How To Do It
Edward Everett Hale
Part 2 out of 3
"the Frank had passed the Rhine," "Grecian eloquence still flourished at
Antioch," "idols in Mecca," "New Zealand," "London Bridge," "St. Paul's."
For really working up a subject--and this sentence now is to be our
subject--I advise a blank book, and, for my part, I like to write down the
key words or questions, in a vertical line, quite far apart from each
other, on the first pages. You will see why, if you will read on.
II. Now go to work on this list. What do you really know about the
organization of the Roman Catholic Church? If you find you are vague about
it, that such knowledge as you have is only half knowledge, which is no
knowledge, read till you are clear. Much information is not necessary, but
good, as far as it goes, is necessary on any subject. This is a
controverted subject. You ought to try, therefore, to read some statement
by a Catholic author, and some statement by a Protestant. To find out what
to read on this or any subject, there are different clews.
1. Any encyclopA|dia, good or bad, will set you on the trail. Most of you
have or can have an encyclopA|dia at command. There are one-volume
encyclopA|dias better than nothing, which are very cheap. You can pick up
an edition of the old EncyclopA|dia Americana, in twelve volumes, for ten
or twelve dollars. Or you can buy Appleton's, which is really quite good,
for sixty dollars a set. I do not mean to have you rest on any
encyclopA|dia, but you will find one at the start an excellent guide-post.
Suppose you have the old EncyclopA|dia Americana. You will find there that
the "Roman Catholic Church" is treated by two writers,--one a Protestant,
and one a Catholic. Read both, and note in your book such allusions as
interest you, which you want more light upon. Do not note everything which
you do not know, for then you cannot get forward. But note all that
specially interests you. For instance, it seems that the Roman Catholic
Church is not so called by that church itself. The officers of that church
might call it the Roman church, or the Catholic church, but would not call
it the Roman Catholic church. At the Congress of Vienna, Cardinal Consalvi
objected to the joint use of the words Roman Catholic church. Do you know
what the Congress of Vienna was? No? then make a memorandum, if you want
to know. We might put in another for Cardinal Consalvi. He was a man, who
had a father and mother, perhaps brothers and sisters. He will give us a
little human interest, if we stop to look him up. But do not stop for him
now. Work through "Roman Catholic Church," and keep these memoranda in
your book for another day.
2. Quite different from the encyclopA|dia is another book of reference,
"Poole's Index." This is a general index to seventy-three magazines and
reviews, which were published between the years 1802 and 1852. Now a great
deal of the best work of this century has been put into such journals. A
reference, then, to "Poole's Index" is a reference to some of the best
separate papers on the subjects which for fifty years had most interest
for the world of reading men and women. Let us try "Poole's Index" on "The
Republic of Venice." There are references to articles on Venice in the New
England Magazine, in the Pamphleteer, in the Monthly Review, Edinburgh,
Quarterly, Westminster, and De Bow's Reviews. Copy all these references
carefully, if you have any chance at any time of access to any of these
journals. It is not, you know, at all necessary to have them in the
house. Probably there is some friend's collection or public library where
you can find one or more of them. If you live in or near Boston, or New
York, or Philadelphia, or Charleston, or New Orleans, or Cincinnati, or
Chicago, or St. Louis, or Ithaca, you can find every one.
When you have carefully gone down this original list, and made your
memoranda for it, you are prepared to work out these memoranda. You begin
now to see how many there are. You must be guided, of course, in your
reading, by the time you have, and by the opportunity for getting the
books. But, aside from that, you may choose what you like best, for a
beginning. To make this simple by an illustration, I will suppose you have
been using the old EncyclopA|dia Americana, or Appleton's CyclopA|dia and
Poole's Index only, for your first list. As I should draw it up, it would
look like this:--
CYCLOPADIA. POOLE'S INDEX.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
See (for instance) Eclectic Rev., 4th S. 13, 485.
Council of Trent. Quart. Rev., 71, 108.
Chrysostom. For. Quart. Rev., 27, 184.
Congress of Vienna. Brownson's Rev., 2d S. 1, 413; 3, 309.
Cardinal Consalvi. N. Brit. Rev., 10, 21.
Built by Agrippa. Consecrated,
607, to St. Mary ad Martyros.
THE FLAVIAN AMPHITHEATRE.
The Coliseum, _b_. by T. Flavius
Popes. The line begins with New-Englander, 7, 169.
St. Peter, A. D. 42. Ends N. Brit. Rev., 11, 135.
with Pius IX., 1846.
POPE WHO CROWNED NAPOLEON.
Pius VII., at Notre Dame, in For. Quart. Rev., 20, 54.
Paris, Dec. 2, 1804.
POPE WHO CROWNED PEPIN.
Probably Pepin le Bref is meant.
But he was not crowned by
a Pope. Crowned by Archbishop
Boniface of Mayence,
at the advice of Pope Zachary.
_b_. @ 715. _d_. 768.
REPUBLIC OF VENICE.
452 to 1815. St. Real's History. Quart. Rev. 31, 420.
Otway's Tragedy, Venice Preserved. Month. Rev., 90, 525.
Hazlitt's Hist, of Venice. West. Rev., 23, 38.
Ruskin's Stones of Venice.
MISSIONARIES IN KENT.
Dublin Univ. Mag., 21, 212.
There are two Augustines. This
is St. Austin, _b_. in 5th century,
Southey's Book of Church.
Sharon Turner's Anglo-Saxons.
Wm. of Malmesbury.
Bede's Ecc. History.
SAXON IN BRITAIN.
Turner as above. Edin. Rev., 89, 79.
Ang.-Saxon Chronicle. Quart. Rev., 7, 92.
Six old Eng. Chronicles. Eclect. Rev., 25, 669.
FRANK PASSED THE RHINE.
Well established on west side, For. Quart. Rev., 17, 139.
at the beginning of 5th century.
GREEK ELOQUENCE AT ANTIOCH.
Muller's Antiquitates AntiochianA| Greek Orators. Ed. Rev., 36, 62.
IDOLS IN MECCA.
3 islands, as large as Italy. N. Am. Rev., 18, 328.
Discovered, 1642; taken by Cook
for England, 1769.
Gov. sent out, 1838. West. Rev., 45, 133.
Thomson's story of N. Z. Edin. Rev., 91, 231; 56, 333.
Cook's Voyages. N. Brit. Rev., 16, 176.
Sir G. Gray's Poems, &c. of Living Age.
5 elliptical arches. "Presents
an aspect unequalled for interest
Built in thirty years between
1675 and 1705, by Christ.
Now I am by no means going to leave you to the reading of cyclopA|dias.
The vice of cyclopA|dias is that they are dull. What is done for this
passage of Macaulay in the lists above is only preliminary. It could be
easily done in three hours' time, if you went carefully to work. And when
you have done it, you have taught yourself a good deal about your own
knowledge and your own ignorance,--about what you should read and what
you should not attempt. So far it fits you for selecting your own course
I have arranged this only by way of illustration. I do not mean that I
think these a particularly interesting or particularly important series of
subjects. I do mean, however, to show you that the moment you will sift
any book or any series of subjects, you will be finding out where your
ignorance is, and what you want to know.
Supposing you belong to the fortunate half of people who know what they
need, I should advise you to begin in just the same way.
For instance, Walter, to whom I alluded above, wants to know about
_Fly-Fishing_. This is the way his list looks.
CYCLOPEDIA. POOLE'S INDEX.
(For instance) Quart. Rev., 69, 121; 37, 345.
W. Scott, Redgauntlet. Edin. Rev., 78, 46, or 87; 93,
174, or 340.
Dr. Davy's Researches, 1839. Am. Whig Rev., 6, 490.
Cuvier and Valenciennes, Hist. N. Brit. Rev., 11, 32, or 95; I,
Naturelle des Poissons, Vol. 326; 8, 160; or Liv. Age, 2,
XXI. 291; 17, I.
Blackwood, 51, 296.
Richardson's Fauna Bor. Amer. Quart. Rev., 67, 98, or 332; 69,
Blackwood, 10, 249; 49, 302;
De Kay, ZoAlogy of N. Y. 21, 815; 24, 248; 35, 775;
Agassiz, Lake Superior. 38, 119; 63, 673; 5, 123; 5,
281; 7, 137.
Fraser, 42, 136.
Izaak Walton, Compleat Angler. (Walton and Cotton first appeared, 1750.)
Humphrey Day's Salmonia, or The Days of Fly-Fishing,
Blakey, History of Angling Literature.
Oppianus, De Venatione, Piscatione et Aucupio. (Halieutica translated.)
Jones's English translation was published in Oxford, 1722.
Bronner, Fischergedichte und Erzahlungen (Fishermen's Songs and Stories).
Norris, T., American Angler's Book.
Zouch, Life of Iz. Walton.
Salmon Fisheries. Parliamentary Reports. Annual.
"Blackwood's Magazine, an important landmark in English angling
literature." See Noctes AmbrosianA|.
H. W. Beecher, N. Y. Independent, 1853.
In the New York edition of Walton and Cotton is a list of books on
Angling, which Blakey enlarges. His list contains four hundred and
American Angler's Guide, 1849.
Storer, D. H., Fishes of Massachusetts.
Storer, D. H., Fishes of N. America.
Girard, Fresh-Water Fishes of N. America (Smithsonian
Contributions, Vol. III.).
Richard Penn, Maxims and Hints for an Angler, and Miseries of Fishing,
James Wilson, The Rod and the Gun, 1840.
Herbert, Frank Forester's Fish of N. America.
Yarrel's British Fishes.
The same, on the Growth of Salmon.
Boy's Own Book.
Please to observe, now, that nobody is obliged to read up all the
authorities that we have lighted on. What the lists mean is this;--that
you have made the inquiry for "a sermon book and another book," and you
are now thus far on your way toward an answer. These are the first answers
that come to hand. Work on and you will have more. I cannot pretend to
give that answer for any one of you,--far less for all those who would be
likely to be interested in all the subjects which are named here. But with
such clews as are given above, you will soon find your ways into the
different parts that interest you of our great picnic grove.
Remember, however, that there are no royal roads. The difference between a
well-educated person and one not well educated is, that the first knows
how to find what he needs, and the other does not. It is not so much that
the first is better informed on details than the second, though he
probably is. But his power to collect the details at short notice is
vastly greater than is that of the uneducated or unlearned man.
In different homes, the resources at command are so different that I must
not try to advise much as to your next step beyond the lists above. There
are many good catalogues of books, with indexes to subjects. In the
Congressional Library, my friend Mr. Vinton is preparing a magnificent
"Index of Subjects," which will be of great use to the whole nation. In
Harvard College Library they have a manuscript catalogue referring to the
subjects described in the books of that collection. The "Cross-References"
of the Astor Catalogue, and of the Boston Library Catalogue, are
invaluable to all readers, young or old. Your teacher at school can help
you in nothing more than in directing you to the books you need on any
subject. Do not go and say, "Miss Winstanley, or Miss Parsons, I want a
nice book"; but have sense enough to know what you want it to be about.
