Parental Advice by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: Essay

The past fifty years have done much for the newspaper and periodical readers of the United States. That period has been fruitful of great advancement and a great reduction in price, but these are not all. Fifty years and less have classified information so that science and sense are conveniently found, and humor and nonsense have their proper sphere. All branches are pretty full of lively and thoroughly competent writers, who take hold of their own special work even as the thorough, quick-eyed mechanic takes hold of his line of labor and acquits himself in a creditable manner. The various lines of journalism may appear to be crowded, but they are not. There may be too much vagabond journalism, but the road that is traveled by the legitimate laborer is not crowded. The clean, Caucasian journalist, as he climbs the hill, is not crowded very much. He can make out to elbow his way toward the front, if he tries very hard. There may be too much James Crow science, and too much editorial vandalism and gush, and too much of the journalism for revenue only. There may be too much ringworm humor also, but there is still a demand for the scientific work of the true student. There is still a good market for honest editorial opinion, reliable news and fearless and funny paragraph work and character sketches, as the song and dance men would say.

All this, however, points in one direction. It all has one hoarse voice, and in the tones of the culverin, whatever that is, it says that to the young man who is starting out with the intention of filling the tomb of a millionaire, “Learn to do something well.”

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Lots of people rather disliked the famous British hangman, and thought he hadn’t made a great record for himself, but he performed a duty that had to be done by someone, and no one ever complained much about Marwood’s work. He warranted every job and told everyone that if they were dissatisfied he would refund their money at the door. No man ever came back to Marwood and said, “Sir, you broke my neck in an unworkmanlike manner.”

It is better to be a successful hangman than to be the banished, abused and heart-broken, cast-off husband of a great actress. Learn to take hold of some business and jerk it bald-headed. Learn to dress yourself first. This will give you self-assurance, so that you can go away from home and not be dependent on your mother. Teach yourself to be accurate and careful in all things. It is better to turn the handle of a sausage grinder and make a style of sausage that is free from hydrophobia, than to be the extremely hence cashier of a stranded bank, fighting horseflies in the solemn hush of a Canadian forest.

People have wrong ideas of the respective merits of different avocations. It is better to be the successful driver of a dray than to be the unsuccessful inventor of a still-born motor. I would rather discover how to successfully wean a calf from the parent stem without being boosted over a nine rail fence, than to discover a new star that had never been used, and the next evening find that it had made an assignment.

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Boys, oh, boys! How I wish I could take each of you by the ear and lead you away by yourselves, and show you how many ruins strew the road to success, and how life is like a mining boom. We only hear of those who strike it rich. The hopeful, industrious prospector who failed to find the contact and finally filled a nameless grave, is soon forgotten when he is gone, but a million tongues tell to forty million listening ears of the man who struck it rich and went to Europe.

Therefore make haste to advance slowly and surely. I am aware that your ears ache with the abundance wherewith ye are advised, but if ye seek not to brace up while yet it is called to-day, and file away information for future reference and cease to look upon the fifteen-ball pool game when it moveth itself aright, at such time as ye think not ye shall be in pecuniary circumstances and there shall be none to indorse for you–nay, not one.

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