Read To Wilfred Clayborn of A Woman of the World, free online book, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, on

Concerning His Education and His Profession

My Dear Nephew:-I have considered your request from all sides, and have resolved to disappoint you.  This seems to me the kindest thing I can do under the circumstances.

You have gone through two years of college life, and I am sure you are not an ignoramus.  Most of the great men of the world’s history have enjoyed no fuller educational advantages.  To lend you money to finish the college course, would be to help you to start life at the age of twenty-two under the burden of debt.  If you are determined to finish a college course, and feel that only by so doing will you equip yourself for the duties of life, I would advise you to drop out for a year and teach, or go into any kind of work which will enable you to earn enough to proceed with your studies.  However hard and however disappointing this advice seems to you, I know it suggests a course which will do more for your character than all the money I could lend you.

Aside from the fact that you would begin life with a debt, is the possibility of your contracting the debt habit.

One man in a thousand who borrows money to help himself along in early life is benefited by it.

The other 999 are harmed.

To do anything on another’s money is to lean on the shoulder of another instead of walking upright.  It is not good calisthenic exercise.

A few years ago I would have acceded to your request.

But each year I live I realize more and more that lending money is the last method to be used in helping people to better themselves.  In almost every case where I have lent money, I have lived to regret it.  Not because I lost my money (which has usually been the fact), but because I lost respect for my friends.

I remember the case of a young newspaper man and author, who came to me for the loan of five dollars.  I had never seen him before, but I knew his brother, a brilliant playwright, in a social way.

The young man told me he had met with a series of disasters on the voyage to New York, and was stranded there absolutely penniless, although money would come at almost any hour from his brother.

Besides this, he showed me letters from editors who had taken work which would be paid for on publication.

“I do not know any one here,” the young man said, “and to-day, when I used my last twenty-five cents, I thought of you in desperation.

“Your acquaintance with my brother would serve as an introduction, I felt, and I was confident you would realize my straits when I told you my errand.”

Of course I lent the young man five dollars.  “I am sure it must be a great humiliation for you to ask for this,” I said, “and I am certain you will repay it, though many former experiences have made me question the memory of friends and strangers to whom I have been of similar assistance.”

One week later the young man called to tell me he had not been able to do more than keep himself sustained at lunch-counters since he called, but hoped soon to obtain a position on a daily newspaper.

That was ten years ago.  The young man sat in an orchestra chair the other night at the theatre directly in front of me, and his attire was faultlessly up to date.  From the costume of his companion, I should judge their carriage waited outside.

The young man did not seem to recognize me, and no doubt the incident I mention has escaped his memory.

In all probability I was but one of a score of people who helped him with small loans.  Had the young man had been forced to appeal to the society organized in every city for aiding the deserving poor, by being sent disappointed from my door, the ordeal would have so hurt his pride, that he might not have become the professional borrower he undoubtedly is.

I could relate innumerable cases of a similar nature.  One man, who was a fashionable teacher of French among the millionaires of New York for several seasons, appealed to me at a time of year when all his patrons were out of the city for a loan to enable him to give his wife medical treatment.

He was to repay it in the autumn.  Instead, he came to me then with a much more distressing story of immediate need and seeming proof of money coming to him in a few months.  To my chagrin, the loan I advanced was employed in giving a feast to friends at his daughter’s wedding, after which he obliterated himself from my vision.

Financial aid lent a woman who soon afterward circled Europe, brought no reimbursement.  Her handsomely engraved card, with the “Russell Square Hotel, London,” as address, reached me instead of the interest money which perhaps paid the engraver.

Money lent a young man to start a small business, was used for his wedding expenses, and an interval of five years brings no word from him.  Poor and despicable beings indeed, become the victims of the borrowing habit.  It is the shattered faith in humanity, and the heart hurts that I regret, rather than the loss of what can be replaced.  I tell you these incidents that you may realize how I have come to regard money-lending, as a species of unkindness to a friend or relative.

It is only one step removed from giving a sick or overtaxed man or woman a morphine powder.

Sleep and rest ensue, but ten to one the habit is formed for life.

The happy experiences of my life in money-lending, have been two instances where I offered loans which were not asked, and which proved to be bridges over the chasm of temporary misfortune, to the success awaiting a worthy woman and man.  The really deserving rarely ask for loans.

