Can a Clergyman Be "A Good Fellow"?

I WONDER whether other people get from the contemplation of clergymen in the haunts of the laity the slightly pathetic impression made on me ? I hope I am not an unduly worldly man, and I am far from being a man of the world, my contact with it being both limited and modest. I am sure that I have a lively sympathy with the general motives of clergymen, and a deep and rather tender respect for the peculiar virtues manifested by most of those whom I have the good fortune to know at all well. I meet them with some frequency where duty or pleasure calls them, except in their churches, which, for various reasons, I have for a long time failed to attend. I am more or less associated with them on committees, and have worked with them in the charities to which they devote so much of their energy. I have the pleasure of a certain social round in common with some of them, and they are numerous in my club, where they constitute a considerable element, and what may be called a varied assortment. My acquaintance ranges from dignitaries of the Catholic Church (both the Roman and the other) through most of the grades of seclusive and inclusive beliefs to the apostles of Ethical Culture.

From all but a very few of them I get the impression I have described as slightly pathetic. I do not know exactly whence it comes. I think that they are not themselves conscious of producing it. Some might resent the suggestion of it, though there are some of them with whom I should not hesitate to discuss it. It is with me a sense that they are exposed to a certain unflattering view of their words and acts and motives, not detected by them in their companions, but plain to me; it is sometimes amusing, it is more often painful. This is most likely to be seen in their moments of relaxation. A clergyman in a company where wit follows wine, and both — quite within conventional bounds — flow with the discreet freedom that is their common charm; or at a billiardtable, though an eminent judge may hold the rival cue ; or in the gay excitement of the athletic games that are the delight and gain of modern society, is at a vague but real disadvantage. If he win the verdict that he is “ a good fellow,” — and that we should all like to win, and ought to like it, — it is apt to be qualified by “ for a clergyman.” In the merry giveand-take of the talk in such surroundings, he is, in a sense, the victim of his calling. He is spared the keenest thrusts of others; his own lack the inspiration of equal contest. It may not be too much to say that by a common and wholly amiable impulse he is generally — just a little — patronized. And this attitude of mind toward him I have noticed in graver circumstances, in nearly all not directly connected with his particular branch of religious activities.

Thirty years ago, if my memory serves, this was not so, and certainly not in the same degree, — possibly because at that time clergymen as a class confined themselves within narrower limits, where their relations were more clearly defined, and where they enjoyed a fairly recognized authority. The present state of things may be due to an imperfect adjustment to the changes that have taken place. I do not at all dispute the wholesomeness of the changes. I am as far as any one can be from regretting that the capital of character and high motive with which I believe the clergy, as a class, to be more richly endowed than any other class, has, so to speak, found an investment wider and more variedly productive. But I sometimes speculate as to what the complex result may be when my clergyman becomes, without qualification, expressed or implied, “ a good fellow.”