Orison Swett Marden
||This article may be written from a fan's point of view, rather than a neutral point of view. (December 2013)|
Dr. Orison Swett Marden (1850 - 1924) was an American inspirational author who wrote on success and how to achieve it. His writings discuss common-sense principles and virtues that make a well-rounded, successful life. Many of his ideas were based on New Thought philosophy.
His first book, Pushing to the Front (1894), became an instant best-seller and remains a classic in the genre of self-help. Marden later produced some forty plus books and nineteen booklets, averaging two titles per year.
Marden had an unusual ability to strike a chord with his readers, encouraging them with hope and firing them with ambition to achieve. The privations of his childhood and youth, his many academic interests and his wide business experience in early manhood were factors that enabled him to write with understanding, sympathy and depth. Marden died in 1924 at the age of seventy-four.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Philosophy and Style
- 3 e-Books
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The "Bound Out" Orphan
Marden was born in Thornton Gore, New Hampshire to Lewis and Martha Marden. When he was three years old, his mother died at the age of twenty-two, leaving Orison and his two sisters in the care of their father, a farmer, hunter, and trapper. When Orison was seven years old, his father died from injuries incurred while in the woods. Consequently, the children were shuttled from one guardian to another, with Orison working for five successive families as a "hired boy" to earn his keep.
The Spark of Ambition
Achievements of Young Manhood
Marden's young manhood was marked by remarkable energy and unbroken achievement. By his early thirties, he had earned his academic degrees in science, oratory, arts, medicine, and law:
( -- ) - Andover Theological Seminary, MA (circa, 1873-74)
B.A. - Bachelor of Arts, Boston University (circa, 1877)
B.S. - Bachelor of Science, Boston University (date unknown)
A.M. - Master of Arts, Boston University (1879)
M.D. - Doctor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (1881)
LL.B. - Bachelor of Laws, Boston University Law School (1882)
During his college years he supported himself by working in a hotel and afterward by becoming the owner of several hotels and a resort. Financial reversals ended that career, and in 1893, he was again working as a hotel manager, in Chicago, during the time that the World's Columbian Exposition was attracting visitors to that city from all over the world. It was during this period that he began to write down his philosophical ideas, with the goal of inspiring others as he had been inspired by Samuel Smiles.
The Turning Point
Up till his early forties, Marden was a successful hotel owner. During the deep depression of the 1890s, however, business reversals and a hotel fire put an end to Marden's career in the hotel business. Guided by a fervent sense of idealism and haunted by a feeling of "now or never" in middle life, Marden decided to switch careers to professional authorship. It was a choice he never regretted, for his real passion was to become an inspirational writer like Samuel Smiles.
Margaret Connolly, a contemporary who worked for Marden's publishing firm in the early 1900's, informs us that Marden's manuscript was destroyed in a hotel fire as he narrowly escaped the building for his life. The loss of the original manuscript (which was later re-written and entitled Pushing to the Front) constituted a significant turning point in Marden's professional life. Marden's unwavering determination to start from scratch after this devastating loss was characteristic of the man and his writings. Connolly writes:
- Over five thousand pages of manuscripts – the fruit of all the spare time he had been able to snatch from nearly fifteen crowded years of business life – had gone up in smoke...
- Having nothing but his nightshirt on when he escaped from the fire, he went down the street to provide himself with necessary clothing. As soon as this had been attended to, he bought a twenty-five cent notebook, and, while the ruins of the hotel were still smoking, began to rewrite from memory the manuscript of his dream book.
Pushing to the Front (1894)
Overwhelmed and heartbroken, Marden he picked himself up and started all over again. With little money, but with lots of time on his hands, he decided to rewrite the manuscript. book. He then tried to get it published a year later. But with the depression being in its third year, publishers were not interested as they thought the book would not sell.
Marden moved to Chicago, found a job and met someone who happened to know a sympathetic publisher. The publisher read his book and said, “This is exactly what people should be reading in the middle of the depression or at any other time.”
Pushing to the Front (1894) became the single greatest runaway classic in the history of personal development books at that time. People like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and J. P. Morgan cited it as inspiration. Marden went on to write about forty books and nineteen booklets during his career. Each of his books has produced dozens of famous quotes, and he is considered the base and inspiration of dozens of modern authors of self-help and motivation.
