By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Letters from a Father to His Son Entering College
Author: Thwing, Charles Franklin, 1853-1937
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters from a Father to His Son Entering College" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from scanned images of public domain material



                       CHARLES FRANKLIN THWING
               President of Western Reserve University

                               New York
                         THE PLATT & PECK CO.

                           Copyright, 1912
                        By THE PLATT & PECK CO.


Parts of the letters that make up this little book were read to my
own college boys at the opening of a college year. They represent
somewhat, but of course only a bit, of what I believe many a father
would like to say to his own son,--as I to mine,--when he is entering
the most important year of his college life--the Freshman. Those who
first heard them,--even though obliged to hear,--seemed to suffer them
gladly. They are, therefore, brought together, and sent out to fathers
and to sons, and with a peculiar feeling of sympathy for both the
parent and the boy at one of the crises of the life of each.

                                                          C. F. T.

  Western Reserve University,


     I Thought                        9
    II The Essential Gentleman       22
   III Health as an Asset            25
    IV Appreciation                  29
     V Scholarship                   31
    VI The Intellectual Life         40
   VII The Use of Time               43
  VIII Culture                       53
    IX College Morals                61
     X Weakness of Character         65
    XI The Genesis of Success        68
   XII Religion                      91


My Dear Boy:--I am glad you want to go to college. Possibly I might
send you even if you did not want to go, yet I doubt it. One may send
a boy through college and the boy is sent through. None of the college
is sent through him. But if you go, I am sure a good deal of the
college will somehow get lodged in you.

You will find a thousand and one things in college which are worth
while. I wish you could have each of them, but you can not. You have
to use the elective system, even in the Freshman year. The trouble is
not that so few boys do not seem to know how to distinguish the good
from the bad, but that so many boys do not know the better from the
good and the best from the better. I have known thousands of college
boys, and they do not seem to distinguish, or, if they do, they do not
seem to be able to apply the gospel of difference.

You won't think me imposing on you--will you?--if before entering
college I tell you of some things which seem to me to be most worthy
of your having and being on the day you get your A. B.

The first thing I wish to say to you is that I want you to come out of
the college a thinker. But how to make yourself a thinker is both hard
to do and hard to tell. Yet, the one great way of making yourself a
thinker is to think. Thinking is a practical art. It cannot be taught.
It is learned by doing. Yet there are some subjects in the course
which seem to me to be better fitted than others to teach you this
art. I've been trying to find out what are some of the marks or
characteristics of these subjects. They are, I believe, subjects which
require concentration of thought; subjects which have clearness in
their elements, yet which are comprehensive, which are complex,
which are consecutive in their arrangements of parts, each part
being closely, rigorously related to every other, which represent
continuity, of which the different elements or parts may be prolonged
unto far reaching consequences. Concentration in the thinker,
clearness, comprehensiveness, complexedness, consecutiveness,
continuity--there are the six big C's, which are marks of the subjects
which tend to create the thinker.

To attempt to apply each of these marks to many different subjects of
the curriculum represents a long and unduly stupefying labor. Apply
them for yourself. Different subjects have different worths for the
students, but there are certain recognized values attached to each
coin of the intellectual realm.

Mathematics and pure physics eminently represent the larger part
of these six elements which I have named. Mathematics demands
concentration. Mathematics is, in a sense, the mind giving itself
to certain abstract truths. What is X^2 but a form of the mind?
Mathematics demands clearness of thinking and of statement.
Without clearness mathematics is naught. It also represents
comprehensiveness. The large field of its truth is pressed into
its greater relationships. Mathematical truth is complex. Part
is involved with part. It is consecutive. Part follows part in
necessary order. It is also continuous. It represents a graded

It is, however, to be remembered that the reasoning of mathematics is
unlike most reasoning which we usually employ. Mathematical reasoning
is necessary. Most reasoning is not necessary. That two _plus_ two
equal four is a truth about which people do not differ usually. But
reasoning in economics, such as the protective tariff; reasoning in
philosophy, such as the presence or absence of innate ideas; reasoning
in history; is not absolute. I have even wondered how far Cambridge,
standing for mathematics and the physical sciences, has helped to make
men great. Oxford is said to be the mother of great movements, and it
is. Here the Wesleyan movement, and the Tractarian movement and the
Social movement, as seen in Toynbee Hall, had their origins. Cambridge
is called the mother of great men. Is there any relation of cause and
effect, at Cambridge, between its emphasis upon mathematics and the
sciences and the great men whom she has helped to make?

Logic is the subject of a course which embodies the six marks I have
laid down. It demands these great elements in almost the same ways in
which mathematics demands them. Logic, in a sense, might be called
applied or incarnate mathematics. The man who wishes to be a thinker
should be and is the master of logic.

Language, too, represents almost one half of the course of the modern
college, and it represented more than one half of the course of the
older college. What merits has the study of language for making the
thinker? The study of languages makes no special demand on the
quality of concentration, but the study does demand and creates
comprehensiveness and clearness. The study represents a complex
process and requires analysis. The time-spirit has worked and still
works in languages unto diverse and manifold forms. Languages are
developed with a singular union of orderliness and disorderliness. The
parts of a language are in some cases closely related. The Greek verb
is the most highly developed linguistic product. It is built up with
the delicacy and poise of a child's house of blocks, yet with the
orderliness of a Greek temple. Each letter represents a different
meaning. Augment, prefix, ending has its own significance. I asked a
former Chinese minister to this country what taught him to think. His
succinct answer was "Greek."

