Without application and perseverance, if we rise at all, we shall-to use a common expression-" go up like a rocket and come down like a stick."
Sydney Smith says: " The prevailing idea with young people, has been the incompatibility of labor and genius ; and therefore, from the fear of being thought dull, they have thought it necessary to remain ignorant. It would go very far to destroy the absurd and pernicious association of genius and idleness, to show that the greatest poets, orators, statesmen, and historians-men of the most imposing and brilliant talents-have actually labored as hard as the makers of dictionaries and arrangers of indexes ; and the most obvious reason why they have been superior to other men, is, that they have taken more pains than other men.
" Gibbon was in his study every morning, winter and summer, at six o'clock ; Burke was the most laborious and indefatigable of human beings; Leibnitz was never out of his library; Pascal killed himself by study; Cicero narrowly escaped death from the same cause; Milton was at his books with as much regularity as a merchant or an attorney; he had mastered all the knowledge of his time; so had Homer ; Raphael lived but thirty-seven years, and in that short space carried the art of painting so far beyond what it had before reached, that he appears to stand alone as a model to his successors."
Dalton, the chemist, always repudiated the notion of his being " a genius," attributing everything which he had accomplished to simple industry and accumulation.
Disraeli the elder, held that the secret of all success consisted in being master of your subject, such a result being only attainable through continuous application and study.
Newton, when asked by what means he had worked out his wonderful discoveries, modestly replied, " By always thinking unto them."
A great point is to get the working quality well trained. Facility comes with labor. Nothing can be accomplished without it. Continuous application will effect marvellous results in the commonest of things. It may seem a simple thing to play upon a violin; yet what a long and laborious practice it requires! Giardini, when asked by a youth how long it would take to learn it, replied, " Twelve hours a day for twenty years together."
When Taglioni, the great danseuse, was preparing herself for her evening performance, she would, after a severe two hours' lesson from her father, fall down exhausted, and had to be undressed, spunged, and resuscitated, totally unconscious. Success was attained only at a price like this.
Less than half of such application devoted to self culture, could scarcely fail in insuring success. Progress, however, as a rule, is slow. Wonders cannot be achieved at once ; and we must be satisfied to advance in improvement as we walk step by step. It has been said, that " to know how to wait is the great secret of success." Sow first, then reap; and oftentimes we must be content to look forward patiently in hope ; the fruit best worth waiting for often ripens the slowest. " Time and patience," says the Eastern proverb, " change the mulberry leaf to satin."
The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means, and the exercise of ordinary qualities. The common life of every day, with its cares, necessities, and duties, affords ample opportunity for acquiring experience of the best kind; and its most beaten paths provide the true worker with abundant scope for effort and room for self-improvement. The great high-road of human welfare lies along the old highway of steadfast well-doing; and they who are the most persistent, and work in the truest spirit, will invariably be the most successful.
Fortune has often been blamed for her blindnest; but fortune is not so blind as men are. Those who look into practical life will find that fortune is usually on the side of the industrious, as the winds and waves are on the side of the best navigators. Success treads on the heels of every right effort ; and though it is possible to overestimate success to the extent of almost deifying it, as is sometimes done, still, in any worthy pursuit, it is meritorious. Nor are the qualities necessary to insure success at all extraordinary. They may, for the most part, be summed up in these two-common sense and perseverance.