Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Revisiting Samuel Smiles

Samuel Smiles is the author of "Self-Help -  with illustrations of character, conduct and perseverance."  It came out in 1859, the same year as Darwin's Origin of Species,  and originated in some lectures given by the author 15 years previously. The book highlights the importance of application and perseverance, energy and courage,  with many biographical examples.  At the beginning of a chapter on self-culture, Smiles quotes Edward Gibbon: '"every person has two educations, one which he receives from others,  and one, more important, which he gives to himself."  The sentiment is also expressed by Sir Walter Scott, and I have found it to be absolutely true in my own case. The final chapter discusses character, which is defined as human nature in its best form, moral order embodied in the individual. Smiles argues that character is power in a much higher sense than knowledge: " Mind without heart, intelligence without conduct, cleverness  without  goodness  are powers in their way, but they may be powers  only for mischief."  He goes on to say that a person who possesses true goodness, integrity and goodness united with strength of purpose "carries with them a power which is irresistible."  In this sense, character is more important than intellect,  yet our education system prioritises the latter over the former -  hence the work we do at Character Scotland as a way of redressing this imbalance. See