A 230-year-old superbrain Richard Whately declared , ‘A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbour’s.’

At 5 this morning, I needed to remember that humanitarian advice as a great noise trumpeted through the humble abode. I threw off the summer-weight duvet fearing that the building might be on fire, or falling down.

The raucous combination buzzer-bell-reveille blaster roared and roared deafeningly, non-stop.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Wise words ... Richard Whately's the man for good advice, even before the cock crows. Photo from Wikipedia with thanks. Source Author died more than 70 years ago.

No smoke, no sounds of the Thames in flood, no hammering on the stairs of foreign invaders. But it didn't stop. I rushed half-deafened to the front door. A voice called up the stairs, ‘That you, Paul?’

It was my elderly neighbour from a flat below. ‘I need help. Now.’

Dramas at challenging moments

The mind raced through some medical training from National Service days.

I’d rescued him seriously in trouble before. He’d collapsed in the hallway, just as I was rushing to catch a flight at Heathrow. His dramas often happen at challenging moments.

Somehow I got him an ambulance and reached Heathrow just in time.

This present dilemma was spelt out part-way down the stairs. ‘Light’s gone out in the lounge. It’s the bulb, prob'ly.’

Five in the morning, already daylight, and the man needed a light in his lounge!

I was tempted to respond with some suitable thoughts.

Engines of influence

However, another notable sentence from the great Whately surfaced instead.

‘Manners are one of the greatest engines of influence ever given to man.’ I retreated back upstairs, found a suitable bulb, then rushed downstairs to replace the defunct one in a room the temperature of a furnace, with the TV blasting out so raucously I nearly missed his, ‘That’s better.’

He shouted over the deafening announcer, ‘Don’t like to sit in a room without a light.’

‘Do you know of Mr Whately?’ I asked.

‘Rode what’s-it in the 3.40 yesterday?’

‘He offered wise sayings. One is, Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.

‘The light’ll help me find it.’

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.

Richard Whately, English rhetorician
Richard Whately quotations

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