Varieties includes wise proverbs and maxims to instruct and motivate; inspirational articles to encourage and elevate; and a sprinkling of humorous anecdotes to delight and amuse. Rich truths often lay hidden within these Victorian anecdotes just waiting to be discovered. Enjoy.
by Phyllis Browne and Others
Although originally written to inspire young Victorian women, the rich truths sprinkled within the following anecdotes are of benefit to everyone. The moral courage, values, and wise precepts therein helped lay the foundation for the tremendous advances in democracy, industry, medicine, education, and literature made by people in the Victorian Age.
By embracing such truths, men and women like William Gladstone, Florence Nightingale, Charles Dickens, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Lord Tennyson, and Queen Victoria were inspired and motivated to improve the lot of their fellow countrymen. Hence, their lives forever altered and benefited their own nation and the entire world.
Varieties has no chapters; it's simply a series of short Victorian anecdotes. Browse at your leisure and read at random. As you read an item, resist the temptation to rush on to read the next. Take a moment to ponder and reflect and seek how you might apply it to your life.
There are two things that we should learn to forget—the good we have done to others, and the evil they have done to us.
It was a singular revenge that the Princess Cande took on Akbar, when that emperor laid siege to her capital, Amadanagar. Akbar was kept for more than two months at the foot of her ramparts, but she saw at last that she must yield. She then got all the gold and silver in her possession—there was an enormous quantity of it—and caused it to be melted into bullets, and on these were engraved words expressive of exasperation against her foe.
With the bullets, huge cannon were loaded, able to carry ball to the distance of a league, and the bullets were fired into the copses and lesser woods by which the place was on every side surrounded. When she had scattered all her riches in this way the princess capitulated, and was as happy as could be in the circumstances to see the disappointment of the conqueror at his finding an empty treasury.
An old man was once walking with a little boy. They came across four shrubs. The old man said to his youthful companion—
"Pull up the least one."
He obeyed with ease.
"Now the next."
He obeyed, but it did not come so easily.
"And the third."
It took all his strength to move its roots, but he succeeded.
"Now the fourth."
In vain the lad put forth all his strength. He only made the leaves tremble; he could not move the roots. They had gone strongly into the earth, and no effort could dislodge them.
Then the wise old man said to the ardent youth, "This, my son, is just what happens with our passions. When they are young and weak one may, by a little watchfulness over self and the help of a little self-denial, easily tear them up; but if we let them cast their roots deep into our souls, there is no human power can uproot them—the Almighty hand of the Creator alone can pluck them out.
"For this reason, my child, watch well over the first movements of your soul, and study, by acts of virtue, to keep your passions well in check."
Most every mortal thinks his burden very hard to bear—
He thinks so, but 'tis all imagination.
The yoke of any other would be easier to bear—
He thinks so, but 'tis all imagination.
And the others for the happy long ago ever sigh,
While some are longing for the better days of by-and-by;
But all could make the present bright and happy if they'd try;
'Tis gloomy only in imagination.
There are ten thousand people who can write "ideal" things for one who can see and feel and reproduce nature and character. Ten thousand, did I say? Nay, ten million. What made Shakespeare so great? Nothing but eyes, and faith in them.
A Dutch ambassador was once entertaining the King of Siam with an account of Holland, about which His Majesty was very inquisitive. Amongst other things, he told him that water in his country would sometimes get so hard that it would bear an elephant with the utmost ease. On this the king observed—
"Hitherto I have believed the strange things you have told me, because I looked upon you as a sober, fair man; but now I am sure you are telling lies."
It is not everyone who can display the coolness of the gentleman who once carved a goose with such misplaced energy as to send it under the table. Seeing that the guests evinced some discomfiture, and an anxiety to know where it had gone, he said—
"It's all right, ladies and gentlemen, I have my foot on it."
The different kinds of ornamental needlework in favor with ladies two hundred and sixty years ago—around the time 1630—may be seen from the following quotation from Taylor, the water poet: —
Tent-work, raised-work, laid-work, prest-work, net-work,
Most curious pearl, or rare Italian cut-work;
Fine fern-stitch, finny-stitch, new-stitch, and chain-stitch,
Brave bred-stitch, fisher-stitch, Irish-stitch, and queen-stitch,
The Spanish-stitch, rosemary-stitch, and maw-stitch,
The smarting whip-stitch, back-stitch, and the cross-stitch.
All these are good, and these we must allow,
And these are everywhere in practice now.
We never thoroughly know people until we hear them laugh.
It is said of some gardeners that from their attention being too strongly fixed on the task of keeping the beds free from weeds, they lose all sense of the beauty of flowers, and never see anything but weeds in a garden. So, often, in order to examine abuses in things beneficially, the merits must be kept clearly and strongly in view.
When people asked Handel to take the degree of Doctor of Music at Oxford the great composer flashed forth this gleaming repartee:
"Vatt! I trow away my money for dat vich the blockhead vish? I no vant."
Seek not to know to-morrow's doom;
That is not ours which is to come.
The present moment's all our store;
The next, should Heaven allow:
Then, this will be no more:
So all our life is but one present now.
In proportion as we love truth more and victory less we shall become anxious to know what it is which leads our opponents to think as they do.
The happiness of life is so delicate a thing that it shrinks away even upon thinking of it.