Be able to say,--"Miss Parsons, I should like to know about heraldry," or
"about butterflies," or "about water-color painting," or "about Robert
Browning," or "about the Mysteries of Udolpho." Miss Parsons will tell you
what to read. And she will be very glad to tell you. Or if you are not at
school, this very thing among others is what the minister is for. Do not
be frightened. He will be very glad to see you. Go round to his house, not
on Saturday, but at the time he receives guests, and say to him: "Mr.
Ingham, we girls have made quite a collection of old porcelain, and we
want to know more about it. Will you be kind enough to tell us where we
can find anything about porcelain. We have read Miss Edgeworth's 'Prussian
Vase' and we have read 'Palissy the Potter,' and we should like to know
more about SAvres, and Dresden, and Palissy." Ingham will be delighted,
and in a fortnight, if you will go to work, you will know more about what
you ask for than any one person knows in America.
And I do not mean that all your reading is to be digging or hard work. I
can show that I do not, by supposing that we carry out the plan of the
list above,--on any one of its details, and write down the books which
that detail suggests to us. Perhaps VENICE has seemed to you the most
interesting head of these which we have named. If we follow that up only
in the references given above, we shall find our book list for Venice,
just as it comes, in no order but that of accident, is:--
St. Real, Relation des Espagnols contre Venise.
Otway's Venice Preserved.
Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.
Howells's Venetian Life.
Blondus. De Origine Venetorum.
Ruskin's Stones of Venice.
D'Israeli's Contarini Fleming.
Contarina, Della Republica di Venetia.
Flagg, Venice from 1797 to 1849.
Crassus, De Republica Veneta.
Jarmot, De Republica Veneta.
Voltaire's General History.
Sismondi's History of Italy.
Lord Byron's Letters.
Sketches of Venetian History, Fam. Library, 26, 27.
Venetian History, Hazlitt.
Dandolo, G. La Caduta della Republica di Venezia (The Fall of the
Republic of Venice).
Ridolfi, C., Lives of the Venetian Painters.
Monagas, J. T., Late Events in Venice.
Delavigne, Marino Faliero, a Historical Drama.
Lord Byron, The same.
Smedley's Sketches from Venetian History.
Daru, Hist. de la Republique de Venise.
So much for the way in which to choose your books. As to the choice, you
will make it, not I. If you are a goose, cackling a great deal, silly at
heart and wholly indifferent about to-morrow, you will choose just what
you call the interesting titles. If you are a girl of sense, or a boy of
sense, you will choose, when you have made your list, at least two books,
determined to master them. You will choose one on the side of information,
and one for the purpose of amusement, on the side of fancy. If you choose
in "_Venice_" the "Merchant of Venice," you will not add to it "Venice
Preserved," but you will add to it, say the Venetian chapters of
"Sismondi's Italy." You will read every day; and you will divide your
reading time into the two departments,--you will read for fact and you
will read for fancy. Roots must have leaves, you know, and leaves must
have roots. Bodies must have spirits, and, for this world at least,
spirits must have bodies. Fact must be lighted by fancy, and fancy must be
balanced by fact. Making this the principle of your selection, you may,
nay, you must, select for yourselves your books. And in my next chapter I
will do my best to teach you
HOW TO READ THEM.
How To Read. II.
Liston tells a story of a nice old lady--I think the foster-sister of the
godmother of his brother-in-law's aunt--who came to make them a visit in
the country. The first day after she arrived proved to be much such a day
as this is,--much such a day as the first of a visit in the country is
apt to be,--a heavy pelting north-easter, when it is impossible to go
out, and every one is thrown on his own resources in-doors. The different
ladies under Mrs. Liston's hospitable roof gathered themselves to their
various occupations, and some one asked old Mrs. Dubbadoe if she would
not like to read.
She said she should.
"What shall I bring you from the library?" said Miss Ellen. "Do not
trouble yourself to go up stairs."
"My dear Ellen, I should like the same book I had last year when I was
here, it was a very nice book, and I was very much interested in it."
"Certainly," said Miss Ellen; "what was it? I will bring it at once."
"I do not remember its name, my dear; your mother brought it to me; I
think she would know."
But, unfortunately, Mrs. Liston, when applied to, had forgotten.
"Was it a novel, Mrs. Dubbadoe?"
"I can't remember that,--my memory is not as good as it was, my dear,--but
it was a very interesting book."
"Do you remember whether it had plates? Was it one of the books of birds,
or of natural history?"
"No, dear, I can't tell you about that. But, Ellen, you will find it, I
know. The color of the cover was the color of the top of the baluster!"
So Ellen went. She has a good eye for color, and as she ran up stairs she
took the shade of the baluster in her eye, matched it perfectly as she ran
along the books in the library with the Russia half-binding of the
coveted volume, and brought that in triumph to Mrs. Dubbadoe. It proved to
be the right book. Mrs. Dubbadoe found in it the piece of corn-colored
worsted she had left for a mark the year before, so she was able to go on
where she had stopped then.
Liston tells this story to trump one of mine about a schoolmate of ours,
who was explaining to me about his theological studies. I asked him what
he had been reading.
"O, a capital book; King lent it to me; I will ask him to lend it to you."
I said I would ask King for the book, if he would tell me who was
"I do not remember his name. I had not known his name before. But that
made no difference. It is a capital book. King told me I should find it
so, and I did; I made a real study of it; copied a good deal from it
before I returned it."
I asked whether it was a book of natural theology.
"I don't know as you would call it natural theology. Perhaps it was. You
had better see it yourself. Tell King it was the book he lent me."
I was a little persistent, and asked if it were a book of biography.
"Well, I do not know as I should say it was a book of biography. Perhaps
you would say so. I do not remember that there was much biography in it.
But it was an excellent book. King had read it himself, and I found it all
he said it was."
I asked if it was critical,--if it explained Scripture.
"Perhaps it did. I should not like to say whether it did or not. You can
find that out yourself if you read it. But it is a very interesting book
and a very valuable book. King said so, and I found it was so. You had
better read it, and I know King can tell you what it is."
Now in these two stories is a very good illustration of the way in which a
great many people read. The notion comes into people's lives that the mere
process of reading is itself virtuous. Because young men who read instead
of gamble are known to be "steadier" than the gamblers, and because
children who read on Sunday make less noise and general row than those who
will play tag in the neighbors' front-yards, there has grown up this
notion, that to read is in itself one of the virtuous acts. Some people,
if they told the truth, when counting up the seven virtues, would count
them as Purity, Temperance, Meekness, Frugality, Honesty, Courage, and
Reading. The consequence is that there are unnumbered people who read as
Mrs. Dubbadoe did or as Lysimachus did, without the slightest knowledge of
what the books have contained.
My dear Dollie, Pollie, Sallie, Marthie, or any other of my young friends
whose names end in _ie_ who have favored me by reading thus far, the
chances are three out of four that I could take the last novel but three
that you read, change the scene from England to France, change the time
from now to the seventeenth century, make the men swear by St. Denis,
instead of talking modern slang, name the women Jacqueline and Marguerite,
instead of Maud and Blanche, and, if Harpers would print it, as I dare say
they would if the novel was good, you would read it through without one
suspicion that you had read the same book before.
So you see that it is not certain that you know how to read, even if you
took the highest prize for reading in the Amplian class of Ingham
University at the last exhibition. You may pronounce all the words well,
and have all the rising inflections right, and none of the falling ones
wrong, and yet not know how to read so that your reading shall be of any
permanent use to you.
For what is the use of reading if you forget it all the next day?
"But, my dear Mr. Hale," says as good a girl as Laura, "how am I going to
help myself? What I remember I remember, and what I do not remember I do
not. I should be very glad to remember all the books I have read, and all
that is in them; but if I can't, I can't, and there is the end of it."
No! my dear Laura, that is not the end of it. And that is the reason this
paper is written. A child of God can, before the end comes, do anything
she chooses to, with such help as he is willing to give her; and he has
been kind enough so to make and so to train you that you can train your
memory to remember and to recall the useful or the pleasant things you
meet in your reading. Do you know, Laura, that I have here a note you
wrote when you were eight years old? It is as badly written as any note I
ever saw. There are also twenty words in it spelled wrong. Suppose you had
said then, "If I can't, I can't, and there's an end of it." You never
would have written me in the lady-like, manly handwriting you write in
to-day, spelling rightly as a matter of mere feeling and of course, so
that you are annoyed now that I should say that every word is spelled
correctly. Will you think, dear Laura, what a tremendous strain on memory
is involved in all this? Will you remember that you and Miss Sears and
Miss Winstanley, and your mother, most of all, have trained your memory
till it can work these marvels? All you have to do now in your reading is
to carry such training forward, and you can bring about such a power of
classification and of retention that you shall be mistress of the books
you have read for most substantial purposes. To read with such results is
reading indeed. And when I say I want to give some hints how to read, it
is for reading with that view.
When Harry and Lucy were on their journey to the sea-side, they fell to
discussing whether they had rather have the gift of remembering all they
read, or of once knowing everything, and then taking their chances for
recollecting it when they wanted it. Lucy, who had a quick memory, was
willing to take her chance. But Harry, who was more methodical, hated to
lose anything he had once learned, and he thought he had rather have the
good fairy give him the gift of recollecting all he had once learned. For
my part, I quite agree with Harry. There are a great many things that I
have no desire to know. I do not want to know in what words the King of
Ashantee says, "Cut off the heads of those women." I do not want to know
whether a centipede really has ninety-six legs or one hundred and four. I
never did know. I never shall. I have no occasion to know. And I am glad
not to have my mind lumbered up with the unnecessary information. On the
other hand, that which I have once learned or read does in some way or
other belong to my personal life. I am very glad if I can reproduce that
in any way, and I am much obliged to anybody who will help me.
For reading, then, the first rules, I think, are: Do not read too much at
a time; stop when you are tired; and, in whatever way, make some review of
what you read, even as you go along.
Capel Lofft says, in quite an interesting book, which plays about the
surface of things without going very deep, which he calls
_Self-Formation_, [Footnote: Self-Formation. Crosby and Nichols. Boston.
1845.] that his whole life was changed, and indeed saved, when he learned
that he must turn back at the end of each sentence, ask himself what it
meant, if he believed it or disbelieved it, and, so to speak, that he must
pack it away as part of his mental furniture before he took in another
sentence. That is just as a dentist jams one little bit of gold-foil home,
and then another, and then another. He does not put one large wad on the
hollow tooth, and then crowd it all in at once. Capel Lofft says that
this _reflection_--going forward as a serpent does, by a series of
backward bends over the line--will make a dull book entertaining, and will
make the reader master of every book he reads, through all time. For my
part, I think this is cutting it rather fine, this chopping the book up
into separate bits. I had rather read as one of my wisest counsellors did;
he read, say a page, or a paragraph of a page or two, more or less; then
he would look across at the wall, and consider the author's statement, and
fix it on his mind, and then read on. I do not do this, however. I read
half an hour or an hour, till I am ready, perhaps, to put the book by.
Then I examine myself. What has this amounted to? What does he say? What
does he prove? Does he prove it? What is there new in it? Where did he get
it? If it is necessary in such an examination you can go back over the
passage, correct your first impression, if it is wrong, find out the
meaning that the writer has carelessly concealed, and such a process makes
it certain that you yourself will remember his thought or his statement.
