William Andrus Alcott. The Young Man's Guide. Boston: 1846. G360 A355 Y846.


P. 38 Nothing is more essential to usefulness and happiness in life, than habits of industry. `This we commanded you,' says St. Paul, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.' Now this would be the sober dictate of good sense, had the apostle never spoken. It is just as true now as it was 2000 years ago, that no person possessing a sound mind in a healthy body, has a right to live in this world without labor. If he claims an existence on any other condition, let him betake himself to some other planet.


P. 48 An indolent person is scarcely human; he is half quadruped, and of the most stupid species too. He may have good intentions of discharging a duty, while that duty is at a distance; but let it approach, let him view the time of action as near, and down go his hands in languor. He wills, perhaps; but he unwills in the next breath.

What is to be done with such a man, especially if he is a young one? He is absolutely good for nothing. Business tires him; reading fatigues him; the public service interferes with his pleasures, or restrains his freedom. His life must be passed on a bed of down. If he is employed, moments are as hours to him - if he is amused, hours are as moments. In general, his whole time eludes him, he lets it glide unheeded, like water under a bridge. Ask him what he has done with his morning, - he cannot tell you; for he has lived without reflection, and almost without knowing whether he has lived at all.


P. 62 `Be temperate in all things,' is an excellent rule, and of very high authority.
Drunkenness and Gluttony are vices so degrading, that advice is, I must confess, nearly lost on those who are capable of indulging in them. If any youth, unhappily initiated in these odious and debasing vices, should happen to see what I am now writing, I beg him to read the command of God, to the Israelites, Deut. xxi. The father and mother are to take the bad son `and bring him to the elders of the city; and they shall say to the elders, this our son will not obey our voice: he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all the men of the city shall stone him with stones, that he die.' This will give him some idea of the odiousness of his crime, at least in the sight of Heaven.


P. 75 Dress should be suited, in some measure, to our condition. a surgeon or physician need not dress exactly like a carpenter; but, there is no reason why any body should dress in a very expensive manner. It is a great mistake to suppose, that they derive and advantage from exterior decoration.

For after all, men are estimated by other men according to their capacity and willingness to be in some way or other useful; and, though, with he foolish and vain part of women, fine clothes frequently do something, yet the greater part of the sex are much too penetrating to draw their conclusions solely from the outside appearance. They look deeper, and find other criterions whereby y to judge. Even if fine clothes should obtain you a wife, will they bring you, in that wife, frugality, goodsense, and that kind of attachment which is likely to be lasting?
Natural beauty of person is quite another thing: this always has, it always will and must have, some weight even with men, and great weight with women. But, this does not need to be set off by expensive clothes. Female eyes are, in such cases, discerning; they can discover beauty though surrounded by rags: and, take this as a secret worth half a fortune to you, that women, however vain they may be themselves, despise vanity in men.

Bathing and Cleanliness

Pp. 88-89 Cleanliness of the body has, some how or other, such a connection with mental and moral purity, (whether as cause or effect - or both - I will not under take now to determine) that I am unwilling to omit the present opportunity of urging its importance. There are those who are so attentive to this subject as to wash their whole bodies in water, either cold or warm, everyday of the year; and never to wear the same clothes, during the day, that they have slept in the previous night. Now this habit may by some be called whimsical; but I think it deserves a better name. I consider this extreme, if it ought to be called an extreme, as vastly more safe than the common extreme of neglect.

Is it not shameful - would it not be, were human duty properly understood - to pass months, and even years, without washing the whole body once? There are thousands and tens of thousands of both sexes, who are exceedingly nice, even to fastidiousness, about externals; - who, like those mentioned in the gospel, keep clean the `outside of the cup and the platter,' - but alas! how is it within? Not a few of us, - living, as we do, in a land where soap and water are abundant and cheap - would blush, if the whole story were told.


Pp. 176-177 Much is said by the friends of theaters about what they might be; and not a few persons indulge the hope that the theatre may yet be made a school of morality. But my business at present is with it as it is, and as it has hitherto been. The reader will be more benefited by existing facts than sanguine anticipations, or visionary predictions.

A German medical writer calculates that one in 150 of those who frequently attend theaters become diseased and die, from the impurity of the atmosphere. The reason is, that respiration contaminates the air; and where large assemblies are collected in close rooms, the air is corrupted much more rapidly than many are aware. Lavoisier, the French chemist, states, that in a theatre, from the commencement to the end of the play, the oxygen or vital air is diminished in the proportion of form 27 to 21, or nearly one fourth; and consequently is in the same proportion less fit for respiration, than it was before. This is probably the general truth; but the number of persons present, and the amount of space, must determine, in a great measure, the rapidity with which the air is corrupted. The pit is the most unhealthy part of a play-house, because the carbonic acid which is formed by respiration is heavier than atmospheric air, and accumulates near the floor.

P. 177 There are however other results to be dreaded. The practice of going out of a heated, as well as an impure atmosphere late in the evening, and often without sufficient clothing, exposes the individual to cold, rheumatism, pleurisy, and fever. Many a young lady, - and, I fear, not a few young gentlemen, - get the consumption by taking colds in this manner.
Not only the health of the body, but he mind an morals, too, are often injured. Dr. Griscom, of New York, in a report on the causes of vice and crime in that city, made a few years since, says; `Among the causes of vicious excitement in our city, none appear to be so powerful in their nature as theatrical amusements. The number of boys and young men who have become determined thieves, in order to procure the means of introduction to the theatres and circuses, would appall the feelings of every virtuous mind, could the whole truth be laid open before them.

Female Society

P. 230 No young man is fully aware how much he is indebted to female influence in forming his character. Happy for him if his mother and sisters were his principal companions in infancy. I do not mean to exclude the society of the father, of course; but the father's avocations usually call him away from home, or at least from the immediate presence of his children, for a very considerable proportion of his time.


Pp. 244-245 Whatever advice may be given to the contrary by friends or foes, it is my opinion that you ought to keep matrimony steadily in view. For this end, were if for no other, you ought to mingle much in society. Never consider yourself complete without this other half of yourself. It is too much the fashion among young men at the present day to make up their minds to dispense with marriage; - an unnatural, and therefore an unwise plan. Much of our character, and most of our comfort and happiness depend upon it. Many have found this out too late; that is after age and fixed habits had partly disqualified them for this important duty.

Hats and Rudeness

P. 367 By rudeness I do not mean mere coarseness or rusticity, for that were more pardonable; but a want of civility. In this sense of the term, I am prepared to censure on a practice, which in the section on Politeness, was overlooked. I refer to the practice so common with young men in some circumstances and places, of wearing their hats or caps in the house; - a practice which, whenever and wherever it occurs, is decidedly reprehensible.

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