Charles Dickens expressed a true affection for children when he said, "I love these little people, and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us."
Thackeray used to feel his eyes grow dim when they gazed on little children; and Sir Walter Scott loved to have them about him.
Victor Hugo had a passion for infancy that led him continually to celebrate it in verse and prose. Two of the most beautiful of Charles Lamb's essays, "Dream Children" and the "Child Angel," bear reference to childhood.
As for the poet Shelley, he believed that children bring with them revelations from the unseen world. An earlier poet, William Blake, has inaugurated the poetry of childhood as a distinct literary branch.
The palm tree is the true emblem of a beautiful soul, with no rough bark or branches, but crowned with thick leaves and rich fruit.
It cannot be too often repeated that
Every one can win who tries,
For the struggle is the prize.
A millionaire having engaged recently with a great artist to paint his portrait for one thousand guineas, wrote the next morning to cry off the bargain, because he had seen an enlarged photograph of a friend in Regent Street so very like that he despaired of getting paint to equal it: "Besides which," he added naively, "this style costs only five pounds."
A brazen statue, the work of a famous sculptor, was melted by a great fire, so that nothing of it was left but a heap of metal. Another artist took the mass, and made from it a new statue, of the same subject, but far superior to the first in beauty.
Envy saw it and gnashed her teeth, but soon found some consolation. "The fellow," said she, "could never have done anything half so good if he had not had the old materials to work upon."
Give work rather than alms to the poor. The former drives out indolence, the latter, industry.
"I become more convinced every day I live," says Lady Blessington, "that quiet and repose are the secrets of happiness, for I never feel so near an approach to this blessing as when in the possession of them. General society is a heavy tax on time and patience, and one that I feel every year less inclination to pay, as I witness the bad effect it produces, not only on the habits, but on the mind."
According to an old German custom, sons walked to church after their fathers, but daughters before their mothers, to show that her eye should never be off them.
The wolf lay at his last gasp, and cast his glances back to his past life. "I am a bad fellow, it is true," he said; "but I hope not one of the worst ones. I have done a great deal of mischief, but I trust some good too.
"Once I remember very well a bleating lamb, that had strayed from the flock, came so near me that I might easily have seized it, but I did it no harm. At the same time, too, I bore the taunts and revilings of a sheep with the most Christian equanimity, though there were no dogs near to protect it."
"Yes, I can bear witness to all that," remarked the fox, who was nursing him. "I recollect all the circumstances. It happened just at the time that you broke both your forelegs, when the crane helped you out of the marsh you lay buried in."
"If I am asked," says Sir William Jones, "who is the greatest man? I answer, the best. And if I am required to say who is the best, I reply, he that has deserved most of his fellow creatures."
True economy is the child of wisdom and the mother of independence.
Great wit is not often allied to good nature, for the indulgence of the first is destructive to the existence of the second, except where the wit is tempered by a more than ordinary share of sensibility and refinement, directing its exercise towards works of imagination instead of playing it off, as is too frequently the case, against those with whom its owner may come in contact. —Lady Blessington
Some scientific men declare that it is impossible for us to think without words. That may be, but we all know that it is possible for girls to use words without thinking.
With all the duplicity of this wicked world, few of us succeed in deceiving others so completely as we succeed, without effort, in deceiving ourselves.
"The wise man is never deceived by appearances."
This was a maxim of the Stoics. Ptolemy Philadelphus, having once enticed a stray Stoic, Sphærus, to his table, presented him with some artificial pomegranates, and while the teeth of the philosopher was deeply imbedded in the wax, begged to know, not in the most courtly tone, what he then thought of his maxim.
A famous Frenchman put this pithy clause in his will: —
"To my steward I leave nothing, because he has been in my service eighteen years."
Many remarkable stories about dogs are no doubt authentic, but the following is perhaps too good to be true:
A family let their house furnished, leaving in it a large dog. The tenant was an old lady, who liked to sit in a particularly comfortable chair in the drawing-room, but as the dog was also fond of the chair, she frequently found him in possession.
Being rather afraid of the dog, she did not dare to drive him out, and therefore used to go to the window and call, "Cats!" The dog would then rush to the window, and the lady would take possession of the chair.
One day the dog entered the room, and found the lady in possession of the chair. He ran to the window and barked excitedly. The lady got up to see what was the matter, and the dog instantly seated himself in the chair.
An old woman says she was born at the wrong time. "When I was young," she said, "young women were of no account; and now I am old, old women are of no account."
A proud Welsh girl at school, hearing that an English duke employed six men cooks during the period that he kept open house, or rather open castle, in the north, sneered at the alleged magnificence.
"My father does better than that," said Mary ap Llewelyn. "At our last party, before I left Cmydrdlmnynddryd, we had twenty-four cooks all employed in dressing the supper."
This would have gone down easily, and Mary ap Llewelyn would have established her paternal magnificence, had not an inquiring schoolfellow discovered the real state of the case, and announced to the rest that, though the Welsh girl had spoken truly, the company at the supper to which she alluded, consisted of twenty-four of her near relations, and that everyone toasted his or her own cheese.
By music, minds an equal temper know,
Nor swell too high, nor sink too low;
Warriors she fires with animated sounds,
Pours balm into the bleeding lover's wound.
