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Title: Talks to Freshman Girls
Author: Brown, Helen Dawes
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          By Helen Dawes Brown


               With frontispiece.

               MR. TUCKERMAN’S NIECES. Illustrated.

               A BOOK OF LITTLE BOYS. Illustrated.

               THE PETRIE ESTATE. Also in paper binding.

               TWO COLLEGE GIRLS.

               LITTLE MISS PHŒBE GAY. Illustrated.

               HER SIXTEENTH YEAR. A Sequel to
               “Little Miss Phœbe Gay.”

                        HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
                          Boston and New York

                                TALKS TO
                             FRESHMAN GIRLS


                           HELEN DAWES BROWN

                    _Author of “Two College Girls”_

                          BOSTON AND NEW YORK
                        HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
                     The Riverside Press Cambridge

                 COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY HELEN DAWES BROWN
                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
                       _Published September 1914_



No man could have written this sentence with more authority than Francis
Bacon, for no man ever loved Studies better. In his youth he had
declared passionately that he took all knowledge for his province, and
it was his lifelong teaching that “the sovereignty of man lieth hid in

“Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.” I imagine
Bacon writing these words with fervor, out of his own happy experience.
At the age of thirty-five, he could determine what Studies had been
worth to him. They had been his delight, his ornament, and the means to
his usefulness.

For “delight” he wrote in his first edition “pastimes,” as he wrote
“ornaments” and “abilities,” then wisely changed his sentence. His
beautiful old word “delight” means, I take it, a heightened pleasure, a
pleasure touched with imagination, full of suggestion and invitation.

I have a far glimpse of its meaning when I hear a young person say that
she is going to college “to have a good time”; a good time for the rest
of her life is what, I believe, Studies will secure to her. You are so
young, I may speak to you of age. There is a new old age for women, with
enlightened care of health and increasing intellectual interests. As for
you freshmen, I have a vision of your erect forms and of your bright
faces at seventy-five,—of your health and your gayety and your wisdom,
you charming old ladies of 1970! Age cannot wither you, nor custom stale
your infinite variety, you women whom Studies have served for delight.

And you are so happy that I may speak to you of unhappiness. We need
three things to meet life with: a religion, an education, and a sense of
humor. The pursuit of Studies is a refuge as well as a delight. Studies
will fortify one to encounter loneliness, or ill-health, or losses of
any kind soever. The chances of life are such that I believe a woman
suffers from lack of an education more than a man does. He has a wider
world to draw from; she has need of more within herself. When Bacon
writes of the care of the body, he says that for our very health, we
should “entertain studies that fill the mind with splendid and
illustrious objects.”

In order that knowledge should be a delight, I submit that knowledge
should be remembered. A certain man George Eliot describes, who had a
sense of having had a liberal education until he tried to remember
something! The “culture” of some people seems to consist in having heard
a large number of proper names. “Oh, yes, I’ve _heard_ of him”—the rest
a blank. In our day, “mental training” has neglected the training of the
memory. I even urge a considerable amount of old-fashioned memorizing.
Lay up for yourselves treasure: possess for your own a sonnet of
Shakespeare, a poem of Wordsworth, a passage of Bacon. Lay up also a
good store of facts, such facts as will make the reading of the daily
paper profitable. There is no surer test of your outfit of information.
Shall we say that an educated person should be able to spell, pronounce,
and reasonably explain about two thousand proper nouns?

When I dwell on the delight of Studies, I take no thought of ease. Let
us have no royal road to learning, but meet valiantly all the hardships
of the way. No girl of stamina is looking for “soft courses.” I trust
that in your freshman year you are having just what Schiller meant when
he talked of “sport in art”; I hope you are having sport in education,
the spirited conquest of difficulty! Do you not feel the great adventure
of education, the romance of the quest of knowledge?

You should know the keen delight of competition, not so much with one
another as with yourselves. The determination to equal yourself, to
surpass yourself, is a fine incitement. “Set before thee thine own
example,” says Bacon again.

On the other hand, you have not discovered all the delight of Studies
unless you have secured repose as well as excitement in your
intellectual life. It is “the world’s sweet inn from pain and wearisome
turmoil.” Only in quiet can you practice the abstraction and
concentration that give you power as a thinker. I dare to say that
education goes on with far too much chatter and sociability in all our
colleges. True enough, you are not getting the complete delight of your
studies unless you have the intellectual stimulus of companionship,—the
friendship “that maketh daylight in the understanding.” (Bacon again!)
But you must have also the silence and the solitude in which to brood,
and in which to give your imagination its chance for flight. Have you
freshmen any long, dreaming twilights? Or have we all grown too busy—or
too frivolous—to pause “between the dark and the daylight”? Sane,
strong minds we want, but beautiful, poetic minds as well. The final
delight of education is in that culture of the imagination that makes an
idealist of every fine college girl.

Bacon himself said of Studies, “Their chief use for delight is in
privateness and retiring.” When he caused his essays to be translated
into Latin, to get them safely out of perishable English, delight was
there rendered “meditationum voluptas.” That our twentieth-century girl
should know an harmonious, well-balanced life, I would see her
delighting in her joyous athletics, but acquiring also the _meditationum
voluptas_, for which Studies have furnished her mind.

In my youth the word “ornament” was the word of dread in education. We
earliest college girls scoffed at “accomplishments.” Ornament stood to
us for all that was smattering and frivolous in education. _We_ were of
the new order!