I can imagine with what pleasure you would take a cheque from this letter, for the amount which would carry you through college.

Yet when you had finished your course, you would find so many things you wanted to do, and must do, the debt would become too heavy to lift, save by borrowing from some one else.

If not that, then you would impose upon the fact of our relationship, and on your belief that I had plenty of means without the amount you owed me:  and so you would join the great army of good-for-nothings in the world.

There is one thing you must always remember: 

No matter how close the blood tie between two beings, even twins, each soul comes into the world alone, and with a separate life destiny to work out.

If I have worked out my destiny to financial independence, that does not entitle you to a share of it.  If it seems best for me to aid you, it is not because a blood tie makes it a duty.  I grow to believe there is a sort of curse on money which is not earned, even when it is bestowed by father, on son or daughter.

It cripples individual development.  Only when money is earned is it blest.

Regarding your future profession, I cannot agree with your idea that because you feel no particular love for any one calling, and have a halfway tendency toward several, that you will never be a success.  Great geniuses are often consumed with a passion for some one line of study or employment, but there have been many great men who did not know what they were fitted to do until accident or necessity gave them an opportunity.

Success means simply concentration and perseverance.

Whether you decide to be a mechanic, a lawyer, a doctor, or a merchant, the one thing to do is to fix all your mental powers upon the goal you select, and then call all the forces from within and from without, to aid you to reach it.

It would, of course, be folly for you to select a profession which requires special talent.  No matter how you might concentrate and apply yourself, you could never be a great poet, a great artist, or a great musician.

You have not the creative genius.

But law, medicine, mechanics, or mercantile matters, with your good brain and fair education, you could conquer.

You say you vacillate from one to another, like the wind which goes to the four points of the compass in twenty-four hours.

But you are very young, and this should not discourage you.

It would be well to think the four vocations over quietly, when alone, and sit down by yourself early in the morning asking for guidance.  Then, when you feel you have made a decision, let nothing turn you from it.

Direct all your studies and thoughts to further that decision.

Think of yourself as achieving the very highest success in your chosen field, and work for that end.

You cannot fail.

If you desire light from without upon the best path to pursue, I would advise you to find a good phrenologist, and have a careful reading made of your head.  Its formation and the development of its organs would indicate in what direction lay your greatest strength, and where you needed to be especially watchful.

But remember if your phrenologist tells you that you have a weak will, it does not mean that you must necessarily always have a weak will.  It means that you are to strengthen it, by concentration.  There is a great truth underlying phrenology, palmistry, and astrology; but it is ridiculous to accept their verdicts as final and unchangeable, and it is unwise to ignore the good they may do, rightly applied and understood.

I recall the fact that you were born in early June.  I know enough about the influence of the planets upon a child born at that period to assert that you are particularly inclined to a Gemini nature-the twin nature, which wants to do two things at one time.  You want to stay in and go out, to read a book and play tennis, to swim and sit on the sand.  Later in life, you will want to remain single and marry, and travel and remain at home, unless you begin now to select one course of the two which are for ever presenting themselves to you, in small and large matters.

Whenever you feel yourself vacillating between two impulses, take yourself at once in hand, decide upon the preferable course, and go ahead.  Dominate your astrological tendencies, do not be dominated by them.  Dominate your weaknesses as exhibited by your phrenological chart, and build up the brain cells which need strengthening, and lessen the power of the undesirable qualities by giving them no food or indulgence.

It is a great thing to understand yourself as you are, and then to go ahead and make yourself what you desire to be.

When a carpenter starts to build a house, he knows just what tools and what materials to work with are his.  If there is a broken implement, he replaces it with another, and if he is short of material he supplies it.  But young men set forth to make futures and fortunes, with no knowledge of their own equipment.

They do not know their own strongest or weakest traits, and are unprepared for the temptations and obstacles that await them.

I would advise you to call in the aid of all the occult sciences, to help you in forming an estimate of your own higher and lower tendencies, and in deciding for what line of occupation you were best fitted.  Then, after you have compared the statistics so gathered with your own idea of yourself, you should proceed to make your character what you wish it to be.

This work will be ten thousand times more profitable to you than a mere routine of college studies, gained by running in debt.

To know yourself is far better knowledge than to know Virgil.  And to make yourself is a million times better than to have any one else make you.