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Title: An American at Oxford
Author: Corbin, John
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An American at Oxford" ***

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Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved.  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

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  [Illustration: TEA ON THE LAWN AT THE OXFORD UNION (page 63)]






     The Riverside Press, Cambridge



_Published May, 1902_


A. F. C.


By a curious coincidence, the day on which the last proof of this book
was sent to the printer saw the publication of the will of the late
Cecil Rhodes, providing that each of the United States is forever to
be represented at Oxford by two carefully selected undergraduate
students. That the plan will result in any speedy realization of the
ideals of the great exponent of English power in the new worlds is
perhaps not to be expected. For the future of American education, on
the other hand, few things could be more fortunate. Native and
independent as our national genius has always been, and seems likely
to remain, it has always been highly assimilative. In the past, we
have received much needed aliment from the German universities. For
the present, the elements of which we have most need may best, as I
think, be assimilated from England.

Whether or not Americans at Oxford become imbued with Mr. Rhodes's
conceptions as to the destiny of the English peoples, they can
scarcely fail to observe that Oxford affords to its undergraduates a
very sensibly ordered and invigorating life, a very sensibly ordered
and invigorating education. This, as I have endeavored to point out in
the following pages, our American universities do not now afford, nor
are they likely to afford it until the social and the educational
systems are more perfectly organized than they have ever been, or seem
likely to be, under the dominance of German ideals. If, however, the
new Oxford-trained Americans should ever become an important factor in
our university life, the future is bright with hope. We have
assimilated, or are assimilating, the best spirit of German education;
and if we were to make a similar draft on the best educational spirit
in England, our universities would become far superior as regards
their organization and ideals, and probably also as regards what they
accomplish, to any in Europe. The purpose and result of an
introduction of English methods would of course not be to imitate
foreign custom, but to give fuller scope to our native character, so
that if the American educational ideals in the end approximate the
English more closely than they do at present, such a result would be
merely incidental to the fact that the two countries have at bottom
much the same social character and instincts. If Mr. Rhodes's dream is
to be realized, it will probably be in some such tardy and roundabout
but admirably vital manner as this.

At a superficial glance the testator's intention seems to have been to
send the students to Oxford directly from American schools. Such a
course, it seems to me, could only work harm. Even if the educational
and residential facilities afforded at Oxford were on the whole
superior to those of American universities, which they are not, the
difference could not compensate the student for the loss of his
American university course with all it means in forming lifelong
friendships among his countrymen and in assimilating the national
spirit. If, however, the Oxford scholarships were awarded to recent
graduates of American universities, the greatest advantage might
result. The student might then modify his native training so as to
complete it and make it more effective. Now the wording of the
testament requires only that the American scholars shall "commence
residence as undergraduates." This they will be able to do whatever
their previous training, and in fact this is what Americans at Oxford
have always done in the past. The most valuable A.B. leaves the
field of human knowledge far from exhausted; and the methods of
instruction and of examining at Oxford are so different from anything
we know that it has even proved worth while for the American to repeat
at Oxford the same studies he took in America. The executors of the
will should be most vigorously urged to select the scholars from the
graduates of American universities.

The parts of this book that treat most intimately of Oxford life were
written while in residence in Balliol College some six years ago. Most
of the rest was written quite recently in London. Much of the matter
in the following pages has appeared in "Harper's Weekly," "The
Bachelor of Arts," "The Forum," and "The Atlantic Monthly." It has all
been carefully revised and rearranged, and much new matter added. Each
chapter has gained, as I hope, by being brought into its natural
relation with the other chapters; and the ideas that have informed the
whole are for the first time adequately stated.


     CHAP.                                                        PAGE

     INTRODUCTORY                                                    1


     I. THE UNIVERSITY OF COLLEGES                                   7

     II. THE OXFORD FRESHMAN                                        10

     III. A DAY IN AN OXFORD COLLEGE                                17

     IV. DINNER IN HALL                                             21

     V. EVENING                                                     28

     VI. THE MIND OF THE COLLEGE                                    37

     VII. CLUB LIFE IN THE COLLEGE                                  52

     VIII. SOCIAL LIFE IN THE UNIVERSITY                            62

     IX. THE COLLEGE AND THE UNIVERSITY                             74


     I. SLACKING ON THE ISIS AND THE CHERWELL                       81

     II. AS SEEN FROM AN OXFORD TUB                                 96

     III. A LITTLE SCRIMMAGE WITH ENGLISH RUGBY                    116

     IV. TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETICS                                 132

     V. ENGLISH AND AMERICAN SPORTSMANSHIP                         145


     I. THE PASSMAN                                                159

     II. THE HONOR SCHOOLS                                         171

     III. THE TUTOR                                                178

     IV. READING FOR EXAMINATIONS                                  184

     V. THE EXAMINATION                                            190

     VI. OXFORD QUALITIES AND THEIR DEFECTS                        193

     VII. THE UNIVERSITY AND REFORM                                200

     VIII. THE UNIVERSITY AND THE PEOPLE                           206


     I. THE UNIVERSITY BEFORE THE COLLEGE                          215

     II. THE MEDIÆVAL HALL                                         221

     III. THE COLLEGE SYSTEM                                       223

     IV. THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE MEDIÆVAL HALL                       231

     V. THE ORIGIN OF THE MODERN UNDERGRADUATE                     236


     VII. THE COLLEGE IN AMERICA                                   245


     I. THE SOCIAL AND ATHLETIC PROBLEM                            255

     II. THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROBLEM                                272

     III. THE EDUCATIONAL PROBLEM                                  281

     IV. THE AMERICAN HALL                                         301


     I. ATHLETIC TRAINING IN ENGLAND                               313

     II. CLIMATE AND INTERNATIONAL ATHLETICS                       316

     III. AN OXFORD FINAL HONOR SCHOOL                             319


     _Tea on the Lawn at the Oxford Union (page 63)_    _Frontispiece_

     _The Hall Staircase, Christ Church_                            22

     _Magdalen Tower from the Bridge_                               30

     _A Racing Punt and Punter_                                     84

     _Iffley Lock and Mill_                                         90

     _The Full Costume of an Eightsman_                            100

     _The College Barges: Tubbing in November Floods_              106

     _The Last Day of the Bumping Races of the Summer
       Eights (1895)_                                              112

     _An English Rugby Line-up_                                    120

     _Throwing in the Ball_                                        124

     _New College Cloisters, Bell Tower, and Chapel_               224

     _New College Gardens--showing the Mediæval Wall of
       Oxford_                                                     228


The great German historian of the United States, H. E. Von Holst,
declares[1] that, "in the sense attached to the word by Europeans, ...
there is in the United States as yet not a single university;"
institutions like Johns Hopkins and Harvard he characterizes as
"hybrids of college and university." In his survey of European usage,
one suspects that Professor Von Holst failed to look beyond Germany.
The so-called universities of England, for example, are mere
aggregations of colleges; they have not even enough of the modern
scientific spirit to qualify as hybrids, having consciously and
persistently refused to adopt continental standards. The higher
institutions of America belong historically to the English type; they
have only recently imported the scientific spirit. To the great world
of graduates and undergraduates they are colleges, and should as far
as possible be kept so.

Yet there is reason enough for calling them hybrids. In the teaching
bodies of all of them the German, or so-called university, spirit is
very strong, and is slowly possessing the more advanced of our recent
graduates and undergraduates. Let us be duly grateful. The first
result of this spirit is an extraordinary quickening and diffusion of
the modern ideal of scholarship, a devotion to pure science amounting
almost to a passion. As to the second result, we may or may not have
cause to be grateful. Our most prominent educational leaders have
striven consciously to make over our universities on the German plan.
We are in the midst of a struggle between old and new forces, and at
present the alien element has apparently the upper hand. The social
ideal, which only a few years ago was virtually the same in England
and America, has already been powerfully modified; and the concrete
embodiment of the new scientific spirit, the so-called elective
system, has transformed the peculiar educational institution of our
Anglo-Saxon people.

We have gone so far forward that it is possible to gain an excellent
perspective on what we are leaving behind. In the ensuing pages I
propose to present as plainly as I may the English university of
colleges. I shall not hesitate to give its social life all the
prominence it has in fact, devoting much space even to athletic
sports. The peculiarity of the English ideal of education is that it
aims to develop the moral and social virtues, no less than the
mental--to train up boys to be men among men. Only by understanding
this is it possible to sympathize with the system of instruction, its
peculiar excellences, and its almost incredible defects. In the end I
hope we shall see more clearly what our colleges have inherited from
the parent institutions, and shall be able to judge how far the system
of collegiate education expresses the genius of English and American

At the present juncture of political forces in America this
consideration has a special importance. The success with which we
exert our influence upon distant peoples will depend upon what manner
of young men we train up to carry it among them. If the graduates of
German institutions are prepared to establish their civilization in
the imperial colonies, the fact has not yet been shown. The colleges
of England have manned the British Empire.


[1] _Educational Review_, vol. v. p. 113.





One of the familiar sights at Oxford is the American traveler who
stops over on his way from Liverpool to London, and, wandering up
among the walls of the twenty colleges from the Great Western Station,
asks the first undergraduate he meets which building is the
university. When an Oxford man is first asked this, he is pretty sure
to answer that there isn't any university; but as the answer is taken
as a rudeness, he soon finds it more agreeable to direct inquirers to
one of the three or four single buildings, scattered hither and yon
among the ubiquitous colleges, in which the few functions of the
university are performed. A traveler from our middle West, where
"universities" often consist of a single building, might easily set
forth for London with the firm idea that the Ashmolean Museum or the
Bodleian Library is Oxford University.

To the undergraduate the university is an abstract institution that at
most examines him two or three times, "ploughs" him, or graduates
him. He becomes a member of it by being admitted into one of the
colleges. To be sure, he matriculates also as a student of the
university; but the ceremony is important mainly as a survival from
the historic past, and is memorable to him perhaps because it takes
place beneath the beautiful mediæval roof of the Divinity School;
perhaps because he receives from the Vice-Chancellor a copy of the
university statutes, written in mediæval Latin, which it is to be his
chief delight to break. Except when he is in for "schools," as the
examinations are called, the university fades beyond his horizon. If
he says he is "reading" at Oxford, he has the city in mind. He is more
likely to describe himself as "up at" Magdalen, Balliol, or elsewhere.
This English idea that a university is a mere multiplication of
colleges is so firmly fixed that the very word is defined as "a
collection of institutions of learning at a common centre." In the
daily life of the undergraduate, in his religious observances, and in
regulating his studies, the college is supreme.

To an American the English college is not at first sight a wholly
pleasing object. It has walls that one would take to be insurmountable
if they were not crowned with shards of bottles mortared into the
coping; and it has gates that seem capable of resisting a siege until
one notices that they are reinforced by a _cheval-de-frise_, or a row
of bent spikes like those that keep the bears in their dens at the
Zoo. Professor Von Holst would certainly regard it as a hybrid between
a mediæval cloister and a nursery; and one easily imagines him
producing no end of evidence from its history and traditions to show
that it is so. Like so many English institutions, its outward and
visible signs belong to the manners of forgotten ages, even while it
is charged with a vigorous and very modern life. A closer view of it,
I hope, will show that in spite of the barnacles of the past that
cling to it--and in some measure, too, because of them--it is the
expression of a very high ideal of undergraduate convenience and



When a freshman comes up to his college, he is received at the
mediæval gate by a very modern porter, who lifts boxes and bags from
the hansom in a most obliging manner, and is presently shown to his
cloistral chambers by a friendly and urbane butler or steward. To
accommodate the newcomers in the more populous colleges, a measure is
resorted to so revolutionary that it shocks all American ideas of
academic propriety. Enough seniors--fourth and third year men--are
turned out of college to make room for the freshmen. The assumption is
that the upper classmen have had every opportunity to profit by the
life of the college, and are prepared to flock by themselves in the
town. Little communities of four or five fellows who have proved
congenial live together in "diggings"--that is, in some townsman's
house--hard by the college gate. This arrangement makes possible
closer and more intimate relationship among them than would otherwise
be likely; and after three years of the very free life within those
sharded walls, a cloistered year outside is usually more than
advisable, in view of the final examination. It cannot be said that
they leave college without regret; but I never heard a word of
complaint, and it is tacitly admitted that on the whole they profit by
the arrangement.

The more substantial furnishings in the rooms are usually permanent,
belonging to the college: each successive occupant is charged for
interest on the investment and for depreciation by wear. Thus the
furniture is far more comfortable than in an American college room and
costs the occupant less. Bed and table linen, cutlery, and a few of
the more personal furnishings the student brings himself. If one
neglects to bring them, as I confess I did through ignorance, the
deficiency is supplied by the scout, a dignitary in the employ of the
college, who stands in somewhat more than the place of a servant and
less than that of a parent to half a dozen fellows whose rooms are
adjacent. The scout levies on the man above for sheets, on the man
below for knives and forks, and on the man across the staircase for
table linen. There is no call for shame on the one part or resentment
on the other, for is not the scout the representative of the
hospitality of the college? "When you have time, sir," he says kindly,
"you will order your own linen and cutlery." How high a state of
civilization is implied in this manner of receiving a freshman can be
appreciated only by those who have arrived friendless at an American

The scout is in effect a porter, "goody," and eating-club waiter
rolled into one. He has frequently a liberal dash of the don, which he
has acquired by extended residence at the university; for among all
the shifting generations of undergraduates, only he and the don are
permanent. When he reaches middle age he wears a beard if he chooses,
and then he is usually taken for a don by the casual visitor. There is
no harm in this; the scout plays the part _con amore_, and his long
breeding enables him to sustain it to a marvel. Yet for the most part
the scout belongs with the world of undergraduates. He has his social
clubs and his musical societies; he runs, plays cricket, and rows,
and, finally, he meets the Cambridge scout in the inter-varsity
matches. His pay the scout receives in part from the college, but
mostly from the students, who give him two to four pounds a term each,
according to his deserts. All broken bread, meat, and wine are his
perquisites, and tradition allows him to "bag" a fair amount of tea,
coffee, and sugar. Out of all this he makes a sumptuous living. I knew
only one exception, and that was when four out of six men on a
certain scout's staircase happened to be vegetarians, and five
teetotalers. The poor fellow was in extremities for meat and in
desperation for drink. There was only one more pitiable sight in
college, and that was the sole student on the staircase who ate meat
and drank wine; the scout bagged food and drink from him ceaselessly.
At the end of one term the student left a half dozen bottles of
sherry, which he had merely tasted, in his sideboard; and when he came
back it was gone. "Where's my sherry, Betts?" he asked. "Sherry, sir?
you ain't got no sherry." "But I left six bottles; you had no right to
more than the one that was broken." "Yes, sir; but when I had taken
that, sir, the 'arf dozen was broke." According to Oxford traditions
the student had no recourse; and be it set down to his praise, he
never blamed the scout. He bemoaned the fate that bound them together
in suffering, and vented his spleen on total abstinence and
vegetarianism. It may be supposed that the scout's antiquity and
importance makes him a bad servant; in the land of the free I fear
that it would; but at Oxford nothing could be more unlikely. The only
mark that distinguishes the scout from any other class of waiters is
that his attentions to your comfort are carried off with greater ease
and dignity. It may be true that he is president of the Oxford
Society of College Servants--the Bones or the Hasty Pudding of the
scouts; that he stroked the scouts' eight in the townie's bumping
races, during the long vac, and afterward rowed against the scouts'
eight from Cambridge; that he captained the scouts' cricket eleven;
that in consequence he is a "double blue" and wears the Oxford
'varsity color on his hat with no less pride than any other "blue."
Yet he is all the more bound, out of consideration for his own
dignity, to show you every respect and attention.

After the scout, the hosts of the college are the dons. As soon as the
freshman is settled in his rooms, or sometimes even before, his tutor
meets him and arranges for a formal presentation to the dean and
master. All three are apt to show their interest in a freshman by
advising him as to trying for the athletic teams, joining the college
clubs and societies, and in a word as to all the concerns of
undergraduate life except his studies--these come later. If a man has
any particular gift, athletic or otherwise, the tutor introduces him
to the men he should know, or, when this is not feasible, gives a word
to the upper classmen, who take the matter into their own hands. If a
freshman has no especial gift, the tutor is quite as sure to say the
proper word to the fellows who have most talent for drawing out

In the first weeks of a freshman's residence he finds sundry
pasteboards tucked beneath his door: the upper classman's call is
never more than the formal dropping of a card. The freshman is
expected to return these calls at once, and is debarred by a happy
custom from leaving his card if he does not find his man. He goes
again and again until he does find him. By direct introduction from
the tutor or by this formality of calling, the freshman soon meets
half a dozen upper classmen, generally second-year men, and in due
time he receives little notes like this:--

    DEAR SMITH,--Come to my rooms if you can to breakfast with Brown
    and me on Wednesday at 8.30.

     Yours sincerely,

At table the freshman finds other freshmen whose interests are
presumably similar to his own.

No one supposes for a moment that all this is done out of simple human
kindness. The freshman breakfast is a conventional institution for
gathering together the unlicked cubs, so that the local influences may
take hold of them. The reputation of the college in general demands
that it keep up a name for hospitality; and in particular the clubs
and athletic teams find it of advantage to get the run of all
available new material. The freshman breakfast is nothing in the world
but a variation of the "running" that is given newcomers in those
American colleges where fraternity life is strong, and might even be
regarded as a more civilized form of the rushes and cane sprees and
even hazings that used to serve with us to introduce newcomers to
their seniors. Many second-year breakfasts are perfunctory enough; the
host has a truly British air of saying that since for better or for
worse he is destined to look upon your face and abide by your deeds,
he is willing to make the best of it. If you prove a "bounder," you
are soon enough dropped. "_I_ shall soon be a second-year man," I once
heard a freshman remark, "and then _I_ can ask freshmen to breakfast,
too, and cut them afterward." The point is that every fellow is thrown
in the way of meeting the men of his year. If one is neglected in the
end, he has no reason to feel that it is the fault of the college. As
a result of this machinery for initiating newcomers, a man usually
ceases to be a freshman after a single term (two months) of residence;
and it is always assumed that he does.



When a freshman is once established in college, his life falls into a
pleasantly varied routine. The day is ushered in by the scout, who
bustles into the bedroom, throws aside the curtain, pours out the
bath, and shouts, "Half past seven, sir," in a tone that makes it
impossible to forget that chapel--or if one chooses, roll-call--comes
at eight. Unless one keeps his six chapels or "rollers" a week, he is
promptly "hauled" before the dean, who perhaps "gates" him. To be
gated is to be forbidden to pass the college gate after dark, and
fined a shilling for each night of confinement. To an American all
this brings recollections of the paternal roof, where tardiness at
breakfast meant, perhaps, the loss of dessert, and bedtime an hour
earlier. I remember once, when out of training, deliberately cutting
chapel to see with what mien the good dean performed his nursery
duties. His calm was unruffled, his dignity unsullied. I soon came to
find that the rules about rising were bowed to and indeed respected
by all concerned, even while they were broken. They are distinctly
more lax than those the fellows have been accustomed to in the public
schools, and they are conceded to be for the best welfare of the

Breakfast comes soon after chapel, or roll-call. If a man has "kept a
dirty roller," that is, has reported in pyjamas, ulster, and boots,
and has turned in again, the scout puts the breakfast before the fire
on a trestle built of shovel, poker, and tongs, where it remains
edible until noon. If a man has a breakfast party on, the scout makes
sure that he is stirring in season, and, hurrying through the other
rooms on the staircase, is presently on hand for as long as he may be
wanted. The usual Oxford breakfast is a single course, which not
infrequently consists of some one of the excellent English pork
products, with an egg or kidneys. There may be two courses, in which
case the first is of the no less excellent fresh fish. There are no
vegetables. The breakfast is ended with toast and jam or marmalade.
When one has fellows in to breakfast,--and the Oxford custom of
rooming alone instead of chumming makes such hospitality
frequent,--his usual meal is increased by a course, say, of chicken.
In any case it leads to a morning cigarette, for tobacco aids
digestion, and helps fill the hour or so after meals which an
Englishman gives to relaxation.

At ten o'clock the breakfast may be interrupted for a moment by the
exit of some one bent on attending a lecture, though one apologizes
for such an act as if it were scarcely good form. An appointment with
one's tutor is a more legitimate excuse for leaving; but even this is
always an occasion for an apology, in behalf of the tutor of course,
for one is certainly not himself responsible. If a quorum is left,
they manage to sit comfortably by the fire, smoking and chatting in
spite of lectures and tutors, until by mutual consent they scatter to
glance at the "Times" and the "Sportsman" in the common-room, or even
to get in a bit of reading.

Luncheon often consists of bread and cheese and jam from the buttery,
with perhaps a half pint of bitter beer; but it may, like the
breakfast, come from the college kitchen. In any case it is very
light, for almost immediately after it everybody scatters to field and
track and river for the exercise that the English climate makes
necessary and the sport that the English temperament demands.

By four o'clock every one is back in college tubbed and dressed for
tea, which a man serves himself in his rooms to as many fellows as he
has been able to gather in on field or river. If he is eager to hear
of the games he has not been able to witness, he goes to the junior
common-room or to his club, where he is sure to find a dozen or so of
kindred spirits representing every sport of importance. In this way he
hears the minutest details of the games of the day from the players
themselves; and before nightfall--such is the influence of tea--those
bits of gossip which in America are known chiefly among members of a
team have ramified the college. Thus the function of the "bleachers"
on an American field is performed with a vengeance by the easy-chairs
before a common-room fire; and a man had better be kicked off the team
by an American captain than have his shortcomings served up with
common-room tea.

The two hours between tea and dinner may be, and usually are, spent in



At seven o'clock the college bell rings, and in two minutes the
fellows have thrown on their gowns and are seated at table, where the
scouts are in readiness to serve them. As a rule a man may sit
wherever he chooses; this is one of the admirable arrangements for
breaking up such cliques as inevitably form in a college. But in point
of fact a man usually ends by sitting in some certain quarter of the
hall, where from day to day he finds much the same set of fellows.
Thus all the advantages of friendly intercourse are attained without
any real exclusiveness. This may seem a small point; but an hour a day
becomes an item in four years, especially if it is the hour when men
are most disposed to be companionable.

The English College hall is a miniature of Memorial Hall at Harvard,
of which it is the prototype. It has the same sombrely beautiful roof,
the same richness of stained glass. It has also the same memorable and
impressive canvases, though the worthies they portray are likely to be
the princes and prelates of Holbein instead of the soldiers,
merchants, and divines of Copley and Gilbert Stuart. The tables are of
antique oak, with the shadow of centuries in its grain, and the
college plate bears the names and date of the Restoration. To an
American the mugs he drinks his beer from seem old enough, but the
Englishman finds them aggressively new. They are not, however, without
endearing associations, for the mugs that preceded them were last used
to drink a health to King Charles, and were then stamped into coin to
buy food and drink for his soldiers. The one or two colleges that, for
Puritan principles or thrift, or both, refused to give up their old
plate, are not overproud of showing it.

Across the end of the hall is a platform for high table, at which the
dons assemble as soon as the undergraduates are well seated. On Sunday
night they come out in full force, and from the time the first one
enters until the last is seated, the undergraduates rattle and bang
the tables, until it seems as if the glass must splinter. When, as
often happens, a distinguished graduate comes up,--the Speaker of the
Commons to Balliol, or the Prime Minister to Christ Church,--the
enthusiasm has usually to be stopped by a gesture from the master or
the dean.


The dons at high table, like the British peers, mingle judicial with
legislative functions. All disputes about sconces are referred to
them, and their decrees are absolute. A sconce is a penalty for a
breach of good manners at table, and is an institution that can be
traced far back into the Middle Ages. The offenses that are sconcible
may be summarized as punning, swearing, talking shop, and coming to
hall after high table is in session. Take, for instance, the case of a
certain oarsman who found the dinner forms rather too rigid after his
first day on sliding seats. By way of comforting himself, he remarked
that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Who is to decide
whether he is guilty of profanity? The master, of course, and his
assembled court of dons. The remark and the attendant circumstances
are written on the back of an order-slip by the senior scholar
present, and a scout is dispatched with it. Imagine, then, the master
presenting this question to the dons: Is it profanity to refer by
means of a quotation from Scripture to the cuticle one loses in a
college boat? Suppose the dons decree that it is. The culprit has the
alternative of paying a shilling to the college library, or ordering a
tun of bitter beer. If he decides for beer, a second alternative
confronts him: he may drink it down in one uninterrupted draft, or he
may kiss the cup and send it circling the table. If he tries to floor
the sconce and fails, he has to order more beer for the table; but if
he succeeds, the man who sconced him has to pay the shot and order a
second tun for the table. I never knew but one man to down a sconce.
He did it between soup and fish, and for the rest of the evening was
as drunk as ever was the Restoration lord who presented the silver
tankard to the college.

After hall the dons go to the senior common-room for the sweet and
port. At Trinity they have one room for the sweet and another for
port. The students, meanwhile, in certain of the colleges, may go for
dessert to the college store; that is to say, to a room beneath the
hall, where the fancy groceries of the college stock are displayed for
sale. There are oranges from Florida and Tangiers, dainty maiden blush
apples from New England, figs and dates from the Levant, prunes and
prunelles from Italy, candied apricots from France, and the superb
English hothouse grapes, more luscious than Silenus ever crushed
against his palate. There are sweets, cigarettes, and cigars. All are
spread upon the tables like a Venetian painting of abundance; but at
either end of the room stand two Oxford scouts, with account-books in
their hands. A fellow takes a Tangerine and, with a tap-room gesture,
tilts to the scout as if to say, "Here's looking toward you,
landlord;" or, "I drink to your bonny blue eyes." But he is not
confronted by a publican or barmaid; only a grave underling of the
college bursar, who silently records "Brown, orange, 2d.," and looks
up to catch the next item. Two other fellows are flipping for cigars,
and the second scout is gravely watching their faces to see which way
the coin has fallen, recording the outcome without a sign. Some one
asks, "How much are chocolate creams, Higgins?" "Three ha'pence for
four, sir," is the answer, and the student urges three neighbors to
share his penny'orth. The scout records, "Jones, c. c. 1½d."

The minuteness of this bookkeeping is characteristic. The weekly
battels (bills) always bear a charge of twopence for "salt, etc.;" and
once, when I had not ordered anything during an entire day, there was
an unspecified charge of a penny in the breakfast column. I asked the
butler what it meant. He looked at me horrified. "Why, sir, that is to
keep your name on the books." No penny, I suppose, ever filled an
office of greater responsibility, and I still can shudder at so narrow
an escape. I asked if such elaborate bookkeeping was not very
expensive. In America, I said, we should lump the charges and devote
the saving to hiring a better chef. He explained that it had always
been so managed; that the chef was thought very good, sir; and that by
itemizing charges the young gentlemen who wished were enabled to live
more cheaply. Obviously, when it costs a penny merely to keep your
name on the books, there is need to economize.

After a quarter of an hour in the store the fellows drop off by twos
and threes to read, or to take coffee in some one's room. With the
coffee a glass of port is usually taken. Almost all the fellows have
spirits and wines, which are sold by the college as freely as any
other commodity. If a man wishes a cup served in his room, he has only
to say so to his scout. If one waits long enough in the store, he is
almost certain to be asked to coffee and wine. The would-be host
circulates the room tapping the elect on the shoulder and speaking a
quiet word, as they select Bones men at Yale. If half a dozen men are
left in the store uninvited, one of them is apt to rise to the
occasion and invite the lot. It scarcely matters how unpopular a
fellow may be. The willingness to loaf is the touch of nature that
makes all men kin.

After coffee more men fall off to their books; but the faithful are
likely to spend the evening talking or playing cards--bridge, loo,
napp, and whist, with the German importation of skat and the American
importation of poker. In one college I knew, there was a nomadic
roulette wheel that wandered from room to room pursued by the shadow
of the dean, but seldom failed of an evening to gather its flock about



In the evening, when the season permits, the fellows sit out of doors
after dinner, smoking and playing bowls. There is no place in which
the spring comes more sweetly than in an Oxford garden. The high walls
are at once a trap for the first warm rays of the sun and a barrier
against the winds of March. The daffodils and crocuses spring up with
joy as the gardener bids; and the apple and cherry trees coddle
against the warm north walls, spreading out their early buds
gratefully to the mild English sun. For long, quiet hours after dinner
they flaunt their beauty to the fellows smoking, and breathe their
sweetness to the fellows playing bowls. "No man," exclaims the
American visitor, "could live four years in these gardens of delight
and not be made gentler and nobler!" Perhaps! though not altogether in
the way the visitor imagines. When the flush of summer is on, the
loiterers loll on the lawn full length; and as they watch the insects
crawl among the grass they make bets on them, just as the gravest and
most reverend seniors have been known to do in America.

In the windows overlooking the quadrangle are boxes of brilliant
flowers, above which the smoke of a pipe comes curling out. At Harvard
some fellows have geraniums in their windows, but only the very rich;
and when they began the custom an ancient graduate wrote one of those
communications to the "Crimson," saying that if men put unmanly boxes
of flowers in the window, how can they expect to beat Yale? Flower
boxes, no sand. At Oxford they manage things so that anybody may have
flower boxes; and their associations are by no means unmanly. This is
the way they do it. In the early summer a gardener's wagon from the
country draws up by the college gate, and the driver cries, "Flowers!
Flowers for a pair of old bags, sir." _Bags_ is of course the fitting
term for English trousers--which don't fit; and I should like to
inform that ancient graduate that the window boxes of Oxford suggest
the very badge of manhood.

As long as the English twilight lingers, the men will sit and talk and
sing to the mandolin; and I have heard of fellows sitting and talking
all night, not turning in until the porter appeared to take their
names at roll-call. On the eve of May day it is quite the custom to
sit out, for at dawn one may go to see the pretty ceremony of heralding
the May on Magdalen Tower. The Magdalen choir boys--the sweetest
songsters in all Oxford--mount to the top of that most beautiful of
Gothic towers, and, standing among the pinnacles,--pinnacles afire
with the spirituality of the Middle Ages, that warms all the senses
with purity and beauty,--those boys, I say, on that tower and among
those pinnacles, open their mouths and sing a Latin song to greet the
May. Meantime, the fellows who have come out to listen in the street
below make catcalls and blow fish horns. The song above is the
survival of a Romish, perhaps a Druidical, custom; the racket below is
the survival of a Puritan protest. That is Oxford in symbol! Its
dignity and mellowness are not so much a matter of flowering gardens
and crumbling walls as of the traditions of the centuries in which the
whole life of the place has deep sources; and the noblest of its
institutions are fringed with survivals that run riot in the


If a man intends to spend the evening out of college, he has to make a
dash before nine o'clock; for love or for money the porter may not let
an inmate out after nine. One man I knew was able to escape by guile.
He had a brother in Trinity whom he very much resembled, and
whenever he wanted to go out, he would tilt his mortarboard forward,
wrap his gown high about his neck, as it is usually worn of an
evening, and bidding the porter a polite good-night, say, "Charge me
to my brother, Hancock, if you please." The charge is the
inconsiderable sum of one penny, and is the penalty of having a late
guest. Having profited by my experience with the similar charge for
keeping my name on the college books, I never asked its why and
wherefore. Both are no doubt survivals of some mediæval custom, the
authority of which no college employee--or don, for the matter of
that--would question. Such matters interest the Oxford man quite as
little as the question how he comes by a tonsil or a vermiform
appendix. They are there, and he makes the best of them.

If a fellow leaves college for an evening, it is for a foregathering
at some other college, or to go to the theatre. As a rule he wears a
cloth cap. A "billycock" or "bowler," as the pot hat is called, is as
thoroughly frowned on now in English colleges as it was with us a
dozen years ago. As for the mortarboard and gown, undergraduate
opinion rather requires that they be left behind. This is largely, no
doubt, because they are required by law to be worn. So far as the
undergraduates are concerned, every operative statute of the
university, with the exception of those relating to matriculation and
graduation, refers to conduct in the streets after nightfall, and
almost without exception they are honored in the breach. This is out
of disregard for the Vice-Chancellor of the university, who is
familiarly called the Vice, because he serves as a warning to others
for the practice of virtue. The Vice makes his power felt in
characteristically dark and tortuous ways. His factors are two
proctors, college dons in daytime, but skulkers after nightfall, each
of whom has his bulldogs, that is, scouts employed literally to spy
upon the students. If these catch you without cap or gown, they cause
you to be proctorized or "progged," as it is called, which involves a
matter of five shillings or so. As a rule there is little danger of
progging, but my first term fell in evil days. For some reason or
other the chest of the university showed a deficit of sundry pounds,
shillings, and pence; and as it had long ceased to need or receive
regular bequests,--the finance of the institution being in the hands
of the colleges,--a crisis was at hand. A more serious problem had
doubtless never arisen since the great question was solved of keeping
undergraduates' names on the books. The expedient of the
Vice-Chancellor was to summon the proctors, and bid them charge their
bulldogs to prog all freshmen caught at night without cap and gown.
The deficit in the university chest was made up at five shillings a

One of the Vice-Chancellor's rules is that no undergraduate shall
enter an Oxford "pub." Now the only restaurant in town, Queen's, is
run in conjunction with a pub, and was once the favorite resort of all
who were bent on breaking the monotony of an English Sunday. The
Vice-Chancellor resolved to destroy this den of Sabbath-breaking, and
the undergraduates resolved no less firmly to defend their stronghold.
The result was a hand-to-hand fight with the bulldogs, which ended so
triumphantly for the undergraduates that a dozen or more of them were
sent down. In the articles of the peace that followed, it was
stipulated, I was told, that so long as the restaurant was closed
Sunday afternoons and nights, it should never suffer from the visit of
proctor or bulldog. As a result, Queen's is a great scene of
undergraduate foregatherings. The dinners are good enough and
reasonably cheap; and as most excellent champagne is to be had at
twelve shillings the bottle, the diners are not unlikely to get back
to college a trifle buffy, in the Oxford phrase.

