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Scotch Stories and Lectures, Humorous and Amusing
Lecture—The Dignity of Labour


In approaching the “Dignity of Labour” I am met with the thought, that the first record we have of work done is God’s creation of the world. God laboured, and rested from his labour. The labour of the Deity produced a perfect world, with its myriads of perfect and happy creatures. This happiness man lost through sin. Man’s first-recorded work after the fall was that in which the erring pair made their first effort at constructiveness. This labour the Lord evidently approved, and in his goodness suggested to his fallen children, before they were driven from the garden, that by the exercise of ingenuity and labour they might even still enjoy comforts very much akin to those they had lost in Paradise. This, I think, was clearly suggested by the fact recorded in the words, “ Unto Adam, and also unto his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them;” thus, in his Fatherly love, fully awakening in his fallen children those constructive faculties which, with skilful labour, give us so much of our happiness.

It requires, I think, but little of the poet’s fancy to imagine how very soon the “dignity of labour” became apparent to our first parents when, hand in hand, they had taken their solitary way. They cannot have travelled far ere a resting-place was required. A place of shelter for the night was certainly required. How was it to be obtained? A lesson had been taught them in the making of the coats—the skins had been ingeniously put together, forming garments of comfort and adam’s house.

protection. Adam had no doubt remembrance of the architecture of the bowers of paradise; now he must himself construct a bower for the shelter of his weary partner. He looks around for a suitable site. Here is a thick cluster of small trees : if the minor shrubs were removed there would be sufficient space for the required apartment. He seats our mother on a mossy bank, and throwing off his coat, wraps it round her, and sets actively to work. He never knew his strength before. He tears up the obstructing shrubs and plants by the roots, soon clearing the required space: he smooths the surface with a broken bough. So far all is well; but a gentle shower reminds him that a watertight roof is necessary. He now, lightly mounting, intertwines the spreading boughs, finding immediate use for his clearings in filling up the gaps. “ Not so bad,” he says; but still the light shines through. His fig leaves throw the rain from his limbs; they will do the same for his dwelling. He goes off, and returns laden with fig tree branches. Eve, who has been seated, entranced at beholding the dignity of her husband’s newly discovered powers, now rises, curious to see what next. Adam is again upon the roof, and now requests his wife to hand him the branches. She joyfully performs her part, forgetting her sorrow in discovering that she, too, can be useful. The roof completed, Adam pronounces his house finished. Eve, smiling, says, “’Tis well, but may be better;” the floor, she thinks, is rather rough. The moss on which she had been sitting was sofb and pleasant; if Adam will but rest him now she will make the desired improvement. Adam, well pleased, stands aside and watches with pride the taste and ingenuity of his helpmate as she pulls the mossy tufts of various hues, and arranges them with wondrous skill upon the floor, thus giving to his rough, homely work much of the grace and elegance they had lost in paradise. Who can doubt that, when this work was completed, husband and wife had more of dignity in each other’s eyes?

I would suggest an improvement in the hackneyed couplet that insinuates that our first father was no gentleman because he laboured. I would have it read—

“When Adam delved, and Eve span,
Where was then the idle man?”

The “dignity of labour” is so easily proved and so readily admitted that I am at a loss, not for illustrations, but what style of illustration to give you. Labour contrasted with idleness! The simple mention of the two words is sufficient to settle the matter. Labour, idleness—weigh them. Labour hath true weight; idleness goes for nothing in any scale. Sound them—labour, idleness: the one doth not become the mouth so well as the other. Conjure with them : labour will raise all the spirits of goodness; idleness can only raise the spirit of evil Take a simple constrast from man in his natural, or rather his savage state. See the poor, crawling, crazy wretch, with his girdle tightened to allay the pangs of hunger, his wife and her one starving child (all her other children are already dead) wailing for food,—see how the slothful creature crawls along: he would steal, but will not work. Contrast this with the noble bearing of the stately hunter who, with agile limbs and buoyant step, pursues to the death his certain prey, returning to his hut laden with enough and to spare for all his dependents. Such a contrast cannot, perhaps, be seen in all its grossness in a state of civilization; yet all the grossness is equally apparent to the All-seeing eye, and the punishment (even in this life) is just as certain to the idle member of a civilized state as to the lazy savage. What a poor, helpless, insignificant thing an idle man or woman soon becomes! No energy, no power, no influence for good, no noble sympathies, no high aspirations. No! —mere ciphers, valueless in life’s column. We are told that God made man in his own image, gifting him with almost creative powers. It is only, however, when those powers are fully exerted for the good of man and the glory of God that the creature displays any resemblance to the Creator. How suggestive is this fact of the true dignity of all useful labour! Our great familiarity with all our most useful laboui-s has a tendency to conceal from us the dignity connected with them. I think it is the philosophic Master Slender who says, “With familiarity will grow more contempt.” This is truly the case with our everyday labours. It is only on occasions of extremity that they become sublimated in our eyes: then they assume their grand proportions, attesting in unmistakable type the “dignity of labour.”