Since the day when ornament was the bugbear of woman’s education, we
have grown somewhat wiser. “Studies should serve for delight and for
ornament,” we now say gladly; education should make you a delight to
yourself and it should make you a delight to other people. Said Poor
Richard: “Hast thou virtue? Acquire also the graces and beauties of
virtue.” “Hast thou education? Acquire also the graces and beauties of
education. Your common sense will save you from pedantry.” You will not
“make your knowledge a discomfort to your families,” as Mr. Taft once
gently expressed it in talking to college girls.

Shall ornament mean “accomplishments”? Why not? If I were you, I would
do some one interesting, amusing, agreeable thing so well as to make a
small art of it. Have some accomplishment that will render you
interesting in your own home, entertaining to children and to
grandmothers, and that will make you welcome in your own set.

I take ornament as including all the externals of education, and I ask,
where does education show on the outside? One of its most exposed points
is the letter that a woman writes. “A good address,” in the
old-fashioned phrase, is about the most valuable of worldly possessions.
It should include a good address—a good manner and presence—upon
paper. As for the letter, all your education leads up to it: its
clearness, brevity, point, and grace. “Good sense brightly delivered,”
should describe a college girl’s letter as well as one by Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu.

In Bacon’s opinion, the chief ornament bestowed by Studies was that of
conversation (_orationis ornamentum_). In the matter and manner of
discourse, education achieves its utmost. It tells upon conversation in
obvious ways. Studies furnish the mind with matter worth talking about,
and they give an appetite for ideas. It may be hoped that they give the
sense of proportion in conversation, and prevent the educated woman from
ever becoming that object of dread, “a talker.” Most American women talk
too much, perhaps because they are so bright, and think of so many
things to say! One hears the criticism: “She is a brilliant woman; she
talks well; but she doesn’t give the other person a chance.” Does this
pauseless talker forget what a delight is the educated listener, quick,
responsive, eager for the other’s thought? One of the finest ornaments
education can bestow is the social grace of good listening.

Alas that it so often fails to bestow the ornament of good speech! The
failure of the colleges in this matter is lamentable. Its importance is
not brought home to individuals with sufficient severity. They are left
in their carelessness and laziness, with the social stigma of bad speech
upon them for life. The colleges should help to make ladies and
gentlemen as well as scholars. “What a bright girl!” said the woman who
sat next a college freshman at dinner, “but can the college do nothing
to cure her abominable speech?”

I believe that whatever his early associations, the speech of an
educated person lies within his choice. If he be a person of will, and
of the right energy and ambition, he can conquer provincialism or
inherited faults of speech. It means _caring_ and _trying_. It takes
character, in short. One of the best instances of achievement of
cultivated speech is that of George Eliot, who by birth would have
spoken a rich dialect.

Perhaps the subtlest ornament that education may confer is that which we
call distinction. After the refining process of the four years in close
association with noble things, “commonness” ought to be impossible. The
beginning of distinction is simplicity and sincerity, all absence of
affectation, pedantry, or the desire to make an impression. Education is
an immense simplifier; it does away with so many unnecessary pretences.

Bacon sent a copy of the “Advancement of Learning” to a man whom he
addressed thus: “Since you are one that was excellently bred in all
learning, which I have ever noted to shine in all your speeches and
behaviors.” Such is Bacon’s way of saying, “Abeunt studia in mores.”
Educated perceptions and a quickened imagination should make for
intelligence in conduct, and for beauty in all human relations. The
reasonableness of goodness appeals to one’s intellect, while, on the
other hand, one must have character to make his intellect tell.

When they praised Lady Margaret, Countess of Richmond, the great lady of
her time, they said of her, “Every one that knew her loved her, and
everything that she said or did became her.” That is the woman of
distinction, whether countess or college girl. “Every one that knew her
loved her.” Distinction is of a poor, cold quality which has not
sympathy for its final charm.

If Studies give us delight within ourselves, and add to us, we fondly
hope, such ornament without, what more may we expect from them? They fit
us to take our share in the day’s work. Studies serve us for ability.
Says Kipling, “Knowledge gives us control of life, as the fish controls
the water he swims in.” The utilitarian view of education is very well,
if kept in its proper place; but education, we all know, is for the
making of a life as well as of a living. Some mothers used to say, “But
my daughter isn’t going to support herself; why should she go to
college?” “For delight, for ornament, madam”; and I would add, “for
ability and usefulness in any sphere whatever.”

Bacon’s exposition of his own text shows that he means by “ability” much
what our New England aunts meant by “judgment.” He says education is of
use in “the plotting and marshalling of affairs.” How does this planning
and organizing go on? How does business move? By constant wise
decisions. Good judgment, you say, is a matter of inborn common sense,
and you don’t get common sense by going to college. I am not so sure of
that, though I grant it is better to inherit it from a grandmother. But
certainly you are learning all the time at college “sense of
proportion,” “the fitness of things,” “sweet reasonableness,” which come
near to being names for refined common sense.

Life is lived by innumerable decisions, great and small; and a person’s
happiness and success will depend much on making these decisions
quickly, firmly, and wisely. The helpfulness and comfort that a woman
may give to others will consist more in her love and wisdom than in any
material benefits she may be able to confer.

One field for the ability of the educated woman of our day is the making
of a good home on a small income. She is the woman who will not,
consciously or unconsciously, goad her husband to money-making. I should
like a fresh sermon preached upon the text, “Blessed are the
peacemakers.” This time it should be of those blessed peacemakers who
create the harmony, calm, and love of a happy home. That is the great
task, the first task of women.

She has no doubt her civic duties, and again her education puts the edge
on her abilities: she is a more valuable helper in the world’s work. She
may be a bread-winner, for herself and for others; and herein, perhaps,
is the most simple and popular argument for a woman’s pursuit of
Studies, one so self-evident that I need not dwell upon it.

