4th November, 1913
The Conduct of Life
An Address delivered to the Associated Societies of the Univerity of Edinburgh
Published in ‘THE CONDUCT OF LIFE and Other Addresses’,
Viscount Haldane, London, John Murray, Albemarle Street 1914
I have chosen a theme on which I should not have ventured had I not in days gone by been one of yourselves, and intimately acquainted with the ups and downs which beset those who were then struggling along the path to a degree.
My recollection of my undergraduate life forty years since, and of the obscurities and perplexities of that time, is still vivid; and with your permission I wish to speak to-day of how some of the old difficulties appear to one looking back on them with the light which experience of life has brought.
Before I enter on my topic, I may just refer to a difference that in such a meeting as this distinguishes the present from the past. I touch the topic not without trepidation, but I will take my life in my hands. I am to-day addressing women just as much as men. For a change has come over the University since my time, a change of which I have the temerity to say at once that I am glad. Women have an access to academic life which in my student days was practically denied to them. And this is a sign of the times. It is part of a movement which is causing the world slowly to alter its point of view, and which is, I think, making for the principle of general equality, in the eye of the law and the constitution, of women with men. The differences of temperament and ability which nature has established even an omnipotent Parliament can never alter. But Society, whatever Parliament may say, appears to be making progress towards a decision to leave it to nature and not law to set the limits. It is therefore obvious that in what I have to say before a University which is full of the spirit of the age, I must speak to all of you without much regard to your sex. And if I divine aright the mood of those of the gentler sex here present, they will not take it amiss if I address all who are present as though they were men.
Well, hastening away from this merely introductory point, let me relieve your minds by saying that it is my purpose neither to indulge in introspection, nor to betake myself to the region of reminiscence. It is not the past that interests me. I wish rather to speak of aspects of life which at one period in it are very much; the same for most of us. These aspects of life present themselves irresistibly when we enter the University. It is then that we students become anxious about many things. These things include, for some at all events, the outlook on existence and doubt about its meaning. Then there is concern as to the choice of a career, and as to success in it or failure. There is the sense of new responsibilities which press themselves on us as we enter upon man-hood, and the feeling that everything is difficult and illusive. We may be troubled about our souls, or again, we may be keenly concerned as to how we can most quickly become self-supporting and cease to be a burden on others ill able to bear it. All these topics, and others besides of a less high order, crowd on the undergraduate as he finds that he has parted with his irresponsible boyhood, and has to think for himself. He feels that he can no longer look to others for guidance. He knows that he must shape his own destiny and work out his own salvation. The situation has its special temptations. He is in danger of some evils against which the Prophets have warned us all, and especially of a morbid concentration on his own private concerns, a concentration that is apt to result in a self-consciousness which may amount to egotism and impair his strength:
“The man,” Wordsworth tells us, “whose eye
Is ever on himself doth look on one,
The least of Nature's works,―one who might move
The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds
Now from this danger every one of us, young or old, has got to guard himself. In life we are subject to all sorts of reverses, great and small. There is only one way of providing against the depression which they bring in their train, and that is by acquiring the large outlook which shows that they are not the most important things in life. The undergraduate may find himself ploughed in an examination, or in debt, or for that matter, and do not let us overlook its possibility, hopeless in a love affair. Or he may suffer from the depression which is deepest when it arises from no external cause. If he would escape from the consequent sense of despair he must visualise his feelings and set them in relief by seeking and searching out their grounds. It is probably his best chance of deliverance.
For these feelings often turn out on resolute scrutiny to arise from the obsession of his own personality. This obsession may assume varied forms. It may become really morbid. There is a remarkable book by a modern man of genius, one whom Nietzsche and Ibsen both held in high esteem―the Inferno of August Strindberg―where you may read with advantage if you would be warned against a self-concentration that verges on the insane. There is another and better-known book, which in my time at the University was much read, and which is, I think, still much read, Carlyle's Sartor Resartus. There you have an analysis of the very process of deliverance of which I am speaking. The hero works out his own relief from the burden of his own depression. It is not exclusively a Christian book; indeed I doubt whether in his heart Carlyle called himself a Christian. But it exhibits certain features of the way by which, in substance and in reality, men are required by all the greatest religions to seek their salvation.
