30 DECEMBER 1882, Page 12


TORD WOLSELEY has been advising the children of J " Woodville National School " how to win success in life, and his letter, granting a single datum, is a sensible one

enough :—

" December 13t7i, 1882.

"DEAR hope your children's entertainment will be a com- plete success. Please tell them from me that I believe success in life is within the reach of all who set before them an aim and an am- bition that is not beyond the talents and ability which God has bestowed upon them. We should all begin life with a determination to do well whatever wo take in band, and if that determination be adhered to with the pluck for which Englishmen are renowned, suc- cess, according to the nature and quality of our brain-power, is, I think, a certainty. Had I begun life as a tinker, my earnest endeavour would have been to have made bettor pots and pans than my neighbours, and I think I may venture to say without any vanity that, with God's blessing, I should have been fairly successful. The first stop on the ladder that leads to success is the firm determination to succeed ; the next is the possession of that moral and physical courage which will enable one to mount up, rung after rung, until the top is reached. The best men make a false step now and then, and some oven have very bad falls. The weak and puling cry over their misfortunes and seek for the sympathy of others, and do nothing further after their first or second failure ; bat the plucky and the courageous pick themselves up without a groan over their broken bones or their first failures, and set to work to mount the ladder again, full of confidence in themselves, and with faith in the results that always attend upon cheerful perseverance. Please wish the children ' A Merry Christmas and a Happy Now Year.' From yours

Lord Wolseley, in fact, tells the children that the requisites for success are determination, courage, and fidelity to the work they have elected to do, warns them against whining over temporary failure, and limits their success to ambitions within the scope of the powers which God has given them. That is all sound, even if it is a little rash to assume that the honest and courageous

worker who perseveres always succeeds in the end; nor do we see why Lord Wolseley should be laughed at for saying that if he

had been a tinker, he should have made better pots and pans than his rivals, and should have been fairly successful. Mock- modesty does not benefit anybody much, and while the illustra- tion would just reach the children, it is indubitably true. Lord Wolseley is just one of the men who would succeed in any capa- city, and if he had been a tinker he would have made kettles that held water and pans with tight handles, and would have advertised them, too, in all farmsteads and cottages, with great skill and knowledge of human nature, and would, therefore, have been the most successful tinker of his district. He is quite entitled to say so, when saying so is in place ; and it is in place in a letter intended to act as a stimulus to the children of a rural village, who are very often weighed down with the idea that nothing they can do will alter the conditions of things. There are no such conditions,' says Lord Wolseley, except those in your own minds ;' and, assuming that courage is, as lie evidently believes, a cul- turable quality, that is sound and stimulating instruction. very much more useful than the regular advice to be content, and not expect too much. Our objection to the letter, so far as we object, is of a different kind. We never can help a feeling of distrust, when the result of good work is thus raised into the motive for good work. Lord Wolseley is not alone in his view. Mr. Smiles, and all who, like him, give us the biographies of millionaires, great engineers, and " successful merchants," all agree with him—all describe success as the object of good work —but surely they are all wrong. If good work is praiseworthy

only or chiefly because from it you get success, and success is the end of life ; why should not bad-work be praiseworthy, if

out of it, under unusual circumstances, success is to be achieved ? Success in an English village means either much money or much distinction, and surely both have been gained ere now by means of doing bad work. Fortunes, and great fortunes, have been made not only by selling shoddy — which is a perfectly legitimate manufacture, if the seller tells the truth—but by scamping building contracts, by selling brown-paper for leather shoe-soles, rotten meat for sound pro- visions, plaster of Paris for wheaten flour, and many another trick. So frequent are such cases, that there are cynics who maintain that here in England the certain road to success is to sell bad work at the price of good, to build houses that will last only long enough to clear the builder, and to send ships to sea which will only survive if the weather is always fair; and though that opinion, stated as a dogma, is false, it is occasionally true. Most distinctions have been honestly earned by good work, Sovereigns and society alike preferring that ; but cases where bad work, consciously bad work, has been so rewarded are, at all events, not unknown. Lord Wolseley himself has not yet risen as high, for all his good work, as Felton's Duke of Buck- ingham, for all his bad work. Is it not natural for a Wood- ville lad who ponders this letter to believe that if bad work uniformly paid, his duty to himself, on Lord Wolseley's showing, would be to do bad work ; and that as bad work does sometimes pay, the true wisdom would be to use his judgment according to circumstances, and carefully to avoid cheating, whenever it is pretty certain to bring no profit P Lord Wolseley meant nothing of the kind, but that really is the fair deduction from all this teaching, in which the pay for the good work is raised into an object, instead of the good work itself. In the long-run, of course, we admit bad work can never profit the doer as good work will, being invariably found out ; but in this life, the run is often very short. The man who wilfully revokes at whist as a habit never wins at whist, besides, of course, being a scoundrel ; but a revoke for once may win the game, and on this principle of testing conduct by success, why should not the whister revoke P Or why should the cathedral-builder, who knows he will be for- gotten, ever put his best heart into those masses of work in his building which no man will over see, or seeing, pay him for P It is a false test altogether, as we maintain, which is set before the children of Woodville.