I have been speaking of an ideal education and of an ideal woman, but
where should we consider them both if not in this very place? A college
like yours aims at nothing less!


“Do we make real readers of our students?” was the anxious question of a
college president. I remembered his phrase when I read his annual
report. “Most of these young people,” he said, “are to go out into
ordinary life, into general pursuits, where the one chance of their
maintaining their intellectual growth will come through stimulating them
in these years to interest in some particular line which they may
continue, in the midst of the general pressure of social, domestic, or
professional life. Unless a student learn to read and love books, she
will, in a large majority of cases, be thrown out of all relation to
resources that are in any fair sense of the word intellectual.” He
pleaded that to make a girl a real reader is to safeguard her
intellectual life.

A student leaves college, not perhaps having read much, but knowing what
she wants to read. Her education has been an appetizer; now she is
invited to partake of the banquet.

  “May good digestion wait on appetite,
  And health on both.”

The hunger for books no doubt began with many of you as soon as you had
learned your alphabet. It was very likely hereditary. Indeed, the ideal
way to become a lover of books is to be, like Mary Lamb, “tumbled at an
early age into a spacious closet of good old English reading.” Fortunate
for you, if you have had a grandfather who reluctantly puts off his
reading-glasses as dinner is announced, or a grandmother who hides a
book in her work-basket. For the real reader has a book close by; he
does not walk across the room for it. If your busy father and mother
still find time to read a new book and talk about it, then you and your
brother Dick will be readers, and you will never know why. Reading is
the most catching thing in the world. When school and college shall have
added their stimulus, the prospect is good for a “full-blooded reader.”

If a girl should not come out of a reading home, it may be hoped that
she will fall into the hands of a book-loving teacher. There are two
women in the American town who are to be envied for their opportunity:
one is the teacher of “Literature” in the High School, and the other is
the librarian of the Public Library. Both may say, in words of the
Oriental proverb, “I will make thee to love literature, thy mother; I
will make its beauties to pass before thee.”

“Greedy of books,”—so Petrarch described himself; and he himself was
the first great reader of modern times. I like these metaphors of the
body applied to reading. The books that feed the mind, the nourishing
books, are they not the ones that last and live? The hunger for books
has its rhythm like the hunger for meat. Observe that the real reader
reads regularly,—he has to. The regularity is unconscious: a healthy
appetite does not keep one eye on the clock. The healthy reader feels
faint and hollow for lack of nourishment: he seeks a book and he is

He reads from the simplest motives: in fact, he is a rather
irresponsible person. He reads for the sense of life: he eats to live,
he reads to live. He is not fiercely following up a subject; he is not
pursuing references. That is another field of reading, which has its
necessary and stimulating part in the intellectual life. Reading to
order is indispensable to a student’s work; but the fear is, lest
“reading up” may leave no time for reading. “I get no time to read,” is
about the most disheartening thing I hear from college boys and girls. A
university librarian said the other day that in their freshman year,
students drew books from the library for general reading, but after that
year no student entered the library unless obliged to. I found a high
school boy working out a problem about pressures and resistances; he
looked up gleefully, “This isn’t for _school_; this is for myself!” It
is reading for yourself, reading for fun, that I am pleading for.

Yet you, too, say that there is no time in college for reading. I assure
you there is a great deal more time than you think there is. What are
the things that you might just as well _not_ have done to-day? One of
the busiest of men, Matthew Arnold, wrote: “The plea that this or that
man has no time for culture will vanish as soon as we desire culture so
much that we begin to examine seriously our present use of our time.
Give to any man all the time that he now wastes, on useless business,
wearisome or deteriorating amusements, trivial letter-writing, random
reading, and he will have plenty of time for culture. Some of us waste
all our time, most of us waste much of it, but all of us waste some.”

Culture was in my youth a word to conjure with. Somehow of late it has
become separated from education and almost opposed to it. Culture is
suspected by one of being dilettante, by another, of being selfish. Let
us have a reconciliation of education and culture, and see that they go
on together.

The real reader is active, not passive. There are people who look upon a
book as that which best brings on an afternoon nap: something for the
dull hours of the day, to quiet one’s nerves, “to take one’s mind off.”
Much writing does appear to have been done for tired people. Real
reading, however, is not a stop-gap. We should take up a book while the
mind has a good grip and can do its part.

As you who are city-bred ride from end to end of this country, through
prairie villages, mountain hamlets, valley towns, you wonder what makes
these out-of-the-world places habitable. But I assure you, that prairie
town is not so dead a level as it looks, for there is a woman’s club,
and there is a public library, and there are young people going to
college. It is books that make such places habitable.

The real reader is fortified against solitude, even that worst of
solitudes, a company in which he dare not speak of a book. Books prepare
you to live in strange places, as often falls to the lot of the American
woman. You may marry a missionary or an army officer; you may go to the
Klondike or the Philippines. “You could set that woman down anywhere,”
said a mourning widower, in praise of his departed wife. You can set the
real reader down anywhere. For one small matter, it is something to be
made independent of weather!

The reader, grown old, has youth at his beck and can forget the passage
of years. Place is no more to him than time; he is master of his fate.
Reading, also, is “the poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release.”

Our reader is patient; he will put up with a good deal from his
author,—as for instance, when he reads Meredith or Browning. He is
patient of dullness as well as of eccentricity. Lowell’s “dogged
reading” has to go to the ripened experience of the trained reader: it
is required of him that he do a certain amount of unprofitable reading
in the forming of his critical judgment.