Take an illustration, and as we are disposed to be courteous to our late foes, I shall endeavour to exhibit the dignity of Russian labour. See, then, the poor Russian Berf, spade in hand, toiling away with patient endurance* preparing the soil for the growth of the grain that is to assist in feeding all the nations of the earth. It is certainly very lowly toil, the labour with that spade; but it is useful. Taking the labourer, his work, his humble remuneration, and all attendant circumstances, it is difficult to see much of dignity about it. But see the Russian serf now. Combined nations threaten the destruction of that city which is the pride of his empire: an effort of Russian labour may defy their united forces. Ten thousand Russian spades are now at work: day and night the toil goes on, until these huge defences have all the strength that labour can give them: before these grand productions of simple labour the flower of all their foes must perish. Who, whatever his national feelings may be, does not in that long year’s noble defence of Sebastopol recognize at least the dignity of Russian labour.

Take another illustration nearer home. There is no work more homely than that of those who go down to the sea in ships. We are walking along the beach :— see with what rude, substantial stitch that old seaman mends his sails, while the younger nautical artist, with paint-pot in hand, lays on the various colours in his own homely fashion; a humbler artist still, working on the lower stratum, lays on the pitch in the thick-and-slab style; while a fourth of the useful craft, seated on his tool-box, with mallet and caulking-irons, pays in the oakum, making a joint that any cabinetmaker might be proud of. These labours, all so necessary for the preservation of life and property, seem very humble, and there is certainly little apparent dignity about these weather-beaten men. But see them now: the scene is changed,—the sky is darkened, the wind has risen—far out at sea the waves are tipped with white. The anxious faces, looking seaward, indicate expected danger. The storm is raging wildly now: a struggling vessel is in sight; she has mounted the signal of distress. See those lowly workmen now,—Responding to that signal, they have launched their boat; and now, with brawny arms, cut through the foaming surge with skilful strokes: they near the sinking wreck; they save the fainting mariners; and, as they proudly dash to shore, giving joy to almost bursting hearts, who does not recognize in all their humble toils, that fit them for such glorious work, the “dignity of labour?”

Take another example from another field of usefulness. We are seeing the mysteries of the Edinburgh College. We have seen the noble library, the beautiful museum, the lecture-rooms, consecrated by the memories of departed greatness. We are now entering on a scene that will have the economic effect of making a very light dinner quite enough for us. The large apartment is very cleanly washed, “but still there is a smell of blood.” We are in the dissecting-room. Amidst the numerous groups of students, our attention is particularly drawn to one who bends a noble brow and pale and thoughtful face over a dissected limb. He is very busy. Our guide whispers as we pass, “The most laborious student in the college.” His work seems to us very uninviting; but his is truly noble work. A few years have elapsed. We are present now in a home darkened by a cloud of deepest sorrow,—the father of the family is stretched upon his bed with fractured limbs. An unskilful surgeon has just announced, in pompous tones, that amputation is the only remedy. The wife stands by in dumb despair, until some passing incident brings to her mind the name and fame of our pale laborious student. He now is called in. He does not think the case is quite so bad: he will undertake a cure without amputation. And, ere many months go by, that wife and family joyously see those limbs restored to health, and strength, and usefulness. Who does not in such a godlike result recognize the dignity of our student’s labour?

I could multiply these illustrations to any extent. Take one other. It is now many years since a young man, born in the city of Edinburgh, sat in a chamber in that city poring over the thoughts of the mighty dead. None can tell how many dusty musty volumes that youth perused. He was a laborious law student, intent on usefulness, and fame, and power. He knew the way lay through long years of patient drudgery; but he did not shrink from labour, did he succeed? Look at the scene that opens now in Westminster Hall. All the dignitaries of England are assembled. A great trial is about to commence. A Queen is the accused, a King is the accuser; a neglected wife is the accused, a faithless husband the accuser. The entire nation is looking on with intense interest; the heart of England’s chivalry is throbbing for the fate of the poor lady whom her gross lord would crush. The evidence has been examined, and her counsel rises in the person of our Edinburgh student. His laborious research stands him in good stead now. He pours forth a defence, great in legal lore, powerful in knowledge, and adorned with every grace of eloquence. See the result of that defence, when every city in the land, illuminated proclaims the acquittal of our student’s royal client! Our student rests not here. He is now the first ruling power in the British Senate. Yes, my friends, when “Harry Brougham” took his seat on the woolsack of England, his position was a noble tribute to the “dignity of labour!”

