Read THE ESSENTIALS OF GREATNESS of Said the Observer, free online book, by Louis John Stellman, on

“Oh yes! Steve White was a great man,” said the Observer, as he chalked his cue and reflectively gazed at the balls, “but he was born in that class. If he hadn’t been, Stephen Mallory White would probably have cut no greater figure in the world than any other man.

“Did you ever hear of a man who wasn’t born in some country village, ‘of poor but honest parents,’ amounting to a row of pins? Not on your life! It’s the true and only essential of greatness. Yes, there are lots of fellows fixed that way who don’t make their mark, but that’s because they don’t try.

“Everybody knows how Carnegie got his start; didn’t Lincoln use to chop wood for a living, and Garfield drive a canal boat team? Wasn’t Gould a messenger boy, and General Miles a private? It’s a ‘cinch,’ a ‘kismet.’ Fate has posted a great big placard over the door to Fame and it says, ‘None But Impecunious Young Countrymen Need Apply.’

“That is why I always thought reincarnation was a good scheme. The Theosophists say that every soul must pass through a certain number of experiences, before it can attain perfection. Now, here’s a chance for some unfortunate scion of wealth or nobility, who has lived a useless and uneventful life, and wants to do something for his country.

“He can go to some secluded hamlet, inquire as to the probable date of the next birth in the neighborhood, and, when things are in shape, he can blow out the gas some night and wake up the next morning as a new-born babe, with all the elements of greatness strong upon him.

“When this fact becomes generally known, people will donate their funds to charitable institutions and move to the country to raise future presidents, senators and merchant princes; there will be an epidemic of suicide among the idle rich, and the birth-rate of our rural districts will increase a hundredfold; the population of cities will be sadly decimated; waste lands will be cleared and cultivated, as if by magic, and, a generation hence, there will come forth from the agricultural regions a host of young toilers with Destiny’s diploma for future greatness in their pockets.”

The Observer was so wrapped up in his prophecy that he missed his shot by fully half an inch and put the wrong end of his cigar in his mouth. After carefully wiping the ashes out of his teeth and kicking the proprietor’s cat, he resumed:

“I rather got off the subject, and don’t want you to put me down as endorsing reincarnation, either, but when I hear a lot of folks talking about what a great man So-and-So was; how he had to get up before daylight to chop wood and feed the stock, in order to get to school on time, I say to myself, ’What Tommyrot! As if Providence didn’t have it all fixed for him.’”