He must be patient and he must be calm. Quick and complete absorption is
the mark of the happy reader. He is sincere and he is modest; his
reading is not for show.

Common sense tells the reader when and where he may talk about books.
Happy the family that read the same books: happier still the family that
can talk about them! Love of reading is the best safeguard against
gossip, and against excessive talking. One woman of your acquaintance
fills every gap with talk; another fills the pauses of the day with

In this country that boasts no class distinctions, we, nevertheless,
have a class at the very top: the privileged caste of readers. What a
freemasonry there is among them! They “speak the same language”; they
toss about allusions; they dare to quote to one another; they take
worlds for granted. But if you belong to this aristocracy, beware of
snobbishness. The snobbishness of culture is the most contemptible of
all, for culture knows better. The other “snobbishness” is based on pure
ignorance of the true values of life, and has so far excuse.

People of moderate means probably make the best readers, because they
have the largest share of rational leisure. The very poor and the very
rich know not leisure, and its graces and benefactions. “Give me neither
poverty nor riches”—such would be the best condition for the
intellectual life. Miss Jeannette Gilder once drew a pleasant picture:
as she passed along a Boston street of a winter evening, she noted the
friendly custom of leaving up the window shades, and letting the light
and cheer of the home shine forth upon the wayfarer. But to her New York
eyes it was a striking fact that these Boston families sat reading by
the evening lamp; that appeared to be their regular nightly occupation.
She carried away the feeling that the good old Boston of Emerson and
Lowell and Longfellow was not altogether vanished.

A bookless home! Was ever such suggestion of dreariness! The reader, if
he own anything, will own some books. They need not be many. Some of the
greatest readers have had but a modest number. Those few volumes go far
to furnish your home. No wall covering is so rich. When the western
light strikes across your bookshelves,—and no library should be without
its western window,—the blended colors of those goodly volumes convey
the charm of even the outside of literature. I like Montaigne’s way of
saying, “As soon as I was able, I hired a spacious house in the city,
for myself and books; where I again, with rapture, resumed my literary
pursuits.” “A house for myself and books!”

No; your books need not be many. They will be more to you if you have
made sacrifices for their sake,—as Charles Lamb did in the days when
his purchase was not merely a purchase, but nothing short of a victory.
If you own but few books, you will know the pleasures of re-reading. You
will find the second reading fixes a book, gives you its essence and its
true proportions. Yet it is rather the intimacies and friendships among
books re-read that I have in mind, when they become all interwoven with
endearing memories and associations. Every ten years you become a wiser
reader and turn a new light upon your author. I imagine three tests of a
book: do you read it aloud?—do you give it away?—but above all, do you
read it a second time?

Your reading should have much variety, ranging from the newspapers to
the great poets. Of course we must know what the great world is about
and must live in our own age; but the little world of the newspapers let
us waste no time upon. Said Matthew Arnold again: “Reading a good book
is a discipline such as no reading of even good newspapers can ever
give.” Scrappy reading makes scrappy minds, for it destroys power of

I believe that there should be a backbone of History throughout your
lifetime of reading. Be sure to choose first-rate historical books;
never waste yourself upon second-rate histories. Biography, I am aware,
is middle-aged reading; and I can only promise you immense pleasure from
it when you are past forty. Those large, heavy volumes in dull bindings,
which did not invite your youth, will become alive and significant, and
full of good society.

I have never a seen college girl who did not enjoy reading essays,
whatever her sentiment about writing them. Essays, too, are good
society, the companionship of fine minds giving you their best. This
literary form, with its modest, careless name, has yet the widest range
in all literature. Nothing human is alien to it. If you read “for the
sense of life,” a good essay will give you precisely that.

Books of travel are especially good to read after you have traveled. One
glimpse of the Old World, for example, gives you the clue, the key,
which makes books and pictures intelligible to the imagination ever
after. When once you have this clue, you can read far beyond your own
travels. And while you are on the road, do a little reading day by
day,—Henry James’s “Little Tour in France” while you are making that
very tour; Hawthorne’s “Our Old Home,” while you, too, are in England.
In foreign lands read a newspaper of the country, and read a novel by
its best writer of fiction.

Said that fine old novel-reader, Professor Jowett, of Baliol, when he
was writing to a young lady, “Have you thoroughly made yourself up in
Miss Austen and the ‘Vicar of Wakefield’? No person is educated who
doesn’t know them.” Good fiction educates not only the intellect but the
heart. It enriches the imagination and the sympathies, and “teaches us
to walk not by sight but by insight.” This is fiction fair, and with
fiction foul, why should we concern ourselves?

“Who reads poetry nowadays?” people are asking miserably. My real
reader, I answer with confidence. He must have poetry, and why he must,
Richard Crashaw’s friend said once for all in the quaint preface to the
poet’s verses: “Maist thou take a poem hence and tune thy soul by it
into a heavenly pitch.”

Another old writer once described the four classes of readers: “Sponges
which attract all without distinguishing; hour-glasses which receive and
pour out as fast; bags which only retain the dregs, and let the wine
escape; and sieves which retain the best only.” I am now, of course,
addressing the sieves. Real readers need not take high moral ground
about trash; they are simply bored by it. A publisher said the other day
that he must publish a certain amount of trash in order to be able to
publish some good books. He needs a body of better readers. Mediocre
readers make mediocre books.

Superior people, however, are often disloyal to their own standards. You
are, for example, untrue to yourself, if you sit at a theater
assisting—admirable French word!—at a play that your whole soul
rejects. It is like a breach of faith to read a book which is moral
trash or literary trash. No mind is safe from the suggestion of such
plays or such books. Said Fielding, “We are as liable to be corrupted by
books as by companions.” Happily it is just as true that we are as
liable to be purified by books as by companions.