These features Carlyle describes in his pictorial fashion. Tëufëlsdrock, weighed down by depression, but never wholly losing courage, is one hot day toiling along the Rue St. Thomas de Enfer, when the light flashes on him, and he puts to himself this:― “What art thou afraid of . . . Hast thou not a heart; can'st thou not suffer whatever it be; and as a Child of Freedom, though outcast, trample Tophet itself under thy feet, while it consumes thee.” Then through his soul, Carlyle tells us, rushed a stream of fire, and he shook fear away from him forever. The Everlasting No had said “Behold thou art fatherless, outcast, and the Universe is mine (the Devil's)”; to which his whole Me made answer― “I am not thine, but Free, and forever hate thee.” Later on, the diagnosis of his malady becomes clear to him. The source of the disease of his spirit has been vanity and the claim for happiness. This he has now been taught to do without. For he has learned that the fraction of life can be increased in value, not so much by increasing the numerator as by lessening the denominator. He finds, indeed, that unity itself divided by zero will result in infinity: Let him make his claim of wages a zero, and he has the world under his feet. For it is only with renunciation that the world can be said to begin. He must, as Carlyle puts it, close his Byron and open his Goethe. He must seek blessedness rather than happiness―love not pleasure but God. “This is the Everlasting Yea, wherein all contradiction is solved; wherein who walks and works it is well with him.”
That was what Carlyle used to teach us students forty years ago, and I doubt not that he teaches the same spiritual lesson to many of you to-day. It is not, as I have already said, in form the language of Christianity. None the less, it substantially agrees with much in the doctrine of the Gospels. It gives us, in Carlyle's particular style, the highest spiritual expression at the highest level that man has reached. The form matters little. Everyone must express to himself these things in the fashion that best suits his individuality. It is a question of temperament and association. Yet we all assent in our hearts, whatever be the form of our creed, to such doctrine, whether it be given in the words of the Founder of Christianity or of modern thinkers.
Professor Bosanquet worked it out in a new shape in the Gifford Lectures which he delivered in this University last year. There he sought to exhibit the world as a “vale of soul-making,” to use the phrase which he borrowed from Keats, in which the soul reached most nearly to perfection by accepting without hesitating, the station and the duties which the contingencies of existence had assigned to it, and by striving to do its best with them. Looked at in the light that comes from the Eternal within our breasts the real question was not whether health or wealth or success were ours. For the differences in degree of these were but droplets in the ocean of Eternity. What did matter, and what was of infinite consequence, was that we should be ready to accept with willingness the burden and the obligation which life had cast on us individually, and be able to see that in accepting it, hard as it might be to do so, we were choosing a blessedness which meant far more for us than what is commonly called happiness could. We should rather be proud that the burden fell to us who had learned how to bear it. It thus, I may add by way of illustration of Mr. Bosanquet's words, was no sense of defeat, no meaningless cry of emotion, which prompted Emily Bronte when she defined her creed:―
“And if I pray the only prayer
That moves my lips for me,
Leave me the heart that now I bear
And give me liberty:
Yes, as my swift days near their goal
'Tis all that I implore,
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.”
