Cheerfulness is the best promoter of health.--Addison

Give us, oh give us, the man who sings at his work.--Carlyle

Age without cheerfulness is like a Lapland winter without the sun.


An ounce of cheerfulness is worth a pound of sadness.--Fuller

The habit of looking at the bright side of things is better than an

income of a thousand a year.--Hume.

We all love the company of cheerful people, but we do not think, as

much as we ought to, of the nature of cheerfulness itself. Because we

find that some people are naturally cheerful, we are apt to forget that

cheerfulness is a habit which can be cultivated by all. Whether we do or

do not possess a cheerful disposition, depends very largely upon our own

efforts; for if we will endeavor, while still in our early years, to

form the habit of looking on the bright side of things, and then persist

in this course as we grow older, we shall certainly attain to that

habitual cheerfulness which makes the lives of those we admire so sunny

and so pleasing.

Even the smallest matters may aid us in forming this habit. Perhaps you

have heard of the little girl who noticed, while eating her dinner, that

the golden rays of the sun fell upon her spoon. She put the spoon to her

mouth, and then exclaimed, "O mother! I have swallowed a whole spoonful

of sunshine." Some children even take a cheerful view of their

punishments, as seen in the following incident. "Little Charley had been

very naughty, and was imprisoned for an hour in the kitchen wood-box. He

speedily began amusing himself with chips and splinters, and was playing

quite busily and happily, when a neighbor entered the house by way of

the kitchen. 'Charley,' he cried, 'what are you doing there?' 'Nothing,'

said Charley, 'nothing; but mamma's just been having one of her bad


Cheerfulness consists in that happy frame of mind which is best

described as the shutting out of all that pertains to the morbid, the

gloomy, the fretful, and the discontented. The perfection of

cheerfulness is displayed in general good temper united to much

kindliness of heart. It arises partly from personal goodness, and partly

from belief in the goodness of others. Its face is ever directed toward

happiness. It sees "the glory in the grass, the sunshine on the flower."

It encourages happy thoughts, and lives in an atmosphere of peace. It

costs nothing, and yet is invaluable; for it blesses its possessor, and

affords a large measure of enjoyment to others.

Cheerfulness bears the same friendly regard to the mind as to the body.

It banishes all anxious care and discontent, soothes and composes the

passions, and keeps the soul in a perpetual calm. Try for a single day

to keep yourself in an easy and cheerful frame of mind; and then compare

the day with one which has been marred by discontent, and you will find

your heart open to every good motive, and your life so greatly

strengthened, that you will wonder at your own improvement, and will

feel that you are more than repaid for the effort.

Goethe once said, "Give me the man who bears a heavy load lightly, and

looks on a grave matter with a blithe and cheerful eye." And Carlyle has

pointed out that "One is scarcely sensible of fatigue whilst he marches

to music. The very stars are said to make harmony as they revolve in

their spheres. Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness; altogether past

calculation its power of endurance. Efforts, to be permanently useful,

must be uniformly joyous--a spirit all sunshine, graceful from very

gladness, beautiful because bright."

This spirit of cheerfulness should be encouraged in our youth if we

would wish to have the benefit of it in our old age. Persons who are

always innocently cheerful and good-humored are very useful in the

world; they maintain peace and happiness, and spread a thankful temper

among all who live around them.

"A little word in kindness spoken

A motion or a tear,

Has often healed a heart that's broken,

And made a friend sincere."

Cheerfulness does not depend upon the measure of our possessions. There

is a Persian story to the effect that the great king, being out of

spirits, consulted his astrologers, and was told that happiness could be

found by wearing the shirt of a perfectly happy man. The court, and the

homes of all the prosperous classes were searched in vain; no such man

could be found. At last a common laborer was found to fulfill the

conditions; he was absolutely happy; but, alas! the remedy was as far

off as ever, for the man had no shirt.