To be quite fair, we must acknowledge some dangers of reading. You
remember Kipling’s bank clerk, who in a previous incarnation had been a
Viking, and who might have written tales as good as Kipling’s own had he
not been so steeped in English literature. I have known people who had
plainly been dulled by over-reading: they were the “sponges” of our old
writer. Over every book we should think at least as long a time as we
spend in the reading. I notice the real reader frequently looks up and
off from his book, to think the better.

Ask from your book not only ideas, but style. Careless readers have
permitted slipshod books. The writer says to himself, “This is quite
good enough for the people who are likely to read it.” He is fond of the
simile of the pearls and the swine, confident that it is the swine who
have thwarted his genius. Real readers help to make real writers.

Who are some of the real readers we have known? There is Chaucer’s Clerk
of Oxenford. He owned books, poor as he was; he kept them at the head of
his bed; and there you have two unfailing marks of the real reader. (I
even like that dash of color,—the “black or red” of his bindings; for
the real reader loves the outside of his book as well.)

I think of Milton, who made the most beautiful definition of a book I
know—“the precious life-blood of a master spirit, treasured up on
purpose to a Life beyond Life.” None but a real reader could have so
nobly imagined the book and its author.

When Keats read Chapman’s Homer and said that a new planet swam into his
ken, he expressed for all readers the sense of surprise, of discovery,
and of acquisition when they have found a real book.

Into this noble fellowship you and I are allowed to enter, as we leave
our college.


Says the census-taker once in ten years, “Can you write English?” We are
a bit startled by the question: “_Can_ we?” we ask ourselves humbly. It
is the question I ask you freshmen.

The educated person has the implements of writing at hand and in order:
his inkstand is filled and his pen does not scratch. The uneducated man
searches for a penholder, and keeps the ink-bottle on the top shelf; and
the difference signifies much in the lives of the two people.

You live pen in hand during your four years in college. You acquire the
useful art of note-taking,—by itself no mean intellectual exercise. The
untrained note-taker brings from a lecture a rare muddle of senseless,
half-caught remarks. But a good mind soon shows itself in its taking of
“points” and getting them quickly to paper. And who does not know that
“a note taken on the spot is worth a cartload of recollections”?

That a notebook should be attractive and convenient for reference is its
_raison d’être_. One secret of comfort in notebooks is variety in
covers, that there may be no exasperating searches for the right one.
“Buy only good-looking notebooks,” sounds like frivolous advice; but it
is in the interests of scholarship that your notebooks should have an
honorable place on your bookshelves. I would make a handsome page, with
wide margins, large type, generous spacing. Paragraph freely, and drop a
line often. Underline profusely, that you may catch the meaning quickly,
and preserve the emphasis of the lecturer. Use parentheses, brackets,
numerals, letters, and thus organize your matter as you go along and
make it easy to glance at. Have divisions or pigeonholes at the back of
your book, where you can put away and classify all sorts of memoranda.

With these mechanical devices, the use of the pen becomes the easier. It
will be able to shape sentences on the wing, and capture the thought and
much of the language of a lecturer in full flight. It is a strenuous
exercise, and good mental athletics.

Yet for all education to be carried on in this way would not be well.
There should be variety in the conduct of classes. That comes of itself,
through the varied personality of teachers. The next man may make of his
hour a quiz. Does anything remain of a quiz that can be written down? A
good exercise for the pen to shape something out of the flying questions
and answers!

You live pen in hand in the classroom, and also in the preparation of
your work. Note-taking in a library is a fine process in education.
Unless your book is a masterpiece of style, paraphrase and condense for
your notebook. Add your own thoughts, in brackets. A book thus read is
twice yours. I would date every piece of note-taking; for the
autobiography of your mind is writing itself.

In these college exercises your pen has acquired practice, and to turn
it next to use for artistic purposes should be natural. For it is the
literary art that you are set to study. When you are asked to write your
first freshman essay, you are asked to turn life into literature.
Shakespeare did no more than that. This single, exalted aim should be
yours: and you should remember in your humblest writing Ruskin’s
definition of the artist. He is “a person who has submitted in his work
to a law which was painful to obey, that he may bestow by his work a
delight which it is gracious to bestow.”

The literary art as practiced in college goes by the excellent name
“essay-writing”: a comprehensive, modest, dignified word. It gives you
liberty to write about anything; and if you happen to have the literary
instinct, everything will present itself to you as waiting to be written
about. To turn into words is the impulse of the born writer, like
Irving, or Emerson, or Stevenson. There is probably one such person in
this company, possibly there are two. But it is to the average young
essay-writer that I address myself.

As to the matter of which you make your essays, only let it be “the real
thing”: a piece of yourself, one of your own interests. You have active
minds, or you would never be here: to you “the world is so full of a
number of things” that subjects can never fail you. The fact that you
expect to write much during your college life is stimulating to your
observation. You are “out after ideas,” as a college girl expressed it.
You look and listen and read with an eye on your next essay. Once set up
a subject in your mind, and it gathers material as a magnet draws steel.
Everybody is conspiring to help you with fresh points of view and apt
illustrations. You have heard of Madame de Staël’s method: when
preparing to write, she gave a dinner-party and led up the conversation
of her guests to the subject she had chosen. Your essay will also
require solitude and brooding, long walks alone, and possibly hours in
the library.