In creating the thinker, the historical and social sciences have chief
value in their complex relationships. Select any period of history
pregnant with great results. For instance, select the efflorescence of
the Greek people after the Persian wars. What were the causes of this
vast advance? Take, for instance, the political and social condition
prevalent for thirty years in America before the Civil War. What were
the causes of this war? Or, take economic affairs--what are the
reasons for and against a protective tariff? What are the limitations
of such a tariff? Such conditions require comprehensive knowledge of
complex matters. From such mastery the thinker results,--the thinker
of consideration and considerateness. He can perceive a series of
facts and the relation of each to each.

The law of values of these different subjects in making the thinker,
is that the subjects which demand hard thinking are most creative.
Easy subjects, or hard subjects easily worked out, have little place
in the making of a thinker. One must think hard to become a hard
thinker. Subjects and methods which are hard create the inevitable

Subjects which demand thinking only, however, sometimes are rather
barren in result. One likes a certain content or concreteness in the
thinking process. Abstract thinking sometimes seems like a balloon
which has no connection with the earth. If a balloon is to be guided,
it must be held down to _terra firma_. The ricksha men in Japan can
run better if the carriage has a load. The bullet must have weight to
go. A subject, therefore, which has content may quicken thinking and
stimulate thoughtfulness.

The thinker is not made, however, only by the subjects he studies. In
this condition the teacher has his place, and especially the methods
of teaching and the inspiring qualities of teaching which he
represents, have value. The dead lift of the discipline of the mind is
liable to be a deadening process. Every subject needs a man to
vitalize it for the ordinary student. Every graduate recalls teachers
of such strength. He holds them in unfading gratitude and often in
deathless affection.


The second thing I want to say to you is that I want you to be a
gentleman. How absurd it is for me to write that to you. Of course,
you are, and, of course, you will be one. In the creation of the
gentleman as well as of the thinker, the personal equation counts. In
fact, it counts for more in the making of the gentleman. For in this
making truth is less important than the personality. In the gentleman
intellectual altruism and moral appreciativeness are large elements.
One has to see and to understand the personal condition with which he
deals. If he is dull, his conduct is as apt to give unhappiness as

In order to open the eyes of the heart, in order to create an
intellectual conscientiousness, the study of great literatures must be
assigned a high place. Constant and complex needs to be such study.
Literature represents humanity. The humanities are humanity.
Literature is style and style is the man. The gentleman as a product
represents the homeopathic principle. The gentleman makes the
gentleman. Certain colleges are distinguished by the type of gentleman
which they create. It will usually be found, on observation or
analysis, that colleges which are distinguished for the gracious
conduct of their teachers toward their students are distinguished by
the gracious bearing of their graduates.

As a gentleman you will be a friend and will have friends. In this
relation of friendship in its earlier stages there is no part of life
in which it is more important for you to exercise the virtue and grace
of reserve. Be in no haste to make friends. Friendships are growths,
not manufactures. These growths, too, are like the elm and the oak,
not like the willow. At this point lies all I want to say to you about
joining a fraternity. If the men you want to be your intimate friends
are members and ask you to join, accept. If the men you do not wish to
be your intimate friends wish you to go with them, decline. Do not
join for the sake of a blind pool membership. Such a membership is
really a sort of social insincerity, a lie.


In the assessment of academic values, give a high place to sound
health. The worth is so great that very slight may be the paragraph I
write you. In the "Egoist," George Meredith says, "Health, wealth and
beauty are three considerations to be sought for in a woman, who is to
become the wife of Sir Willoughby." Wealth and beauty are quite as
much out of ordinary results of the education of the American college
as health should be among those results.

One may be sick, and through sickness become a saint; one may be sick
and through sickness become a sinner. But one cannot be sick and at
the same time be as good a worker as he would be if he were not sick.
Good workers the world needs, and, therefore, men of first-rate health
the world needs. If one is to be a great worker, one must have great
health. It is not for me to write as would a physician, but I may be
allowed to say that in caring for health, one should not become
self-conscious. Let me further suggest:--

First--That you sleep eight hours.

Second--Exercise at least a half an hour each day in the gymnasium.

Third--Eat much of simple food; but not too much!

Fourth--Don't worry.

Fifth--Play ball much (base, foot, basket); but not too much!

In a word, be a good animal.

One of my old teachers once said to me after I was engaged in my

"I am sorry to see you looking so well."


"Because every man has to break down three times in life. I broke down
three times; Professor Hitchcock broke down three times; every man
must break down three times, and the earlier the breaks come, the

There is no need of any man's breaking down, if he will observe with
fair respect the laws of sleep, exercise and food.


