I hope for the enlargement of my mind, and for the improvement of my understanding. If I have done but little good, I trust I have done less harm, and that none of my adventures will be other than a source of amusing and pleasant recollection. God bless you all!
The path of progress in certain problems seems barred as by a flaming sword.
More than a thousand years before Christ, an Arab chief asked, “If a man die shall he live again?” Every man who ever lived has asked the same question, but we know no more today about the subject than did Job.
There are one hundred five boy babies born to every one hundred girls. The law holds in every land where vital statistics have been kept; and Sairey Gamp knew just as much about the cause why as Brown-Sequard, Pasteur, Agnew or Austin Flint.
There is still a third question that every parent, since Adam and Eve, has sought to solve: “How can I educate this child so that he will attain eminence?” And even in spite of shelves that groan beneath tomes and tomes, and advice from a million preachers, the answer is: Nobody knows.
“There is a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.”
Moses was sent adrift, but the tide carried him into power. The brethren of Joseph “deposited him into a cavity,” but you can not dispose of genius that way!
Demosthenes was weighted (or blessed) with every disadvantage; Shakespeare got into difficulty with a woman eight years his senior, stole deer, ran away, and–became the very first among English poets; Erasmus was a foundling.
Once there was a woman by the name of Nancy Hanks; she was thin-breasted, gaunt, yellow and sad. At last, living in poverty, overworked, she was stricken by death. She called her son–homely as herself–and pointing to the lad’s sister said, “Be good to her, Abe,” and died–died, having no expectation for her boy beyond the hope that he might prosper in worldly affairs so as to care for himself and his sister. The boy became a man who wielded wisely a power mightier than that ever given to any other American. Seven college-bred men composed his cabinet; and Proctor Knott once said that “if a teeter were evenly balanced, and the members of the cabinet were all placed on one end, and the President on the other, he would send the seven wise men flying into space.”
On the other hand, Marcus Aurelius wrote his “Meditations” for a son who did not read them, and whose name is a symbol of profligacy; Charles Kingsley penned “Greek Heroes” for offspring who have never shown their father’s heroism; and Charles Dickens wrote “A Child’s History of England” for his children–none of whom has proven his proficiency in historiology.
Charles Dickens himself received his education at the University of Hard Knocks. Very early in life he was cast upon the rocks and suckled by the she-wolf. Yet he became the most popular author the world has ever known, and up to the present time no writer of books has approached him in point of number of readers and of financial returns. These are facts–facts so hard and true that they would be the delight of Mr. Gradgrind.
At twelve years of age, Charles Dickens was pasting labels on blacking-boxes; his father was in prison. At sixteen, he was spending odd hours in the reading-room of the British Museum. At nineteen, he was Parliamentary reporter; at twenty-one, a writer of sketches; at twenty-three, he was getting a salary of thirty-five dollars a week, and the next year his pay was doubled. When twenty-five, he wrote a play that ran for seventy nights at Drury Lane Theater. About the same time he received seven hundred dollars for a series of sketches written in two weeks. At twenty-six, publishers were at his feet.