The same truth may be illustrated by a reference to the life and

character of the Roman emperor, Nero. Few persons ever had greater means

and opportunities for self-gratification. From the senator to the slave,

everybody in the empire crouched in servile subjection before his

throne. Enormous revenues from the provinces were poured into his

coffers, and no one dared criticise his manner of spending them. He was

absolute monarch, holding the destinies of millions at his will. He came

to the throne at seventeen; and during the fifteen years of his reign he

exhausted every known means of passionate indulgence. He left nothing

untried or untouched that could stimulate the palate, or arouse his

passions, or administer in any way to his pleasure. After the great fire

in Rome, he built his golden palace, and said, "Now at last I am lodged

like a man"; but alas! his search for happiness was in vain. During his

later years he never knew a really cheerful day; and, at last, he was

forced to flee before his outraged people, and took refuge in a

miserable hut, trembling like a base coward, where, at his own request, a

slave did him the favor to end his miserable life.

In one of his famous essays, Addison says, "I have always preferred

cheerfulness to mirth. The latter I consider as an act, the former as a

habit of the mind. Mirth is like a flash of lightning that breaks

through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps

up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and

perpetual serenity."

Cheerfulness and good spirits depend in a great degree upon bodily

causes; but much may be done for the promotion of this frame of mind.

"Persons subject to low spirits should make the room in which they live

as cheerful as possible; hanging up pictures or prints, and filling the

odd nooks and corners with beautiful ornaments. A bay window looking

upon pleasant objects, and, above all, a large fire whenever the weather

will permit, are favorable to good spirits, and the tables near should

be strewed with books and pamphlets." "To this," says Sydney Smith,

"must be added as much eating and drinking as is consistent with health;

and some manual employment for men--as gardening, a carpenter's shop, or

a turning-lathe. Women have always manual employment enough, and it is a

great source of cheerfulness." For children, fresh air, occupation, and

outdoor sports are great helps in overcoming depression and gloom.


There are a few noble natures whose very presence carries sunshine with

them wherever they go; a sunshine which means pity for the poor,

sympathy for the suffering, help for the unfortunate, and kindness

toward all. It is the sunshine, and not the cloud, that colors the

flower. There is more virtue in one sunbeam than in a whole hemisphere

of cloud and gloom.

A man of this stamp is found in Sydney Smith, an English clergyman and

writer of great distinction, who was born in 1771, and died in 1845. His

was a sunny temperament. Noted for his wit, he was equally famous for

his kindness. He hated injustice; he praised virtue; he pierced humbugs;

he laughed away trouble; he preached and lived the gospel of Christian


Smith helped to found the _Edinburgh Review_, and he advocated

putting on the title-page this truthful, too truthful, sentence: "We

cultivate literature on a little oatmeal." Poor but happy, this jest is

characteristic of the man. His name became known: his society was

sought. Macaulay and he were called "the great talkers." He moved to

London, and gave lectures on moral philosophy that drew crowds, so that

the carriages of fashion blocked the streets. He was the charm of every

circle. His pen was always on the side of progress and good fellowship.

At every turn in life he made light of vexations, and never allowed

himself or those with him to indulge in morbid ideas, imaginative

forebodings, or resentment. This is what he wrote to his daughter: "I am

not situated as I should choose; but I am resolved to like it, and to

reconcile myself to it; which is more manly than to feign myself above

it and send up complaints of being thrown away." One of his favorite

expressions was, "Let us glorify the room"; which meant, throw up the

shades and let in the sunshine.

The following anecdote will help to show his bright and sparkling

disposition: At dinner with a large party of famous men and women, a

French scientist annoyed all the rest by loudly arguing for atheism, and

proclaimed his belief that there is no God. "Very good soup this,"

struck in Sydney Smith. "Yes, monsieur, it is excellent," replied the

atheist. "Pray, sir," continued Smith, "do you believe in a cook?" The

ounce of wit was worth a pound of argument.

He is one of the very few men whose names have been handed down to us by

reason of the possession of this gift, and his career should be more

fully studied.

[Footnote: See "Wit and Wisdom of Sydney Smith," by Duyckinck (1856);

"Memoirs of Sydney Smith" by his daughter, Lady Holland (1855); "Life

and Times of Sydney Smith," by Stuart J. Reid (London, 1844).]

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