I also desire that you should be a man of scholarly sympathy and
appreciation. I can hardly hope you will be a scholar. Yet you may.
The scholar seldom emerges. If one out of each thousand students,
entering the American college this year, should prove to be a scholar,
the proportion is as large as one can hope for. For up to one in a
thousand is as big a proportion as the world is prepared to accept.
Yet it is to be hoped that you and that most men should have
appreciation and sympathy with scholarship. You should know what
scholarship means: in work as toilsomeness, in method as wisdom, in
atmosphere as thoroughness and patience, in result as an addition to
the stock of human knowledge. If you be a laborer in one field, you
should not seek, and I know you will not seek, to discount the
existence of other fields, or despise the laborers in those fields.
If you become an engineer, you will not condemn the classicist as
useless. If you are a Grecian, you will not despise the mechanical
engineer as crass and coarse.

One finds that the best men of any one field or calling are more
inclined to recognize the eminence of the claims of other fields or
callings. Smallness spells provincialism, and provincialism spells
smallness. I have heard one of the greatest teachers of chemistry say
that if he were to make a boy a professor of chemistry, he would,
among other things, first teach him Greek.


The first principle of college life is the principle of doing one's
duty. In your appreciation of scholarship, your first duty is to learn
your lessons. I have known many college men who learned their lessons,
who yet failed to get from the college all that they ought to get. But
I have never known a man who failed to get his lessons, whatever else
he may have got, to receive the full advantage of the course. The
curriculum of every good college is the resultant of scores or of
hundreds of years of reflection and of trial. It represents methods,
content, purposes, which many teachers through many experiments of
success and of failure have learned are the best forces for training
mind and for forming character.

But for the student to receive worthy advantage from these forces he
is obliged to relate himself to them by hard intellectual attention
and application. Sir Leslie Stephen says that the Cambridge teachers
of his time were not given to enthusiasms, but preached common-sense,
and common-sense said: "Stick to your triposes, grind at your mill,
and don't set the universe in order till you have taken your
bachelor's degree." The duty of the American college student is no
less evident. He is to stick to his triposes. His triposes are his
lessons. Among the greatest of all teachers was Louis Agassiz. A story
has become classical as told by the distinguished naturalist, the late
Dr. Samuel H. Scudder, regarding the methods of the great teacher with
his students.

In brief the story is that Mr. Scudder on going to Agassiz was told,
"'Take this fish and look at it. We call it a Hæmulon. By and by I
will ask you what you have seen.' ... In ten minutes I had seen all
that could be seen in that fish.... Half an hour passed, an hour,
another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and
around; looked it in the face--ghastly!--from behind, beneath, above,
sideways, at three-quarters view--just as ghastly. I was in despair.
At an early hour I concluded that lunch was necessary; so, with
infinite relief, the fish was carefully replaced in the jar, and for
an hour I was free.

"On my return I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the Museum,
but had gone, and would not return for several hours.... Slowly I drew
forth that hideous fish, and, with a feeling of desperation, again
looked at it. I might not use a magnifying glass; instruments of all
kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it
seemed a most limited field.... At last a happy thought struck me--I
would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new
features in the creature....

"He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of
parts whose names were still unknown to me.... When I had finished he
waited, as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment,
'You have not looked very carefully; why,' he continued most
earnestly, 'you haven't even seen one of the most conspicuous features
of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the animal
itself. Look again! Look again!' and he left me to my misery.

"I ventured to ask what I should do next.

"'Oh, look at your fish,' he said, and left me again to my own
devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new

"'That is good, that is good,' he repeated: 'but that is not all; go
on.' And so for three long days he placed that fish before my eyes,
forbidding me to look at anything else or use any artificial aid.
'Look, look, look,' was his repeated injunction."

Doctor Scudder says that this was the best entomological lesson he
ever had, and a lesson of which the influence extended to the details
of every subsequent study.

It is the duty of the college student to look at his fish, to thumb
his lexicon, to read his textbook, to study his notes, to think, and
think hard, upon the truth therein presented. Of all the students in
the world the Scotch represent this simple duty the best. The men at
Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews and Aberdeen toil mightily.

The duty of learning one's lessons is, in these times, opposed by at
least two elements of college life. One is self-indulgence and the
other is athletics. Self-indulgence is a general cause and constant.
Athletics have in the last thirty years come to be a force more or
less dominant. Athletics represent a mighty force for collegiate and
human betterment. Football, which is _par excellence_ the college
game, is an admirable method of training the man physical, the man
intellectual and the man ethical. But football is not a college
purpose; it is a college means. It is a means for the promotion of
scholarship, for the formation of manhood. When football or other
forms of college sport are turned from being a method and a means into
being ends in themselves the misfortune is lamentable.

At a recent Harvard commencement, Professor Shaler, than whom no man
in Harvard was more vitally in touch with all undergraduate interests,
spoke of the harm wrought upon many students through their absorption
in athletics. It cannot be denied for an instant that many men are
hurt by giving undue attention to sports. Of course many men are
benefited, and, are benefited vastly, by athletics, but men who are
harmed should at once be obliged to learn the lesson of learning their
lessons. That is the chief lesson which they ought to learn.


