Thomas Mitchell's essays on how to live well were completed in 1913, and reflect a clear mind and a good education, but also confidence about the world and society that were about to be shattered. No doubt some thoughts he expressed would have been impossible to reaffirm five years later. As we commemorate the centenary of terrible and unprecedented conflict, his intelligent voice from the past gives us an insight into how people thought before it and what was lost. This does not mean that Mitchell's ideas are not also an individual's, but it is now the combination of freshness and distance in this previously unpublished prose that makes it so compelling. His style also says much about the education system in Scotland and rural Aberdeenshire in particular, and his background was very similar to that of Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Though they undoubtedly had different politics, they would both have agreed on the importance of society.