15 MAY 1880, Page 8

THE PINCH OF WEALTH. N i i R.PAYN says, in this month's

Nineteenth Century, that 1 t is not easy to find the "pinch of poverty," though he admits its existence, and allows that the true " grip " of poverty is very visible indeed ; but it is much more difficult to find the pinch of wealth. The prosperous always say, with grave shakes of the head, that "money brings little happiness ;" yet they seem to enjoy its possession, are proud of it in various ways, according to character, use it freely as a power, and will not surrender it without the very toughest fighting. A complete surrender of wealth, of the difference between subsistence and competence or riches, is, except in a very few cases of religions convic- tion, the rarest of all forms of nit-sacrifice. So different, indeed, is the disconsolate talk of the well-to-do from their actual condition, that the world suspects them of a little hypo- crisy, or of an intention to avert envy by declaring, what is un- questionably false, the equality of all earthly Conditions. "Dives is sad with wealth," sighs the man with too little," but howl wish I had a touch of his complaint!" A few men, indeed, have boldly declared the regrets of wealth to be pretences, and have asserted, with Macaulay, that every guinea they acquire gives them dis- tinct and appreciable pleasure. He was the most generous of mankind, but he liked money, and avowed his liking, as he would have avowed a liking for pleasant bindings for his books. There was solid truth in Macaulay's idea, particularly as to earned money; but he put his truth, as usual, a good deal too broadly, nothing being ever quite so little complex as he imagined every- thing to be. Very few men indeed part with wealth voluntarily, because very few have the courage to deprive themselves of any faculty or power they may hereafter want; and very few are without that pride in it which any distinction tends to raise; but we 'believe the constant depreciation of its value in which the well-off indulge, is not a hypocrisy. They see, or many of them see, failures in the effect of their wealth upon themselves, and even directly bad consequences springing from it, which quite justify their shakes of the head, though they are slow to explain even to themselves why the apples taste so ashy.

We believe that rich men—we do not mean very rich men, though we include them, so much as the well-off, the classes which need not work to fulfil their desires—suffer the pinch of wealth distinctly enough, if they are thoughtful men, to recognise it for themselves at at least three separate points, the first trouble being nearly universal. This is impatience of the close limits placed upon what wealth can do. Money can secure so much, and gives in many directions such freedom to the will and so much of concrete reality to the fancy, that the man who possesses it frets when he perceives that his power will in other directions do so little. He feels like a potentate who is stopped by some obstacle quite trifling, but quite immovable; or a magician whose Genius cannot obey him, except to secure ends which he is not just then seeking to obtain. Money, for example, will purchase alleviations from pain, skilled attendance, good advice, and soft beds, but it will not purchase the dismissal of the pain itself. If you have a cancer, millions are no help. A millionaire may have tooth- ache, and in toothache feels, on account of the money which places all dentists at his command, an additional pang. "Here am I, who can buy all the help there is, and of what use is

that to my pain ?" The sense that the money will aid volition in so many ways deepens the pain, when it is of the kind in which money is powerless, as it is in almost all serious questions of health. The Marquis of Steyne is not the less aggrieved by his liability to madness because he is so very rich, but the more aggrieved, as a man is who knows his own strength to be un- usual, and finds it just insufficient. That habitual complaint of the rich, that money will not buy affection or happiness, or even immunity from pain, has in it something of irritation as well as of pathos, and springs often from an inclination to contend, as of one who is unjustly deprived of something. The workers have need to be solicitous about health, but it is the rich who coddle themselves ; and the reason is not so much the passion for comfort, as the additional sense of the value of health, which their inability to buy it with money brings home to them more clearly than to other men. A rich man who wanted water, say in a shipwreck, and could not get it, would feel in his riches, if he thought of them at all, an addition to the pain of his despair; and there are wants nearly as urgent as water towards which money gives just as little aid. A fretful- ness born of tantalisation—what a pity there is no short word for that idea !—is one extra pain of the rich, and mast have as depressing an effect as we know the consciousness of mental powers with no opportunity for their exercise usually has. The Red who is Red because the world gives him no chance, burns with a chagrin which the very rich must often feel.