In the appreciation of scholarship is found the strain of intellectual
humility. The scholar is more inclined to inquire than to affirm. He
is more ready to ask "What do you think?" than to say "I know." He is
remote from intellectual arrogance. Humility means greatness.
Cockiness is a token of narrowness. The Socratic spirit of modesty is
as true a manner of wisdom as it is an effective method of increasing
wisdom. The man who has an opinion on all things, has no right to an
opinion on any one.

This intellectual sympathy and appreciation should take on esthetic
relations. You should be a lover of beauty as well as of wisdom. Good
books, good pictures, good music, good architecture, should be among
your avocations. Read a piece of good literature every day. See a good
picture or a good copy of one every day. Hear some good music every
day. The chapel service may give it to you. And see a piece of good
architecture every day. Some of the college buildings can give it.
Alas! many do not. Such visions and hearings will soak into your

All this is only saying lead the life intellectual. You should not
only be a thinker, you should be thoughtful. You should be a man of
large thoughtfulness. You should be prepared to interpret life and all
phenomena in terms of the intellect. Many of our countrymen are
intelligent. They know a great deal. They have gathered up information
about many things. This information is desultory, unrelated. Their
minds are a Brummagem drawer. Here, by the way, lies the worthlessness
of President Eliot's list of books to the untrained mind. To the
educated mind such books mean much; to the uneducated, little. Yet, as
a college man, you may know less than not a few uneducated people may
know. I don't care. The life intellectual is more and most important.


I also want you to go from the college a good combination of a good
worker and a good loafer. To be able to loaf well is not a bad purpose
of an education. The loafing that carries along with itself the
freedom from selfishness, appreciation of others' conditions, and
gentlemanliness, is worth commending. Loafing that follows hard work
and prepares for hard work is one of the best equipments of a man.
Loafing that has no object, loafing as a vocation, is to be despised.
The late Professor Jebb wrote to his father once from Cambridge,

"I _will_ read but not very hard; because I know better than you or
any one can tell me, how much reading is good for the development of
my own powers at the present time, and will conduce to my success next
year and afterwards; and I will _not_ identify myself with what are
called in Cambridge 'the reading set,' _i. e._, men who read twelve
hours a day and never do anything else; (1) because I should lose ten
per cent. of reputation (which at the university is no bubble but real
living useful capital); (2) because the reading set, with a few
exceptions, are utterly uncongenial to me. My set is a set that
_reads_, but does not only read; that accomplishes one great end of
university life by mixing in cheerful and intellectual society, and
learning the ways of the world which its members are so soon to enter;
and which, without the pedantry and cant of the 'reading man,' turns
out as good Christians, better scholars, better men of the world, and
better gentlemen, than those mere plodders with whom a man is
inevitably associated if he identifies himself with the reading set."

I rather like the loafing which young Jebb indulged in, but I fear it
is a type of the life which some college men do not follow. They are
inclined to look upon the four college years as a respite between the
labor of the preparatory school and the labor of business, or rather
they may look upon the four college years as a life of professional
leisure. I am glad you cannot, even if you wished to, and I know you
do not wish to, think of college as either respite or leisure. Whether
the college is wise in allowing such loafing, it is not for me now to
say, but I can trust you to be the proper kind of loafer as well as of

Indeed, I want you to have good habits of working. In such habits the
valuation of time is of special significance. For time is not an
agent. It does nothing. As a power, time is absolutely worthless. As a
condition, time is of infinite worth. Mark Pattison, the rector of
Lincoln College, said: "Time seems infinite to the freshman in his
first term." But let me add that to a senior in his last term time is
a swiftly moving opportunity. The need of time becomes more and more
urgent as the college years go. When Jowett was fifty-nine years old,
he wrote: "I cannot say _vixi_, for I feel as if I were only just
beginning and had not half completed what I had intended. If I live
twenty-five years more I will, _Dei gratia_, accomplish a great work
for Oxford and for philosophy in England. Activity, temperance, no
enmities, self-denial, saving eyes, never overwork." On his seventieth
birthday Jowett made out what he called his Scheme of Life. It was


  1 Year--Politics, Republic, Dialogues of Plato.
  2 Years--Moral Philosophy.
  2 Years--Life of Christ.
  1 Year--Sermons.
  2 Years--Greek Philosophy; Thales to Socrates.

I turn over the last pages of Jowett's "Life and Letters," and I
find a list of his works. Is there a moral philosophy in the list?
No. A life of Christ? No. A treatise on Greek philosophy? No.
But I do find a volume of college sermons, published since his
death, and also a new edition of his "Plato." One of the most
pathetic things in the volumes that cover his life is the constant
reference to _agenda_--things he was to do. But the _agenda_ rapidly
become _nugae_--impossibilities--and the reason was simply, as it
ever is, the lack of time.

To save time, take time in large pieces. Do not cut time up into bits.
Adopt the principle of continuous work. The mind is like a locomotive.
It requires time for getting under headway. Under headway it makes its
own steam. Progress gives force as force makes progress. Do not slow
down as long as you run well and without undue waste. Take advantage
of momentum. Prolonged thinking leads to profound thinking. Steamers
which have the longest routes seek deepest waters. Let me also counsel
you to do what must be done sometime as soon as possible. Thus you
avoid worry. You save yourself needless trouble and waste. You also
have the satisfaction of having the thing done which is a very blessed
satisfaction. I would have you spring to your work in the mood and the
way in which J. C. Shairp, in his poem on the "Balliol Scholars,"
spoke of Temple:--

  "With strength for labor, 'as the strength of ten'
    To ceaseless toil he girt him night and day:
  A native King and ruler among men,
    Ploughman or Premier, born to bear true sway:
  Small or great duty never known to shirk,
    He bounded joyously to sternest work--
  Lest buoyant others turn to sport and play."

