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Will Wimbles
by [?]

Mr. Thomas Hughes’s attempt to provide a refuge in Tennessee for the large class of young Englishmen whom he calls “Will Wimbles,” after one of Sir Roger de Coverley’s friends in Addison’s Spectator, is said to be a failure, owing mainly to the poverty of the land and the remoteness of the markets. An acute writer in the Pall Mall Gazette maintains that there is another and more potent cause to be found in the quality of the Will Wimbles. The Will Wimbles are the young men who are educated in the public schools and universities, or at least in the public schools, and are turned out into the world between eighteen and twenty-one, without any special training whatever, but with the manners and instincts of gentlemen, and with entire willingness to take to any calling but the lower walks of “trade.” The great body of them are the sons of middle-class parents–clergymen, doctors, lawyers, and small squires–whose means are very moderate, and who have to submit to more or less privation in order to send their sons to the public schools at all. They do it in order to launch them in the world unmistakably in the gentle class, and in order to enable them to form their first social relations in that class. Unfortunately, however, as the writer in the Pall Mall Gazette points out, the tone and temper of the public schools, and their way of looking at life, are the products of a vague, but none the less powerful, assumption that every boy is the son of a man with about five thousand pounds a year. The whole atmosphere of the school is permeated with this assumption. The boys’ code of manners is formed in it. Their intercourse with each other is more or less influenced by it, and they all look out on the world, up to their last day at school, with the eyes of youths whose home is a well-equipped manor-house surrounded by a prosperous estate.

The love of the middle-class Englishman of every age for this point of view is curiously exemplified in the social articles, not only in the “society paper,” properly so called, but in the Saturday Review. The troubles and perplexities and minor disappointments of life form a favorite topic with the writer of the “sub-leaders” in this last-named paper, but they are always of the troubles, perplexities, and disappointments of a landed gentleman who keeps hunters, and has a stud groom and extensive covers. He hardly ever examines the state of mind of anyone less well-to-do than a younger son whose means only allow him to hunt two days in a week instead of six, and who has to rely on invitations for his shooting. These and their sisters, cousins, and aunts, apparently form the reviewer’s entire world, and the only world in which there are any social phenomena worth discussion. It is, in other words, a world made up exclusively of “gentlemen,” and of the persons, male and female, who wait upon them. Its sorrows are the sorrows of gentlemen, and arise mostly out of the failure of some amusement, or the loss of the money with which amusements are provided, the missing of some social distinction, or the misconduct of “upper servants.” It is, however, really the only world that the English public-school boy or university man sees, or hears of, or thinks about while in statu pupillari. This is true, let his own home be never so modest, or the sacrifices made by his father to secure him the fashionable curriculum be never so painful. The result is, of course, that when his “education” is finished, he is really only prepared for what is technically called a gentleman’s life. He has only thought of certain employments as possible to him, and all these are exceedingly hard to get. The manners of the great bulk of mankind, too, are more or less repulsive to him, and so is a good deal of the popular morality. In short, he is turned out a Will Wimble–or, in other words, a good-hearted, kindly, gentlemanly, honorable fellow, who is, however, entirely unfitted for the social milieu, in which he must not only live, but make a living.