America will never produce any great art until our resources are developed and we get more time. As a people we have not yet learned the art of patience. We do not know how to wait. Think of an American artist spending seven, eight, ten, and even twelve years on a single painting as did Titian, Michael Angelo and many of the other old masters. Think of an American sculptor spending years and years upon a single masterpiece, as did the Greeks and Romans. We have not yet learned the secret of working and waiting.
“The single element in all the progressive movements of my pencil,” said the great David Wilkie, “was persevering industry.”
The kind of ability which most men rank highest is that which enables its possessor to do what he undertakes, and attain the object of his ambition or desire.
“The reader of a newspaper does not see the first insertion of an ordinary advertisement,” says a French writer. “The second insertion he sees, but does not read; the third insertion he reads; the fourth insertion he looks at the price; the fifth insertion he speaks of it to his wife; the sixth insertion he is ready to purchase, and the seventh insertion he purchases.”
The large fees which make us envy the great lawyer or doctor are not remuneration for the few minutes’ labor of giving advice, but for the mental stores gathered during the precious spare moments of many a year while others were sleeping or enjoying holidays. A client will frequently object to paying fifty dollars for an opinion written in five minutes, but such an opinion could be written only by one who has read a hundred law books. If the lawyer had not previously read those books, but should keep a client waiting until he could read them with care, there would be fewer complaints that fees of this kind are not earned.
We are told that perseverance built the pyramids on Egypt’s plains, erected the gorgeous temple at Jerusalem, inclosed in adamant the Chinese Empire, scaled the stormy, cloud-capped Alps, opened a highway through the watery wilderness of the Atlantic, leveled the forests of the new world, and reared in its stead a community of States and nations. Perseverance has wrought from the marble block the exquisite creations of genius, painted on canvas the gorgeous mimicry of nature, and engraved on a metallic surface the viewless substance of the shadow. Perseverance has put in motion millions of spindles, winged as many flying shuttles, harnessed thousands of iron steeds to as many freighted cars, and sent them flying from town to town and nation to nation; tunneled mountains of granite, and annihilated space with the lightning’s speed. Perseverance has whitened the waters of the world with the sails of a hundred nations, navigated every sea and explored every land. Perseverance has reduced nature in her thousand forms to as many sciences, taught her laws, prophesied her future movements, measured her untrodden spaces, counted her myriad hosts of worlds, and computed their distances, dimensions, and velocities.
“Whoever is resolved to excel in painting, or, indeed, in any other art,” said Reynolds, “must bring all his mind to bear upon that one object from the moment that he rises till he goes to bed.”
“If you work hard two weeks without selling a book,” wrote a publisher to an agent, “you will make a success of it.”
“Know thy work and do it,” said Carlyle; “and work at it like a Hercules. One monster there is in the world–an idle man.”