Is it so certain, either, that Lord Wolseley's method is so entirely wise ? He virtually tells the children to strive for success, to " determine to succeed," to mount with all their courage "rung after rung," and if they fall, to pick themselves up without whining, and " mount again, full of confidence in themselves." We will not say, though sorely tempted, that the goal is not worth all that effort, that happiness is the end, and thathe who stands at the bottom and is happy has won the game more completely and more easily than he who ascends within one rung of the top, for we know that the saying, besides being in our time and generation quite useless, is as a general counsel false. The world needs no stimulus to take things easy. For one man who stays at the bottom to muse, and in musing does his best work for mankind, and attains most happiness for himself, nine stay there out of indolence, or self-indulgence, or that kind of cowardice which, springing as it does from over- mastering selfishness, is of the nature of sin, and deserves the penalty all cowardice alike receives. Human nature needs some stimulus not to fall back into piggishness ; and for the mass of mankind, who do not feel keenly the lash of the sense of duty, the hope of success will do as well as another whip, and is a much better one than the terror of suffering which is the most available alternative. There is no reason why, if you wish to be rich, and can get rich by honest work, you should not get rich ; and those who say there is are either dreaming of utopias, or are uttering insincerities. But is it well, even when the object is allowed to be worthy, to be always straining after it, and thinking of it, and subordinating every consideration to it? Can you even get rich by an eternal strain after a great bank balance ? The older advisers, who had looked on life with eyes as keen as Lord Wolseley's, thought not, thought that in that perpetual upward glance from the ladder there was danger of mortal falls, as well as of an exhaustion which made the object worthless when attained ; and we suspect they were right. Some, at least, of the most successful of men have been those who have done their work as perfectly as they knew how, and have then waited for the success which might come, or might not. If we understand the greatest soldier in Europe—Count von Moltke—at all aright, he is a man who through life has scarcely sought success at all, or looked on it as an ideal. lie is an artist in war, and has in every separate campaign expended infinite care and pains, as well as genius, in making his work as perfect as possible, with- out reference to any consequences to himself. Success has come to him, therefore, in full measure, partly, at least, be- cause his mind was undisturbed by either looking for or desiring it. Lord Wolseley's teaching would, if construed literally, make a great Captain for everything but Retreat. Retreat brings no success, yet requires even more of the soldier's finest qualities than advance. Count von Moltke, careless of success, and, therefore, more unmoved by failure than Lord Wolseley's plucky lad, would regard retreat only as a piece of work to be done, and done well, and would put into it all his genius, thereby doing much better work than if he had all the while been straining to rise yet another "rung." We cannot but think that the author or the poet who is eternally striving for fame, which is his success, instead of saying or singing what he has to sing or say, is in danger of doing his work worse, and, therefore, of getting less of his success, than the

• man who does not from the first determine to succeed, but only determines that the work shall be well done. That the latter will intermediately be the happier we feel cer- tain, and though happiness is no object for life, being some- times injurious and often unattainable, still, Lord Wolseley must not forget that though his bruised workman who does not whine is a plucky fellow, he has not his full strength to dispose of, like the unbruised. Freedom from unhappiness is one of the conditions of the best work, and in that perpetual strain up the ladder, which leads only to success after all, there is not much of the material of which happiness is made.