Might be more accurate to say that he's the grandfather of modern business productivity/sales advice works. I'd say that the secret grandfathers of modern self-help are Jose Silva and his Silva Mind Control, along with Werner Erhard of est and Hubbard's Scientology. It was of course highly influenced by that sort of productivity advice through Holiday Magic/Leadership Dynamics, but was also very influenced by Theosophy through a science fiction lens that turned everything once supernatural psychic.
That's how we end up with all of these mind-training, success-mindset works that make up most of self-help now. It's a weird culty stew.
edit: Mill is a more noble origin for modern self-help than it deserves. His descendant is How to Win Friends and Influence People which is altogether more wholesome, more akin to Scouting (note Carnegie's constant advocacy of Toastmasters.) Modern self-help is trying to convince you that you can hypnotize people, memorize books, learn languages in a month, build billion dollar businesses, and bend probability through sheer concentration and adherence to miracle systems and new psychologies explained in listicles.
For anyone interested in another famous book from this time period I recommend reading “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen. I came across this book during a depressing period 8 years ago and it helped me climb out of my hole. In addition to this, I read a portion of another book of his, “Eight Pillars of Prosperity”, from which a lot of concepts are now probably common advice and platitudes.
I’d venture to guess that a lot of these older books have some “outdated” concepts within them — though it’s easy enough to ignore. There are still good parts within old books that you can take to heart, and selectively skip past things you disagree with.
I have not read Smiles’s “Self-Help”, so I’ll give it a shot here.
> in the context of the Bible help is usually considered to come from outside the self
That’s something I try, struggle, and fail to put to words sometimes. One of Christianity’s strengths (maybe the bible, I’ve only read a few of its books) is that it externalizes the source of truth in a way that gives it more power and prevents or helps the individual not give themselves an excuse from following their beliefs.
For instance the Christian might say, ‘I heard the Holy Spirit say to me do such and such but I didn’t want to’. And since the source of the command is understood to be connected to the something outside the self it helps them act of the command/conviction.
So to see the Bible as a self help book you only need to disbelieve in an external god and take Jesus teachings as directions on how to live life. They’re external to the self in teaching but not in practice. (Assuming one does not believe in spirits)
PS while I can think of the Bible self help I don’t think it deserves that categorization as it differs too much from modern “self help” and it shouldn’t be lumped in with the likes of Joel Olsteen’s type of books.
Stopped reading after there's a lot to cristise: "white males" or something like that. For heaven's sake it's western Europe a few hundred years ago. How is that relavent!? Suppose they needed to get some virtue signalling in there some how.
The article's author isn't saying the book is morally wrong for only taking about white european males, they are only saying that might be a contributing factor to explain why this book is not often read, namely that few people can relate to the characters of the book, which is pretty important for self-help.
Seems to be me you are a bit too quick at signalling virtue signalling.