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CHOOSING THE RIGHT ROAD. 33
commoner characters than Dcedaluses. To know the exact
"The common problem, yours, mine, every one's,
Hazlitt says that if a youth who shows no aptitude for languages dances well, we should abandon all thought of making him a scholar, and hand him over to the dancingmaster. This is an exaggerated way of stating a sound principle. How much precious effort is constantly wasted in the vain attempt to convert into musicians young ladies who have no feeling for "the concord of sweet sounds!" How many admirable mechanics have been spoiled by the efforts of ambitious parents to educate them into physicians, or clergymen, or lawyers! A lad whose earliest promise of quickness is given by the instinctive dexterity with which he handles the implements of his little box of tools, is despatched to college, where he makes a sorry figure at his classes, with difficulty drags through an examination, plods wearily and apathetically until he gets a certificate or a degree, and then enters active life with the doom of failure upon him—a lawyer without briefs, a doctor without patients, or a minister without hearers. When the ambition is less, the failure is often as great. A parent apprentices to some uncongenial trade a boy whom nature has obviously designed for a great lawyer: the possible Smeaton or Stephenson is compelled to measure out yards of broadcloth. The celebrated leader of free lances, Sir John Hawkwood, who fought so gallantly at Poitiers, was apprenticed in early life to a London tailor. His after career proved that the shears could never have been his proper weapon! Another genius nearly spoiled as a tailor was Jackson the painter. There was once a boy in the Isle of Wight whose whole soul was absorbed with the sights and sounds of the sea, whose mind was filled with dreams of its romance and adventure. His parents, however, insisted that he should. be a tailor, and apprenticed him to a worthy tradesman
34 VAUQUELIN FINDS HIS PLACE.
in the village of Niton. One day, however, it was reported in the workshop that a squadron of men-of-war was off the island. The lad threw aside his needle, leaped from the shopboard, and mingled with the crowd that had assembled to gaze upon the stately spectacle. His old sympathies kindled immediately into fresh life; he jumped into a boat, rowed off to the admiral's ship, offered himself as a volunteer, and was accepted. That boy was afterwards Admiral Hobson, who broke the boom at Vigo.
The chemist Vauquelin, not to be confounded with the Sieur Jean, author of "Les deux livres de Foresteries," was the son of a peasant of Saint-Andr£-d'Herbelot, in the Calvados. When at school he displayed a bright intelligence; and his master, alluding to the rags and tatters of his daily attire, would encourage him by saying, "Go on, my boy; work, Nicholas, work and study, and one day you will go as well dressed as the village maire." If his parents had doomed him to the same calling as his father's, how fine a genius would have been lost to science! But a country apothecary, struck by his robustness rather than his talent, offered to receive him into his laboratory to pound drugs; and as his father did not object, Vauquelin accepted the engagement, in the hope of being able to continue his studies. He quickly discovered that the apothecary did not intend to allow him leisure for any such purpose; and stowing his few belongings into his haversack, he bade farewell to Saint Andre, and started on foot for Paris. He reached the great city; but, after much searching, could not obtain employment as an apothecary's boy. Through the continued effects of hunger, fatigue, and disappointment, he fell ill, and was removed to the hospital in a very dangerous condition. Youth and a good constitution triumphed over disease. He renewed his quest of employment, and at length obtained it. A train of circumstances led to his introduction to Fourcroy, the grea£ chemist, who made him his private secretary; and in the course of years, on that philosopher's death, he succeeded him as Professor of Chemistry. Fourcroy himself, by the way, began life as a copyist and writing-master.
Has not English art had good reason to be thankful that Sir Joshua Reynolds' father did not succeed in conquering his inborn love of drawing and making him a physician? What
GENIUS SAVED FOR GREAT USES. 35
exquisite portraits we should have lost! what delightful faces of fair women, happy children, and illustrious men! what exquisite examples of colouring and expression! how many "things of beauty" and suggestions of refinement and grace! And, again, should we not have had occasion for regret if William Blake, the most mystical of poet-painters, had buried his genius in the hosier's shop to which his father at first apprenticed him? Hogarth's father had so little perception of the faculties and tastes of his son that he placed him under a silversmith. Had not his genius worked out its own career there would have been no " Rake's Progress," no " Marriage a la Mode," no "Idle Apprentice "—none, in fact, of those singularly powerful pictorial moralities by which Hogarth founded a " school" of his own.