But I must return to the toils of the mechanic, whose labours must be more immediately interesting to my present audience. When we see the joiner at his bench, the mason at his siege, or the plasterer at his trough, we do not readily recognize the dignity of their labour. But when there bursts upon the view of the traveller the grand proportions of a noble city, with all its towers, and spires, and palaces, who does not read in such everlasting stereotype “the dignity of labour?” Well do I remember my own emotions when I first looked upon our

“Own dear, old, romantic town,”

the city of Edinburgh, with its grand gray old castle, its glorious institutions, its noble monuments, its solemn temples, its graceful bridges, its classic seminaries, and its thousands of palace homes. It seemed to me more like a city of “ dreamland” than a stern stone and lime reality. But there it stands, telling to all the world, in truly heroic numbers, the “dignity of Scottish labour.” In mentally turning over the industrial pages of that city, I find the “dignity of labour” apparent in every paragraph; no page speaking more eloquently than that in which we read the records of its great printing establishments, from whose walls go forth the light of knowledge, spreading the rays of truth to all the nations of the earth.

But I must hasten on. Knowing as I know, and as you know, that all useful labour properly performed is truly dignified, I must now make a brief inquiry as to what are the principles essential to the building up of a dignified life in any or in all the fields of labour. The first great essentials to this, you all know, are simple truth and honesty in word and action. I will illustrate this by a reference to the natural laws with which every workman becomes familiar in the prosecution of his daily toil.

A builder is entrusted with the erection of a monumental column, commemorative of the worth of some truly great man. In preparing the foundation of such a structure, how does he proceed? He knows right well that in laying every stone he must consult the fixed natural laws, or his structure will have no stability. He therefore, first, prepares a simple “straight edge,” of sufficient length to extend over the entire foundation: to this “straight edge” he applies his true “ spirit level.” By these simple processes he finds out how, in laying his foundation, he may strictly conform to the law of gravitation.

The foundation laid, the square and plummet are next called into requisition. The simple plummet, ever true to the centre of gravity, tells how each stone must stand; while the square, the true child of the level and plummet, gives sure directions for all the other portions of the work. Thus truly gone about, a noble structure rises, well fitted to brave the storms of ages, and carry down to future generations the story of the truly great. You all easily perceive what would be the result were the builder of such a structure to suit what might appear his own immediate convenience—to put aside in any one case the admonitions of the level and plummet, and insert a single stone in any way off the truth—that is, off the square. One such stone, we all know, would endanger, nay, would certainly insure ultimately the destruction of the entire erection. If such a stone should, in negligence or folly, be inserted, it must be taken out and replaced by a stone of truth, or the whole structure, when tested by His winds who established the laws of gravitation, will soon be levelled with the dust. I think you will all easily perceive what I am striving to convey by this architectural illustration. I am seeking to enforce the truth that, if we would build up the noble structure of a dignified life, its foundations must be firmly laid in truth and honesty. These simple virtues must be the level and plummet guiding the architecture of our lives. One false word spoken, one dishonest action, can never fit into a dignified life. If such word or action remains unatoned for, all other words and actions built upon it must be utterly falsa This idea should be ever present with us, admonishing us to preserve in all our words and actions the purity of truth and the open uprightness of honesty. God has so formed us that the past is ever present with us. If, then, in our past lives we have one false stone, it must be taken out, and the error, as far as possible, be repaired. It was a guilty king who said—

“How can I repent me, while yet I am
Possessed of that fur which I did the deed? ”

Such repentance were a mockery. No! the pilgrim who would return to the path of dignity must go back the entire distance. When he has done so, he will not only have dignity in the eyes of men, but in the eyes of God. The incompatibility of dignity with aught that is false will become clearly apparent by another glance at my architectural illustration. Just imagine the queer dignity there would be about "Scott’s Monument,” or even our “ Martyrs’ Column,” if they happened to be just a little off the plumb. All their fine proportions would be at once lost sight of in the idea that, for the want of simple truth, they must ere long topple and fall. So it is with man’s life. However huge, or even ornamental, a man may become, if his words are just a little off the plumb, and his actions are not strictly honest, no matter though he may even be a great railway king, to talk of his having dignity would be simply ridiculous.

