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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

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Pictures and Books             103

reason why people should throw away their time and trouble
more than their money. There are plenty of things that most
boys would give their ears to know, these and these only are
the proper things for them to sharpen their wits upon.

If a boy is idle and does not want to learn anything at all,
the same principle should guide those who have the care of
him—he should never be made to learn anything till it is
pretty obvious that he cannot get on without it. This will
save trouble both to boys and teachers, moreover it will be
far more likely to increase a boy's desire to learn. I know in
my own case no earthly power could make me learn till I had
my head given me ; and nothing has been able to stop me
from incessant study from that day to this.


Handicapped people sometimes owe their success to the
misfortune which weights them. They seldom know before-
hand how far they are going to reach, and this helps them;
for if they knew the greatness of the task before them they
would not attempt it. He who knows he is infirm, and would
yet climb, does not think of the summit which he believes
to be beyond his reach but climbs slowly onwards, taking
very short steps, looking below as often as he likes but not
above him, never trying his powers but seldom stopping,
and then, sometimes, behold! he is on the top, which he
would never have even aimed at could he have seen it from
below. It is only in novels and sensational biographies that
handicapped people, " fired by a knowledge of the difficulties
that others have overcome, resolve to triumph over every
obstacle by dint of sheer determination, and in the end carry
everything before them." In real life the person who starts
thus almost invariably fails. This is the worst kind of start.

The greatest secret of good work whether in music, literature
or painting lies in not attempting too much ; if it be asked,
" What is too much ? " the answer is, (e Anything that we
find difficult or unpleasant/' We should not ask whether
others find this same thing difficult or no. If we find the
difficulty so great that the overcoming it is a labour and not
a pleasure, we should either change our aim altogether, or
aim, at any rate for a time, at some lower point. It must be