By an interesting survival of mediæval custom, the Vice-Chancellor
has supreme power over the morals of the town, and any citizen who
transgresses his laws is visited with summary punishment. For a
tradesman or publican to assist in breaking university rules means
outlawry and ruin, and for certain offenses a citizen may be punished
by imprisonment. Over the Oxford theatre the Vice-Chancellor's power
is absolute. In my time he was much more solicitous that the
undergraduate be kept from knowledge of the omnipresent woman with a
past than that dramatic art should flourish, and forbade the town to
more than one excellent play of the modern school of comedy that had
been seen and discussed in London by the younger sisters of the
undergraduates. The woman with a present is virtually absent.

Time was when no Oxford play was quite successful unless the
undergraduates assisted at its first night, though in a way very
different from that which the term denotes in France. The assistance
was of the kind so generously rendered in New York and Boston on the
evening of an athletic contest. Even to-day, just for tradition's
sake, the undergraduates sometimes make a row. A lot of B. N. C. men,
as the clanny sons of Brazenose College call themselves, may insist
that an opera stop while the troupe listen to one of their own
excellent vocal performances; and I once saw a great sprinter, not
unknown to Yale men, rise from his seat, face the audience, and,
pointing with his thumb over his shoulder at the soubrette, announce
impressively, "Do you know, I rather _like_ that girl!" The show is
usually over just before eleven, and then occurs an amusing, if
unseemly, scramble to get back to college before the hour strikes. A
man who stays out after ten is fined threepence; after eleven the fine
is sixpence. When all is said, why shouldn't one sprint for

If you stay out of college after midnight, the dean makes a star
chamber offense of it, fines you a "quid" or two, and like as not
sends you down. This sounds a trifle worse than it is; for if you must
be away, your absence can usually be arranged for. If you find
yourself in the streets after twelve, you may rap on some friend's
bedroom window and tell him of your plight through the iron grating.
He will then spend the first half of the night in your bed and wash
his hands in your bowl. With such evidence as this to support him, the
scout is not apt, if sufficiently retained, to report a suspected
absence. I have even known fellows to make their arrangements in
advance and spend the night in town; but the ruse has its dangers,
and the penalty is to be sent down for good and all.

It is owing to such regulations as these that life in the English
college has the name of being cloistral. Just how cloistral it is in
spirit no one can know who has not taken part in a rag in the quad;
and this is impossible to an outsider, for at midnight all visitors
are required to leave, under a heavy penalty to their host.



Any jubilation is a rag; but the most interesting kind, though perhaps
the least frequent, takes the direction of what we call hazing. It is
seldom, however, as hazing has come to be with us, a wanton outbreak.
It is a deliberate expression of public opinion, and is carried on
sedately by the leading men of the college. The more I saw of it, the
more deeply I came to respect it as an institution.

In its simplest if rarest form it merely consists in smashing up a
man's room. The only affair of this kind which I saw took place in the
owner's absence; and when I animadverted on the fact, I was assured
that it would have turned out much worse for the man's feelings if he
had been present. He was a strapping big Rugbeian, who had come up
with a "reputter," or reputation, as a football player, and had
insisted on trying first off for the 'varsity fifteen. He had promptly
been given the hoof for being slow and lazy, and when he condescended
to try for the college fifteen, his services were speedily dispensed
with for the same reason. As he still carried his head high, it was
necessary to bring his shortcomings home to him in an unmistakable
manner. Brutal as I thought the proceeding, and shameful to grown men,
it did him good. He became a hard-working and lowly minded athlete,
and prospered. I am not prepared to say that the effect in this
particular instance did not justify the means.

A series of judicial raggings was much more edifying. Having pulled
their culprit out of bed after midnight, the upper classmen set him
upon his window-seat in pyjamas, and with great solemnity appointed a
judge, a counsel for the prosecution, and a counsel for the defense.
Of the charges against him only one or two struck home, and even these
were so mingled with the nonsense of the proceedings that their sting
was more or less blunted. The man had been given over to his books to
the neglect of his personal appearance. It was charged that in
pretending to know his subjunctives he was ministering to the vanity
of the dean, who had written a Latin grammar, and that by displaying
familiarity with Hegel he was boot-licking the master, who was a
recently imported Scotch philosopher. Then the vital question was
raised as to the culprit's personal habits. Heaven defend him now
from his legal defender! It was urged that as he was a student of
Literæ Humaniores, he might be excused from an acquaintance with the
scientific commodity known as H2O: one might ignore anything, in
fact, if only one were interested in Literæ Humaniores. By such means
as this the face of the college is kept bright and shining.

Here is a round robin, addressed to the best of fellows, a member of
the 'varsity shooting team and golf team. He was a Scotchman by birth
and by profession, and even his schoolboy days at Eton had not
divested him of a Highland gait.

"Whereas, Thomas Rankeillor, Gent, of the University of Oxford, has,
by means of his large feet, uncouth gait, and his unwieldy brogues,
wantonly and with malice destroyed, mutilated, and otherwise injured
the putting greens, tees, and golf course generally, the property of
the Oxford University Golf Club, whereof he is a member, and

"Whereas, 2, The said Thomas Rankeillor, etc., has by these large
feet, uncouth gait, and unwieldy brogues aforesaid, raised
embankments, groins, and other bunkers, hazards, and impediments,
formed unnecessary roads, farm roads, bridle paths, and other roads,
on the putting greens, tees, and golf course generally, aforesaid;
excavated sundry and diverse reservoirs, tanks, ponds, conduits,
sewers, channels, and other runnels, needlessly irrigating the putting
greens, tees, and golf course generally aforesaid, and

"Whereas, 3, The said Thomas Rankeillor, etc., has by those large
feet, uncouth gait, and unwieldy brogues aforesaid, caused landslips,
thus demolishing all natural hills, bunkers, and other excrescences,
and all artificial hillocks, mounds, hedges, and other hazards,

"Hereby we, the circumsigned, do request, petition, and otherwise
entreat the aforesaid

transform, and otherwise modify his uncouth gait, carriage, and
general mode of progression; to buy, purchase, or otherwise acquire
boots, shoes, and all other understandings of reasonable size, weight,
and material; and finally that he do cease from this time forward to
wear, use, or in any way carry the aforesaid brogues.

"Given forth this the 17th day of March, 1896."

At times rougher means are employed. At Brazenose there happened to be
two men by the same name, let us say, of Gaylor, one of whom had made
himself agreeable to the college, while the other had decidedly not.
One midnight a party of roisterers hauled the unpopular Gaylor out of
his study, pulled off his bags, and dragged him by the heels a lap or
two about the quad. This form of discipline has since been practiced
in other colleges, and is called debagging. The popular Gaylor was
ever afterward distinguished by the name of Asher, because, according
to the Book of Judges, Asher abode in his breaches.

Not dissimilar correctives may be employed, in extreme need, against
those mightiest in authority. A favorite device is to screw the oak of
an objectionable don. Mr. Andrew Lang, himself formerly a don at
Merton, reports a conversation--can it have been a personal
experience?--between a don standing inside a newly screwed oak and his
scout, who was tendering sympathy from the staircase. "What _am_ I to
do?" cried the don. "Mr. Muff, sir," suggested the scout, "when 'e's
screwed up, sir, _'e_ sends for the blacksmith." At Christ Church,
"The House," as it is familiarly called, much more direct and personal
methods have been employed. Not many years ago a censor (whose office
is that of the dean at other colleges) stirred up unusual ill-will
among his wards. They pulled him from his bed, dragged him into Tom
Quad,--Wolsey's Quad,--and threw him bodily among the venerable carp
of the Mercury Pond. Then they gathered about in a circle, and, when
he raised his head above the surface, thrust him under with their
walking-sticks. Something like forty of them were sent down for this,
and the censor went traveling for his health.

The memory of this episode was still green when the Duke of
Marlborough gave a coming of age ball at Blenheim Palace, and invited
over literally hundreds of his Oxford friends. In other colleges the
undergraduates were permitted to leave Oxford for the night, but at
the House the censor stipulated that they be within the gates, as
usual, by midnight. This would have meant a break-neck drive of eight
miles after about fifteen minutes at the ball, and was far more
exasperating to the young Britons than a straightforward refusal. That
evening the dons sported their oaks, and carefully bolted themselves
within. The night passed in so deep a silence that, for all they knew,
the ghost of Wolsey might have been stalking in his cherished
quadrangle, the glory of building which the Eighth Henry so
unfeelingly appropriated. As morning dawned, the common-room gossips
will tell you, the dons crawled furtively out of bed, and shot their
bolts to find whether they had need of the blacksmith. Not a screw had
been driven. The morning showed why. On the stately walls of Tom Quad
was painted "Damn the Dons!" and again in capital letters, "Damn the
Dons!" and a third time, in larger capitals, "Damn the Dons!" There
were other inscriptions, less fit to relate; and stretching along one
whole side of the quad, in huge characters, the finely antithetical
sentence: "God bless the Duke of Marlborough." The doors of the dean's
residence were smeared with red paint; and against a marble statue of
the late Dean Liddell, the Greek lexicographer, a bottle of green ink
had been smashed. Two hundred workmen, summoned from a neighboring
building, labored two days with rice-root brushes and fuller's earth,
but with so little effect that certain of the stones had to be
replaced in the walls, and endless scrubbings failed to overcome the
affinity between the ink and the literary Liddell. The marble statue
has been replaced by one of plaster.

Compared with the usual Oxford rag, the upsetting of Professor
Silliman's statue in the Yale campus by means of a lasso dwindles into
insignificance, and the painting of 'varsity stockings on John
Harvard, which so scandalized the undergraduates that they repaired
the damage by voluntary subscriptions, might be regarded as an act of
filial piety.

The more I learned of Oxford motives, the less anxious I was to
censure the system of ragging. In an article I wrote after only a few
months' stay, I spoke of it as boyish and undignified; and most
Americans, I feel sure, would likewise hold up the hand of public
horror. Yet I cannot be wholly thankful that we are not as they. To
the undergraduates, ragging is a survival of the excellently efficient
system of discipline in the public schools, where the older boys have
charge of the manners and morals of the younger; and historically,
like public school discipline, it is an inheritance from the
prehistoric past. In the Middle Ages it was apparently the custom to
hold the victim's nose literally to the grindstone. In the schools, to
be sure, the Sixth Form take their duties with great sobriety of
conscience--which is not altogether the case in college; but the
difference of spirit is perhaps justifiable. For a properly authorized
committee of big schoolboys to chastise a youngster who has
transgressed is not unnatural, and the system that provides for it has
proved successful for five centuries; but for men to adopt the same
attitude towards a fellow only a year or two their junior would be
preposterous. Horseplay is a necessary part of the game. The end in
both is the same: it is to bring each individual under the influence
of the traditions and standards of the institution of which he has
elected to be a part. Just as the system of breakfasting freshmen is
by no means as altruistic as it at first appears, the practice of
ragging is by no means as brutal. It is as if the college said: We
have admitted you and welcomed you, opening up the way to every avenue
of enjoyment and profit, and it is for our common good, sir, that you
be told of your shortcomings. The most diligent and distinguished
scholar is not unlikely to be most in need of a pointed lesson in
personal decorum; and the man who was not Asher may be thankful all
his life for the bad quarter of an hour that taught him the difference
between those who do and those who do not abide in their breaches.

With regard to the dons, a similar case might be made. Any one who
assumes an authority over grown men that is so nearly absolute should
be held to strict honesty and justice of dealing. So far as I could
learn, the Christ Church dons who were so severely dealt with were
both unjust and insincere, and I came to sympathize in some measure
with the undergraduates at the House, who were half humorously
inclined to regard the forty outcasts as martyrs.

This is not to argue that all American hazing is justifiable. In many
cases, especially of late years, it has been as silly and brutal as
the most puritanical moralists have declared. To steal the Louisburg
Cross from above the door of the Harvard Library was vandalism if you
wish--it was certainly a very stupid proceeding; and to celebrate a
really notable athletic victory by mutilating the pedestal of the
statue of John Harvard was not only stupid, but unworthy of a true
sportsman. How much better to make an end with painting 'varsity
stockings on the dear old boy's bronze legs, and leave the goody to
wash them off next day. What I wish to point out is that where there
is vigorous public spirit, it may be more efficiently expressed by
hazing than by a very nor'easter of Puritan morality.

A tradition of the late master of Balliol, Jowett, the great humanist,
would seem to show that he held some such opinion. It was his custom
in his declining years to walk after breakfast in the garden quad, and
whenever there were evidences of a rag, even to the extent of broken
windows, he would say cheerily to his _fidus Achates_, "Ah, Hardie,
the mind of the college is still vigorous; it has been expressing
itself." The best possible justification of the cloistral restrictions
of English college life is the facility with which the mind of the
college expresses itself. It is by no means fantastic to hint that the
decline of well-considered hazing in American colleges has come step
by step with the breaking up of the bonds of hospitality and
comradeship that used to make them well-organized social communities.

I have not come to this philosophy without deep experience. On one
occasion after Hall, I was flown with such insolence against college
restrictions that the _cheval-de-frise_ above the back gate seemed an
affront to a freeborn American. Though the porter's gate was still
open, it was imperatively necessary to scale that roller of iron
spikes. I was no sooner astride of it than a mob of townspeople
gathered without, and among them a palsied beggar, who bellowed out
that he would hextricate me for 'arf a crown, sir. I have seldom been
in a less gratifying position; and when I had clambered back into
college, I ruefully recalled the explanation my tutor had given me of
the iron spikes and bottle shards,--an explanation that at the time
had shaken my sides with laughter at British absurdity. My tutor had
said that if the fellows were allowed to rag each other in the open
streets and smash the townspeople's windows, the matter would be sure
to get into the papers and set the uninitiated parent against the
universities. In effect, the iron spikes and the stumps of bottles
are admirable, not so much because they keep the undergraduate in, as
because they keep the public out; and since the public includes all
people who wish to hextricate you for 'arf a crown, sir, my mind was
in a way to be reduced to that British state of illogic in which I
regarded only the effect.

As a last resort I carefully sounded the undergraduates as to whether
they would find use for greater liberty. They were not only content
with their lot, but would, I found, resent any loosening of the
restrictions. To give them the liberty of London at night or even of
Oxford, they argued, would tend to break up the college as a social
organization and thus to weaken it athletically; for at Oxford they
understand what we sometimes do not, that a successful cultivation of
sports goes hand in hand with good comradeship and mutual loyalty.

The only question remaining was of the actual moral results of the
semi-cloistral life. Such outbreaks of public opinion as I have
described are at the worst exceptional; they are the last resort of
outraged patience. The affair at Christ Church is unexampled in modern
times. Many a man of the better sort goes through his four years at
the university without either experiencing or witnessing undergraduate
violence. As for drinking, in spite of the fact that wine and spirits
are sold to undergraduates by the college at any and all times and in
any and all quantities, there seemed to be less excessive indulgence
than, for instance, at Harvard or at Yale. And the fact that what
there was took place for the most part within the college walls was in
many respects most fortunate. When fellows are turned loose for their
jubilations amid the vices of a city, as is usually the case with us,
the consequences to their general morality are sometimes the most
hideous. In an English college the men to whom immorality seems
inevitable--and such are to be found in all communities--have recourse
to London. But as their expeditions take place in daylight and cold
blood, and are, except at great risk, cut short when the last evening
train leaves Paddington shortly after dinner, it is not possible to
carry them off with that dazzling air of the man of the world that in
America lures so many silly freshmen into dissipations for which they
have no natural inclination. This little liberty is apparently of
great value. The cloistral vice, which seems inevitable in the English
public schools, is robbed of any shadow of palliation. A fellow who
continues it is thought puerile, if nothing worse. When it exists, it
is more likely to be the result of the intimate study of the ancient
classics, and is then even more looked down upon by the robust Briton
as effeminate or decadent. The subject, usually difficult or
impossible to investigate, happened to be on the surface at the time
of my residence because of the sensational trial of an Oxford graduate
in London. I was satisfied that the general body of undergraduates was
quite free of contamination. On the whole, I should say that the
restrictions of college life in England are far less dangerous than
the absolute freedom of life in an American college. Under our system
a few men profit greatly; they leave college experienced in the ways
of the world and at the same time thoroughly masters of themselves.
But it is a strong man--perhaps a blasphemous one--that would ask to
be led into temptation. The best system of college residence, I take
it, is that which develops thoroughly and spontaneously the normal
social instincts, and at the same time leaves men free moral agents.
In a rightly constituted fellow, in fact, the normal social life
constitutes the only real freedom. Those frowning college walls,
which we are disposed to regard as instruments of pedagogical tyranny,
are the means of nourishing the normal social life, and are thus in
effect the bulwarks of a freer system than is known to American



As a place for the general purposes of residence--eating and sleeping,
work and play--the English college is clearly quite as well organized
and equipped as any of the societies, clubs, or fraternities of an
American university. And whereas these are in their very nature small
and exclusive, the college is ample in size and is consciously and
effectively inclusive; the very fact of living in it insures a
well-ordered life and abundant opportunity for making friends. Yet
within this democratic college one finds all sorts of clubs and
societies, except those whose main purpose is residential, and these
are obviously not necessary.

By far the larger proportion of the clubs are formed to promote the
recognized undergraduate activities. No college is without athletic
and debating clubs, and there are musical and literary clubs almost
everywhere. Membership in all of them is little more than a formal
expression of the fact that a man desires to row, play cricket or
football, to debate, read Shakespeare, or play the fiddle. Yet they
are all conducted with a degree of social amenity that to an American
is as surprising as it is delightful.

The only distinctively social feature of the athletic clubs is the
wine, which is given to celebrate the close of a successful season. A
boating wine I remember was held in a severe and sombre old hall,
built before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. It was presided over by a
knot of the dons, ancient oarsmen, whose hearts were still in the
sport. They sat on the dais, like the family of a baron of the Middle
Ages, while the undergraduates sat about the tables like faithful
retainers. All the sportsmen of the college were invited, and everybody
made as much noise as he could, especially one of the boating men, who
went to the piano and banged out a song of triumph he had written,
while we all tumbled into the chorus. One of the fellows--I have
always taken it as a compliment to my presence--improvised a cheer
after the manner not unknown in America, which was given with much
friendly laughter. "Quite jolly, isn't it!" he remarked, with the
pride of authorship, "and almost as striking as your cry of 'Quack,
quack, quack!'" He had heard the Yale men give their adaptation of the
frog chorus at the athletic games between Oxford and Yale. About
midnight the college butler passed a loving cup of mulled wine of a
spicy smoothness to fill your veins with liquid joy. The recipe, I was
told, had been handed down by the butlers of the college since the
fourteenth century, being older than the hall in which we were
drinking. I have no doubt it was the cordial Chaucer calls Ypocras,
which seems to have brought joy to his warm old heart. After the
loving cup had gone about, the fellows cleared away the tables and
danced a stag. At this stage of the game the dons discreetly faded
away, and the wine resolved itself into a good-natured rag in the quad
that was ended only by daylight and the dean. I have seen many feasts
to celebrate athletic victory and the breaking of training, but none
as homelike and pleasant all through as the wine of an Oxford college.

The debating clubs have of necessity a distinct social element, for
where there is much talk, food and drink will always be found; and
with the social element there is apt to be some little exclusiveness.
In Balliol there are three debating clubs, and they are of course in
some sense rivals. Like the fraternities in an American college, they
look over the freshmen each year pretty closely; and the freshmen in
turn weigh the clubs. One freshman gave his verdict as follows: "The
fellows in A are dull, and bathe; the fellows in B are clever, and
sometimes bathe; the fellows in C are supposed to be clever." The
saying is not altogether a pleasant one, but will serve to indicate
the range of selection of members. In spite of social distinctions,
few fellows need be excluded who care to debate or are clubable in
spirit. As a system, the clubs are inclusive rather than exclusive.

Each club convenes at regular intervals, usually in the rooms of such
members as volunteer to be hosts. The hour of meeting is directly
after dinner, and while the men gather and settle down to the business
of the evening, coffee, port, and tobacco are provided out of the club
treasury. The debates are supposed to be carried on according to the
strictest parliamentary law, and the man who transgresses is subject
to a sharp rebuff. On one occasion, when the question of paying
members of Parliament was up, one speaker gravely argued that the
United States Senate was filled with politicians who were attracted by
the salary. Though I had already spoken, I got up to protest. The
chairman sat me down with the greatest severity--amid a broad and
general smile. I had neglected, I suppose, the parliamentary remark
that I arose to a point of fact. A member's redress in such instances
is to rag the president at the time when, according to custom,
interpellations are in order; and as a rule he avails himself of this
opportunity without mercy. On one occasion, a fellow got up in the
strictest parliamentary manner and asked the president--a famous shot
on the moors--whether it was true, as reported, that on the occasion
when he lately fell over a fence three wrens and a chipping sparrow
fell out of his game-bag. Such ragging as the chair administers and
receives may not aid greatly in rational debate, but it certainly has
its value as a preparation for the shifts and formalities of
parliamentary life. It is the first duty of a chairman, even the
president of the Oxford Union, to meet his ragging with cheerfulness
and a ready reply, and the first duty of all debaters is to be
interesting as well as convincing. In American college debating there
is little of such humor and none of such levity. The speakers are
drafted to sustain or to oppose a position, often without much
reference to their convictions, and are supposed to do so to the
uttermost. The training is no doubt a good one, for life is largely
partisan; but a man's success in the world depends almost as much on
his tact and good sense as on his strenuosity.

The Englishman's advantage in address is sometimes offset by
deficiencies of information. In a debate on Home Rule, one argument
ran somewhat as follows: It is asserted that the Irish are
irresponsible and lacking in the sense of administrative justice. To
refute this statement, I have only to point to America, to the great
metropolis of New York. There, as is well known, politics are
exclusively in the hands of Irish citizens, who, denied the right of
self-government--as the American colonies were denied similar freedom,
I need scarcely point out with what disastrous results to the
empire--the Irish immigrants in America, I say, are evincing their
true genius for statesmanship in their splendid organization known as
Tammany Hall.

In the better clubs, the debates are often well prepared and cogent. I
remember with particular gratitude a discussion as to whether the
English love of comfort was not an evidence of softening morals. The
discussion was opened with a paper by a young Scotchman of family and
fortune. More than any other man I met he had realized the sweetness
and pleasantness of Oxford, and all the delights of the senses and of
the mind that surround the fellows there; and the result of it was, as
it has so often been with such men, a craving for the extreme opposite
of all he had known, for moral earnestness and austerity. What right,
he questioned, had one to buy a book which, with ever so little more
effort, he might read in the Bodleian, while all the poor of England
are uneducated? And was it manly or in any way proper to spend so much
time and interest on things that are merely agreeable? The sense of
the meeting seemed to be that comfort in daily life is an evil only
when it becomes an end in itself, a self-indulgence; and that a
certain amount of it is necessary to fortify one for the most
strenuous and earnest work in the world. I think that debate made us
realize, as we never could have realized without it, to what serious
end England makes the ways of her young men so pleasant; yet the more
deeply I lived into the life of the university, the more deeply I
questioned, as the young Scotchman did, whether the line between the
amenities and the austerities was not somewhat laxly drawn.

The only purely social club, and therefore the only really exclusive
one, is the wine club. In Balliol there is a college rule against wine
clubs, which seems to be due partly to a feeling against social
exclusiveness, and partly perhaps to a distrust of purely convivial
gatherings. The purpose of a wine club was served quite as well,
however, by an organization that was ostensibly for debating. The
notices of meetings were usually a parody of the notices of the
meetings of genuine debating clubs, and the chief business of the
secretary was to concoct them in pleasing variety. For instance, it
would be _Resolved_, that this House looks with disfavor upon the
gradual introduction of a continental sabbath into England; or
_Resolved_, that this House looks with marked disfavor upon the
assumption that total abstinence is a form of intemperance. On the
evening when the House was defending total abstinence, our host's
furniture and tea-things suffered some damage, and as I was in
training, I found it advisable to leave early. As I slipped out, the
president of the club, a young nobleman, who was himself at the time
in training for the 'varsity trial eights, called me back and said
with marked sobriety that he had just thought of something. "You are
in for the mile run, aren't you? And in America you have always run
the half. Well, then, if you find the distance too long for you, just
don't mind at all about the first part of the race, but when you get
to the last part, run as you run a half mile. Do it in two minutes,
and you can't help beating 'em." He bade me good-night with a grave
and authoritative shake of the hand. If he recalled his happy thought
next morning, he was unable to avail himself of it, for I grieve to
say that in the 'varsity trial race, which came only a few days
later, he missed his blue by going badly to pieces on the finish.

The meeting at which this occurred was exceptional. For the most part
the fellows were moderate enough, and at times I suspected the wine
club of being dull. Certainly, we had no such fun as at the more
general jubilations--a rag in the quad or a boating wine. I doubt if
any one would have cared so very much to belong to the club if it had
not afforded the only badge of social distinction in college, and if
this had not happened to be an unusually pretty hatband. However
successful a wine club may be, moreover, it is of far less consequence
than similar clubs in America. In the first place, since there are one
or more of them in each of the twenty colleges, the number of men who
belong to them is far greater relatively, which of course means far
less exclusion. In the second place, and this is more important, the
fellows who do not belong are still able to enjoy the life which is
common to all members of the college. In general, the social walls of
Oxford are like the material ones. Far from being the means of undue
exclusion and of the suppression of public feeling, they are the live
tissues in which the vital functions of the place are performed.

Until well along in the nineteenth century, this life in the college
was about the only life; but of late years the university has begun to
feel its unity more strongly, and in social and intellectual life, as
in athletics, it has become for the first time since the Middle Ages
an organic whole.



The first formal organization of the life of the university was, as
its name records, the Oxford Union, an institution of peculiar
interest to Americans because our universities, though starting from a
point diametrically opposite, have arrived at a state of social
disorganization no less pronounced than that which the Union was
intended to remedy. Harvard, which has progressed farthest along the
path of social expansion and disintegration, has already made a
conscious effort to imitate the Union. The adamantine spirit of Yale
is shaken by the problems of the Sophomore societies; and it will not
be many decades before other universities will be in a similar
predicament. It will not be amiss, therefore, to consider what the
Oxford Union has been and is. If Americans have not clearly understood
it even when attempting to imitate it, one should at least remember
that it would not be easy for an Oxford man to explain it thoroughly.

The Union was founded in 1823, and was primarily for debating. In
fact, it was the only university debating society. Its members were
carefully selected for their ability in discoursing on the questions
of the day. In its debates Gladstone, Lord Rosebery, the Marquis of
Salisbury, and countless other English statesmen of recent times got
their first parliamentary training. Its present fame in England is
largely based upon this fact; but its character has been
metamorphosed. Early in its history it developed social features; and
though it was still exclusive in membership, little by little men of
all kinds were taken in. At this stage of its development, the Union
was not unlike those vast political clubs in London in which any and
all principles are subordinated to the kitchen and the wine cellar.
The debates, though still of first-rate quality, became more and more
an incident; the club was chiefly remarkable as the epitome of all the
best elements of Oxford life. The library was filled with men reading
or working at special hobbies; the reading and smoking rooms were
crowded; the lawn was daily thronged with undergraduates gossiping
over a cup of tea; the telegram board, the shrine of embryo
politicians watching for the results from a general election, was apt
to be profaned by sporting men scanning it for the winners of the
Derby or the Ascot. In a word, the Union held the elect of Oxford,
intellectual, social, and sporting. This is the Union remembered by
the older graduates, and except for a single feature, namely, that it
was still exclusive, this is the Union that has inspired the
projectors of the Harvard Union.

The Oxford man of the later day knows all too well that this Union is
no more. Some years ago, responding to a democratic impulse that has
been very strong of late at Oxford, the Union threw down all barriers;
virtually any man nowadays may join it, and its members number well
beyond a thousand. The result is not a social millennium. The very
feature of inclusiveness that is to be most prominent in the Union at
Harvard destroyed the character of the Oxford Union as a
representative body. To the casual observer it still looks much as it
did a dozen years ago; but its glory has departed. In any real sense
of the word it is a Union no more. The men who used to give it
character are to be found in smaller clubs, very much like the clubs
of an American university.

The small university debating clubs are the Russell, the Palmerston,
the Canning, and the Chatham, each of which stands for some special
stripe of political thought, and each of which has a special color
which--sure sign of the pride of exclusiveness--it wears in hatbands.
The clubs meet periodically--often weekly--in the rooms of members.
Sometimes a paper is read which is followed by an informal discussion;
but the usual exercise is a formal debate. Time was when the best
debates came off at the Union, and writers of leading articles in
London papers even now look to it as a political weather-vane. The
debates there are still earnest and sometimes brilliant, and to have
presided over them is a distinction of value in after life; but as far
as I could gather, their prestige is falling before the smaller
debating clubs. The main interest at the Union appeared to centre in
the interpellation of the president, which is carried on much as in
the House of Commons, though with this difference, that, following the
immemorial custom, it is turned into ragging. When this is over, the
major part of the audience clears out to the smoking and reading
rooms. In the smaller clubs the exercises are not only serious,
but--in spite of the preliminary ragging, which no function at Oxford
may flourish without--they are taken seriously. The clubs really
include the best forensic ability of Oxford. At the end of each year
they give dinners, at which new and old members gather, while some
prominent politician from Westminster holds forth on the question of
the hour. In a word, these clubs, collectively, are what the Union
once was--the training school of British statesmen.

The university social clubs are of a newness that shocks even an
American; but it would not be quite just to account for the fact by
regarding them as mere offshoots, like the debating clubs, of a parent
Union. Until the nineteenth century, there really was no university at
Oxford, at least in modern times. The colleges were quite independent
of one another socially and in athletics, and each of them provided
all the necessary instruction for its members. The social clubs which
now admit members from the university at large began life as wine
clubs of separate colleges, and even to-day the influence of the
parent college is apt to predominate. The noteworthy fact is that in
proportion as the social prestige of the Union has declined, these
college wine clubs, like the small debating clubs, have gained
character and prestige.

The oldest of these is the Bullingdon, which is not quite as old, I
gathered, as the Institute of 1770 at Harvard, and, considered as a
university organization, it is of course much younger. It was
originally the Christ Church wine club, and to-day it is dominated by
the sporting element of Christ Church, which is the most aristocratic
of Oxford colleges. In former years, it is said, the club had kennels
at Bullingdon, and held periodic hunts there; and it is still largely
composed of hunting men. To-day it justifies its name mainly by having
an annual dinner beneath the heavy rafters of a mediæval barn at
Bullingdon. On these, as on other state occasions, the members wear a
distinctive costume--no doubt a tradition from the time when men
generally wore colors--which consists of a blue evening coat with
white facings and brass buttons, a canary waistcoat, and a blue tie.
This uniform is no doubt found in more aristocratic wardrobes than any
other Oxford trophy. The influence of the Bullingdon is indirectly to
discourage athletics, which it regards as unaristocratic and
incompatible with conviviality; so that Christ Church, though the
largest of Oxford colleges and one of the wealthiest, is of secondary
importance in sports. For this reason the Bullingdon has suffered a
partial eclipse, for the middle-class spirit which is invading Oxford
has given athletic sports the precedence over hunting, while expensive
living and mere social exclusiveness are less the vogue. By a curious
analogy, one of the oldest and most exclusive of the clubs at Harvard
is similarly out of sympathy with the athletic spirit.

Another old and prominent college wine club that has come to elect
members from without is the Phoenix of Brazenose, the uniform of
which is perhaps more beautiful than the Bullingdon uniform,
consisting of a peculiar dark wine-colored coat, brass buttons, and a
light buff waistcoat. In general, the college wine clubs are more or
less taking on a university character. The Annandale Club of Balliol,
for instance, has frequent guests from outside, and often elects them
to membership out of compliment. At the formal wines the members have
the privilege of inviting outside guests.