The other twin virtues which I shall call your attention to as essential to the building up of a dignified life are, “sobriety and activity.” Regarding the former of these, which (with the drinking customs of our country) afford scope for so many entire lectures, I shall only say that I have known more men lose dignity through want of sobriety than from any other —yes, I may say, than from all other causes put together; and I know no way of preventing this shortcoming but by entire abstinence from strong drink. I myself have been for twenty years a pledged abstainer, and every day of my life I become more and more attached to the principle. I would fain linger here to tell you of the wrecks I have known through drink; but I know it would prove but the repetition of an oft-told tale.

“What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!” Give him strong drink, and, in the language of the same poet,

“See how like a swine he lies.”

Without sobriety, my friends, there is assuredly no dignity of life or character. Activity is just obedience to the divine injunction, “Be diligent in business.” Without diligence even moderate success is impossible; and you all know that the lumbering, ever-behind, slow-coach can lay no claim to dignity. I like, in every department of labour, obedience to the Yankee phrase, “Go-a-head.” We all look with admiration when we see a well-horsed, well-manned fire-engine go rattling along in gallant style to do its useful work. I always say, when witnessing that stirring sight, “That is just about the right way to go about business.” Although it is not good to be in too great haste, we should be ever active in the prosecution of our labours. If we are so, we shall be able to afford our hours of leisure, and our business activity will give them an additional relish.

These four simple virtues, with the importance of which I have been striving to impress you—viz., truth, honesty, sobriety, and activity—are, I think, in our times and circumstances, the four principal ingredients in the composition of Wisdom, of whom it is truly and beautifully said in our own paraphrase—

“In her right hand she holds to view
A length of happy days;
Riches, with splendid honours joined,
Are what her left displays.

"She guides the young with innocence
In pleasure’s path to tread;
A crown of glory she bestows
Upon the hoary head.”

We see the truth of these lines verified daily in the lives of men bom in the very humblest ranks. Men who, in youth walking in the ways of wisdom, have found life a path of pleasantness, arriving ultimately at riches and “splendid honours,” their gray hairs being haloed with the glory of goodness.

You all know the story of the poor boy who, falling asleep within sight of mighty London, heard in his dreaming ears the great city bells ringing—

“Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London,
Twice, thrice, Lord Mayor of London.”

Well, this has been in fact an oft-told tale. London has had a few such Lord Mayors, and we all know that in our minor cities and towns, chief magistrates of humble origin have been rather, perhaps, the rule than the exception. You can all remember when the country was ringing with the praise of the noble reception given to the “immortal Kossuth" by the truly hospitable Mayor of Southampton, that it came fully out, brightening the colours of the picture, that the worthy Mr. Andrews had been a working blacksmith, and was a self-made man. You can all remember, too, that when the royal family, while visiting Ireland, gracefully waited on Mr. Dargan, the father of the Irish exhibition, that we learned from the papers that Mr. Dargan was the son of a peasant-farmer, and was the architect of his own fortune. Sir Joseph Paxton, too, on whose plan and under whose direction the Crystal Palace arose, we all know was originally a working gardener. Glasgow itself I believe could furnish an entire regiment of men, who occupy a first-rate position as to respectability and wealth, who owe nothing to their fathers save the mere trifling obligation that they were their fathers. In fact, all the Glasgow gentlemen of whom I know anything owe their position entirely to their own heaven-blessed labour. I, on a late occasion, heard Mr. Napier of Shandon, the head of the first engineering establishment in the world, tell in our City Hall, crowded with his workmen, how he had worked as a journeyman blacksmith; and how he commenced business with two apprentices, in a very humble way. I heard, too, Mr. Burns, the head of the firm who own the first steam-fleet afloat, tell his numerous employes on a similar occasion, that to persevering industry, accompanied with the blessing of God, their success was entirely due. The Messrs. Burns, I know, were born in a good position; but their fortune, I believe, is entirely of their own making. But it were endless to give even an index to the Glasgow men who have risen from the ranks by diligent application to honest labour. The story of Glasgow life is very well told in a work of art recently erected in our city. I refer to our equestrian statue of Her Majesty. On the pedestal of that statue you will see, in bas-relief, Victoria laying the sword of honour on our then chief magistrate, telling him to “rise up, Sir James Anderson.” That gentleman, late M.P. for the Stirling burghs, tells, I know, with pride, that in early life he learned the weaving. A humble workman; a small tradesman ; a town councillor; a bailie; a lord provost; a knight; and then an M.P. are the chapters into which the author would require to divide the life of almost every one of our modern knights.