There is a passage in the fifth of the second series of these Gifford Lectures which expresses the other aspect of this great truth:― If we are arranging any system or enterprise of a really intimate character for persons closely united in mind and thoroughly penetrated with the spirit of the whole―persons not at arm's length to one another―all the presuppositions of individualistic justice at once fall to the ground. We do not give the best man the most comfort, the easiest task, or even, so far as the conduct of the enterprise is concerned the highest reward. We give him the greatest responsibility, the severest toil and hazard, the most continuous and exacting toil and self sacrifice. It is true and inevitable, for the reasons we have pointed out as affecting all finite life, that in a certain way and degree honour and material reward do follow on merit in this world. They follow, we may say, mostly wrong; but the world, in its rough working, by its own rough and ready standards, thinks it necessary to attempt to appraise the finite individual unit; this is, in fact, the individualistic justice, which, when we find it shattered and despised by the Universe, calls out the pessimism we are discussing. But the more intimate and spiritual is the enterprise, the more does the true honour and reward restrict itself to what lives
“In those pure eyes
And perfect witness of all judging Jove.”
I am probably addressing at this moment some of you who have come to our University of Edinburgh from the great but far distant country of India. There your wisest and greatest thinkers have expressed a similar truth in a similar way. Some of your best teachers of Eastern philosophy have lately been among us and have spoken to us in Great Britain. The response of their hearers has been a real one. For the greatest sayings about the meaning of life come to the same thing, however and wherever they have been uttered. Perhaps nowhere more than in the East has the language of poetry and philosophy been wonderfully combined. This blending of Art with Thought has enabled master minds to shake themselves free of the narrowing influence of conventional categories, and has thereby made philosophy easier to approach. The thinkers of the East have been keenly aware of the chilling influence of the shadow of self. I will cite to you some words from the Gitanjali of a prominent and highly-gifted leader of opinion, Rabindranath Tagore, who has been recently preaching and teaching in this country:―
I came out alone on my way to my tryst. But who is this that follows me in the silent dark? I move aside to avoid his presence, but I escape him not. He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger; he adds his loud voice to every word that I utter. He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame; but I am ashamed to come to the door in his company . . . .
“Prisoner, tell me, who was it that bound you? It was my master, said the prisoner. I thought I could outdo everybody in the world in wealth and power, and I amassed in my own treasure house the money due to the King. When sleep overcame me I lay on the bed that was for my lord, and on waking up I found I was a prisoner in my own treasure-house. Prisoner, tell me who it was that wrought this unbreakable chain. It was I, said the prisoner, who forged this chain very carefully. I thought my invincible power would hold the world captive, leaving me in a freedom undisturbed. Thus night and day I worked at the chain with huge fires and cruel hard strokes. When at last the work was done, and the links were complete and unbreakable, I found that it held me in its grip.”
What is the lesson of it all? It is that you must aim at the largest and widest view of life, and devote your highest energies to attaining it. This view of life, with its sustaining power, will come to you if you strive hard enough, in one form or another, according to temperament, intellectual and moral. To some it will come in the form of Christianity, to others in that of some other high religion, it may be one originating in the East. To yet others it will come in more abstract form, in the shape of philosophy. To yet others Art will bring the embodiment of the truth that the ideal and the real, the infinite and the finite, do not really exist apart, but are different aspects of a single reality.
Such a faith, if it comes, will, as the experience of countless thousands in different ages has shown, help you in sickness or in health, in poverty or in wealth, in depression or in exaltation. Only this faith must be a real faith. No mere opinion, still less mere lip service, can supply its place. It necessitates renunciation of the lower for the higher, and the renunciation must be a real renunciation―extending, if need be, to life itself. “Life itself is not the highest good [possession]”: “Das Leben ist der Güter höchstes nicht,” says Schiller in the end of a great poem. The line became at one time deeply familiar to the students at Heidelberg, because of an incident which was dramatic in its suddenness. One of their great teachers, Daub, the theologian, at the end of a lecture sank dead in his professor's chair with these words of Schiller on his lips.
