FIFTEEN or twenty years ago everybody who had sons
was advising everybody else to avoid sending their boys into the professions. They were played out, said the experi- enced, and now only attracted those who were governed by a passed away tradition. Nobody could make anything in any profession. They were crowded up to the lips, and even if they were not they offered few advantages compared with " business," or those irregular careers which a foolish pride had induced those who knew the world imperfectly hitherto to avoid. Already, it was said, the cute Americans had discerned the signs of the times, and in New York all the best people were entering commerce or acquiring shares in shops. Under this impression Peers sent their sons to the Stock Exchange, and everybody who, being anybody, wanted incomes for younger children sent them into " business," or, if they had a turn for mechanics, made them electrical engineers. There was a run upon the great " shops," as engineers call their establishments, and scores of men with degrees found themselves working like artisans in the hope of obtaining ultimately they scarcely knew what great opening in life. We think we perceive signs of a strong reaction against this idea, and a reversion to the old belief that for the cultivated the older professions offer on the whole the largest chances. It was discovered that the whole world could not be employed in hanging electric bells, that contracts requiring an engineer's knowledge were not so many or so profitable as they had been supposed, that to make money in business you required capital, and, what was a curious surprise, that the City was by no means a desert with gold lying about, but a particularly crowded place in which only a few with rather peculiar powers could expect a great success. There was a revulsion towards the old pro. fessions, the Army, the Civil Service, the Bar, the Law, and even the Church, almost the only one of the irregular careers which retained its fall attraction being journalism, always attractive because youth is no obstacle and capital at first not indispensable. We fancy second thoughts were best, and that for cultivated lads the old professions still offer the most attractive careers. The idea that every one is fit for " business," or will make an engineer, or can succeed in the Colonies, is to a great extent an illusion. It would be found, we believe, if statistics could be obtained, that the proportion who succeed in those careers is very much the proportion who succeed elsewhere,—that is to say, one-third fail utterly, and in one way or another " go under," that is, die or disappear, or live their lives as spongers on their friends; one-third make an endurable livelihood; and one-third in different degrees succeed. The first set, to use the quasi-philosophical language of the day, are " unsuited' to their environment," and get out of it, often with heart- breaking or soul-destroying wrenches; the second set lead. very monotonous and unattractive lives ; and the third sett make money, which they find a contenting diet or ashes in the mouth, very much according to temperament. They have, no doubt, the advantage that they may if circumstances are favourable become comparatively rich, but they seldom acquire wealth until its main gift, freedom, has become from age and settled habits undesirable, while they lose many things for which they have perhaps a definite taste. One, the most valuable, is what we may call intellectual life, assn, elation with the thoughtful, keen interest in speculations which are not concrete, the sense of using education for all it is worth. Nothing makes life so happy as a pleasant climate, and to those who do not take to it the intellectual climate of the City is not pleasant. It is apt to be a little stifling except wheri the air is cleared by a storm not without its dangers. Another disadvan- tage of the outside careers is the absence of the distinction among fellow-men which to a large proportion of mankind is the most attractive of all rewards. The professions are nob so badly paid after the first years of weary waiting, and at end the prizes to be obtained are very considerable. It is very difficult to obtain through commerce a career that will bring you to the very top, as success will in the Army, or at the Bar, or even in the Church, and careers in those profes- sions are still completely " open to talents." No one is in the front rank so undoubtedly as Dr. Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Lord Chief Justice whose loss the Bar is just now lamenting, or Lord Roberts, and not one of the three owed anything to birth, or favouritism, or the command of capital. Lord Russell was an attorney in Belfast; Dr. Temple has often alluded to the struggles of his earlier days ; and Lord Roberts, though the son of an officer of merit, owed everything to his own exertions and capacity. No doubt they all to a certain extent have been helped by good fortune, that is, in fact, by opportunities of attracting the attention of ruling men, but then good fortune is an element in one career as much as in another. The existence of prizes so great attracts the virile and the ambitious, and so makes these careers creditable, possibly helps to make them worthy. At least it is a curious fact that the one profession which is strictly intellectual, yet is wholly without rewards in distinction, that of the solicitors, is that which is most frequently suspected of unworthiness, and which does as a fact find it most difficult to clean the unworthy out. We
have always wondered why the solicitors. who have more influence on elections than any single class, bear their exclu- sions from all prizes and distinctions, but they have borne it for the seventy years of popular elections without an audible murmur. Wretched as the pecuniary position of the Church now is, it is still a grand road to distinction, especially for the earnest; and the Army is an even quicker one, and if we can foresee the future at all, will so remain, the first business of nations during the coming century being defence of their possessions.
This question of careers has an importance beyond its influence on the efforts of the new generation, for it will ultimately decide the question, now so incessantly mooted, of the best kind of education. For twenty years past the dis- position to foster what is called " technical education," which means substantially, in all its grades, education directed to the accumulation of knowledge instead of the strengthen- ing of the mind and character, has been increasingly prevalent, but we suspect that it has nearly spent its force. The men of the old culture do best in the professions — an ideal instance was Lord Bowen, who, beginning as a clergyman's son without a spare sixpence, was at forty-seven a Lord Justice of Appeal—and it begins to be seen that a man can make a fortune in diamonds, like Mr. Rhodes, or a grand financial reputation, like Mr. Dawkins, even though he does know Greek. What teaching strengthens the mind most will doubtless be a subject of endless debate, but it will, we think, soon be acknowledged that such strengthening, and not mere knowledge, should be the subject of education. The remarkable comparative success in life of the sons of the clergy, who are all, with the rarest exceptions, trained in the old learning, tells heavily on that side, as does, for those who know it, the recent history of the Navy. One would fancy a priori that the successful sailor would always be a sort of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, but the successful- Admiral of to-day is often a man with the old culture, and always a man of education. The advice to-day of the experienced to anxious fathers would, we think, be : " Get your boy's mind well trained, develop his character as well as you can, and then, unless you have, from connections or accident, some very special opening, start him along one of the old routes. If he wants to deviate, let him do it for himself when he is a little more acquainted with the world." If that is good counsel there is good hope that in the coming century the torch will not flicker much or go out altogether.