Surely God hath made man to dwell in doubt that he might be awed into goodness and into a dependence on His providence. —Owen Feltham
To ensure health, so far as human effort can control the matter, one should, above all things, be cheerful, contented, and calm.
We often repent of what we have said, but seldom of that which we have not said.
Many persons criticise in order not to seem ignorant; they do not know that indulgence is a mark of the highest culture.
Never allow yourself to be idle whilst others are in want of anything that your hands can make for them.
The end of man is an action and not a thought, though it were the noblest. —Carlyle
There never existed, and never will exist, anything permanently noble and excellent in a character which is a stranger to the exercise of resolute self-denial. —Sir Walter Scott
Hate makes us vehement partisans, but love still more so. —Goethe
If most people tried as hard to please others as they try to get others to please them, what a delightful place the world would be!
People were never intended to be idle. Inactivity frustrates the very object of our creation; whereas an active life is the best guardian of virtue, and the best preservative of health.
The appellation of "lady" ought never to be affixed to a woman's circumstances; it should only be given to her behavior in them.
Two gentlemen, one a Spaniard and the other a German, who were recommended by their birth and services to the Emperor Maximilian II, both courted his daughter, the fair Helene Scharfeguinn, in marriage.
The emperor, after taking a long time to make up his mind, one day informed them that, esteeming them equally, and not being able to bestow a preference, he should leave it to the force and address of the claimants themselves to settle the question.
He did not mean, however, to risk the loss of one or other, or perhaps of both. He could not, therefore, permit them to encounter each other with offensive weapons, but had ordered a large bag to be produced. It was his decree that whichever succeeded in putting his rival into this bag should obtain the hand of his daughter.
This singular combat between the two gentlemen took place in the face of the whole court. The contest lasted for more than an hour. At length the Spaniard yielded, and the German, Ehberhard, Baron de Talberg, having placed his rival in the bag, took it upon his back and very gallantly laid it at the feet of his mistress whom he espoused the next day.
An absent man once received a letter. He knew the handwriting; he wanted to read it in haste. It was already dark, so he struck a light, tore a paper, and lighted a candle. But the letter was gone—he had used it to light the candle.
In the reign of Edward the First—that was from 1272 till 1307—the price of a fairly written Bible was twenty-seven pounds. The hire of a laborer was only three halfpence a day, so it may easily be calculated what the purchase of a copy of the Scriptures would then have cost a labouring man.
The famous United States general, Grant, had a strong dislike to music.
"Oh, General!" once exclaimed to him an ardent American vocalist, who met him at one of the European watering-places, "I must sing something to you."
"Well, if you must, madam, you must," responded the General, resignedly.
"And what shall I sing?"
"Something short," was the discouraging reply.
A girl is wise so long as she seeks wisdom; when she confidently asserts that she has gained it, she is wise no longer.
Bellmen, who were appointed to proclaim the hour of the night before public clocks became general, were numerous in London about 1556. They had to ring a bell, and cry: "Take care of your fire and candle; be charitable to the poor, and forget not your prayers."
O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
How few among us fully realise the meaning of these words. Is it not almost entirely limited to the literal sense, to the mere sustenance of our perishing bodies; forgetting that it has a spiritual sense, and that we ought to be as thankful for spiritual bread as for the natural?
Never be sorry for any generous thing that you ever did, even if it had not the effect you wished. Never be sorry that you were magnanimous, even if the person was mean afterwards. Never be sorry that you gave; it was right for you to give, even if you were imposed on. You cannot afford to keep on the safe side by being mean.
It is said that there is no vacuum in nature. This is no doubt true: it is equally true when applied to the spirit, for there is no vacuum in the mind of any of us. Our minds are filled with either good or evil. Let every girl then examine herself, and if she finds evil in possession, turn it out, that truth and purity may enter and take its place.
Beware, girls, of a bad temper. For once that the actions of human beings are guided by reason, ninety-and-nine times they are more or less influenced by temper. It is an even temper only that allows reason her full dominion, and enables us to arrive at any intended end by the nearest way, or at all.
On the other hand, there is no obstacle to advancement or happiness so great as an undisciplined temper—a temper subject to pique or uncertainty.
Words of love are works of love.
When Fortune smiles and looks serene,
'Tis "Pray, sir, how d'ye do?
Your family are well, I hope?
Can I serve them or you?"
But if perchance her scale should turn,
And with it change your plight,
'Tis then, "I'm sorry for your fate,
But times are hard. Good-night!"
Francis I, King of France, was desirous of raising one of the most learned men of his time to the highest dignities of the Church, so he asked him if he was of noble descent.
"Your Majesty," answered the Abbot, "there were three brothers in Noah's Ark, but I cannot tell positively from which of them I was descended."
The good Abbot obtained the position.
"I see in this world," says John Newton, "two heaps—one of human happiness and the other of human misery. Now if I can take but the smallest bit from the second heap and add it to the other, I carry a point. If, as I go home, a child dropped a halfpenny, and if, by giving it another, I can wipe away its tears, I feel that I have done something. I should be glad indeed to do greater things, but I will not neglect this."
'Tis good to be merry and wise,
'Tis good to be honest and true,
'Tis good to be off with the old love
Before we are on with the new.