I can remember, I think, everything I saw in Europe, which was worth
seeing, if I saw it twice. But there was many a wonder which I was taken
to see in the whirl of sight-seeing, of which I have no memory, and of
which I cannot force any recollection. I remember that at Malines--what we
call Mechlin--our train stopped nearly an hour. At the station a crowd of
guides were shouting that there was time to go and see Rubens's picture
of----, at the church of----. This seemed to us a droll contrast to the
cry at our stations, "Fifteen minutes for refreshments!" It offered such
aesthetic refreshment in place of carnal oysters, that purely for the
frolic we went to see. We were hurried across some sort of square into
the church, saw the picture, admired it, came away, and forgot it,--clear
and clean forgot it! My dear Laura, I do not know what it was about any
more than you do. But if I had gone to that church the next day, and had
seen it again, I should have fixed it forever on my memory. Moral: Renew
your acquaintance with whatever you want to remember. I think Ingham says
somewhere that it is the slight difference between the two stereoscopic
pictures which gives to them, when one overlies the other, their relief
and distinctness. If he does not say it, I will say it for him now.
I think it makes no difference how you make this mental review of the
author, but I do think it essential that, as you pass from one division of
his work to another, you should make it somehow.
Another good rule for memory is indispensable, I think,--namely, to read
with a pencil in hand. If the book is your own, you had better make what I
may call your own index to it on the hard white page which lines the cover
at the end. That is, you can write down there just a hint of the things
you will be apt to like to see again, noting the page on which they are.
If the book is not your own, do this on a little slip of paper, which you
may keep separately. These memoranda will be, of course, of all sorts of
things. Thus they will be facts which you want to know, or funny stories
which you think will amuse some one, or opinions which you may have a
doubt about. Suppose you had got hold of that very rare book, "Veragas's
History of the Pacific Ocean and its Shores"; here might be your private
index at the end of the first volume:--
Percentage of salt in water, 11: Gov. Revillagigedo, 19: Caciques and
potatoes, 23: Lime water for scurvy, 29. Enata, Kanaka, a1/4EuroI1/2I(R)I a1/4EuroI1/2I? 42:
Magelhaens _vs_. Wilkes, 57: Coral insects, 20: Gigantic ferns, 84,
&c., &c., &c.
Very likely you may never need one of these references; but if you do, it
is certain that you will have no time to waste in hunting for them. Make
your memorandum, and you are sure.
Bear in mind all along that each book will suggest other books which you
are to read sooner or later. In your memoranda note with care the authors
who are referred to of whom you know little or nothing, if you think you
should like to know more, or ought to know more. Do not neglect this last
condition, however. You do not make the memorandum to show it at the
Philogabblian; you make it for yourself; and it means that you yourself
need this additional information.
Whether to copy much from books or not? That is a question,--and the
answer is,--"That depends." If you have but few books, and much time and
paper and ink; and if you are likely to have fewer books, why, nothing is
nicer and better than to make for use in later life good extract-books to
your own taste, and for your own purposes. But if you own your books, or
are likely to have them at command, time is short, and the time spent in
copying would probably be better spent in reading. There are some very
diffusive books, difficult because diffusive, of which it is well to write
close digests, if you are really studying them. When we read John Locke,
for instance, in college, we had to make abstracts, and we used to stint
ourselves to a line for one of his chatty sections. That was good practice
for writing, and we remember what was in the sections to this hour. If you
copy, make a first-rate index to your extracts. They sell books prepared
for the purpose, but you may just as well make your own.
You see I am not contemplating any very rapid or slap-dash work. You may
put that on your novels, or books of amusement, if you choose, and I will
not be very cross about it; but for the books of improvement, I want you
to improve by reading them. Do not "gobble" them up so that five years
hence you shall not know whether you have read them or not. What I advise
seems slow to you, but if you will, any of you, make or find two hours a
day to read in this fashion, you will be one day accomplished men and
women. Very few professional men, known to me, get so much time as that
for careful and systematic reading. If any boy or girl wants really to
know what comes of such reading, I wish he would read the life of my
friend George Livermore, which our friend Charles Deane has just now
written for the Historical Society of Massachusetts. There was a young
man, who when he was a boy in a store began his systematic reading. He
never left active and laborious business; but when he died, he was one of
the accomplished historical scholars of America. He had no superior in his
special lines of study; he was a recognized authority and leader among
men who had given their lives to scholarship.
I have not room to copy it here, but I wish any of you would turn to a
letter of Frederick Robertson's, near the end of the second volume of his
letters, where he speaks of this very matter. He says he read, when he was
at Oxford, but sixteen books with his tutors. But he read them so that
they became a part of himself, "as the iron enters a man's blood." And
they were books by sixteen of the men who have been leaders of the world.
No bad thing, dear Stephen, to have in your blood and brain and bone the
vitalizing element that was in the lives of such men.
I need not ask you to look forward so far as to the end of a life as long
as Mr. George Livermore's, and as successful. Without asking that, I will
say again, what I have implied already, that any person who will take any
special subject of detail, and in a well-provided library will work
steadily on that little subject for a fortnight, will at the end of the
fortnight probably know more of that detail than anybody in the country
knows. If you will study by subjects for the truth, you have the
satisfaction of knowing that the ground is soon very nearly all your own.
I do not pretend that books are everything. I may have occasion some day
to teach some of you "How to Observe," and then I shall say some very-hard
things about people who keep their books so close before their eyes that
they cannot see God's world, nor their fellow-men and women. But books
rightly used are society. Good books are the best society; better than is
possible without them, in any one place, or in any one time. To know how
to use them wisely and well is to know how to make Shakespeare and Milton
and Theodore Hook and Thomas Hood step out from the side of your room, at
your will, sit down at your fire, and talk with you for an hour. I have no
such society at hand, as I write these words, except by such magic. Have
you in your log-cabin in No. 7?
How To Go Into Society.
Some boys and girls are born so that they enjoy society, and all the forms
of society, from the beginning. The passion they have for it takes them
right through all the formalities and stiffness of morning calls, evening
parties, visits on strangers, and the like, and they have no difficulty
about the duties involved in these things. I do not write for them, and
there is no need, at all, of their reading this paper.
There are other boys and girls who look with half horror and half disgust
at all such machinery of society. They have been well brought up, in
intelligent, civilized, happy homes. They have their own varied and
regular occupations, and it breaks these all up, when they have to go to
the birthday party at the Glascocks', or to spend the evening with the
young lady from Vincennes who is visiting Mrs. Vandermeyer.
When they have grown older, it happens, very likely, that such boys and
girls have to leave home, and establish themselves at one or another new
home, where more is expected of them in a social way. Here is Stephen, who
has gone through the High School, and has now gone over to New Altona to
be the second teller in the Third National Bank there. Stephen's father
was in college with Mr. Brannan, who was quite a leading man in New
Altona. Madam Chenevard is a sister of Mrs. Schuyler, with whom Stephen's
mother worked five years on the Sanitary Commission. All the bank officers
are kind to Stephen, and ask him to come to their houses, and he, who is
one of these young folks whom I have been describing, who knows how to be
happy at home, but does not know if he is entertaining or in any way
agreeable in other people's homes, really finds that the greatest hardship
of his new life consists in the hospitalities with which all these kind
people welcome him.
Here is a part of a letter from Stephen to me,--he writes pretty much
everything to me: "...Mrs. Judge Tolman has invited me to another of
her evening parties. Everybody says they are very pleasant, and I can see
that they are to people who are not sticks and oafs. But I am a stick and
an oaf. I do not like society, and I never did. So I shall decline Mrs.
Tolman's invitation; for I have determined to go to no more parties here,
but to devote my evenings to reading."
Now this is not snobbery or goodyism on Stephen's part. He is not writing
a make-believe letter, to deceive me as to the way in which he is spending
his time. He really had rather occupy his evening in reading than in going
to Mrs. Tolman's party,--or to Mrs. Anybody's party,--and, at the present
moment, he really thinks he never shall go to any parties again. Just so
two little girls part from each other on the sidewalk, saying, "I never
will speak to you again as long as I live." Only Stephen is in no sort
angry with Mrs. Tolman or Mrs. Brannan or Mrs. Chenevard. He only thinks
that their way is one way, and his way is another. His determination is
the same as Tom's was, which I described in Chapter II. But where Tom
thought his failure was want of talking power, Steve really thinks that he
It is for boys and girls like Stephen, who think they are "sticks and
oafs," and that they cannot go into society, that this paper is written.
You need not get up from your seats and come and stand in a line for me to
talk to you,--tallest at the right, shortest at the left, as if you were
at dancing-school, facing M. LabbassA(C). I can talk to you just as well
where you are sitting; and, as Obed Clapp said to me once, I know very
well what you are going to say, before you say it. Dear children, I have
had it said to me four-score and ten times by forty-six boys and forty-six
girls who were just as dull and just as bright as you are,--as like you,
indeed, as two pins.
There is Dunster,--Horace Punster,--at this moment the favorite talker in
society in Washington, as indeed he is on the floor of the House of
Representatives. Ask, the next time you are at Washington, how many
dinner-parties are put off till a day can be found at which Dunster can
be present. Now I remember very well, how, a year or two after Dunster
graduated, he and Messer, who is now Lieutenant-Governor of Labrador, and
some one whom I will not name, were sitting on the shore of the
Cattaraugus Lake, rubbing themselves dry after their swim. And Dunster
said he was not going to any more parties. Mrs. Judge Park had asked him,
because she loved his sister, but she did not care for him a draw, and he
did not know the Cattaraugus people, and he was afraid of the girls, who
knew a great deal more than he did, and so he was "no good" to anybody,
and he would not go any longer. He would stay at home and read Plato in
the original. Messer wondered at all this; he enjoyed Mrs. Judge Park's
parties, and Mrs. Dr. Holland's teas, and he could not see why as bright a
fellow as Dunster should not enjoy them. "But I tell you," said Dunster,
"that I do not enjoy them; and, what is more, I tell you that these people
do not want me to come. They ask me because they like my sister, as I
said, or my father, or my mother."
Then some one else, who was there, whom I do not name, who was at least
two years older than these young men, and so was qualified to advise them,
addressed them thus:--
"You talk like children. Listen. It is of no consequence whether you like
to go to these places or do not like to go. None of us were sent to
Cattaraugus to do what we like to do. We were sent here to do what we can
to make this place cheerful, spirited, and alive,--a part of the kingdom
of heaven. Now if everybody in Cattaraugus sulked off to read Plato, or to
read 'The Three Guardsmen,' Cattaraugus would go to the dogs very fast, in
its general sulkiness. There must be intimate social order, and this is
the method provided. Therefore, first, we must all of us go to these
parties, whether we want to or not; because we are in the world, not to do
what we like to do, but what the world needs.
"Second," said this unknown some one, "nothing is more snobbish than this
talk about Mrs. Park's wanting us or not wanting us. It simply shows that
we are thinking of ourselves a good deal more than she is. What Mrs. Park
wants is as many men at her party as she has women. She has made her list
so as to balance them. As the result of that list, she has said she wanted
me. Therefore I am going. Perhaps she does want me. If she does, I shall
oblige her. Perhaps she does not want me. If she does not, I shall punish
her, if I go, for telling what is not true; and I shall go cheered and
buoyed up by that reflection. Anyway I go, not because I want to or do not
want to, but because I am asked; and in a world of mutual relationships it
is one of the things that I must do."