Success Magazine (1897)
Founded in 1897, Marden's Success magazine eventually grew to a circulation of about half a million subscribers. The publication had its own building and printing plant in New York and was backed by a workforce of two hundred or more employees.
Editorial work aside, Marden wrote articles that focused on self-culture, personal development and principles of success. Other articles featured Marden's personal interviews of successful men and women. Notable public figures included the late president Teddy Roosevelt, the poet Julia Ward Howe, inventors Thomas Alva Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, and leading industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Over fifty of these interviews were later compiled into book form.
Other Publications and Writings
Marden served as editor-in-chief in supervising the publication of the Consolidated Encyclopedic Library (1903, 1906, 1907), a collaborative work comprised of nineteen volumes written for the benefit of the general public and young people in particular. He was also a regular contributor to Elizabeth Towne's New Thought magazine, Nautilus, during the first two decades of the twentieth century.
During this time he served as the first president of the early New York City-based New Thought organization League for the Larger Life.
Philosophy and Style
In addition to Samuel Smiles, Marden cited as influences on his thinking the works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Ralph Waldo Emerson, both of whom were influential forerunners of what, by the 1890s, was called the New Thought Movement.
Like many proponents of the New Thought philosophy, Marden believed that our thoughts influence our lives and our life circumstances. He said, "We make the world we live in and shape our own environment." Yet although he is best known for his books on financial success, he always emphasized that this would come as a result of cultivating one's personal development: "The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone."
Though Marden preached a certain philosophy that combined idealism with practicality, he was not given to lengthy treatises or ponderous esoteric abstractions, such as Plato or Immanuel Kant. Rather, he often kept his writings simple, concrete, and grounded in reality. Indeed, Marden advises young writers to "Live, Then Write" (Chapter 2), and to "Keep Close to Life" (Chapter 9) in the chapter titles of his Hints to Young Writers (1914).
Marden wrote in a highly readable style that, for the most part, used simple, clear vocabulary. His characteristic qualities were that of vigor, virility, brevity, directness and clarity. He was especially interested in business, literature, history, philosophy, biography, fine art, education, psychology, and physical health. Like Samuel Smiles, he expounded upon many of the virtues that make up success, such as self-reliance, perseverance, and hard work. His writings breathe a spirit of "lofty austerity" and focus on themes of adversity and triumph, defeat and victory, failure and success.”
Marden made frequent use of metaphors and similes in conveying ethical principles and life's lessons. Objects or scenes observable in nature such as rocks, marbles, streams, trees, snows, and tempests imparted a sublime, poetic depth to his writing:
The frost, the snows, the tempests, the lightnings, are the rough teachers that bring the tiny acorn to the sturdy oak...Obstacles, hardships are the chisel and mallet which shape the strong life into beauty. 
The "adrenaline rush" of excitement can be felt in a number of opening chapters to Marden's books. While reading these passages, the reader vicariously feels the same intensity of inspiration the author may have had.
Marden's book He Can Who Thinks He Can, for example, opens with a simple quote from Abraham Lincoln's diary. The quote gives us some insight into the the mind of a great man and the invisible power that sustained him during a time of great crisis. One could not read Marden's profound analysis and remain unimpressed by Lincoln's faith and resolution:
- “I promised my God I would do it."
- In September, 1862, when Lincoln issued his preliminary emancipation proclamation, the sublimest act of the nineteenth century, he made this entry in his diary: "I promised my God I would do it."
- Does anyone doubt that such a mighty resolution added power to this marvelous man; or that it nerved him to accomplish what he had undertaken? Neither ridicule nor caricature, neither dread of enemies nor desertion of friends, could shake his indomitable faith in his ability to lead the nation through the greatest struggle in its history.
The opening paragraphs to Pushing to the Front are just as invigorating. In the first chapter, "Man and the Opportunity," Marden focuses on the crucial role leadership plays in shaping the course of history. The rapid changes in scenery and frequent repetition of short, staccato-like phrases impart the "adrenaline rush" of adventure, daring, and ultimate triumph.
- Grant at New Orleans had just been seriously injured by a fall from his horse, when he received orders to take command at Chattanooga, so sorely beset by the Confederates that its surrender seemed only a question of a few days...Though in great pain, he immediately gave directions for his removal to the new scene of action...
- Things assumed a different aspect immediately. A master had arrived who was equal to the situation. The army felt the grip of his power. Before he could mount his horse he ordered an advance, and although the enemy contested the ground inch by inch, the surrounding hills were soon held by Union soldiers.
