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From: The True Citizen How To Become One
(Category: The Youth)


Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm.--Bulwer

Enthusiasm is the fundamental quality of strong souls.--Carlyle

The only conclusive evidence of a man's sincerity is that he gives
himself for a principle.--Phillips Brooks

Enthusiasm is the romance of the boy that becomes the heroism of the
man.--A. Bronson Alcott

Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is the
triumph of some enthusiasm.--Emerson

In the course of every life there are sure to be obstacles and
difficulties to be met. Prudence hesitates and examines them;
intelligence usually suggests some ingenious way of getting around them;
patience and perseverance deliberately go to work to dig under them; but
enthusiasm is the quality that boldly faces and leaps lightly over them.
By the power of enthusiasm the most extraordinary undertakings, that
seemed impossible of accomplishment, have been successfully carried out.
Enthusiasm makes weak men strong, and timid women courageous. Almost all
the great works of art have been produced when the artist was
intoxicated with a passion for beauty and form, which would not let him
rest until his thought was expressed in marble or on canvas.

A recent writer has said: "Enthusiasm is life lit up and shining. It is
the passion of the spirit pushing forward toward some noble activity. It
is one of the most powerful forces that go to the making of a noble and
heroic character."

In the Gallery of Fine Arts, in Paris, is a beautiful statue conceived
by a sculptor who was so poor that he lived and worked in a small
garret. When his clay model was nearly done, a heavy frost fell upon the
city. He knew that if the water in the interstices of the clay should
freeze, the beautiful lines would be distorted. So he wrapped his
bedclothes around the clay image to preserve it from destruction. In the
morning he was found dead; but his idea was saved, and other hands gave
it enduring form in marble.

Another instance of rare consecration to a great enterprise is found in
the work of the late Francis Parkman. While a student at Harvard, he
determined to write the history of the French and English in North
America. With a steadiness and devotion seldom equaled, he gave his
life, his fortune, his all, to this one great object. Although he had
ruined his health while among the Dakota Indians, collecting material
for his history, and could not use his eyes more than five minutes at a
time for fifty years, he did not swerve a hair's breadth from the high
purpose formed in his youth, until he gave to the world the best
history upon this subject ever written.

What a power there is in an enthusiastic adherence to an ideal! What are
hardships, ridicule, persecution, toil, or sickness, to a soul throbbing
with an overmastering purpose? Gladstone says that "what is really
wanted, is to light up the spirit that is within a boy." In some sense,
and in some degree, there is in every boy the material for doing good
work in the world; not only in those who are brilliant and quick, but
even in those who are stolid and dull.

A real enthusiasm makes men happy, keeps them fresh, hopeful, joyous.
Life never stagnates with them. They always keep sweet, anticipate a
"good time coming," and help to make it come.

Enthusiasm has been well called the "lever of the world"; for it sets in
motion, if it does not control, the grandest revolutions! Its influence
is immense. History bears frequent record of its contagiousness, showing
how vast multitudes have been roused into emotion by the enthusiasm of
one man; as was the case when the crowd of knights, and squires, and
men-at-arms, and quiet peasants, entered, at the bidding of St. Bernard,
upon the great Crusade.

The simple, innocent Maid of Orleans,--with her sacred sword, her
consecrated banner, and her belief in her great mission,--sent a thrill
of enthusiasm through the whole French army such as neither king nor
statesman could produce. Her zeal carried everything before it.

Enthusiasm makes men strong. It wakes them up, brings out their latent
powers, keeps up incessant action, impels to tasks requiring strength,
and then carries them to completion. Many are born to be giants, yet,
from lack of enthusiasm, few grow above common men. They need to be set
on fire by some eager impulse, inspired by some grand resolve, and they
would then quickly rise head and shoulders above their fellows.

Enthusiasm is the element of success in everything. It is the light that
leads, and the strength that lifts men on and up in the great struggles
of scientific pursuits and of professional labors. It robs endurance of
difficulty, and makes a pleasure of duty.