In my time we were troubled about our orthodoxy more, I think, than you are to-day. It was in the Victorian period, a period in which we seemed to be bidden to choose between the scientific view of life and the religious view. We are told by high authorities that both could not be true, and that we must make our election. But the outlook has widened since those days, and you have a greater freedom of choice. Men of science have seen their conceptions subjected to searching examination and criticism. Whether they hold with M. Bergson, or whether they hold with the Idealists, or whether they pledge themselves to no philosophy, but simply aim at believing in all the phases of the world as it presents itself, the best equipped investigators no longer jump to the assumption that the Universe is a substance existing wholly independently of mind, and organised in relations that are limited to those of mechanism.
We look nowadays to mind for the interpretation of matter, rather than to matter as the prius and source of mind. We seek for God, not without, but within. And this attitude is reflected in that of the Church. For the Church no longer sets up in pulpits the sort of spiritualism which was little else than a counter materialism to that of the men of science. The preachers are less exclusively concerned with the old and crude dogmas, and are more occupied with the effort to raise the thought and feeling of their hearers to a level higher than that of the ordinary abstractions of science and of everyday life itself. And so it has come about that you to-day are delivered from some at least of the perplexities which beset us, your predecessors, as we walked on the Braid Hills and endeavoured to find spiritual ground on which we. could firmly plant our feet. The hindrances to spiritual life are to-day of a different order. They are moral rather than intellectual. They arise more from a lessened readiness to accept authority of any kind than was the case two generations ago. But at least your task is freed from a set of obstacles which in those days were serious. You may find it hard to take the same interest in the letter of the creeds as we did. But the spirit remains the same, under whatever form religion attracts you, and the spirit is to-day more easy of approach and provokes less readily to rebellion.
What I would urge upon you is that you should avoid the practice, one that is not uncommon among young men, but is really unnatural, of affecting indifference or cynicism about these things. They are of the last importance, and it is of practical importance to have the habit of so regarding them. For without them but few will be steeled against the misfortunes of which life is full for nearly all of us, and the depressing uncertainties which render its conduct difficult. To those who are worth most there comes home early in life the conviction that, in the absence of a firm hold on what is abiding, life becomes a poorer and poorer affair the longer it lasts. And the only foundation of what is abiding is the sense of the reality of what is spiritual―the constant presence of the God who is not far away in the skies, but is here within our minds and hearts.
That is what I wished to say to you about what seems to me the deepest-lying and most real fact of life. I now turn to quite another phase of the question of its conduct. How is the student, with or without the supreme source of strength of which I have spoken, to prepare himself so that he will have the best chances of success? To me this question does not seem a difficult one to answer. I have seen something of men and of affairs. I have observed the alternations of success and failure in various professions and occupations. I have myself experienced many ups and downs, and in the course of my own life have made abundant mistakes. It always interests me to look back and observe in the light of later and fuller knowledge how I came to fail on particular occasions. And the result of the scrutiny has been to render it clear that the mistakes and failures would nearly always have been avoided had I at the time been possessed of more real knowledge and of firmer decision and persistence. We all, or nearly all, get a fair number of chances in life. But we often do not know enough to be able to take them, and we still more often pass them by, unconscious that they exist. Get knowledge and get courage. And when you have come to a deliberate decision, then go ahead, and go ahead with grim and unshakable resolution to persist.
It is not everyone who can do this. But everyone can improve his quality in this respect. It is partly matter of temperament, but it is also largely matter of acquired habit of mind and body. You can train yourself to increased intellectual and moral energy as you can train yourself for physical efficiency in the playing field. Both kinds of training turn largely on self-discipline, abstention, and concentration of purpose, following on a clear realisation of exactly what it is that you have set yourself to accomplish. But there is an insidious temptation to be avoided. Few things disgust his fellow men more, or render them more unwilling to help him, than self-seeking or egotism on the part of a man who is striving to get on. A thoroughly selfish fellow may score small successes, but he will in the end find himself heavily handicapped in the effort to attain really great success. Selfishness is a vice, and a thoroughly ugly one. When he takes thought exclusively of himself, a man does not violate only the canons of religion and morality. He is untrue to the obligations of his station in society, he is neglecting his own interests, and he will inevitably and quickly be found out.