No one replied to this address, but they all three put on their
dress-coats and went. Dunster went to every party in Cattaraugus that
winter, and, as I have said, has since shown himself a most brilliant and
successful leader of society.
The truth is to be found in this little sermon. Take society as you find
it in the place where you live. Do not set yourself up, at seventeen years
old, as being so much more virtuous or grand or learned than the young
people round you, or the old people round you, that you cannot associate
with them on the accustomed terms of the place. Then you are free from the
first difficulty of young people who have trouble in society; for you will
not be "stuck up," to use a very happy phrase of your own age. When
anybody, in good faith, asks you to a party, and you have no
pre-engagement or other duty, do not ask whether these people are above
you or below you, whether they know more or know less than you do, least
of all ask why they invited you,--but simply go. It is not of much
importance whether, on that particular occasion, you have what you call a
good time or do not have it. But it is of importance that you shall not
think yourself a person of more consequence in the community than others,
and that you shall easily and kindly adapt yourself to the social life of
the people among whom you are.
This is substantially what I have written to Stephen about what he is to
do at New Altona.
Now, as for enjoying yourself when you have come to the party,--for I wish
you to understand that, though I have compelled you to go, I am not in
the least cross about it,--but I want you to have what you yourselves call
a very good time when you come there. O dear, I can remember perfectly the
first formal evening party at which I had "a good time." Before that I had
always hated to go to parties, and since that I have always liked to go. I
am sorry to say I cannot tell you at whose house it was. That is
ungrateful in me. But I could tell you just how the pillars looked between
which the sliding doors ran, for I was standing by one of them when my
eyes were opened, as the Orientals say, and I received great light. I had
been asked to this party, as I supposed and as I still suppose, by some
people who wanted my brother and sister to come, and thought it would not
be kind to ask them without asking me. I did not know five people in the
room. It was in a college town where there were five gentlemen for every
lady, so that I could get nobody to dance with me of the people I did
know. So it was that I stood sadly by this pillar, and said to myself,
"You were a fool to come here where nobody wants you, and where you did
not want to come; and you look like a fool standing by this pillar with
nobody to dance with and nobody to talk to." At this moment, and as if to
enlighten the cloud in which I was, the revelation flashed upon me, which
has ever since set me all right in such matters. Expressed in words, it
would be stated thus: "You are a much greater fool if you suppose that
anybody in this room knows or cares where you are standing or where you
are not standing. They are attending to their affairs and you had best
attend to yours, quite indifferent as to what they think of you." In this
reflection I took immense comfort, and it has carried me through every
form of social encounter from that day to this day. I don't remember in
the least what I did, whether I looked at the portfolios of
pictures,--which for some reason young people think a very poky thing to
do, but which I like to do,--whether I buttoned some fellow-student who
was less at ease than I, or whether I talked to some nice old lady who had
seen with her own eyes half the history of the world which is worth
knowing. I only know that, after I found out that nobody else at the party
was looking at me or was caring for me, I began to enjoy it as thoroughly
as I enjoyed staying at home.
Not long after I read this in Sartor Resartus, which was a great comfort
to me: "What Act of Parliament was there that you should be happy? Make up
your mind that you deserve to be hanged, as is most likely, and you will
take it as a favor that you are hanged in silk, and not in hemp." Of which
the application in this particular case is this: that if Mrs. Park or Mrs.
Tolman are kind enough to open their beautiful houses for me, to fill them
with beautiful flowers, to provide a band of music, to have ready their
books of prints and their foreign photographs, to light up the walks in
the garden and the greenhouse, and to provide a delicious supper for my
entertainment, and then ask, I will say, only one person whom I want to
see, is it not very ungracious, very selfish, and very snobbish for me to
refuse to take what is, because of something which is not,--because Ellen
is not there or George is not? What Act of Parliament is there that I
should have everything in my own way?
As it is with most things, then, the rule for going into society is not to
have any rule at all. Go unconsciously; or, as St. Paul puts it, "Do not
think of yourself more highly than you ought to think." Everything but
conceit can be forgiven to a young person in society. St. Paul, by the
way, high-toned gentleman as he was, is a very thorough guide in such
affairs, as he is in most others. If you will get the marrow out of those
little scraps at the end of his letters, you will not need any hand-books
As I read this over, to send it to the printer, I recollect that, in one
of the nicest sets of girls I ever knew, they called the thirteenth
chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians the "society chapter."
Read it over, and see how well it fits, the next time Maud has been
disagreeable, or you have been provoked yourself in the "German."
"The gentleman is quiet," says Mr. Emerson, whose essay on society you
will read with profit, "the lady is serene." Bearing this in mind, you
will not really expect, when you go to the dance at Mrs. Pollexfen's,
that while you are standing in the library explaining to Mr. Sumner what
he does not understand about the Alabama Claims, watching at the same
time with jealous eye the fair form of Sybil as she is waltzing in that
hated Clifford's arms,--you will not, I say, really expect that her light
dress will be wafted into the gas-light over her head, she be surrounded
with a lambent flame, Clifford basely abandon her, while she cries, "O
Ferdinand, Ferdinand!"--nor that you, leaving Mr. Sumner, seizing Mrs.
General Grant's camel's hair shawl, rushing down the ball-room, will wrap
it around Sybil's uninjured form, and receive then and there the thanks
of her father and mother, and their pressing request for your immediate
union in marriage. Such things do not happen outside the Saturday
newspapers, and it is a great deal better that they do not. "The
gentleman is quiet and the lady is serene." In my own private judgment,
the best thing you can do at any party is the particular thing which your
host or hostess expected you to do when she made the party. If it is a
whist party, you had better play whist, if you can. If it is a dancing
party, you had better dance, if you can. If it is a music party, you had
better play or sing, if you can. If it is a croquet party, join in the
croquet, if you can. When at Mrs. Thorndike's grand party, Mrs. Colonel
Goffe, at seventy-seven, told old Rufus Putnam, who was five years her
senior, that her dancing days were over, he said to her, "Well, it seems
to be the amusement provided for the occasion." I think there is a good
deal in that. At all events, do not separate yourself from the rest as if
you were too old or too young, too wise or too foolish, or had not been
enough introduced, or were in any sort of different clay from the rest of
And now I will not undertake any specific directions for behavior. You
know I hate them all. I will only repeat to you the advice which my
father, who was my best friend, gave me after the first evening call I
ever made. The call was on a gentleman whom both I and my father greatly
loved. I knew he would be pleased to hear that I had made the visit, and,
with some pride, I told him, being, as I calculate, thirteen years five
months and nineteen days old. He was pleased, very much pleased, and he
said so. "I am glad you made the call, it was a proper attention to Mr.
Palfrey, who is one of your true friends and mine. And now that you begin
to make calls, let me give you one piece of advice. Make them short. The
people who see you may be very glad to see you. But it is certain they
were occupied with something when you came, and it is certain, therefore,
that you have interrupted them."
I was a little dashed in the enthusiasm with which I had told of my first
visit. But the advice has been worth I cannot tell how much to me,--years
of life, and hundreds of friends.
Pelham's rule for a visit is, "Stay till you have made an agreeable
impression, and then leave immediately." A plausible rule, but dangerous.
What if one should not make an agreeable impression after all? Did not
Belch stay till near three in the morning? And when he went, because I
had dropped asleep, did I not think him more disagreeable than ever?
For all I can say, or anybody else can say, it will be the manner of some
people to give up meeting other people socially. I am very sorry for them,
but I cannot help it. All I can say is that they will be sorry before they
are done. I wish they would read Aesop's fable about the old man and his
sons and the bundle of rods. I wish they would find out definitely why God
gave them tongues and lips and ears. I wish they would take to heart the
folly of this constant struggle in which they live, against the whole law
of the being of a gregarious animal like man. What is it that Westerly
writes me, whose note comes to me from the mail just as I finish this
paper? "I do not look for much advance in the world until we can get
people out of their own self." And what do you hear me quoting to you all
the time,--which you can never deny,--but that "the human race is the
individual of which men and women are so many different members "? You
may kick against this law, but it is true.
It is the truth around which, like a crystal round its nucleus, all modern
civilization has taken order.
How To Travel.
First, as to manner. You may travel on foot, on horseback, in a carriage
with horses, in a carriage with steam, or in a steamboat or ship, and also
in many other ways.
Of these, so far as mere outside circumstance goes, it is probable that
the travelling with horses in a canal-boat is the pleasantest of all,
granting that there is no crowd of passengers, and that the weather is
agreeable. But there are so few parts of the world where this is now
practicable, that we need not say much of it. The school-girls of this
generation may well long for those old halcyon days of Miss Portia
Lesley's School. In that ideal establishment the girls went to Washington
to study political economy in the winter. They went to Saratoga in July
and August to study the analytical processes of chemistry. There was also
a course there on the history of the Revolution. They went to Newport
alternate years in the same months, to study the Norse literature and
swimming. They went to the White Sulphur Springs and to Bath, to study the
history of chivalry as illustrated in the annual tournaments. They went to
Paris to study French, to Rome to study Latin, to Athens to study Greek.
In all parts of the world where they could travel by canals they did so.
While on the journeys they studied their arithmetic and other useful
matters, which had been passed by at the capitals. And while they were on
the canals they washed and ironed their clothes, so as to be ready for the
next stopping-place. You can do anything you choose on a canal.
Next to canal travelling, a journey on horseback is the pleasantest. It is
feasible for girls as well as boys, if they have proper escort and
superintendence. You see the country; you know every leaf and twig; you
are tired enough, and not too tired, when the day is done. When you are at
the end of each day's journey you find you have, all the way along, been
laying up a store of pleasant memories. You have a good appetite for
supper, and you sleep in one nap for the nine hours between nine at night
and six in the morning.
You might try this, Phillis,--you and Robert. I do not think your little
pony would do, but your uncle will lend you Throg for a fortnight. There
is nothing your uncle will not do for you, if you ask him the right way.
When Robert's next vacation comes, after he has been at home a week, he
will be glad enough to start. You had better go now and see your Aunt
Fanny about it. She is always up to anything. She and your Uncle John will
be only too glad of the excuse to do this thing again. They have not done
it since they and I and P. came down through the Dixville Notch all four
on a hand gallop, with the rain running in sheets off our waterproofs. Get
them to say they will go, and then hold them up to it.
For dress, you, Phillis, will want a regular bloomer to use when you are
scrambling over the mountains on foot. Indeed, on the White Mountains now,
the ladies best equipped ride up those steep pulls on men's saddles. For
that work this is much the safest. Have a simple skirt to button round
your waist while you are riding. It should be of waterproof,--the English
is the best. Besides this, have a short waterproof sack with a hood, which
you can put on easily if a shower comes. Be careful that it has a hood.
Any crevice between the head cover and the back cover which admits air or
wet to the neck is misery, if not fatal, in such showers as you are going
to ride through.
You want another skirt for the evening, and this and your tooth-brush and
linen must be put up tight and snug in two little bags. The old-fashioned
saddle-bags will do nicely, if you can find a pair in the garret. The
waterproof sack must be in another roll outside.
