"Courage, ami, le diable est mort!" "Courage, friend, the devil is dead!"
was Denys's constant countersign, which he would give to everybody. "They don't
understand it," he would say, but it wakes them up. I carry the good news from
city to city, to uplift men s hearts." Once he came across a child who had
broken a pitcher. "Courage, amie, le diable est mort!" said he, which was such
cheering news that she ceased crying, and ran home to tell it to her grandma.
Give me the man who, like Emerson, sees longevity in his cause, and who
believes there is a remedy for every wrong, a satisfaction for every longing
soul; the man who believes the best of everybody, and who sees beauty and grace
where others see ugliness and deformity. Give me the man who believes in the
ultimate triumph of truth over error, of harmony over discord, of love over
hate, of purity over vice, of light over darkness, of life over death. Such men
are the true Nation-builders.
Jay Cooke, many times a millionaire at the age of fifty-one, at fifty-two
practically penniless, went to work again and built another fortune. The last of
his three thousand creditors was paid, and the promise of the great financier
was fulfilled. To a visitor who once asked him how he regained his fortune, Mr.
Cooke replied, "That is simple enough: by never changing the temperament I
derived from my father and mother. From my earliest experience in life I have
always been of a hopeful temperament, never living in a cloud; I have always had
a reasonable philosophy to think that men and times are better than harsh
criticism would suppose. I believed that this American
world of ours is full of wealth,
and that it was only necessary to go to work and find it. That is the secret of
my success in life. Always look on the sunny side."
"Everything has gone," said a New York businessman in despair, when he
reached home. But when he came to himself he found that his wife and his
children and the promises of God were left to him. Suffering, it was said by
Aristotle, becomes beautiful when any one bears great calamities with
cheerfulness, not through insensibility, but through greatness of mind.
When Garrison was locked up in the Boston city jail he said he had two
delightful companions, - a good conscience and a cheerful mind.
"Away with those fellows who go howling throu8h life," wrote Beecher,
"and all the while passing for birds of paradise! He that cannot laugh and be
gay should look to himself. He should fast and pray until his face breaks forth
Martin Luther has told us that he was once sorely discouraged and vexed
at himself, the world, and the church, and at the small success he then seemed
to be having; and he fell into a despondency, which affected all his household.
His good wife could not charm it away by cheerful speech or acts. At length she
hit upon this happy device, which proved effectual. She appeared before him in
"Who is dead?" asked Luther.
"Oh, do you not know, Martin? God in heaven is dead."
"How can you talk such nonsense, Kathe? "How can God die? Why, He is
immortal, and will live through all eternity."
"Is that really true?" persisted she, as if she could hardly credit his
assertion that God still lived.
"How can you doubt it? So surely as there is a God in heaven," asserted
the aroused theologian, "so sure is it that He can never die."
"And yet," said she demurely, in a tone which made him look up at her,
"though you do not doubt there is a God, you become hopeless and discouraged as
if there were none. It seemed to me you acted as if God were dead."
The spell was broken; Luther heartily laughed at his wife's lesson, and
her ingenious way of presenting it. "I observed," he remarked, "what a wise
woman my wife was, who mastered my sadness."
Jean Paul Richter's dream of "No God" is one of the most somber things in all literature, - "tempestuous chaos, no healing hand, no Infinite Father. I awoke. My soul wept for joy that it could again worship the Infinite Father.... And when I arose, from all nature I heard flowing sweet, peaceful tones, as from evening bells."
Ten things are necessary for happiness in this life, the first being a
good digestion, and the other nine, - money; so at least it is said by our
modern philosophers. Yet the author of "A Gentle Life" speaks more truly in
saying that the Divine creation includes thousands of superfluous joys, which
are totally unnecessary to the bare support of life.
He alone is the happy man who has learned to extract happiness, not from
ideal conditions, but from the actual ones about him. The man who has mastered
the secret will not wait for ideal surroundings; he will not wait until next
year, next decade, until he gets rich, until he can travel abroad, until he can
afford to surround himself with works of the great masters; but he will make the
most out of life today, where he is.
Paradise is here or nowhere: you must take your joy with you or you will
never find it.
It is after business hours, nor in them, that men break down. Men must,
like Philip Armour, turn the key on business when they leave it, and at once
unlock the doors of some wholesome recreation. Dr. Lyman Beecher used to divert
himself with a violin. He had a regular system of what he called "unwinding,"
thus relieving the great strain put upon him.
"A man," says Dr. Johnson, "should spend part of his time with the
Humour was Lincoln's life-preserver, as it has been of thousands of
others. "If it were not for this," he used to say, I should die." His jests and
quaint stories lighted the gloom of dark hours of national peril.
"Next to virtue," said Agnes Strickland, "the fun in this world is what
we can least spare."
"When the harness is off," said Judge Haliburton, "a critter likes to
kick up his heels."
"I have fun from morning till night," said the editor Charles A. Dana to
a friend who was growing prematurely old. "Do you read novels, and play
billiards, and walk a great deal?"
Gladstone early formed a habit of looking on the bright side of things,
and never lost a moment's sleep by worrying about public business.
There are many out-of-door sports, and the very presence of nature is to
many a great joy. How true it is that, if we are cheerful and contended, all
nature smiles with us, - the air seems more balmy, the sky more clear, the earth
has a brighter green, the trees have a richer foliage, the flowers are more
fragrant, the birds sing more sweetly, and the sun, moon, and stars all appear
more beautiful. "It is a grand thing to live, - to open the eyes in the morning
and look out upon the world, to drink in the pure air and enjoy the sweet
sunshine, to feel the pulse bound, and the being thrill with the consciousness
of strength and power in every nerve; it is a good thing simply to be alive, and
it is a good world we live in, in spite of the abuse we are fond of giving it."
And he who goes "prospecting" to see what he can daily discover is a wise
man, training his eye to see beauty in everything and everywhere.
"One ought, every day," says Goethe, "at least to hear a little song,
read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few
reasonable words." And if this be good for one's self, why not try the song, the
poem, the picture, and the good words, on some one else?
Shall music and poetry die out of you while you are struggling for that
which can never enrich the character, nor add to the soul's worth? Shall a
disciplined imagination fill the mind with beautiful pictures? He who has
intellectual resources to fall back upon will not lack for daily recreation most
It was a remark of Archbishop Whately that we ought not only to cultivate
the cornfields of the mind, but the pleasure-grounds also. A well-balanced life
is a cheerful life; a happy union of fine qualities and unruffled temper, a
clear judgement, and well-proportioned faculties. In a corner of his desk,
Lincoln kept a copy of the latest humorous work; and it was frequently his
habit, when fatigued, annoyed, or depressed, to take this up, and read a chapter
with great relief. Clean, sensible wit, or sheer nonsense, - anything to provoke
mirth and make a man jollier, - this, too, is a gift from Heaven.
In the world of books, what is grand and inspiring may easily become a
part of every man's life. A fondness for good literature, for good fiction, for
travel, for history, and for biography, - what is better than this?