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Workshop and the Workhouse.
THE Workshop !--It seems almost too bad to carry your thoughts to it, on the only day of rest and respite when you manage for a few hours to escape from it. Doubtless there are many here to whom the Sunday is not long enough to banish from their ears the reverberations of the sounding hammers as they strike upon the anvil, the roaring of hot furnaces as they blaze and glow, and cast their sparks aloft like fiery fountains or like the exhaustless rockets; the whizzing of giddy wheels and the clatter of machinery, the hissing of the engine and the din of the forge. Doubtless there are many here upon whose hands still cleaves the grime and grease of yesterday's hard work--some who can feel almost as though their fingers clasped the trowel or the tool of handicraft; some who last night in dreams were sawing, hammering, planing, or labouring at their usual toil ; some upon whose shoulders there seems to rest even still the burden of the bale of goods which yesterday they pitched into the lurry; and some who have not
coughed up the cotton which they swallowed in the mill during last week's work. Well, I say
it seems almost a shame to begin talking to you of scenes with which you are already two familiar, instead of leading your thoughts away to those different and diviner scenes which our
minds so seldom visit. But I assure you I do it with the best intentions, for I want to try and prove that there is a sublimity in common life; that there is poetry and food for the fancy in the every-day routine of business, and that there are sparks to be struck from the cold and flinty facts of human drudgery which may transmit rays of hope and reassurance, which by God's help, may light up contentment in the soul, and help us gently on our future course.
I have no doubt that those in the humbler walks of business — those who as yet have only struggled up one or two rounds upon the ladder of promotion, and who have struggled many tedious years through hardship and difficulty without being able to mount higher. I say I doubt not that such have often given way to a natural repining and misgiving which has sorely saddened them at times, and kindled bitter thoughts within their breasts both against their neighbours and themselves. There is a strong dạnger that the unsuccessful labourer in the strife of existence — who has got somehow on the wrong side of Fortune's wheel, and who seems to coquet with her under her maiden name, Miss Fortune-there is a strong danger of his becoming thoroughly soured against himself and every one else, and disgusted with that Providence which has cast for him his lot. He begins to fancy that he is no use in the world—to regard himself as having been tossed aside into the waste-basket or the lumber-room of Nature as a bad lot—a useless piece of offal or refuse, torn from the great fabric of society. Some men are not unsuccessful through their own fault; while there are many men, on the other hand, whose success is owing to no merit of their own. There are some fingers which seem to turn every thing they touch to gold, while there are others which seem to turn all the gold they touch to copper. In the great majority of cases an absolute want of success is owing to a man's own fault, owing either to most culpable negligence, to inordinate and misdirected eagerness; or, oftener still, to idleness and dissipation. But let the workshop be regarded by each worker in it as the mill in which the grain that makes the daily loaf on which the wife and children feed is to be ground by earnest labour; let it be looked upon as the loom in which the neat attire of the family is woven ; and let each day's toil be hallowed by the love of home and kindred. That man is surest of success in life whose arm, as he plies his toil, is nerved rather by love than by ambition. He is certain to succeed who, as he lifts the burden on his shoulder, feels that he is lifting the heavier burden of distress and trouble from the shoulder of the loving handmaid of his life; who, as he strikes the sounding blow upon the iron feels that he is striking from the limbs of his little ones at home the fetters of hunger and the chains of want. Let love be the animating principle of your daily toil; love of home, love of home's household gods and goddesses, your wife, your sons, and daughters. Labour thus guided and impelled by this pure and sacred motive, you will go with a glad and cheerful alacrity to the roughest and the hardest labour; and instead of supposing yourself a mere cipher, a mere nonenity in the roll of humanity, you will feel that you have a high and noble mission to work out; that God has sent you upon an errand to discharge for him by making these relatives dependent on you, and by cementing these fond ties to bind your love and duty to the earth. No man who, as he plods along the path of labour, however humble and obscure that path may be, remembers that he is a husband and a father; no man who will let his thoughts fly from the workshop to his cottage hearthstone, and let his fancy paint the mother with the baby on her knee, and the prattling youngsters romping round her, can ever grow disgusted with that work which helps him to keep the wolf from their door, and which serves to light the smile which mantles in their cheek.
say, let the duty of the workshop be hallowed by love rather than ambition, and then no man will be discontented. But if you make the workshop the stepping-stone to the alehouse, if you pour its earnings into the coffers of some bloated landlord, instead of into the lap of her who bore your child, then you may well despise yourself and be ashamed of the drudgery of your life. There are some men in this city who are making wages sufficient to fill their homes, not only with necessaries, but with comforts, who nevertheless, have neither necessaries nor comforts to enjoy, and who are followed by the curses of a plundered wife, and by the pale mute spectres of their starving children, because they spend in drink, that which God gave them to bestow upon their families. These are generally the men who grow discontented with their lot in life, and who rail upon the Providence who assigned to them their portion. But it is not true that Providence assigned to them this portion. Does Providence lead them from the threshold of their own doors to bawl and sing and shout and fight in the tap-room and the vaults? No! They choose this path themselves, and, ere they follow it, they thrust aside the guiding hand of Providence that beckons them in another direction, and shews to them à more excellent way. No wonder the self-poisoned suicide, whose sodden eyes are ever looking upon the moral and social wreck of his own working. No wonder the dizzy sot in whose ears the wail of children crying for their daily bread is ever ringing, and who is ever haunted by the accusations of a wife who has learned to hate him; or still worse, by the entreaties and appeals of one who, despite all his cruelty and neglect, still loves him and still calls him husband. No wonder, I say, that such a man as this should grow disgusted and querulous as he looks upon the blank around him. But he is not a cipher in the human family either. It would be a blessing if he was. He is a standing disgrace to his species : he is a canker-worm at the root of every wholesome influence around him: he is a libel and a caricature of the image which God has stamped upon him. I received a letter the other day from some poor coward who was ashamed of his own name, and put some sneaking initials at the bottom because he dared not sign himself in full, in which, for thirty-two mortal pages, he thought proper to heap his ungrammatical and vulgar abuse on me.
And here allow me in passing to express the opinion, that the man who writes a letter either publicly or privately aspersing the reputation of another, without putting his name to it, is capable of any vice which meanness could prompt or malice execute. He could pick any man's pocket without scruple, and is just the sort of villain who would