4 MARCH 1905, Page 10

There is a good deal that is contemptible in the

" too- old-at-forty-useless-at-sixty " line of argument, used in certain connections; but Dr. Osier, we are glad to find, has done too much in the world in the last fifteen years to be classed with those who, because they realise that "the glory of young men is their strength," and have yet not attained the age at which that truth was uttered, believe that in the world there is no other glory. It is always difficult to argue with an opponent ignorant of elemental', facts, just because there is no common basis on which argument can be built up or pulled down; the words used in argument do not mean the same thing to the preacher and his critic; the critic has the helpless feeling that if the preacher only knew the facts which he knows, there would have been none of this foolish doctrine cried from the house-tops. But argue, for a moment, that Dr. Osler was serious, that he really said what he is reported to have said and has since denied, and that Anthony Trollope's last novel really sums up the wisdom of time. [Why, it might be asked in parenthesis, has it come about that the "wisdom of time," the "wisdom of the ages," is ever used as a respectable argument, if the wisdom of youth is the real thing to be looked at and followed ? You are driven, if you take that line, to argue that because antiquity and experience have decided on this or that course of action, as conducive to the moral and material well-being of the State, antiquity and experience must be wrong, for the plain reason that they are antique and experienced, and therefore worthless and ridiculous.] Then, according to this creed, the great nations of ancient history (but is history worth anything if it is old?) were all wrong in the way in which they built up their Constitutions, and in the ideals of sane and steady government which they put before them. The Athenians thought it wise that no man should be allowed to become a member of the Boule, which answers practically to the House of Commons, unless he were over thirty years of age. The Spartans did not permit a man to vote as a member of the Apella—which answered to the Athenian Boule—nnless, also, he were over thirty. But both the Boule and the Apollo were influenced and controlled by the Areopagus and the Gerusia, assemblies of old men, of which the latter was especially given the function by one of the Spartan Kings of setting aside "crooked" decisions of the people. But the Greeks were and are, perhaps it might be argued, the rulers of thought, not the rulers of business. Were the Romans, then, rulers of business ? It would be difficult to say that they were not; but if they were, it stands to their record that the chief controlling influence throughout the whole history of Rome was the Senate, of which no Roman might become a member until be had passed the age of sixty. Whenever the Executive was in doubt or difficulty, it was the Senate which strengthened or corrected its action; it was the Senate before whom were laid questions of taxation, one of the greatest difficulties of all Governments ; and it was the Senate which made war or concluded peace. Trollope, well over sixty himself, had the humour which is part of wisdom to suggest that perhaps he was wrong in thinking himself a wise man because he was an old man.

But if Dr. Osier did not say what he was reported to have said, there are others who have thought and said the same thing, and have urged that a man is usually too old for good work at forty, and always useless at sixty. And the frame of mind which asserts—it does not argue, for argument would spoil everything—that youth is the greatest asset possible for a thinker and a worker, is worth taking into consideration just because it is often capable of doing a great deal of in- justice and mischief. Like many other " catch " phrases, the phrase "too old at forty" has hurt and hindered plenty of men who still had good work to do, but who, because the easy sound of the phrase would sink quickly into shallow minds, have been dismissed or refused work by an unstable employer. But how is it, in any case, that the " too-old-at-forty " cry has gained so great a hold, not in the highest classes of employ- ment, but in spheres of life where not so much depends upon thought as upon action ? Governments, it is true, do not dismiss or refuse to employ servants at forty; but lesser businesses than Governments look with dislike at any but young men, and for what reason ? The truth seems to be, surely, that they do so because they are lesser businesses; because they are not controlled by men who have read history, but who judge this or that man by the standard of momentary rather than permanent success; who have not perhaps heard of Alcibiades, but who, had they been in business at time of the mutilation of the Herniae, would have preferred the "smart" methods of Alcibiades to the quieter work of those whom history has approved in their sober denunciation of the Sicilian Expedition. Alcibiades certainly would have decided in favour of the " too-old-at-forty " theory. But he does not cut any very great figure in Athenian polities.

But it happens, essentially, that no doctrine can obtain even temporary approval from the unthinking unless it some- where contains something like the germ of truth. Dr. Osier might be misunderstood by his Mends if, on deciding, at the age of fifty-five, to aecept the ()hair of Medicine at Oxford, be put forward the proposition that he became nearly useless fifteen years ago, and ought to submit to euthanasia five years hence. Still, he would not be wholly wrong. When a man has passed the age of sixty years, his best years of action do as a rule lie behind him. There are, and must be, exceptions. Titian and Tintoretto were old men when they did some of their best work ; Michael Angelo was at work on St. Peter's when he was nearly ninety; Moltke and Radetsky, Bismarck and Lord Salisbury, among soldiers and statesmen, occur instantly; Lord Roberts was sixty-eight when he rode to Pre- toria; and for that matter, the leading figures on the Front Benches of Parliament to-day are well past the age of chloro- form. But though the powers of action naturally diminish with the weight of years, the real power of old age—the power of criticism—must increase with the wider horizon that each succeeding year discloses ; up to a point, of course, for the wisest of men know the danger of garrulity, and are often most admirable when silent, possibly in contempt. But the young man who, tolerant only of youth, will one day be forced, logically, to be intolerant of himself, may perhaps remember, when praising the work of others, that he believes such praise worth giving; and that he always, as a young man, thought it worth having. Unconsciously, while he was proclaiming that a man over forty was past work, he was anxiously expectant of the praise of men whose opinion he valued above all the immature judgments of his contem- poraries. Always impulsive, often important, sometimes extremely dangerous, he is always, though he may not acknowledge it, doing one thing ; he is asking the approval, relying on the support, of the Senate. He wants to chloro- form those who restrain him, and only perhaps realises, when others take up the drugged handkerchief for him, the power and value of that restraint.