Enthusiasm gives to man a power that is irresistible. It is that secret
and harmonious spirit which hovers over the production of genius,
throwing the reader of a book, or the spectator of a statue, into the
presence of those with whom these works have originated. A great work
always leaves us in a state of lofty contemplation, if we are in
sympathy with it.

The most irresistible charm of youth is its bubbling enthusiasm. The
youth who comes fully under its control sees no darkness ahead. He
forgets that there is such a thing as failure in the world, and believes
that mankind has been waiting all these centuries for him to come and be
the liberator of truth and energy and beauty.

The boy Bach copied whole books of musical studies by moonlight, for
want of a candle churlishly denied. Nor was he disheartened when these
copies were taken from him. The boy painter West, began his work in a
garret, and cut hairs from the tail of the family cat for bristles to
make his brushes. Gerster, an unknown Hungarian singer, made fame and
fortune sure the first night she appeared in opera. Her enthusiasm
almost mesmerized her auditors. In less than a week she had become
popular and independent. Her soul was smitten with a passion for growth,
and all the powers of heart and mind were devoted to self-improvement.

Enthusiasm is purified and ennobled by self-denial. As the traveler, who
would ascend a lofty mountain summit, to enjoy the sunset there, leaves
the quiet of the lowly vale, and climbs the difficult path, so the true
enthusiast, in his aspiration after the highest good, allows himself to
be stopped by no wish for wealth and pleasure, and every step he takes
forward is connected with self-denial, but is a step nearer to success.


If one were to ask what individual best typifies the industrial progress
of this nation, it would be easy to answer, Thomas Alva Edison. Looking
at him as a newspaper boy, at the age of fifteen, one would hardly have
been led to predict that this young fellow would be responsible for the
industrial transformation of this continent.

At that early age he had already begun to dabble in chemistry, and had
fitted up a small traveling laboratory. One day, as he was performing an
experiment, the train rounded a curve and the bottles of chemicals were
dashed to the floor. There followed a series of unearthly odors and
unnatural complications. The conductor, who had suffered long and
patiently, now ejected the youthful enthusiast; and, it is said,
accompanied the expulsion with a resounding box upon the ear. This did
not dampen Edison's ardor, in the least. He passed through one dramatic
situation after another, mastering each and all; but his advancement
was due to patient, persevering work.

Not long ago a reporter asked him if he had regular hours for work.
"Oh!" he answered, "I do not work hard now. I come to the laboratory
about eight o'clock every day, and go home to tea at six; and then I
study and work on some problem until eleven, which is my hour for bed."

When it was suggested that fourteen or fifteen hours' work per day could
scarcely be called loafing, he replied, "Well, for fifteen years I have
worked on an average twenty hours a day." Nothing but a rare devotion to
an interesting subject could keep any man so diligently employed. So
enthusiastically did he pursue his researches, that, when he had once
started to solve a difficult problem, he has been known to work at it
for sixty consecutive hours.

In describing his Boston experiences, Edison relates that he bought
Faraday's works on electricity, and beginning to read them at three
o'clock in the morning, continued until his room-mate arose, when they
started on their long walk for breakfast. Breakfast, however, was of
small account in Edison's mind compared with his love for Faraday; and
he suddenly remarked to his friend, "Adams, I have so much to do, and
life is so short, that I must hustle;" and with that he started off on
a dead run for the boarding-house.

Edison has shown that he cares nothing for money, and has no particular
enthusiasm for fame. "What makes you work so hard?" asked a friend. "I
like it," he answered, after a moment's puzzled expression; and then
repeated several times, "I like it. I do not know any other reason. You
know how some people like to collect stamps. Anything I have begun is
always on my mind, and I am not easy while away from it until it is

Electrical science is still in its infancy, but the enthusiasm of Edison
has done much for its advancement. The subject indeed is a fascinating
one, and Edison's devotion to it, and the discoveries and practical
applications he has made in his researches, have placed him in the front
rank of America's greatest inventors.

[Footnote: See Review of Reviews, Vol. XVIII., and articles in



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