As for Robert, I shall tell him nothing about his dress. "A true gentleman
is always so dressed that he can mount and ride for his life." That was
the rule three hundred years ago, and I think it holds true now.
Do not try to ride too much in one day. At the start, in particular, take
care that you do not tire your horses or yourselves. For yourselves, very
likely ten miles will be enough for the first day. It is not distance you
are after, it is the enjoyment of every blade of grass, of every flying
bird, of every whiff of air, of every cloud that hangs upon the blue.
Walking is next best. The difficulty is about baggage and sleeping-places;
and then there has been this absurd theory, that girls cannot walk. But
they can. School-boys--trying to make immense distances--blister their
feet, strain their muscles, get disgusted, borrow money and ride home in
the stage. But this is all nonsense. Distance is not the object. Five
miles is as good as fifty. On the other hand, while the riding party
cannot well be larger than four, the more the merrier on the walking
party. It is true, that the fare is sometimes better where there are but
few. Any number of boys and girls, if they can coax some older persons to
go with them, who can supply sense and direction to the high spirits of
the juniors, may undertake such a journey. There are but few rules;
beyond them, each party may make its own.
First, never walk before breakfast. If you like, you may make two
breakfasts and take a mile or two between. But be sure to eat something
before you are on the road.
Second, do not walk much in the middle of the day. It is dusty and hot
then; and the landscape has lost its special glory. By ten o'clock you
ought to have found some camping-ground for the day; a nice brook running
through a grove,--a place to draw or paint or tell stories or read them or
write them; a place to make waterfalls and dams,--to sail chips or build
boats,--a place to make a fire and a cup of tea for the oldsters. Stay
here till four in the afternoon, and then push on in the two or three
hours which are left to the sleeping-place agreed upon. Four or five hours
on the road is all you want in each day. Even resolute idlers, as it is to
be hoped you all are on such occasions, can get eight miles a day out of
that,--and that is enough for a true walking party. Remember all along,
that you are not running a race with the railway train. If you were, you
would be beaten certainly; and the less you think you are the better. You
are travelling in a method of which the merit is that it is not fast, and
that you see every separate detail of the glory of the world. What a fool
you are, then, if you tire yourself to death, merely that you may say that
you did in ten hours what the locomotive would gladly have finished in
one, if by that effort you have lost exactly the enjoyment of nature and
society that you started for.
The perfection of undertakings in this line was Mrs. Merriam's famous
walking party in the Green Mountains, with the Wadsworth girls. Wadsworth
was not their name,--it was the name of her school. She chose eight of the
girls when vacation came, and told them they might get leave, if they
could, to join her in Brattleborough for this tramp. And she sent her own
invitation to the mothers and to as many brothers. Six of the girls came.
Clara Ingham was one of them, and she told me all about it. Margaret Tyler
and Etta were there. There were six brothers also, and Archie Muldair and
his wife, Fanny Muldair's mother. They two "tended out" in a buggy, but
did not do much walking. Mr. Merriam was with them, and, quite as a
surprise, they had Thurlessen, a nice old Swede, who had served in the
army, and had ever since been attached to that school as chore-man. He
blacked the girls' shoes, waited for them at concert, and sometimes, for a
slight bribe, bought almond candy for them in school hours, when they
could not possibly live till afternoon without a supply. The girls said
that the reason the war lasted so long was that Old Thurlessen was in the
army, and that nothing ever went quick when he was in it. I believe there
was something in this. Well, Old Thurlessen had a canvas-top wagon, in
which he carried five tents, five or six trunks, one or two pieces of
kitchen gear, his own self and Will Corcoran.
The girls and boys did not so much as know that Thurlessen was in the
party. That had all been kept a solemn secret. They did not know how
their trunks were going on, but started on foot in the morning from the
hotel, passed up that beautiful village street in Brattleborough, came
out through West Dummerston, and so along that lovely West River. It was
very easy to find a camp there, and when the sun came to be a little hot,
and they had all blown off a little of the steam of the morning, I think
they were all glad to come upon Mr. Muldair, sitting in the wagon waiting
for them. He explained to them that, if they would cross the fence and go
down to the river, they would find his wife had planted herself; and
there, sure enough, in a lovely little nook, round which the river swept,
with rocks and trees for shade, with shawls to lounge upon, and the water
to play with, they spent the day. Of course they made long excursions into
the woods and up and down the stream, but here was head-quarters.
Hard-boiled eggs from the haversacks, with bread and butter, furnished
forth the meal, and Mr. Muldair insisted on toasting some salt-pork over
the fire, and teaching the girls to like it sandwiched between crackers.
Well, at four o'clock everybody was ready to start again, and was willing
to walk briskly. And at six, what should they see but the American flag
flying, and Thurlessen's pretty little encampment of his five tents,
pitched in a horseshoe form, with his wagon, as a sort of commissary's
tent, just outside. Two tents were for the girls, two tents for the boys,
and the head-quarters tent for Mr. and Mrs. Merriam. And that night they
all learned the luxury and sweetness of sleeping upon beds of hemlock
branches. Thurlessen had supper all ready as soon as they were washed and
ready for it. And after supper they sat round the fire a little while
singing. But before nine o'clock every one of them was asleep.
So they fared up and down through those lovely valleys of the Green
Mountains, sending Thurlessen on about ten miles every day, to be ready
for them when night came. If it rained, of course they could put in to
some of those hospitable Vermont farmers' homes, or one of the inns in the
villages. But, on the whole, they had good weather, and boys and girls
always hoped that they might sleep out-doors.
These are, however, but the variations and amusements of travel. You and
I would find it hard to walk to Liverpool, if that happened to be the
expedition in hand or on foot. And in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred
you and I will have to adapt ourselves to the methods of travel which the
majority have agreed upon.
But for pleasure travel, in whatever form, much of what has been said
already applies. The best party is two, the next best four, the next best
one, and the worst three. Beyond four, except in walking parties, all are
impossible, unless they be members of one family under the command of a
father or mother. Command is essential when you pass four. All the members
of the party should have or should make a community of interests. If one
draws, all had best draw. If one likes to climb mountains, all had best
climb mountains. If one rises early, all had best rise early; and so on.
Do not tell me you cannot draw. It is quite time you did. You are your own
best teacher. And there is no time or place so fit for learning as when
you are sitting under the shade of a high rock on the side of White Face,
or looking off into the village street from the piazza of a hotel.
The party once determined on and the route, remember that the old
conditions of travel and the new conditions of most travel of to-day are
precisely opposite. For in old travel, as on horseback or on foot now, you
saw the country while you travelled. Many of your stopping-places were for
rest, or because night had fallen, and you could see nothing at night.
Under the old system, therefore, an intelligent traveller might keep in
motion from day to day, slowly, indeed, but seeing something all the time,
and learning what the country was through which he passed by talk with the
people. But in the new system, popularly called the improved system, he is
shut up with his party and a good many other parties in a tight box with
glass windows, and whirled on through dust if it be dusty, or rain if it
be rainy, under arrangements which make it impossible to converse with the
people of the country, and almost impossible to see what that country is.
There is a little conversation with the natives. But it relates mostly to
the price of pond-lilies or of crullers or of native diamonds. I once put
my head out of a window in Ashland, and, addressing a crowd of boys
promiscuously, called "John, John." John stepped forward, as I had felt
sure he would, though I had not before had the pleasure of his
acquaintance. I asked how his mother was, and how the other children were,
and he said they were very well. But he did not say anything else, and as
the train started at that moment I was not able to continue the
conversation, which was at the best, you see, conducted under
difficulties. All this makes it necessary that, in our modern travelling,
you select with particular care your places to rest, and, when you have
selected them, that you stay in them, at the least one day, that you may
rest, and that you may know something of the country you are passing. A
man or a strong woman may go from Boston to Chicago in a little more than
twenty-five hours. If he be going because he has to, it is best for him to
go in that way, because he is out of his misery the sooner. Just so it is
better to be beheaded than to be starved to death. But a party going from
Boston to Chicago purely on an expedition of pleasure, ought not to
advance more than a hundred miles a day, and might well spend twenty hours
out of every twenty-four at well-chosen stopping-places on the way. They
would avoid all large cities, which are for a short stay exactly alike and
equally uncomfortable; they would choose pleasant places for rest, and
thus when they arrived at Chicago they would have a real fund of happy,
Applying the same principle to travel in Europe, I am eager to correct a
mistake which many of you will be apt to make at the beginning,--
hot-blooded young Americans as you are, eager to "put through"
what you are at, even though it be the most exquisite of enjoyments, and
ignorant as you all are, till you are taught, of the possibilities of
happy life before you, if you will only let the luscious pulp of your
various bananas lie on your tongue and take all the good of it, instead of
bolting it as if it were nauseous medicine. Because you have but little
time in Europe, you will be anxious to see all you can. That is quite
right. Remember, then, that true wisdom is to stay three days in one
place, rather than to spend but one day in each of three. If you insist on
one day in Oxford, one in Birmingham, one in Bristol, why then there are
three inns or hotels to be hunted up, three packings and unpackings, three
sets of letters to be presented, three sets of streets to learn, and,
after it is all over, your memories of those three places will be merely
of the outside misery of travel. Give up two of them altogether, then.
Make yourself at home for the three days in whichever place of the three
best pleases you. Sleep till your nine hours are up every night. Breakfast
all together. Avail yourselves of your letters of introduction. See things
which are to be seen, or persons who are to be known, at the right times.
Above all, see twice whatever is worth seeing. Do not forget this
rule;--we remember what we see twice. It is that stereoscopic memory of
which I told you once before. We do not remember with anything like the
same reality or precision what we have only seen once. It is in some
slight appreciation of this great fundamental rule, that you stay three
days in any place which you really mean to be acquainted with, that Miss
Ferrier lays down her bright rule for a visit, that a visit ought "to
consist of three days,--the rest day, the drest day, and the pressed day."
And, lastly, dear friends,--for the most entertaining of discourses on the
most fascinating of themes must have a "lastly,"--lastly, be sure that you
know what you travel for. "Why, we travel to have a good time," says that
incorrigible Pauline Ingham, who will talk none but the Yankee language.
Dear Pauline, if you go about the world expecting to find that same "good
time" of yours ready-made, inspected, branded, stamped, jobbed by the
jobbers, retailed by the retailers, and ready for you to buy with your
spending-money, you will be sadly mistaken, though you have for
spending-money all that united health, high spirits, good-nature, and kind
heart of yours, and all papa's lessons of forgetting yesterday, leaving
to-morrow alone, and living with all your might to-day. It will never do,
Pauline, to have to walk up to the inn-keeper and say, "Please, we have
come for a good time, and where shall we find it?" Take care that you have
in reserve one object, I do not care much what it is. Be ready to press
plants, or be ready to collect minerals. Or be ready to wash in
water-colors, I do not care how poor they are. Or, in Europe, be ready to
inquire about the libraries, or the baby-nurseries, or the
art-collections, or the botanical gardens. Understand in your own mind
that there is something you can inquire for and be interested in, though
you be dumped out of a car at New Smithville. It may, perhaps, happen that
you do not for weeks or months revert to this reserved object of yours.