I have often watched the disastrous consequences of this sin, both in private and in public life. It is an insidious sin. It leads to the production of the hard small-minded man, and, in its milder form, of the prig. Both are ill-equipped for the final race; they may get ahead at first; but as a rule they will be found to have fallen out when the last lap is reached. It is the man who possesses the virtue of true humility, and who thinks of his neighbours, and is neither critical nor a grumbler if they have good fortune, who has his neighbours on his side, and therefore in the end gets the best chance, even in this world, assuming always that he puts his soul into his own work. Therefore avoid the example of poor Martha. Her sister Mary loved to sit at the feet of Jesus and to hear His word. The burden of the household work, doubtless, for the time fell rather heavily on Martha. Instead of being cheerful and glad at what had come to her sister she got into a complaining mood. She was cumbered about with much serving, and she grumbled: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?” But the Master answered, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good part.”
There are a good many Marthas in our Universities, and they belong to both sexes. How common it is to hear grudging praise given, and the student complaining of the better luck which has given undue advantage to his neighbour. Now, there may be undue advantage in circumstances, and there often is. But according to my experience it makes far less difference in the long run than is popularly supposed. What does make the difference is tenacity of purpose. A man succeeds in four cases out of five, because of what is in him, by unflagging adhesion to his plan of life, and not by reason of outside help or luck. It is rarely that he need be afraid of shouldering an extra burden to help either himself or a neighbour. The strain it imposes on him is compensated by the strength that effort and self-discipline bring. And therefore the complaints of our Marthas are mainly beside the point. They arise from the old failing of self-centredness―the failing which has many forms, ranging from a mild selfishness up to ego-mania. And in whatever form the failing may clothe itself it produces weakness.
There is another aspect germane to it about which, speaking to you as one who has seen a good deal of affairs and of the world, I wish to say something. Independence of character is a fine thing, but we are apt to mistake for it what is really want of consideration for others. If we do not impose on ourselves a good deal of self-restraint we may readily jar on other people. We may be unconscious of the jarring manner. That is very common. But it ought to be avoided. It is worth the while of every one, and from every point of view, that of his own worldly interest included, to practise himself in the social virtue of courtesy and urbane manners. But it is more than a social virtue. In its best form it arises from goodness of heart. Some of the finest manners I have met with I have met with in cottages, because there I have found some of the most considerate of people. Courtesy is an endowment which men can acquire for themselves, and it is an endowment which is well worth acquiring. I have, to put its utility at its lowest, seen many instances of gifted men ruining their chances of getting on in life simply from want of manners. It is well worth while to try to act naturally and without self-consciousness, and above all, kindly. That is how dignity is best preserved. Some men have a natural gift for it. All ought to try to acquire it.
Emerson has written an admirable essay on manners which I advise you all to read. “Defect in manners,” he says, “is usually defect in fine perceptions.” He, like Goethe, laid great stress on urbanity and dignity. These two great critics of life were both keenly aware of what injustice people do to themselves and to their prospects in life by not attending to the graces, which in their best form come from goodness of heart and the fine perceptions which accompany that goodness. It makes a great difference to ourselves if we are careful in considering the feelings and repugnances of other people in small things as well as in great. Let us try to be too large-minded to resent an apparent want of consideration for ourselves which really comes, in most cases, from defective manners in those with whom we may have to deal. Let us accept what comes to us undisturbed. Given the same qualities, a man will be stronger as well as better, and will have more power of influencing circumstances as well as other people, if he is resolute in accepting without complaint what comes to him, and remembers the duties of his station in life, and thinks of others as much as of himself.