I am not so well acquainted with life in Edinburgh. I am led to believe that in the capital of Scotland there is rather a prejudice in favour of men who have had fathers. I am inclined, however, to believe that it is quite possible to take even a first position in Edinburgh without any “lang pedigree.” The Messrs. Chambers, for instance, so far as I remember, do not, in their excellent Information for the People, tell the people aught about their father, or how much money he left them. Hugh Miller, we all know, lost his father when very young, and owed his position entirely to his genius, cultured and matured by his own persevering labour. But I am not much acquainted with men in Edinburgh, so I will say nothing further of them, save that the foremost men in the city are self-made men. It were needless, however, to dwell further on this idea. We all know that there is no position in the state, stopping short of Royalty itself, that the humblest may not aspire to—that the humblest may not occupy; and very many, indeed, of these positions of honour and distinction have already been filled by men of lowly birth. There is something, my friends, truly bracing about the position of the man who has nothing to depend upon but his own exertions—something that gives strength and vigour. This stimulant the children of the high-born never feel. The path being well smoothed for them, they move easily along, never acquiring that strength of sinew and vigour of limb that comes of having the rugged hill to climb. Mr. Frederick Peel, for instance, when addressing the attentive House in the presence of his happy papa, was not in a position so well calculated to develop his strength as was the young author of “Vivian Grey,” when, amidst shouts of derisive laughter, he said, “ The time will come when you shall yet listen to me!” The man who sinks or swims by his own efforts must strike out in gallant style. And what additional incentives to exertion has he whose efforts must sustain the wife of his bosom and the children of his love! The advocate who pleaded his first case with such ability that he astonished his brethren of the bar, when asked what bad inspired him to do so well, answered, “That he felt his poor wife and hungry children pulling at his gown.” That’s the sort of thing to put “ life and metal” into a true man! I think, my friends, we may all agree in this, that it is at least no calamity to be born in the humble ranks of life. We all see that the poor workingman has the operation of all the better feelings of our nature to inspire him to noble efforts. It may be that the labours of his arm will lighten the toils of a worthy father; or support in comfort a mother whose strength has failed her, after having bravely played the good part; or he may smooth a loving sister’s path: and, all these duties performed, it is his labour that must build the bower for the reception of “the bosom friend dearer than all.” All this, accomplished through honest toil, should demonstrate, I think, to every intelligent being the true “dignity of labour.”

In thus alluding to those who have drawn first prizes at the wheel of fortune, I have no wish to inspire my hearers with a feverish desire ta gain their eminence. This would not be desirable. I believe sincerely that the man who may never rise above the rank of an honest working-man may just enjoy life as well as the most successful millionaire. It is one of God’s all-wise arrangements that all the real sweets of life are within the reach of all. Bums says, in writing to a poor brother,

“This life has joys for you and I,
And joys that riches ne’er could buy,
And joys the very best.
There’s a’ the pleasures o’ the heart,—
The lover and the frien’;
Ye ha’e your Meg, your dearest part,
And I my darling Jean.”

In addition to the sweets of love and friendship, the working-man, as well as the lordly born, may nightly feast on our accumulated stores of literary lore. The working man, it is true, may be shut out from certain select circles of society; but, then, all the mighty lords of thought may be his constant companions. The pages of genius give forth their sparkling brightness as freely when turned over by blistered hands as when unfolded by jewelled fingers. The great volume of nature, too, lies as freely open to the welldoing mechanic as to the most favoured child of fortune. There is no scene in Britain, of either pictorial, poetic, or historic interest, that may not be visited by the artizan whose income is judiciously managed; while the young unencumbered mechanic may now, if he has the desire, take his continental tour just as easily as the youthful lordling. I know no real pleasure which the humble working-man may not enjoy. All the new discoveries of our time tend to make all true pleasures more easily attained by the masses; and will thus, if properly taken advantage of, certainly promote and exhibit the “dignity of labour.”

