Samuel Smiles
Born in Haddington
Haddington, East Lothian
The Royal Burgh of Haddington is a town in East Lothian, Scotland. It is the main administrative, cultural and geographical centre for East Lothian, which was known officially as Haddingtonshire before 1921. It lies about east of Edinburgh. The name Haddington is Anglo-Saxon, dating from the 6th...

, East Lothian
East Lothian
East Lothian is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and a lieutenancy Area. It borders the City of Edinburgh, Scottish Borders and Midlothian. Its administrative centre is Haddington, although its largest town is Musselburgh....

, Scotland, the son of Samuel Smiles of Haddington and Janet Wilson of Dalkeith, Smiles was one of eleven surviving children. The family were strict Cameronian
Cameronian was a name given to a section of the Scottish Covenanters who followed the teachings of Richard Cameron, and who were composed principally of those who signed the Sanquhar Declaration in 1680...

s, though when Smiles grew up he was not one of them. He left school at the age of 14 and was apprenticed to a doctor, an arrangement that eventually enabled Smiles to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

. His father died in the cholera epidemic of 1832, but Smiles was enabled to continue with his studies, supported by his mother who kept running the family shop selling hardware, books, etc., firm in the belief that "The Lord will provide".

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Thrift (1875)

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;Sow an act, and you reap a habit;Sow a habit, and you reap a character;Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.

anonymous, quoted in Life and Labor (1887)

No laws, however stringent, can make the idle industrious, the thriftless provident, or the drunken sober.

"Heaven helps those who help themselves" is a well tired maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of a vast human experience. The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength.

variant: God helps them who help themselves, proverb recorded in George Herbert's Jacula Prudentum (1651)

We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.

We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.

A man who devotes himself to this pursuit, body and soul, can scarcely fail to become rich. Very little brains will do…