Then happiness may come; for, as you have found out already, I think,
_happiness_ is something which _happens_, and is not contrived. On this
theme you will find an excellent discourse in the beginning of Mr. Freeman
Clarke's "Eleven Weeks in Europe."
For directions for the detail of travel, there are none better than those
in the beginning of "Rollo in Europe." There is much wisdom in the
general directions to travellers in the prefaces to the old editions of
Murray. A young American will of course eliminate the purely English
necessities from both sides of those equations. There is a good article by
Dr. Bellows on the matter in the North American Review. And you yourself,
after you have been forty-eight hours in Europe, will feel certain that
you can write better directions than all the rest of us can, put together.
And so, my dear young friends, the first half of this book comes to an
end. The programme of the beginning is finished, and I am to say "Good
by." If I have not answered all the nice, intelligent letters which one
and another of you have sent me since we began together, it has only been
because I thought I could better answer the multitude of such unknown
friends in print, than a few in shorter notes of reply. It has been to me
a charming thing that so many of you have been tempted to break through
the magic circle of the printed pages, and come to closer terms with one
who has certainly tried to speak as a friend to all of you. Do we all
understand that in talking, in reading, in writing, in going into society,
in choosing our books, or in travelling, there is no arbitrary set of
rules? The commandments are not carved in stone. We shall do these things
rightly if we do them simply and unconsciously, if we are not selfish, if
we are willing to profit by other people's experience, and if, as we do
them, we can manage to remember that right and wrong depend much more on
the spirit than on the manner in which the thing is done. We shall not
make many blunders if we live by the four rules they painted on the four
walls of the Detroit Clubhouse.
Do not you know what those were?
1. Look up, and not down.
2. Look forward, and not backward.
3. Look out, and not in,
4. Lend a hand.
The next half of the book will be the application of these rules to life
in school, in vacation, life together, life alone, and some other details
not yet touched upon.
Life At School.
I do not mean life at a boarding-school. If I speak of that, it is to be
at another time. No, I mean life at a regular every-day school, in town
or in the country, where you go in the morning and come away at eleven
or at noon, and go again in the afternoon, and come away after two or
three hours. Some young people hate this life, and some like it
tolerably well. I propose to give some information which shall make it
more agreeable all round.
And I beg it may be understood that I do not appear as counsel for either
party, in the instruction and advice I give. That means that, as the
lawyers say, I am not retained by the teachers, formerly called
schoolmistresses and schoolmasters, or by the pupils, formerly called boys
and girls. I have been a schoolmaster myself, and I enjoyed the life very
much, and made among my boys some of the best of the friends of my life.
I have also been a school-boy,--and I roughed through my school life with
comparative comfort and ease. As master and as boy I learned some things
which I think can be explained to boys and girls now, so as to make life
at school easier and really more agreeable.
My first rule is, that you
Accept The Situation.
Perhaps you do not know what that means. It means that, as you are at
school, whether you really like going or not, you determine to make the
very best you can of it, and that you do not make yourself and everybody
else wretched by sulking and grumbling about it, and wishing school was
done, and wondering why your father sends you there, and asking leave to
look at the clock in the other room, and so on.
When Dr. Kane or Captain McGlure was lying on a skin on a field of ice, in
a blanket bag buttoned over his head, with three men one side of him and
three the other, and a blanket over them all,--with the temperature
seventy-eight degrees below zero, and daylight a month and a half away,
the position was by no means comfortable. But a brave man does not growl
or sulk in such a position. He "accepts the situation." That is, he takes
that as a thing for granted, about which there is to be no further
question. Then he is in condition to make the best of it, whatever that
best may be. He can sing "We won't go home till morning," or he can tell
the men the story of William Fitzpatrick and the Belgian coffee-grinder,
or he can say "good-night" and imagine himself among the Kentish
hop-fields,--till before he knows it the hop-sticks begin walking round
and round, and the haycocks to make faces at him,--and--and--and--he--he
--he is fast asleep. That comfort comes of "accepting the situation."
Now here you are at school, I will say, for three hours. Accept the
situation, like a man or a woman, and do not sulk like a fool. As Mr.
Abbot says, in his admirable rule, in Rollo or Jonas, "When you grant,
grant cheerfully." You have come here to school without a fight, I
suppose. When your father told you to come, you did not insult him, as
people do in very poor plays and very cheap novels. You did not say to
him, "Miscreant and villain, I renounce thee, I defy thee to the teeth; I
am none of thine, and henceforth I leave thee in thy low estate." You did
not leap in the middle of the night from a three-story window, with your
best clothes in a handkerchief, and go and assume the charge of a pirate
clipper, which was lying hidden in a creek in the Back Bay. On the
contrary, you went to school when the time came. As you have done so,
determine, first of all, to make the very best of it. The best can be made
first-rate. But a great deal depends on you in making it so.
To make the whole thing thoroughly attractive, to make the time pass
quickly, and to have school life a natural part of your other life, my
second rule is,
Do What You Do With All Your Might.
It is a good rule in anything; in sleeping, in playing, or in whatever
you have in hand. But nothing tends to make school time pass quicker; and
the great point, as I will acknowledge, is to get through with the school
hours as quickly as we fairly can.
Now if in written arithmetic, for instance, you will start instantly on
the sums as soon as they are given out; if you will bear on hard on the
pencil, so as to make clear white marks, instead of greasy, flabby, pale
ones on the slate; if you will rule the columns for the answers as
carefully as if it were a bank ledger you were ruling, or if you will wash
the slate so completely that no vestige of old work is there, you will
find that the mere exercise of energy of manner infuses spirit and
correctness into the thing done.
I remember my drawing-teacher once snapped the top of my pencil with his
forefinger, gently, and it flew across the room. He laughed and said, "How
can you expect to draw a firm line with a pencil held like that?" It was a
good lesson, and it illustrates this rule,--"Do with all your might the
work that is to be done."
When I was at school at the old Latin School in Boston,--opposite where
Ben Franklin went to school and where his statue is now,--in the same spot
in space where you eat your lunch if you go into the ladies' eating-room
at Parker's Hotel,--when I was at school there, I say, things were in that
semi-barbarous state, that with a school attendance of four hours in the
morning, and three in the afternoon, we had but five minutes' recess in
the morning and five in the afternoon. We went "out" in divisions of eight
or ten each; and the worst of all was that the play-ground (now called so)
was a sort of platform, of which one half was under cover,--all of which
was, I suppose, sixteen feet long by six wide, with high walls, and stairs
leading to it.
Of course we could have sulked away all our recess there, complaining that
we had no better place. Instead of which, we accepted the situation, we
made the best of it, and with all our might entered on the one amusement
possible in such quarters.
We provided a stout rope, well knotted. As soon as recess began, we
divided into equal parties, one under cover and the other out, grasping
the rope, and endeavoring each to drew the other party across the dividing
line. "Greeks and Trojans" you will see the game called in English books.
Little we knew of either; but we hardened our hands, toughened our
muscles, and exercised our chests, arms, and legs much better than could
have been expected, all by accepting the situation and doing with all our
might what our hands found to do. Lessons are set for average boys at
school,--boys of the average laziness. If you really go to work with all
your might then, you get a good deal of loose time, which, in general, you
can apply to that standing nuisance, the "evening lesson." Sometimes, I
know, for what reason I do not know, this study of the evening lesson in
school is prohibited. When it is, the good boys and quick boys have to
learn how to waste their extra time, which seems to be a pity. But with a
sensible master, it is a thing understood, that it is better for boys or
girls to study hard while they study, and never to learn to dawdle.
Taking it for granted that you are in the hands of such masters or
mistresses, I will take it for granted that, when you have learned the
school lesson, there will be no objection to your next learning the other
lesson, which lazier boys will have to carry home.
Lastly, you will find you gain a great deal by giving to the school lesson
all the color and light which every-day affairs can lend to it. Do not let
it be a ghastly skeleton in a closet, but let it come as far as it will
into daily life. When you read in Colburn's Oral Arithmetic, "that a man
bought mutton at six cents a pound, and beef at seven," ask your mother
what she pays a pound now, and do the sum with the figures changed. When
the boys come back after vacation, find out where they have been, and look
out Springfield, and the Notch, and Dead River, and Moosehead Lake, on the
map,--and know where they are. When you get a chance at the "Republican,"
before the others have come down to breakfast, read the Vermont news,
under the separate head of that State, and find out how many of those
Vermont towns are on your "Mitchell." When it is your turn to speak, do
not be satisfied with a piece from the "Speaker," that all the boys have
heard a hundred times; but get something out of the "Tribune," or the
"Companion," or "Young Folks," or from the new "Tennyson" at home.
I once went to examine a high school, on a lonely hillside in a lonely
country town. The first class was in botany, and they rattled off from the
book very fast. They said "cotyledon," and "syngenesious," and
"coniferous," and such words, remarkably well, considering they did not
care two straws about them. Well, when it was my turn to "make a few
remarks," I said,--
I do not remember another word I said, but I do remember the sense of
amazement that a minister should have spoken such a wicked word in a
school-room. What was worse, I sent a child out to bring in some unripe
huckleberries from the roadside, and we went to work on our botany to
My dear children, I see hundreds of boys who can tell me what is thirteen
seventeenths of two elevenths of five times one half of a bushel of wheat,
stated in pecks, quarts, and pints; and yet if I showed them a grain of
wheat, and a grain of unhulled rice, and a grain of barley, they would not
know which was which. Try not to let your school life sweep you wholly
away from the home life of every day.
Life In Vacation.
How well I remember my last vacation! I knew it was my last, and I did not
lose one instant of it. Six weeks of unalloyed!
True, after school days are over, people have what are called vacations.
Your father takes his at the store, and Uncle William has the "long
vacation," when the Court does not sit. But a man's vacation, or a
woman's, is as nothing when it is compared with a child's or a young man's
or a young woman's home from school. For papa and Uncle William are
carrying about a set of cares with them all the time. They cannot help it,
and they carry them bravely, but they carry them all the same. So you see
a vacation for men and women is generally a vacation with its weight of
responsibility. But your vacations, while you are at school, though they
have their responsibilities, indeed, have none under which you ought not
to walk off as cheerfully as Gretchen, there, walks down the road with
that pail of milk upon her head. I hope you will learn to do that some
day, my dear Fanchon.
Hear, then, the essential laws of vacation:--
First of all,
Do Not Get Into Other People's Way.
Horace and Enoch would not have made such a mess of it last summer, and
got so utterly into disgrace, if they could only have kept this rule in
mind. But, from mere thoughtlessness, they were making people wish they
were at the North Pole all the time, and it ended in their wishing that
they were there themselves.
Thus, the very first morning after they had come home from Leicester
Academy,--and, indeed, they had been welcomed with all the honors only the
night before,--when Margaret, the servant, came down into the kitchen, she
found her fire lighted, indeed, but there were no thanks to Master Enoch
for that. The boys were going out gunning that morning, and they had taken
it into their heads that the two old fowling-pieces needed to be
thoroughly washed out, and with hot water. So they had got up, really at
half past four; had made the kitchen fire themselves; had put on ten times
as much water as they wanted, so it took an age to boil; had got tired
waiting, and raked out some coals and put on some more water in a skillet;
had upset this over the hearth, and tried to wipe it up with the cloth
that lay over Margaret's bread-cakes as they were rising; had meanwhile
taken the guns to pieces, and laid the pieces on the kitchen table; had
piled up their oily cloths on the settle and on the chairs; had spilled
oil from the lamp-filler, in trying to drop some into one of the ramrod
sockets, and thus, by the time Margaret did come down, her kitchen and her
breakfast both were in a very bad way.
