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- Biographies of Working Men - 22/22 -

honour of being an associate of the Linnean Society, or the respected friend of many among the noblest and greatest men of his country. He began life as a shoemaker, and he remained a shoemaker to the end. "Had I pursued money," he said, "with half the ardour and perseverance that I have pursued nature, I have no hesitation in saying that by this time I should have been a rich man."

In 1876, Dr. Smiles, the historian of so many truly great working men, attracted by Edward's remarkable and self-sacrificing life, determined to write the good shoemaker's biography while he was still alive. Edward himself gave Dr. Smiles full particulars as to his early days and his later struggles; and that information the genial biographer wove into a delightful book, from which all the facts here related have been borrowed. The "Life of a Scotch Naturalist" attracted an immense deal of attention when it was first published, and led many people, scientific or otherwise, to feel a deep interest in the man who had thus made himself poor for the love of nature. The result was such a spontaneous expression of generous feeling towards Edward that he was enabled to pass the evening of his days not only in honour, but also in substantial ease and comfort.

And shall we call such a life as this a failure? Shall we speak of it carelessly as unsuccessful? Surely not. Edward had lived his life happily, usefully, and nobly; he had attained the end he set before himself; he had conquered all his difficulties by his indomitable resolution; and he lived to see his just reward in the respect and admiration of all those whose good opinion was worth the having. If he had toiled and moiled all the best days of his life, at some work, perhaps, which did not even benefit in any way his fellow-men; if he had given up all his time to enriching himself anyhow, by fair means or foul; if he had gathered up a great business by crushing out competition and absorbing to himself the honest livelihood of a dozen other men; if he had speculated in stocks and shares, and piled up at last a vast fortune by doubtful transactions, all the world would have said, in its unthinking fashion, that Mr. Edward was a wonderfully successful man. But success in life does not consist in that only, if in that at all. Edward lived for an aim, and that aim he amply attained. He never neglected his home duties or his regular work; but in his stray moments he found time to amass an amount of knowledge which rendered him the intellectual equal of men whose opportunities and education had been far more fortunate than his own. The pleasure he found in his work was the real reward that science gave him. All his life long he had that pleasure: he saw the fields grow green in spring, the birds build nests in early summer, the insects flit before his eyes on autumn evenings, the stoat and hare put on their snow-white coat to his delight in winter weather. And shall we say that the riches he thus beheld spread ever before him were any less real or less satisfying to a soul like his than the mere worldly wealth that other men labour and strive for? Oh no. Thomas Edward was one of those who work for higher and better ends than outward show, and verily he had his reward. The monument raised up to that simple and earnest working shoemaker in the "Life of a Scotch Naturalist" is one of which any scientific worker in the whole world might well be proud. In his old age, he had the meed of public encouragement and public recognition, the one thing that the world at large can add to a scientific worker's happiness; and his name will be long remembered hereafter, when those of more pretentious but less useful labourers are altogether forgotten. How many men whom the world calls successful might gladly have changed places with that "fool to nature," the Banffshire shoemaker!

Biographies of Working Men - 22/22

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