Therefore, do not be a slave. Go at your job with enthusiasm. To get
enthusiasm in work, work. Work creates enthusiasm for work in a
healthy mind. The dyer's hand is not subdued to its materials; it is
strengthened through materials for service.


You will soon learn, my son, that college men are, as a rule, sound in
body, sane in mind, in heart pure, in will vigorous, keen in
conscience, and filled with noble aspirations. Such men usually
interpret life, both academic and general, in sanity and in justice.

Yet, despite these happy conditions, there does prevail a danger of
college men making certain misconceptions of college life.

A misconception which is more or less common among students you will
soon have occasion to see relates to the failure to distinguish, on
the one side, knowledge from efficiency, and on the other, knowledge
from cultivation. In the former time, the worth of knowledge, as
knowledge, was emphasized in the college. The man who knew was
regarded as the great man. To make each student an encyclopedia of
information was a not uncommon aim. It is certainly well to know.
Scholarship is seldom in peril of receiving too high encomium. Yet,
knowledge is not power. Sometimes knowledge prevents the creation, or
retention, or use, of power. The intellect may be so clogged with
knowledge that the will becomes sluggish or irregular in its action.

Knowledge, however, is always to be so gathered that it shall create
power and minister to efficiency. The accumulation of information is
to be made with such orderliness, accuracy, thoroughness and
comprehensiveness, that these qualities shall represent the chief and
lasting result of knowledge. Facts may be forgotten, but the
orderliness, accuracy, thoroughness and comprehensiveness in which
these facts have been gathered are more important than the facts
themselves, and these qualities should, and may, become a permanent
intellectual treasure. These qualities are elements of efficiency.
They are forces for making attainments, for securing results. The
student, however, while he is securing the facts which lead to these
qualities is in peril of forgetting the primary value of the qualities

On the other side, the student is also in peril of failing to
distinguish between knowledge as knowledge, and knowledge which leads
to personal cultivation. What is cultivation, and who is the
cultivated person? Some would say that the cultivated person is the
person of beautiful manners, of the best knowledge of life's best
things, who is at home in any society or association. Such a
definition is not to be spurned. For, is it not said that "Manners
make the man"? Manners make the man! That is, Do manners create the
man? that is, Do manners give reputation to the man? that is, Do
manners express the character of the man? Which of the three
interpretations is sound? Or does each interpretation intimate a side
of the polygon?

I know of a man put in nomination for a place in an historic college.
The trustees were in doubt respecting his bearing in certain social
relations. As a test, I may say, he was asked to be a guest at an
afternoon tea. Rather silly way, in some respects, wasn't it? I doubt
if he to this day is aware of the trial to which he was subjected. The
way one accepts or declines a note of invitation, the way one uses his
voice, the way one enters or retires from a room may, or may not, be
little in itself, but the simple act is evidence of conditions. For is
not manner the comparative of man? I would not say it is the

Others would affirm that the cultivated person is the person who
appreciates the best which life offers. Appreciation is intellectual,
emotional, volitional. It is discrimination _plus_ sympathy. It
contains a dash of admiration. It recognizes and adopts the best in
every achievement, in the arts of literature, poetry, sculpture,
painting, architecture. The cultivated person seeks out the least
unworthy in the unworthy, and the most worthy in that which is at all
worthy. The person of cultivation knows, compares, relates, judges. He
has standards and he applies them to things, measures methods. He is
able to discriminate and to feel the difference between the Parthenon
and the Madeleine, between a poem of Tennyson and one of Longfellow.
His moral nature is fine, as his intellectual is honest. He is filled
with reverence for truth, duty, righteousness. He is humble, for he
knows how great is truth, how imperative, duty. He is modest, for he
respects others. He is patient with others and with himself, for he
knows how unattainable is the right. He can be silent when in doubt.
He can speak alone when truth is unpopular. He is willing to lose his
voice in the "choir invisible" when it chants either the Miserere or
the Gloria in Excelsis. He is a man of proportion, of reality,
sincerity, honesty, justice, temperance--intellectual and ethical.

The college man is in peril of forgetting the worth of cultivation.
Knowledge should lead to cultivation, but, as in the case of securing
efficiency, the mind of the student may be so fixed upon processes as
to fail to recognize the importance of the result as manifest in the
cultivation of his whole being.

In the case of both efficiency and cultivation, the student is to
remember there is no substitute. Intellectual power cannot be
counterfeited. Any attempt, also, to secure a sham cultivation is
foreordained to failure.