While, then, we should all strive to make riches, if we can do so by honourable means, we must never look upon that as the chief aim of life. Honour, honesty, and duty must be our watchwords; and although we may never have riches, we shall certainly have what is much better, we shall have the sweet calm of a contented spirit, which is true happiness.

A good deal is at present being said, both amongst ourselves and our transatlantic cousins, about woman’s sphere in the labour market. I cannot now enter on the mysteries . of this intricate question; but will offer a few words on woman’s work in her indisputed sphere—the domestic circle. I am afraid the current sentiment of our time is calculated to produce rather an unwholesome effect upon our fair sisters. So far as I can remember, all the heroines of our recent poets are very, very fine ladies, living, I think, chiefly in great old baronial halls; walking occasionally in richly perfumed gardens, in which they are some times heard singing milk-and-water songs about “knights and gallants gay.” It is in such scenes that they are generally met by their bilious, conceited, ill-tempered, good-for-nothing lovers. In turning over the pages of all these bards, one feels a strong desire to break in upon the billing and cooing of the “moon-faced” lovers, and cut their palaver short by telling them to get married at once, and start a bakers or a butcher’s shop, where they will be both usefully and actively employed; and then it will be all right with them. These heroes and heroines certainly know nothing of the “dignity of labour.” The nearest approach to work that you will find any of them engaged in is, perhaps, standing in some arched doorway, doing a little in the way of feeding peacocks from their snowy fingers. What a nice world this would be if these “creative poets” had the creation of its inhabitants! These dawdling, double-seeing, unintelligible personages would do the world’s work in fine style! Well, these creations of the sickly poet’s fancy, or some other influence calculated to produce a similar effect, inspire, I am afraid, not a few of our young lady friends with something like an aversion to taking anything like an active part in the performance of domestic duties. I have seen somewhere—I think it must have been in some popular farce—a young lady who was ever ready to give her friends the last new quadrille, or the most recent production of the London lyric muse, with its full accompaniments in the very best style; but when any little domestic service was required, this she performed entirely by command, sitting with pokerish stiffness, while some poor little Cinderella answered her call, bearing perhaps a tray which took her utmost effort to carry—each male guest thinking of the preservation of the china, while their fair hostess thought only of the preservation of her dignity. I have seen, too, a multiplication of this scene sometimes at bona fide evening parties. “Long ranges” of young uromen sitting in simpering uselessness, while some poop little white slave was doing everything that bears the name of work. I like always, on such occasions, to see some smart young man lend a helping hand to the poor “little Marchioness.” Now, far be it from me to insinuate that I have ever known a young lady who was lazy. No; just let the floor be cleared, give each fair one a partner, and provide good music, and you will be astonished at the amount of exertion that the most fragile of the dear creatures can put forth.

All that is required is that our sisters should learn that there is no dignity in simpering, starched idleness, but that there is true dignity in useful labour. I could easily imagine how a lady might be ashamed of idleness; but I scarcely understand the perversion of thought that induces a feeling of shame in being seen taking a part in the necessary work of the household. I should think the neatness and sweetness resulting from such work would be a source of pleasure and pride, and would exhibit to ladies fair the “dignity of labour.” I believe the ladies of our land could not find a better example to follow than that of our sovereign lady, the Queen, who, rising early, has every hour of her time devoted to the discharge of the various duties of her exalted station. So ought every woman of humbler rank to discharge the various duties of her station. These duties are well indicated by Solomon, who, when speaking of a true woman, says, “She looketh well to her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” To be very confidential with the young ladies, I can tell them, on the authority of a first-rate judge of human nature, that they are much more likely to find favour in the eyes of a sensible man when seen working their “mammie’s wark,” than when seen seated at harp, guitar, or piano. And even very sentimental lovers are sometimes made an impression on by the graceful performance of domestic duties. We all know that poor loving Werter first saw Charlotte while in the act of cutting bread and butter for her brothers and sisters. The great German, Goethe, I have no doubt, meant this circumstance to suggest the fact that ladies are most captivating when seen in the discharge of useful domestic duties. The great poet’s ideas on this matter are seen as clear as day in his “Faust,” when Mephistopheles charms Faust with the perfections of woman’s graces. The first words that the fair one speaks are—