The most popular and representative Oxford club is Vincent's, which
owes its prominence to the fact that it expresses the enthusiasm of
modern Oxford for athletics. It was founded only a third of a century
ago, but it must be remembered that inter-varsity boat races did not
become usual until 1839, nor a fixture until 1856; that the first
inter-varsity athletic meeting came in 1864, and the first
inter-varsity football game as late as 1873. Vincent's was originally
composed largely of men from University College, which was at that
time a leader in sports; but later it elected many men from Brazenose,
then in the ascendant. When Brazenose became more prominent in
athletics, it gained a controlling influence in Vincent's; and when
it declined, as it lately did, the leadership passed on. The name
Vincent's came from a printer's shop, above which the club had its
rooms. Any second year man is eligible; in fact, until a few years
ago, freshmen were often taken in. The limit of members is ninety, but
as the club is always a dozen or so short of this, no good fellow is
excluded for lack of a place. When a man is proposed, his name is
written in a book, in which space is left for friends in the club to
write their names in approval. After this, elections are in the hands
of a committee. Like all Oxford clubs, Vincent's will always, I
suppose, lean towards men of some special college or group of
colleges; yet it is careful to elect all clubable blues, and, in point
of fact, is representative of the university at large, as, for
instance, the Hasty Pudding Club at Harvard, or the senior societies
at Yale, to which, on the whole, it most nearly corresponds.

The most democratic, as well as one of the most recent of the more
purely social clubs, is the Gridiron. It is a dining rather than a
social club, and one may invite to his board as many guests who are
not members as he chooses. Any good fellow is eligible, though here,
again, a man in one of the less known colleges might fail to get in
from lack of acquaintances on the election committee.

The Union has long lost prestige before this development of small
exclusive clubs. Politically, socially, and even in that most
essential department, the kitchen, it holds a second place. If you ask
men of the kind that used to give it its character why they never go
there, they will tell you, in the most considerate phrase, how the
pressure of other undergraduate affairs is so great that they have not
yet found time; and this is quite true. They may add that next year
they intend to make the time, for they believe that one should know
all kinds of men at Oxford; and they are quite sincere. But next year
they are more preoccupied than ever. If Oxford is united socially, it
is not because of the Oxford Union.

In addition to the clubs which are mainly social, there is the usual
variety of special organizations. These, as a rule, are of recent
growth. The Musical Union has frequent meetings for practice, and
gives at least one concert a year. The Dramatic Society, the O.U.D.S.,
as it is popularly called, will be seen to be a very portentous
organization. In America, college men give comic operas and
burlesques, usually writing both the book and the music themselves;
and when they do, there is apt to be a Donnybrook Fair for vulnerable
heads in the faculty. So well is musical nonsense adapted to the
calibre of the undergraduate mind that college plays sometimes find
their way to the professional stage, and to no small general favor. At
Oxford the Vice-Chancellor, who is a law to himself and to the
university, has decreed that there shall be no fun and nonsense. If
the absurdities of donnishness are all too fair a mark for the
undergraduate wit, the Vice-Chancellor has found a very serviceable
scapegoat. He permits the undergraduates to present the plays of
Shakespeare. Surely Shakespeare can stand the racket. The aim of the
O.U.D.S. seems to be to get as many blues as possible into the cast
of a Shakespearean production, with the idea, perhaps, of giving
Oxford its full money's worth. I remember well the sensation made by
the most famous of all university athletes,--a "quadruple blue," who
played on four university teams, was captain of three of them, and
held one world's record. The play was "The Merchant of Venice," and
the athlete in question was the swarthy Prince of Morocco. Upon
opening the golden casket his powers of elocution rose to unexpected
heights. Fellows went again and again to hear him cry, "O hell! what
have we here?" In one way, however, the performances of the O.U.D.S.
are really noteworthy. Not even the crudest acting can entirely
disguise the influences of birth and environment; and few
Shakespearean actors have as fine a natural carriage as those
companies of trained athletes. For the first time, perhaps, on any
stage, the ancient Roman honor more or less appeared in Antonio, and
there were really two gentlemen in Verona. For this reason--or, what
is more likely, merely because the plays are given by Oxford men--the
leading dramatic critics of London run up every year for the O.U.D.S.
performance, and talk learnedly about it in their dignified
periodicals. Both the musical and the dramatic societies have an
increasing social element, and the dramatic society has a house of its

Of at least one association I happened upon, I know of no American
parallel. One Sunday afternoon, a lot of fellows who had been lunching
each other in academic peace were routed from college by a Salvation
Army gathering that was sending up the discordant notes of puritanical
piety just outside the walls. In the street near by we came upon a
quiet party of undergraduates in cap and gown. They were standing in a
circle, at the foot of the Martyr's Memorial, and were alternately
singing hymns and exhorting the townspeople who gathered about. Their
faces were earnest and simple, their attitude erect. If they were
conscious of doing an unusual thing, they did not show it. I don't
remember that they moved any of us to repent the pleasantness of our
ways, but I know that they filled the most careless of us with a very
definite admiration. One of the fellows said that he thought them
mighty plucky, and that they had the stuff at least out of which
sportsmen are made. The phrase is peculiarly British, but in the
undergraduate vernacular there is no higher epithet of praise. In
America there are slumming societies and total abstinence leagues; but
I never knew any body of men who had the courage to stand up in the
highway and preach their gospel to passers-by.



The distinctive feature of the social organization of Oxford life is
said to be the colleges. Fifty years ago the remark held good, but
to-day it requires an extension. The distinctive feature is the
duality of the social organization: a man who enters fully into
undergraduate affairs takes part both in the life of the college and
in the life of the university. The life of the college, in so far as
it is wholesome, is open to all newcomers; it is so organized as to
exert powerfully upon them the force of its best influences and
traditions, and is thus in the highest degree inclusive. The life of
the university, in so far as it is vigorous, is in the main open only
to those who bring to it special gifts and abilities, and is therefore
necessarily exclusive. In college, one freely enjoys all that is
fundamental in the life of a young man--a pleasant place to sleep in
and to dine in, pleasant fellows with whom to work and to play. In the
university, one finds scope for his special capacities in conviviality
or in things of the mind. More than any other institution, the
English university thus mirrors the conditions of social life in the
world at large, in which one is primarily a member of his family, and
takes part in the life of the outside community in proportion as his
abilities lead him.

The happiest thing about all this is that it affords the freest
possible interplay of social forces. As soon as a newcomer gains
distinction, as he does at once if he has the capacity, he is noticed
by the leading men of the college, and is thus in a way to be taken
into the life of the university. From the college breakfast it is only
a step to the Gridiron, from the college eight to Vincent's, and from
the debating society to the Chatham or the Canning. These, like all
undergraduate clubs, are in yearly need of new members, and the older
men in college are only too glad to urge the just claims of the
younger for good-fellowship sake, and for the general credit of their

Even when a fellow has received all the university has to offer, he is
still amenable to the duality of Oxford life. In American
institutions, in proportion as a man is happily clubbed, he is by the
very nature of the social organization withdrawn from his college
mates; but at Oxford he still dines in Hall, holds forth at the
college debating society, plays on the college teams, and, until his
final year, he lives within the college walls. First, last, and always
his general life is bound up with that of the college.

The prominent men thus become a medium by which every undergraduate is
brought in touch with the life of the university. The news of the
athletic world is reported at Vincent's over afternoon tea; and at
dinner time the men who have discussed it there relate it to their
mates in the halls of a dozen colleges. A celebrated debater brings
the news of the Union or of the smaller clubs; and whatever a man's
affiliations in the university, he can scarcely help bringing the
report of them back with him. In an incredibly short time all
undergraduate news, and the judgments upon it of those best qualified
to judge, ramify the college; and men who seldom stir beyond its walls
are brought closely in touch with the innermost spirit of the
university life. Here, again, those forbidding walls make possible a
freedom of social interplay which is unknown in America. The real
union of Oxford, social, athletic, and intellectual, is quite apart
from the so-called Oxford Union; it results from the nice adjustment
between the general residential life of the colleges and the
specialized activities of the university.

The immediate effect of this union is the humble one of making the
present life of the undergraduate convenient and enjoyable; but its
ultimate effect is a matter of no little importance. Every
undergraduate, in proportion to his susceptibilities and capacities,
comes under the influence of the social and intellectual traditions of
Oxford, which are the traditions of centuries of the best English life.
In Canada and Australia, South Africa and India, you will find the old
Oxonian wearing the hatband, perhaps faded and weather-stained, that
at Oxford denoted the thing he was most proud to stand for; and
wherever you find him, you will find also the manners and standards of
the university, which are quite as definite a part of him, though
perhaps less conspicuous. Without a large body of men animated by such
traditions, it is no exaggeration to say that it would not have been
possible to build up the British empire. If the people of the United
States are to bear creditably the responsibilities to civilization
that have lately fallen to them, or have been assumed, there is urgent
need for institutions that shall similarly impose upon our young men
the best traditions and influences of American life.





The dual development of college and university, with all its organic
coördinations, exists also in the sports of Oxford. The root and trunk
of the athletic spirit lies in the colleges, though its highest
development is found in university teams. To an American, this
athletic life of the college will be found of especial interest, for
it is the basis of the peculiar wholesomeness and moderation of Oxford
sports. If the English take their pleasures sadly, as they have been
charged with doing ever since Froissart hit upon the happy phrase,
they are not so black a pot but that they are able to call us blacker;
in the light of international contests, they have marveled at the
intensity with which our sportsmen pursue the main chance. The
difference here has a far deeper interest than the critic of boating
or track athletics often realizes. Like the songs of a nation, its
sports have a definite relation to its welfare: one is tempted to say,
let me rule the games of my countrymen and who will may frame their
laws. At least, I hope to be pardoned if I speak with some
particularity of the out-of-door life, and neglect the lofty theme of
inter-varsity contests for the humbler pursuits of the common or
garden undergraduate.

The origin of the boating spirit is no doubt what the Oxonian calls
slacking, for one has to learn to paddle in a boat before he can row
to advantage; and in point of fact the bumping races are supposed to
have originated among parties of slackers returning at evening from up
the river. If I were to try to define what a slacker is, I suppose you
could answer that all Oxford men are slackers; but there are depths
beneath depths of _far niente_. The true slacker avoids the worry and
excitement of breakfast parties and three-day cricket matches, and
conserves his energies by floating and smoking for hours at a time in
his favorite craft on the Isis and the Cherwell--or "Char," as the
university insists on calling it. He is a day-dreamer of day-dreamers;
and despised as he is by the more strenuous Oxford men, who yet stand
in fear of the fascination of his vices, he is as restful a figure to
an American as a negro basking on a cotton-wharf, and as appealing as
a beggar steeped in Italian sunlight. Merely to think of his
uninterrupted calm and his insatiable appetite for doing nothing is a
rest to occidental nerves; and though one may never be a roustabout
and loaf on a cotton-wharf, one may at any time go to Oxford and play
through a summer's day at slacking.

Before you come out, you must make the acquaintance of the O.U.H.S.--that
is, the University Humane Society. In the winter, when there is
skating, the Humane Society man stands by the danger spot with a
life-buoy and a rope; and in the summer, when the streams swarm with
pleasure-craft, he wanders everywhere, pulling slackers out of the
Isis and the Char. In view of the fact that, metaphorically speaking
at least, you can shake hands with your neighbors across either of
these streams, the Humane Society man is not without his humors.

You may get yourself a tub or a working-boat or a wherry, a rob-roy or
a dinghy, for every craft that floats is known on the Thames; but the
favorite craft are the Canadian canoe and the punt. The canoe you will
be familiar with, but your ideas of a punt are probably derived from a
farm-built craft you have poled about American duck-marshes--which
bears about the same relationship to this slender, half-decked cedar
beauty that a canal-boat bears to a racing-shell.

During your first perilous lessons in punting, you will probably be
in apprehension of ducking your mentor, who is lounging among the
cushions in the bow. But you cannot upset the punt any more than you
can discompose the Englishman; the punt simply upsets you without
seeming to be aware of it. And when you crawl dripping up the bank,
consoled only by the fact that the Humane Society man was not at hand
with his boat-hook to pull you out by the seat of the trousers, your
mentor will gravely explain how you made your mistake. Instead of
bracing your feet firmly on the bottom and pushing with the pole, you
were leaning on the pole and pushing with your feet. When the pole
stuck in the clay bottom, of course it pulled you out of the boat.

Steering is a matter of long practice. When you want to throw the bow
to the left, you have only to pry the stern over to the right as you
are pulling the pole out of the water. To throw the bow to the right,
ground the pole a foot or so wide of the boat, and then lean over and
pull the boat up to it. That is not so easy, but you will learn the
wrist motion in time. When all this comes like second nature, you will
feel that you have become a part of the punt, or rather that the punt
has taken life and become a part of you.

  [Illustration: A RACING PUNT AND PUNTER]

A particular beauty of punting is that, more than any other sport,
it brings you into personal contact, so to speak, with the landscape.
In a few days you will know every inch of the bottom of the Char, some
of it perhaps by more intimate experience than you desire. Over there,
on the outer curve of the bend, the longest pole will not touch
bottom. Fight shy of that place. Just beyond here, in the narrows, the
water is so shallow that you can get the whole length of your body
into every sweep. As for the shrubbery on the bank, you will soon
learn these hawthorns, if only to avoid barging into them. And the
Magdalen chestnut, which spreads its shade so beautifully above the
water just beyond, becomes quite familiar when its low-reaching
branches have once caught the top of your pole and torn it from your

The slackers you see tied up to the bank on both sides of the Char are
always here after luncheon. An hour later their craft will be as thick
as money-bugs on the water, and the joys of the slackers will be at
height. You won't, as a rule, detect happiness in their faces, but it
is always obvious in the name of the craft. One man calls his canoe
"Vix Satis," which is the mark the university examining board uses to
signify that a man's examination paper is a failure. Another has
"P.T.O." on his bows--the "Please Turn Over" which an Englishman places
at the bottom of a card where we say "Over." Still another calls his
canoe the "Non-conformist Conscience"--which, as you are expected to
remark, is very easily upset. All this makes the slacker even happier
than if he were so un-English as to smile his pleasure, for he has a
joke ready-made on his bow, where there is no risk of any one's not
seeing it.

These pollard willows that line the bank are not expected to delight
your eye at first sight, but as you see them day after day, they grow
on you like the beauty of the bull-terrier pup that looks at you over
the gunwale of the boat tied beneath them. They have been topped to
make their roots strike deeper and wider into the soil, so that when
the freshets come in the spring the banks will stand firm. The idea
came some centuries ago from Holland, but has been so thoroughly
Englished that the university, and, indeed, all England, would
scarcely be itself without its pollard willows. And though the trees
are not in themselves graceful, they make a large part of the beauty
of the river scenery. The sun is never so golden as up there among
their quivering leaves, and no shadow is so deep as that in the water
at their feet.

The bar of foam ahead of us is the overflow from the lasher--that is
to say, from the still water above the weir. The word "lasher" is
obsolete almost everywhere else in England, and even to the Oxford
mind it describes the lashing overflow rather than the _lache_ or
_slack_ water above. When we "shoot the lasher," as the phrase goes,
you will get a hint as to why the obsolete term still clings to this
weir. Those fellows beyond who have tied up three deep to the bank are
waiting to see us get ducked; but it is just as easy to shoot the
lasher as to upset in it; and with that swarm of slackers watching, it
makes a difference which you do. We have only to get up a fair pace
and run into it on a diagonal. The lashing torrent will catch our
bows, but we shall be half over before it sweeps them quite around;
and then it will catch the stern in turn, and whirl the bow back into
the proper direction. A sudden lurching of the bow, the roaring of a
torrent beneath, a dash of spray--and we are in still water again.

In order to reach the inn at Marston by four we must pole on. If we
were true slackers, to be sure, we should have brought a spirit lamp
and a basket of tea, and tied up in the first convenient nook on the
bank; but these are heights of slacking to which the novice cannot
aspire. Just beyond here we shall have to give the Thames Conservancy
man threepence to roll the punt around a weir. If there were ladies
with us, we should have to let them walk a quarter of a mile on shore,
for just above is Parson's Pleasure, the university bathing-hole; and
these men, who would not let the Yale and the Cornell athletes appear
in sleeveless "zephyrs," plunge into a frequented waterway without any
zephyrs at all.

Above Parson's Pleasure we emerge from Mesopotamia--as the pretty
river bottom is called in which the Char divides into several
channels--and come in sight of the 'varsity cricket-ground. There is a
game on against a picked eleven from the Marylebone Club; and every
few minutes, if we waited, we might see the statuesque figures in
white flannel suddenly dash after a ball or trot back and forth
between the wickets. Few slackers have had energy to get beyond this
point; and as we pole among the meadows, the cuckoo's homely voice
emphasizes the solitude, singing the same two notes it sang to
Shakespeare--and to Chaucer before him, for the matter of that.

At Marston, having ordered tea of the red-cheeked housewife, it is
well to ask the innkeeper for credit. He is a Parisian, whose
sociological principles, it is said, were the cause of his venturing
across the Channel--in Paris, a man will even go as far as that for
his opinions; and while his cheery English spouse, attended by troops
of his red-cheeked boys, brings out the thin buttered bread, he will
revile you. What business have you to ask an honest yeoman to lend you
money? If he were to go down to Oxford and ask the first gentleman he
met to lend him half a crown to feed his starving family, should he
get it? Should he? And what right have you to come to his house--his
_home_!--and demand food at his board? You are a gentleman; but what
is a gentleman? A gentleman is the dregs of the idleness of centuries!
Then he will declaim about his plans for the renovation of the world.
All this time his well-fed wife has been pouring out the tea and
slicing the Genoa cake; and now, with a smile of reassurance, she
takes our names and college. But the innkeeper's eloquence does not
flag, and it will not until you tell him with decision that you have
had enough. This you are loath to do, for he has furnished you with a
new ideal of happiness. The cotton-wharf negro sometimes wants
leisure, the repose of the cricketer is at times rudely broken in
upon, and even the slacker is liable to his ducking; but to stand up
boldly against the evils of the world and to picture the new Utopia
while your wife averts all practical consequences, this is _otium cum

This journey up the Char, though all-popular with the undergraduate,
is not the only one worth taking. We might have gone down the Isis to
the Iffley Mill and the sleepy little Norman church near by. This
would have taken us through the thick of the college crews training
for the summer eights. But the rules of the river are so complicated
that no man on earth who has not given them long hours of study can
understand them; and if an eight ran into us, we should be fined a
quid or two--one quid for a college eight, and two for the 'varsity.
Below Iffley, indeed, there is as much clear punting as you could
desire, and here you are in the full current of Thames pleasure-boats.
The towing-path skirts the water, so that when you are tired of
punting you can get out and tow your craft. The stretch of river here
I hold memorable as the scene of the only bit of dalliance I ever
witnessed in this most sentimental of environments. A young man and a
young woman had tied the painter of their punt to the middle of a
paddle, and shoulder by shoulder were loitering along the river-side.
Twenty yards behind, three other men and a baffled chaperon were
steering the punt clear of the bank, and boring one another.

  [Illustration: IFFLEY LOCK AND MILL]

The best trip on the Isis is into the backwaters. These are a mesh of
tiny streams that break free from the main current above Oxford and
lose themselves in the broad bottom-lands. The islands they form were
chosen in the Dark Ages as the sites of religious houses; for not only
was the land fertile, but the network of deep, if tiny, streams
afforded defense from the heathen, while the main channel of the
Thames afforded communication with the Christian world. The ruins of
these, or of subsequent monasteries, remain to-day brooding over a few
Tudor cottages and hamlets, with a mill and a bakery and an inn or two
to sustain life in the occasional undergraduate who lazes by in his

The most interesting of these ruins is Wytham. The phrase is exact,
for the entire hamlet was built from a venerable religious house
shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries. You can imagine the
size of Wytham. If you don't watch very closely as you paddle up the
sedgy backwater, you will miss it entirely, and that would be a pity,
for its rude masonry, thatched roofs, and rustic garden fronts seem
instinct with the atmosphere of Tudor England. The very tea roses,
nodding languidly over the garden wall, smell, or seem to smell, as
subtly sweet as if they had been pressed for ages between the leaves
of a mediæval romance.

I am not quite sure that they do, though, for these ancient hamlets
have strange ways of pulling the wool--a true golden fleece, to be
sure--over American eyes. Once at twilight I heard a knot of strolling
country men and women crooning a tune which was so strangely familiar
that I immediately set it down as a village version of one of the
noble melodies of that golden age when English feeling found its
natural vent in song. As it drew nearer, I suddenly recognized it. It
was a far-away version of "Mammy's Little Alabama Coon."

I have still faith, though, in a certain mediæval barmaid I chanced
upon in the backwaters. The circumstances of our meeting were
peculiar. As I drifted along one Sunday, perched on an after-thwart of
the canoe, the current swept me toward a willow that leaned over the
water, and I put up my hand to fend off. I chanced to be laughing to
myself at the time at the thought of a fellow who, only the day before
at the lasher, had tried to do the same thing. The lasher was forcing
his punt against the willow on the opposite bank, whereupon, to my
heart's delight, he lazily tried to fend it off with his arms. The
punt refused to be fended off, and he stooped with an amusing effect
of deliberation plump into the water. He was hauled out by the O.U.H.S.
man hard by.

I was interrupted in these pleasant reminiscences by the roaring of
waters about my ears, mingled with a boorish guffaw from one of the
fellows behind me.... But I started to tell about the mediæval
barmaid. Making my way to a bakehouse up the stream, I hung my coat
and trousers before the fire on a long baker's pole, and put my shoes
inside the oven on a dough tray. My companion of the horse-laugh hung
my shirt on a blossoming almond-tree, and then left for the lunch
hamper. He had scarcely gone when I heard the rustle of skirts at the
door. "What do you want?" I cried. "I want my dinner," was the
friendly reply. It was the barmaid of a neighboring public house, in
her Sunday frock.

When she saw me she smiled, but maintained a dignity of port that--I
insist upon it--was instinct with the simple and primitive modesty of
the Middle Ages. It was the modesty of the people before whom Adam in
the Chester mystery play was required by the stage directions to
"stand nakyd and not be ashamyd." My barmaid advised me to take off my
stockings and hang them up before the fire. The advice I admit came as
a shock, but on reflection I saw that it was capital. For one happy
moment I lived in the broad, wholesome atmosphere of the Middle Ages.
It was like a breath from Chaucer's England.

Then the baker rushed into the room, in a cutaway Sunday coat of the
latest style. He had baked for an Oxford college so long that he had
become infected with the squeamish leaven of the nineteenth century.
He called the girl a huzzy, and, taking her by the shoulder, hustled
her into the garden, and then passed her plum pudding out to her
gingerly through a crack in the door. He covered me with apologies and
a bath-robe; but I did not mind either, for as the barmaid ran back to
the inn she was laughing what I still insist upon believing to have
been the simple joyous laughter of the Middle Ages.

But we must hurry to get back to college in time for dinner. And even
at that we shall have to stop here at Magdalen bridge and give a
street boy sixpence to take the punt the rest of the way. We land at
the foot of the tower just as the late afternoon sun is gilding its
exquisite pinnacles, and the chimes in its belfry are playing the
prelude to the hour of seven. It is a melody worth all the Char and
the Isis, with all their weirs and their willows. Other mediæval
chimes fill you with a delicious sorrow for the past; but when they
cease, and the great bell tolls out the hour, you think only of the
death of time. It leaves you sadly beneath the tower, in the musty
cellarage. But the melody that the Magdalen chimes utter is full of
the fervid faith, the aspirations, of our fathers. It lifts you among
the gilded pinnacles, or perhaps ever so little above them.



To the true slacker, the college barges that line the Isis are an
object of aversion, for into them sooner or later every fellow who
loves the water finds his way, and then there is an end of slacking.
Each of the barges is a grammar school of oarsmanship, where all
available men are taught everything, from what thickness of leather to
wear on the heels of their boating-shoes to the rhythm in rowing by
which alone an eight can realize its full speed; and from the barges
issues a navy of boats and boating-men more than ten times as large as
that of an American university. When Mr. R. C. Lehmann arrived at
Cambridge to coach the Harvard crew, he was lost in admiration of the
Charles River and the Back Bay, and in amazement at the absence of
boats on them. At either Yale or Harvard it would be easy to give
space to both of the fleets that now swarm on the slender Isis and
threadlike Cam. We have water enough--as a Congressman once remarked
of our fighting navy--it is only the boats that are lacking. The
lesson we have to learn of our English cousins is not so much a matter
of reach and swing, outrigger and blades, as a generous and wholesome
interest in boating for the sake of the boat and of the water; and it
is less apparent in an Oxford 'varsity eight than in the humblest tub
of the humblest college.

The first suggestion that I should go out to be tubbed came from the
gray-bearded dean of the college, who happened at the time to be
taking me to the master for formal presentation. I told him that I had
tried for my class crew, and that three days on the water had
convinced the coach that I was useless. He fell a pace behind, looked
me over, and said that I might at least try. As this was his only
advice, I did not forget it; and when my tutor, before advising me as
to my studies, also urged me to row, I gave the matter some serious

I found subsequently that every afternoon, between luncheon and tea,
the college was virtually deserted for field, track, and river; and it
dawned upon me that unless I joined the general exodus I should
temporarily become a hermit. Still, my earlier unhappy experience in
rowing was full in mind, and I set out for the barge humble in spirit,
and prepared to be cursed roundly for three days, and "kicked out,"
or, as they say in Oxford, "given the hoof," on the fourth.

Few memories could be so unhappy, however, as to resist the beauty of
the banks of the Isis. At New Haven, the first impression an oarsman
gets is said to be an odor so unwelcome that it is not to be endeared
even by four years of the good-fellowship and companionship of a Yale
crew. At Harvard, the Charles--"Our Charles," as Longfellow spoke of
it in a poem to Lowell--too often presents aspects which it would be
sacrilege to dwell on. What the "royal-towered Thame" and "Camus,
reverend sire," may have been in the classic days of English poetry it
is perhaps safest not to inquire; suffice it that to-day they are--and
especially the Thames--all that the uninitiated imagine "our Charles."
Nowhere does the sun stream more cheerfully through the moist gray
English clouds; nowhere is the grass more green, the ivy more
luxuriant, and the pollard willows and slender elms and poplars more
dense in foliage. And every building, from the thatched farm-cottage
in Christ Church meadow to the Norman church at Iffley, is, as it
were, more native and more a part of creation than the grass and
trees. The English oarsman, it is true, cannot be as conscious of all
this as an American visitor. Yet the love of outdoors, which has been
at work for centuries in beautifying the English landscape, is not the
least part of the British sporting instinct. Where an American might
loiter in contemplation of these woods, fields, and streams, an
Englishman shoots, hunts, crickets, and rows in them.

When you enter the barge on the river, you feel keenly the contrast
with the bare, chill boathouses of the American universities. On the
centre tables are volumes of photographs of the crews and races of
former years; the latest sporting papers are scattered on chairs and
seats; and in one corner is a writing-table, with note-paper stamped
"Balliol Barge, Oxford." There is a shelf or two of bound "Punches,"
and several shelves of books--"Innocents Abroad" and "Indian Summer,"
beside "Three Men in a Boat" and "The Dolly Dialogues." On the walls
are strange and occult charts of the bumping races from the year
one--which, if I remember rightly, is 1837. At the far end of the room
is a sea-coal fire, above which shines the prow of a shell in which
the college twice won the Ladies' Plate at Henley.

The dressing-room of the barge is sacred to the members of the eight,
who at the present season are engaged in tubbing the freshmen in the
hope of finding a new oar or two. At the appointed hour they appear,
in eightsman blazers if it is fair, or in sou'westers if it is
not--sad to relate, it usually is not--and each chooses a couple of
men and leads them out to the float. Meanwhile, with the rest of the
candidates--freshmen, and others who in past years have failed of a
place in the torpids--you lounge on easy-chairs and seats, reading or
chatting, until your own turn comes to be tubbed. It is all quiet like
a club, except that the men are in full athletic dress.


The athletic costume is elaborate, and has been worn for a
generation--since top-hats and trousers were abandoned, in fact--in
more or less its present form. It consists of a cotton zephyr, flannel
shorts flapping about the knees, and socks, or in winter Scotch hose
gartered above the calves. The sweater, which, in cold weather, is
worn on the river, has a deep V neck, supplemented when the oarsman is
not in action by a soft woolen scarf or cloud. Over all are worn a
flannel blazer and cap embroidered with the arms of the college. This
uniform, with trifling variations, is used in all sports on field and
river, and it is infinitely more necessary, in undergraduate opinion,
than the academic cap and gown which the rules of the university
require to be worn after dark. This seemingly elaborate dress is in
effect the most sensible in the world, and is the best expression I
know of the cheerful and familiar way in which an Englishman goes
about his sports. Reduced to its lowest terms, it is no more than is
required by comfort and decency. With the addition of sweater, scarf,
blazer, and cap, it is presentable in social conversation--indeed, in
the streets of the city. It is in consequence of this that an
afternoon in the barge is--except for the two tubbings on the
river--so much like one spent in a club.

In America an oarsman wears socks and trunks which are apt to be the
briefest possible. If he wears a shirt at all, it is often a mere
ribbon bounding the three enormous apertures through which he thrusts
his neck and shoulders. Before going on the river he is likely to
shiver, in spite of the collar of his sweater; and after he comes in,
his first thought is necessarily of donning street clothes. There is,
in consequence, practically no sociability in rowing until the crews
are selected and sent to the training-table. A disciple of Sartor
Resartus would be very likely to conclude that, until American rowing
adapts itself to the English costume, it must continue to be--except
for the fortunate few--the bare, unkindly sport it has always been.

All this time I have had you seated in an armchair beside the
sea-coal fire. Now an eightsman comes into the barge with two
deep-breathing freshmen, and nods us to follow him to the boat the
three have just quitted. On a chair by the door as we go out are
several pads, consisting of a rubber cloth faced with wool. These are
_spongeo pilenes_, or so I was told, which in English are known as
Pontius Pilates--or Pontiuses for short. The eightsman will advise you
to take a Pontius to protect your white flannel shorts from the water
on the seat; for there is always a shower threatening, unless indeed
it is raining. Every one knows, however, including the eightsman, that
the wool is a no less important part of the Pontius than the rubber:
it will save you many painful impressions of the dinner form in hall.

We are already on the river, and pair-oars, fours, and eights are
swarming about us. "Come forward," cries our coach, "ready--paddle!"
and we take our place in the procession of craft that move in one
another's wake down the narrow river. The coach talks pleasantly to us
from time to time, and in the course of an afternoon we get a pretty
good idea of what the English stroke consists in.

The sun bursts through the pearl-gray clouds, and glows in golden
ponds on the dense verdure of grass and trees. "Eyes in the boat,"
shouts the stern voice of conscience; but the coach says, "See,
fellows. Here's a 'varsity trial eight. Watch them row, and you will
see what the stroke looks like. Those fellows in red caps belong to
the Leander."

Their backs are certainly not all flat, and to an American eye the
crew presents a ragged appearance as a whole; but a second glance
shows that every back swings in one piece from the hips, and that the
apparent raggedness is due to the fact that the men on the bow side
swing in one line, while those on the stroke side swing in another
parallel line. They sway together with absolute rhythm and ease, and
the boat is set on a rigidly even keel. Our coach looks them over
critically, especially his three college-mates, one of whom at least
he hopes will be chosen for the 'varsity eight. No doubt he aimed at a
blue himself two years ago, when he came up; but blues are not for
every man, even of those who row well and strongly. He watches them
until they are indistinguishable amid the myriad craft in the
distance. "It's jolly fine weather," he concludes pleasantly, with a
familiar glance at the sky, which you are at liberty to follow. "Come
forward. Ready--paddle!" We are presently in the barge again with the
other fellows. A repetition of this experience after half an hour
ends the day's work.

When I tried for the freshman crew in America, I was put with seven
other unfortunates into a huge clinker barge, in charge of the
sophomore coxswain. On the first day I was told to mind the angle on
my oar. On the second day I was told to keep my eyes in the boat, damn
me! On the third day, the sophomore coxswain wrought himself into a
fury, and swore at me for not keeping the proper angle. When I glanced
out at my blade he yelled, "Damn you, eyes in the boat!" This upset me
so that I forgot thereafter to keep a flat back at the finish of the
stroke. When we touched the float he jumped out, looked at my back,
brought his boot against it sharply, and told me that there was no use
in trying to row unless I could hold a flat back and swing my body
between my knees. That night I sat on a dictionary with my feet
against the footboard and tried to follow these injunctions, until my
back seemed torn into fillets, but it would not come flat. I never
went down to the river again, and it was two years before I summoned
courage to try another sport. The bullyragging sophomore coxswain I
came to know very well in later years, and found him as courteous and
good-hearted as any man. To this day, if I mention our first meeting,
he looks shy, and says he doesn't remember it. He says that the flat
back is a discarded fetish in Harvard boating circles, that even
before the advent of Mr. Lehmann cursing and kicking were largely
abandoned; and moreover (_fortissimo_) that the freshman crew he
helped to curse and kick into shape was the only one in ten years that

After a fortnight's tubbing in pair-oars, the better candidates are
tubbed daily in fours, and the autumn races are on the horizon. At the
end of another week the boats are finally made up, and the crews
settle down to the task of "getting together." Each of the fours has
at least one seasoned oarsman to steady it, and is coached from the
coxswain's seat by a member of the college eight. Sometimes, if the
November floods are not too high, the coach runs or bicycles along the
towing-path, where he can see the stroke in profile. If a coach swears
at his men, there is sure to have been provocation. His favorite
figure of speech is sarcasm. At the end of a heart-breaking burst he
will say, "Now, men, get ready to _row_," or, "I say, fellows, wake
up; _can't you make a difference?_" The remark of one coach is now a
tradition--"All but four of you men are rowing badly, and they're
rowing damned badly!" This convention of sarcasm is by no means old.
One of the notable personages in Eights' Week is a little man who is
pointed out to you as the Last of the Swearing Coaches. _Tempora
mutantur._ Perhaps my friend the ex-coxswain is in line for a similar

When the fours are once settled in their tubs, the stroke begins to go
much better, and the daily paddle is extended so as to be a real test
of strength and endurance for the new men, and for the man from the
torpid a brisk practice spin. Even at this stage very few of the new
men are "given the hoof;" the patience of the coachers is monumental.