In the Life of Dr. Arnold there is a letter in which he gives the following remembrance of his sister, long a victim of hopeless disease:
"I never saw a more perfect instance of the spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind; intense love, almost to the annihilation of selfishness—a daily martyrdom for twenty years, during which she adhered to her early formed resolution of never talking of herself; thoughtful about the very pins and ribbons of my wife's dress, or about the making of a doll's cap for a child—but not of herself, save only as regarded her ripening in all goodness, wholly thoughtless: enjoying with the keenest relish everything lovely, graceful, beautiful, high-minded, whether in God's work or man's; inheriting the earth to the very fullness of the promise, though never leaving her crib, nor changing her posture; and preserved through the very valley of the shadow of death from all fear or impatience, or from every cloud of impaired reason, which might mar the beauty of Christ's Spirit's glorious work."
A Persian philosopher, being asked by what method he had acquired so much knowledge, answered—
"By not being prevented by shame from asking questions when I was ignorant."
"According to this notion," says an American writer, "a five-year old boy, traveling in the cars with his mother, ought to acquire enough in a journey of fifteen miles to split his head open."
Ease of mind is incomparably the most valuable of all possessions—not the ease of indolence, but of action—the smoothness of the unruffled current, not the stagnant pool. This possession is not the gift of fortune; the gifts of fortune frequently destroy it. It must be of our own acquiring, and is in a great measure within the reach of all who diligently seek after it.
On the highway near Bicton, in Devonshire, in the center of four cross roads, there once stood, and perhaps still stands, a direction post with the following inscriptions, by which the traveller not only learned what way to go but was furnished with food for meditation:
To Woodbury, Topsham, Exeter—Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
To Brixton, Ottery, Honiton—0, hold up our goings in Thy paths, that our footsteps slip not.
To Otterton, Sidmouth, Culliton—0, that our ways were made so direct that we might keep Thy statutes.
To Budleigh—Make us to go in the paths of Thy commandments, for therein is our desire.
Women's rage, like shallow water,
Does but show their hurtless nature;
When the stream seems rough and frowning,
There is still least fear of drowning.
All who travel by rail should know the meaning of the colors of signals employed for securing safety and despatch. The railway code is—
"For ‘caution' green,
For ‘danger' red,
For ‘right' show white,
And go ahead."
Or, as it is sometimes put—
"White for right, and red for wrong,
And green for gently go along."
There's scarce a point wherein mankind agree
So well as in their boast of killing me.
I boast of nothing; but when I've a mind
I think I can be even with mankind.
Imagination enriches everything. A great library contains not only books, but "the assembled souls of all that men held wise." The moon is Homer's and Shakespeare's moon as well as the one we look at. The sun comes out of his chamber in the east with a sparkling eye, "rejoicing like a bridegroom." The commonest thing becomes like Aaron's rod, that budded.
Even bricks and mortar are vivified as of old at the harp of Orpheus. A metropolis becomes no longer a mere collection of houses or of trades. It puts on all the grandeur of its history and its literature; its towers and rivers; its art and jewellery and foreign wealth; its multitude of human beings, all intent upon excitement, wise or yet to learn; the huge and sullen dignity of its canopy of smoke by day; the wide gleam upwards of its lighted lustre at midnight; and the noise of its many chariots heard at the same hour, when the wind sets gently towards some quiet suburb. —Leigh Hunt
Frail creatures are we all! To be the best
Is but the fewest faults to have—
Look thou then to thyself, and leave the rest
To God, thy conscience, and the grave.
Study gives strength to the mind; conversation grace. The first is apt to give stiffness, the other gives suppleness. —Sir William Temple
Content feeds not on glory nor on self—
Content can be contented with herself.
When "I cry that I sin" is transposed,
My response, "Christianity," will soon appear.
This expression, according to a dictionary published in 1783, is taken from the custom of a baker's blowing his pipe or horn in villages to let the people know his bread is just drawn, and consequently hot and light.
Friendship is like the cobbler's tie,
That binds two souls in unity;
But love is like the cobbler's awl,
That pierces through the soul and all.
The celebrated Linnæus showed in his conversation, writings, and actions the greatest sense of God's omniscience; indeed, he was so strongly impressed with the idea that he wrote over the door of his library, "Innocui vivite, Numen adest"—Live innocently, God is present.
We have no clue to the origin of this game, but we know the derivation of the term backgammon, and it is interesting.
The word is of Welsh origin, from "bach"—little, and "cammawn"—battle.
"If a civil word or two will render a man happy," said a French king, "he must be wretched indeed who will not give them to him."
Were superiors to keep this in view, yea, were all mankind to observe it, how much happier would the world be than what it is. We may say of this disposition, "that it is like lighting another man's candle by our own, which loses none of its light by what the other gains."
Enjoy the blessings of this day if God sends them, and the evils bear patiently and sweetly, for this day only is ours; we are dead to yesterday, and we are not born to to-morrow. —Jeremy Taylor
A girl said she sang as well as most girls in Europe and thus proved it: "Most girls in Europe do not sing well, therefore I sing as well as most girls in Europe."
There is a tear, more sweet and soft
Than beauty's smiling lip of love;
By angel's eyes first wept, and oft
On earth by eyes like those above;
It flows for virtue in distress,
It soothes, like hope, our sufferings here;
'Twas given, and it is shed, to bless—
'Tis sympathy's celestial tear.
