The Albert Effect

People have all kinds of mentors and role models. Here is a good one from the nineteenth century.

… [Albert] had grown into a man of unbending determination whose tireless energies were incessantly concentrated upon the laborious business of government and the highest questions of State. He was busy now from morning till night. In the winter, before the dawn, he was to be seen, seated at his writing-table, working by the light of the green reading-lamp which he had brought over with him from Germany, and the construction of which he had much improved by an ingenious device. Victoria was early too, but she was not so early as Albert; and when, in the chill darkness, she took her seat at her own writing-table, placed side by side with his, she invariably found upon it a neat pile of papers arranged for her inspection and her signature. The day, thus begun, continued in unremitting industry.

At breakfast, the newspapers … made their appearance, and [Albert] absorbed in their perusal, would answer no questions, or, if an article struck him, would read it aloud. After that there were ministers and secretaries to interview; there was a vast correspondence to be carried on; there were numerous memoranda to be made. … Thus the diligent, scrupulous, absorbing hours passed by. Fewer and fewer grew the moments of recreation and of exercise. The demands of society were narrowed down to the smallest limits, and even then but grudgingly attended to. It was no longer a mere pleasure, it was a positive necessity, to go to bed as early as possible in order to be up and at work …

The important and exacting business of government, which became at last the dominating preoccupation in Albert’s mind, still left unimpaired his old tastes and interests; he remained devoted to art, to science, to philosophy, and a multitude of subsidiary activities showed how his energies increased as the demands upon them grew. For whenever duty called, [Albert] was all alertness. With indefatigable perseverance he opened museums, laid the foundation stones of hospitals, made speeches to the Royal Agricultural Society, and attended meetings of the British Association. The National Gallery particularly interested him: he drew up careful regulations for the arrangement of the pictures according to schools …

…and it goes on and on. It’s heart-warming to read about other people who stay busy and get work done incessantly. I admire this kind of diligence and intelligence, and try to increase it in my own life each year. I’m not in government like Albert, but I reach for similar industriousness in my own professional and personal activities. I may not reach this apogee of total productivity, but why not aim high? In 2014 my resolution is the same as every year—be more like Albert.

Description of Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Prince Consort to Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; is from Chapter VI “Last years of prince consort” (section 1) in the book, Queen Victoria, by Lytton Strachey, New York Harcourt, Brace And Company, 1921 [You can see the online version here:]

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