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             HIGHLY PROPER!

IT is often remarked by our neighbours on
the Continent, and it is seldom denied among
ourselves, that we are a nation of grumblers.
Grumbling letters to the editor, for example,
and grumbling articles in support of those
letters, form two of the characteristics
which are peculiar to English newspapers.
Grumbling speeches, again, in virtue of their
steady burden of complaint, secure a favourable
reception for those patriots at our public
meetings who have no oratorical
recommendations of any sort to give them a
personal claim on the attention of an audience.
And a grumbling conversation is well known
to everybody as the safe neutral ground on
which two Englishmen, strangers to each
other, can generally contrive to meet with
the completest sense of ease and comfort.
Unquestionably we are a race of grumblers;
and grumbling is one of the very few
national defects which we happen to be clever
enough to discover for ourselves.

To do us justice, however, there are some
few subjects of public importance to the
discussion of which we are always ready to
apply ourselves in a spirit of the most
unquestioning contentment and approval. The
great and general improvement in the
condition of society; in its principles and
practice; in its stores of knowledge, its habits,
manners, and modes of thinking, is one of
these subjects. There is hardly any public
means of loudly congratulating ourselves on
our own progress which we have not tried;
and it may fairly be added, that our
exultation in this matter is not without its solid
foundation on reason and on truth. We
have, in many most important respects,
advanced resolutely, industriously, and honourably
from a state of past darkness to a state
of present light. No thoughtful man can
look back, even through no longer a period
than the last fifty years, without thankfully
acknowledging that the English nation has
been, up to this moment, both politically and
socially, a notable gainer.

But, while we freely assert our right to
take some credit to ourselves for the progress
that we have indisputably made, we must by
no means be disposed to deny that many
far too manymore victories still remain to
be won over the barbarous forces led by
those three rampant commanders, General
Ignorance, General Prejudice, and General
Folly. Probably, the most dangerous national
fault, of the moral sort, which we can now
commit is to look too complacently at what
we have done, and thereby to fall into the
error of forgetting too readily all that we
have still left to do. Strong as it has
become, the new life of the nation, in this
age, is still beset by base infirmities and
lamentable weaknesses which its constitutional
vigour has yet to throw off. Hardly a
week passes without some event happening
which, for the moment, staggers the belief
of Englishmen in their own progress, and
warns them that they have not gained
ground enough, even now, to warrant any
slackening of their pace on the forward
march. An occurrence of this kindprivate
in its nature, but leading with the strictest
directness to certain useful conclusions which
may fairly be claimed as public propertyhas
recently come within our own knowledge.
We propose to give it general notoriety in
these pages, because we believe, on the
grounds just stated, that its exposure can
hardly fail to be productive of some public
good.

Some little time since, a gentleman, well
and widely-known to the public as an excellent
manager of a theatre and an actor
standing deservedly in the foremost rank of
his profession; equally well known among a
large circle of friends and acquaintances, as
an honourable man, in the strictest and the
meaning of those wordsMr. Alfred
Wigansent his son, aged eight years, to be
educated at a certain private school. The boy
was happy and comfortable, and was getting on
with his learning to his father's satisfaction,
when, one day, the master of the school called
upon Mr. Wigan, to say that he had just found
out the nature of that gentleman's profession,
and that, as a necessary consequence
of the discovery, he could no longer
consent to number among his scholars Mr.
Wigan's son. No shadow of objection was
advanced against the boy. On the contrary,
the schoolmaster admitted that he was as
good and as gentlemanly a boy as he had
ever met with. But the school was a genteel
school; the connection was a genteel

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