The tubbing season is brought to an end with a race between the fours.
Where there are half a dozen fours in training, two heats of three
boats each are rowed the first day, and the finals between the best
two crews on the following day. The method of conducting these races
is characteristic of boating on the Isis and the Cam. As the river is
too narrow to row abreast, the crews start a definite distance apart,
and row to three flags a mile or so up the river, which are exactly as
far apart as the boats were at starting. At each of these flags an
eightsman is stationed. In the races I saw they flourished huge
dueling pistols, and when the appropriate crew passed the flag, the
appropriate man let off his pistol. The crew that is first welcomed
with a pistol-shot wins. These races are less exciting than the
bumping races; yet they have a picturesque quality of their own, and
they settle the question of superiority with much less rowing. The
members of the winning four get each a pretty enough prize to remember
the race by, and the torpidsman at stroke holds the "Junior fours cup"
for the year.

The crowning event of the season of tubbing is a wine, to which are
invited all boating-men in college, and the representative athletes in
other sports. In Balliol it is called the "Morrison wine," as the
races are called "Morrison fours," in honor of an old Balliol man, a
'varsity oar and coach, who established the fund for the prizes. The
most curious thing about this affair is that it is not given, as it
would be in America, at the expense of the college, or even of the men
who have been tubbed, but at the expense of those who are finally
chosen to row in the races.

To my untutored mind the hospitality of English boating seemed a pure
generosity. It made me uncomfortable at first, with the sense that I
could never repay it; but I soon got over this, and basked in it as
in the sun. The eightsmen devote their afternoons to coaching you
because there are seats to be filled in the torpid and in the eight;
they speak decently because they find that in the long run decency is
more effective; and they hold the wine because they wish to honor the
sport in which they have chosen to stake their reputations as
athletes. In a word, where in America we row by all that is
self-sacrificing and loyal, in England the welfare of boating is made
to depend upon its attractiveness as a recreation and a sport; if it
were not enjoyable to the normal man, nothing could force fellows into

The relationship of the autumn tubbing and its incidental sociability
to the welfare of the sport in the college and in the university seems
remote enough to the American mind, for out of the score of fellows
who are tubbed only three or four, on an average, go farther in the
sport. Yet it is typical of the whole; and it will help us in
following the English boating season. Throughout the year there are
two converging currents of activity in boating. On the one hand, the
tubs in the autumn term develop men for the torpids, which come on
during the winter term; and the torpids develop men for the summer
eights. On the other hand, the 'varsity trials in the autumn term
develop men for the 'varsity eight, which trains and races in the
winter term; and the 'varsity oarsmen, like the men who have prospered
in tubs and torpids, end the season in the eights of their respective
colleges. The goal of both the novice and the veteran is thus the
college eight.

The torpid is, so to speak, the understudy to the college eight. In
order to give full swing to the new men, no member of the eight of the
year before is allowed to row in it; and the leading colleges man two
torpids--sometimes even three. The training here is much more serious
than in the tubs; wine, spirits, and tobacco are out of order. The
races, which are conducted like the celebrated May Eights, are rowed
in midwinter--in the second of the three Oxford terms--under leaden
skies, and sometimes with snow piled up along the towing-path. On the
barges, instead of the crowds of ladies, gayly dressed and bent on a
week of social enjoyment, one finds knots of loyal partisans who are
keen on the afternoon's sport. The towing-path, too, is not so crowded
as in May Week; but nothing could surpass the din of pistols and
rattles and shouting that accompanies the races. If the men in the
torpid do not learn how to row the stroke to the finish under the
excitement of a race, it is not for the lack of coaching and
experience. When the torpids break training, there are many ceremonies
to signalize the return to the flesh-pots: one hardly realizes that
the weeks of sport and comradeship have all gone to the filling of a
place or two in the college eight.

All this time, while the tubs and torpids have been training up new
men, the 'Varsity Boat Club, whose home is on the shore of the Isis
opposite the row of college barges, has also, so to speak, been doing
its tubbing. The new men for the 'varsity are chiefly those who have
come to the front in the May Eights of the previous year--oars of two
or three seasons' standing; though occasionally men are taken directly
from the Eton eight, which enters yearly for the Ladies' Plate at
Henley. The new men will number ten or a dozen; and early in the
autumn they are taken out in tubs. They are soon joined by as many of
last year's blues as are left in Oxford. The lot is divided into two
eights, as evenly matched as possible, which are coached separately.
These are called the Trial Eights, or 'Varsity Trials. To "get one's
trials" is no mean honor. It is the _sine qua non_ of membership to
the Leander--admittedly the foremost boating club of the world. Toward
the end of the first term there is a race of two and a half miles
between the two trial eights at Moulsford, where the Thames is wide
enough to permit the two boats to race abreast. Of the men who row in
the trials the best ten or a dozen are selected to train for the
'varsity during the winter term.

Of the training of the 'varsity eight it is not necessary to speak
here at length. The signal fact is that the men are so well schooled
in the stroke, and so accustomed to racing, that a season of eight
weeks at Oxford and at Putney is enough to fit them to go over the
four miles and a quarter between Putney and Mortlake with the best
possible results. The race takes place in March, just after the close
of the winter term.

The series of races I have mentioned gives some idea of the scheme and
scope of English boating, but it is by no means exhaustive. The
strength of the boating spirit gives rise to no end of casual and
incidental races. Chief among these are the coxswainless fours, which
take place about the middle of the autumn term, while the trials are
on the river. The crews are from the four or five chief boating
colleges, and are made up largely from the men in the 'varsity trials.
The races have no relation that I could discover to the 'varsity race;
the only point is to find which college has the best four, and it is
characteristic that merely for the sport of it the training of the
'varsity trials is interrupted.

After the 'varsity race the members of the crew rest during what
remains of the Easter vacation, and then take their places in the
boats of their respective colleges. Here they are joined by the other
trials men, the remaining members of last year's college eight, and
the two or three men who have come up from the torpids. Now begins the
liveliest season in boating. Every afternoon the river is clogged with
eights rowing to Iffley or to Sandford, and the towing-path swarms
with enthusiasts. The course in the May bumping races is a mile and a
quarter long--the same as the course of the torpids--and the crews
race over it every day for a week, with the exception of an
intervening Sunday, each going up a place or down a place in the
procession daily according as it bumps or is bumped. These races, from
the point of view of the expert oarsman, are far less important than
the 'varsity race; yet socially they are far more prominent, and the
enthusiasm they arouse among the undergraduates is incomparable. The
vitality of Oxford is in the colleges: the university organizations
are the flowers of a very sturdy root and branch.

    EIGHTS (1895)]

The difference between American and English boating is that we lack
the root and branches of the college system. In a university of from
three to four thousand men there are, in addition to the 'varsity
crew, four class crews and perhaps a few scratch crews. In England,
each of the score of colleges, numbering on an average something like
one hundred and fifty men apiece, mans innumerable fours, one or more
eight-oared torpids, and the college eight. A simple calculation will
show that with us one man in fifty to seventy goes in for the sport,
while in England the proportion is one man in five to seven.

The difference in spirit is as great as the difference in numbers. In
America, the sole idea in athletics, as is proclaimed again and again,
is to beat the rival team. No concession is made to the comfort or
wholesomeness of the sport; men are induced to train by the excellent
if somewhat grandiose sentiment that they owe it to the university to
make every possible sacrifice of personal pleasure. Our class crews,
which have long ceased to represent any real class rivalry, are
maintained mainly in the hope of producing 'varsity material. The
result of these two systems is curiously at variance with the
intention. At Oxford, where rowing is very pleasant indeed, and where
for the greater part of the year the main interest centres in college
crews, the 'varsity reaches a high degree of perfection, and the
oarsmen, without quite being aware of the fact, represent their
university very creditably; while at Yale, and until recently at
Harvard, the subsidiary crews have been comparative failures in
producing material, and the 'varsity is in consequence somewhat in the
position of an exotic, being kept alive merely by the stimulus of
inter-varsity rivalry.

The recent improvement at Harvard is due to Mr. Rudolph C. Lehmann,
the celebrated Cambridge and Leander oar who coached the Harvard crews
of 1897 and 1898, in the sportsmanlike endeavor to stimulate a broader
and more expert interest in boating. His failure to bring either of
the crews to victory, which to so many of us signified the utter
failure of his mission, has had more than a sufficient compensation in
the fact that he established at Harvard something like the English
boating system. Anything strictly similar to the torpids and eights is
of course out of the question, because we have no social basis such as
the colleges afford for rivalry in boating; but the lack of colleges
has in a measure been remedied by creating a factitious rivalry
between improvised boating clubs, and the system of torpids and
eights has been crudely imitated in the so-called graded crews. A
season of preliminary racing has thus been established, on the basis
of which the candidates for the 'varsity crew are now selected, so
that instead of the nine months of slogging in the tank and on the
river, in which the more nervous and highly organized candidates were
likely to succumb and the stolid men to find a place in the boat, the
eight is made up as at Oxford of those who have shown to best
advantage in a series of spirited races. Crude as the new Harvard
system is as compared with the English system, it has already created
a true boating spirit, and has trained a large body of men in the
established stroke, placing the sport at Harvard on a sounder basis
than at any other American university. It has thus been of infinitely
more advantage, by the potentiality of an example, than any number of
victories at New London. To realize the full benefit of the system of
graded crews and preliminary races, it is only necessary to supersede
the arbitrary and meaningless division into clubs by organizations
after the manner of English colleges which shall represent something
definite in the general life of the university.



The relationship between the colleges and the university exists in a
greater or less degree in all sports. There is a series of matches
among the leading colleges in cricket, and a "cup tie" in Association
football. These sports are almost as popular as rowing, and have many
excellences which it would be pleasant to point out and profitable
perhaps to emulate; but it seems best to concentrate attention on the
sports which are best understood in America, such as Rugby football
and athletics. The workings of the college system may be most clearly
seen in them, and the spirit of English sportsmanship most
sympathetically appreciated.

The rivalry between the Association and the Rugby games has made
English football players quite unexpectedly sensitive to comparisons.
I had scarcely set foot upon a Rugby field when I was confronted with
the inevitable question as to English Rugby and American. I replied
that from a hasty judgment the English game seemed haphazard and
inconsequent. "We don't kill one another, if that's what you mean by
'inconsequent,'" my companion replied; and I soon found that a report
that two players had been killed in the Thanksgiving Day match of the
year before had never been contradicted in England. "That is the
sport," my friend continued, "which Caspar Whitney says, in his
'Sporting Pilgrimage,' has improved English Rugby off the face of the

The many striking differences between English and American Rugby arise
out of the features of our game known as "possession of the ball" and
"interference." In the early days of the American game, many of the
most sacred English traditions were unknown, and the wording of the
English rules proved in practice so far from explicit that it was not
possible to discover what it meant, much less to enforce the rules.

One of the traditions favored a certain comparative mildness of
demeanor. The American players, on the contrary, favored a campaign of
personal assault for which the general rules of the English scrummage
lent marked facilities. It soon became necessary in America to line
the men up in loose order facing each other, and to forbid violent
personal contact until the actual running with the ball should begin.
This clearly made it necessary that the sides should in turn put the
ball in play, and consequently should alternately have possession of
it. Under this arrangement, each side is in turn organized on the
offensive and the defensive.

The upshot of this was that the forwards, who in the parent English
game have only an incidental connection with the running of the backs,
become a part of each successive play, opening up the way for the
progress of the ball. According to the English code, this made our
forwards off-side, so that the rule had to be changed to fit the new
practice. It then appeared that if the forwards could play ahead of
the ball, the backs could do so too; and here you have the second
great American feature. The result of "possession" of the ball and
"interference" is an elaborate and almost military code of tactics
unknown in the English game.

In the course of time I had unusual facilities for observing English
Rugby. During the Morrison wine which ended the season of tubbing on
the river, the captain of the Balliol fifteen threw his arms about me,
and besought me to play on the team. He had not a single
three-quarters, he said, who could get out of his own way running. I
pleaded an attack of rheumatism and ignorance of the game. He said it
did not matter. "And I'm half blind," I added. "So am I," he
interrupted, "but we'll both be all right in the morning." I said I
referred to the fact that I was very near-sighted; but he took all
excuses as a sign of resentment because he had failed to invite me to
breakfast in my freshman term; he appeared to think it his duty to
breakfast all possible candidates. Such are the courtesies of an
English captain, and such are the informalities of English training.

The next morning the captain wrote me that there was a match on
against Merton, and asked me to come out a quarter of an hour before
the rest for a little coaching. A quarter of an hour to learn to play
football! In spite of the captain's predictions of the night before, I
was not so sure that he was yet "all right;" so I went out to the
porter's lodge and scanned the bulletin board. My name stared me in
the face. I had scarcely time to take luncheon and don a pair of
football shorts.

The practice my coach gave me consisted in running the length of the
field three or four times, passing the ball back and forth as we went.
His instructions with regard to the game were equally simple. To keep
in proper position I had only to watch my Merton _vis-à-vis_ and take
a place symmetrical with his. When the enemy heeled the ball out of
the "scrummage" to their quarter-back, putting us for the moment on
the defensive, I was to watch my man, and, if the ball was passed to
him, to tackle him. If he passed it before I could tackle him I was
still to follow him, leaving the man who took the ball to be watched
by my neighbor, in order that I might be on hand if my man received it
again. An American back, when his side is on the defensive, is
expected to keep his eye on his _vis-à-vis_ while the ball is being
snapped back; but his main duty is to follow the ball. An English back
under similar circumstances is expected only to follow his man. If our
side happened to heel out the ball from the scrum and one of our
three-quarters began to run with it, we were on the offensive, and the
other three-quarters and I were to follow at his heels, so that when
he was about to be tackled--"collared," the English say--he could pass
it on to us. There is, as I have said, no such thing as combined
"interference" among the backs. A player who gets between the man with
the ball and the enemy's goal is rankly off-side. It is not to be
understood that the captain coached all this information into me. I
had to buttonhole him and pump it out word by word. Coaching of any
sort is all but unknown on English football fields. What there is
of the game is learned at school--or in the nursery!

  [Illustration: AN ENGLISH RUGBY LINE-UP To the left of the scrum,
    two half backs and six three-quarter backs face each other in

When the opposing teams scattered over the field for the kick-off, I
noticed with satisfaction that there was not a spectator on the
grounds to embarrass me. It is so in almost all English college
games--the fellows are more than likely to have sports of their own
on, and anyway, what is the use in hanging round the fields where
other fellows are having all the fun?

On the kick-off, luckily, the ball did not come to my corner of the
field, for I could scarcely have seen it, much less caught it. Our
side returned the kick and the "scrum" formed. The nine forwards
gathered compactly in a semi-ellipse, bent their bodies together in a
horizontal plane, with their heads carefully tucked beneath the mass,
and leaned against the opposing mass of forwards, who were similarly
placed. When the two scrums were thoroughly compacted, the umpire
tossed the ball on the ground beneath the opposing sets of legs,
whereupon both sides began to struggle. The scrum in action looks like
a huge tortoise with a score of legs at each end, which by some
unaccountable freak of nature are struggling to walk in opposite
directions. The sight is certainly awe-inspiring, and it was several
days before I realized that it masked no abstrusely working tactics;
there is little, if anything, in it beyond the obvious grunting and

The backs faced each other in pairs ranged out on the side of the
scrum that afforded the broader field for running. The legs in the
Balliol scrum pushed harder and the bodies squirmed to more advantage,
for our men had presently got the ball among their feet. They failed
to hold it there, however, and it popped out into a half-back's hands.
He passed it quickly to one of my companions at three-quarters, who
dodged his man and ran toward the corner of the field. I followed, and
just as the full-back collared him he passed the ball to me. Before I
had taken three rheumatic strides I had two men hanging at my back;
but when they brought me down, the ball was just beyond the line. The
audience arose as one man--to wit, the referee, who had been squatting
on the side lines--and shouted, "Played. Well played!" I had achieved
universal fame. During the rest of the game the Balliol scrum, which
was a very respectable affair of its kind, kept the ball to itself,
while we backs cooled our heels.

A few days later, in a game against Jesus, the scrums were more evenly
matched, and the ball was heeled out oftener. I soon found that my
eyes were not sharp enough to follow quick passing; and when, just
before half-time, a punt came in my direction, I was horrified to see
the ball multiply until it looked like a flock of balloons. As luck
had it, I singled out the wrong balloon to catch. Jesus fell on the
ball just as it bounced over the goal-line. In the second half the
captain put one of the forwards in my place, and put me in the scrum.

The play here was more lively, though scarcely more complex or
difficult. Each forward stuck his head beneath the shoulders of the
two men in front of him, grasped their waists, and then heaved, until,
when the ball popped out of the scrum, the word came to dissolve.
There were absolutely no regular positions; the man who was in the
front centre of one scrummage might be in the outskirts of the next.
On some teams, I found, by inquiry, a definite order is agreed on, but
this is regarded as of doubtful advantage.

When the umpire or a half-back tosses the ball into the scrummage,
there are, at an ultimate analysis, four things that can happen.
First, the two sides may struggle back and forth, carrying the ball on
the ground at their feet; this play is called a "pack." Second, the
stronger side may cleave the weaker, and run down the field, dribbling
the ball yard by yard as they go, until either side picks it up for a
run, or else drops on it and cries "down." Third, one side may be able
to "screw the scrum," a manoeuvre which almost rises to the altitude
of a "play." The captain shouts "Right!" or perhaps "Left!" and then
his forwards push diagonally, instead of directly, against their
opponents. The result is very like what we used to call a revolving
wedge, except that, since the ball is carried on the ground, the play
eventuates, when successful, in a scattering rush of forwards down the
field, dribbling the ball at their feet, just as when the scrum has
been cloven. The fourth possibility is that the side that gets the
ball amongst its eighteen legs allows it to ooze out behind, or, if
its backs are worthy of confidence, purposely heels it out. Thereupon
results the play I have already described: one of the half-backs
pounces upon it and passes it deftly to the three-quarters, who run
with it down the field, if necessary passing it back and forth. In
plays which involve passing or dribbling, English teams sometimes
reach a very high degree of skill: few sights on the football field
are more inspiring than to see a "combination" of players rush in open
formation among their opponents, shifting the ball from one to another
with such rapidity and accuracy as to elude all attempts to arrest
it. As a whole, the game of the forwards is much more fun than that of
the backs, though decidedly less attractive in the eyes of the
spectators--a consideration of slight importance on an English field!

  [Illustration: THROWING IN THE BALL]

Just as I began to get warmed to my new work I smashed my nose against
the head of a Balliol man who was dodging back into the push. The
captain told me that I need not finish the game; but as it is against
the English rules to substitute players and we were still far from
sure of winning, I kept to my grunting and shoving. At the end of the
game the captain very politely gave me the hoof. This was just what I
expected and deserved; but I was surprised to find that the fellows
had objected to my playing the game through with a bloody nose. They
would have preferred not to be bled upon.

This regard for pleasantness and convenience, which to an American is
odd enough, is characteristic even of 'varsity football. The
slenderness of the preliminary training of a 'varsity fifteen is
incredible to any American who has not witnessed it. To sift the
candidates there is a freshman match and a senior match, with perhaps
one or two "squashes"--that is to say, informal games--besides. And
even these tests are largely a matter of form. Men are selected
chiefly on their public school reputations or in consequence of good
work on a college fifteen. The process of developing players, so
familiar to us, is unknown. There is no coaching of any kind, as we
understand the word. When a man has learned the game at his public
school or in his college, he has learned it for all time, though he
will, of course, improve by playing for the university. The need of
concentrated practice is greatly lessened by the fact that the soft
English winter allows as long a season of play as is desired. The team
plays a game or two a week against the great club teams of
England--Blackheath, Richmond, London Scottish, Cardiff, Newport, and
Huddersfield--with perhaps a bit of informal kicking and punting
between times. When the weather is too bad, it lays off entirely.

All this does not conduce to the strenuousness of spirit Americans
throw into their sports. In an inter-varsity match I saw the Oxford
team which was fifty per cent. better allow itself to be shoved all
over the field: it kept the game a tie only by the rarest good
fortune. It transpired later that the gayeties of Brighton, whither
the team had gone to put the finishing touches on its training, had
been too much for it. In an American university such laxity would be
thought the lowest depth of unmanliness, but I could not see that any
one at Oxford really resented it; at most it was a subject for mild
sarcasm. You can't expect a team to be in the push everywhere!

This lack of thorough preparation is even more characteristic of the
international teams--England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales--that
yearly play for the championship of Great Britain. They are chosen
from the most brilliant players in the leading clubs, and local
jealousy makes the task of choosing most delicate. The temptation is
to take a man or two impartially from each of the great fifteens. As
the international teams take little or no practice as a whole, the
tendency in the great games is to neglect the finer arts of dribbling
and passing in combination--the arts for which each player was
severally chosen--and revert to the primitive grunting and shoving. In
the great games, accordingly, the team which is man for man inferior
as regards the fine points may prevail by sheer strength, so that the
result is liable to be most unsatisfactory. Some years ago, owing to
local jealousy, the Welsh international had to be chosen mainly from a
single club--with the result that it won the championship; and in 1901
the canny Scotch team won by intentionally selecting its members, in
spite of local jealousy, on the score of their familiarity with one
another's play.

The very rules under which the game is played are calculated to
moderate the struggle. As a result of the rule against substituting,
to which I have referred, any extreme of hard play in the practice
games, such as lays off dozens of good American players yearly, is not
likely to be encouraged. Of course good men "crock," as they call it;
but where an injury is practically certain to disqualify a man from
the inter-varsity match, the football limp and the football patch can
scarcely be regarded as the final grace of athletic manhood. Willful
brutality is all but unknown; the seriousness of being disqualified
abets the normal English inclination to play the game like a person of
sense and good feeling. The physical effect of the sport is to make
men erect, lithe, and sound. And the effect on the nervous system is
similar. The worried, drawn features of the American player on the eve
of a great contest are unknown. An Englishman could not understand how
it has happened that American players have been given sulphonal during
the last nights of training. English Rugby is first of all a sport, an
exercise that brings manly powers into play; as Hamlet would say, the
play's the thing. It is eminently an enjoyable pastime, pleasant to
watch, and more pleasant to take part in.

That our American game is past hoping for on the score of playability
is by no means certain. As the historical critics of literature are
fond of saying, a period of rapid development is always marked by
flagrant excesses, and the development of modern American football has
been of astonishing rapidity. Quite often the game of one season has
been radically different from the games of all preceding seasons. This
cannot continue always, for the number of possible variations is
obviously limited, and when the limit is reached American Rugby will
be, like English Rugby, the same old game year in and year out.
Everybody, from the youngest prep. to the oldest grad., will know it
and love it.

The two vital points in which our game differs from the
English--"possession of the ball" and "interference"--are both the
occasion of vigorous handling of one's opponents. When an American
player is tackled, he seldom dares to pass the ball for fear of losing
possession of it, so that our rule is to tackle low and hard, in order
to stop the ball sharply, and if possible to jar it out of the
runner's grasp. In England, it is still fair play to grab a man by the
ankle. This is partly because of the softness of the moist thick
English turf; but more largely because, as passing is the rule, the
tackler in nine cases out of ten aims at the ball. The result is that
a man is seldom slammed to the earth as he would be in our game. It is
this fact that enables the English player to go bare-kneed.

The danger from interference in the American game is also
considerable. When a man is blocked off, he is liable to be thrown
violently upon the far from tender bosom of our November mother-earth.
Any one familiar with the practice of an American eleven will remember
the constant cry of the coaches: "Knock your man on the ground! Put
him out of the play!" It has been truly enough said that the American
game has exaggerated the most dangerous features of the two English
games--the tackling of English Rugby and the "charging" or
body-checking of the Association game.

Yet this is only a partial statement of the case. These elements of
possession of the ball and interference have raised our game
incalculably above the English game as a martial contest. Whereas
English Rugby has as yet advanced very little beyond its first
principles of grunting and shoving, the American game has always been
supreme as a school and a test of courage; and it has always tended,
albeit with some excesses, toward an incomparably high degree of
skill and strategy. Since American football is still in a state of
transition, it is only fair to judge the two games by the norm to
which they are severally tending. The Englishman has on the whole
subordinated the elements of skill in combination to the pleasantness
of the sport, while the American has somewhat sacrificed the
playability of the game to his insatiate struggle for success and his
inexhaustible ingenuity in achieving it. More than any other sport,
Rugby football indicates the divergent lines along which the two
nations are developing. By preferring either game a man expresses his
preference for one side of the Atlantic over the other.



In track and field athletics, the pleasantness and informality of
English methods of training reach a climax. In America we place the
welfare of our teams in the hands of a professional trainer, who,
through his aide-de-camp, the undergraduate captain, is apt to make
the pursuit of victory pretty much a business. Every autumn newcomers
are publicly informed that it is their duty to the university to train
for the freshman scratch games. At Oxford, I was surprised to find,
there was not only no call for candidates, but no trainer to whom to
apply for aid. The nearest approach to it was the groundsman at the
Iffley Running Grounds, a retired professional who stoked the boilers
for the baths, rolled the cinder-path, and occasionally acted as
"starter." As his "professional" reputation as a trainer was not at
stake in the fortunes of the Oxford team, his attitude was humbly
advisory. The president of the Athletic Club never came near the
grounds, being busy with rowing on a 'varsity trial eight, and later
with playing Association football for the university. To one
accustomed to train not only for the glory of his alma mater but for
the reputation of his trainer, the situation was uninspiring.

As I might have expected, the impetus to train came from the college.
I was rescued from a fit of depression by a college-mate, a German,
who wanted some one to train with. At school he had run three miles in
remarkable time; but later, when an officer in the German army, his
horse had rolled over him at the finish of a steeple-chase, and the
accident had knocked out his heart; so he was going to try to sprint.
I advised him against all training, and the groundsman shook his head.
Yet he was set upon showing the Englishmen in Balliol that a German
could be a sportsman. This was no idle talk, as I found later, when he
fainted in the bath after a fast hundred, and failed by no one knows
how little of coming to. We were soon joined by a third Balliol man, a
young Greek poet, whose name is familiar to all who are abreast of the
latest literary movement at Athens. He was taking up with athletics
because of his interest in the revival of the ancient glories of
Greece. When I asked him what distance suited him best--whether he was
a sprinter or a runner--he answered with the sweet reasonableness of
the Hellenic nature that any distance would suit him that suited me.
A motlier trio than we, I suppose, never scratched a cinder-path. Yet
the fellows in our college seemed almost as interested as they were
amused; and we soon found that even so learned a place as Balliol
would have been glad to bolster its self-esteem by furnishing its
quota of "running blues." What was lacking in the way of stimulus from
the university was more than made up for by the spontaneous interest
of the fellows in college.

The rudimentary form of athletics is in meetings held by the separate
colleges. These occur throughout the athletic season, namely, the
autumn term and the winter term; and as hard on to a score of colleges
give them, they come off pretty often. The prizes are sums of money
placed with the Oxford jeweler, to be spent in his shop as the winners
see fit. In America, the four classes, which are the only sources of
athletic life independent of the university, are so moribund socially
that it never occurs to them to get out on the track for a day's
sport. It is true that we sometimes hold inter-class games, but the
management of these is in the hands of the university; they are
inspired solely by a very conscious attempt to develop new men, and to
furnish the old ones with practice in racing. The vitality of the
athletic spirits in the English colleges is witnessed by the fact that
an Oxford college frequently meets a fit rival at Cambridge in a set
of dual games just for the fun of it.

The only bond between the numerous college meetings and the university
sports is a single event in each, called a strangers' race, which is
open to all comers. The purpose of these races is precisely that of
our inter-class meetings--to give all promising athletes practice in
competition. As the two prizes in each strangers' race average five
pounds and thirty shillings respectively, the races are pretty
efficient. Though the "blues" sometimes compete--Cross made his record
of 1m. 54-2/5s. for the half mile in one of them--they generally
abandon them to the new men of promise. While the president and the
"blues" generally are rowing and playing football, the colleges thus
automatically develop new material for the team.

The climax of the athletic meetings of the autumn term is the freshman
sports, held on two days, with a day's interval. The friends of the
various contestants make up a far larger audience than one finds at
similar sports in America; and a brass band plays while the races are
on. The whole thing is decidedly inspiring; and for the first time
one is brought face to face with the fact that there are inter-varsity
games in store.

When the winter term opens, bleak and rainy, the strangers' races
bring out more upper classmen. By and by the "blues" themselves appear
in sweater, muffler, and blazer, and "paddle" about the track to
supple their muscles and regain disused racing strides. At the end of
a fortnight I noticed a middle-aged gentleman with whom the prominent
athletes conferred before and after each day's work. I soon found that
he was Mr. C. N. Jackson, a don of Hertford College, who should always
be remembered as the first hurdler to finish in even time. It is he
who--save the mark--takes the place of our American trainers. At one
of our large American universities about this time, as I afterwards
learned, a very different scene was enacting. The trainer and the
captain called a mass-meeting and collected a band of Mott Haven
champions of the past to exhort the University to struggle free from
athletic disgrace. Though the inter-varsity games were nearly four
months in the future--instead of six or seven weeks as at
Oxford--those ancient athletes aroused such enthusiasm that 268 men
undertook the three months of indoor training. To one used to such
exhortations, the Oxford indifference was as chilling as the weather
we were all training in. Mr. Jackson seemed never to notice me; and
how could I address him when he had not even asked me to save the
university from disgrace? I was forced to the unheroic expedient of
presenting a card of introduction. To my surprise, I found that he had
been carefully watching my work from day to day, but had not felt
justified in giving advice until I asked for it.

Even during the final period of training, everything happened so
pleasantly and naturally that I had none of the nervous qualms common
among American athletes. At first I thought I missed the early morning
walks our teams take daily, the companionship and jollity of the
training-table, and the sense that the team was making a common
sacrifice for an important end. Yet here, too, the college made up in
a large measure for what I failed to find in the university. One of
our eightsmen was training with a scrub four that was to row a crew of
schoolboys at Winchester; and we had a little course of training of
our own. Every morning we walked out for our dip to Parson's Pleasure,
and breakfasted afterward beneath an ancient ivied window in the
common room. In the pleasantness and quiet of those sunlit mornings, I
began to realize that our training-table mirth, which is sometimes so
boisterous, is in part at least due to intense excitement and
overwrought nerves. And the notion of self-sacrifice, which appeals to
us so deeply, seemed absurd where we were all training for the
pleasure and wholesomeness of sport, and for the sake of a ribbon of

The interest the university took in our welfare became made manifest
when the "first strings" were sent off to Brighton for the change in
climate which all English teams require before great games. Some of
the rest of us, who had nowhere else to go, went with them, but most
of the men went home to train. The second string in the three miles
stayed up at Oxford for commemoration, and joined us after three
consecutive nights of dancing. He said that he found he needed staying
up work.

Every morning at Brighton the president made the round of our quarter
of the hotel shortly before eight o'clock, and spoiled our waking naps
to rout us out for our morning's walk, which included a plunge into
the Channel. For breakfast, as indeed for all our meals, we had
ordinary English fare, with the difference only that it was more

On alternate days our training consisted in cross-country walks of ten
or a dozen miles. Our favorite paths led along the chalk cliffs, and
commanded a lordly view of the Channel. Sometimes, for the sake of
variety, we went by train to the Devil's Dyke and tramped back over
the downs, now crossing golf-links and now skirting cornfields ablaze
with poppies. All this walking filled our lungs with the Brighton air,
and by keeping our minds off our races, prevented worry. Sprinters and
distance men walked together, though the sprinters usually turned back
a mile or two before the rest. The rate prescribed was three and a
half miles an hour; but our spirits rose so high that we had trouble
in keeping it below five.[2]

The training dinners furnished the really memorable hours of the day.
A half-pint of "Burton bitter" was a necessity, and a pint merely
rations. If one preferred, he might drink Burgundy _ad lib._, or
Scotch and soda. After trials there was champagne. When I told the
fellows that in America our relaxation consists in ice-cream for
Sunday dinner, they set me down as a humorist. After dinner, instead
of coffee and tobacco, we used to go out to the West Pier, which was a
miniature Coney Island, and amuse ourselves with the various
attractions. The favorite diversion was seeing the Beautiful Living
Lady Cremated. The attraction was the showman, who used to give an
elaborate oration in Lancashire brogue. Every word of it was funny,
but especially the closing sentence: "The Greeks 'ad a ancient custom
of porun' a liebation on the cinders of the departud, which custom,
gentlemen, we omits." We used to laugh so heartily at this that the
showman would join in, and even the beautiful living lady would
snicker companionably, as she crawled away beneath the stage. If the
reader is unable to see the fun of it, there is no help for
him--except, perhaps, an English training dinner.

