This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.

A few references may require clarification. 'Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door' is a pronouncement attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American lecturer, poet, and essayist, the leading exponent of New England Transcendentalism. 'The great I AM' is of course the God of the Old Testament, who said unto Moses 'I AM THAT I AM' (Exodus 3:14). The Bishop of Peterborough, William Connor Magee (1821–91) was celebrated for his oratory, and was a strong opponent of Irish Disestablishment. He took up the Temperance question, and famously declared in the House of Lords that he would rather see 'England free than England compulsorily sober'. —— David Skilton

The self[-]satisfied man who has 'pushed himself forrard' and knows it.

CURIOUS thing to discuss, sir, is success. The more one comes to think it over the more puzzling does it seem to become to define the qualities which go towards making the successful man. When I say 'successful' man, I mean the man who has prospered in this world so far as riches and position go, and who has, at least approximately, satisfied his own ambition. I cannot, say that as a rule I feel any greater degree of admiration for the successful man than I do for the unsuccessful one. The very attribute which has landed the successful being in the haven of prosperity is quite commonly a most unamiable and selfish one. In the manufacturing community in which I have resided most of my days I have very frequently found the man who was prospering, or had prospered, in business a boor, a bully, and a selfish being generally – a man who subordinated everything, feeling, soul, and heart to Business, with a very big B. I have known him when he couldn't write his own name so far as education went, and when he was universally detested so far as any social quality was concerned, still sail on to monetary success, though no one ever gave him credit all the time for having anything but a thick head and a hard heart.

All the really big fortunes are made either by lawyers or men in business of some kind or another; a glance at the probate statistics will soon show that. In regard to the first class, a man has, if he be a solicitor, the most unusual opportunities for finding profitable and absolutely sure investment for any money he may have, and if he be a successful barrister, why, he is paid out of all proportion to the value of his services, except in so far as [that?] every man's services are worth what they will fetch. Then as to business, if a man once forms a big concern, he can leave it alone, and never go near the place except to draw the profits. This man, we will say, by the sale of mouse-traps, makes a huge fortune; he is successful. Another man writes a startling book that will live for all time; he makes a large amount, perhaps – but he has to go on racking his brain to the last day of his life, or his reputation soon dies out – and so does his income; he can't form his intellect into a limited liability company. Both these men are successful – but which is the more so? Why, the business man, who, probably, never had an idea in his skull, or the slightest education to foster one save in regard to mouse-traps and how to stick to his 'brass' when he 'gat hod on it.' It is a curious thing, this success, is it not, sir, with all its queer comparativeness, if I may use such a term?

The steady-going sort whose only pleasure is business.

Look at the great number of men we meet who OUGHT TO BE successes—and never are. Men we meet that all other men acknowledge to be clever in some given line; they are sober men, good husbands and fathers, honest men, too — yet they don't seem to get on, and no one can tell why; no one knows what quality essential to success they are lacking in. Men who are not fit to lace their shoes, and who are not in the same race, to all calculation, either in head or heart, forge ahead and make fortunes and positions. Perhaps, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is that their hearts are bigger than their heads even, and that they are too scrupulous, and too anxious to let live rather than to live. I have seen men get on by simple assertiveness and conceit, allied with a dogged power of sticking to it; and particularly have I seen this in the case of actors and writers. A man takes airs on himself, assumes a haughty demeanour, is generally 'standoffish'– people of undoubted position laugh at him and treat him with silent contempt. But 10 to 1 if he goes on in that way for a few years and maintains a decent position, people will really begin to think that he is somebody, and to bear themselves towards him accordingly – and he almost naturally becomes that portentous individual, the great 'I AM.'

After all, when one comes to think of it, the man who is never exactly successful in the worldly sense of the term, and who yet passes through life in tolerable prosperity, is a happier man than he who is always striving to be something that he isn't. It would be a terrible world to live in would this were we all ambitious and bent upon attaining 'success.' If would be, almost as bad a world as one that consisted wholly and entirely of teetotalers; and the nether regions themselves could scarcely be worse that living in a world of that sort. (If any one doubts that, let him write [?for] the opinion of the Bishop of Peterborough, that magnificent orator.) I have said that the moderately easy-going and prosperous man has a better time all round through life than the ambitious and successful man; but, all the same, I cannot but make one reservation in this regard. If the ambitious man does not, pursue the pleasures usually indulged in by other men, he at least finds the pursuit of his ambitious object and aim in life a pleasure. He crimps and narrows his mental and his moral vision -- he sticks in his own groove, and it is highly probable that when he has amassed wealth and would willingly seek a change, he can't get out of that groove, and life becomes insupportable to him. He dies the same selfish, down-with-anybody-else-so-long-as-I-get-on sort of a man that he lived, and his heirs or assigns spend the money he has done so much in the way of grinding down humanity to acquire. I firmly and fully believe that any man of the most ordinary abilities, and of present dire poverty even, who says to himself, 'I will do so and so in life' (the object must not of course be that of a mere dreamer – a wholly unattainable object), CAN DO IT, and if any of your younger readers are ambitious let them remember that. It is only one man in every 10,000 who fully uses all his faculties and talents. We Britons, with all our apparent push and go and commercial greatness, have a good deal of the come-day, go-day leaven in us. Most men are content to go placidly along through life without particularly exerting themselves, so long, that is, as they have enough to satisfy moderate wants, I do not particularly admire the one-in-ten-thousand man: his merits, after all, are but negative ones – he only uses to the greatest extent the powers and the attributes that he, in common with the other 9,999 men, possess [sic]. He is simply more selfish and more self-seeking than the rest; it is the unamiable rather than the noble qualities of his nature that place him on the pinnacle.

A lady who attained success in life too late to fittingly clothe the undoubted beauty of her youth.

That the generality of us more or less worship success is an undoubted fact; but that such worship is of anything but a purely selfish and interested kind as a general rule is equally true. The pill may be ever so nauseous in its ingredients, but if it is only nicely gilded we have not much hesitation in swallowing it – when we are told that it is likely to do us good. I can quite understand a rich and successful man looking with some degree of suspicion on the seekers of his favour. He, probably, being astute enough to make money and position, is also sufficiently acute to recognise the fact that he is in general only sought for the benefits that he can confer rather than on account of his own personal merits, though of these latter he himself, in nine cases out of ten, entertains an inordinately high opinion, as you may easily tell if you only draw him out as to how he made his name. Accidents of fortune and extraneous aids afforded him are all but blinked in the narrative of his success – it is the man who made the money or the name – and he doesn't let you forget it. He would, perhaps, be the last man in the world to assure you that in about ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the greatest factors in the race for worldly prosperity are a callous disposition and a cool head.

Last modified 19 March 2022