A correspondent, who signs himself'A Minor Clerk', protests in our colunms to-day against what he supposes to be Mr George Gissing's opinion of an estimable body of citizens. In The Town Traveller, Mr Gissing introduces us to Mr Christopher Parish, a clerk with two pounds a week, who is weak in his aspirates, Cockney in his dialect, and ofsuch timorous inexperience that when he orders supper for Miss Polly Sparkes in a restaurant above his means, he does not know the dish he selects from the bill of fare, is overawed by the waiter, and eats 'large quantities of dry bread' to hide his nervousness. Our correspondent does not know anybody like Mr Parish in the 'great order of minor clerks', and offers to introduce Mr Gissing to a number of cultivated
gentlemen who pay their guineas to Mudie's. Weare quite sure that Mr Gissing has no desire to cast a slur upon the class of which our correspondent's letter reveals a vigorous and capable champion. Possibly the author of The Town Traveller has used in the character of Mr Parish some observation which antedates that spread of culture desctibed by 'A Minor Clerk'. But Mr Gissing may say that Mr Parish is not meant to be the sum and content of the whole race of minor clerks. In another of this novelist's work, In the Year ofJubilee, there is a self-satisfied reader of Tit-bits whose entire education consists of reminiscences of the mileage which would be covered ifall the cabs in London were placed in a line. Obviously this is not meant to represent the culture and refinement of the hundreds of thousands who read Tit-Bits. To take a higher illustration, Balzac's Cousin Pons is a collector of bric-a-brac, but Balzac did not mean that every collector of bric-a-brac is as insensible to the ways of the world as Cousin Pons. We know some collectors who are extremely wideawake. Moreover, our correspondent forgets that when he ordered the supper, Mr Parish was trembling before the charms ofMiss Polly Sparkes. Is every minor clerk-even a subscriber to Mudie's-prepared to swear that he has never lost his presence of mind when entertaining the dashing young woman ofhis heart for the first time in a restaurant which is far beyond the capacity of two pounds a week?