The rest of the evenings we used to spend in strolling about among the
crowd, breathing the salt air, and listening to the music. We did not
lack companionship, for the Oxford and Cambridge cricket elevens were
at Brighton, and the entire Cambridge athletic team. Many of the
cricketers, and not a few of the Cambridge athletes--whom the Oxford
men called "Cantabs," and sometimes even "Tabs"--paraded the place
puffing bulldog pipes. The outward relationship between the rival
teams was simply that of man to man. If one knew a Cambridge man he
joined him, and introduced the fellows he happened to be walking with.
One day the Cambridge president talked frankly about training, urging
us to take long walks, and inviting us to go with his men. The only
reason we did not go was that our day for walking happened to be
different from theirs.

The days on which we did our track work we spent largely in London, at
the Queen's Club grounds, in order to get a general sense of the track
and of the conditions under which the sports were to take place.
Sometimes, however, we ran at Preston Park, on the outskirts of

On the day of the inter-varsity meeting, our team came together as a
whole for the first time in the dressing-rooms of the Queen's Club.
The fellows dropped in one by one, in frock coats, top hats, and with
a general holiday air. The Oxford broad-jumper, who was the best man
at the event in England, had been so busy playing cricket all season,
and smoking his pipe with the other cricketers on the pier at
Brighton, that he had not had time even to send to Oxford for his
jumping-shoes. In borrowing a pair he explained that unless a fellow
undertook the fag of thorough training, he could jump better without
any practice. Our weight-thrower, a freshman, had surprised himself
two days previously by making better puts than either of the Cambridge
men had ever done; but as nobody had ever thought it worth while to
coach him, he did not know how he had done it, and was naturally
afraid he couldn't do it again. He showed that he was a freshman by
appearing to care whether or not he did his best; but even his
imagination failed to grasp the fact that the team which won was to
have the privilege of meeting Yale in America. As it turned out, if
either of these men had taken his event, Oxford, instead of Cambridge,
would have met Yale.

As I went out to start in my race, the question of half-sleeves which
Englishmen require in all athletic contests was settled in my mind.
The numberless seasonable gowns in the stands and the innumerable top
hats ranged on all sides about the course made me feel as if I were at
a lawn party rather than at an athletic meeting. I suffered as a girl
suffers at her first evening party, or rather as one suffers in those
terrible dreams where one faces the problem of maintaining his dignity
in company while clad in a smile or so. Waiving the question of
half-sleeves, I should have consented to run in pyjamas.

In the race I had an experience which raised a question or two that
still offer food for reflection. As my best distance--a half mile--was
not included in the inter-varsity program, I ran in the mile as second
string. There was a strong wind and the pace was pretty hot, even for
the best of us, namely, the Cambridge first string, who had won the
race the year before in 4 min. 19-4/5 sec.,--the fastest mile ever run
in university games. As the English score in athletic games, only
first places count, and on the second of the three laps I found myself
debating whether it is not unnecessarily strenuous to force a
desperate finish where the only question is how far a man can keep in
front of the tail end. Several of the fellows had already dropped out
in the quietest and most matter of fact manner; and as we were
finishing the lap against the wind, I became a convert to the English
code of sportsmanship.

As the bunch drew away from me and turned into the easy going of the
sheltered stretch, I was filled with envy of them, and with
uncontrollable disgust at myself, the like of which I had never felt
when beaten, however badly, after making a fair struggle. And when I
saw them finishing against the hurricane, striding as if they were
running upstairs, I felt the heroism of a desperate finish as I had
never done before. It did not help matters when I realized that it was
the last race I was ever to run.

At the Sports' dinner that night at the Holborn Restaurant, I pocketed
some of my disgust. The occasion was so happy that I remember wishing
we might have something like it after our meetings at home, for
good-fellowship chastens the pride of winning and gives dignity to
honest defeat. There was homage for the victors and humorous sympathy
for the vanquished. Light blue and dark blue applauded and poked fun
at each other impartially. Sir Richard Webster, Q. C., now Lord Chief
Justice, himself an old blue, presided at the dinner, and explained
how it was that the performances of his day were really not to be
sneezed at; and the young blues, receiving their prizes, looked happy
and said nothing. After dinner, we divided into squads and went to the
Empire Theatre of Varieties, Cantab locking arms with Oxonian. By
supper time, at St. James', I was almost cheerful again.

Yet the disgust of having quitted that race has never left me. The
spirit of English sportsmanship will always seem to me very gracious
and charming. As a nation, I think we can never be too thankful for
the lesson our kinspeople have to teach us in sportsmanly moderation
and in chivalry toward an opponent. But every man must draw his own
line between the amenities of life and the austerities; and I know one
American who hopes never again to quit a contest, even a contest in
sport, until he has had the humble satisfaction of doing his best.



The prevalence of out-of-door sports in England, and the amenity of
the English sporting spirit, may be laid, I think, primarily, to the
influence of climate. Through the long, temperate summer, all nature
conspires to entice a man out of doors, while in America sunstroke is
imminent. All day long the village greens in England are thronged with
boys playing cricket in many-colored blazers, while every stream is
dotted with boats of all sorts and descriptions; and in the evenings,
long after the quick American twilight has shut down on the heated
earth, the English horizon gives light for the recreations of those
who have labored all day. In the winter the result is the same, though
the cause is very different. Stupefying exhalations rise from the damp
earth, and the livelong twilight that does for day forces a man back
for good cheer upon mere animal spirits. In the English summer no
normal man could resist the beckoning of the fields and the river. In
the winter it is sweat, man, or die.

It is perhaps because of the incessant call to be out of doors that
Englishmen care so little to have their houses properly tempered. At
my first dinner with the dons of my college, the company assembled
about a huge sea-coal fire. On a rough calculation the coal it
consumed, if used in one of our steam-heaters, would have heated the
entire college to incandescence. As it was, its only effect seemed to
be to draw an icy blast across our ankles from mediæval doors and
windows that swept the fire bodily up the chimney, and left us
shivering. One of the dons explained that an open fire has two supreme
advantages: it is the most cheerful thing in life, and it insures
thorough ventilation. I agreed with him heartily, warming one ankle in
my palms, but demurred that in an American winter heat was as
necessary as cheerfulness and ventilation. "But if one wears thick
woolens," he replied, "the cold and draught are quite endurable. When
you get too cold reading, put on your great-coat." I asked him what he
did when he went out of doors. "I take off my great-coat. It is much
warmer there, especially if one walks briskly." Some days later, when
I went to dine with my tutor, my hostess apologized for the chill of
the drawing-room. "It will presently be much warmer," she added; "I
have always noticed that when you have sat in a room awhile, it gets
warm from the heat of your bodies." She proved to be right. But when
we went into the dining-room, we found it like a barn. She smiled with
repeated reassurances. Again she proved right; but we had hardly
tempered the frost when we had to shift again to the drawing-room,
which by this time again required, so to speak, to be acclimated.
Meanwhile my tutor, who was of a jocular turn of mind, diverted our
thoughts from our suffering by ragging me about American steam heat,
and forced me, to his infinite delight, to admit that we aim to keep
our rooms warmed to sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say,
this don was an athlete. As the winter wore away, I repeatedly saw him
in Balliol hockey squashes, chasing the ball about with the agility of
a terrier pup. At nightfall, no doubt, he returned to his wife and
family prepared to heat any room in the house to the required
temperature. Heaven forbid that I should resent the opprobrium
Englishmen heap upon our steam heat! I merely wish to point out that
the English have failed as signally as we, though for the opposite
reason, in making their houses habitable in the winter, and that an
Englishman is forced into athletics to resist the deadly stupefaction
of a Boeotian climate, and to keep his house warm.

In a sportsman it would be most ungracious to inveigh against English
weather. The very qualities one instinctively curses make possible the
full and varied development of outdoor games, which Americans admire
without stint. Our football teams do day labor to get fit, and then,
after a game or so, the sport is nipped in the bud. To teach our
oarsmen the rudiments of the stroke we resort to months of the
galley-slavery of tank-rowing. Our track athletes begin their season
in the dead of winter with the dreary monotony of wooden dumb-bells
and pulley-weights, while the baseball men are learning to slide for
bases in the cage. In England the gymnasium is happily unknown. Winter
and summer alike the sportsman lives beneath the skies, and the sports
are so diverse and so widely cultivated that any man, whatever his
mental or physical capacity, finds suitable exercise that is also

It is because of this universality of athletic sports that English
training is briefer and less severe. The American makes, and is forced
to make, a long and tedious business of getting fit, whereas an
Englishman has merely to exercise and sleep a trifle more than usual,
and this only for a brief period. Our oarsmen work daily from January
to July, about six months, or did so before Mr. Lehmann brought
English ideas among us; the English 'varsity crews row together nine
or ten weeks. Our football players slog daily for six or seven weeks;
English teams seldom or never "practice," and play at most two matches
a week. Our track athletes are in training at frequent intervals
throughout the college year, and are often at the training-table six
weeks; in England six weeks is the maximum period of training, and the
men as a rule are given only three days a week of exercise on the
cinder-track. To an American training is an abnormal condition; to an
Englishman it is the consummation of the normal.

The moderation of English training is powerfully abetted by a
peculiarity of the climate. The very dullness and depression that make
exercise imperative also make it impossible to sustain much of it. The
clear, bright American sky--the sky that renders it difficult for us
to take the same delight in Italy as an Englishman takes, and leads us
to prefer Ruskin's descriptions to the reality--cheers the American
athlete; and the crispness of the atmosphere and its extreme
variability keeps his nerves alert. An English athlete would go
hopelessly stale on work that would scarcely key an American up to his
highest pitch.

The effect of these differences on the temperament of the athlete is
marked. The crispness and variety of our climate foster nervous
vitality at the expense of physical vitality, while the equability of
the English climate has the opposite effect. In all contests that
require sustained effort--distance running and cross-country running,
for example--we are in general far behind; while during the
comparatively few years in which we have practiced athletic sports we
have shown, on the whole, vastly superior form in all contests
depending upon nervous energy--sprinting, hurdling, jumping, and

Because of these differences of climate and of temperament, no rigid
comparisons can be made between English and American training; but it
is probably true that English athletes tend to train too little. Mr.
Horan, the president of the Cambridge team that ran against Yale at
New Haven, said as much after a very careful study of American
methods; but he was not convinced that our thoroughness is quite worth
while. The law of diminishing returns, he said, applies to training as
to other things, so that, after a certain point, very little is gained
even for a great sacrifice of convenience and pleasantness. Our
American athletes are twice as rigid in denying the spirit for an
advantage, Mr. Horan admitted, of enough to win by.

The remark is worth recording: it strikes the note of difference
between English and American sportsmanship. After making all
allowances for the conditions here and abroad that are merely
accidental, one vital difference remains. For better or for worse, a
sport is a sport to an Englishman, and whatever tends to make it
anything else is not encouraged; as far as possible it is made
pleasant, socially and physically. Contests are arranged without what
American undergraduates call diplomacy; and they come off without
jockeying. It is very seldom that an Englishman forgets that he is a
man first and an athlete afterwards. Yet admirable as this quality is,
it has its defects, at least to the transatlantic mind. Even more,
perhaps, than others, Englishmen relish the joy of eating their hearts
at the end of a contest, but they have no taste for the careful
preparation that alone enables a man to fight out a finish to the best
advantage. It is no doubt true, as the Duke of Wellington said, that
the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of England; but
for any inconsiderable sum I would agree to furnish a similar saying
as to why the generals in South Africa ran into ambush after ambush.

In America, sportsmanship is almost a religion. Fellows mortify the
flesh for months and leave no means untried that may help to bring
honor to their college; or if they don't, public opinion brings swift
and sure retribution. It is true that this leads to excesses.
Rivalries are so strong that undergraduates have been known to be more
than politic in arranging matches with each other. So the graduate
steps in to moderate the ardor of emulation, and often ends by keeping
alive ancient animosities long after they would have been forgotten in
the vanishing generations of undergraduates. The Harvard eleven wants
to play the usual football game; but it is not allowed to, because a
committee of graduates sees fit to snub Yale; the athletic team wants
to accept a challenge from Oxford and Cambridge, but it is not allowed
to because Pennsylvania, which is not challenged, has a better team,
and it is the policy of the university (which has an eye to its
graduate schools) to ingratiate sister institutions. In a word, the
undergraduates are left to manage their studies while the faculty
manages their pastimes.

When a contest is finally on, excesses are rampant. Of occasional
brutalities too much has perhaps been said; but more serious errors
are unreproved. There is a tradition that it is the duty of all
non-athletes to inspire the 'varsity teams by cheering the play from
the side lines; and from time to time one reads leading articles in
the college papers exhorting men to back the teams. The spectator is
thus given an important part in every contest, and after a 'varsity
match he is praised or blamed, together with the members of the team,
according to his deserts. Yale may outplay Harvard, but if Harvard
sufficiently out-cheers Yale she wins, and to the rooters belong the
praise. In baseball games especially, a season's championship is not
infrequently decided by the fact that the partisans of one side are
more numerous, or for other reasons make more noise. These are serious
excesses, and are worthy of the pen of the robustest reformer; but
after all has been said they are incidents, and in the slow course of
time are probably disappearing.

The signal fact is that our young men do what they do with the
diligence of enthusiasm, and with the devotion that inspires the
highest courage. It is not unknown that, in the bitterness of failure,
American athletes have burst into tears. When our English cousins hear
of this they are apt to smile, and doubtless the practice is not
altogether to be commended; but in the length and breadth of a man's
experience there are only two or three things one would wish so
humbly as the devotion that makes it possible. Such earnestness is the
quintessence of Americanism, and is probably to be traced to the
signal fact that in the struggle of life we all start with a fighting
chance of coming out on top. Whatever the game, so long as it is
treated as a game, nothing could be as wholesome as the spirit that
tends to make our young men play it for all it is worth, to do
everything that can be done to secure victory with personal honor. In
later years, when these men stand for the honor of the larger alma
mater, on the field of battle or in the routine of administration, it
is not likely that they will altogether forget the virtues of their

The superiority of English sportsmanship arises, not from the spirit
of the men, but from the breadth of the development of the sports, and
this, climate aside, is the result of the division of the university
into colleges. The average college of only a hundred and fifty men
maintains two football teams--a Rugby fifteen and an Association
eleven--an eight and two torpids, a cricket eleven, and a hockey
eleven. Each college has also a set of athletic games yearly. If we
add the men who play golf, lawn and court tennis, rackets and fives,
who swim, box, wrestle, and who shoot on the ranges of the gun club,
the total of men schooled in competition reaches eighty to one
hundred. A simple calculation will show that when so many are
exercising daily, few are left for spectators. Not a bench is
prepared, nor even a plank laid on the spongy English turf, to stand
between the hanger-on and pneumonia. A man's place is in the field of
strife; to take part in athletic contests is almost as much a matter
of course as to bathe. Of late years there has been a tendency in
England to believe that the vigor of undergraduates--and of all
Englishmen, for the matter of that--is in decadence. As regards their
cultivation of sports at least, the reverse is true. Contests are more
numerous now than ever, and are probably more earnestly waged. What is
called English decadence is in reality the increasing superiority of
England's rivals.

Quite aside from the physical and moral benefit to the men engaged,
this multiplication of contests has a striking effect in lessening the
importance of winning or losing any particular one of them. It is more
powerful than any other factor in keeping English sports free from the
excesses that have so often characterized our sports. From time to
time a voice is raised in America as of a prophet of despair demanding
the abolition of inter-university contests. As yet the contests have
not been abolished, and do not seem likely to be. Might it not be
argued without impertinence that the best means of doing away with the
excesses in question is not to have fewer contests, but more of them?
If our universities were divided into residential units, corresponding
roughly to the English colleges, the excesses in particular contests
could scarcely fail to be mitigated; and what is perhaps of still
higher importance, the great body of non-athletes would be brought
directly under the influence of all those strong and fine traditions
of undergraduate life which centre in the spirit of sportsmanship.

    NOTE. For a discussion of the influences of climate in
    international athletics, see Appendix II.


[2] For a note on the value of walking as a part of athletic training,
see Appendix I.





In the educational life of Oxford, as in the social and athletic life,
the distinctive feature, at least to the American mind, is the duality
of organization in consequence of which an undergraduate is amenable
first to his college and then to the university: the college teaches
and the university examines. In America, so far as the undergraduate
is concerned, the college and the university are identical: the
instructor in each course of lectures is also the examiner. It follows
from this that whereas in America the degree is awarded on the basis
of many separate examinations--one in each of the sixteen or more
"courses" which are necessary for the degree--in England it is awarded
on the basis of a single examination. For three or four years the
college tutor labors with his pupil, and the result of his labors is
gauged by an examination, set and judged by the university. This
system is characteristic of both Cambridge and Oxford, and for that
matter, of all English education; and the details of its organization
present many striking contrasts to American educational methods.

Sir Isaac Newton's happy thought of having a big hole in his door for
the cat and a little hole for the kitten must have first been held up
to ridicule by an American. In England, the land of classes, it could
hardly fail of full sympathy. In America there is but one hole of
exit, though men differ in their proportions as they go out through
it. In England there are passmen and classmen.

To say that the passman is the kitten would not be altogether precise.
He is rather a distinct species of undergraduate. More than that, he
is the historic species, tracing his origin quite without break to the
primal undergraduate of the Middle Ages. He is a tradition from the
time when the fund of liberal knowledge was so small that the
university undertook to serve it all up in a pint-pot to whoever might
apply. The pint-pot still exists at Oxford; and though the increasing
knowledge of nine centuries long ago overflowed its brim, the passman
still holds it forth trustfully to his tutor. The tutor patiently
mingles in it an elixir compounded of as many educational simples as
possible, and then the passman presents it to the examiners, who smile
and dub him Bachelor of Arts. After three years, if he is alive and
pays the sum of twelve pounds, they dub him Master.

The system for granting the pass degree is, in its broader outlines,
the same as for all degrees. In the first examination--that for
matriculation--it is identical for passmen and classmen. This
examination is called "responsions," and is, like its name, of
mediæval origin. It is the equivalent of the American entrance
examination; but by one of the many paradoxes of Oxford life it was
for centuries required to be taken after the pupil had been admitted
into residence in one of the colleges. In the early Middle Ages the
lack of preparatory schools made it necessary first to catch your
undergraduate. It was not until the nineteenth century that a man
could take an equivalent test before coming up, for example at a
public school; but it is now fast becoming the rule to do so; and it
is probable that all colleges will soon require an entrance
examination. In this way two or three terms more of a student's
residence are devoted to preparation for the two later and severer
university tests.

The subjects required for matriculation are easy enough, according to
our standards. Candidates offer: (1) The whole of arithmetic, and
either (_a_) elementary algebra as far as simple equations involving
two unknown quantities, or (_b_) the first two books of Euclid; (2)
Greek and Latin grammar, Latin prose composition, and prepared
translation from one Greek and one Latin book. The passages for
prepared translation are selected from six possible Greek authors and
five possible Latin authors. The influence of English colonial
expansion is evident in the fact that candidates who are not "European
British subjects" may by special permission offer classical Sanskrit,
Arabic, or Pali as a substitute for either Greek or Latin: the
dark-skinned Orientals, who are so familiar a part of Oxford life, are
not denied the right to study the classics of their native tongues.
Thus the election of subjects is a well-recognized part of
responsions, though the scope of the election does not extend to
science and the modern languages.

Once installed in the college and matriculated in the university, both
passman and honor man are examined twice and twice only. The first
public examination, more familiarly called "moderations," or "mods,"
takes place in the middle of an undergraduate's course. Here the
passmen have only a single subject in common with the men seeking
honors, namely, the examination in Holy Scripture, or the Rudiments of
Faith and Religion, more familiarly called "Divinners," which is to
say Divinities. The subject of the examination is the gospels of St.
Luke and St. John in the Greek text; and either the Acts of the
Apostles or the two books of Kings in the Revised Version. As in all
Oxford examinations, cram-books abound containing a reprint of the
questions put in recent examinations; and, as many of these questions
recur from year to year, the student of Holy Scripture is advised to
master them. A cram-book which came to my notice is entitled "The
Undergraduate's Guide to the Rudiments of Faith and Religion," and
contains, among other items of useful information: tables of the ten
plagues; of the halting-places during the journey in the wilderness;
of the twelve apostles; and of the seven deacons. The book recommends
that the kings of Judah and Israel, the journeys of St. Paul, and the
Thirty-nine Articles shall be committed to memory. The obviously pious
author of this guide to the rudiments of these important
accomplishments speaks thus cheerfully in his preface: "The compiler
feels assured that if candidates will but follow the plan he has
suggested, no candidate of even ordinary ability need have the least
fear of failure." According to report, it is perhaps not so easy to
acquire the rudiments of faith and religion. In a paper set some years
ago, as one of the examiners informed me, a new and unexpected
question was put: "Name the prophets and discriminate between the
major and the minor." One astute passman wrote: "Far be it from me to
make discriminations between these wise and holy men. The kings of
Judah and Israel are as follows." Unless a man passes the examination,
he has to take it again, and the fee to the examiner is one guinea.
"This time I go through," exclaimed an often ploughed passman. "I need
these guineas for cigars." Those who are not "European British
subjects" may substitute certain sacred works in Sanskrit, Arabic, or
Pali; and those who object for conscientious scruples to a study of
the Bible may substitute the Phædo of Plato; but the sagacious
undergraduate knows that if he does this he must have no conscientious
scruples against harder work.

In America there is no such examination, so far as I know. At Harvard
an elective course in the history and literature of the Jews is given
by the Semitic department; and if this does not insure success in
acquiring the rudiments of faith and religion, it was, on one occasion
at least, the means of redoubling the attendance at chapel. Just
before the final examination, it transpired that the professor in
charge of the course was conducting morning service, and was giving
five minute summaries of Jewish history. For ten days the front pews
were crowded with waistcoats of unwonted brilliance; the so-called
sports who had taken the course as a snap were glad to grind it up
under the very best auspices.

Let me not be misunderstood. In the long run, the English
undergraduates no doubt add greatly to their chances of spiritual
edification. At the very least they gain a considerable knowledge of
one of the great monuments of the world's literature. In America the
Bible is much less read in families than in England, so that it would
seem much more important to prescribe a course in Biblical history and
literature. At one time Professor Child gave a course in Spenser and
the English Bible, and is said to have been moved at times when
reading before his classes to a truly Elizabethan access of tears.
Some years before the great master died, he gave up the course in
despair at the Biblical ignorance of his pupils. The usual Harvard
undergraduate cannot name five of the prophets, with or without
discrimination, or be certain of five of the kings of Judah. As I
write this, I am painfully uncertain as to whether there were as many
as five.

But to return to our muttons. The remaining subjects for pass
moderations are: (1) Portions of three classic authors, two Greek and
one Latin, or two Latin and one Greek. The passages of each author to
be studied are prescribed, but the candidate may elect, with certain
slight limitations, from eight Greek and eight Latin authors "of the
best age." As in the case of responsions and Holy Scripture, Sanskrit,
Arabic, or Pali may be substituted for either Greek or Latin. The
examination covers not only grammar and literature, but any question
arising out of the text. Besides these are required: (2) Latin prose
composition; (3) sight translation of Greek and Latin; and (4) either
logic or the elements of geometry and algebra.

The final pass examination allows a considerable range of election.
Three general subjects must be offered. At least one of these must be
chosen from the following: Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Persian, German,
and French. If a candidate wishes, he may choose two of his three
subjects in ancient language, literature, and history, or in modern
language, literature, history, and economics. The remaining one or two
subjects may be chosen from a dozen courses ranging through the
elements of mathematics, natural science, law, and theology. This
range of choice is very different from that in America, in that a
student is not permitted freely to elect subjects without reference
to one another. For the pass degree, no considerable originality or
grasp of the subject is necessary, any more than for an
undistinguished degree in an American college; but the body of
necessary facts is pretty sure to be well ordered, if not digested.
The idea of grouping electives is the fundamental difference between
English and American education. In the case of the honor man it will
be seen to be of chief importance.

In order to take the Oxford degree, it is further necessary to be in
residence three years, and a man may reside four years before going up
for his final examination. The period of study--or loafing--may be
broken in various ways; and it is characteristic that though a man may
anticipate his time and take his last examination before the last term
of his third year, he is required to reside at the university, studies
or no studies, until the minimum residence is completed. Nothing could
indicate more clearly the importance which is attached to the merely
social side of university life.

It is, in fact, as a social being that the passman usually shines. You
may know him most often from the fact that you sight him in the High
by a waistcoat of many colors. At night he is apt to evade the
statutes as to academicals; but if he wears his gown, he wraps it
about his neck as if it were a muffler, and tilts his mortar-board at
all angles. He is the genius of the fox terrier and the bulldog pipe;
he rides to the hounds, and is apt in evading the vice-chancellor's
regulations as to tandems and four-in-hands. Or perhaps he sits
comfortably in his rooms discoursing lightly of the impious
philosophies that are the studies of the classman, and writes Horatian
verse for the "Isis" and the "Oxford Magazine." He does anything, in
fact, that is well-bred, amusing, and not too strenuous. Curiously
enough, it sometimes happens that he does sufficient reading on his
own account to give him no little real culture. Of late there has been
a reaction in favor of the pass school as affording a far better
general education.

If the passman loiters through the three or four years, it is mainly
the fault--or the virtue--of the public school he comes from. Of late
the best public schools have had so strong and admirable an influence
that boys have often been kept in them by their parents until they
reach the age limit, generally nineteen. By this time they have
anticipated most of the studies required for a pass degree in the
university, and find little or nothing to do when they go up but to
evade their tutors and to "reside." It is by this means, as the
satirist long ago explained, that Oxford has become an institution of
such great learning. Every freshman brings to it a little knowledge
and no graduate takes any away.

There is reason in all this. In the first place, as I have said, the
passman is the historical undergraduate, and little short of a
convulsion could disestablish him--that is the best of British
reasons. Moreover, to be scrupulously just, the passman knows quite as
much as the American student who barely takes a degree by cramming a
few hours with a venal tutor before each of his many examinations, and
perhaps more than the larger proportion of German students who confine
their serious interests to the duel and the Kneipe, and never
graduate. And then, the Oxonian argues amiably, if it were not for the
pass schools, the majority of the passmen would not come to Oxford at
all, and would spend their impressionable period in some place of much
less amenity. Clearly, they learn all that is necessary for a
gentleman to know, and are perhaps kept from a great deal that is
dangerous to young fellows with money and leisure. It means much to
the aristocracy and nobility of England that, whatever their ambitions
and capacities, they are encouraged by the pursuit of a not too
elusive A.B. to stay four years in the university. Even the
ambitious student profits by the arrangement. Wherever his future may
lie, in the public service, in law, medicine, or even the church, it
is of advantage to know men of birth and position--of far greater
advantage, from the common sensible English point of view, than to
have been educated in an atmosphere of studious enthusiasm and exact



The modern extension of the world's knowledge, with the corresponding
advance in educational requirements, which are perhaps the most signal
results of the nineteenth century, could not fail to exert a powerful
influence on all university teaching. In the United States, the
monument to its influence is the elective system. In England, it is
the honor schools. Both countries felt the inadequacy of the antique
pint-pot of learning. The democratic New World has not dreamed of
making a sharp distinction between the indifferent and the ambitious.
Under the lead of the scientific spirit of the German universities, it
has placed the noblest branches of human knowledge on a par with the
least twig of science. With characteristic conservatism England kept
the old pint-pot for the unscholarly, to whom its contents are still
of value, though extending its scope to suit the changing spirit of
the age; and for those who felt the new ambitions it made new
pint-pots, each one of which should contain the essence gathered from
a separate field of learning. The new pint-pots are the honor schools,
and the children of the new ambition are the honor men.

The honor schools of Oxford are eight in number. Here again the
English conservatism is evident. The oldest of them, literæ
humaniores, which was at first the only honor school, has for its
subject-matter a thorough view of classical language, literature, and
thought. It is an _édition de luxe_ of the old pass school. Because of
the nobility of its proportions, it is familiarly called "greats," and
it justifies its name by enrolling almost half of all Oxford
candidates for the honor degree. An overwhelming majority of famous
Oxford graduates have taken their degree in "greats." The other
schools are sometimes known as the minor schools. Mathematics was
originally a part of the school in literæ humaniores, but was soon
made into a separate school. Since then schools have been established
in six new subjects--natural science, jurisprudence, modern history,
theology, Oriental studies, and English. Under our elective system, a
student continues through his four years, choosing each year at
random, or as the fates decree, this, that, or the other brief
"course." Under the honor system a man decides sooner or later which
one of the several branches he most desires, and sets out to master

An Oxford man's decision may be made at the outset; but far the larger
number of men defer the choice. They do this by reading for
moderations, for pass moderations as well as honor mods may be
followed by an honor school at finals. The subject-matter for honor
mods is, roughly speaking, the same as for pass mods--the classics and
kindred studies; but the field covered is considerably more extended,
and to take a high class the student is required to exhibit in his
examination papers no little grasp of the subjects as a whole, and if
possible to develop his own individuality in the process. Having done
with moderations, an honor man is forced to choose a final school. The
logical sequence of honor mods is literæ humaniores; but one may
choose instead modern history, theology, Oriental studies, or English.

The men who commit themselves to a choice at the outset are those who
go in for science or jurisprudence. These men begin by reading for a
form of moderations known as science preliminaries or jurisprudence

The exact sequence of examinations is fixed only by common sense. The
school of history is open to those who have taken pass mods, and even
to those who have taken the jurisprudence preliminary, though mods is
usually preferred in order to give a man the use of the necessary
languages. If a science man's chief work is to be in astronomy or
physics, which require some mathematics, he may take the mathematical
mods, and devote only the second half of his course to science.

Even after a man has chosen his subject and begun to work on it with
his tutor, there is considerable range of election. As classical mods
are supposed to cover all the subjects essential to polite education,
election is mainly a question as to the ancient authors read. If a man
knows what final school he is to enter, he may choose his authors
accordingly. Thus, a history man chooses the ancient historians; a man
who intends to enter the school in English literature, the ancient
poets and dramatists. In addition to such authors, all candidates for
classical mods choose, according to their future needs, one of four
subjects: the history of classical literature, comparative classical
philology, classical archæology, and logic. The preliminary
examinations in natural science and in jurisprudence are concerned
with a general view of the field, and thus do not admit of much
variation, whatever the branch to be pursued later; and the same is
true of mathematical moderations. A man who chooses any one of these
three honor schools has made the great choice of bidding good-by to
the classics.

In the final schools the range of choice is greater than at
moderations, and is greater in some schools than in others. Literæ
humaniores offers the least scope for election. The reason is that the
subject-matter is a synthetic view of the classic world entire. Still,
in so vast a field, a student perforce selects, laying emphasis on
those aspects of the ancient world which he considers (or which he
expects the examining board to consider) of most interest and
importance. It has been objected even at Oxford that such a course of
study gives a student little or no training in exact scholarship. The
examination statutes accordingly give a choice of one among no less
than forty special subjects, the original sources of which a man may
thresh out anew in the hope of adding his iota to the field of
science; and, on six months' notice, a student may, under approval,
select a subject of his own. The unimportance of this part of the
"greats" curriculum is evident in the fact that it is recommended, not

The history school requires the student to cover the constitutional
and political history of England entire, political science and
economy, with economic history, constitutional law, and political and
descriptive geography. It also requires a special subject "carefully
studied with reference to the original authorities," and a period of
general history. If a student does not aim at a first or second class
at graduation, he may omit certain parts of all this. In any case, he
has to choose from the general history of the modern world one special
period for a more detailed examination. In the school of natural
science, the student, after filling in the broad outlines of the
subject for his preliminary, must choose for his final examination one
of the following seven subjects: physics, chemistry, animal
physiology, zoölogy, botany, geology, and astronomy. Besides the
written examination, a "practical" examination of three hours is
required to show the student's ability at laboratory work. These three
honor schools are the most important, and may be regarded as
representative. After a man has taken one honor degree, for example,
in literæ humaniores, he may take another, for example, in modern
history. He then becomes a double honor man, and if he has got a first
class in both schools, he is a "double first."

In America, the election of studies goes by fragmentary subjects, and
the degree is awarded for passing some four such subjects a year, the
whole number being as disconnected, even chaotic, as the student
pleases or as chance decrees. In England, the degree is granted for
final proficiency in a coherent and well-balanced course of study; but
within this not unreasonable limit there is the utmost freedom of
election. The student first chooses what honor school he shall pursue,
and then chooses the general lines along which he shall pursue it.



In preparing for his two "public examinations," the pupil is solely in
the hands of a college tutor. Any familiar account of the Oxford don
is apt to make him appear to the American, and especially to the
German mind, a sufficiently humble person. His first duty is the very
unprofessional one of making newcomers welcome. He invites his pupils
to breakfast and to dinner, and introduces them to their fellows so
that they shall enter easily into the life of the college; he tells
them to go in for one or another of the various undergraduate
activities. As a teacher, moreover, his position is strikingly similar
to that of the venal tutors in our universities, who amiably keep lame
ducks from halting, and temper the frost of the examination period to
gilded grasshoppers. It is all this that makes the American scholar so
apt to smile at the tutor, and the German, perhaps, to sniff. The
tutor is not easily put down. If he replies with anything more than a
British silence, it is to say that after all education cannot be
quite dissociated from a man's life among his fellows. And then there
is the best of all English reasons why the tutor should think well of
his vocation: it is approved by custom and tradition. Newman, Pusey,
Jowett, Pater, Stubbs, Lang, and many such were tutors, and they
thought it well worth while to spend the better part of each day with
their pupils.

