foundry - Advice to young men. Pages
65 - 88



Keeping regular account - Generosity and forethought - Prudent economy - A
dignity in saving - Self-improvement - Causes of failure - The price of
success - Power of combining - Principle of association - Savings of
capital - Loss by strikes - Money thrown away - Industrial
societies - Co-operative companies - Equitable pioneers - Darwen
co-operatives - Spread of co-operation - Thrift conservative - Uses of
investments in building societies. Pages 89 - 109



Co-operation in assurance - Improvidence cruel - Compensation of
assurance - Benefit societies - French and Belgian thrift - Workmen's
societies - Manchester Unity - Duty and Dinners - Low rates of
contribution - Failure of friendly societies - Improvement by
experience - Defects will disappear. Pages 110 - 122



Direct saving - Uses of saved money - Beginnings of savings banks - Dr.
Duncan of Ruthwell - Establishment of savings banks - Classes of
Depositors - Magic of drill - Military savings banks - Savings of
soldiers - Soldiers abroad - Deposits in savings banks - Savings at
Bilston - Savings of working men - Penny banks - Charles W.
Sikes - Mechanics' institute banks - The poor man's purse - Depositors in
penny banks - They cultivate prudent habits - Influence of women - Early
lessons in thrift - Belgian Schools - Facilities for saving - Extension of
savings banks - Money order offices - Post office savings banks - Charles
W. Sikes - Lessons of thrift - Mechanics' savings banks - Savings of
artizans - Savings in Preston. Pages 123 - 158



Luck and labour - Neglect of little things - "It will do!" - Spending of
pennies - The thrifty woman - A helpful wife - A man's daily life - The two
workmen - Rights and habits - Influence of the wife - A penny a day - The
power of a penny - Joseph Baxendale - Pickford and Co. - Roads and
Railways - Business maxims. Pages 159 - 178



Want of sympathy - Masters and servants - Christian
sympathy - Competition - What capital represents - Workmen and
employers - The Ashworths - New Eagley Mills - Improved workpeople - Public
spirit of manufacturers - Mr. Lister of Bradford - Mr. Foster's
speech - Great men wise savers - Sir Titus Salt - Saltaire - Its
institutions - Music and sobriety - Mr. Akroyd, Halifax - Yorkshire penny
bank - Origin of the bank - How to help the poor - Saving helps
sobriety - Drunkenness put down - "Childish work" - Penny banks. Pages
179 - 204



John Crossley - Martha Crossley - A courtship begun - A courtship
concluded - John Crossley begins business - Dean Clough Mill - The Crossley
family - Sir Francis Crossley - Martha Crossley's vow - Halifax People's
Park - Martha's vow fulfilled - Co-operation of colliers - Partnership of
industry - Other co-operative schemes - Jeremiah Head - Newport rolling
mills - Bonuses to workmen - Mr. Carlyle's letter - A contrast - A hundred
years ago - Popular amusements - Improvement of manners - English mechanics
and workmen - English engineers and miners - Swiftness of
machinery - Foreign workmen - Provident habits of foreigners. Pages
205 - 232



Hypocrisy and debt - Conventionalism - Keeping up appearances - Exclusive
circles - Women and exclusiveness - Women and extravagance - Running into
debt - The temptation of shopkeepers - Temptations to crime - How crime is
committed - Love of dress - Gents - Reckless expenditure - Knowledge of
Arithmetic - Marriage - Happy tempers - Responsibilities of
marriage - Marriage not a lottery - The man who couldn't say "No" - The
courage to say "No" - "Respectable" funerals - Funeral extravagance - John
Wesley's will - Funeral reform. Pages 233 - 258



Greatness and debt - Seedy side of debt - Running up bills - Loan
clubs - Genius and debt - Fox and Sheridan - Sheridan's
debts - Lamartine - Webster - Debts of men of science - Debts of
artists - Italian artists - Haydon - The old poets - Savage and
Johnson - Steele and Goldsmith - Goldsmith's debts - Goldsmith's
advice - Byron's debts - The burden of debt - Burns and Sydney Smith - De
Foe and Southey - Southey and Scott - Scott's debts and labours - Great
poor men - Johnson's advice - Genius and debt - Literary men. Pages
259 - 285



