Orison Swett Marden Chapter IX
A Book That Marked A Turning Point
The Life Story of Orison Swett Marden Chapter IX:
Samuel Smiles - or "Self-Help-ful Smiles," as Rudyard Kipling happily
called him - said: "A book written two thousand years ago may fix the
purpose of a life."
Probably the first book of its kind ever published, it would be
interesting to know how many young lives were fixed in their purpose by
the reading of his book, entitled "Self Help."
Certain it is that it first stirred the literary impulse and fixed
the purpose of the boy, Orison Marden, who later became the "American
Smiles," the inspirer of millions of other readers.
Samuel Smiles was the first literary hero, the first great inspirer
of young Marden. The reading of "Self Help" was the great event of his
youthful life, the event which crystallized that thing in the distance,
"wrapt in the silence unseen and dumb," which was awaiting his call.
came upon the book by chance, having found it stowed away in somebody's
attic. It was in a very dilapidated condition, but no priceless book
gave a greater thrill of joy to the heart of its possessor than the
discovery of this tattered volume gave to the heart of the backwoods
"That fateful red-letter day when I happened to get hold of Smiles's 'Self Help' marked the turning point in my life," he said, years later. "I felt like a poor man who had just by accident discovered a gold mine. The book was a perpetual delight to me, and I treasured it as if it were worth its weight in diamonds, reading and re-reading the precious pages until I had almost committed them to memory.
"Boys and girls of today, living in the midst of great opportunities,
surrounded by schools, libraries, all sorts of books and reading, and a
multiplicity of educational facilities, can hardly understand what
Smiles's wonderful pages meant to a backward, green country boy."
"I knew nothing whatsoever of the great world outside the hills of my
native state. Up to that time I had not seen, perhaps, more than fifty
different people at any one time. I had not seen a newspaper of any
description, and not more than half a dozen books. As far as I can
recall, the only book we had in the house was the Bible."
"Neither my father nor my mother had obtained more than a very
ordinary common school education; nor had I then met more than one or
two persons who had more. I had no idea of the great cities of the world
or of what was going on there. In fact, I thought the rest of the world
was very much the same as that little, narrow, mountainous, rock-bound
wilderness in which I had been born and reared."
"Thousands of successful people owe their first start in the world to his great book, 'Self Help."
"One not brought up in a similar environment can hardly imagine what a
revelation the book was to me. It opened the door of my narrow life and
revealed to me a new world of which I had hitherto had no conception.
It changed the whole current of my thoughts and my whole outlook upon
life. The stories of poor boys climbing to the top so thrilled and
inspired me that I then and there resolved to get out of the woods, — to
get an education at any cost, — and to make something of myself!"
"Living in a very sparsely settled country, twenty-four miles from
the nearest railroad station, up to this time I had not dreamed that I
could get a college education, or that there would be any chance for me
to do more than make a living at hard work as others all about me were
doing. But after reading 'Self Help' something — a voice within, — kept
saying to me: 'There is a chance for you, — you can be somebody, — you
can do something and amount to something.'"
Young Orison Marden
"No young man starting in life could have better capital than plenty of
friends. They will strengthen his credit, support him in every great
effort, and make him what, unaided, he could never be. Friends of the
right sort will help him more - to be happy and successful - than much
- Orison Swett Marden
Orison Swett Marden Chapter IX , continued...
"The picture of Samuel Smiles in an old shed, talking to poor boys,
gathered from the streets of London, about success in life, thrilled my
imagination! I could close my eyes and see him showing them their
possibilities and pointing out that, though they were poor and
apparently had no opportunity, they yet might become great men, even as
other boys as poor as they who had done great things for the world and
risen to distinction."
"To me the little book was as the friction which awakens the spark sleeping in the flint, and I said to myself: 'If those men whom Mr. Smiles describes, could do such wonderful things, as boys had no better chance than mine, why can't I do something? I, too, must have a power to help myself that will do as much for me — if I can get hold of it — as the energy that they found in themselves did for them."
"It not only awakened me to a knowledge of my own possibilities, but
also created in me a burning desire to develop them. It filled me with
the hope that some day, perhaps, I might be able to do something that
would stimulate and encourage poor American boys like myself to develop
and make the most of all the powers God had given them. In fact, I even
then conceived the bold idea that I might in the future write something
that would help others!"
"Later I began to get together material for a book which, I dreamed,
might some time be to American boys what Smiles's 'Self Help' had been
to English boys, — what it had been to me. The reading of the book
filled me with such a deep sense of gratitude to the author and to the
Author of my being that I longed to show my gratitude and appreciation."
In after years, when the great world of books and of men had been opened
to him, he had other heroes, but none ever came closer to his heart
than the author of "Self Help." He loved Emerson, and Oliver Wendell
Holmes, the latter having been one of his instructors at Harvard, and
Longfellow, Phillips Brooks, and others, but he always looked up to
Samuel Smiles as his liberator, as the one who first threw open the
doors of his mental prison. He never lost an opportunity of
acknowledging the debt that he felt he owed him.
Samuel Smiles "Self-Help"
After the establishment of Success Magazine he paid this tribute to his memory:
"It used to be common for men to have several vocations, and if they
were men of sufficient caliber they would succeed fairly well in all;
but the world has become so specialized in these strenuous electric days
that it is rare for anyone to achieve marked distinction in more than
one line. The late Samuel Smiles, however, the famous author of 'Self
Help,' did a dozen different things during the last seventy years, and
all were well done."
"For several years he was editor of the Leeds Times. He was a
historian, traveler, writer of the life stories of well-known men,
philanthropist, skillful surgeon, moralist, poet, amateur painter,
secretary of a great railroad company, and, many years ago, noted
agitator with John Bright for the repeal of the corn laws. His books won
him honors, and royal decorations at home and abroad."
"Such inspirational books as his 'Self Help,' which has been
translated into seventeen languages, have, without a doubt, aroused the
ambition of more young men and young women to do something worth while -
than almost any other books."
"But for 'Self Help,' probably the Success Magazine would never have
seen the light of day, for the book was the first thing to suggest to
its founder the idea of his life work."
"The stories of poor boys climbing to the top so thrilled and inspired
me that I then and there resolved to get out of the woods, — to get an
education at any cost, — and to make something of myself!"
"The long life of Samuel Smiles's books on humble themes, with no
attempt at rhetorical flights, shows that the need exists for
inspirational writers. The world needs more than anything else men like
Smiles, who will arouse others to express the best that is in them,
stimulate them to do the biggest, strongest thing possible to them,
instead of being content with smaller, weaker accomplishments."
"He was the great apostle of practical ambition and self-betterment.
Not to appeal to the imagination or to arouse the passions of his
readers, but rather to arouse them to do the best of which they were
capable — to struggle to be something and to do something worthwhile in
the world — this, was his steadfast purpose. Thousands of successful
people owe their first start in the world to his great book, 'Self
The immediate result of the reading of the volume in the case of
Orison Marden, was the stirring up of his whole nature to actively
revolt against the conditions which held him in ignorance and bondage.
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