THE IDEAL PROFESSOR.
Now, we wish very much that this state of things existed here or in England. But it does not exist. Moreover, it is passing away more or less rapidly in all countries in which it does exist. All civilized societies in our day tend to the commercial type, and more and more adopt the commercial standards and tests. Consequently we see no chance of introducing it here, and, though it is everybody's duty not to drift idly with the current, it is sheer waste of strength to try and row dead against it. The people, or perhaps we should rather say the farmers of the United States, who are not used to handling or spending large sums of money, have been making a gallant effort daring the last three-quarters of a century in fixing the salaries of public offices, to rebuke the notion that money ought to be the main consideration of an American officeholder. Accordingly, in nearly all the States the salaries of judges and other functionaries have been fixed with reference to the wants of an ideal man of really lofty soul, utterly absorbed in the pursuit of things not seen, and by no means with reference to the wants of the ordinary American man of our time, whom we have to get to fill nearly all our salaried positions, with a wife who likes comfort and expects some share in the social life around her, and children who chafe, as all children do, under poverty, and like a taste of the good things that are going. The result has been simply that the leading lawyers hardly ever go on the bench, and that the ablest business men will not accept political positions, but take service with the great moneyed corporations. There is, in fact, in our time an immense and most unfortunate diversion of the talent of the country away from the administrative service of the government, mainly owing to the smallness of the pay and the precariousness of the position.
Our colleges have largely fallen into the same mistake. Not only have they overlooked the great loss of influence, which has overtaken the ministry, and with it the professional calling which was at one time so closely connected with the ministry, and the great changes in the manners and customs and standards of living of the community which have taken place, but they have persisted, like our correspondent, in setting up an ideal professor of their own construction, asking him how much salary he needed, and paying all the others accordingly. What the ideal professor always says is that the merest trifle is enough for him and his family; that they are, in fact, so absorbed in study that they hardly know what they eat or wear, and that they would be ashamed of themselves if they needed much money. The actual professor is, however, a totally different person. He is mostly a modern American, fond of books and teaching, and study it may be, but also fond of such of the social and oesthetic pleasures of his time as he can afford. The proof is that there is, we believe, no case on record of a wealthy professor living with the Spartan simplicity which college trustees try to persuade themselves that all professors love.
In fact, poverty and very plain living are things which, as has been wittily observed about mariages de raison everybody thinks good for other people, but which hardly anybody thinks good for himself. It does not follow from all this that a life of luxury or of devotion to money-getting is good for professors any more than for other people. There is a measure in salaries and in money-getting, as in every thing else. Man was intended to be a moderate animal. But it does not follow from it that it is in our time and in our country, bad policy for the great institutions of learning to hold out the teaching profession to the young men as a little corner reserved in the midst of our luxurious American society for the practice of endurance and fortitude. It ought to be held out to the rising talent of every generation as a calling in which, like all others, a man who loves it and pursues it with zeal can have not only its special and peculiar pleasures but also a fair amount of the material comforts which the bulk of his countrymen seek, and are praised for seeking by all contemporary moralists and theologians.