"Here Lies One Who Meant Well, Tried A Little, Failed Much"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In his essay "A Christmas Sermon" Robert Louis Stevenson uses the Christmas season not only as the close of the year but also as the close of man's life. If man reflects on all his past endeavors, Stevenson says, he will almost certainly consider his life a failure, because "Life is not designed to minister to a man's vanity." Since life will inevitably result in a series of failures, Stevenson continues, the individual should not for that reason be disappointed with it but should continue to bear it "like a blind child." The world is not the permanent dwelling place of man, and the joys and pleasures of the world vanish: "Friendships fall through, health fails, weariness assails him; . . ." Yet man should learn from all these experiences and be optimistic in failure. Stevenson then gives the epitaph that he considers appropriate for a man:

. . . When the time comes that he should go, there need be few illusions left about himself. Here lies one who meant well, tried a little, failed much:–surely that may be his epitaph, of which he need not be ashamed.