- Were these things the result of chance, or were they compelled by the indomitable determination of the injured General?
- Did things adjust themselves when Horatius with two companions held ninety thousand Tuscans at bay until the bridge across the Tiber had been destroyed? - when Leonidas at Thermopylae checked the mighty march of Xerxes? - when Themistocles, off the coast of Greece, shattered the Persian's Armada? - when Caesar, finding his army hard pressed, seized spear and buckler, fought while he reorganized his men, and snatched victory from defeat? - when Winkelried gathered to his heart a sheaf of Austrian spears, thus opening a path through which his comrades pressed to freedom? - when for years Napoleon did not lose a single battle in which he was personally engaged? - when Wellington fought in many climes without ever being conquered? - when Ney, on a hundred fields, changed apparent disaster into brilliant triumph? - when Perry left the disabled Lawrence, rowed to the Niagara, and silenced the British guns? - when Sheridan arrived from Winchester just as the Union retreat was becoming a rout, and turned the tide by riding along the line? - when Sherman, though sorely pressed, signaled his men to hold the fort, and they, knowing that their leader was coming, held it?
- History furnishes thousands of examples of men who have seized occasions to accomplish results deemed impossible by those less resolute. Prompt decision and whole souled action sweep the world before them.
“Wanted — A Man”
In the following passage, Marden's bold and concise wording coupled with his effective use of rhythmic phrasing (Wanted, a man...) effectively conveys the masculine qualities of ability, confidence and strength:
- Over the door of every profession, every occupation, every calling, the world has a standing advertisement: “Wanted — A Man.”
- Wanted, a man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd, a man who has the courage of his convictions, who is not afraid to say 'No,' though all the world say "Yes."
- Wanted, a man who, though he is dominated by a mighty purpose, will not permit one great faculty to dwarf, cripple, warp, or mutilate his manhood; who will not allow the over-development of one faculty to stunt or paralyze his other faculties.
- Wanted, a man who is larger than his calling, who considers it a low estimate of his occupation to value it merely as a means of getting a living.
- Wanted, a man who sees self-development, education and culture, discipline and drill, character and manhood, in his occupation...
- Wanted, a man of courage who is not a coward in any part of his nature.
- Wanted, a man who is well balanced, who is not cursed with some little defect of weakness which cripples his usefulness and neutralizes his powers.
- Wanted, a man who is symmetrical, and not one-sided in his development, who has not sent all the energies of his being into one narrow specialty and allowed all the other branches of his life to wither and die.
- Wanted, a man who is broad, who does not take half views of things; a man who mixes common sense with his theories, who does not let a college education spoil him for practical, every-day life; a man who prefers substance to show, and one who regards his good name as a priceless treasure.
- Wanted, a man, who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to heed a strong will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all beauty, whether of nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself.
- The world wants a man who is educated all over; whose nerves are brought to their acutest sensibility; whose brain is cultured, keen, incisive, broad; whose hands are deft; whose eyes are alert, sensitive, microscopic; whose heart is tender, magnanimous, true.
- The whole world is looking for such a man. Although there are millions out of employment, yet it is almost impossible to find just the right man in almost any department of life, and yet everywhere we see the advertisement: “Wanted — A Man.”
~ Quotable Quotes ~
Over the door of every profession, every occupation, every calling, the world has a standing advertisement: “Wanted — A Man.”
There are two essential requirements for success. The first is “go-at-it-iveness” and the second is “stick-to-it-iveness.”
The world makes way for the determined man. Everybody believes in the man who persists, sticks, hangs on, when others let go. Tenacity of purpose gives confidence.
Most Marden books are now available in eBook format. At present (December 2013), the Orison Swett Marden Timeless Wisdom Collection on Amazon's Kindle section has done a great job of providing a more complete list of Marden e-Books at an affordable price and quality. Many of them seem to have been proofread for correct spelling and provide navigable chapter links. Rapid progress has been made that only a few Marden titles remain that have not yet been digitized.
While original hardcopies of Marden's works are generally more expensive compared to their eBook counterparts, the increased use of digital image scanner devices and Optical Character Recognition software make it easier than ever to share Marden's books to others for free. Under Fair Use, works published over one hundred years old (1913 and earlier) are considered public domain and can thus be shared freely.