If anyone can convince me of an error I shall be very glad to change my opinion, for truth is my business, and right information hurts nobody. No; he that continues in ignorance and mistake, 'tis he that receives the mischief.
Small things in the hands of Providence deprive people of life in this world.
Pope Adrian lost his life by a gnat. A distinguished Roman counsellor lost his life by a hair. Anacreon, the famous Greek poet, lost his life by the seed of a grape. The Emperor Charles VI was deprived of his life by a mushroom.
Dr. Arne was once asked by two vocalists of Covent Garden Theatre to decide which of them sang the best. The day being appointed, both exerted themselves to the utmost, and when they had finished Arne, addressing the first, said, "As for you, madam, you are the worst singer I ever heard."
"Ah!" exclaimed the other, exulting. "Don't you see I was right?"
"Not so fast!" said Arne. "I have a word for you. You cannot sing at all!"
Consider Him. O faint in mind!
The wounded heart can Jesus bind;
He tasted all the human woe
That thou hast known or e'er shall know—
The want of love, the friend unkind.
When rough the way, and rude the wind,
When foes assail before, behind,
When mountains nigh dark shadows throw,
'Tis well! Unerring love designed
Each trial; blessings are entwined;
Enduring gladly, thou shalt show
God's glory. Not in scenes below
A resting-place did Jesus find.
—S. S. McCurry
The best way in which we can act usefully in the immense circle of the world, and for the good of humanity, is to fill our place in the circumscribed circle of domestic virtues; to form around us an atmosphere of love and benevolence. We must do the good that lies in our power; it afterwards belongs to Providence, and not to us, to make that good contribute to the general utility. —Bishop Jebb
People who are always innocently cheerful and good-humored are very useful in the world; they maintain peace and happiness, and spread a thankful temper amongst all who live around them.
The ancient silver penny was the first silver coin struck in England, and the only one current among the Anglo-Saxons. In 1066, when William the Conqueror began to reign, the penny was cast with a deep cross, so that it might be easily broken in two for halfpence, or in quarters for "four things," or farthings as we now call them.
A law student, who was a model of caution, triumphantly passed the examiners by answering every question in his examination paper, "It all depends."
Another candidate, on being required to draw a common conveyance, gave a sketch of a handsome cab.
A third, on being asked what the first thing to be done in an action was, answered, "Get something on account of costs." And this so delighted the examiner that he passed him without further questions.
Doing things, and not dreaming about them, is the secret of success. Thinking out plans will never come to anything unless the thought be followed by a determined will to execute.
Bishop Beveridge observes that of all recreations he found music to be the best, and especially when he played himself.
calls in my spirits," says he; "composes my thoughts, delights my ear,
recreates my mind, and so not only fits me for after business, but fills
my heart at the present with pure and useful thoughts."
Aristides being the judge between two private persons, one of them declared that his adversary had greatly injured Aristides.
"Relate rather, friend," said he, interrupting him, "what wrong he hath done to thee, for it is thy cause, not mine, that I now sit to judge."
Above all things be on your guard against your temper. It is an enemy that will accompany you everywhere, to the last hour of your life. If you listen to it, it will frustrate all your designs. It will make you lose the most important opportunities, and will inspire you with inclinations and aversions to the prejudice of your greatest interests.
Temper causes the greatest affairs to be decided by the most paltry reasons. It obscures every talent, paralyses every energy, and renders its victims unequal, weak, vile, and insupportable.
The Duchess of Angouleme, in the sixteenth century, on wakening one night was surprised by an extraordinary brightness which illuminated her room. At first she thought it was the fire, so she scolded her women for having made so large a one; they assured her, however, it was caused by the moon.
The Duchess ordered her curtains to be undrawn, and discovered that what produced this unusual light was a meteor.
"Ah!" exclaimed she, "this is a phenomenon which never appears to persons of common condition. Shut the window; it is a meteor which announces my departure. I must prepare for death."
The following morning she sent for her lawyer and physicians, and made every arrangement for her approaching dissolution.
The physicians assured her that her apprehensions were ill-founded and premature.
"If I had not," replied she, "seen the signal for death I could believe what you say, for I do not feel myself exhausted or particularly ill."
On the third day after this event she expired—the victim of her own terror.
Long after her day, all appearances of the celestial bodies, not perfectly understood by the ignorant multitude, were supposed to indicate the deaths of sovereigns and distinguished persons, or revolutions in governments.
Ten friends are dearly purchased if gained at the expense of a single enemy; for the enemy will take ten times the pains to injure you that the friends will take to do you service.
An Englishman making the grand tour about the middle of last century, when travelers were more objects of attention than they are now, on arriving at Turin, sauntered out to see the place. He happened to meet a regiment of Infantry returning from parade, and taking a position to see it pass, a young captain, evidently anxious to make a display before the stranger, in crossing one of the numerous water-courses with which the city is intersected, missed his footing, and in trying to save himself lost his hat.
The exhibition was truly unfortunate—the spectators laughed, and looked at the Englishman, expecting him to laugh too. On the contrary, he not only retained his composure, but promptly advanced to where the hat had rolled, and taking it up, presented it with an air of unaffected kindness to its confused owner.
The officer received it with a blush of surprise and gratitude, and hurried to rejoin his company: there was a murmur of applause, and the stranger passed on. Though the scene of a moment, and without a word spoken, it touched every heart, not with admiration for a mere display of politeness, but with a warmer feeling for a proof of that true charity "which never faileth."