Homely as are the primary duties of the tutor, it is none the less
necessary that certain information should be imparted. The shadow of
the examiners looms across the path twice in the three or four years
of an undergraduate's life. There is no dodging it: in order to get a
degree, certain papers must be written and well written. Here is where
the real dignity of the tutor resides, the attribute that
distinguishes him from all German and American teachers. He is
responsible to the college that his pupils shall acquit themselves
well before the examiners,--that the reputation of the college shall
be maintained. By the same token, the examiners are responsible to the
university that its degrees shall be justly awarded, so that the
course of education in England is a struggle of tutor against
examiner. In Germany and in America, an instructor is expected to be a
master of his subject; he may be or may not be--and usually is not--a
teacher. In England, a tutor may be a scholar, and often is not. His
success is measured first and foremost by the excellence of the papers
his pupils write. Is Donkin of Balliol a good tutor? Well, rather, he
has got more firsts than any don in Oxford; by which is meant of
course that his pupils have got the firsts. A college is rated partly
by its number of blues and partly by its number of firsts. For a tutor
to lead his pupils to success is as sacred a duty as for an athletic
undergraduate to play for the university. The leisurely, not to say
loafing, tutor of eighteenth-century tradition has been reformed out
of existence. If the modern tutor fails of any high attainment as a
scholar, it is mainly because he is required to be a very lively,
strenuous, and efficient leader of youth.

The means by which the tutor conducts his charges in the narrow path
to success in the schools are characteristic. The secret lies in
gaining the good-will of the pupil. Thus any breakfasts, luncheons,
and dinners that the hospitable tutor gives to his pupils while they
are learning the ways of the place are bread cast upon the waters in a
very literal sense. For a decent fellow to neglect the just wishes of
a teacher to whom he is indebted is easy enough on occasions; but
systematically to shirk a genuine debt of gratitude without losing
caste with one's self requires supreme ingenuity. If you don't want to
get into the clutches of your tutor, don't take the least chance of
getting to like him. This is the soundest advice ever given by the
wary upper classman. It has not been ordained by nature that the soul
of the teacher is sib to the soul of the taught, but clearly, by
exercising the humanities, the irrepressible conflict may be kept
within bounds.

Sometimes harsher measures are necessary. Then a man is sent up to the
Head of the college, which is not at all a promotion. One fellow used
to tell a story of how Jowett, the quondam master of Balliol,
chastised him. When he reported, the Master was writing, and merely
paused to say: "Sit down, Mr. Barnes, you are working with Mr. Donkin,
are you not?" The culprit said he was, and sat down. Jowett wrote on,
page after page, while the undergraduate fidgeted. Finally Jowett
looked up and remarked: "Mr. Donkin says you are not. Good-morning."
After that the undergraduate was more inclined to work with Mr.

For graver offenses a man is imprisoned within the paradise behind the
college walls--"gated," the term is. One fellow I knew--a third year
man who roomed out of college--was obliged to lodge in the rooms of
the dean, Mr. J. L. Strachan Davidson. The two turned out excellent
friends. No one could be altogether objectionable, the undergraduate
explained, whose whiskey and tobacco were as good as the dean's. In
extreme cases a man may be sent down, but if this happens, he must
either have the most unfortunate of dispositions, or the skin of a
rhinoceros against tact and kindness.

It is by similar means that the don maintains his intellectual
ascendency. Nothing is more foreign to Oxford than an assumption of
pedagogic authority. Mr. Hilaire Belloc, who is now not unknown in
London as a man of letters, used to tell of a memorable encounter with
Jowett. Mr. Belloc was holding forth in his vein of excellent
enthusiasm with regard to his countrymen. For a long time Jowett
listened with courteously qualified assent, but finally said: "Mr.
Belloc, do you know the inscription which is said to stand above the
gate to Hell?" Mr. Belloc was ready with the familiar line from Dante.
"No, Mr. Belloc, _Ici on parle français_." The oratory of even a
president of the Oxford Union broke down in laughter. Under such a
system a mutual confidence increases day by day between teacher and
taught, which may end in a comradeship more intimate than that between
father and son.

Our universities are fast adopting the German or pseudo-German idea
that an advanced education consists merely in mastering the subject
one may choose to pursue. The point of departure is the "course." If
we gain the acquaintance of Lowell or Longfellow, Agassiz, Child, or
Norton, we have to thank our lucky stars. In England, the social
relationship is the basis of the system of instruction.



How easy is the course of Oxford discipline on the whole is evident in
the regulations as to the times for taking the examinations. The
earliest date when a man may go up for moderations is his fifth term
after matriculation. As there are four terms a year, this earliest
date falls at the outset of his second year. For a passman there is
apparently no time beyond which it is forbidden to take mods, or
finals either. An honor man may repeat his attempts at mods until
eight terms are gone--two full and pleasant years; that is, he may
take mods in any of three terms--almost an entire year. For finals he
may go up as early as his eleventh term, and as late as his
sixteenth--giving a latitude of more than a year. If he wishes to take
a final examination in a second subject, he may do so up to his
twentieth term. Clearly, the pupil's work is done without pressure
other than the personal influence of the tutor. When an American
student fails to pass his examinations on the hour, he is disclassed
and put on probation, the penalty of which is that he cannot play on
any of the athletic teams. On this point, at least, the Oxford system
of discipline is not the less childish of the two.

As to the nature of the work done, it is aptly expressed in the Oxford
term, "reading." The aim is not merely to acquire facts. From week to
week the tutor is apt to meet his pupils, and especially the less
forward ones, in familiar conversation, often over a cup of tea and a
cigarette. He listens to the report of what the pupil has lately been
reading, asks questions to see how thoroughly he has comprehended it,
and advises him as to what to read next. When there are several pupils
present, the conference becomes general, and thus of greater advantage
to all. In the discussions that arise, opposing views are balanced,
phrases are struck out and fixed in mind, and the sum of the pupil's
knowledge is given order and consistency. The best tutors consciously
aim at such a result, for it makes all the difference between a
brilliant and a dull examination paper, and the examiners highly value
this difference.

The staple of tutorial instruction is lectures. In the old days the
colleges were mutually exclusive units, each doing the entire work of
instruction for its pupils. This arrangement was obviously wasteful,
in that it presupposed a complete and adequate teaching force in each
of the twenty colleges. Latterly, a system of "intercollegiate
lectures" has been devised, under which a tutor lectures only on his
best subjects and welcomes pupils from other colleges. These
intercollegiate tutorial lectures are quite like lecture courses at an
American college, except that they are not used as a means of police
regulation. Attendance is not compulsory, and there are no
examinations. A man issues from the walls of his college for booty,
and comes back with what he thinks he can profit by.

The importance of the university examinations is thus proportionate to
their rarity. The examiners are chosen from the best available members
of the teaching force of the university; they are paid a very
considerable salary, and the term of service is of considerable
length. The preparation for the examination, at least as regards honor
men, has a significance impossible under our system. Matters of fact
are regarded mainly as determining whether a man shall or shall not
get his degree; the class he receives--there are four classes--depends
on his grasp of facts and upon the aptitude of his way of writing. No
man can get either a first or a second class whose knowledge has not
been assimilated into his vitals, and who has not attained in some
considerable degree the art of expression in language.

One of the incidents of reading is a set of examinations set by the
colleges severally. They take place three times a year, at the end of
each term, and are called collections--apparently from the fact that
at this time certain college fees used to be collected from the
students. The papers are set by the dons, and as is the case with all
tutorial exercises, the results have nothing at all to do with the
class a man receives in the public examinations--mods and finals. I
was surprised to find that it was rather the rule to crib; and my
inquiries disclosed a very characteristic state of affairs. One man,
who was as honorable in all respects as most fellows, related how he
had been caught cribbing. His tutor took the crib and examined it
carefully. "Quite right," he said. "In fact, excellent. Don't be at
any pains to conceal it. By the finals, of course, you will have to
carry all these things in your head; at present, all we want to know
is how well you can write an examination paper." The emphasis as to
the necessity of knowing how to write was quite as genuine as the
sarcasm. These examinations have a further interest to Americans. They
are probably a debased survival of examinations which in centuries
past were a police regulation to test a student's diligence, and thus
had some such relation to a degree as our hour examinations, midyears,
and finals. In other words, they suggest a future utility for our
present midyears and finals, if ever a genuine honor examination is
made requisite for an American honor degree.

For the greater part of his course, an undergraduate's reading is by
no means portentous. It was Dr. Johnson, if I am not mistaken, whose
aim was "five good hours a day." At Oxford, this is the maximum which
even a solid reading man requires of himself. During term time most
men do much less, for here is another of the endlessly diverting
Oxford paradoxes: passman and classman alike aim to do most of their
reading in vacations. As usual, a kernel of common sense may be found.
If the climate of England is as little favorable to a strenuous
intellectual life as it is to strenuous athleticisms, the climate of
Oxford is the climate of England to the _n_th power. A man's
intellectual machinery works better at home in the country. And even
as the necessity of relaxation is greater at Oxford, so is the chance
of having fun and of making good friends--of growing used to the ways
of the world of men. The months at the university are the heyday of
life. The home friends and the home sports are the same yesterday and
forever. The university clearly recognizes all this. It rigidly
requires a man to reside at Oxford a certain definite time before
graduation; but how and when he studies and is examined, it leaves to
his own free choice. A man reads enough at Oxford to keep in the
current of tutorial instruction, and to get on the trail of the books
to be wrestled with in vacation.



When mods and finals approach, the tune is altered. Weeks and months
together the fellows dig and dig, morning, noon, and night. All sport
and recreation is now regarded only as sustaining the vital forces for
the ordeal. Sometimes, in despair at the distractions of Oxford life,
knots of fellow sufferers form reading parties, gain permission to
take a house together in the country, and draw up a code of terrible
penalties against the man who suggests a turn at whist, the forbidden
cup, or a trip to town. From the simplest tutorial cram-book to the
profoundest available monograph, no page is left unturned. And this is
only half. The motto of Squeers is altered. When a man knows a thing,
he goes and writes it. Passages apt for quotation are learned by rote;
phrases are polished until they are luminous; periods are
premeditated; paragraphs and sections prevised. An apt epigram turns
up in talk or in reading--the wary student jots it down, polishes it
to a point, and keeps it in ambush to dart it at this or that
possible question. One man I knew was electrified with Chaucer's
description of the Sergeant of the Law,--

     No wher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
     And yet he semed bisier than he was;--

and fell into despair because he could not think of any historical
personage in his subject-matter to whom it might aptly apply. On the
other hand, there was Alfred the Great, whose character was sure to be
asked for. Did I know any line of Chaucer that would hit off Alfred
the Great? So unusual to quote Chaucer.

All this sort of thing has, of course, its limits. In the last days of
preparation, the brains are few that do not reel under their weight of
sudden knowledge; the minds are rare that are not dazzled by their own
unaccustomed brilliance. The superlatively trained athlete knocks off
for a day or two before an important contest--and perhaps has a dash
at the flesh-pots by way of relaxing tension from the snapping point.
So does the over-read examinee. He goes home to his sisters and his
aunts, and to all the soothing wholesomeness of English country life.

And then that terrible week of incessant examinations! All the facts
and any degree of style will fail to save a man unless he has every
resource ready at command. No athletic contest, perhaps no battle,
could be a severer test of courage. Life does not depend upon the
examination, but a living may. In America, degrees are more and more
despised; but in England, it still pays to disarrange the alphabet at
the end of one's name, or to let it be known to a prospective employer
that one is a first-class honor man. The nature of the young
graduate's employment and his salary too have a pretty close
correspondence with his class at graduation. If he can add a blue to a
first, the world is his oyster. The magnitude of the issue makes the
examinee--or breaks him. Brilliant and laborious students too often
come off with a bare third, and happy audacity has as often brought
the careless a first. It may seem that the ordeal is unnecessarily
severe; but even here the reason may be found, if it be only granted
that the aim of a university is to turn out capable men. The honor
examination requires some knowledge, more address, and most of all
pluck--pluck or be plucked, as the Cambridge phrase is; and these
things in this order are what count in the life of the British Empire.



Under the German-American system, the main end is scholarly training.
Our graduates are apt to have the Socratic virtue of knowing how
little they know--and perhaps not much besides. Even for the scholar
this knowledge is not all. Though the English undergraduate is not
taught to read manuscripts and decipher inscriptions--to trace out
knowledge in its sources--the examination system gives him the breadth
of view and mental grasp which are the only safe foundations of
scholarship. If he contributes to science, he usually does so after he
has left the university. The qualities which then distinguish him are
rare among scholars--sound common sense and catholicity of judgment.
Such qualities, for instance, enabled an Oxford classical first to
recognize Schliemann's greatness while yet the German universities
could only see that he was not an orthodox researcher according to
their standards. If a man were bent on obtaining the best possible
scholarly training, he probably could not do better than to take an
English B. A. and then a German or an American Ph.D. As for the world
of deeds and of men, the knowledge which is power is that which is
combined with address and pluck; and the English system seems based on
practical sense, in that it lays chief stress on producing this rare

To attribute to the honor schools the success with which Englishmen
have solved the problems of civic government and colonial
administration would be to ignore a multitude of contributory causes;
but the honor schools are highly characteristic of the English system,
and are responsible for no small part of its success. A striking
illustration of this may be seen in the part which the periodical
press plays in public affairs. In America, nothing is rarer than a
writer who combines broad information with the power of clear and
convincing expression. The editor of any serious American publication
will bear me out in the observation that, notwithstanding the
multitude of topics of the deepest and most vital interest, it is
difficult to find any one to treat them adequately; and any reader can
satisfy himself on this point by comparing the best of our periodicals
with the leading English reviews. Now the writing of a review article
requires nothing more nor less than the writing of a first-class
examination paper, even to the element of pluck; for to marshal the
full forces of the mind in the pressure of public life or of
journalism requires self-command in a very high degree. The same thing
is as obvious in the daily papers. The world is filled with English
newspaper men who combine with reportorial training the power of
treating a subject briefly and tellingly in its broadest relations.

The public advantage of this was not long ago very aptly exemplified.
When our late war suddenly brought us face to face with the fact that
our national destiny had encountered the destinies of the great
nations of the world, the most thoughtful people were those who felt
most doubt and uncertainty; the more one considered, the less could
one say just what he thought. At that crisis a very clear note was
sounded. The London correspondents of our papers--Englishmen, and for
the most part honor men--presented the issue to us from British and
imperialistic point of view with a vigor and conviction that had
immediate effect, as we all remember, and gave the larger part of the
nation a new view of the crisis, and a new name for it. It was not
until weeks later that our own most thoughtful writers as a body
perceived the essential difference between our position and that of
Great Britain, and we have scarcely yet discarded the word
"imperialism." The knowledge, address, and pluck--or shall we call it
audacity?--of the English correspondents enabled them to make a stroke
of state policy. This is only one of many citable instances.

To the robustious intelligence of the honor man, it must be admitted,
the finer enthusiasm of scientific culture is likely to be a sealed
book. The whole system of education is against it. Even if a student
is possessed by the zeal for research, few tutors, in their pursuit of
firsts, scruple to discourage it. "That is an extremely interesting
point, but it will not count for schools." One student in a discussion
with his tutor quoted a novel opinion of Schwegler's, and was confuted
with the remark, "Yes, but that is the German view." It is this tutor
who is reported to have remarked: "What I like about my subject is
that when you know it you know it, and there's an end of it." His
subject was that tangle of falsehood and misconception called history.
It must, of course, be remembered in extenuation that with all his
social and tutorial duties, the don is very hard worked. And
considering the pressure of the necessary preparation for schools, the
temptation to shun the byways is very great.

The examining board for each school is elected by the entire faculty
of that school from its own members; and though it is scarcely
possible for an unscrupulous examiner to frame the questions to suit
his own pupils, there is nothing to prevent the tutor from framing his
pupils' knowledge to meet the presumptive demands of the examiners.
"We shall have to pay particular attention to Scottish history, for
Scotus is on the board, and that is his hobby." In the school of
literæ humaniores, no one expects either pupil or tutor to go far into
textual criticism, philology, or archæology. These branches are
considered only as regards their results. In history, a special
subject has to be studied with reference to its original sources, but
its relative importance is small, and a student is discouraged from
spending much time on it. Stubbs's "Select Charters" are the only
original documents required, and even with regard to these all
conclusions are cut and dried.

To be sure there is a science school, but few men elect it, and it is
in distinctly bad odor. In the slang of the university it is known as
"stinks," and its laboratories as "stink shops." One must admit that
its unpopularity is deserved. As it is impossible that each of the
twenty colleges should have complete apparatus, the laboratories are
maintained by the university, and not well maintained, for the wealth
of Oxford is mainly in the coffers of the colleges. The whole end of
laboratory work at Oxford is to prepare the student for a "practical
examination" of some three hours. The Linacre professor has made many
strenuous efforts, and has delivered much pointed criticism, but he
has not yet been able to place the school on a modern or a rational
basis. In his nostrils, perhaps, more than those of the university,
the school of science is unsavory.

Many subjects of the highest practical importance are entirely
ignored. No advanced instruction is offered in modern languages and
literatures except English, and the school in English is only six
years old and very small. No one of the technical branches that are
coming to be so prominent a part of American university life is as yet

The Oxford honor first knows what he knows and sometimes he knows
more. Few things are as distressing as the sciolism of a second-rate
English editor of a classic. The mint sauce quite forgets that it is
not Lamb. The English minor reviewer exhibits the pride of intellect
in its purest form. The don perhaps intensifies these amiable foibles.
There is an epigram current in Oxford which the summer guide will
tell you Jowett wrote to celebrate his own attainments:--

     Here I am, my name is Jowett;
       I am the master of Balliol College.
     All there is to know, I know it.
       What I know not is not knowledge.

This is clearly a satire written against Jowett, and it would be more
clearly a legitimate satire if aimed at the generality of dons.



This tale of Oxford shortcomings is no news to the English radical.
The regeneration of the university has long been advocated. On the one
hand, the reformers have tried to make it possible, as it was in the
Middle Ages, to live and study at Oxford without being attached to any
of the colleges; on the other, they have tried to bring into the
educational system such modern subjects and methods of study as are
cultivated in Germany, where the new branches have been so admirably
grafted on the mediæval trunk. In general it must be said that Oxford
is becoming more democratic and even more studious; but the advance
has come in spite of the constitution of the university. All studied
attempts at reform have proved almost ludicrously futile.

In order to combat the monopoly of the colleges, and to build up a
body of more serious students without their walls, a new order of
"unattached" students was created. The experiment has no doubt been
interesting, but it cannot be said that it has revived the glorious
democracy and the intellectual enthusiasm of the mediæval university.
Few things could be lonelier, or more profitless intellectually, than
the lot of the unattached students. Excluded by the force of
circumstances from the life of the colleges, they have no more real
life of their own than the socially unaffiliated in American
universities. They have been forced to imitate the organization of the
colleges. They lunch and dine one another as best they can, hold
yearly a set of athletic games, and place a boat in the college
bumping races. They have thus come to be precisely like any of the
colleges, except that they have none of the felicities, social or
intellectual, that come from life within walls.

From time to time the introduction of new honor schools is proposed to
keep pace with modern learning. A long-standing agitation in favor of
a school in modern languages was compromised by the founding of the
school in English; but it is not yet downed, and before the century is
over may yet rise to smite conservatism. Coupled with this there is an
ever-increasing desire to cultivate research. As yet these agitations
have had about as much effect as the kindred agitation that led to the
rehabilitation of the unattached student.

The Bodleian Library is a treasure chest of the rarest of old books
and of unexplored documents; but nothing in the Bod counts for
schools, and so the shadow of an undergraduate darkens the door only
when he is showing off the university to his sisters--and to other
fellows'. When I applied for permission to read, the fact that I wore
a commoner's gown, as I was required to by statute while reading
there, almost excluded me. If I had been after knowledge useful in the
schools, no doubt I should have been obliged to consult a choice
collection of well-approved books across the way in the camera of the
Radcliffe. In America, a serious student is welcome to range in the
stack, and to take such books as he needs to his own rooms. Some few
researchers come to the Bodleian from the world without to spend
halcyon days beneath the brave old timber roof of Duke Humphrey's
Library; but any one used to the freedom of books in America would
find very little encouragement to do so. The librarian is probably an
eminently serviceable man according to the traditions of the Bodleian;
but there are times when he appears to be a grudging autocrat
intrenched behind antique rules and regulations. In the Middle Ages it
was the custom to chain the books to the shelves, as one may still
observe in the quaint old library of Merton College. The modern
method at the Bodleian would seem to be a refinement on the custom.
And what is not known about the Bodleian in the Bodleian would fill a
library almost as large. In the picture gallery hangs a Van Dyck
portrait of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, a former chancellor of
the university, a nephew of Sir Philip Sydney, son of Mary, Countess
of Pembroke, and the once reputed patron to whom Shakespeare addressed
the first series of his sonnets. The librarian did not know how or
when the portrait came into the possession of the University, or
whether it was an original; and not being required to know by statute,
he did not care to find out, and did not find out.

The crowning absurdity of the educational system is the professors,
and here is an Oxford paradox as yet unredeemed by a glimmering of
reason. When I wanted assistance as to a thesis on which I was
working, my tutor referred me to the Regius Professor of Modern
History, who he thought would be more likely than any one else to know
about the sources of Elizabethan literature.

Few as are the professors, they are all too many for the needs of
Oxford. They are learned and ardent scholars, many of them with a full
measure of German training in addition to Oxford culture. But in
proportion as they are wise and able they are lifted out of the life
of the university. They lecture, to be sure, in the schools; and now
and then an undergraduate evades his tutor long enough to hear them.
Several young women may be found at their feet--students from
Somerville and Lady Margaret. When the subject and the lecturer are
popular, residents of the town drop in. But as regards the great mass
of undergraduates, wisdom crieth in the streets. The professors are as
effectually shelved as ever their learned books will be when the
twentieth century is dust. "The university, it is true," Mr. Brodrick
admits in his "History of Oxford," "has yet to harmonize many
conflicting elements which mar the symmetry of its institutions."

This torpor in which the university lies is no mere matter of
accident. I quote from Mr. Gladstone's Romanes Lecture, delivered in

    "The chief dangers before the English universities are probably
    two: one that in [cultivating?] research, considered as apart from
    their teaching office, they should relax and consequently dwindle
    [as teachers?]; the other that, under pressure from without, they
    should lean, if ever so little, to that theory of education, which
    would have it to construct machines of so many horse power rather
    than to form character, and to rear into true excellence the
    marvelous creature we call man; which gloats upon success in life,
    instead of studying to secure that the man shall ever be greater
    than his work, and never bounded by it, but that his eye shall
    boldly run--

     Along the line of limitless desire."

Few will question the necessity of rising above the sphere of mere
science and commercialism; but many will question whether the way to
rise is not rather by mastering the genius of the century than by
ignoring it. It is scarcely too much to say that the greatest
intellectual movement of the nineteenth century, though largely the
work of English scientists, has left no mark on Oxford education. If,
as Professor Von Holst asserts, the American universities are hybrids,
Oxford and Cambridge cannot be called universities at all.



As a result of the narrowness of the scope of Oxford teaching, the
university has no relation to the industrial life of the people--a
grave shortcoming in a nation which is not unwilling to be known as a
nation of shopkeepers. The wail of the British tradesman is not
unfamiliar. Wares "made in Germany" undersell English wares that used
to command the market; and being often made of a cheaper grade to suit
the demands of purchasers, the phrase "made in Germany" is clearly
indicative of fraudulent intention.

Certain instances are exceptionally galling. Aniline dyes were first
manufactured from the residuum of coal tar in Great Britain. But
enterprising Germany, which has coal-fields of its own, sent
apprentices to England who learned the manufacture, and then by means
of the chemistry taught in the German universities, revolutionized the
process, and discovered how to extract new colors from the coal tar,
so that now the bulk of aniline dyes are made in Germany. Obviously,
the German chemist is a perfidious person. The Yankee is shrewd and
well taught in the technical professions. He makes new and quite
unexampled tools, and machinery of all sorts. It takes the Briton some
years to be sure that these are not iniquitous--a Yankee trick; but in
the end he adopts them. Even then, to the Briton's surprise, the
Yankee competes successfully. A commission (no German spy) is sent to
America to find out why, and on its return gleefully reports that the
Yankee works his tools at a ruinous rate, driving them so hard that in
a decade it will be necessary to reëquip his plant entire. At the end
of the decade, the conservative Englishman's tools are as good as if
they had been kept in cotton batting; but by this time the Yankee has
invented newer and more economical devices, and when he reëquips his
plant with them he is able to undersell the English producer even more
signally. The honest British manufacturer sells his old tools to an
unsuspecting brother in trade and adopts the new ones. The Yankee
machinist is obviously as perfidious as the German chemist. The upper
middle classes in England realize that the destinies of Great Britain
and America run together, and they are very hospitable to Americans,
but the industrial population hate us scarcely less than they hate
the Germans.

All this is, of course, not directly chargeable to the English
universities: but the fact remains that in Germany and in America the
educational system is the most powerful ally of industry. Here again
the English radical is on his guard. From time to time, in letters to
the daily papers or political speeches before industrial audiences,
the case is very clearly stated. In a recent epistolary agitation in
"The Times" it was shown that whereas American and German business men
learn foreign languages, Englishmen attempt to sell their wares by
means of interpreters, and do not even have their pamphlets and
prospectuses translated. Admitting the facts, one gentleman gravely
urged that if only the English would stick out the fight, their
language would soon be the business language of the world. If it is
the conscious purpose of the nation to make it so, it might be of
advantage to spell the language as it has been pronounced in the
centuries since Chaucer; already with some such purpose the Germans
are adopting Roman characters. But at least it will be many decades
before English is the Volapük of business, and meantime England is
losing ground. From the point of view of the mere outsider, it would
seem of little moment to England what language is used, if the
profits of the business transacted accrue to Russian, German, and
American corporations.

It has even been strongly urged that commercial and technical subjects
be taught in the universities. Cambridge and the University of Glasgow
have already a fund with this in view; and the new Midland University
at Birmingham, of which Mr. Joseph Chamberlain is chancellor, is to be
mainly devoted to commercial science and engineering. It cannot be
foretold that the ancient universities will hold their own against the
modern. In a speech at Birmingham (January 17, 1901), Mr. Chamberlain
said: "Finance is the crux of the situation. Upon our finance depends
entirely the extent to which we shall be able to develop this new
experiment. With us, in fact, money is the root of all good. I am very
glad to say that the promises of donations which, when I last
addressed you, amounted to £330,000, have risen since then to an
estimated amount of about £410,000.... Now £410,000 is a large sum. I
heard the other day that the University of Cambridge, which has for
some time past been appealing for further assistance, has only up to
the present time received £60,000. I most deeply regret that their
fund is not larger, and I regret also that ours is so small." Oxford
has apparently not entered the new competition even in a half-hearted
manner. For centuries it has been the resort of the nobility and
aristocracy, the "governing classes," and though the spirit of the age
has so far invaded it as to have been in Mr. Gladstone's eyes its
chief danger, the university has as yet only the slenderest connection
with the industrial life of the nation.

The virtues of the Oxford educational system, like those of the social
and athletic life, are pretty clearly traceable in the main to the
division of the university into colleges; at least, it is hard to see
how anything other than this could have suggested the idea of having
one body to teach the student and another to examine him. And they
have a strong family likeness one to another, the concrete result
being a highly sturdy and effective character. But the educational
system differs from the social and athletic system in that the defects
of its qualities are the more vigorous. As far as these defects result
from the educational system, they are chargeable not so much to the
preponderance of the colleges as to the torpor of the university; and
they are powerfully abetted by the Oxford tradition as to the nature
and function of a liberal education. This has not always been the case
at Oxford. To understand the situation more clearly, it is necessary
to review in brief the origin and the growth of the colleges, and the
extinction of the mediæval university. This will throw further light
on Oxford's social history. We shall thus be better able to judge how
and to what extent the college system offers a solution for the
correction of our American instruction.





In the beginning was the university. The colleges were as unimportant
as the university is now. If it be admitted that the university exists
to-day, they were less important; for there were no colleges. The
origin of the university was probably due to a migration of students
in 1167 from the then world-famous University of Paris. The first
definite mention of a _studium generale_ at Oxford, or assembly of
masters of the different faculties, dates from 1185, when Giraldus
Cambrensis, as he himself relates, read his new work, "Topographia
Hibernia," before the citizens and scholars of the town, and
entertained in his hostel "all the doctors of the different

At this time, and for many centuries afterward, Oxford, like other
mediæval universities, was a guild, and was not unlike the trade
guilds of the time. Its object was to train and give titles to those
who dealt in the arts and professions. The master tanner was trained
by his guild to make leather, and he made it; the master of arts was
trained by the university to teach, and he taught. He was required to
rent rooms in the university schools, for a year and even two, and to
show that he deserved his title of master by lecturing in them, and
conducting "disputations." The masters lived directly from the
contributions of their hearers, their means varying with the
popularity of their lectures; and the students were mainly poor
clerks, who sought degrees for their money value.

The lectures were mere dictations from manuscript, necessitated by the
lack of accessible texts. The students copied the lectures verbatim
for future study. The instruction in arts covered the entire field of
secular knowledge, the "seven arts," the trivium (grammar, rhetoric,
and logic or dialectic), and the quadrivium (music, arithmetic,
geometry, and astronomy). The lectures were the main and often the
only means of imparting knowledge. The disputations were scholastic
arguments--debates--on some set question, and were conducted by the
masters. They were the practical application of what the student had
learned from the lectures, and were the chief means of intellectual
training. Besides attending lectures and disputing, the candidate for
the degree had to pass an examination; but the great test of his
acquirement seems to have been the skill with which he used his
knowledge in debate. Thus the formal disputations occupied very much
the same place as the modern written examinations, and they must have
required very much the same rare combination of knowledge, address,
and pluck. All learning was in a pint-pot; but it was a very
serviceable pint-pot.

The university education did not make a man above the work of the
world: it made him an engine of so many horse power to perform it. It
brought him benefices in that great sphere of activity, the mediæval
Church, and important posts in that other sphere of mediæval
statecraft, which was so often identified with the Church. If the
clerk was above the carpenter, it was not because he came from a
different station in life, for he often did not: it was because his
work was more important. And he was far above the carpenter. It was a
strenuous, glorious life, and the man of intelligence and training
found his level, which is the highest. The kings and the nobility were
warriors, and may have affected to despise education; but they were
far from despising educated men. The machinery of state was organized
and controlled by clerks from the university. If the scientific and
mechanical professions had existed then, there is no doubt that they
would not have been despised as to-day, but would have had full

Socially, the university was chaos. In the absence of colleges, all
the students lived with the townsmen in "chamberdekyns," which appear
to be etymologically and historically the forbears of the "diggings"
to which the fourth year man now retreats when he has been routed from
college by incoming freshmen and by the necessity of reading for his
final examination. But such discipline as is now exerted over
out-of-college students was undreamed of. In his interesting and
profoundly scholarly history of the universities of the Middle Ages,
the Rev. Hastings Rashdall gives a vivid picture of mediæval student
life, which was pretty much the same in all the universities of
Europe. Boys went up to the university at as early an age as thirteen,
and the average freshman could not have been older than fifteen; yet
they were allowed almost absolute liberty. Drunkenness was rarely
treated as a university offense; and for introducing suspicious women
into his rooms, it was only on being repeatedly caught that an
undergraduate was disciplined. At the University of Ingolstadt, a
student who had killed another in a drunken quarrel had his scholastic
effects and garments confiscated by the university. He may have been
warned to be good in future, but he was not expelled. "It is
satisfactory to add," Rashdall continues, "that at Prague, a Master of
Arts, believed to have assisted in cutting the throat of a Friar
Bishop, was actually expelled." The body of undergraduates was "an
undisciplined student-horde." Hende Nicholas, in Chaucer's "Miller's
Tale," is, it must be admitted, a lively and adventuring youth; but he
might have been much livelier without being untrue to student life in

The townspeople seem to have been the not unnatural fathers of the
tradesmen and landlords of modern Oxford; and the likeness is well
borne out in the matter of charges. But where to-day a man sometimes
tries amiably to beat down the landlord's prices, the way of the
Middle Ages was to beat down the landlord. As the student was in many
cases of the same station in life as the townsman, he naturally failed
to command the servility with which the modern undergraduate is
regarded. Both sides used to gird on their armor, and meet in battles
that began in bloodshed and often ended in death. Pages of Rashdall's
history are filled with accounts of savage encounters between town and
gown, which are of importance historically as showing the steps by
which the university achieved the anomalous legal dominance over the
city which it still in some measure retains. For our present purpose,
it is enough to note that mediæval Oxford was unruly, very.
"Fighting," says Rashdall, "was perpetually going on in the streets of
Oxford.... There is probably not a single yard of ground in any part
of the classic High Street that lies between St. Martin's and St.
Mary's [almost a quarter of a mile] which has not at one time or other
been stained with human blood. There are historic battlefields on
which less has been spilt."