Helping the helpless - Dr. Donne - Rich people - Love of gold - Eagerness to
be rich - Riches and poverty - Riches in old age - Riches no claim to
distinction - Democrats and riches - Saladin the great - Don Jose de
Salamanca - Compensations of poverty - Honest poverty - Poverty and
happiness - Charity - Evils of money-giving - Philanthropy and
charity - Rich people's wills - Stephen Girard - Thomas Guy - Educational
charities - Peabody's benefaction - Benefactors of the poor - The Navvy's
Home. Pages 286 - 314



Healthy existence - Necessity for pure air - The fever tax - The
Arcadians - The rural poor - Influence of the home - Unhealthy
homes - Health and drunkenness - Wholesome dwellings - Edwin
Chadwick - Expectancy of life - The poor laws - The sanitary idea - The
sanitary inquiry - Sanitary commission - Sanitary science - Results of
uncleanness - Losses by ill-health - That terrible Nobody! - Home
reform - Domestic improvement - Cleanliness - Dirt and immorality - Worship
in washing - Knowledge of physiology - Domestic economy - English
cookery - Morals and cookery - Work for ladies - Joseph Corbet's story.
Pages 315 - 353



Art of living exemplified - Taste an economist - Contrasts in cottage
life - Difference in workmen - Living at home - Home and
comfort - Comfortable people - Beneficence of house thrift - Organization
and method - Industry and punctuality - Management of temper - Good
manners - Habitual politeness - French manners - Happiness in good
manners - Amusement - Relaxation - Influence of music - Household
elegance - Elegance of flowers - Common enjoyments - Portraits of great
men - Art at home - Final art of living. Pages 358 - 378



A grasshopper, half starved with cold and hunger, came to a well-stored
beehive at the approach of winter, and humbly begged the bees to relieve
his wants with a few drops of honey.

One of the bees asked him how he had spent his time all the summer, and
why he had not laid up a store of food like them.

"Truly." said he, "I spent my time very merrily, in drinking, dancing,
and singing, and never once thought of winter."

"Our plan is very different," said the bee; "we work hard in the summer,
to lay by a store of food against the season when we foresee we shall
want it; but those who do nothing but drink, and dance, and sing in the
summer, must expect to starve in the winter."




"Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom." - _Carlyle_.

"Productive industry is the only capital which enriches a people, and
spreads national prosperity and well-being. In all labour there is
profit, says Solomon. What is the science of Political Economy, but a
dull sermon on this text?" - _Samuel Laing_.

"God provides the good things of the world to serve the needs of nature,
by the labours of the ploughman, the skill and pains of the artizan, and
the dangers and traffic of the merchant.... The idle person is like one
that is dead, unconcerned in the changes and necessities of the world;
and he only lives to spend his time, and eat the fruits of the earth:
like a vermin or a wolf, when their time comes they die and perish, and
in the meantime do no good." - _Jeremy Taylor_.

"For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build." - _Longfellow_.

* * * * *

Thrift began with civilization. It began when men found it necessary to
provide for to-morrow, as well as for to-day. It began long before money
was invented.

Thrift means private economy. It includes domestic economy, as well as
the order and management of a family.

While it is the object of Private Economy to create and promote the
well-being of individuals, it is the object of Political Economy to
create and increase the wealth of nations.

Private and public wealth have the same origin. Wealth is obtained by
labour; it is preserved by savings and accumulations; and it is
increased by diligence and perseverance.

It is the savings of individuals which compose the wealth - in other
words, the well-being - of every nation. On the other hand, it is the
wastefulness of individuals which occasions the impoverishment of
states. So that every thrifty person may be regarded as a public
benefactor, and every thriftless person as a public enemy.