On the regiment being dismissed the captain, who was a young man of consideration, in glowing terms related the circumstance to his colonel. The colonel immediately mentioned it to the general in command; and when the Englishman returned to his hotel, he found an aide-de-camp waiting to request his company to dinner at headquarters.
In the evening he was carried to Court, at that time, as Lord Chesterfield tells us, the most brilliant Court in Europe, and was received with particular attention. Of course, during his stay at Turin, he was invited everywhere; and on his departure he was loaded with letters of introduction to the different States of Italy.
Thus a private gentleman of moderate means, by a graceful impulse of Christian feeling, was enabled to travel through a foreign country, then of the highest interest for its society, as well as for the charms it still possesses, with more real distinction and advantage than can ever be derived from the mere circumstances of birth and fortune, even the most splendid.
Only thyself thyself can harm.
Forget it not! And full of peace,
As if the south wind whispered warm,
Wait thou till storm and tumult cease.
There is a village in Essex called Ugley, and its name has given rise to the following truthful, but, to all appearances, very uncomplimentary rhyme:
"Ugley church, Ugley steeple,
Ugley parson, and Ugley people."
When Dean Swift was arguing one day with great coolness with a gentleman who had grown exceedingly warm in the dispute, one of the company asked him how he could keep his temper so well?
"The reason is," replied the Dean, "that I have truth on my side."
Living always in the world makes one as unfit for living out of it, as always living out of it does for living in it. —Horace Walpole
There can be no question that the English language possesses more poetical capabilities than any other at the present day. Dr. Johnson says, speaking of languages—
"The Spanish for love, the French for gallantry, the Italian for music, and the English for poetry."
In the churchyard of Darford, in Kent, is the following epitaph:
"We all must die we know full well,
But when or where no one can tell;
Strive, therefore, to live godly still,
Then welcome death, come when it will."
It is a common observation that unless a girl takes a delight in a thing, she will never pursue it with pleasure or assiduity. Diligentia, diligence, is from diligo, to love.
A blind fiddler, in performing before a large company, was much laughed at for his sorry scraping. The boy who led him saw this, and said—"Father, let us be off; they do nothing but laugh at us."
"Be quiet, child," said the philosophic musician; "by and bye we shall have their money, and then we shall laugh at them."
The most insignificant people are the most apt to sneer at others. They are safe from reprisals, and have no hope of rising in their own esteem but by lowering their neighbors.
The celebrated Dr. Doddridge mentions, in his Family Expositor, that it is to his habit of early rising that the world is indebted for nearly the whole of his valuable works.
The bands of goodwill are loveliness and lovingness. —Sir Philip Sidney
There is a whimsical account of the circumstance that occasioned the cities of Bath and Wells to be united under one bishop. It is said that Charles II, wishing to raise Dean Crichton, a native of Scotland, to the episcopal dignity, gave him the choice of either Bath or Wells.
The honest Scotsman replied that he should like to have "Bauth," which, being mistaken by His Majesty for "both," the two bishoprics were forthwith granted him.
The only certain test by which we can ascertain the sincerity of our regard for our friends is the feeling with which we receive the news of their happiness, or of their rising in the world; the more especially when fortune has raised them a degree or two above our own level.
The bird that to the evening sings,
Leaves music when her song is ended—
A sweetness left, which takes not wings,
But with each pulse of eve is blended.
Thus life involves a double light,
Our acts and words have many brothers;
The heart that makes its own delight,
Makes also a delight for others.
The hills look green that are far away,
And we struggle to reach them all the day;
And we say, "Oh, would that we could be there,
Where the beautiful emerald hills appear!"
Ah! Would in the near we could calmly rest,
But the far-off always appears the best.
And this proverb rings in my ears all day—
Oh, the hills look green that are far away.
—Louisa H. Walker
The poet Carpani once asked his friend Haydn, the musician, "How does it happen that your church music is almost always of an animated, cheerful, and even gay description?"
"I cannot make it otherwise," answered Haydn; "I write according to the thoughts which I feel. When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, it will be easily forgiven me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit."
When old Zachariah Fox, the great merchant of Liverpool, was asked by what means he had contrived to realise so large a fortune as he possessed, his reply was—
"Friend, by one article alone, in which thou may'st deal too, if thou pleasest—civility."
The great artist, Benjamin West, tells that his mother once kissed him eagerly when he showed her a likeness he had sketched of his baby sister, and he adds, "That kiss made me a painter."
Lend a hand! Do not think that because yours is small,
Or because from its fingers no riches may fall,
It was meant you should render no succour at all.
Prosperity too often has the same effect on the Christian that a calm at sea has on a Dutch mariner, who frequently, it is said, in those circumstances, ties up the rudder and goes to sleep. —Bishop Horne
A girl has sent us some poetry of her own composition, with a view to publication. It shows to great advantage under the test suggested in the lines with which she concludes the letter sent with her verses—
"If you no fire can in my verses see,
Try them with fire, and bright enough they'll be."
During the remarkable "tulipomania" of the seventeenth century, when enormous prices were given for new or improved varieties, a sailor one day entered a summer-house and espied a couple of onions, as he thought, lying in a corner. Thinking they would be a fine addition to his mid-day meal, he took from his pocket his bread, cheese, and knife, and then commenced a broadside on the bulbs.