As if this were not enough, there were civil feuds. In the Middle
Ages, sectional differences were more obvious and more important than
now; and the first subdivision of the universities, both in England
and on the Continent, was by "nations." At Oxford there were two
nations; and if, when the north countryman rubbed elbows with the
south countryman, he was offended by his silken gown and soft vowels,
he rapped him across the pate. Hence more strife and bloodshed. Amid
all this disorder there was a full measure of mediæval want and
misery. At best, the student of moderate means led a precarious life;
and poor students, shivering, homeless, and starved, lived by the
still reputable art of the beggar. Something had to be done.



The mediæval spirit of organization, which resulted in so many noble
and deathless institutions, was not slow in exerting itself against
the social chaos of the university. Out of chaos grew the halls, and
out of the halls the colleges. The first permanent organizations of
student life were small, and had their origin in the immediate wants
of the individual. To gain the economy of coöperation and the safety
of numbers, the students at Oxford, as at Paris and elsewhere, began
to live in separate small colonies under one roof. These were called
aulæ or halls. They were no less interesting in themselves than for
the fact that they were the germ out of which the Oxford college
system grew.

At first the halls appear to have been mere chance associations. Each
had a principal who managed its affairs; but the principal had no
official status, and might even be an undergraduate. The halls
correspond roughly to the fraternities of American college life. Their
internal rule was absolutely democratic. The students lived together
by mutual consent under laws of their own framing, and under a
principal of their own electing. They were quite without fear or favor
of the university. The principal's duties were to lease the hall, to
be a sort of over-steward of it, and to lead in enforcing the
self-imposed rules of the community. His term of office, like his
election, depended on the good-will of his fellows; if he made himself
disliked, they were quite at liberty to take up residence elsewhere.
In the thirteenth century there was really no such thing as university
discipline. The men who lived in the halls came and went as they
pleased, and were as free as their contemporary in chamberdekyns to
loiter, quarrel, and carouse. Chaucer's "Reeve's Tale" gives us a
glimpse into "Soler Halle at Cantebregge," from which it would appear
that the members were quite as loose and free as Hende Nicholas, their
Oxford contemporary. But the liberty was an organized liberty. In
contrast with the chaos of the life of the students in chamberdekyns,
the early halls must have been brave places to work and to play in,
and one might wish that a fuller record had been left of the life in
them. It was their fate to be obscured by the greater splendor and
permanence of the colleges to which they paved the way.



The English college, roughly speaking, is a mediæval hall supported by
a permanent fund which the socii or fellows administer. The first fund
for the support of scholars was bequeathed in 1243, but it can
scarcely be regarded as marking the first college, for it provided for
two scholars only, and these lived where they pleased. In 1249 William
of Durham bequeathed a fund for the support of ten or more masters of
arts. At first these also lived apart; it was only in 1280, after the
type of the English college had been fixed, that they were formed into
the body now known as University College. The first organized
community at Oxford was founded by Sir John de Balliol some little
time before 1266; but the allowances to the scholars, as was the case
in colleges of the University of Paris, after which it was doubtless
modeled, were not from a permanent fund, being paid annually by the
founder. Balliol cannot therefore be regarded as the first
characteristic English college. It was not until 1282 that Sir John's
widow, Dervorguilla, adopted the new English idea by making the
endowment of the "House of Balliol" permanent, and placing it under
the management of the fellows.

The real founder of the English college was Walter de Merton. In 1264
Walter provided by endowment for the permanent maintenance of twenty
scholars, who were to live together in a hall as a community; and in
1274 he drew up the statutes which fix the type of the earliest
English college. The principal of Merton was not, like the principal
of a mediæval hall, the temporary head of a chance community, but a
permanent head with established power; and he had to manage, not the
periodic contributions of free associates, but a landed estate held in
permanent trust. He was called "warden," a title which the head of
Merton retains to this day. This idea of a body supported in a
permanent residence by a permanent fund is perhaps of monastic origin,
and was accompanied by certain features of brotherhood rule. The
scholars lived a life of order and seclusion which was in striking
contrast to the life of the students in chamberdekyns, and even of
those in the halls. But with the monastic order they had also the
monastic democracy, so that in one way the government of the college
was strikingly similar to that of the halls. Vacancies in the
community were filled by coöptation, and the warden was elected by the
thirteen senior fellows from their own number. Though partly monastic
in constitution, the Hall of Merton was not properly a religious body.
The fellows took no vows, and seem rather to have been expected to
enter lay callings. This College of Merton was the result of a gradual
development of the hall along monastic lines--a lay brotherhood of
students. It was destined to work a revolution in English university
life and in English university teaching. The constitutions of
University and Balliol were, as I have indicated, remodeled on the
lines of Merton; and other colleges were founded as follows: Exeter,
1314; Oriel, 1324; Queens, 1341; and Canterbury, now extinct, 1362,
most of which were profoundly influenced by the constitution of


It was at first no part of the duty of the elders (socii, or, as
Chaucer calls them, felawes) to teach the younger. The scholars of the
college received the regular mediæval education in the university. But
even in Merton the germ of tutorial instruction was present. Twelve
"parvuli" who were not old enough, or sufficiently used to the Latin
tongue, to profit by the lectures and disputations of the university,
lived in or near the colleges and were taught by a grammar master;
and it appears that even the older scholars might, "without blushing,"
consult this grammar master on matters that "pertained to his
faculty." In his relation to these older students the grammar master
may be regarded as the precursor of the system of tutorial

The first college to develop regular undergraduate instruction within
its walls was "S. Marie College of Winchester in Oxford," founded in
1379, by William of Wykeham. "S. Marie's" brought in so many
innovations that it came to be called "New College," a title which,
incongruously enough, it has retained for more than five hundred
years. Wykeham's first innovation was to place the grammar master, for
the greater good of his pupils, at the head of a "college" of seventy
boys at Winchester, thus outlining the English system of public
schools. New College was accordingly able to exclude all who had not
attained the ripe age of fifteen. The effect of this innovation on the
college was peculiar. When the boys came up from Winchester, they
appear to have been farther advanced than most of the undergraduates
attending lectures and disputes in the university schools; in any
case, Wykeham arranged that the older fellows should supplement the
university teaching by private tuition within the college. Little by
little the New College type succeeded that of Merton. Magdalen
College, founded in 1448, carried the tutorial system to its logical
end by endowing lectureships in theology, metaphysics, and natural
philosophy. The older colleges--those of the Merton type--little by
little followed this new example, so that by the end of the Middle
Ages it was possible for a student to receive his entire instruction
within the walls of his college. In Wolsey's splendid foundation,
Cardinal College (1522), now styled Christ Church, there was a still
more ample endowment for professorships. At first the college
instruction was regarded as supplementary to the university teaching,
though it soon became far more important. The masters of the
university continued to read lectures on the recognized subjects,
living as of old on fees from those who chose to listen; but they were
clearly unable to compete with the endowed tutors and professors of
the colleges. By the beginning of the fifteenth century, the mediæval
teaching master was disappearing. The only real teaching in arts--by
all odds the most popular branch of study at Oxford--was given within
the colleges and halls.

The discipline of the earlier colleges was much severer than that of
to-day, but the difference is one of degree rather than of kind. The
lectures in schools began at six, instead of nine; and at any hour it
was forbidden to leave the college except on a studious errand. When
attending out-of-college lectures, all scholars were required to go
and come in a body; and in one set of statutes even a chaplain was
forbidden to leave the gates, except to go to lectures or to the
library, without taking at least one companion, who, in the antique
phrase of the statute, was to be a "witness of his honest
conversation." There were only two meals a day, dinner at ten and
supper at five. Breakfast, now the great rallying-point of Oxford
hospitality, was the invention of a more luxurious age. Of athletics
there was none, or next to none. The only licensed hilarities were
certain so-called "honest jokes," with which the tutors were in at
least one case required to regale their pupils after dinner, and a
"potation" which was permitted after supper, perhaps as an offset to
the "honest jokes."

  [Illustration: NEW COLLEGE GARDENS Showing the mediæval wall of

The severity of these regulations is mainly explainable in the fact
that the inmates of the colleges were fed, clothed, and housed out of
the endowment, and might thus be reasonably expected to give a good
account of themselves. Furthermore, they were most of them mere boys.
A statute dating as late as 1527 requires that "scholars" shall be
at least twelve years old. At fourteen or fifteen a scholar might
become a fellow. The average age of "determining" as bachelor of arts
was little if at all over seventeen. At nineteen, the age at which the
modern Oxonian comes up from the public schools, the mediæval student
might, if he were clever, be a master of arts, lecturing and disputing
in schools for the benefit of the bachelors and scholars of the

The modern Oxonian delights to tell visiting friends that he is
forbidden by statute to play marbles on the steps of the Bodleian, and
to roll hoop in the High; but if a mediæval master of arts were to
"come up" to-day, he would be amused, not that so many rules framed
for his boyish pupils of old should be applied to grown men, but that
the men so obviously require a check to juvenile exuberance. Yet this
much has been gained, that the outgrown restrictions of college life
have kept Oxford wholesomely young. The survivals of the monastic
system meanwhile have kept it wholesomely democratic.

After the colleges reached their full development, the extinction of
the mediæval university as an institution for teaching was largely a
matter of form. The quietus was given in 1569. The Earl of Leicester,
then chancellor, ordered that the government should be in the hands
of the chancellor, doctors, proctors, and the heads of the colleges
and halls. In 1636 (the year of the founding of the first American
college) the statutes of the university were revised and codified by
Archbishop Laud; the sole authority was placed in the hands of an
oligarchy composed of the leading dons of the colleges. The government
was limited to the vice-chancellor, the proctors, and the heads of
houses, and the vice-chancellor and the proctors were elected in
sequence by each of the colleges from its own members. The teaching of
the university was now legally as well as actually in the hands of the
college tutors, and the examination was in the hands of a board chosen
by the colleges. University lectures were still delivered in the
schools by the regent masters, but they had ceased to play any
important part in Oxford education.



Like the colleges, the halls meanwhile tended gradually towards an
organized community life. The starting-point was a regulation that the
principal should give the university security for the rent of the
house. The logical result of this was that the principal became the
representative of the university, and the hall one of its recognized
institutions. The advantage of living in separate communities meantime
had become so clearly evident that by the middle of the fifteenth
century chamberdekyns were abolished. All students not living in a
college were required to live in a hall. It was thus that the halls
lost some of their democratic independence. At this period in their
development they may be roughly compared to such modern American halls
as Claverly at Harvard, where the residents govern their own affairs
in the main, admitting newcomers only by vote, but are all alike
subject to the authority of a resident university proctor. The analogy
is by no means close, for the principal of the mediæval hall was not
so much a resident policeman as the actual head of the community.

As the colleges developed tutorial instruction, the halls followed
suit; the local administrator became responsible not only for the
social régime, but for the tuition of the undergraduates. The halls
thus differed from the college mainly in that they had no corporate
existence such as is necessary to an endowed institution. The mediæval
hall was now in its golden age; it was a well-conceived instrument for
all the purposes of residence and of education. It is especially to be
noted that the régime of the community was still in the main
democratic. Though the head was appointed by the university, he had to
be accepted by vote of the undergraduates, a provision that was still
observed, at least in one instance, until the close of the nineteenth

The discipline of the halls of the fifteenth century, severe though it
was by comparison with that of the earliest halls, was far less severe
than the discipline in the colleges. It was quite as much as the
university could accomplish, according to Rashdall, "to prevent
students expelled from one hall being welcomed at another, to prevent
the masters themselves condoning or sharing the worst excesses of
their pupils, to compel fairly regular attendance at lectures and
other university or college exercises, to require all students to
return home by curfew at 8 or 9 P.M., to get the outer doors of the
pedagogy locked till morning, and to insist on the presence of a
regent throughout the night." When the early habits of the community
generally are remembered, it will be evident that these regulations
still allowed a vast deal of liberty, or rather of license. Boys of
fifteen or sixteen living in the very centre of large and densely
populated towns were in general perfectly free to roam about the
streets up to the hour at which all respectable citizens were
accustomed, if not actually compelled by town statutes, to retire to

The halls were reduced in number by the wars of the Roses and by a
period of intellectual stagnation that followed, but they still
numbered seventy-one, as against eighteen colleges (including those
maintained by monasteries, which disappeared with the Reformation);
and the number of their students is estimated at seven hundred, as
against three hundred in the colleges. In the light of subsequent
development it seems probable that it would have been far better for
the university if the halls had remained the characteristic
subdivision. Their fate was decided not by any inherent superiority
on the part of the colleges, but by the force of corporate wealth.

Even in the fifteenth century, the halls were tending to pass into the
possession of the colleges, and later events made the tendency a fact.
"As stars lose their light when the sun ariseth," says an ancient
Cambridge worthy, "so all these hostels decayed by degrees when
endowed colleges began to appear." The Reformation, and a recurrent
pestilence, "the sweating sickness," a kind of inflammatory rheumatism
due apparently to the unwholesome situation of the university,
resulted in a sharp falling off in the number of students. The
colleges lived on, however thinned their ranks, by virtue of the
endowments; but the halls disappeared with the students who had
frequented them. In 1526 it was recorded that sixteen had lately been
abandoned. When the numbers of the university swelled again under
Elizabeth, the increase found place partly in the few halls that were
left, but mainly in the colleges. In 1602 there were only eight halls,
and these were all mere dependencies of separate colleges. "_Singulæ
singulis a colegiis pendent_," as a contemporary expresses it. Only
one of these, St. Edmund Hall, now retains even a show of the old
democratic independence, and this has lately been brought into closer
subjection to Queen's College. Socially as well as educationally, the
mediæval university faded before the organization and endowment of the
colleges. The life of Oxford was concentrated in a dozen or more
separate institutions, and so thoroughly concentrated that there was
little association, intellectual or social, between any two of them.



If the tutors of New College were epoch-making, the amplitude and
splendor of its social life were no less so. Its original buildings
are in such perfect preservation that it is hard to believe that they
are almost the oldest in Oxford, and that the New College quadrangle
is the father of all quads. The establishment of the "head" was of
similar dignity. The master of Balliol received forty shillings
yearly; the warden of New College, forty pounds. In the statutes of an
old Cambridge college we find it required that since it would be
"indecent" for the master to go afoot, and "scandalous" to the college
for him to "conducere hackeneye," he might be allowed one horse. The
warden of New College had a coach and six. As century followed century
the value of the endowments increased, and the scale of living was
proportionately raised. The colleges in general became the home of
comfort, and sometimes of a very positive luxury.

In the colleges of the Middle Ages the students were the _socii_, and
were maintained by the endowment. These are the dons and
foundationers, or scholarship men, of to-day. But the comfort and
order of the life in the colleges were very attractive, and the sons
of the rich were early welcomed as "gentlemen commoners," precursors
of the modern "commoners." The statutes of Magdalen make the first
clear provision for receiving and teaching such "non-foundation"
students. They permit the admission of twenty _filii nobilium_ as
_commensales_, or commoners, in the vernacular. At first these were
few and unimportant; in the centuries during which the numbers of the
university were at an ebb, they could easily be accommodated within
the depleted colleges. When the university increased under Elizabeth,
the idea of living in halls in the mediæval fashion, as we have seen,
was obsolescent, so that the result of the increase was to enlarge the
colleges. Thus, largely as a matter of chance, the commoners of
to-day, the characteristic and by far the larger part of the
undergraduate body, live under a régime invented for the endowed
scholars of the Middle Ages, and the democratic license of the
mediæval undergraduate at large has given way to a democratic rule of
commoners in colleges. Though the commoner is no longer called a
gentleman commoner, he is more than likely to come from a family of
position and means, for the comfort of life in the colleges is
expensive. All this has transformed Oxford from a mediæval guild of
masters and apprenticed students, a free mart of available knowledge,
into a closely organized anteroom to social and professional life.



Though the university as a teaching body pined before the rising
colleges, and for centuries lay in a swoon, it was not dead. It was
kept alive by certain endowments for lecturers. But so thoroughly did
the college tutors supply all undergraduate needs that, unless walls
indeed have ears, the lectures were never heard. The professors
gradually abandoned the university schools and gave the unattended
lectures in their own houses. Such lectures were known as "study
lectures." Even these gave way to silence. An odd situation was caused
by the fact that there were also salaries paid to university proctors,
a part of whose duty it was to see that the professorial lectures were
properly given. When a proctor appeared, the learned professor would
snatch up his manuscript and read until his auditor got tired and
left. This was one case in which a thief was not the person to catch a
thief; such energy on the part of the proctor was unusual, and was
regarded as in extremely bad form. The abuse proceeded so far that in
some cases, when hearers appeared at the appointed hour, the
professors refused point blank to read their lectures. The climax of
the farce was that at graduation students were fined for having cut
these lectures that had never been given. When Samuel Johnson was
fined for neglecting a college lecture to go "sliding on Christ Church
Meadow," he exclaimed, "Sir, you have fined me twopence for missing a
lecture that was not worth a penny!" His untimely departure from
Oxford has lamentably left us to conjecture what he would have said
upon paying the university fines at graduation for cutting lectures
that had never been given.

Even the university examinations became farcical. Under the Laudian
statutes the very examiners became corrupt. Instead of a feast of
reason and a flow of soul, the wary student provided his examiner with
good meat and wine; and the two, with what company they bade in, got
gloriously drunk together. B. A. meant Bacchanal of Arts. Even when
the forms of examination were held to, the farce was only less
obvious. A writer in _Terræ Filius_, March 24, 1721, tells us that the
examination consisted in "a formal repetition of a set of syllogisms
upon some ridiculous question in logick, which the candidates get by
rote, or perhaps read out of their caps, which lie before them." These
commodious sets of syllogisms were called strings, and descended from
undergraduate to undergraduate in a regular succession like themes and
mechanical drawings in an American club or fraternity. "I have in my
custody a book of strings upon most or all of the questions discussed
in a certain college noted for its ratiocinative faculty; on the first
leaf of which are these words: _Ex dono Richardi P----e primæ classi
benefactoris munificentissimi_." Lord Eldon took his degree at
University College by an examination that consisted of two questions:
"What is the meaning of Golgotha?" and "Who founded University
College?" It was, no doubt, the bearers of degrees thus achieved who
owned those marvelous libraries of the eighteenth century, which
consisted of pasteboard boxes exquisitely backed in tooled calf, and
labeled with the names of the standard Greek and Latin classics.

The decline of the university teaching and examination did not result
in a corresponding rise in the colleges. Each of the dozen and more
institutions was supposed, as I have said, to keep a separate faculty
in arts, and often in law and theology as well. If there had been any
incentive to ambition, the colleges might have vied with one another
in their impossible task, or at least have gone far enough to bring
about a reform. But they were rich and did not care. The wealth of
collegiate endowments, that had begun by ruining the university, ended
by ruining the colleges. There were still earnest teachers and
students at Oxford, but they were not the rule. The chief energies of
the tutors were spent in increasing their salaries by a careful
management of the estates, and in evading their pupils. In "the
splendid foppery of a well-turned period" Gibbon thus pictures the
dons of Magdalen in 1752: "Their deep and dull potations excused the
brisk intemperance of youth." Only one result was possible. In 1821 T.
J. Hogg, Shelley's college-mate at University College, referred to
Oxford as a seat of learning. "Why do you call it so?" Shelley cried
indignantly. "Because," Hogg replied, "it is a place in which learning
sits very comfortably, well thrown back as in an easy chair, and
sleeps so soundly that neither you nor I nor anybody else can wake
her." Permanent endowments had transferred the seat of learning from a
nobly indigent university to the colleges, and the deep and dull
potations of endowed tutors had put it asleep on the common-room

The nineteenth century did not altogether arouse it. "The studies of
the university," according to the testimony of the Oxford Commission
of 1850, "were first raised from their abject state by a statute
passed in 1800." Heretofore all students had pursued the same studies,
and there was no distinction to be gained at graduation except the
mere fact of becoming a Bachelor of Arts. The statute of 1800 provided
that such students as chose might distinguish themselves from the rest
by taking honors; and for both passman and honor man it provided a
dignified and quite undebauchable university examining board. At first
the subjects studied were, roughly speaking, the same for passman and
honor man; the difference was made by raising the standard of the
honor examination. The examination followed the mediæval custom in
being mainly oral; and though it soon came to be written, it still
preserves the tradition of the mediæval disputation by including a
_viva voce_ which is open to the attendance of the public. Throughout
the nineteenth century the development consisted mainly in adding a
few minor schools.

The good and bad features of the English college system as a whole
should not be hard to distinguish. In all social aspects the colleges
are as nearly perfect as human institutions are capable of becoming,
and they are the foundation of an unequaled athletic life.
Educationally, their qualities are mixed. For the purpose of common or
garden English gentlemen, nothing could be better than a happy
combination of tutorial instruction and university examining. For the
purposes of scholarly instruction in general, and of instruction in
the modern sciences and mechanic arts in particular, few things could
be worse than the system as at present construed.

To exult over the superiority of American institutions in so many of
the things that make up a modern university would not be a very
profitable proceeding. Let us neglect the imperfections of Oxford. It
is of much greater profit to consider the extraordinary social
advantages that arise from the division of the university into
colleges, and the educational advantages of the honor schools. These
are points with regard to which we are as poor as Oxford is poor in
the scope of university instruction.

The point will perhaps be clearer for a brief review of the manner in
which our college system grew out of the English. The development is
the reverse of what we have just been considering. In England, the
colleges overshadowed the university and sapped its life. With us, the
university has overshadowed the college and is bidding fair to
annihilate it.



In 1636 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed an act to establish a
"schoole or colledge," and set apart a tract of land in "New Towne" as
its seat, which they called Cambridge. Our Puritan forefathers had
carried from the English university the conviction that "sound
learning" is the "root of true religion," and were resolved, in their
own vigorous phrase, that it should not be "buried in the graves of
the fathers." In 1638 a master of arts of Emmanuel College, Cambridge,
John Harvard, bequeathed to the new institution his library and half
his fortune, some £780. A timber building was erected and a
corporation formed which bore the donor's name. From the regulations
in force in 1655 it is evident that in its manner of life, its laws of
government, the studies taught, and the manner of granting the degree,
Harvard College was a close counterpart of the English college of the
early seventeenth century, its very phraseology including such terms
as "disputing," "proceeding," "determining." It was the first
institution of higher education in British America. Until the founding
of the first state university, the University of Virginia, in 1819,
the constitution afforded the principal model for subsequent
foundations, and to-day colleges of the Harvard type are perhaps the
strongest factor in American education. Harvard thus transplanted to
American soil the full measure of the traditions of the Middle Ages,
many of which exist in a modified form to-day.

In "Harvard College by an Oxonian" Dr. George Birkbeck Hill suggests
that John Harvard expected others to found similar institutions which
collectively were to reproduce the University of Cambridge in New
England. The supposition is by no means impossible, and the manuscript
records in the Harvard Library would perhaps reward research. But
whatever the intention, it is abundantly clear that in the full
English sense of the word no second college was established at
Cambridge. The first constitution was in all essentials the same as
that of to-day. Hutchinson's "History of Massachusetts" records
(1676): "There are but four fellowships, the two seniors have each
30_l._ per ann. and the two juniors 15_l._, but no diet is allowed:
There are tutors to all such as are admitted students.... The
government of these colledges is in the governor and magistrates of
Massachusetts and the president of the colledge, together with the
teaching elders of the six adjacent towns." The fellows are the
forbears of the modern corporation, the tutors of the faculty; and
though the institution has been separated from the state, the
"teaching elders" are the earliest overseers. Furthermore, the
endowment of Harvard has remained undivided; and generations elapsed
before the present very un-English division was made by which the
teaching force is separated into independent faculties for arts and
the various professions. From the first the "college" was a
"university" in that it granted degrees; and less than twenty years
after its founding the two terms are used as synonymous; an appendix
to what is called the charter of Harvard "College" calls the
institution a "University." This confusion of terms still persists,
and is found at most other American institutions, the constitutions of
which were largely modeled after that of Harvard. For generations the
endowments and the teaching force of the American college and
university were identical. Thus as regards its constitution the
typical American university is a single English college writ large.

Almost from the outset, however, there were, in one sense of the word,
several colleges. In "An Inventory of the whole Estate of Harvd
Colledge taken by the President & Fellows as they find the same to be
Decemb. 10, 1654," the first two items are as follows:--

"Imprs. The building called the old colledge, conteyning a Hall,
Kitchen, Buttery, Cellar, Turrett & 5 Studeys & therin 7 chambers for
students in them. A Pantry & small corne Chamber. A library & Books
therin, vallued at 400lb.

"It. Another house called Goffes colledge, & was purchased of Edw:
Goffe. conteyning five chambers. 18 studyes. a kitchen cellar & 3

It is to be noted that "Old Colledge," which was Harvard's building,
had a kitchen, buttery, and cellar, a pantry and a small corn chamber,
and was thus primitively modeled after an English hall or college.
Presumably the inmates, like their cousins across the water, dined in
the hall. As for "Goffe's colledge," granting that the punctuation of
the inventory is intentional, it had a kitchen cellar, which would
seem to imply a kitchen; and it is not impossible that there should be
a comma after "kitchen." No hall is mentioned, and it is hardly likely
that there could have been so imposing a room in what was built for a
private house; but it would have been possible and natural to serve
meals in the largest of the five "chambers." A third building
Hutchinson's history describes as "a small brick building called the
Indian Colledge, where some few Indians did study, but now it is a
printing house," the first printing house in British America. The two
earliest buildings at Harvard would thus be the abodes of separate
communities, and though I can find no intimation as to the Indian
College, it can scarcely be doubted that since it was established for
the separate use of the redskins, it contained a separate
living-plant. A later record shows that there was a separate kitchen
in the first Stoughton Hall.

These early "colledges" at Harvard are more properly termed halls, and
such as survived are now so called. They had probably little in common
with the democratic English halls of the Middle Ages. Both at Oxford
and at Cambridge the halls of the seventeenth century were, as I have
said, mere pendants of the colleges; they must have had a separate
character as a social community and a certain independence; but if
they had separate endowments, they did not manage them, and each of
them depended for its instruction mainly on the college to which it
was affiliated. The printed records of the early American halls are
too meagre to warrant definite conclusions; but they seem to show that
the halls were conceived in the spirit of the English hall of the
seventeenth century, in that they provided for separate social and
residential communities without separate endowment or teaching force.
If the increase of students at Harvard had been rapid, it is not
unlikely that many new halls would have been established, each the
home of a complete community; but for half a century the number
fluctuated between fifteen and thirty. If we take the English estimate
of two hundred and fifty as the largest feasible size for a single
community, the limit was not reached until as late as 1840. By 1676
the timber "colledge" built at the charge of Mr. Harvard, which bore
his name, had been superseded by the first Harvard Hall, which
Hutchinson describes as "a fair pile of brick building covered with
tiles by reason of the late Indian warre not yet finished.... It
contains twenty chambers for students, two in a chamber, a large hall
which serves for a chapel; over that a convenient library." In these
ample accommodations it was found that the student body could be most
conveniently and cheaply fed as a single community. Thus, like the
idea of a group of colleges with separate finances and teaching
bodies, the idea of separate residential halls must have passed away
with the generation of divines educated in England. The American
college and the American university remained identical, not only
educationally and in their finances, but as a social organization.
This fact has caused a curious reversion in America toward the
mediæval type of university, both socially and educationally.

As the university has expanded, it has declined socially: to-day the
residential life is only a degree better than that in the ancient
chamberdekyns. Educationally, the reversion has been fortunate: the
university is alive to the needs of the life about it. If it here
resembles the modern German universities, this is largely due to the
fact that both have more faithfully preserved the system and the
spirit of the Middle Ages: the resemblance is quite as much a matter
of native growth in America as of foreign imitation. In England, the
mediæval idea of a multiplicity of residential bodies has survived,
and the educational idea of the mediæval university has perished. In
Germany, the educational idea has survived, and the old community life
has perished. In America, the two ideas have survived by virtue of
their identity. But for the same reason both are in a rudimentary and
very imperfect state of development.


[3] William G. Brown in _The Nation_, vol. 61, No. 1585, p. 346.





The imperfection of the modern American university in its social
organization has been stated with the utmost clearness and authority,
at least as regards Harvard. The "Harvard Graduates' Magazine" for
September, 1894, published posthumously an article by Frank Bolles,
late secretary of the college, entitled "The Administrative Problem."
"In the present state of affairs," says Mr. Bolles, "student social
life is stunted and distorted.... There is something very ugly in the
possibility of a young man's coming to Cambridge, and while here
sleeping and studying alone in a cheerless lodging, eating alone in a
dismal restaurant, feeling himself unknown, and so alone in his
lectures, his chapel, and his recreations, and not even having the
privilege of seeing his administrative officers, who know most of his
record, without having to explain to them at each visit who he is and
what he is, before they can be made to remember that he is a living,
hoping, or despairing part of Harvard College."

Some of these men who fail to find a place in the social community
meet their isolation grimly and are embittered against life. Others,
after a few months or a year of lonesomeness and neglect, give up
their university career broken-hearted, and by so doing perhaps take
the first step in a life of failures. One man of whom I happened to
know confided to his daily themes a depth of misery of which it can
only be hoped that it was hysterical. At night when he heard a step on
his staircase he prayed that it might be some one coming to see him.
The tide of undergraduate life and of joy in living flowed all about
him and left him thirsting. If a man finds sweetness in the uses of
such adversity, it can only be by virtue of the firmest and calmest of
tempers. Sometimes fellows starve physically without a friend with
whom to share their hardship, living perhaps on bread, milk, and
oatmeal, which they cook over the study lamp. Occasionally one hears
disquieting rumors that such short rations have resulted in disease
and even death before the authorities were aware. If this be so, the
hardships of life in the earliest mediæval university, though far
enough removed from us to be picturesque, could hardly have been more

The sickness of the body politic has been portrayed with artistic
sympathy and veracity by Mr. C. M. Flandrau, in his "Harvard
Episodes," the wittiest and most searching of studies of undergraduate
life. It is no doubt for this reason that the book is both read and
resented by the healthy and unthinking college man.

To dwell on such individual instances would be unpleasant. The point
of importance is to show how the social chaos affects the health of
the community as a whole. As it happens, we have a barometer. For
better or for worse, the moving passion of the undergraduate body,
aside from studies, is athletic success. If athletics prosper, it is
because the life of the college finds an easy and natural expression;
if athletics languish, there is pretty sure to be some check on
wholesome functioning.

The causes of Harvard's abundant failures and the remedies have been a
fertile theme of discussion. One cause is obvious. The rivals with
distressing frequency have produced better teams. Every one knows that
what Cambridge chooses to call Yale luck is nine parts Yale pluck; and
the quality is well developed at Princeton, Pennsylvania, and
elsewhere. But why is it developed at these places more than at
Harvard? The explanations are legion. The first cry was bad coaching.
This was repeated until the fault was corrected, at least in part,
and until every one was wholly tired of hearing the explanation. Then
came the cry of bad physical training. This in turn was repeated until
it brought partial remedy and total weariness of the agitation. By and
by, all other complaints having been worn threadbare, Harvard's defeat
was attributed to the fog on Soldier's Field. It is not unlikely that
the fog will be dissipated and the athletes duly benefited. Yet it is
far from certain that this will make the athletic body sound.

The fault lies deeper than Yale pluck--or even the fog on Soldier's
Field. It is to be found in the conditions, social, administrative,
and even educational, which are at the basis of the life of the
university. If these conditions were peculiar to Harvard, it would
decidedly not be worth while to discuss them publicly. But they are
inherent in the type of university of which Harvard is the earliest
and most developed example, and are destined to crop out in every
American institution of learning in proportion as it grows, as Harvard
has grown, from the English college of a few decades ago into the
Teutonized university of the present and of the future. In considering
the causes, it is necessary to speak concretely of our one eminent
example; but the main fact brought out will be applicable in greater
or less degree to the present or future of any American college.

The sources of Harvard's weakness are mainly social. When the college
was small, it had its share of victory; but almost from the year when
it began to outgrow its rivals, its prowess declined. Forty years ago,
and even less, the undergraduate constitution of American institutions
was, roughly speaking, that of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge: a
freshman was measurably sure of falling into easy relationship with
the fellows of his class and of other classes, and thus of finding his
level or his pinnacle in athletic teams and in clubs. Considered as a
machine for developing good fellows and good sportsmen, it was well
adjusted and well oiled; it worked. But it was not capable of
expansion. Two or three hundred fellows can live and even dine
together with comfort and an increase of mutual understanding; they
soon become an organized community. When a thousand or two live as a
single community and dine at one board (let us call it dining), the
social bond relaxes. Next door neighbors are unknown to one another,
having no common ground of meeting, and even the college commons fail
to bring them together. The relaxing influence of the hour spent at
table and in the subsequent conversation, during which social
intercourse should most freely flourish, is quite lost. The
undergraduate body is a mob, or at best an aggregation of shifting
cliques. If men live in crowds or in cliques, their life is that of
crowds or of cliques, and is unprofitable both to themselves and to
the community that should prosper by their loyal activity.