When you begin to write, write rapidly, even if you leave many gaps and
many crudities. You will then have something to work upon. Moreover, the
mere act of writing is stimulating to thought. _Movendo move_: move by
moving. By writing, write. “I stared at the page an hour before I had a
thought,” says one miserable young woman. Keep on looking at your paper.
Things will come to you, you know not whence; but you must prepare the
way for them, by thinking and feeling and dreaming, by reading and
listening and observing, with every part of you alive and receptive.
Then wait for yourself patiently.

It is for most people unprofitable to correct their work as they write,
because the productive state of mind and the critical state of mind are
quite apart. There should be the hot writing and the cool writing. The
fatal thing is to cool off in the first writing: you will soon be
“grinding out” your essay. When the time comes for the critical
re-writing, remember what Schiller said, “By what he omits, show me the
artist.” There is a hard saying, “Art is the rejection of the almost

Yet when you subject your work to pitiless cutting, see that you do not
destroy its flow and rhythm. Look carefully to the little connectives
that bind up the thought, words that are only too rare in our English
language. The delicate _nuances_ of meaning are indicated and the
harmony of the sentence is preserved by the judicious placing of these
little words. In revision study to improve the diction. Insert trial
words each time that you read your paper. Use every means to enrich your
vocabulary and to widen your choice of words. Be able to run your
fingers over that loved instrument, the English language, as a musician
lets his hands play over his keys.

Precision in diction is the mark of intellect, but also of patient
labor. Stevenson said the man not willing to spend the whole afternoon
in search of the right word was unfit for the business of literature. Be
unsparing of your time. The silliest boast is of the short time a writer
has spent upon his work. Authors’ vanity is peculiarly distasteful,
because they are the people from whom one might expect more

The force, that is, the interest, of your writing, will depend much on
the freshness of your choice of words, and on the freshness of your
phrasing. Yet in the pursuit of freshness, beware of affected or
far-fetched words, or words too old, as “gotten”; or too new, as
“viewpoint,” “foreword,” words that, for mere ugliness, should not be
allowed to exist.

Write with words, not phrases. Commonplace writing is composed of
“bromidic” phrases. They are very catching. Excessive reading,
unaccompanied by thinking, is sure to produce a stilted, conventional
style. I wonder if college girls know how often they are, even in
conversation, stilted in their language, though often with a
half-humorous intent. I have noticed one who uses a Latin participial
construction even at the breakfast table.

In order to be vigorous, your writing must be brief, simple, and clear.
Yet in our cult of simplicity, let us not be content with the clear and
simple commonplace. Some books nowadays, though written by the cleverest
of men, have a commonness of style that is a mere coming down to their
inferiors. It will never make literature.

Put into your notebook what writers have said about their craft. You
will find in Shakespeare some admirable hints about his art, though
people often tell us he gave no account of himself. Modern
self-consciousness has made authors more and more aware of themselves
and their processes. Mark what Goethe, Emerson, and all our later
writers have said of their work. In my college days, we read the old
writers upon these subjects: the incomparable “Ars Poetica” of Horace,
and the pleasant pages of Quintilian. Do you read them now?

How reading should help writing is a question. I have heard it said that
a professional writer should read some other more excellent writer one
hour a day! How far we should take another writer for master is very
doubtful. Said a Michigan man to Mr. Emerson, as he came out from a
lecture, “Mr. Emerson, I see you never learned to write from a book.” It
goes without saying that we want only original, first-hand work from our
writer; nevertheless, it is true that he may learn something about his
art from nearly every book he reads. You yourselves are observing
readers; observe, among other things, how the thing is done.

Beyond and out of college, the educated woman should live pen in hand.
Power of expression is power itself, and expression with the pen will
add much to a woman’s efficiency as a member of society. With many
business careers opening to her, success depends not a little on the
ability to write an admirable business letter. Her usefulness as a
secretary hangs on the efficiency of her pen. A teacher’s letter of
application often settles her fate. The librarian will introduce books
to readers all the more effectively if she hold the pen of the ready
writer. The college woman should be valuable in many branches of
journalism. In philanthropic work, occasions arise for wise, tactful,
brief, effective composition, in letters, reports, and public addresses.
The pen is not enough used in preparation for speaking. We should be
spared many a rambling discourse if the orator had first submitted to
its discipline.

The club paper has a place in many women’s lives. Few of them take it
seriously enough. If they have possession of an hour’s time of fifty
women, they should give their utmost as an equivalent for fifty hours of
human life. To make her club paper worth while, a woman should have
lived pen in hand for a year, reading, thinking, taking notes. The paper
of the educated woman should be reasoned, ordered, and shapely, while
every sentence should have its meaning. As John Synge said of a play:
“Every speech should be as fully flavored as a nut or an apple.” This is
not the club paper of the lady who rises with smiling apology, “I have
had very little time to prepare this paper. I really did not begin to
write it until night before last.”

Whether women desire it or not, they are destined to take more and more
part in public life, and whatever they may be called upon to do, they
will find that “Have it in writing” is one of the best maxims of the
great world they are entering.

I would, however, have you first regard the use of the pen in
letter-writing, in preserving the unity and love of the family, in
cherishing friendship, in sweetening human intercourse. It makes society
of solitude for the lonely woman, or for the invalid, or for the aged.
Reading and writing together are proof against loneliness.

By all means, use the pen as a means of efficiency and of happiness, but
I would even cultivate writing for writing’s sake. I would dabble in it
as an amateur! It is worth while to draw and sketch for the training of
the eye, and for the greater appreciation of others’ work. Write, and
you will be a far better reader. You help to create a literary
atmosphere in which some one else can write better than without you, as
musicians say that an orchestra must have players in the audience.
Writers need the understanding reader. We have not yet in our country a
large enough body of eager, expectant readers, of literary sympathies.
Moreover, it seems a law of Nature that, if many are writing and keenly
interested in literature, out of such an environment a great writer is
sure in time to emerge.

