Character Building - Heroism
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
HEROISM is so great and splendid a quality that it has not been thought too much to devote to it almost the whole of Volume VII in our Library. No urging will be necessary to make any lively youth read this section, but first he should scan Mr. Eggleston's admirable Introduction, and so free his mind at the start from the idea that heroism means only an exhibition of courage in the face of some great physical danger-still less that it is vainglorious. Real heroes are ever modest; usually the only explanation they can make of their act is, that it seemed to them the only thing to do at the moment. Take, for example, the fine instance of the fisherman, in Volume VII, page 177. The unheralded heroism of daily life-in the household and the office-outranks, as Henry Ward Beecher once declared, all that of the most memorable battlefields of history. Washington, cold and forlorn at Valley Forge, yet immovable against every discouragement that could assail a commander, is a more truly heroic figure than when he is seen at Princeton, charging mid smoke and cannon-flame upon the British batteries that have almost vanquished his wavering line. With this thought impressed upon the mind, no reading is more attractive or more inspiring to the young than stories of heroism; and the selections offered in the seventh volume of the series above referred to are rich in thrilling incidents as well as in deeply important lessons. One will not find there a rule for becoming a hero; but if he has taken into his character the spirit portrayed by the men and women in these narratives, he will need no rule.
The man who faithfully does his duty in private life-it may be amid poverty, sickness, and disappointments-is as true a hero is he who dies bravely fighting on the battlefield. The truest courage is often manifested by women in the trials and difficulties of everyday home experience. The heroism of everyday life is much more important to the world than the heroism of wars and battles. With these thoughts always in mind, read the following stories, poems and articles in the Library :
In Volume VII be sure to read carefully the following splendid chapters: "Everyday Heroism," "Heroes Who Fight Fire," "Heroism of Women," "The Defenders of Thermopylae," and other articles treating of all the different phases of heroism. In Volume VI read "Finding Livingston," by Henry M. Stanley; "Arctic Perils," by Dr. Kane, and the closing chapters on "Arctic Exploration." Volume IX contains several admirable biographies of heroic men and women : we commend especially those of "Christopher Columbus" and "General Gordon." In Volume XI there are any number of stirring poems that relate heroic incidents, such as "Incident of the French Camp," " Casabianca, " "A Night with a Wolf," "Arnold Von Winkelried," and the stirring ballad-partly truth, partly fiction-that tells of the heroism of Barbara Frietchie.