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Samuel Smiles - Author of Self Help, The First Book Written About Success


Samuel Smiles was a Scottish Author who wrote, and self published, the book Self Help in 1859.

I learned about Smiles and his book Self-Help from an article written by Jeffrey Gitomer in the August 2011 issue of Success magazine.

Gitomer wrote about Orison Swett Marden who preceded Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie and was the Founder of Success Magazine.

Napoleon Hill was a regular contributor to Success magazine and a follower and fan of Marden as he referenced him in many of his writings.

Marden's classic book Pushing To The Front was published in 1894 has been translated into numerous languages.

Marden was inspired by Smiles and his book Self-Help. Self-Help was self published in 1859 and by the time Smiles died in 1904, it had sold over 250,000 copies.

The origins of Samuel Smiles' most famous book, Self Help, lay in a speech he gave in March 1845 in response to a request by a Mutual Improvement Society, published as The Education of the Working Classes. In it he said:

I would not have any one here think that, because I have mentioned individuals who have raised themselves by self-education from poverty to social eminence, and even wealth, these are the chief marks to be aimed at. That would be a great fallacy. Knowledge is of itself one of the highest enjoyments. The ignorant man passes through the world dead to all pleasures, save those of the senses...Every human being has a great mission to perform, noble faculties to cultivate, a vast destiny to accomplish. He should have the means of education, and of exerting freely all the powers of his godlike nature.

Routledge rejected publishing Self-Help in 1855. 

Twenty years later Smiles was seated next to George Routledge at a dinner, and he said to him: "And when, Dr. Smiles, are we to have the honour of publishing one of your books?"

Samuel Smiles replied that Mr. Routledge had had the honour of rejecting Self-Help. 

Although John Murray was willing to publish Self-Help on a half-profits system, Smiles rejected this as he did not want the book to lose its anecdotes.

In 1859 he published the book at his own expense and risk, retaining the copyright and paying John Murray ten per cent. commission. 

It sold 20,000 copies within one year of its publication. By the time of Smiles' death in 1904 it had sold over a quarter of a million. 

Self-Help "elevated [Smiles] to celebrity status: almost overnight, he became a leading pundit and much-consulted guru". 

Smiles "suddenly became the fashion and he was deluged with requests that he should lay foundation stones, sit for his portrait, present prizes to orphan children, make speeches from platforms. The simple fellow was pleased with these invitations, but naturally he could not accept. He had his work to do...his duty did not lie on any public platform...It lay in his office with his Work".

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