By writing you may discover yourself. The call may come to you, and
nothing then can stop you. You will say, like Carlyle, “Had I but two
potatoes in the world and one true idea, I should hold it my duty to
part with one potato for pen and ink, and live upon the other till I got
it written.”

The woman of letters is a type sure to develop from the present
intellectual training of women. Such a vocation should not take her
apart from the great experiences of womanhood: these should but make her
the better writer. Her career of writer will be a higher education in
itself, a steady intellectual and moral development. I urge you to write
because it will hold you to the ideal; it will develop the philosophic
mind; it will stimulate character and intellect. It opens vistas of
happiness, as the practice of every art does. To know the joys of the
creative artist one needs not to write a novel or a drama. He can know
them from a letter, happily written, or even from a fortunate phrase
that has come to him.

Whether or not such writing bring you fame and money, it will have given
you something no one can take away from you. The modest person of a
quiet mind who does her best and thinks not much about the consequences,
this person shares some of the sweets of authorship with those she knows
to be her betters. The perquisites of the writer are many: the good
society; the sympathy, sometimes the love, of strangers; the mysterious
and fascinating communication with one’s fellow-men.

People ask why college women have not distinguished themselves in
literature. Colleges for women began as our great literary period in
America was drawing to a close. If women have not been notable in our
literature in the last fifty years, neither have we had another Emerson
or Hawthorne. American intellect has expressed itself in other and
wonderful ways, but not in great poetry or prose.

Women have not yet had a long enough trial of education to be adjusted
to the new conditions it has made for them. They have had culture
sufficient to make them critical, but not creative; to make them modest
and distrustful of their own work, but not greatly daring in any art.
They do small things delicately and delightfully, but the great works
are still to come. Women need more power to the elbow. They need a
richer tradition, and growth from a deeper soil; for a writer oftenest
ripens through generations of readers and thinkers.

Do not let this discourage you. Each of us may in our day contribute to
the progress of American literature; for we are helping to make the
tastes and traditions out of which in a later generation a great poet
may arise.


The freshman girl is happy who, in her preparation for college, has
included some knowledge of the art of living with others. Miss Ellen
Emerson once read aloud to our Sunday-School class an essay by Sir
Arthur Helps on this very subject. One sentence I remember: “A thorough
conviction of the difference of men is the great thing to be assured of
in social knowledge: it is to life what Newton’s law is to astronomy.”
Miss Ellen paused, and bade us not forget that saying. The girl who goes
to college prepared to find people “different” has a mastery of the

I would have assigned her, as a piece of college preparation, a few good
magazine articles about the United States, with three or four of the
best new books about her country. These would make her glad to talk with
a student from Oregon on her right and a girl from Boston on her left at
that first homesick supper-time. She is, perhaps, a provincial New York
City girl, who has never seen anything but Europe and her own town. Her
horizon will at once widen at college.

Not that open-mindedness requires you to abandon your own beliefs.
College preparation should include Convictions. Truth and honesty there
cannot be two opinions about; and in the art of living with others truth
and honesty bear a great part. Said Oliver Cromwell, “Give me a man that
hath principle—I know where to have him.”

A girl should have had some preparation in business habits for living
with others in college. Plain business honesty is a “college
requirement.” Borrowing is, I fear, one of the sins of student life.
Girls of your breeding do not borrow wearing apparel or personal
belongings. But a borrowed postage stamp or a car-fare is a matter of
business honor. So is punctuality; the robbery of other people’s time is
petty larceny. Integrity, uprightness, enter into the art of living with
others, every hour of the day. The girl who is scrupulously delicate
about other persons’ rights and possessions is the girl you find easy to
live with.

Teachableness is a charming quality in a freshman, in or out of class: a
little wonder and awe become her. A newcomer who “knows it all” is
unbearable. Meekness is an old-fashioned virtue, not enough appreciated
in these days. Yet who does not feel its charm in the unassuming woman,
ready to learn, and to reverence superiority?

Prepare yourself to be at first of not much importance, to be outshone
in recitation, to work hard without much recognition; but you will find
soon that a teacher will grow to rely on you, will meet your eye, will
welcome your response; and before you are aware, you and she will have
laid the foundation of a lifelong sympathy and friendship. And, when all
is said, the art of living with others is the art of making friends.

Do not forget your old friends. When you travel abroad, one of the most
important subjects you learn about is America; when you go to college,
you learn to know your home. The first ache of homesickness will teach
you much. It would mean something very sad if you did not feel it. You
would lose one of the tenderest experiences. When the pain softens, you
find you understand your home and your dear ones as you never did
before. That is the reward of the freshman’s homesickness.

There will quickly come new interests, but do not become so absorbed in
them as to lose this new relation to your home. Much as the friends
there miss you, your college life may be made a constant pleasure to
them. Let us hope that your “preparatory English” has made you a good
letter-writer. Write clearly and legibly, with loving care, that your
father may not say, “Am I wasting a college education on a girl that
can’t even spell?” and that your mother need not sigh, “There is a word
I shall have to give up.” The illiteracy of collegians of both sexes I
know to be a source of pain to parents who sit deciphering their letters
by the evening lamp. It is all a question of your taking trouble, and of
your thoughtful consideration for others.

