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author became acquainted with their proceedings. A party of them waited on him, for the purpose of inviting him to deliver an introductory address, or, as they expressed it, "to talk to them a bit;" prefacing the request by a modest statement of what they had done and what they were doing. He could not fail to be touched by the admirable self-helping spirit which they had displayed; and, though entertaining but slight faith in popular lecturing, he felt that a few words of encouragement, honestly and sincerely uttered, might not be without some good effect. And in this spirit he addressed them on more than one occasion, citing examples of what other men had done, as illustrations of what each might, in a greater or less degree, do for himself; and pointing out that their happiness and well-being as individuals in afterlife, must necessarily depend mainly upon themselves, - upon their own diligent self-culture, self-discipline, and self-control, and, above all, on that honest and upright performance of individual duty, which is the glory of manly character.

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There was nothing in the slightest degree new or original in this counsel, which was as old as the Proverbs of Solomon, and possibly quite as familiar. But old-fashioned though the advice may have been, it was welcomed. The youths went forward in their course; worked on with energy and resolution; and, reaching manhood, they went forth in various directions into the world, where many of them now occupy positions of trust and usefulness. Several years after the incidents referred to, the subject was unexpect

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edly recalled to the author's recollection by an evening visit from a young man,-apparently fresh from the work of a foundry, who explained that he was now an employer of labor and a thriving man; and he was pleased to remember with gratitude the words spoken in all honesty to him and to his fellow-pupils years before, and even to attribute some measure of his success in life to the endeavors which he had made to work up to their spirit.

The author's personal interest having in this way been attracted to the subject of Self-Help, he was accustomed to add to the memoranda from which he had addressed these young men; and to note down occasionally in his leisure evening moments, after the hours of business, the results of such reading, observation, and experience of life, as he conceived to bear upon it. One of the most prominent illustrations cited in his earlier addresses, was that of George Stephenson, the engineer; and the original interest of the subject, as well as the special facilities and opportunities which the author possessed for illustrating Mr. Stephenson's life and career, induced him to prosecute it at his leisure, and eventually to publish his biography. The present volume is written in a similar spirit, as it has been similar in its origin. The illustrative sketches of character introduced, are, however, necessarily less elaborately treated,-being busts rather than full-length portraits, and, in many of the cases, only some striking feature has been noted; the lives of individuals, as indeed of nations, often concentrating their lustre and interest in a few

passages. Such as the book is, the author now leaves it in the hands of the reader; in the hope that the lessons of industry, perseverance, and self-culture, which it contains, will be found useful and instructive, as well as generally interesting.

London, September, 1859.




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Spirit of self-help-Institutions and men - National progress and

decay Government a reflex of the individualism of a nation-

True liberty rests on character- Energetic self-help a prominent

feature in the English character-The greatest workers have

sprung from the ranks - Uses of biography - Marked individuality

of the Englishman - His school of practical life - Opinions of for-

eigners as to English character: Goethe, Wiese, Rendu - Energy

of character exhibited in the humbler ranks - Barbers - Shaks-

peare Day-laborers Weavers



Humble origin of many eminent men - Discovery of a geologist by
Sir R. Murchison-Industry honorably recognized in England-
Joseph Brotherton - W. S. Lindsay - The middle classes New-
ton and Adams - Sons of clergymen - Sons of attorneys - Sons of
tradesmen Richard Owen - Individual application the price of
success- - Riches not necessary- The wealthy classes - Scientific
men: Bacon, Boyle, Cavendish, Rosse - Eminent politicians: Peel,
Brougham, Bulwer Lytton, Disraeli - The national character put
to the test in India-Montalembert's opinion - Modern heroism
Page 15-39


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Industry of the English nation - Work the best educator- The great
inventors principally working men-Forgotten inventors - Inven-
tion of the steam-engine - James Watt-Establishment of the


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