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Smiles, Samuel

Smiles, Samuel (1812–1904). Popularizer of the dominant social values of middle-class Victorian Britain. By profession a doctor, Smiles worked for a time as a radical journalist in Leeds before settling down as secretary (i.e. chief executive officer) to a succession of railway companies. In his leisure time he wrote a series of books, of which self-help (1859) was the most successful, selling over 250,000 copies during his lifetime. Smiles's heroes were the self-made men who laid the foundations of Britain's industrial greatness. Self-Help was a collection of potted biographies of men who had risen from poverty and obscurity to wealth and influence, interspersed with moral reflections and proverbial wisdom. Smiles's original aim was to show how working men might better themselves. However, for large sections of the working class this was simply impracticable; and in the later 19th cent. Smiles appeared to critics of capitalism as the banal apologist for bourgeois success.

John F. C. Harrison

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