Essay No. 346:
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss: The proverb tells us that, if we constantly move about from one place to another and can never settle down, we are not likely to amass much wealth. Only those stones that have long remained in one place become coated with moss. In like manner, men who go on working steadily in the same town or country, are most likely to become prosperous. It must not be supposed that his proverb entirely forbids change of place.
Although a stone gathers no moss while it is actually rolling, it may nevertheless by rolling arrive at a position more favourable for the accumulation of moss. Many men have immensely improved their prospects in life by boldly transferring their talents to a distant land. They may have had heavy expenses on the journey, but they are soon compensated for that expenditure by the better opportunities of enriching themselves that they find in the new home.
Thus thousands of English and Irish labourers have escaped from miserable poverty by migrating to America and Australia. But there are some men, who, when they have gone to a distant country and begun to do well there, are tempted by mere restlessness, or the hope of more rapidly acquiring wealth, to change their home once more.
They ought to remember the proverb we are considering and recollect how many have been known to ruin their fortunes by this restless love of wandering. It is plain that, as a rule, anyone who leaves the place where he has resided many years sacrifices great advantages, which he cannot expect to carry with him to a distant part of the world.
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The continual change of place may be profitable for rogues, whose villainy has been detected and who will have a better chance of cheating again in a land where they are unknown to the police. Idlers, drunkards, and other incapable men may at least be said to lose nothing by moving from place to place, for they are equally unsuccessful everywhere and have nothing to lose.
But an able, honest man has every reason to continue to reside where he has established for himself a good reputation and is respected by his neighbours. If he recklessly goes to another country, he may take a long time to build up again a reputation like the one he has left behind him. He will also lose all the advantages he derived from his local knowledge, and, as an
If he is a merchant, he will take some time to learn who, among the other men of business in the new city to which he has transferred his capital, are honest and solvent. If he is a lawyer or doctor, he will have to begin the laborious work of gaining a good practice and must set about studying, in the one case, the prevalent local diseases and their remedies, in the other, the history of recent local litigation.
Such are among the drawbacks that a man who cannot settle down in one place is likely to encounter in his struggle with fortune. They may of course, in exceptional cases, be more than counterbalanced by greater advantages; but as a rule, a man ought not, without careful reflection, to leave a place where he is enjoying a fair measure of prosperity. If he does, so he is not unlikely, in the words of another proverb, to go farther and fare worse.