The student is also too prone to distinguish between academic morals
and human morals. As a student, he may crib in examination without
compunction. As a student, he too often feels it is right to deceive
his teacher. Students who are gentlemen and who would as soon cut
their own throats as steal your purse, will yet steal your office sign
or the pole of your barber. In such college outlawry he loses no sense
of self-respect, and in no degree the respect of his fellow students.
Let us confess at once that in what may be called academic immorals
there is usually no sense of malice. This condition does create a
distinct difference between academic and human ethics. Let the
distinction be given full credit. Yet, be it at once and firmly said,
a lie is a lie, and thieving is thieving. The blameworthiness may
differ in different cases, but there is always blameworthiness.

Be it also said the public does not usually recognize the distinction
which the student himself seeks to make. The public becomes justly
impatient with, and more or less indignant over, the horseplay, or
immoralities which students work outside, and sometimes inside,
college walls. The student is to remember that before he was a student
he was a man, that after he has ceased to be a student he is to be a
man, and while he is a student he is also to be a man, and also
before, after, and always he is to be a gentleman. Such irregular
conditions belong, of course, to youth as well as to the student. The
irreverence which characterizes all American life is prone to become
insolence, when, in the student, it is raised to the second or third
power. The able man and true--student or not a student--of course
presently adjusts himself to orderly conditions. The academic
experience proves to be a discipline, though sometimes not a happy
one, and the discipline helps towards the achievement of a large and
rich character.


Another misconception made by the student is also common. It is a
misconception attaching to any weakness of his character. The student
is inclined to believe that there may be weaknesses which are not
structural. He may think that there may be some weakness in one part
of his whole being which shall not affect his whole being. He may
believe that he can skimp his intellectual labor without making his
moral nature thin, or that he can break the laws of his moral nature
without breaking his intellectual integrity. He may think that he can
play fast and loose with his will without weakening his conscience or
without impairing the truthfulness of his intellectual processes. He
may imagine that he is composed of several distinct potencies and that
he can lessen the force of any one of them without depreciating the
value of the others. Lamentable mistake, and one often irretrievable.
For man is a unit. Weakness in one part becomes weakness in every
part. In the case of the body, the illness of one organ damages all
organs. If the intellect be dull, or narrow in its vision, or false in
its logic, the heart refuses to be quickened and the conscience is
disturbed. If the heart be frigid, the intellect, in turn, declines to
do its task with alertness or vigor. If conscience be outraged, the
intellect loses force and the heart becomes clothed with shame. Man is
one. Strength in one part is strength in, and for, every part, and
weakness in one part results in weakness in, and for, every part.

For avoiding these three misconceptions, the simple will of the
college man is of primary worth. If he will to distinguish knowledge
from efficiency, and knowledge from cultivation, if he will to know
that the distinction between academic morals and human morals is not so
deep as some believe, and if he will to believe in the unity of
character, the student has the primary help for securing a sound idea
and a right practice.


I write to you, my boy, out of the experience and observation of
thirty years in which I have followed as best I could the careers of
graduates of many of our colleges. The other afternoon I set down the
names of some of these graduates of the two colleges which I know
best. Among them were men who, fifteen or thirty years after their
graduation, are doing first-rate work. They are lawyers, editors,
physicians, judges, clergymen, teachers, merchants, manufacturers,
architects and writers. As I have looked at the list with a mind
somewhat inquisitive I have asked myself what are the qualities or
conditions which have contributed to the winning of the great results
which these men have won.

The answers which I have given myself are manifold. For it is always
difficult in personal matters to differentiate and to determine
causes. In mechanical concerns it is not difficult. But in the
calculation of causes which constitute the value of a person as a
working force one often finds oneself baffled. The result frequently
seems either more or less than an equivalent of the co-operating
forces. The personal factor, the personal equation counts immensely.
These values we cannot measure in scales or figure out by the four
processes of arithmetic.

Be it said that the causes of the success of these men do not lie in
their conditions. No happy combination of circumstances, no windfall
of chance, gave them what they have achieved. If those who graduated
in the eighth decade had graduated in the ninth, or if those who
graduated in the ninth had graduated in the earlier time, it probably
would have made no difference. Neither does the name, with possibly a
single exception, nor wealth prove to be a special aid. Nor have
friends boosted or pushed them. Friends may have opened doors for
them; but friends have not urged them either to see or to embrace

These men seem to me to have for their primary and comprehensive
characteristic a large sanity. They have the broad vision and the long
look. They possess usually a kind of sobriety which may almost be
called Washingtonian. The insane man reasons correctly from false
premises. The fool has no premises from which to reason. These men are
neither insane nor foolish. They have suppositions, presuppositions,
which are true. They also follow logical principles which are sound.
They are in every way well-ordered. They keep their brains where their
brains ought to be--inside their skulls. They keep their hearts where
their hearts ought to be--inside their chests. They keep their
appetites where their appetites ought to be. Too many men keep their
brains inside their chests: the emotions absorb the intellect. Too
many men put their hearts inside their skull: the emotions are dried
up in the clear air of thought. Too many put both brains and heart
where the appetites are: both judgment and action are swallowed up in
the animal.