Horace said, when he was arraigned, that he had thought they should be all
through before half past five; that then they would have "cleared up," and
have been well across the pasture, out of Margaret's way. Horace did not
know that watched pots are "mighty unsartin" in their times of boiling.
Now all this row, leading to great unpopularity of the boys in regions
where they wanted to be conciliatory, would have been avoided if Horace
and Enoch had merely kept out of the way. There were the Kendal-house in
the back-yard, or the wood-shed, where they could have cleaned the guns,
and then nobody would have minded if they had spilled ten quarts of water.
This seems like a minor rule. But I have put it first, because a good deal
of comfort or discomfort hangs on it.
Scientifically, the first rule would be,
This can only be done by system. A vacation is gold, you see, if properly
used; it is distilled gold,--if there could be such,--to be correct, it is
burnished, double-refined gold, or gold purified. It cannot be lengthened.
There is sure to be too little of it. So you must make sure of all there
is; and this requires system.
It requires, therefore, that, first of all,--even before the term time is
over,--you all determine very solemnly what the great central business of
the vacation shall be. Shall it be an archery club? Or will we build the
Falcon's Nest in the buttonwood over on the Strail? Or shall it be some
other sport or entertainment?
Let this be decided with great care; and, once decided, hang to this
determination, doing something determined about it every living day. In
truth, I recommend application to that business with a good deal of
firmness, on every day, rain or shine, even at certain fixed hours;
unless, of course, there is some general engagement of the family, or of
the neighborhood, which interferes. If you are all going on a lily party,
why, that will take precedence.
Then I recommend, that, quite distinct from this, you make up your own
personal and separate mind as to what is the thing which you yourself have
most hungered and thirsted for in the last term, but have not been able to
do to your mind, because the school work interfered so badly. Some such
thing, I have no doubt, there is. You wanted to make some electrotype
medals, as good as that first-rate one that Muldair copied when he lived
in Paxton. Or you want to make some plaster casts. Or you want to read
some particular book or books. Or you want to use John's tool-box for some
very definite and attractive purpose. Very well; take this up also, for
your individual or special business. The other is the business of the
crowd; this is your avocation when you are away from the crowd. I say
away; I mean it is something you can do without having to hunt them up,
and coax them to go on with you.
Besides these, of course there is all the home life. You have the garden
to work in. You can help your mother wash the tea things. You can make
cake, if you keep on the blind side of old Rosamond; and so on.
Thus are you triply armed. Indeed, I know no life which gets on
well, unless it has these three sides, whether life with the others,
life by yourself, or such life as may come without any plan or
effort of your own.
No; I do not know which of these things you will choose,--perhaps you will
choose none of them. But it is easy enough to see how fast a day of
vacation will go by if you, Stephen, or you, Clara, have these several
resources or determinations.
Here is the ground-plan of it, as I might steal it from Fanchon's
"TUESDAY.--Second day of vacation. Fair. Wind west. Thermometer
sixty-three degrees, before breakfast.
"Down stairs in time." [_Mem._ 1. Be careful about this. It makes much
more disturbance in the household than you think for, if you are late to
breakfast, and it sets back the day terribly.]
"Wiped while Sarah washed. Herbert read us the new number of 'Tig and
Tag,' while we did this, and made us scream, by acting it with Silas,
behind the sofa and on the chairs. At nine, all was done, and we went up
the pasture to Mont Blanc. Worked all the morning on the drawbridge. We
have got the two large logs into place, and have dug out part of the
trench. Home at one, quite tired."
[_Mem._ 2. Mont Blanc is a great boulder,--part of a park of boulders, in
the edge of the wood-lot. Other similar rocks are named the "Jung-frau,"
because unclimbable, the "_Aiguilles_" &c. This about the drawbridge and
logs, readers will understand as well as I do.]
"Had just time to dress for dinner. Mr. Links, or Lynch, was here; a _very
interesting_ man, who has descended an extinct volcano. He is going to
give me some Pele's hair. I think I shall make a museum. After dinner we
all sat on the piazza some time, till he went away. Then I came up here,
and fixed my drawers. I have moved my bed to the other side of the
chamber. This gives me a _great deal more room_. Then I got out my
palette, and washed it, and my colors. I am going to paint a cluster of
grape-leaves for mamma's birthday. It is _a great secret_. I had only got
the things well out, when the Fosdicks came, and proposed we should all
ride over with them to Worcester, where Houdin, the juggler, was. Such a
splendid time as we have had! How he does some of the things I do not
know. I brought home a flag and three great peppermints for Pet. We did
not get home _till nearly eleven._"
[_Mem._ 3. This is pretty late for young people of your age; but, as
Madame Roland said, a good deal has to be pardoned to the spirit of
liberty; and, so far as I have observed, in this time, generally is.]
Now if you will analyze that bit of journal, you will see, first, that the
day is full of what Mr. Clough calls
"The joy of eventful living."
That girl never will give anybody cause to say she is tired of her
vacations, if she can spend them in that fashion. You will see, next, that
it is all in system, and, as it happens, just on the system I proposed.
For you will observe that there is the great plan, with others, of the
fortress, the drawbridge, and all that; there is the separate plan for
Fanchon's self, of the water-color picture; and, lastly, there is the
unplanned surrender to the accident of the Fosdicks coming round to
Will you observe, lastly, that Fanchon is not selfish in these matters,
but lends a hand where she finds an opportunity?
When I was a very young man, I had occasion to travel two hundred miles
down the valley of the Connecticut River. I had just finished a delightful
summer excursion in the service of the State of New Hampshire as a
geologist,--and I left the other geological surveyors at Haverhill.
I remembered John Ledyard. Do you, dear Young America? John Ledyard,
having determined to leave Dartmouth College, built himself a boat, or
digged for himself a canoe, and sailed down on the stream reading the
Greek Testament, or "Plutarch's Lives," I forget which, on the way.
Here was I, about to go down the same river. I had ten dollars in my
pocket, be the same more or less. Could not I buy a boat for seven, my
provant for a week for three more, and so arrive in Springfield in ten
days' time, go up to the Hardings' and spend the night, and go down to
Boston, on a free pass I had, the next day?
Had I been as young as I am now, I should have done that thing. I wanted
to do it then, but there were difficulties.
First, whatever was to be done must be done at once. For, if I were
delayed only a day at Haverhill, I should have, when I had paid my bill,
but eight dollars and a half left. Then how buy the provant for three
dollars, and the boat for six?
So I went at once to the seaport or maritime district of that flourishing
town, to find, to my dismay, that there was no boat, canoe, dug-out, or
_batteau_,--there was nothing. As I remember things now, there was not any
sort of coffin that would ride the waves in any sort of way.
There were, however, many _pundits_, or learned men. They are a class of
people I have always found in places or occasions where something besides
learning was needed. They tried, as is the fashion of their craft, to make
good the lack of boats by advice.
First, they proved that it would have been of no use had there been any
boats. Second, they proved that no one ever had gone down from Haverhill
in a boat at that season of the year,--_ergo_, that no one ought to think
of going. Third, they proved, what I knew very well before, that I could
go down much quicker in the stage. Fourth, with astonishing unanimity
they agreed, that, if I would only go down as far as Hanover, there would
be plenty of boats; the river would have more water in it; I should be
past this fall and that fall, this rapid and that rapid; and, in short,
that, before the worlds were, it seemed predestined that I should start
All this they said in that seductive way in which a dry-goods clerk tells
you that he has no checked gingham, and makes you think you are a fool
that you asked for checked gingham; that you never should have asked,
least of all, should have asked him.
So I left the beach at Haverhill, disconcerted, disgraced, conscious of
my own littleness and folly, and, as I was bid, took passage in the
Telegraph coach for Hanover, giving orders that I should be called in
I was called in the morning. I mounted the stage-coach, and I think we
came to Hanover about half past ten,--my first and last visit at that
shrine of learning. Pretty hot it was on the top of the coach, and I was
pretty tired, and a good deal chafed as I saw from that eyry the lovely,
cool river all the way at my side. I took some courage when I saw White's
dam and Brown's dam, or Smith's dam and Jones's dam, or whatever the dams
were, and persuaded myself that it would have been hard work hauling
Nathless, I was worn and weary when I arrived at Hanover, and was told
there would be an hour before the Telegraph went forward. Again I hurried
to the strand.
This time I found a boat. A poor craft it was, but probably as good as
Ledyard's. Leaky, but could be caulked. Destitute of row-locks, but they
could be made.
I found the owner. Yes, he would sell her to me. Nay, he was not
particular about price. Perhaps he knew that she was not worth
anything. But, with that loyalty to truth, not to say pride of opinion,
which is a part of the true New-Englander's life, this sturdy man said,
frankly, that he did not want to sell her, because he did not think I
ought to go that way.
Vain for me to represent that that was my affair, and not his.
Clearly he thought it was his. Did he think I was a boy who had escaped
from parental care?
Perhaps. For at that age I had not this mustache or these whiskers.
Had he, in the Laccadives Islands, some worthless son who had escaped from
home to go a whaling? Did he wish in his heart that some other shipmaster
had hindered him, as he now was hindering me? Alas, I know not! Only this
I know, that he advised me, argued with me, nay, begged me not to go that
way. I should get aground. I should be upset. The boat would be swamped.
Much better go by the Telegraph.
Dear reader, I was young in life, and I accepted the reiterated advice,
and took the Telegraph. It was one of about four prudent things which I
have done in my life, which I can remember now, all of which I regret at
Now, why did I give up a plan, at the solicitation of an utter stranger,
which I had formed intelligently, and had looked forward to with pleasure?
Was I afraid of being drowned? Not I. Hard to drown in the upper
Connecticut the boy who had, for weeks, been swimming three times a day in
that river and in every lake or stream in upper or central New Hampshire.
Was I afraid of wetting my clothes? Not I. Hard to hurt with water the
clothes in which I had slept on the top of Mt. Washington, swam the
Ammonoosuc, or sat out a thunder-shower on Mt. Jefferson.
Dear boys and girls, I was, by this time, afraid of myself. I was afraid
of being alone.
This is a pretty long text. But it is the text for this paper. You see I
had had this four or five hours' pull down on the hot stage-coach. I had
been conversing with myself all the time, and I had not found it the best
of company. I was quite sure that the voyage would cost a week. Maybe it
would cost more. And I was afraid that I should be very tired of it and of
myself before the thing was done. So I meekly returned to the Telegraph,
faintly tried the same experiment at Windsor, for the last time, and then
took the Telegraph for the night, and brought up next day at Greenfield.
"Can I, perhaps, give some hints to you, boys and girls, which will save
you from such a mistake as I made then?"
I do not pretend that you should court solitude. That is all nonsense,
though there is a good deal of it in the books, as there is of other
nonsense. You are made for society, for converse, sympathy, and communion.