THE MARDEN INSPIRATIONAL BOOKS (26):
1. Pushing to the Front (1894)
2. Architects of Fate (or, Rising in the World; or, Steps to Success and Power) (1895)
3. How to Succeed (or, Stepping-Stones to Fame and Fortune) (1896)
4. Success (Ideas, Helps and Examples for All Desiring to Make the Most of Life) (1897)
5. The Secret of Achievement (1898)
6. The Making of a Man (1905)
7. Every Man a King (or, Might over Mind) (1906)
8. The Optimistic Life (or, in The Cheering Up Business) (1907)
9. He Can Who Thinks He Can (1909)
10. Peace, Power, and Plenty (1909)
11. Be Good to Yourself (1910)
12. Getting On (1910)
13. The Miracle of Right Thought (1910)
14. Self-Investment (1911)
15. Everybody Ahead (or, Getting the Most Out of Life) (1916)
16. The Victorious Attitude (1916)
17. How to Get What You Want (1917)
18. Joys of Living (or, Living Today in the Here and Now (1917)
19. Making Life a Masterpiece (1917)
20. Love's Way (1918)
21. You Can, But Will You? (1920)
22. Prosperity - How to Attract It (1922)
23. Making Yourself (1923)
24. Masterful Personality (1923)
25. The Conquest of Worry (1924)
26. Making Friends with Our Nerves (1925)
BIOGRAPHICAL ANECDOTES FOR CHILDREN (2):
1. Winning Out (A Book for Young People on Character Building by Habit Forming) (1900)
2. Eclectic School Readings (Stories from Life, a Book for Young People) (1909)
INTERVIEWS OF SUCCESSFUL MEN AND WOMEN (3):
1. How They Succeeded (Life Stories of Successful Men and Women Told by Themselves) (1901)
2. Talks with Great Workers (Interviews with Men and Women that Changed America) (1901)
3. Little Visits with Great Americans (or, Success, Ideals, and How to Attain Them) (1905)
BUSINESS AND EFFICIENCY-TYPE BOOKS (9):
1. Choosing a Career (1905)
2. The Young Man Entering Business (1907)
3. The Progressive Business Man (1913)
4. Training for Efficiency (1913)
5. The Exceptional Employee (1913)
6. Keeping Fit (1914)
7. Selling Things (1916)
8. Success Fundamentals (1920)
9. How to Choose Your Career (or, Round Pegs in Square Holes) (1922)
BOOKS ON LOVE, FAMILY AND HOME LIFE (3)
1. Uplift Book of Child Culture (1913). Only the first three chapters were written by Marden.
2. The Crime of Silence (1915)
3. Woman and the Home (1915)
BOOKS ON GENERAL EDUCATION (19 Volumes)
The Consolidated Encyclopedic Library. In nineteen volumes. (1903, 1906, 1907)
1. Friendship (1897)
2. Character: The Grandest Thing in the World (1899)
3. Cheerfulness as a Life Power (1899)
4. Good Manners - A Passport to Success. Co-authored with Abner Bayley. (1900)
5. The Hour of Opportunity (1900)
6. Economy (The Self-Denying Depositor and Prudent Paymaster at the Bank of Thrift) (1901)
7. An Iron Will (1901)
8. The Power of Personality. Written with the assistance of Margaret Connolly. (1906)
9. Success Nuggets (1906)
10. Do It to a Finish (1909)
11. Not the Salary but the Opportunity (1909)
12. Why Grow Old? (1909)
13. Thoughts About Character (1910)
14. Hints for Young Writers (1914)
15. I Had a Friend (1914)
16. The Man You Long to Be. An article printed in the Nautilus. (January, 1918)
17. Thrift (1918)
18. Ambition and Success (1919)
19. Self-Discovery (or, Why Remain a Dwarf?) (1922)
1. "After Failure - What?" Success magazine, Volume 8 (1905)
2. "The Excuse of No Chance." Success magazine, Volume 9 (1905)
3. "Getting Away from Poverty." Success magazine, Volume 9 (1906)
4. "Freedom at Any Cost." Success magazine, Volume 10 (1907)
5. "Don't Live This Year as if it Is Last Year." Success magazine, Volume 11 (1908)
6. "Self-Improvement Through Public Speaking." Success magazine, Volume 14 (1911)
7. "The Force Back of the Flesh." The Nautilus magazine, Volume 17.12 (1914-15)
8. "A New Year, a New Day, a New Chance." The New Success magazine, Volume 5.1 (1921)
9. "The Hundred Percent Home." The New Success magazine, Volume 5.1 (1921)
10. "Which Way Are You Facing?" The New Success magazine, Volume 5.1 (1921)
11. "If I Were President!" The New Success magazine, Volume 5.2 (1921)
- At least two of these booklets were revised editions or unaltered re-issues of earlier ones.