But these men are whole, wholesome, healthy, healthful. They seem to
represent those qualities which, James Bryce says, Archbishop Tait
embodied: "He had not merely moderation, but what, though often
confounded with moderation, is something rarer and better, a steady
balance of mind. He was carried about by no winds of doctrine. He
seldom yielded to impulses, and was never so seduced by any one theory
as to lose sight of other views and conditions which had to be
regarded. He knew how to be dignified without assumption, firm without
vehemence, prudent without timidity, judicious without coldness." They
are remote from crankiness, eccentricity. They may or may not have
fads; but they are not faddists. Not one of them is a genius in either
the good or the evil side of conspicuous native power. They see and
weigh evidence. They are a happy union of wit and wisdom, of jest and
precept, of work and play, of companionship and solitude, of thinking
and resting, of receptivity and creativeness, of the ideal and the
practical, of individualism and of sympathy. They are living in the
day, but they are not living for the day. They embody the doctrine of
the golden mean.

Each of these men has also in his career usually more than filled the
place he occupied. He has overflowed into the next higher place. The
overflow has raised him into the higher lock. The career has been an
ascending spiral. Each higher curve has sprung out of the preceding
and lower. From the attorneyship of the county to service as attorney
of the State, and to a place on the Supreme Bench of the United
States:--From a pastorate in a small Maine city to a pastorate
suburban, and from the pastorate suburban to a pastorate on Fifth
Avenue:--From a professorship in an humble place to a professorship in
largest relations:--From the building of cottages to the building of
great libraries and museums. This is the order of progression. I will
not say that any of these men did the best he could do at every step
of the way. Some did; some did not, probably. But what is to the
point, each did better than the place demanded. He more than earned
his wages, his salary, his pay. He had a surplus; he was a creditor.
His employers owed him more than they paid him. They found the best
way of paying him and keeping him was to advance him.

Such is the natural evolution of skill and power. The only legitimate
method of advancement is to make advancement necessary, inevitable, by
the simple law of achievement. The simple law of achievement depends
upon the law of increasing force, which is the law that personal force
grows through the use of personal force.

Hiram Stevens Maxim in the sketch of his life tells of his working in
Flynt's carriage factory at Abbot, Maine, when a boy of about fifteen.
From Flynt's at Abbot he went to Dexter, a large town, where he became
a foreman. He presently went to a threshing machine factory in
northern New York; thence to Fitchburg, Mass., where he obtained a
place in the engineering works of his uncle. In this factory he says
he could do more work than any other man save one. Thence he went to a
place in Boston; from Boston to New York, where he received high pay
as a draughtsman. While he was working in New York he conceived the
idea of making a gun which would load and fire itself by the energy
derived from the burning powder. From work in a little place in Maine,
Maxim, by doing each work the best possible, has made himself a larger

Furthermore, these men represent goodfellowship. They embody
friendliness. The late Robert Lowe (Viscount Sherbrooke) was at one
time esteemed to be the equal of John Bright and of Gladstone in
oratory, and their superior in intellect. He died in 1892 unknown and
unlamented. He failed by reason of a lack of friendliness. Lowe was
once an examiner at Oxford. Into an oral examination which he was
conducting a friend came and asked how he was getting on.
"Excellently," replied Lowe, "five men flunked already and the sixth
is shaky." Ability without goodfellowship is usually ineffective; good
ability _plus_ good fellowship makes for great results.

In this atmosphere of friendliness, these men are practising the
Golden Rule. They are not advertising the fact. They do much in this
atmosphere of friendliness for large bodies of people. They follow the
sentiment which Pasteur expressed near the close of his great career:
"Say to yourselves first: 'What have I done for my instruction?' and,
as you gradually advance, 'What have I done for my country?' until the
time comes when you may have the immense happiness of thinking that
you have contributed in some way to the progress and to the good of
humanity. But whether our efforts are or are not favored by life, let
us be able to say when we come near the great goal: 'I have done what
I could.'" They have done much for the individual, for the local
neighborhood. They have given themselves in numberless services,
boards, committees, commissions--works which count much in time and
strength. These services constitute no small share of the worth of a
commonwealth, of a community.

To one relation of these men I wish especially to refer. This is their
relation to wealth. Some of these men are business men. Wealth is one
of the normal results of business. Some of these men are professional
men. Wealth is not the normal result of professional service. But the
seeking of wealth has not in the life and endeavor of these men played
a conspicuous part. If wealth is the primary purpose, they keep the
purpose to themselves. They do not talk much about it. But most of
them do not hold wealth as a primary purpose. Rather their primary and
atmospheric aim is to serve the community through their business. The
same purpose moves them which also moves the lawyer, the minister, the
doctor. Life, not living, is their principle.

To one further element I must refer. It comprehends, perhaps, much
that I have been trying to say to you, my son. These men kept, and are
keeping themselves to their work. They do not waste themselves. They
are economical of time and strength. The late Provost Pepper of the
University of Pennsylvania said (in a manuscript not formally
published): "Many can do with less than eight or even seven hours of
sleep while working hard, provided they recognize the increased risk;
that while running their engine they take more scrupulous care with
every part of the machinery. Machine must be perfect, fuel ditto;
everything must be sacrificed to the one point of keeping the
machinery running thus: Subjection of carnal, emotional excesses;
certainty that no weak spots exist; diet, especially too much eating,
too fast eating; stimulants, tobacco, open-air exercise; cool-headed,
almost callous, critical analysis of oneself, one's sensations and
effect of work on the system; clear knowledge of danger lines; result,
avoidance of transgressing, and immediate summons at right time."