This is one pinch of wealth ; and there is another much more frequently quoted,—the additional difficulty which wealth creates in achieving complete success in anything. This is constantly described as a consequence of idleness or of dislike to necessary drudgery, but that is an im- perfect or even unjust description. Nothing prevents a rich man from occupying himself, and he will probably drudge quite as much as the poorer man would without the whip, but the absence of desire for the gain to be earned makes the labour seem positively heavier. A strength has been taken away. We can illustrate this by a comparison which everybody can test. A rich man of artistic leanings will not toil in the schools like a poor one, a rich agriculturist will not give hours and years to economies which make agriculture suc- cessful, a rich author will not display the patient research of his professional rival; but the rich politician will work like a slave or a barrister with large practice and no savings. The rich poli- tician is no more laborious than the rich artist by nature, but his reward comes in a shape he desires ; and the rich artist's does not, or at least not in the same degree. The politician desires two things,—the success of his work and power, and however rich he may be, has a double stimulus ; but the artist desires the suc- cess of his work and money, and, if he is rich, fully tastes only the first reward. The comparative feebleness of the stimulus which makes the rich man's work so tasteless is increased by that absence of fixed conditions which follows on wealth, the presence of other possibilities which distract the will, till energy is impaired by half-conscious hesitations. One road, and but one, is open to the poor artist, and he advances on it rapidly. One road is open to the rich artist, and a dozen tempting lanes, the attractions of which he pauses to consider so often, that he seems, in comparison with his 'rival, to crawl. An increase of indecision comes to the rich from their riches as to what to do with themselves, which is supposed to be idleness, though it is not, and which becomes a distinct and separate pain. We all know the effect of an embarras des richesses in the shape of plans, and for the rich that is never absent. For all but a very few, compulsion, when it does not come from an individual, will smooth life.

And this brings us to the third "pinch of wealth," which we see and hear reason to believe is the most severe of all. We have no doubt whatever that, in this generation more especially, the well-to-do have more difficulty, much more difficulty, in bringing up their children than the strugglers have. Formerly, this was not so much the case, because the necessity for strong discipline was so thoroughly acknowledged that it was maintained almost with- out an effort, and the habit of obedience was enforced by practically irresistible authority. But the specialty of to-day is to concede freedom in all directions, and especially freedom to children and those who are subordinate. Discipline in any strong form is, among large classes and over great tracts of the world, nearly dead. The bad effect of that change—we do not mean the change from severity to kindliness, but the change from studious government to comparative inattention—is very great, but is partly concealed by the fact that poverty acts as a disciplining atmosphere. It fixes conditions rigidly. The girl must learn to do her own dressmaking, or go untidy. The boy must go to work, or there will not be enough, and to that particular work, for only the rich have much choice of occupations. Economy is imperative, for the money is not there, and no training in self-sacrifice acts daily, hourly, momently, like compulsory economy. The will is compressed by the facts of life, and becomes at once strong and pliable, like leather. With the rich, that discipline is absent, and cannot, as Mr. Payn has pointed out in an amusing story, be artificially produced; and the young have only conscious "training," in the athlete's sense, from direct authority, which, as we said, it is the tendency of the age to relax. The result is not only that the passions, especially the passion of self-will, grow too strong, though that is so clear as to have become a truism ; but that among both good and bad a certain bone- lessness of character is apparent, a certain indisposition to endure, or to form strong purposes as to the work of life, a certain want not so much of energy as of decision and pertinacity. The children of the stragglers very often fail utterly, either from inherent defects of character or from insuperable obstacles of position ; but more of them win than the children of the well-off, and, taken as a body, they have stronger and finer characters. As their children grow up, the well-to-do find them more burdensome, more diffi- cult to manage, more troublesome to "settle," than the poorer do ; are more anxious for their future, and more displeased with their defects of character and conduct, which, indeed, from the absence of the pressure of circumstance, are much greater. With the very rich, anxiety about their children, crosses of different kinds inflicted by them, and their frequent total failures, make up, we believe, a definite and separate source of pain; and even with the well-off, greatly increase the burden of life, just at the time when burdens are most anxiously avoided. A man has not gained much in the struggle of life whose children are profligate, babyish, characterless, or given up to selfishness ; and that is far more often the lot of the rich than of the poor, and constitutes at least one true "pinch of wealth."