There is no dispute as to the necessity for Private Economy. Everybody
admits it, and recommends it. But with respect to Political Economy,
there are numerous discussions, - for instance, as to the distribution of
capital, the accumulations of property, the incidence of taxation, the
Poor Laws, and other subjects, - into which we do not propose to enter.
The subject of Private Economy, of Thrift, is quite sufficient by itself
to occupy the pages of this book.

Economy is not a natural instinct, but the growth of experience,
example, and forethought. It is also the result of education and
intelligence. It is only when men become wise and thoughtful that they
become frugal. Hence the best means of making men and women provident is
to make them wise.

Prodigality is much more natural to man than thrift. The savage is the
greatest of spendthrifts, for he has no forethought, no to-morrow. The
prehistoric man saved nothing. He lived in caves, or in hollows of the
ground covered with branches. He subsisted on shellfish which he picked
up on the seashore, or upon hips and haws which he gathered in the
woods. He killed animals with stones. He lay in wait for them, or ran
them down on foot. Then he learnt to use stones as tools; making stone
arrow-heads and spear-points, thereby utilizing his labour, and killing
birds and animals more quickly.

The original savage knew nothing of agriculture. It was only in
comparatively recent times that men gathered seeds for food, and saved a
portion of them for next year's crop. When minerals were discovered, and
fire was applied to them, and the minerals were smelted into metal, man
made an immense stride. He could then fabricate hard tools, chisel
stone, build houses, and proceed by unwearying industry to devise the
manifold means and agencies of civilization.

The dweller by the ocean burnt a hollow in a felled tree, launched it,
went to sea in it, and fished for food. The hollowed tree became a boat,
held together with iron nails. The boat became a galley, a ship, a
paddle-boat, a screw steamer, and the world was opened up for
colonization and civilization.

Man would have continued uncivilized, but for the results of the useful
labours of those who preceded him. The soil was reclaimed by his
predecessors, and made to grow food for human uses. They invented tools
and fabrics, and we reap the useful results. They discovered art and
science, and we succeed to the useful effects of their labours.

All nature teaches that no good thing which has once been done passes
utterly away. The living are ever reminded of the buried millions who
have worked and won before them. The handicraft and skill displayed in
the buildings and sculptures of the long-lost cities of Nineveh,
Babylon, and Troy, have descended to the present time. In nature's
economy, no human labour is altogether lost. Some remnant of useful
effect continues to reward the race, if not the individual.

The mere material wealth bequeathed to us by our forefathers forms but
an insignificant item in the sum of our inheritance. Our birthright is
made up of something far more imperishable. It consists of the sum of
the useful effects of human skill and labour. These effects were not
transmitted by learning, but by teaching and example. One generation
taught another, and thus art and handicraft, the knowledge of mechanical
appliances and materials, continued to be preserved. The labours and
efforts of former generations were thus transmitted by father to son;
and they continue to form the natural heritage of the human race - one of
the most important instruments of civilization.

Our birthright, therefore, consists in the useful effects of the labours
of our forefathers; but we cannot enjoy them unless we ourselves take
part in the work. All must labour, either with hand or head. Without
work, life is worthless; it becomes a mere state of moral coma. We do
not mean merely physical work. There is a great deal of higher work - the
work of action and endurance, of trial and patience, of enterprise and
philanthropy, of spreading truth and civilization, of diminishing
suffering and relieving the poor, of helping the weak, and enabling them
to help themselves.

"A noble heart," says Barrow, "will disdain to subsist, like a drone,
upon others' labours; like a vermin to filch its food out of the public
granary; or, like a shark, to prey upon the lesser fry; but it will
rather outdo his private obligations to other men's care and toil, by
considerable service and beneficence to the public; for there is no
calling of any sort, from the sceptre to the spade, the management
whereof, with any good success, any credit, any satisfaction, doth not
demand much work of the head, or of the hands, or of both."

Labour is not only a necessity, but it is also a pleasure. What would
otherwise be a curse, by the constitution of our physical system becomes
a blessing. Our life is a conflict with nature in some respects, but it
is also a co-operation with nature in others. The sun, the air, and the
earth are constantly abstracting from us our vital forces. Hence we eat
and drink for nourishment, and clothe ourselves for warmth.