“I am no lady, sir.
How can you kiss
A hand so coarse, so hard as this?
What work am I not always forced to do?
Indeed, my mother, sir, is too severe!
Our house—’tis true—is small,
But still must be attended to.
We have no maid, all on me lies,—
I sweep, cook, sew, up soon and late;
My mother, too, is so precise,
In everything so accurate!
Not that she is obliged to be
Confined in all so sparingly;
We might do more than many do,—
My father left us, of our own,
A little honse and garden, too,
A pretty place beside the town.
However, now the days with me
Pass over pretty peacefully;
My brother’s for a soldier gone
And my poor little sister’s dead,—
Much trouble with her have I known,
Yet all the anxious sorrow sped,
Mine joyfully again should be.
So dear the infant was to me!
She loved me, oh, so fondly!
I Had brought her up. entirely;
After my father’s death ’twas bom,
My mother, too, had nearly died,—
All hope, indeed, we had forgone,
Her sickness was so sore to bide;
So sad the state in which she lay,
So slow her bettering day by day,
That she herself could never think
Of suckling it, poor little thing!
And so I nursed it,—give’t its drink,
Its milk and tender nourishing;
And brought it up, thus all alone,
Till it became, as ’twere, mine own;
Within my arm and bosom, on my knee,
It grew and sprawl’d, and laugh’d so prettily?
But yet with many anxious hours of care.
All night the infant’s cradle stood
Beside my bed,—nor ever could
I move, but it would waken’d be;—
Now I must rise and give it food,
Then take it into bed with me!
Then, when it would not rest, must rise and go,
Dancing it in the chamber to and fro;
And still must rise at early day,
To stand beside the washing-tray,
Then to the market go, to see
For all our home’s necessity;
And thus, from day to day, the same
To do whene’er the morrow cairn*.
When ’mid such things as this one lives,
The spirits are not always good;
But, then, ’tis true, the labour gives
A' relish both to rest and foo.’.*’

The Devil knew right well that this was the sort of woman to charm any man. The fair tempters of our time seem as if counselled by Mrs. Malaprop to make no dusums to domestic affairs in their conversations with young men; but to talk only of the last great dissembly and the hopra. Now, while speaking thus, I would not have it understood that I in any way undervalue the fashionable accomplishments of the fair. No; I would only hint that these accomplishments should not in any case be looked upon as the chief business of life. I would have them ever come second to the more useful branches of home education. Mrs. Gaskell, the gifted author of “Ruth,” “North and Southland other well-told tales, illustrates well the dignity of woman’s labour. Margaret Hail is quite a model for all young ladies of moderate means; while poor Ruth Hilton points out to our erring daughters how, by diligent application to labours of usefulness and charity, they may work out characters so radiant with the glory of goodness that with these they will be as acceptable in the sight of heaven as with the innocent purity they had lost But I need not go to the pages of fiction for illustrations of the dignity of woman’s labour. All the great names of fiction grow dim when we mention the name of one true Englishwoman,—a name that will live in our nation’s heart in all future time, ever inspiring England’s daughters to deeds of love and mercy. I cannot better take leave of the dignity of woman’s work than by the simple mention of the soldier’s friend—Miss Florence Nightingale.

Whilst speaking of the dignity connected with the various branches of productive labour, I said nothing regarding the mercantile portion of our community. I would not, however, have it thought that I undervalue, or even think little of our distributive labourers: they are just as essential as the producers. If any of you for a moment doubt the usefulness, and consequently the dignity, of that class who supply our city with the various necessaries of life, just picture to yourself the strange mess we would soon be in if we wanted our shopkeepers. If your imagination is dull, and does not readily furnish you with the picture of a city without merchants, perhaps you may meet with some poor fellow who spent that dread winter before Sebastopol, where naked, starving men were walking about amongst unopened bales of greatcoats; where raw pork and green coffee berries were the handiest things agoing; and, as the poor frost-bitten soldier goes on with his story, you will perhaps begin to get a glimpse of the dignity of the shopkeeper’s labour.

Much might be said of the usefulness and importance of this large class of workmen; but this passing hint must suffice to indicate our appreciation of their labours. I can give, too, but one word in passing to those great workers, the dignity of whose labours all our hearts confess—the laborious children of genius, whose deep research and fertile brains have given to the world those grand creations which shall live and bloom till latest time, as verdant bowers on life’s hard road, where weary • pilgrims shall ever find rest and refreshment. We must never forget the fact, that ere any of our master-works were born to the world, heavenly genius had to be wooed and won by persevering earthly labour. Just glance at the works of Avon’s Bard, at those of the Poet of Paradise, and the huge pile of our own Sir Walter; and while you think of the genius of these great men, you will certainly remember the true dignity of their labours. There is still another class of workmen whom I have deferred noticing until now that I am about to take leave of this subject for the present, believing it the best arrangement to give my parting words to those workers to whom I believe are due the most exalted honours. I refer now to those men who, having by birth and fortune all that wealth and rank can give them, refuse to rest idly on the tempting lap of luxurious ease, but bravely labour for the world’s weal in every field of usefulness. Although I can well appreciate the lines of our national bard,—

