Page images
PDF
EPUB

and heavens. He has also been driven to the study of Latin, and reads it with great freedom. He bas read most of the poets, and is familiar with history; while his miscellaneous reading has been very extensive. He says of his books : “I have a library, which I divide into three departments—scientific, religious, literarycomprising the standard works published in this country, containing five or six hundred volumes. I have purchased these books from time to time, with money saved for the purpose by some small self-denials !"

Here we see what can be accomplished by studying and reading one hour in a day. Mr Frost disclaims the possession of genius, and says that he has been able to accomplish so much by adhering closely to his one hour of study per day, year after year.

With such facts before the reader, he cannot plead want of time or opportunity to excuse his ignorance. If the men, whose names we have introduced, could perform so much literary labour, then scarcely any youth can be excused for failing to make commendable mental improvement, whatever may be his calling.

But we urge the example of Lawrence, in respect to leisure time, upon the attention of readers, more particularly for its moral influence. Leisure hours are valuable if they are properly improved; but otherwise they prove a calamity. He who is anxious to make the most of time and life, will not fail to imitate Amos Lawrence,

CHAPTER XIX.

DOING THINGS WELL.

FROM what has been said of Lawrence in previous chapters, the reader will infer that he was in the habit of doing things well. He appears to have reduced to practice the familiar maxim of Dr Johnson : “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” This is one of the qualities which made him so valuable to his employers. No man wants the services of another who but half does his work. The farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, shoemaker, merchant, and all other men desire to see employees do their best. They prefer that they should do a little well, rather than turn off a great deal imperfectly. For this reason the person who is known for the good quality of his work, is patronised, when men of the opposite habits are left to starve. His services are always wanted. So that, as a matter of mere policy, every far-sighted person will cultivate this excellence. We would not recommend it on the score of policy, since there is a far higher view to take of the matter. It is the duty of every one to strive to be the best in his calling. Not that he should do so for the mere sake of excelling; but God has given him faculties which he is under obligation to employ in the best possible manner. The practice of slighting what is done, so prevalent among all classes, is not only an imposition upon the public, but it is repugnant to God. It is a kind of dishonesty. When one man

secures the services of another, he expects that the latter will serve him to the best of his abilities. Now, if he fails to do so, and renders his master an imperfect service, when he is abundantly able to fulfil the contract to the latter, he virtually robs the employer of some of his dues. In this moral point of view we ought especially to regard this subject of doing things well.

After Lawrence had come to stand at the head of his extensive business in Boston, he did not adopt the policy of some merchants, to employ the cheapest clerks to be had; for he was well convinced that it was unprofitable. On the other hand, he selected those whose qualifications assured him they would make the most thorough business men. As we have seen, he had regard to the habits of the young men who sought places in his shop. He considered that the prosperity of his mercantile house depended much upon the reliableness of his clerks, and who are so reliable as those who most thoroughly work in any sphere of duty ?

It is interesting to view the lives of those self-taught men spoken of in the foregoing pages, with reference to this subject. All of them were distinguished for thoroughness in their several pursuits before they became distinguished in science and letters. William Carey and Roger Sherman were good shoemakers before they made any special attainments in that knowledge which raised them to eminence. Hugh Miller was a good stone mason before he was a good geologist. Franklin was one of the best of printers before he became a renowned philosopher. John Opie was a faithful wood-cutter before he was the accomplished artist. Girard was a good seaman and Gideon Lee a good

[ocr errors]

tanner, and Amos Lawrence a good apprentice, before they were among the successful merchants in the land.

One of the maxims of Samuel Budget was : “In whatever calling a man is found, he ought to strive to be the best in his calling : if only a shoe-black, he should try to be the best shoe-black in the neighbourhood.” He sought to impress this upon the minds of his employees. The boys who were set to straightening old nails, when they first entered his shop, were expected to do this work as thoroughly as any other; and it was only on condition of their doing it thus, that they had the promise of promotion. If they did it well for a given time, they were next placed under the master bag-mender. If they did well there, they were next made messengers ; and thus on to the highest position in his establishment. But all promotion depended upon thoroughness. He said that a boy who would not straighten nails well, would not do anything well; if he would not be faithful in small things, he would not in larger trusts. His views on this point were correct. At

any rate few men would be willing to intrust important concerns to one who is known to be faithless in lesser interests.

Sir Joshua Reynolds was one of the most distinguished painters who ever lived, and he told a friend that his success was achieved by observing one simple rule ; viz., to make each painting the best. striving to improve upon his former productions, he made more rapid progress in the art. It was a commendable spirit of enthusiasm which thus impelled him onward, and it rebukes that prevailing disposition of men, to rest satisfied with doing work in just a passable way.

By thus It is surprising to see how generally imperfect work abounds. Let a purchaser visit the city, and go from shop to shop. Does he wish for a garment? It will scarcely hold together. Does he want a hat ? A few weeks of wear reveals to him that it was imperfectly made. Perhaps he buys a book; and the binding does not hold through the second reading. Or he purchases a carpet-bag or umbrella ; and it does not prove what he expected. He pays an extra price for a pair of boots; and perhaps they are less durable than others he has had of much less cost. In short, bad work is so general, that most people watch very narrowly, lest the tradesmen do not keep their promises, in respect to the quality of their work. How much gain to society, and the world at large, if every one would adopt the rule of Reynolds, and strive to make his last work better than all he has done before !

In a former chapter we spoke of that false pride which causes persons to feel above their business. Perhaps here is a reason for that inclination to half do things which is so prevalent. It must be quite natural for one of this character to get through his daily employment as easily as possible. He thus forms the habit of slighting business, and it goes with him to the grave. On the other hand, if he felt that no useful occupation is degrading, and were determined to perform the humblest work as thoroughly as the most aristocratic, the habit of thoroughness would continue with him to the end ; and he would glory in it as one of his proudest acquisitions. It is related of William Gray, an eccentric millionaire, that a companion of his youth met him, after he (Gray) had acquired a princely fortune, and

« EelmineJätka »