The errors committed in the choice of a vocation are sometimes amusing, or would be so if we could forget how serious might have been their consequences. The parents of Claude Lorraine, who divides with our own Turner the supremacy in landscape-painting, would have made him a pastrycook! His brother was a little keener of insight, for he took him from the pastrycook's into his own shop, a wood-carver's; and in this kind of work there was at least more room for the development of his artistic faculty. Turner was intended by his father for the respectable but inglorious trade of a barber. One day, however, a design of a coat-of-arms which the boy had scratched on a silver salver attracted the attention of a customer whom his father was shaving, and he was so struck by its promise, that he strongly recommended the latter not to interfere with his son's evident bias. The lover of art almost shudders at the thought of what the world would have lost had Claude continued a pastrycook, and Turner shaved the bristling chins of his father's patrons!
The father of Benvenuto Cellini was possessed with the desire of making him a flute-player, but the youth had a better idea of the bent and quality of his powers, and sedulously cultivated his love of art. Nicolas Poussin might have spent life obscurely as a village schoolmaster, had not a country painter, pleased with his juvenile efforts, advised his parents to give his abilities free scope. Sir Francis Chantrey, the distinguished sculptor, losing his father when he was still in his early boyhood, was forced to drive an ass laden with his mother's 36 SUCCESS m Life Ensured.
milk-cans into the town of Sheffield to supply the customers with milk. His mother married a second time, and Chantrey not agreeing with his step-father, was placed in a grocer's shop in Sheffield. He soon grew weary of small dealings in tea, sugar, and the like; and having conceived the idea of becoming a carver, implored his friends to release him from his engagement to the grocer. This was done, and he was bound apprentice to a carver and gilder for seven years. His new master was not only a carver in wood, but a dealer in prints and models, which Chantrey set to work in his spare hours to copy with unfailing perseverance. His success was signal; and growing conscious of his capacity for better things, he bought his discharge from his master, and made his way to London. Here, while patiently studying the arts of painting and modelling, he supported himself by working as a carver. His studio in London was a room over a stable, and his first great achievement was a colossal head of Satan, which, later in life, when he had won renown, he pointed out to a friend. "That head," he remarked, "was the first thing that I did after I came to London. I worked at it in a garret with a paper cap on my head; and as I could then afford only one candle, I stuck that one in my cap that it might move along with me, and give me light whichever way I turned." Flaxman, having seen the head, recommended Chantrey for the execution of the busts of four admirals intended for the Greenwich Naval Asylum. This commission led to others, and the sculptor's success in life was ensured.
William Etty may also be put forward as an example of the right direction of natural endowments. His father was a gingerbread baker and miller at York, who died while his son was still a boy. Young Etty had already evinced a strong partiality for drawing; walls, floors, tables, all were covered with his fanciful designs; his nimble fingers using first a lump of chalk, and afterwards a charred stick. But his mother, ignorant and unsympathetic, apprenticed the would-be artist to a printer. The genius within him, however, refused to be conquered. All his scanty leisure was devoted to the practice of drawing; and as soon as a cruel apprenticeship was at an end, he announced his intention of entering on an artist's career. The result fully justified his self-confidence, and, instead of a tolerable printer, England gained a great painter.
"mans Boundary Is Moderation. 37
It is necessary, when dwelling on this subject, to guard the reader against a serious delusion. He must not mistake mere liking for real talent. He must not think, because he is fond of drawing caricatures or sketches, that therefore he can become an Etty, a Turner, or a Claude; that because he can play a little on the violin, therefore he is destined to develop into another Paganini. Books upon "Self-Help" and "The Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties," valuable as they are in many respects, have sometimes erred by not impressing this consideration on the minds of their readers. A boy fired with enthusiasm by the narrative of what genius has accomplished in despite of the most formidable obstacles, and enchanted by glowing pictures of the fame and opulence that have rewarded its labours, thinks that an equally radiant path lies open before himself, and that he may disregard the counsels and neglect the wishes of his nearest and dearest friends. No doubt parents and guardians have often made mistakes; but far more numerous have been the mistakes of young men whom an imprudent ambition or a greed of gain has led into paths they were incompetent to tread successfully. As a rule, it is always best to accept and act upon the advice of our elders. The avocation may be uncongenial, and after a while it may appear plainly unsuitable. It will then be open to us to seize the first opportunity of choosing another career, if this can be done without injury. Instances there will always be, similar to those we have already set before the reader, of a strong and masterful talent asserting itself in the face of every discouragement, and seeking and finding its natural and legitimate outlet. But let us remember with humility that such talent is given to very few, and with gratitude that Heaven estimates our lifework not by its brilliancy but by its honesty. If we do our duty, it matters not whether we be leaders in the fore-front of the battle, or only the rank and file. In fixing upon a pursuit, let us therefore be guided by nobler thoughts than those of ambition, emulation, or envy. Let us bethink ourselves of the old saying that the greatest man is he who chooses right with the most unconquerable resolution; who withstands the sorest temptations within and without; who patiently bears the weightiest burdens; who is calmest in the storm, and most fearless under frown and menace; whose faith in truth, in