It was something of this sort, I think, that Cromwell really had in his mind when he said to Bellievre, the French Ambassador, that “no man rises so high as he who knows not whither he is going.” No doubt Cromwell thought also of the great gift of the objective mind, the mind that has no illusion, because it always turns to a great purpose, and is not deflected by its consciousness of self. But what he said applies to a less unusual type of mind just as much. It is the man who accepts his obligation to those around him, and who does his work in his station in life, great or small, whatever that station may be, with indifference as to the consequence to himself and without thought of what may happen to him individually, who makes the real impression on his fellow competitors.
First, think it all out to the best of your ability, and then go straight forward on the principles and with the objects on which you have fixed, looking neither to the right nor to the left. Your principles and your objects must be high―the higher the better. And when you have grasped them resolve to hold to them tenaciously and over a long period. It matters less whether you have hit initially on the plan that is theoretically perfect than whether you throw yourself into it unswervingly and stick to it with all your might. Unswerving purpose and concentration are of the last importance. Stick to plans once formed, and do not let yourself think of changing them unless for the clearest reasons. It is firmness and persistence that bring success in the end probably more than anything else. You may be beaten at first; you may have to wait. But the courage that is undaunted and can endure generally at last prevails.
When my relative and predecessor in the office of Lord Chancellor, John Scott, Lord Eldon, was asked what was the real way to insure for young men success at the Bar, he replied:―“I know no rule to give them but that they must make up their minds to live like a hermit and work like a horse.” He had himself, in a notable fashion, put his precept into practice. But here again I must utter a word of warning about the precept of my distinguished relative. The rule of practice which I have quoted from him I believe to be indispensable, whatever career you choose. But in carrying it into effect you must guard against the temptation to become what is called too practical, that is to say, narrow and uninteresting. Youth, with its elasticity and boundless energy, is the time to lay the foundations of wide knowledge and catholic interests. The wider and more catholic these are the better, provided that they do not distract you from the necessary concentration on your special object. They need not do so.
Time is infinitely long for him who knows how to use it, and the mind is not like a cubic measure that can contain only a definite amount. Increase, therefore, wherever you can, without becoming amateurs in your own calling, the range of your interests. Every man and woman is, after all, a citizen in a State. Therefore let us see to it that there is not lacking that interest in the larger life of the social whole which is the justification of a real title to have a voice and a vote. Literature, philosophy, religion, are all widening interests. So is science, so are music and the fine arts. Let everyone concern himself with these or such of them as he thinks can really appeal to him. So only will his outlook be wide enough to enable him to fill his station and discharge his duties with distinction. He ought to be a master of much knowledge besides that of his profession. He must try to think greatly and widely. So only will he succeed if he is called to the higher vocations where leadership is essential.
For there is a lower class, a middle class, and an aristocracy of intelligence. The lower class may do some things better than the intellectual aristocrat. I have known Senior Wranglers who would have been below par as bank clerks. Again, there is a large class of skilled work, some of it requiring long training and even initiative, which is done better by competent permanent officials than by states men even of a high order. But when we come to the highest order of work it is different. There is a common cry that this, too, should be left to the expert. There is no more complete misinterpretation of a situation. The mere expert, if he were charged with the devising and execution of high aims and policy, would be at sea among a multitude of apparently conflicting considerations.
What is the relation of a particular plan to a great national policy and to far-reaching principles and ends? Questions like these must always be for the true leader and not for the specialist. But if the former is wise, as soon as he has made up his mind clearly as to what he wants, he will choose his expert and consult him at every turn, and entrust him freely with the execution of a policy for which he himself will remain responsible. Such a course requires capacity of a high kind and the widest sort of knowledge. But without it success is impossible. No man can know or do everything himself, and the great man of affairs always knows how and what to delegate. The procedure of such men in their work is instructive as to other and less responsible situations. They are never overwhelmed with that work, because their knowledge and their insight enables them to sift out what they themselves must do, and to entrust the rest freely to picked subordinates. For the spirit that is necessary to develop this gift in the higher callings in life, the wide outlook, the training in which can be commenced in the University better than anywhere else, is of vital importance.
