Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/240

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Existing Activities.

Leaving aside profitable expenditure from a purely money point of view, the existence should be borne in mind of immense voluntary activities that have nobler aims. The annual voluntary contributions in the British Isles to public charities alone amount, on the lowest computation, to fourteen million pounds, a sum which Sir H. Burdett asserts on good grounds is by no means the maximum obtainable. ('Hospitals and Charities,' 1898, p. 85.)

There are other activities long since existing which might well be extended. I will not dwell, as I am tempted to do, on the endowments of scholarships and the like, which aim at finding and educating the fittest youths for the work of the nation; but I will refer to that wholesome practice during all ages of wealthy persons interesting themselves in and befriending poor but promising lads. The number of men who have owed their start in a successful life to help of this kind must have struck every reader of biographies. This relationship of befriender and befriended is hardly to be expressed in English by a simple word that does not connote more than is intended. The word 'patron' is odious. Recollecting Dr. Johnson's abhorrence of the patrons of his day, I turned to an early edition of his dictionary in hope of deriving some amusement as well as instruction from his definition of the word, and I was not disappointed. He defines 'patron' as 'a wretch who supports with insolence and is repaid with flattery.' That is totally opposed to what I would advocate, namely a kindly and honorable relation between a wealthy man who has made his position in the world and a youth who is avowedly his equal in natural gifts, but who has yet to make it. It is one in which each party may well take pride, and I feel sure that if its value were more widely understood it would become commoner than it is.

Many degrees may be imagined that lie between mere befriendment and actual adoption, and which would be more or less effective in freeing capable youths from the hindrances of narrow circumstances; in enabling girls to marry early and suitably, and in securing favor to their subsequent offspring. Something in this direction is commonly but half unconsciously done by many great landowners whose employments for man and wife, together with good cottages, are given to exceptionally deserving couples. The advantage of being connected with a great and liberally managed estate being widely appreciated, there are usually more applicants than vacancies, so selection can be exercised. The consequence is that the class of men found upon these properties is markedly superior to those in similar positions elsewhere. It might well become point of honor, and as much an avowed object, for noble families to gather fine specimens of humanity around them, as it is to procure and maintain fine breeds of cattle and so forth, which are costly, but repay in satisfaction.