These men are men of self-restraint. They are like rivers having dams,
keeping their waters back in order that the water may be used more
effectively. They are free from entangling alliances. They are not men
of one thing; they are often men of two, three, a dozen things. But
one thing is primary, the others secondary. They may have avocations;
but they have only one vocation. "This one thing I do." I have already
quoted from Pasteur. Of him it is said by his biographer: "In the
evening, after dinner, he usually perambulated the hall and corridor
of his rooms at the École Normale, cogitating over various details of
his work. At ten o'clock he went to bed, and at eight the next
morning, whether he had had a good night or a bad one, he resumed his
work in the laboratory." His wife wrote to their children: "Your
father is absorbed in his thoughts, talks little, sleeps little, rises
at dawn, and in one word, continues the life I began with him this day
thirty-five years ago." Learn from the Frenchman, my boy!

Keeping themselves at their one work these men embody a sense of duty.
I find they have a conscience. Their conscience is not worn outside,
but inside, their bosom. They make no show of doing what they ought.
They simply do what they are called upon to do--and that is all there
is to it. It was said of a first scholar in an historic college that
he was never caught working. These same men may, or may not be caught
working, but they do work, and their work is a normal and moral part
of their being.

But your face, my son, is rather toward your own future than toward
the past of other men. But your own future is as nothing save as it
touches other men. Therefore, do have an enthusiasm for man as man.
Enthusiasm for humanity has its basis in love for man as man, in a
belief in the indefinite progress of man and in a determination to
promote that progress. In a posthumous romance of Hawthorne the
heroine points out to her lover the service which they will give to
mankind in successive endless generations. In one age, poverty shall
be wiped out; in another, passion and hatred and jealousy shall cease;
in a third, beauty shall take the place of ugliness, happiness of
pain, and generosity of niggardliness. In reality, not in romance,
every student is to feel a passion for human service. These toiling
and tired brothers and sisters are to be loved, not with a mere
emotional affection, but with a mighty will. One is to adopt the
principle of Gladstone and not of the Marquis of Salisbury in relation
to humanity.

The student also is to believe that the human brotherhood is capable
of indefinite progress. The law of evolution makes the belief in human
perfectibility easy; the principles of religion make the belief
glorious. Slow is the progress. One generation turns the jack-screw of
uplifting one thread; but it is a thread. Humanity does rise. Linked
with this love for man and the assurance of his progress the college
man is to determine himself to advance this progress. Whatever his
condition, whatever his ability, he is to do his part. As is said in
that noble epitaph to Wordsworth, placed in the little church at
Grasmere, each is to be "a minister of high and sacred truth."

I want you to come out from the college with a determination to do
something worth while. It is rather singular how political ambitions
have ceased among graduates. Some say all ambition has ceased among
college men. I do not believe it. The softer times may not nurse the
sturdier virtues; but men are still men. The words which Stevenson
wanted put on his tombstone: "He clung to his paddle," and the words
of George Eliot: "Don't take opium," and the words of Carlyle: "Burn
your own smoke," are still characteristic of college men. Men are
still moved by the great things, and by such inspiration they are
inspired great things to do.


I am not, I think, going too far if I refer to one very personal
matter, my son. I mean your relation to the Supreme Being. That Being
may be conceived under many forms, as Love, as Omnipotent Force, as
Omniscient Knowledge, as Perfect Beauty, as Absolute Right. The
college man interprets the Supreme Being under at least one of these
forms; and he may be able to interpret him under all of these forms.
To this Being he should relate himself. Let the college man learn, and
learn all; but he should not neglect to learn of the Divine Being. The
college man should love, and love every object as it is worthy of
loving; but he should not decline to love the Supreme Being. For He is

The college man is to follow the wisest leadership, to obey the
highest principles, to give himself to the contemplation of the
sublimest; but his following, his obedience, his self-surrender are to
bring him to and keep him with the Being Supreme. Religion thus
broadly interpreted makes a keen and mighty appeal to the college man.
Let the college man be religious; let not the college man have a
religion. Let religion be a fundamental element of his character, and
not a quality of his changing self. His religion, like that of every
other man, should first be human, not scholastic; first essential and
natural, not arbitrary.

Be religious. It sounds almost goodish, but I know you do not think it
such. Be religious. Relate yourself to something. Relate yourself to
some What. Or relate yourself to some Who: beyond whatever your eye
sees or your hand touches. I do not care how you put it. If I were a
Buddhist, I would say, worship Buddha. Be what the great image at
Kamakura represents. If I were a Mohammedan, I would say, follow the
teachings of the Koran, and pray. I am, and you are, a Christian.
Therefore I say: Love your God. Follow the example of the Christ. Be
one of that company who accept his guidance and are seeking to do his
will in the bettering of the world.

Good-bye, dear boy, I have written too long, but it has done me good
to write. If it does you a quarter of the good to read, I shall be


                                                      YOUR FATHER.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters from a Father to His Son Entering College" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.