Whether a man is to be teacher, or doctor, or lawyer, or minister of religion, it is width of outlook that for most men in the end makes the difference. Of course for genius there is no rule, and great natural talent of the rarer order can also dispense with much. But I wish to say to you emphatically that it is just here and now, in your student years, that you make yourselves what you will be, and that you are, nearly all of you, most responsible for your failure or success in later life. It is not that I think a purely intellectual life something of which everything else must fall short; far from it. You have only to read the Gospels to find the conclusive demonstration that this is not so. But I do think that the atmosphere of intelligence is the atmosphere where the inner life, whatever it may be, most completely expands and culminates.
Bacon, in his essay on “Studies,” uses some words which we do well to bear in mind if we would keep our sense of proportion: “Studies,” he says, “serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament is in discourse; and for ability is in the judgment and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of, particulars one by one. But the general counsels and the plots and marshalling of affairs come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth. To use them too much for ornament is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humour of a scholar. They perfect nature and are perfected by experience.” They perfect nature, for they provide an atmosphere in which natural gifts grow and expand. They are perfected by experience because their gaps are filled up by what we can learn in practical life alone, and the life of theory and the life of practice by reacting on and penetrating each other, form a truly proportioned entirety.
The strength of men like Cromwell, like Napoleon, like Lincoln and like Bismarck, is their grasp of great principles and their resoluteness in carrying them into application. For even where great men have not been of the scholar class they have been under the domination of beliefs which rested on a foundation of principle and were inspired to the extent of becoming suffused by passion. And without passion nothing great is or ever has been accomplished. I do not mean by passion violent or obvious emotion. I mean the concentration which gives rise to singleness of purpose in forming and executing great plans, and is, in fact, a passion for excellence. And if this exists enough in you to bring you into leadership of any kind at the University it will probably again bring you into leadership later on in life, provided always that you select your line of action with prudence and hold to it undeviatingly.
I have not said to you anything particularly new or much that you have not often heard before in different words. But I did not come here to say new things. The obvious is what is generally neglected. I have come here as an old student to speak to students who are not yet old, and to act the part of a friend by trying to point out the character of the road ahead of them, and the places that are difficult. It is because I have traversed some of these difficult places myself that I have not hesitated to speak to you. It is so that we can most readily be helpful to each other. I have no longer a great number of years to look forward to, but I have a great many to look back upon. And I am myself an old alumnus of this University who remembers well the days when he would have given a good deal to know the real experience and conclusions of those who had gone before him along the road he had to follow.
This is what I would say to you in conclusion. It is not true that with the increase of numbers and competition life offers fewer prizes in proportion to the multitude who are now striving for them. With the progress of science and the advance in the complicated processes of specialisation and distribution of function, there are arising more and more openings, and more and more chances for those who aspire to succeed in the competition which exists everywhere. I believe that the undergraduates whom I see before me have better prospects than existed forty years ago. There are far more possible ways of rising. But the standards are rising also, and high quality and hard work are more than ever essential. The spread of learning has had a democratic tendency. Those who are to have the prizes of life are chosen on their merits more than ever before.
It must, however, always be borne in mind that character and integrity count in the market place among these merits as well as knowledge and ability. For the man who possesses both capacity and character, and who, having selected his path, sticks to his plan of life undeviatingly, the chances of success seem to me to-day very great. But wisdom means more than attention to the gospel of getting on. Life will at the end seem a poor affair if the fruits of its exertions are to be no more than material acquisitions. From the cradle to the grave it is a course of development, and the development of quality as much as quantity ought to continue to the last. For it is in the quality of the whole, judged in all its proportions and in the outlook on the Eternal which has been gained, that the test of the highest success lies, the success that is greatest when the very greatness of its standards brings in its train a deep sense of humility. That was why Goethe, in a memorable sentence, said something with which I will conclude this address:―“The fashion of this world passes away, and it is with what is abiding that I would fain concern myself.”