Riches do not constitute any claim to distinction. It is only the vulgar who admire riches as riches.
Samuel Smiles (1875)
Samuel Smiles (1812-1904) was a Scottish author and reformer.
Samuel went to Edinburgh University in 1829 to study medicine. While in Edinburgh, he became involved in the campaign for parliamentary reform.
After graduation Samuel continued to take a close interest in politics and became a strong supporter of Joseph Hume, the Scottish radical politician.
In 1837 Samuel began contributing articles on parliamentary reform for the Leeds Times and became the newspaper’s editor. Samuel then abandoned his career as a doctor to become a full-time worker for the cause of political change. He often expressed a dislike of the aristocracy and made attempts to unite working and middle class reformers.
In May 1840 Samuel became Secretary of the Leeds Parliamentary Reform Association, which supported household suffrage, the secret ballot, equal representation, short parliaments and the abolition of the property qualification for parliamentary candidates.
Yet, during the 1840s Samuel became disillusioned with Chartism as he was concerned with the growing influence of the advocates of Physical Force.
He believed that ‘mere political reform will not cure the manifold evils which now afflict society’. Instead he supported the idea of ‘individual reform’ and the idea of ‘self-help’. Through his book Self-Help (1859) he worked to promote industry, thrift and self-improvement.
In the 1850s Samuel abandoned his interest in parliamentary reform and turned his attention to a series of biographies of men who had achieved success through their own efforts. These included George Stephenson (1875), Lives of the Engineers (1861) and Josiah Wedgwood (1894).
In 1888 Samuel was in Torquay working on The Life of John Murray. He wrote:
During the months of February, March, and April, 1888, I resided with my wife at Torquay, and thereby avoided the bitter east winds of London. As we grow old, we are less able to resist the harshness of the wind from that quarter.
During my stay at Torquay, I proceeded with a work on which I had been engaged, at intervals, for many years. I mean the Life and Correspondence of the first and second John Murray. My principal work was in reading the letters… I did my literary work in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon; devoting the rest of the day to out-of-doors exercise.
Samuel Smiles died on April 16, 1904. His great-great-grandson is the explorer Bear Grylls.