The much heralded youth Sidis, who could add aloud the figures on his nursing bottle and who at the age of 11 was describing to Harvard professors how most accurately to measure the fourth dimension, was discovered by a New York reporter to be working as a clerk in the metropolis for $23 a week. This was proof sufficient for an eager penman, who probably sailed over the college course on a level C, that precocity is a flash in the pan, brilliant but momentary.
The deduction is assuredly comforting to the unimpressive multitude. It sounds even better if bolstered by those statistics issued a short time ago by the University of Michigan which proved that Phi Beta Kappa men ten years out of college were earning considerably less money than the average graduate. The logic is inescapable; if your reason storms by 7 you are all done at 11, like the rain in the adage.
Against so comforting a theory one dare only suggest a few possible criticisms. The first is that a salary of $23 a week may not indicate failure. How frequently have our captains of industry pointed with pride to the fact that at twenty they were still sorting mail, in the outer office.
But, the pessimist reporter may urge, a boyhood of such dazzling brilliancy promised so much more, say an assistant professorship at $1200 a year, that a position as a clerk is failure. And yet what does entering college at 10, passing the anatomy examination at the Medical School at 11, and winning a diploma at the age of 16 mean beyond a receptive mind turned prematurely into a narrow channel and trained through constant, self-centered attention? These early achievements betray few elements needed for later success, nor were they sufficiently startling to proclaim the youth a genius.
With hesitation it may be asserted that the facts fail to prove the case. Emphatically they prove nothing against beardless brilliance. Horrible as a nation of prodigies would be, one now and then escapes premature impotence. There was a boy Chatterton who fooled wiseacres, an astounding child Macaulay, and the infant Mozart who played so sweetly that the whole family risked pneumonia to listen. And then, more recently, there is Daisy Ashford and the "Young Visitors."