Nature works with us. She provides the earth which we furrow; she grows
and ripens the seeds that we sow and gather. She furnishes, with the
help of human labour, the wool that we spin and the food that we eat.
And it ought never to be forgotten, that however rich or poor we may be,
all that we eat, all that we are clothed with, all that shelters us,
from the palace to the cottage, is the result of labour.

Men co-operate with each other for the mutual sustenance of all. The
husbandman tills the ground and provides food; the manufacturer weaves
tissues, which the tailor and seamstress make into clothes; the mason
and the bricklayer build the houses in which we enjoy household life.
Numbers of workmen thus contribute and help to create the general

Labour and skill applied to the vulgarest things invest them at once
with precious value. Labour is indeed the life of humanity; take it
away, banish it, and the race of Adam were at once stricken with death.
"He that will not work," said St. Paul, "neither shall he eat;" and the
apostle glorified himself in that he had laboured with his own hands,
and had not been chargeable to any man.

There is a well-known story of an old farmer calling his three idle sons
around him when on his deathbed, to impart to them an important secret.
"My sons," said he, "a great treasure lies hid in the estate which I am
about to leave to you." The old man gasped. "Where is it hid?" exclaimed
the sons in a breath. "I am about to tell you," said the old man; "you
will have to dig for it - - " but his breath failed him before he could
impart the weighty secret; and he died. Forthwith the sons set to work
with spade and mattock upon the long neglected fields, and they turned
up every sod and clod upon the estate. They discovered no treasure, but
they learnt to work; and when fields were sown, and the harvests came,
lo! the yield was prodigious, in consequence of the thorough tillage
which they had undergone. Then it was that they discovered the treasure
concealed in the estate, of which their wise old father had advised

Labour is at once a burden, a chastisement, an honour, and a pleasure.
It may be identified with poverty, but there is also glory in it. It
bears witness, at the same time, to our natural wants and to our
manifold needs. What were man, what were life, what were civilization,
without labour? All that is great in man comes of labour; - greatness in
art, in literature, in science. Knowledge - "the wing wherewith we fly to
heaven" - is only acquired through labour. Genius is but a capability of
labouring intensely: it is the power of making great and sustained
efforts. Labour may be a chastisement, but it is indeed a glorious one.
It is worship, duty, praise, and immortality, - for those who labour with
the highest aims, and for the purest purposes.

There are many who murmur and complain at the law of labour under which
we live, without reflecting that obedience to it is not only in
conformity with the Divine will, but also necessary for the development
of intelligence, and for the thorough enjoyment of our common nature. Of
all wretched men, surely the idle are the most so; - those whose life is
barren of utility, who have nothing to do except to gratify their
senses. Are not such men the most querulous, miserable, and dissatisfied
of all, constantly in a state of _ennui_, alike useless to themselves
and to others - mere cumberers of the earth, who when removed are missed
by none, and whom none regret? Most wretched and ignoble lot, indeed, is
the lot of the idlers.

Who have helped the world onward so much as the workers; men who have
had to work for necessity or from choice? All that we call
progress - civilization, well-being, and prosperity - depends upon
industry, diligently applied, - from the culture of a barley-stalk, to
the construction of a steamship, - from the stitching of a collar, to the
sculpturing of "the statue that enchants the world."

All useful and beautiful thoughts, in like manner, are the issue of
labour, of study, of observation, of research, of diligent elaboration.
The noblest poem cannot be elaborated, and send down its undying strains
into the future, without steady and painstaking labour. No great work
has ever been done "at a heat." It is the result of repeated efforts,
and often of many failures. One generation begins, and another
continues - the present co-operating with the past. Thus, the Parthenon
began with a mud-hut; the Last Judgment with a few scratches on the
sand. It is the same with individuals of the race; they begin with
abortive efforts, which, by means of perseverance, lead to successful

Online LibrarySamuel SmilesThrift → online text (page 1 of 30)