Tongues are made to talk, and ears are made to listen. So are eyes made to
see. Yet night falls sometimes, when you cannot see. And, as you ought not
be afraid of night, you ought not be afraid of solitude, when you cannot
talk or listen.
What is there, then, that we can do when we are alone?
Many things. Of which now it will be enough to speak a little in detail
of five. We can think, we can read, we can write, we can draw, we can
sing. Of these we will speak separately. Of the rest I will say a word,
and hardly more.
First, we can think. And there are some places where we can do nothing
else. In a railway carriage, for instance, on a rainy or a frosty day, you
cannot see the country. If you are without companions, you cannot
talk,--ought not, indeed, talk much, if you had them. You ought not read,
because reading in the train puts your eyes out, sooner or later. You
cannot write. And in most trains the usages are such that you cannot sing.
Or, when they sing in trains, the whole company generally sings, so that
rules for solitude no longer apply.
What can you do then? You can think. Learn to think carefully, regularly,
so as to think with pleasure.
I know some young people who had two or three separate imaginary lives,
which they took up on such occasions. One was a supposed life in the
Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Robert used to plan the whole house and
grounds; just what horses he would keep, what hounds, what cows, and other
stock. He planned all the neighbors' houses, and who should live in them.
There were the Fairfaxes, very nice, but rather secesh; and the Sydneys,
who had been loyal through and through. There was that plucky Frank
Fairfax, and that pretty Blanche Sydney. Then there were riding parties,
archery parties, picnics on the river, expeditions to the Natural Bridge,
and once a year a regular "meet" for a fox-hunt.
"Springfield, twenty-five minutes for refreshments," says the conductor,
and Robert is left to take up his history some other time.
It is a very good plan to have not simply stories on hand, as he had, but
to be ready to take up the way to plan your garden, the arrangement of
your books, the order of next year's Reading Club, or any other truly good
subjects which have been laid by for systematic thinking, the first time
you are alone. Bear this in mind as you read. If you had been General
Sullivan, at the battle of Brandywine, you are not quite certain whether
you would have done as he did. No. Well, then, keep that for a nut to
crack the first time you have to be alone. What would you have done?
This matter of being prepared to think is really a pretty important
matter, if you find some night that you have to watch with a sick friend.
You must not read, write, or talk there. But you must keep awake. Unless
you mean to have the time pass dismally slow, you must have your regular
topics to think over, carefully and squarely.
An imaginary conversation, such as Madame de Genlis describes, is an
excellent resource at such a time.
Many and many a time, as I have been grinding along at night on some
railway in the Middle States, when it was too early to sleep, and too late
to look at the scenery, have I called into imaginary council a circle of
the nicest people in the world.
"Let me suppose," I would say to myself, "that we were all at Mrs.
Tileston's in the front parlor, where the light falls so beautifully, on
the laughing face and shoulder of that Bacchante. Let me suppose that
besides Mrs. Tileston, Edith was there, and Emily and Carrie and
Haliburton and Fred. Suppose just then the door-bell rang, and Mr.
Charles Sumner came up stairs fresh from Washington. What should we all
say and do?
"Why, of course we should be glad to see him, and we should ask him about
Washington and the Session,--what sort of a person Lady Bruce was,--and
whether it was really true that General Butler said that bright thing
about the Governor of Arkansas.
"And Mr. Sumner would say that General Butler said a much better thing
than that. He said that m-m-m-m-m--
"Then Mrs. Tileston would say, 'O, I thought that s-s-s-s-s--'
"Then I should say, 'O no! I am sure that u-u-u-u--, &c.'
"Then Edith would laugh and say, 'Why, no, Mr. Hale. I am sure that, &c.,
&c., &c., &c.'"
You will find that the carrying out an imaginary conversation, where you
really fill these blanks, and make the remarks of the different people in
character, is a very good entertainment,--what we called very good fun
when you and I were at school,--and helps along the hours of your watching
or of your travel greatly.
Second, as I said, there is reading. Now I have already gone into some
detail in this matter. But under the head of solitude, this is to be
added, that one is often alone, when he can read. And books, of course,
are such a luxury. But do you know that if you expect to be alone, you
had better take with you only books enough, and not too many? It is an
"embarrassment of riches," sometimes, to find yourself with too many
books. You are tempted to lay down one and take up another; you are
tempted to skip and skim too much, so that you really get the good of
none of them.
There is no time so good as the forced stopping-places of travel for
reading up the hard, heavy reading which must be done, but which nobody
wants to do. Here, for two years, I have been trying to make you read
Gibbon, and you would not touch it at home. But if I had you in the
mission-house at Mackinaw, waiting for days for a steamboat, and you had
finished "Blood and Thunder," and "Sighs and Tears," and then found a copy
of Gibbon in the house, I think you would go through half of it, at least,
before the steamer came.
Walter Savage Landor used to keep five books, and only five, by him, I
have heard it said. When he had finished one of these, and finished it
completely, he gave it away, and bought another. I do not recommend that,
but I do recommend the principle of thorough reading on which it is
founded. Do not be fiddling over too many books at one time.
Third, "But, my dear Mr. Hale, I get so tired, sometimes, of reading." Of
course you do. Who does not? I never knew anybody who did not tire of
reading sooner or later. But you are alone, as we suppose. Then be all
ready to write. Take care that your inkstand is filled as regularly as
the wash-pitcher on your washstand. Take care that there are pens and
blotting-paper, and everything that you need. These should be looked to
every day, with the same care with which every other arrangement of your
room is made. When I come to make you that long-promised visit, and say to
you, before my trunk is open, "I want to write a note, Blanche," be all
ready at the instant. Do not have to put a little water into the inkstand,
and to run down to papa's office for some blotting-paper, and get the key
to mamma's desk for some paper. Be ready to write for your life, at any
moment, as Walter, there, is ready to ride for his.
"Dear me! Mr. Hale, I hate to write. What shall I say?"
Do not say what Mr. Hale has told you, whatever else you do. Say what you
yourself may want to see hereafter. The chances are very small that
anybody else, save some dear friend, will want to see what you write.
But, of course, your journal, and especially your letters, are matters
always new, for which the day itself gives plenty of subjects, and these
two are an admirable regular resort when you are alone.
As to drawing, no one can have a better drawing-teacher than himself.
Remember that. And whoever can learn to write can learn to draw. Of all
the boys who have ever entered at the Worcester Technical School, it has
proved that all could draw, and I think the same is true at West Point.
Keep your drawings, not to show to other people, but to show yourself
whether you are improving. And thank me, ten years hence, that I advised
you to do so.
You do not expect me to go into detail as to the method in which you can
teach yourself. This is, however, sure. If you will determine to learn to
see things truly, you will begin to draw them truly. It is, for instance,
almost never that the wheel of a carriage really is round to your eye. It
is round to your thought. But unless your eye is exactly opposite the hub
of the wheel in the line of the axle, the wheel does not make a circle on
the retina of your eye, and ought not to be represented by a circle in
your drawing. To draw well, the first resolution and the first duty is to
see well. Second, do not suppose that mere technical method has much to do
with real success. Soft pencil rather than hard; sepia rather than India
ink. It is pure truth that tells in drawing, and that is what you can
gain. Take perfectly simple objects, at a little distance, to begin with.
Yes, the gate-posts at the garden gate are as good as anything. Draw the
outline as accurately as you can, but remember there is no outline in
nature, and that the outline in drawing is simply conventional;
represent--which means present again, or re-present--the shadows as well
as you can. Notice is the shadow under the cap of the post deeper than
that of the side. Then let it be re-presented so on your paper. Do this
honestly, as well as you can. Keep it to compare with what you do next
week or next month. And if you have a chance to see a good draughtsman
work, quietly watch him, and remember. Do not hurry, nor try hard things
at the beginning. Above all, do not begin with large landscapes.
As for singing, there is nothing that so lights up a whole house as the
strain, through the open windows, of some one who is singing alone. We
feel sure, then, that there is at least one person in that house who is
well and is happy.
Habits In Church.
Perhaps I can fill a gap, if I say something to young people about their
habits in church-going, and in spending the hour of the church service.
When I was a boy, we went to school on weekdays for four hours in the
morning and three in the afternoon. We went to church on Sunday at about
half past ten, and church "let out" at twelve. We went again in the
afternoon, and the service was a little shorter. I knew and know precisely
how much shorter, for I sat in sight of the clock, and bestowed a great
deal too much attention on it. But I do not propose to tell you that.
Till I was taught some of the things which I now propose to teach you,
this hour and a half in church seemed to me to correspond precisely to the
four hours in school,--I mean it seemed just as long. The hour and twenty
minutes of the afternoon seemed to me to correspond precisely with the
three hours of afternoon school. After I learned some of these things,
church-going seemed to me very natural and simple, and the time I spent
there was very short and very pleasant to me.
I should say, then, that there are a great many reasonably good boys and
girls, reasonably thoughtful, also, who find the confinement of a pew
oppressive, merely because they do not know the best way to get the
advantage of a service, which is really of profit to children as it is to
grown-up people,--and which never has its full value as it does when
children and grown people join together in it.
Now to any young people who are reading this paper, and are thinking about
their own habits in church, I should say very much what I should about
swimming, or drawing, or gardening; that, if the thing to be done is worth
doing at all, you want to do it with your very best power. You want to
give yourself up to it, and get the very utmost from it.
You go to church, I will suppose, twice a day on Sunday. Is it not
clearly best, then, to carry out to the very best the purpose with which
you are there? You are there to worship God. Steadily and simply determine
that you will worship him, and you will not let such trifles distract you
as often do distract people from this purpose.
What if the door does creak? what if a dog does bark near by? what if the
horses outside do neigh or stamp? You do not mean to confess that you, a
child of God, are going to submit to dogs, or horses, or creaking doors!
If you will give yourself to the service with all your heart and
soul,--with all your might, as a boy does to his batting or his catching
at base-ball; if, when the congregation is at prayer, you determine that
you will not be hindered in your prayer; or, when the time comes for
singing, that you will not be hindered from joining in the singing with
voice or with heart,--why, you can do so. I never heard of a good fielder
in base-ball missing a fly because a dog barked, or a horse neighed, on
the outside of the ball-ground.
If I kept a high school, I would call together the school once a month,
to train all hands in the habits requisite for listeners in public
assemblies. They should be taught that just as rowers in a boat-race row
and do nothing else,--as soldiers at dress parade present arms, shoulder
arms, and the rest, and do nothing else, no matter what happens, during
that half-hour,--that so, when people meet to listen to an address or to a
concert they should listen, and do nothing else.
It is perfectly easy for people to get control and keep control of this
habit of attention. If I had the exercise I speak of, in a high school,
the scholars should be brought together, as I say, and carried through a
series of discipline in presence of mind.
Books, resembling hymn-books in weight and size, should be dropped from
galleries behind them, till they were perfectly firm under such scattering
fire, and did not look round; squeaking dolls, of the size of large
children, should be led squeaking down the passages of the school-room,
and other strange objects should be introduced, until the scholars were
all proof, and did not turn towards them once. Every one of those scholars
would thank me afterwards.
Think of it. You give a dollar, that you may hear one of Thomas's
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