Samuel Smiles


"Who at twenty does nothing; who at thirty knows nothing; who at forty has nothing; who at fifty changes nothing: for him there is no hope." (Jasmine)

Samuel Smiles was the arch didact, whose self-help manuals pre-date today's vogue for self-improvement by over a century. He was read widely in the Victorian period and his books remain a source of inspiration and guidance today. The first book, Self- Help, established a genre which the book's successors, Character, Thrift and Duty continued to exploit. Smiles was a traditionalist in every sense of the word and passed on his morally upright opinions to a generation of Victorians who were eager to learn the ways of spiritual and social improvement. Smiles followed in the footsteps of the liberal reformers J.S. Mill and Jeremy Bentham.

Smiles was born into a family of eleven on December 23, 1812 in Berwickshire. His father died when he was twenty. He looked after his younger siblings and learnt the ways of thrift and integrity that would serve him the rest of his life. He went to Edinburgh University to study medicine, but found the subject uninspiring. He qualified as a doctor, but soon left the medical practice to take up journalism in Leeds with the liberal Leeds Times. He ran a series of self-help classes in Leeds which soon gained a large following. He then gave a series of lectures in the Northern Industrial cities that he turned into his works of self-improvement. He lived well into his eighties and dies peacefully in London on 16th April 1904, having spent his latter years involved in railway administration and ministering to the poor of London.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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