Just as he was swallowing the last mouthful the gardener entered, and, seeing the parings of his precious bulbs on the ground, exclaimed—
"Oh, I am a ruined man and undone! You have destroyed all my hopes; you have devoured my ‘Alexander the Great,' and my ‘Duke of Marlborough'—worth fifty guineas each."
"What is the real good?"
I asked in musing mood.
Order, said the law court;
Knowledge, said the school
Truth, said the wise men;
Pleasure, said the fool;
Love, said the maiden;
Beauty, said the page;
Freedom, said the dreamer;
Home, said the sage;
Fame, said the soldier;
Equity, the seer.
Spake my heart full sadly,
"The answer is not here."
Then within my bosom,
Softly this I heard:
"Each heart holds the secret;
Kindness is the word."
—J. B. O'Reilly
In a curious old pamphlet called Lenten Stuffe, the author says: "The discovery of red herrings was owing to accident, by a fisherman having hung some in his cabin, where, what with his firing and smoking in that his narrow house, his herrings, which were as white as whalebone when he hung them up, now looked as red as a boiled lobster."
What shall I do to be for ever known?
Thy duty ever.
This did full many who yet slept unknown—
Oh, never, never.
Think'st thou, perchance, that they remain unknown
Whom thou know'st not?
By angel trumps in heaven their praise is blown—
Divine their lot.
There are whom Heaven has blessed with store of wit,
Yet want as much again to manage it.
Susan (who has just been asked to play something on the piano): "I really can't play anything."
Tommy: "Say, Sue; why don't you play that piece you spoke to me about?"
Susan: "What piece?"
Tommy: "Why, that one you told me to ask you to play when we had company, 'cause you knew it better than any of the others. I forget the name."
Time was is past; thou canst not it recall;
Time is thou hast; employ the portion small
Time future is not, and may never be;
Time present is the only time for thee.
Love labor. If you do not want it for food you may for physic.
Dr. Saunderson, the blind professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge in the beginning of the eighteenth century, being one day in a large company, remarked of a lady who had left the room, and whom he had never before met, nor even heard of, that she had very fine teeth.
They asked how he had discovered this, for it happened to be true.
"I have no reason," said the professor, " to believe that the lady is a fool, and I can think of no other motive for her laughing incessantly as she did for a whole hour together."
Those who are faithful in well-doing need not fear those who are spiteful in evil-doing; for they have a God to trust to who has well-doers under the hand of His protection and evil-doers under the hand of His restraint.
First Sister: "Why don't you cry?"
Second Sister: "Can't. Left my embroidered handkerchief at home."
A very wise girl will always have sense enough to see that she is a great deal of a fool; but a fool always looks upon herself as a very wise girl.
It might be a drawback for the self-conceit of most of us if we were to call in mind how the course of our lives has been determined by the veriest trifles and how little forethought or choice we have exercised, grasping chiefly at those things which happened to float by us.
Those have best learned the meaning of Scripture that have learned how to apply it as a reproof to their own faults and a rule to their own practice.
An odd story used to be told by O'Connell, the famous Irish leader, about a Miss Mary Hussey. "Her father," said he, "had made a will disposing of the bulk of his property to public charities.
"When he was upon his death-bed his housekeeper asked him how much he had left Miss. Mary. He replied that he had left her a thousand pounds, which would do for her very well, as she would probably soon pick up a husband.
"'Bless your honor!' cried the housekeeper, 'What sort of a man would ever take her with the nose she has got?'
"'Why, that is really very true,' said the dying father: 'I never thought of her nose': and he lost no time in adding a codicil that gave Miss. Mary an addition of a hundred and fifty pounds a year as a set-off against her ugliness."
An old lady, who was apt to be troubled in her dreams, and rather superstitious besides, informed the rector of the parish that on the previous night she had dreamed she saw her grandfather, who had been dead for ten years.
The clergyman asked what she had been eating.
"Oh! Only half a mince pie."
"Well," said he, "if you had devoured the other half you might have seen your grandmother into the bargain."
We must look for happiness in this world, not in the things of the world, but within ourselves, in our tempers, and in our hearts.
As everyone knows, a billion is a million millions. Allowing that so many as 200, which is an outside number, could be counted in a minute, it would, excluding the 366th day in leap years, take one person upwards of 9,512 years before the task of counting a billion would be completed.
There is a plant, said to be a native of Palestine, but which will grow freely in the open air in London, called Calvary Clover. In appearance it is like a trefoil or clover, but its real Latin name is Medicago echinus.
The plant derives its name of "Calvary Clover" from one or two peculiarities connected with its growth and habit.
In the first place, the seed must be sown in the spring, and those who have a fondness for the plant allege that it must be sown on Good Friday if the seed is to grow and the plant to thrive.
The leaves as they appear above ground have a deep red spot like freshly-spilt blood on each division of the leaf, which will remain for some weeks, eventually dying away. The three leaflets, of which each leaf is composed, during the day stand erect in the form of a cross, with head erect and arms extended; but with the setting sun the arms are brought together, and the upper leaflet is bowed over them as if in the act of prayer.
In due time a small yellow flower appears, and after that a little spiral pod covered with sharp thorns. As it proceeds to ripen, these thorns interlace with one another and form a globular head, which, when quite ripe, may be unwound from its spiral coils, and the striking resemblance to a "Crown of Thorns" is at once evident.
