Go on in your brave determination to lead a sensible and moral life, my dear girl, and let your example be a guide to others, and prove that woman may succeed on the right basis if she will, in spite of temptations and oppressions.
To Miss Gladys Weston
After Three Years as a Teacher
The way you took my frank criticisms and doubts of your ability to make a good school-teacher, proves you to be a girl of much character. Your success proves, too, that given the general qualifications of a fairly capable and educated human being, add concentration and will, and we can achieve wonders in any line of work we undertake. I am still of the opinion that no woman of my acquaintance was more wholly unfit to teach young children, as they should be taught, than your fair self as I last knew you.
I take pride in believing that my heroic methods were what brought out the undeveloped qualities you needed to ensure such success.
There are certain natures that need to be antagonized before they do their best. Others are prostrated and robbed of all strength by a criticism or a doubt.
You have realized this, I am sure, in your experiences with pupils. “You cannot do it” is a more stimulating war-cry to some people than “You can.” And to such the sneer of the foe does more good, than the smile of the friend. A phrenologist would tell us that strongly developed organs of self-esteem and love of approbation accompanied this trait of character.
I am sure it proves to be the case with you.
Brought up as you were, the only child of indulgent parents, and given admiration and praise by all your associates, you could hardly reach the age of twenty-two without having developed self-esteem and love of praise. You were naturally brighter than most of your companions. (They were also children of fortune, as the term goes, but to my idea the children reared in wealth, are usually children of misfortune. For the real fortune of life is to encounter the discipline which brings out our strongest qualities.)
Your father was a poor boy, who fought his way up to wealth and power before you were born; but he unfortunately wanted the earth beside, and so died in poverty after staking all he had, which was enough, to make more, which he did not need.
You inherit much of his force of character, and that is what gave you the reputation of extreme cleverness among your more commonplace companions. Compared with the really brilliant and talented people of earth, you are not clever. That is why I found you so companionable and charming, no doubt; for the brilliant people—especially women—are rarely companionable for more than a few hours at a time. I gave you that supreme test of friendship—the companionship of travel for a period of months. And I loved you better at the end of the time than at the beginning.