The background to this has to do with the class structure and educational system of Britain in the nineteenth century. Education in England for the upper classes was offered in the "public schools" (a term somewhat confusingly applied to elite expensive independent schools) and the "old universities," Oxford and Cambridge. In these institutions, pupils were trained to pass the Oxford Literae Humaniores ("Greats") or similar Cambridge Tripos exam to graduate. The instruction and examination focused on the Greek and Latin languages, ancient literature, Christianity, philosophy, logic, and a modest amount of mathematics and physics. Modern languages and vernacular literature were absent from the curriculum. Thus, the old universities really did not prepare people in the discipline of modern or vernacular literature.
As a matter of class structure, journalists were not normally descended from the upper classes (who, like Jack and Algy did not need to work to earn their livings), but from members of the middle and working classes. Journalism was considered a skilled trade, with many journalists starting their careers in physical production of papers or clerical positions. Even within writing as a profession, there was a distinct class division between journalists and popular novelists on the one hand, and the literary elite (often upper middle class and university educated) working at magazines and in belles lettres (like Wilde himself) on the other hand.