It is thus by its Blood-stained Leaves, by its extended Arms and bowing Head, and by the day when the seed is placed in the ground to await its resurrection, that it has gained for itself the name of Calvary Clover.
To have a respect for ourselves guides our morals, and to have a deference for others governs our manners.
When Magabizus, a Persian general, one day was conducted to the studio of Apelles, he began talking about light and shade and other things peculiar to the painter's art. Apelles stood this for some time, but at last went up to him and said—
"Sir, my pupils here, who are grinding colors, gazed at you when you entered, admiring your splendid dress and the gold that glitters on it, so long as you held your tongue; but now I cannot promise that they will not smile at you, and perhaps even laugh outright, if you go on discoursing on a subject so much out of your sphere."
The "good" old method of correcting a domestic may be seen in the following entry in the famous diary of Samuel Pepys, the Secretary to the Admiralty in the reigns of Charles II and James II:
"December 1st, 1660—This morning, observing some things to be laid up not as they should be by my girl, I took a broom and basted her till she cried extremely."
It's good how times have changed!
Let a woman be decked with all the embellishments of art and nature, yet if boldness is to be read in her face it blots out all the lines of beauty.
The celebrated Dr. Franklin once received a very useful lesson from Dr. Cotton Mather, which he thus relates:
"When I was taking my leave of Dr. Mather, he showed me a shorter way out of the house by a narrow passage which was crossed by a beam overhead. We were still talking as I withdrew, he accompanying me behind and I turning towards him, when he said hastily, ‘Stoop! Stoop!' I did not understand him till I found my head hit against the beam.
"He was a man who never missed an opportunity of giving instruction, and upon this he said to me, ‘You are young and have the world before you; learn to stoop as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps.'
"This advice thus beat into my head has frequently been of use to me, and I often think of it when I see pride mortified and misfortunes brought upon people by their carrying their heads too high."
The person who does not look before will generally be found behind.
One of the most desirable qualities in life is punctuality or readiness. Without it there is but small satisfaction, either to yourself or those with you.
"In all my journeys," says a well known traveler, "I was always ready in time, but often with a good deal of bustling and hurry, till one morning in Switzerland I looked out of the window as I was dressing, and saw a gentleman who had just joined the party pacing backwards and forwards before the inn with a degree of composure which made me determine to imitate what he told me was his constant rule—to be ready at least a quarter of an hour before the time. I adopted the practice thenceforward, and found the greatest advantage from it."
A scandalmonger is a person who talks to our neighbor about us. An entertaining talker is one who tells us mean stories about our neighbors.
Mrs. de Pink (reading): "Never show your temper, no matter what the provocation. Never resent a slight. Never lose your self-poise under trying circumstances. Do your best to make others happy. Forget that you have any wishes except when consulted. Watch every opportunity to be useful to those about you. There are thousands of little ways in which this can be done, without appearing obtrusively polite."
Miss. de Pink: "Are those rules for wives?"
Mrs. de Pink (contemptuously): "Certainly not. I am reading the latest rules for society debutantes."
In the minds of the best of men there is, always has been, and always will be, some difference of opinion as to what is true; but everybody knows and feels what is kind.
When Lord Lyndhurst was Lord High Chancellor for the third time, in 1841, his secretary tells us that a zealous naturalist, having heard of the Lord Chancellor's "Great Seal," applied to his lordship for permission to publish a description and figure of the animal.
Two ears and but a single tongue,
By Nature's laws to man belong;
The lesson she would teach is clear—
Repeat but half of what you hear.
I have lived in sin and folly,
I have walked in crooked ways,
I have good forsaken wholly,
And misspent my youthful days.
I've forgot the God who sees us,
And been bruised by many a fall;
I have turned my back on Jesus,
And contemned His gracious call.
Fain would friends my steps have guided
To the paths of life and peace;
But their counsels I derided,
And their efforts made to cease.
I have vexed the blessed Spirit,
So He strives not with me now,
And my conscience I have seared,
And my knee I never bow.
I have loved the worldling's pleasures,
And have found them end in woe;
I have sought the worldling's treasures,
And they chain my heart below.
All behind is dark and dreary,
All before is full of fear—
Is there rest for one so weary,
Hope for one, to death so near?
Can Thy mercy, lowly Saviour,
Reach to such a wretch as I?
After all my ill behaviour,
Wilt Thou stoop to set me free?
What new light is on me breaking?
What new peace is this I feel?
Is it Christ the kingdom taking,
And the Holy Spirit's seal?
Yes, to me, the chief in sinning,
Saving mercy can extend,
And the grace, which makes beginning,
Will conduct me to the end.
Farewell now to sin and folly.
Farewell now to crooked ways—
I will follow Jesus wholly,
And redeem my wasted days.
Varieties was originally published in weekly editions of The Girl's Own Paper, in a regular column titled "Varieties." The above Victorian anecdotes were gleaned from editions spanning an entire year—from October 4, 1890, to September 26, 1891.
Browne, Phyllis and others. "The Girl's Own Annual." Contains Vol. XII of "The Girl's Own Paper"—Issues No. 562, October 4, 1890 to No. 613, September 26, 1891, inclusive. London: Pinn, 1891.