Literacy attained, see that your letter gives pleasure, and that it
share with your parents the fun and interest of your college life. See
that it “make old hearts young.” Don’t send home a letter without a
laugh in it. And pray write occasionally to an uncle or an aunt!

Do not drop your old acquaintance when you go away from home. Perhaps
you have some humble village friends, to whom it seems a fine, romantic
thing that you have “gone off to college.” Every person whom you know
may be in some way pleased and benefited by your experience. There are
little girls who are examining you as only a little girl can, and are
making up their minds whether they, too, will go to college some day.
When you see this bright child peering at you,—there is your chance to
be something adorable!

No one follows you with more sympathy than the teachers who have fitted
you for college. They have a share in you, remember; for teachers have a
reward beyond money in the futures of their pupils.

We speak of college girls as if they had departed for the cloister; but
reckoning by weeks, how large a proportion of their time is spent at
home! In short vacations the unselfish mother plans all sorts of
pleasures for her daughter, and perhaps says sadly at the end, “I saw
little of Ruth. She made or received visits all the fortnight.” The
short vacations should, I think, belong to your parents: the summer
gives time for other friends. Some day you will understand what it has
cost your father and mother to send you out of their sight just as you
have become most companionable to them.

In the case of some of you there are sacrifices made at home that you
may go to college; and you will bravely share with your parents the
“doing without” that is making your liberal education possible. Your
social position in these next four years does not depend on money: it
does depend on intellect and character; on taste, not expense, in dress
and belongings; and on the traditions that you bring with you. “To him
that hath shall be given.” The girl who takes something to college gets
more, as, when she travels, she gains in proportion to what she carries
with her. For example, if you take to college the family tradition of
reading, your college lot is a happier one.

The poor girl in college has certain advantages: she is respected for
the effort she has made to get there; she at once excites the interest
of her teachers; she finds herself in an atmosphere of sympathy and
encouragement. She is generously praised, and is made happy by the
appreciation of her gifts. Let her guard against vanity and
priggishness. The poor and brilliant girl has her own temptations.

If she suffer in some things because of her poverty, it does not matter
much. Privations, if they do not injure health, are bracing and tonic. A
girl will learn at college, if anywhere, how to be rich though poor. She
could be placed in no situation where she could more successfully ignore
poverty. Simplicity in dress is “good form” in college. The fatal word
“vulgar” is fixed by the initiated upon display, or extremes of fashion.
Taste and neatness are luxuries within the reach of girls of small

The rich girl has her difficulties. She is often handicapped by poor
preparation, which is not so much the fault of her fitting school as of
her social life too soon begun. She has had many distractions, with less
serious labor of preparation. College routine will be at first irksome
to her; but if she has chosen to go to college, she has stuff in her,
and she can make of herself the finest type of student. Her money will
be “means,” and she will learn noble ways of spending it. Many is the
rich girl who is secretly helping a poor girl to get her education.

Rich appointments make a girl’s way harder at college, on the whole.
Scholars are distrustful of the appearances of wealth, sometimes
unjustly. The wise college girl will cultivate simplicity, that she may
be in harmony with her surroundings, and that she may have a free mind.

The girl of wealth may lack the element of the heroic and the romantic
in the college career of the poor girl, but her compensations are that
she can command all means of culture; she can travel, buy books, visit
cities, and meet significant people. Her wealth buys her a wider life;
while the girl of small means has one more concentrated and intense. Her
pleasures may be keener because they are conquests; she relies on
herself and develops her own resources. We will wait to judge the two
until they are forty.

Health is one of your “college duties”; so is happiness.

  “If I have faltered more or less
  In my great task of happiness,”—

wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. He was a master of gallant living. He
really had something to whine about, but he lived with all his colors

However, I shall not deny that there are “blues” peculiar to college
life. Occasionally they will be part of your education. There will be
wounds to your vanity; and years afterwards you will remember the snub
of some brusque, brilliant professor and will smile to think how much
you learned by it. You will see another girl surpass you, and envy will
give you a fit of the blues; for envy always punishes itself. The
college has, on the whole, an atmosphere of noble feeling, of
“admiration, hope, and love”; but a sin that some college girls have to
fight is the ugly sin of envy. Jealousy is akin to it, and is sure to
enter into narrow, intense friendships. The remedy is many friends and
many interests.

A genuine source of blues is disappointment in one’s self. I wonder if
you will believe an old college girl’s experience that an occasional
bracing failure is the best thing that can happen to you. It will help
you to keep your balance, and to know yourself. Moreover, it will rouse
you as nothing else will.

Trifles loom large in college life, its critics say. A freshman’s world
looks black to-day because of a bad recitation or a neglectful friend. I
do not reason away her troubles: I only remind her of Abraham Lincoln’s
remedy for the blues (and he knew well what they were). “Remember,” he
said, “that they don’t _last_.” Also I would set her to some absorbing
task: “work is good company,” and compels her to think about what she is
doing and not of her troubles.

It was recorded upon the tomb of a Roman lady long ago, “She made nobody
sad.” Make nobody sad with your woes, or your face, or your voice. And
if you wish to cheer yourself, cheer somebody else. You very likely need
rest for your nerves. College girls wear upon themselves and upon one
another by too much talking. Their minds are so mutually stimulating
that they need rest from their own company. One of the first conditions
for a satisfactory intellectual life is a room to one’s self. The
college girl who cannot command it should spend much time alone out of
doors, even if she carry with her a book.

When the college day is ended, and you look back over its hours, what
will have made its success, and what will have made its happiness? Have
you been “nobly busy”? I leave to you the answer.

                          The Riverside Press

                       CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS
                               U . S . A

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