Samuel Smiles wrote a book with the above name, and featured, as you'd expect, many a good man with a record of doing wonderful things for his country, and often, for himself. Thomas Guthrie is featured, incidentally, as you'll see from the extract below.

"True-hearted persons, even in the humblest station in life, who are energetic doers, may thus give an impulse to good works out of all proportion, apparently, to their actual station in society., Thomas Wright might have talked about the reclamation of criminals, and John Pounds about the necessity for Ragged Schools, and yet done nothing; instead of which they simply set to work without any other idea in their minds than that of doing, not talking. And how the example of even the poorest man may tell upon society, hear what Dr. Guthrie, the apostle of the Ragged School movement, says of the influence which the example of John Pounds, the humble Portsmouth cobbler, exercised upon his own working career" :-

"The interest I have been led to take in this cause is an example of how, in Providence, a man's destiny, his course of life, like that of a river, may be determined and affected by very trivial circumstances It is rather curious-at least it is interesting to me to remember-that it was by a picture I was first led to take an interest in ragged schools-by a picture in an old, obscure decaying burgh that stands on the shores of the Frith of Forth, the birthplace of Thomas Chalmers, I went to see this place many years ago; and, going into an inn for refreshment, I found a room covered with pictures of shepherdesses with their crooks, and sailors in holiday attire, not particularly interesting. But above the chimney-piece there was a large print, more respectable than its neighbours, which represented a cobbler's room. The cobbler was there himself, spectacles on nose, an old shoe between his knees-the massive forehead and firm mouth indicating great determination of character, and, beneath his bushy eyebrows, benevolence gleamed out on a number of poor ragged boys and girls who stood at their lessons round the busy cobbler.
My curiosity was awakened; and in the inscription I read how this man, John Pounds, a cobbler in Portsmouth, taking pity on the multitude of poor ragged children left by ministers and magistrates, and ladies and gentlemen, to go to ruin on the streets - how, like a good shepherd, he gathered in these wretched outcasts - how he had trained them to God and to the world - and how, while earning his daily bread by the sweat of his brow, he had rescued from misery and saved to society not less than five hundred of these children. I felt ashamed of myself. I felt reproved for the little I had done. My feelings were touched. I was astonished at this man's achievements; and I well remember, in the enthusiasm of the moment, saying to my companion (and I have seen in my cooler and calmer moments no reason for unsaying the saying) -' That man is an honour to humanity, and deserves the tallest monument ever raised within the shores of Britain.'
I took up that man's history, and I found it animated by the spirit of Him who 'had compassion on the multitude.' John Pounds was a clever man besides; and, like Paul, if he could not win a poor boy any other way, he won him by art. He would be seen chasing a ragged boy along the quays, and compelling him to come to school, not by the power of a policeman, but by the power of a hot potato. He knew the love an Irishman had for a potato; and John Pounds might be seen running holding under the boy's nose a potato, like an Irishman, very hot, and with a coat as ragged as himself.
When the day comes when honour will be done to whom honour is due, I can fancy the crowd of those whose fame poets have sung, and to whose memory monuments have been raised, dividing like the wave, and, passing the great, and the noble, and the mighty of the land, this poor, obscure old man stepping forward and receiving the especial notice of Him who said "Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these, ye did it also to Me."

(Thomas Guthrie - taken from "Self Help" by Samuel Smiles. Published in London 1859)

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