“See yon birkie ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an* a' that,
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a cuif for a* that,”—

although, I say, I can appreciate these lines, I am far from thinking them anything like universally applicable. I believe the natural capacities of the various grades of society are very much alike. We have peasant “cuifs,” middle-class “cuifs,” and lord “cuifs,” just about in proportion to their respective numbers. I believe, however, that men born to be rocked in silver cradles are in circumstances most likely to develop the “cuif” in them. When, therefore, we see the heirs of title and fortune assuming the part of the laborious student, working diligently in the cultivation of their intellectual resources, thereby fitting themselves for doing good service to the state, I for one most willingly assign to them the first position of honour. I never look upon a man of this class without fuly conning the words, “Honour to whom honour is due.” When, a few years ago, I read the wise words spoken to the Glasgow Athenaeum by the comparatively youthful Duke of Argyle, my heart did homage to that young nobleman; and when, on a recent occasion, I looked into his face, bearing the traces of hard thinking and hard working, that face had true dignity in my eyes. It was not alone that I saw in him the worthy head of one of our most noble Scottish families, but that in his position, at so early an age, as a British minister, I read clearly the dignity of his labour. I sometimes spend a leisure hour reading, in an old bundle of newspapers, the Parliamentary debates previous to the passing of the Reform Bill, and the thought that is ever uppermost in my mind after such perusal is the true dignity of Earl Russell’s labours in the cause of Reform. There he is, night after night, commanding the “listening senate” as he exhibits corruption and points out the remedy —soon making law a measure at least as radical as that for speaking of which Muir, Palmer, and Gerald were enrolled amongst our Scottish martyrs. I have told you that on reading these old debates I am ever impressed with the greatness of Earl Russell’s labours; and when I turn from my old favourites to the wet broadsheet of the morning, and find my model man extinguished in a slashing leader, the statesman’s life of labour rises up before me, and I have a dreamy notion that such modern leaders are but the dugt raised by the chariot wheels of the champion of the Reform Bill as he passes on to immortality. His Lordship halting by the way to lecture to the young men of London will not certainly impede his progress onward and upward.

There is one other great worker of whom I must speak. I have but to mention his name to bring before you many thoughts associated with the three great virtues—faith, hope, and charity. I refer to the truly noble Earl of Shaftesbury— a name that shines as a sunbeam, cheering many a sinking heart. Oh what a halo of true glory there is about that good man! Occupying the first position of rank and fortune, devoting his entire life to deeds of mercy and charity, my eyes grow dim as I gaze on the brightness of that Christ-like life, “going about continually doing good;” working night after night deep in the deep sin-trenches of the great city; reviving the sinking, bringing back the outcast, and ever directing the erring to an honest way of life. The work of this true nobleman exhibits in its most radiant hues the dignity of labour. It must have been such a life that the poet was contemplating when he wrote—

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.”

Yes, my friends, we must all learn a lesson from such a life, and strive, after we have by honest labour made provision for those of our own household, to do some little good to the great family of mankind,—something that will tend to make men wiser and better. If there be any humble workingman present, who timidly stands aloof from such work, leaving its performance to those in high places, I would have such a one remember that it was the humble, hard-working fishermen of Galilee that were first called upon to follow our Saviour, and do his work, and that the “ Lord of Glory” himself was educated for his works of love and mercy, not in the colleges of learning, but in the humble carpenters workshop. This great fact was no doubt meant to have its significance—meant to convey the truth that an humble position in life should be no barrier to active exertions in every good work. Oh, then, let us all strive to do some share of work in the Lord’s vineyard! Let us all do something to promote the progressive movements of our time,— something that will tend to preserve the purity of the pure; something that will tend to restore the lost lamb to the fold of the Great Shepherd; something that will tend to hasten the return of the Prodigal to the arms of his sorrowing Father; something that will tend to cheer the drooping spirit and bind up the broken heart; something that will tend to promote the good of men and the glory of God; and if, when the great Book is opened, such works shall be found recorded as an earnest of our faith, Jesus himself will tell the assembly of the just the dignity of our labour.


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