- Connolly, Margaret. The Life Story of Orison Swett Marden - A Man Who Benefited Men. See chapters 13, "Boston Days - Working Through Two Universities," and Chapter 14, "Lucky Marden" for dates and other details. Connolly was a contemporary of Marden who served in his publishing firm in the early 1900s. Her biography provides much valuable information on Marden's life and may be considered an important primary source on the subject. Original book publication, 1925. Digital copyright in eBook format by Self-Improvement-eBooks.com, 2007.
- Marden attended the junior class and studied at the seminary for one year. It is probable that Marden had left the seminary after completing his junior year as Connolly makes no mention of his graduation.
- The acronym B.O., which may have stood for Bachelor of Oratory, is probably now outdated as Connolly's book was published in 1925.
- Tracy's book, Flight Plan provides a somewhat different account. Tracy states that Marden took a room above a livery stable and worked night and day. The evening he finished the final page, tired and hungry, he decided to go out to a small café for dinner. While he was dining, the livery stable caught fire and burned to the ground. His entire manuscript – more than 1,000 pages, an entire year’s work – was destroyed by flames in a matter of minutes.
- Connolly, The Life Story. "Making and Losing a Fortune" (Chapter 15).
- At least two of these booklets were probably revised editions or unaltered re-issues of earlier ones.
- Connolly, The Life Story. "The Rise and Fall of Success" (Chapter 19).
- http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/o/orisonswet157890.html Marden quote retrieved October 2, 2007.
- http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/o/orisonswet101086.html Marden quote retrieved October 2, 2007.
- Connolly, The Life Story. Chapter 1, "A Son of Granite Hills." Connolly uses the words "lofty austerity" in describing Marden's earliest ideals.
- Marden, Orison. Architects of Fate, "Uses of Obstacles" (Chapter 5) 1896.
- Marden, Orison. He Can Who Thinks He Can. "He Can Who Thinks He Can" (Chapter 1), 1908.
- Marden, Orison. Pushing to the Front. "The Man and the Opportunity" (Chapter 1). Revised edition, 1911.
- Marden, Orison. Pushing to the Front. “Wanted — A Man” (Chapter 2). Revised Edition, 1911.
- A collaborative work of nineteen volumes containing illustrations and lessons on a wide array of educational subjects with Marden as Editor in Chief. Articles were written for the benefit of the general public and young people in particular. Subjects include the Arts, Sciences, Literature, History, Biography, Geography, Commerce, Finance and Statistics. A few volumes are available in eBook format from Google Play.
- At least two of these booklets were probably revised editions or unaltered re-issues of earlier ones.
- Material from booklet was included as a separate chapter in the 1911 edition of Pushing to the Front (Chapter 22, "Do It to a Finish").
- Material from this booklet was included as a separate chapter in the 1911 edition of Pushing to the Front (Chapter 42, "The Salary You Do Not Find in Your Pay Envelope").
- Possibly a revision or unaltered re-issue of an earlier booklet, Character: The Grandest Thing in the World (1899).
- Possibly a revision or unaltered re-issue of an earlier booklet, Friendship (1897). The material from this booklet was also included in Marden's book Self-Investment (Chapter 7, "I Had a Friend").
- Material from this article was probably included as a separate chapter in Marden's Success Fundamentals (Part 3, Chapter 5, "The Man You Long to Be") or in Masterful Personality (Chapter 3, "The Man You Could Be").
- All eleven articles listed are grouped into one Kindle eBook file from Amazon.com under the heading, "After Failure, What?" Many of these articles seem to have been extracted from or reprinted as separate chapters in Marden's books.
- The Life Story of Orison Swett Marden (1925), by Margaret Connolly. - Free to read online
- Pushing To The Front (1894). - Free e-book
- Cheerfulness as a Life Power (1899). - Free e-book
- The Miracle of Right Thought (1910). - Free e-book
- Prosperity - How to Attract It (1922). - Free e-book
- Marden Quotes 1 - From FamousQuotesAbout.com
- Marden Quotes 2 - From BrainyQuote.com