It is true that there are societies and clubs, but these also to a
certain degree have been swamped in the rising tide of undergraduates.
With freshman classes as large as those of to-day, the old social
machinery becomes incapable of sifting the clubable from the less
clubable, those who deserve recognition in the body of undergraduates
from those who do not. The evil is increased by the fact that as a
rule in America the social life is organized early in the
undergraduate course, so that the men who fail of election in the
first year or two have failed for good. There are, to be sure, cases
in which men who have later developed signal merit have been taken
into the all-important societies and clubs of the upper classmen, and
sometimes these societies make a special and most creditable effort
thus to remedy the failures of the system; but the men who are thus
elected are an exception, and an exception of the kind that proves
the rule. Unless a man has been prominent in one of the large
preparatory schools, or becomes prominent in athletics in the first
year or so, there is only one way to make sure of meeting such fellows
as he wishes to know, and that is both to choose friends and to avoid
them with an eye to social chances, a method which is scarcely to be
commended. As the incoming classes grow larger, there is an
increasingly large proportion of undergraduates who fail to qualify in
the first year or two in any of these ways. Throughout their course
they neither receive benefit from the general life of the university
nor contribute to it. They are often of loyal and disinterested
character, and they not infrequently develop into men of exceptional
ability in all of the paths of undergraduate life; not a few of them
have been 'varsity captains. But instead of exerting the influence on
the welfare of the university which such men might and should exert,
they find it impossible to get into the main currents, and revolve
impotently on the outside, each in the particular eddy where fate has
thrust him.

At Harvard, where the evil has long been recognized, a remedy has been
sought in increasing the membership of the great sophomore and senior
societies, the Institute of 1770 and the Hasty Pudding Club. The
result has been the reverse of what was intended. The larger the club
the less compact its life and its influence,--what a few men have
gained the club has lost. The tendency toward disintegration is
confirmed by a peculiarity of the organization of the societies. The
first half of the members of the Institute form a separate club, the
D. K. E., or Dickey. From this the second half are excluded, becoming
a sort of social fringe; they often form a part of the mob that dines
at Memorial or of the cliques that dine in boarding-houses, and are
only a shade less excluded than the rest from the centres of the
college life. If this inner club, the Dickey, were the instrument of a
united and efficient public spirit, the case would not be so bad, but
its members in turn are split into a number of small clubs; as a
social organization the Dickey is mainly a name. If now these small
clubs took a strong part in the general life of the college, the case
would still not be so bad; but each spends its main strength in
struggling with the others to secure as many members as possible from
the first ten of the Dickey. They are scarcely to be regarded as
engines of public spirit.

The same is true of the great senior society, the Hasty Pudding. Its
most prominent members belong to the few small clubs of upper
classmen; the rest are as much a social fringe as the later tens of
the Institute. And the senior clubs, like the clubs of the under
classmen, are more interested in their private politics than in the
policy of the college as a whole. At Yale the senior societies still
exert a strong and generally wholesome influence, but at Harvard they
have long ceased to do so, if they ever did. In proportion as a man is
successful in the social world the system lifts him out of the body of
undergraduate life. The reward of athletic distinction or of
good-fellowship is a sort of pool pocket, upon getting into which a
man is definitely out of the game. The leaders in the college life,
social and athletic, are chosen on the superficial tests of the
freshman year, and are not truly representative; and the organization
of which they become a part is calculated only to suppress general and
efficient public spirit. The outer layers are dead wood and the
kernels sterile. This is at least one reason why Harvard does not
oftener win.

In all this there is no place for a philosophy of despair. The spirit
of the undergraduate, clubbed and unclubbed, is normal and sound. The
efforts which the clubs themselves make from time to time to become
representative are admirably public spirited; and there is no less
desire on the part of the outsiders to live for the best interests of
the college. On the day of an athletic contest the university is
behind the team, heart and lungs; and when defeat comes it is felt
alike by all conditions of men. From time to time ancient athletes
journey to Cambridge to exhort the undergraduate body to pull
together; and it is a poor orator indeed who cannot set in motion
strong currents of enthusiasm. Half an hour of earnest talk on the
strenuous life from Theodore Roosevelt has often been known to raise a
passion of aspiration that has positively lasted for weeks. But the
social system cannot be galvanized into life and functioning. The
undergraduates aspire and strive, but every effort is throttled by a
Little Old Man of the Sea. When all is said and done, the mob and the
cliques remain mob and cliques; with discord within and exclusive
without, there is small hope of organized efficiency.

At Yale the oligarchic spirit of the senior societies is compact and
operative where that of the Harvard clubs is not; but Yale also is
being swamped. The vast and increasing mob of the unaffiliated has
several times within the last decade shown a shocking disrespect for
the sacred authority of the captains; and the non-representative
character of the sophomore societies, from which the senior societies
are recruited, has been a public scandal. One result of this disorder
is that the ancient athletic prestige is slipping away, or is so far
in abeyance that it is again a question whether Harvard or Yale
has--shall we say the worse team? The case of the older universities
is typical. Other institutions are expanding as fast or faster, and it
is only a question of time when the increase of numbers will swamp the
social system.

That there is something rotten in the state of Denmark has of late
been officially recognized, at least at Harvard. In order to create a
general social and athletic life in the community a Union has been
established, modeled on the Oxford Union. It would be pleasant to
picture the College House of the future shaking hands with Claverly,
the Phi Beta Kappa linking elbows with the Porcellian, and the fellows
who now, in spite of a desire to be sociable, have lived through four
years of solitary confinement each in his petty circle, enjoying the
bosom friendship of all the men they may desire to know. It would be
pleasant but perhaps not altogether warrantable, when one considers
the essential nature of the Union.

The Oxford Union of celebrity, as has been pointed out in an earlier
chapter, is a thing of the past. It was an exclusive institution, in
which no attempt was made to foster universal brotherhood. When it was
thrown open to the entire undergraduate world, it lost caste and
authority. The elect flocked by themselves each in his own exclusive
club. If the Harvard Union had been modeled on the old exclusive
Oxford Union, it might perhaps have been equally efficient in bringing
together a broadly representative body of men. But it was modeled on
the modern democratic Union. Here is a plain case: When the Oxford
Union ceased to be exclusive, its best elements flocked by themselves,
and the result is a growth of small exclusive clubs. At Harvard the
exclusive clubs and societies are both ancient and honorable, and,
moreover, very comfortable, and it hardly seems likely that their
members will rout themselves out of their cosy corners to join the
merry rout at the Harvard Union.

This is not to cast a gloomy eye upon the new university club; it is
rather by way of emphasizing the importance of the work it has to do,
and will succeed in doing. Hitherto the lounging grounds of the
unaffiliated (alas! that in such an alma mater so many are forever
unaffiliated!) have been public billiard-rooms and tobacco shops. For
the solace of a midnight supper one had to go to the locally familiar
straw-hatted genius of the sandwich, and for the luxury of a late
breakfast to John of the Holly Tree. And John the Orange Man! Great
worthies these, ancient and most honorable. But even in the
enchantment of retrospect they somehow or other explain why so many
fellows choose to live, for the most part, in small cliques in one
another's rooms and cultivate the deadly chafing-dish. For the
unaffiliated--by far the larger part of each class--the new club-house
will be a Godsend. It is much more fun to cut a nine-o'clock lecture
if you are sure of a comfortable chair at breakfast and a real napkin;
and even in the brutal gladness of youth, it is pleasant at a midnight
supper to be seated. And then, after that athletic dinner at Memorial,
a place to loaf quietly over a pipe with whatever congenial spirit one
finds, and listen to the clicking of billiard-balls! It is also
proposed that the 'varsity athletes have their training tables at the
new Union, so that any fellow may come to know them clothed and in
their right minds. I fancy that the new club will leave those old
worthies a trifle lonesome, and will banish the chafing-dish forever.

The spirit of an old graduate somehow takes kindly to the idea of a
place like that. How the spirit of Bishop Brooks, for instance, would
enjoy slipping in of an evening for the cigar they have denied him in
the house erected in his memory! And for the graduate in the flesh the
club-house will be no less welcome, especially if he is unlucky enough
not to have a club of his own to go back to. To love one's alma mater
it is, of course, not necessary to have a club; but it somehow
interferes with the sentiment of a home-coming to be obliged to go
back to Boston by trolley for luncheon and dinner, and to eat it among
aliens. In the new Union it will even be possible to put up for the
night. A long step has been made in advance of the old unhappy order.
Yet the new Union leaves the vital evil in the community life as far
as ever from solution.

What the authorities have failed to do consciously may, according to
present indications, be accomplished, in some manner at least, by an
unconscious growth. When Memorial became inadequate to the mere demand
for seating-room, new dining-halls were established. In the future it
is possible that these new halls may be kept within the line where
community life becomes impossible and mob life begins. If they could
be, the problem would be at least one step nearer solution. But to
gain the highest effect of community organization, it is necessary
that the men who dine in the same hall shall live near one another.
Under the present system this rarely happens, and when it does, it
does not even follow that they know one another by sight. Until the
halls represent some real division in undergraduate life--separate and
organized communities--they must remain the resort of a student mob.

Fortunately, another movement is discernible in the direction of
separate residential organization. Already certain of the dormitories
in American universities are governed democratically by the inmates:
no student is admitted except by order of a committee of the members.
The fraternity houses so widely diffused in America offer a still
better example, almost a counterpart, of the halls of the golden age
of the mediæval university. Any considerable development of hall or
fraternity life in the great universities would result in a dual
organization of the kind that has proved of such advantage in England,
so that a man would have his residence in a small democratic
community, and satisfy his more special interests in the exclusive
clubs of the university. In such an arrangement the hall would profit
by the clubman as the clubman would gain influence through the hall.
All undergraduates would thus be united in the general university
life in a way which is now undreamed of, and which is unlikely, as I
think, even in the new Harvard Union.

The tendency toward division in the dining-halls and the dormitories
is evident also in athletics; but here it is very far from
unconscious. The division by classes long ago ceased to be an adequate
means of developing material for the 'varsity teams, and when the
English rowing coach, Mr. R. C. Lehmann, was in charge of the Harvard
oarsmen, he outlined a plan for developing separate crews not unlike
the college crews of England. This system has since been effected with
excellent results. Separate boating clubs have been established, each
of which has races among its own crews and races with the crews of its
rivals. Only one thing has prevented the complete success of the
system. The division into clubs is factitious, representing no real
rivalry such as exists among English colleges. To supply this rivalry,
it is only necessary that each boat club shall represent a hall. The
same division would of course be equally of benefit in all branches of
sport. The various teams within the university would then represent a
real social rivalry, such as has long ceased to exist. This could
scarcely fail to produce the effect that has been so remarkable at
the English universities. As in England, a multiplication of contests
would on the one hand develop far better university material, and on
the other hand it would lessen rather than exaggerate the excessive
importance of intercollegiate contests.



The administrative evil of the American university, as typified in
Harvard, Mr. Bolles described even more vividly than the social evil.
The bare fact of the problem he stated as follows: "In 1840 the
college contained 250 students; in 1850, 300; in 1860, 450; in 1870,
600; in 1880, 800; in 1890, 1300; in 1894, 1600." He then pointed out
that the only means the authorities have found for meeting this
increasing demand on the administrative office is, not to divide the
students into separate small bodies each under a single administrator,
but to divide the duties of administration among several officers.
Thus each of the added officers is required to perform his duty toward
the entire student body. It is apparently assumed that he can
discharge one duty toward two or three thousand students as
intelligently as in former years he could discharge two or three
duties toward two or three hundred. By this arrangement the most
valuable factor in administration is eliminated--personal knowledge
and personal contact between the administrator and his charges. It is
said that the members of the administrative board of the
college--professors whose time is of extreme value to the university
and to the world, and who receive no pay as administrators--sit three
hours a night three nights in the week deciding the cases that come
before them, not from personal knowledge of the undergraduates
concerned, but from oral and documentary reports. "It is only by a
fiction that the Recorder [or the Dean, or the member of the
administrative board] can be assumed to have any personal knowledge of
even a half of the men whose absences he counts, whose petitions he
acts upon, and against whose delinquencies he remonstrates; yet the
fiction is maintained while its absurdity keeps on growing.... If the
rate of growth and our present administrative system are maintained,
the Dean and Recorder of Harvard College will [in 1950] be personally
caring for 6500 individuals, with all of whom they will be presumed to
have an intelligent acquaintance."

Mr. Bolles lived through the period in which a brilliant band of
German-trained American professors, having made over our educational
system as far as possible on German lines, were endeavoring to
substitute German discipline, or lack of it, for the traditional
system of collegiate residence which aims to make the college a
well-regulated social community. At one time these reformers rejoiced
in the fact that Harvard students attended the ice carnival at
Montreal or basked in the Bermudan sun while the faculty had no means
of knowing where they were and no responsibility for the success of
their college work. The Overseers, however, were not in sympathy with
the Teutonized faculty, and soon put an end to this; but the reformers
were, and perhaps still are, only waiting the opportunity to establish
again the Teutonic license. "It is sometimes said," Mr. Bolles
continues, "that Harvard may eventually free itself from all its
remaining parental responsibility and leave students' habits, health,
and morals to their individual care, confining itself to teaching,
research, and the granting of degrees. Before it can do this, it must
be freed from dormitories. As long as fifteen hundred of its students
live in monastic quarters provided or approved by the university, so
long must the university be held responsible by the city, by parents,
and by society at large, for the sanitary and moral condition of such
quarters. The dormitory system implies and necessitates oversight of
health and morals. The trouble to-day is that the administrative
machinery in use is not capable of doing all that is and ought to be
expected of it.... If it be determined openly that the health and
morals of Harvard undergraduates are not to occupy the attention of
the Dean and Board of the college, then the present system may be
perpetuated, but if this determination is not reached, then either the
system must be changed or the present attempt to accomplish the
impossible will go on until something snaps."

Since Mr. Bolles's day there has been much earnest effort to solve the
administrative problem; but the difficulties have increased rather
than diminished. The duties of the Dean are still much the same as
when the freshman class numbered one hundred instead of five. Only the
Dean has been improved. He is at least five times as human and five
times as earnest as any other Dean; but the freshman class keeps on
growing, and when he has satisfied his very exacting conscience and
retires (or, not having satisfied his conscience, perishes), no man
knows where his better is to be found. Of the Secretary and the
Recorder and his assistants Mr. Bolles has spoken. A Regent has among
other duties a general charge of the rooms the fellows live in, and
usually makes each room and its occupant a yearly visit--which the
occupant, in the perversity of undergraduate nature, regards as a
visitation. Then there is the physician. So large a proportion of the
undergraduates were found to be isolated and unhappy in their
circumstances, and remote from the knowledge of the authorities, that
it became necessary to appoint some one to whom they might appeal in
need. Thus the details as to each undergraduate's residence are in the
hands of seven different officials, each of whom, in order to attain
the best results, requires a personal acquaintance with the thousands
of undergraduates. Furthermore the entire body of undergraduates
changes every four years. If every administrator had the commodity of
lives commonly attributed to the cat, the duties of their offices
would still be infinitely beyond them.

Mr. Bolles suggested a solution of the administrative problem: "If the
college is too large for its dean and administrative board to manage
in the way most certain to benefit its students, it should be divided,
using as a divisor the number ... which experts may agree in thinking
is the number of young men whom one dean and board should be expected
to know and govern effectively."

When Mr. Bolles wrote, one class of administrative officer and one
only was limited in his duties to a single small community: in each
building in which students lived, a proctor resided who was supposed
to see that the Regent's orders were enforced. Since then another
step has been taken in the same direction; a board of advisers has
been established, each member of which is supposed to have a helpful
care of twenty-five freshmen. These two officials, it will be seen,
divide the administrative duties of an English tutor. That they
represent a step toward Mr. Bolles's solution of the administrative
difficulty has probably never occurred to the authorities; and as yet
it must be admitted the step is mainly theoretical. The position of
both, as I know from sad personal experience, is such that their
duties, like those of all other administrators, resolve into a mere
matter of police regulation. The men are apt to resist all friendly
advances. In the end, a proctor's activities usually consist in
preventing them of a Sunday from shouting too loud over games of
indoor football, and at other times from blowing holes through the
cornice with shotguns. The case of the freshman adviser is much the
same. His first duty is to expound to his charges the mysteries of the
elective system, and to help each student choose his courses.
According to the original intention, he was to exert as far as
possible a beneficial personal influence on newcomers; but the result
seldom follows the intention. Beyond the visit which each freshman is
obliged to make to his adviser in order to have his list of electives
duly signed, there is nothing except misdemeanor to bring the two
within the same horizon. When the adviser takes pains to proffer
hospitality, the freshman's first thought is that he is to be
disciplined. When, as often happens, a proctor is also a freshman
adviser, he unites the two administrative duties of an English tutor;
but his position is much less favorable in that his duties are
performed toward two distinct bodies of men. With time, tact, and
labor, he might conceivably force himself into personal relationship
with his fifty-odd charges; but the inevitable ground of meeting, such
as the English tutor finds in his teaching, is lacking. An attempt to
become acquainted is very apt to appear gratuitous. In point of fact,
such acquaintance is scarcely expected by the university, and is
certainly not paid for. What little an administrator earns is apt to
be so much an hour (and not so very much) for teaching. A gratuitous
office is so difficult that one hesitates to perform it gratuitously.
If the young instructor is bent on making himself unnecessary trouble,
there is plenty of opportunity in connection with his teaching; and
here, of course, owing to the characteristic lack of organic
coördination, he has to deal with a body of men who, except by rare
accident, are quite distinct both from those whom he advises and
those whom he proctorizes. The system at Harvard may be different in
detail from that at other American universities; but wherever a large
body of undergraduates are living under a single administrative
system, it can scarcely be different in kind.

Enough has been said to show that the only office which an
administrator can perform is a police office. Where the college and
the university are identical, the element of personal influence is
necessarily eliminated. But if the college were divided into separate
administrative units, the situation would be very different. The seven
general and two special offices I have indicated might be discharged,
as regards each undergraduate, by a dean and a few proctor-advisers;
and as the students and their officers would be living in the same
building, personal knowledge and influence might become the
controlling force. The solution of the administrative problem is
identical with the solution of the social and athletic problem, and in
both cases a movement toward it is begun. If the student body is
eventually divided into residential halls of the early mediæval type,
much good will result, and probably nothing but good, even if the
tutorial function proper is absent. As to the addition of the
tutorial function, that is a question of extreme complexity and
uncertainty, in order to grasp which it is necessary to review the
peculiar educational institutions of American universities.



As regards the American teaching system, the fact that the college so
long remained identical with the university has caused little else
than good. At Oxford and Cambridge, when a demand arose for
instruction in new fields, the university could not meet it because it
had little or no wealth and had surrendered its teaching function; and
the score of richly endowed colleges, by force of their inertia,
collectively resisted the demand. The enlargement in the scope of
instruction has been of the slowest. In America, each new demand
instantly created its supply. The moment the students in theology
required more than a single professor, their tuition fees as well as
other funds could be applied to the creation of a divinity school; and
the professorships in law, medicine, and the technical professions
were likewise organized into schools, each fully equipped under a
separate faculty for the pursuit of its special aim. Thus the ancient
college was developed by segregation into a fully organized modern
university. American institutions are composed of a reduplication,
not of similar colleges, but of distinct schools, each with its special
subject to teach. This fact makes possible a far higher standard of
instruction. The virtue of the administrative and social organization
in the English university, as has been pointed out, results from
division of the university into separate communities,--distinct
organs, each with its separate activity. The virtue of the American
university in its teaching functions results from a precisely similar

In the case of the college, one or two details have lately been the
occasion of criticism. In the educational as in the social and
administrative functions, the machinery is apparently overgrown. Until
well into the nineteenth century, the body of instruction offered was
much the same as in the English colleges of the seventeenth century,
or in the pass schools of to-day,--a modified version of the mediæval
trivium and quadrivium. When a new world of intellectual life was
opened, most academic leaders regarded it with abhorrence. The old
studies were the only studies to develop the manners and the mind; the
new studies were barbarous, and dwarfed the understanding. All
learning had been contained in a pint-pot, and must continue to be so.
If the old curriculum had prevailed, the old system might have
continued to serve, in spite of the enormous increase of students; but
it did not. Discussions of the educational value of the new learning
are still allowed to consume paper and ink; but the cause of the old
pint-pot was lost decades ago. All branches are taught, and are open
to all students.

The live question to-day both in England and America is not whether we
shall recognize the new subjects, but how and in what proportion we
shall teach them. In England, where the colleges and the university
are separate, the teaching and the examining are separate. The student
prepares in college for an examination by the university. It is as a
result of this that the subjects of instruction have been divided and
organized into honor schools; and here again the division and
organization have resulted in sounder and more efficient functioning.
In America, such a division has never been made: the teaching and the
degree-granting offices have remained identical. The professor in each
"course" is also the examiner, and the freedom of choice of necessity
goes not by groups of related studies but by small disconnected
courses. As the field of recognized knowledge developed, new courses
were added, and the student was granted a greater range of choice.
Whereas of old all the instruction of the college might and had to be
taken in four years, the modern courses could scarcely be exhausted in
a full century. This American system, earliest advocated at Harvard,
is called the elective system, and has made its way, in a more or less
developed form, into all American universities worthy of the name. Its
primary work was that of the Oxford honor schools--the shattering of
the old pint-pot. It has done this work; but it is now in train to
become no less a superstition than the older system, and is thus no
less a menace to the cause of education.

It is perhaps only natural, though it was scarcely to be expected,
that the university which in late years has most severely criticised
the elective system is that which a quarter of a century ago
deliberately advocated it, and in the face of almost universal
opposition justified it in the eyes of American educators. There has
evidently been a miscalculation. Yet though Harvard has cautiously
acknowledged its failure in the persons of no less authorities than
Professor Münsterberg and Dean Briggs, the element of error has not
yet been clearly stated, nor has the remedy been proposed. Many things
have been said against the elective system, but they may all be summed
up in one phrase: it is not elective. This is no specious paradox. It
is the offer of free election that is specious.

No offer could seem fairer. The student is at liberty to choose as he
will. He may specialize microscopically or scatter his attention over
the universe; he may elect the most ancient subjects or the most
modern, the hardest or the easiest. No offer, I repeat, could seem
fairer. But experience disillusions. Some day or other a serious
student wakes up to the fact that he is the victim of--shall we say a
thimble-rigging game? For example, let us take the case of a serious
specialist. Of all the world's knowledge the serious specialist values
only one little plot. A multitude of courses is listed in the
catalogue, fairly exhausting his field. Delightful! Clearly he can see
which walnut-shell covers the pea. He chooses for his first year's
study four courses--the very best possible selection, the only
selection, to open up his field. One moment: on closer scrutiny he
finds that two of the four courses are given at the same hour, and
that, therefore, he cannot take them in the same year. Still, there
are at his command other courses, not so well adapted to his purposes,
but sooner or later necessary. He chooses one. Hold again! On closer
inspection he finds that appended to the course is a Roman numeral,
and that the same numeral is against one of his other courses. After
half an hour's search in the catalogue he finds that, though the two
courses are given at different hours, and indeed on different days of
the week, the mid-year and final examinations in both take place on
the same days. Obviously these two cannot be taken in the same year.
With dampened spirits his eye lights on a second substitute. He could
easily deny himself this course; but it is vastly interesting, if not
important, and he must arrange a year's work. Behold, this most
interesting course was given last year, and will be given next year,
but neither love nor money nor the void of a soul hungering for
knowledge could induce the professor who gives it to deliver one
sentence of one lecture; he is busy and more than busy with another
course which will not be given next year. The specialist is at last
forced to elect a course he does not really want. One entanglement as
to hours of which the present deponent had knowledge forced a
specialist in Elizabethan literature to elect--and, being a candidate
for a degree with distinction, to get a high grade in--a course in the
history of finance legislation in the United States. This was a tragic
waste, for so many and so minute are the courses offered that the
years at the student's disposal are all too few to cover even a
comparatively narrow field. The specialist may well ruminate on the
philosophy of Alice and her Wonderland jam. Yesterday he could elect
anything, and to-morrow anything; but how empty is to-day!

Highly as the modern university regards the serious specialist, a more
general sympathy will probably be given to the man who is seeking a
liberal education. Such a man knows that in four years at his disposal
he cannot gain any real scientific knowledge even of the studies of
the old-fashioned college curriculum. As taught now, at Harvard, they
would occupy, according to President Eliot's report for 1894-95, twice
four years. But by choosing a single group of closely related
subjects, and taking honors in it, he hopes to master a considerable
plot of the field of knowledge. I will not say that he chooses the
ancient classics, for--though they are admirably taught in a general
way in the great Oxford Honor School of Literæ Humaniores--the
American student may be held to require, even in studying the
classics, a larger element of scientific culture, which would take
more time than is to be had. For the same reason I will not say that
he chooses the modern languages and literatures, though such a choice
might be defended. Let us say that he chooses a single modern
language and literature--his own.[4] Surely this is not too large a
field for four years' study. Of classics, mathematics, science, and
history he has supposedly been given a working knowledge in the
preparatory school. For the rest he relies on the elective system.

Even in the beginning, like the specialist, he is unable to choose the
courses he most wants, because of the conflict of the hours of
instruction and examination; and this difficulty pursues him year by
year, increasing as the subjects to be taken grow fewer and fewer. But
let us dismiss this as an incidental annoyance. His fate is
foreshadowed when he finds that the multitude of courses by which
alone he could cover the entire field of English literature would fill
twice the time at his disposal. Already he has discovered that the
elective system is not so very elective. He sadly omits Icelandic and
Gothic, and all but one half course is Anglo-Saxon. Some day he means
to cover the ground by means of a history of literature and
translations; but in point of fact, as the subjects are not at all
necessary for his degree, and as he is overburdened with other work,
he never does. He sticks to his last, and is the more willing to do
so because, being wise beyond the wont of undergraduates, he knows
that it will be well to fortify his knowledge of the English language
and literature with a complementary knowledge of the history of the
English people, and of the history and literature of the neighboring
Germans and French.

Having barely time for a rapid survey of these complementary subjects,
he elects only the introductory courses. In the aggregate they require
many precious hours, and to take them he is obliged to omit outright
English literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; but he
knows that it is better to neglect a finial or two than the buttresses
of the edifice he is building. Again he has miscalculated. After his
complementary courses are begun, and it is too late to withdraw from
them, he discovers even more clearly than the specialist how very
unelective the elective system can be. It is the same old question of
the thimble and the pea. These introductory courses are intended to
introduce him to the study of history and of literature, not to
complement his studies of English. What he wanted to know in English
history was the social and the political movements, the vital and
picturesque aspect; what he is taught is the sources and
constitutions--the dry bones. In German and French he wanted to know
the epochs of literature; he is taught the language, considered
scientifically, or, at most, certain haphazard authors in whom he has
only a casual interest. If he is studying for honors, he is obliged to
waste enough time on these disappointing courses to reach a high grade
in each. The system of free election is mighty, for he is a slave to

This difficulty is typical. Thus a student of history or of German who
wants to study Elizabethan literature for its bearing on his subject
is obliged to spend one full course--a quarter of a year's work--on
the language of four or five plays of Shakespeare before he is
permitted to take a half course on Shakespeare as a dramatist; and
even then all the rest of the Elizabethan period is untouched.

Let us suppose that our student of English is wary as well as wise,
preternaturally wary, and leaves all complementary subjects to private
reading--for which he has no time. He is then able to devote himself
to the three or four most important epochs in English literature. He
has to leave out much that is of importance, so that he cannot hope to
gain a synoptic view of the field as a whole; but of his few subjects
he will at least be master. Here at last is the thimble that covers
the pea. Not yet! In four courses out of five of those devoted to the
greatest writers, the teacher's attention is directed primarily to a
very special and scientific study of the language; the examination
consists in explaining linguistic cruxes. Literary criticism, even of
the most sober kind, is quite neglected. If the student learns only
what is taught, he may attain the highest grades and the highest
honors without being able in the end to distinguish accurately the
spirit of Chaucer from that of Elizabethan literature.

Furthermore, not every student is sufficiently well advised to know
precisely what courses he requires to attain his end. For example, to
gain an understanding of the verse forms and even the spirit of Middle
English and Elizabethan English, it is necessary to know the older
French and Italian; but, as it happened, our student was not aware of
the fact until he broke his shins against it, and it was nobody's
business to tell him of it. And even if he had been aware of it, he
could not have taken those subjects without leaving great gaps in his
English studies. He has graduated _summa cum laude_ and with highest
honors in English; but he has not even a correct outline knowledge of
his subject. His education is a thing of shreds and patches.

Whatever may be the aim of the serious student, the elective system is
similarly fatal to it. I must be content with a single instance more.
The signal merit of the old-fashioned curriculum was that its
insistence on the classics and mathematics insured a mental culture
and discipline of a very high order, and of a kind that is impossible
where the student elects only purely scientific courses, or courses in
which he happens to be especially interested. Let us suppose that the
serious student wishes to elect his courses so as to receive this
discipline. His plight is indicated in "Some Old-fashioned Doubts
about New-fashioned Education" which have lately been divulged[5] by
the Dean of Harvard College, Professor Le B. R. Briggs. The
undergraduate "may choose the old studies but not the old instruction.
Instruction under an elective system is aimed at the specialist. In
elective mathematics, for example, the non-mathematical student who
takes the study for self-discipline finds the instruction too high for
him; indeed, he finds no encouragement for electing mathematics at
all." The same is true of the classics.

One kind of student, to be quite candid, profits vastly by the
elective system, namely, the student whose artistic instinct makes him
ambitious of gaining the maximum effect, an A.B., with the minimum
expenditure of means. History D is a good course: the lectures do not
come until eleven o'clock, and no thought of them blunts the edge of
the evening before. Semitic C is another good course--only two
lectures a week, and you can pass it with a few evenings of cramming.
If such a man is fortunate enough to have learned foreign languages in
the nursery or in traveling abroad, he elects all the general courses
in French and German. This sort of man is regarded by Dean Briggs with
unwonted impatience; but he has one great claim to our admiration. Of
all possible kinds of students, he alone has found the pea. For him
the elective system is elective.

The men who developed the elective system, it is quite unnecessary to
say, had no sinister intention. They were pioneers of educational
progress who revolted against the narrowness of the old curriculum.
The nearest means of reform was suggested to them by the German plan,
and they sought to naturalize this _in toto_ without regard to native
needs and conditions. But the pioneer work of the elective system has
been done, and the men who now uphold it in its entirety are clogging
the wheels of progress no less than those who fought it at the outset.
The logic of circumstances early forced them to the theory that all
knowledge is of equal importance, provided only that it is
scientifically pursued, and this position in effect they still
maintain. You may elect to study Shakespeare and end by studying
American finance legislation; but so long as you are compelled to
study scientifically, bless you, you are free.

The serenity of these men must of late have been somewhat clouded.
Professor Hugo Münsterberg, as an editorial writer in "Scribner's
Magazine" lately remarked, "has been explaining, gently but firmly,
ostensibly to the teachers in secondary schools, but really to his
colleagues in the Harvard faculty, that they are not imitating the
German method successfully." In no way is the American college man in
the same case as the German undergraduate. His preparatory schooling
is likely to be three years in arrears, and, in any case, what he
seeks is usually culture, not science. "The new notion of
scholarship," this writer continues, "by which the degree means so
much Latin and Greek, or the equivalent of them in botany or
blacksmithing, finds no favor at all in what is supposed to be the
native soil of the 'elective system.'" Dr. Münsterberg's own words,
guarded as they are, are not without point: "Even in the college two
thirds of the elections are haphazard, controlled by accidental
motives; election, of course, demands a wide view and broad knowledge
of the whole field.... A helter-skelter chase of the unknown is no
election." The writer in "Scribner's" concludes: "It is not desirable
that a man should sell his birthright for a mess of pottage, even if
he gets the pottage. If he does not get it, as Dr. Münsterberg
intimates, of course his state is even worse."

Rough as the elective system is upon the student who aspires to be
merely a scholar, it is rougher on the undergraduate who only wants to
train his mind and to equip it for business and professional life. To
him a purely scientific training is usually a positive detriment.
Scrupulous exactitude and a sense of the elusiveness of all knowledge
are an excellent and indispensable part of the bringing up of a
scholar; but few things are more fitted, if pursued exclusively, to
check the self-confidence of a normal man and to blight his will. Poor
Richard had a formula for the case: "A handsaw is a very good thing,
but not to shave with." Before taking a vigorous hold on the affairs
of Wall Street or of Washington, our recent graduate has first to get
away from most of the standards that obtain in the university, or at
least to supplement them by a host of others which he should have
learned there. In another passage in the article already quoted, Dean
Briggs has touched the vital spot. He is speaking of the value, to
teachers especially, of the peculiar fetich of Teutonized university
instruction, the thesis, and of its liability to be of fictitious
value. "Such theses, I suspect, have more than once been accepted for
higher degrees; yet higher degrees won through them leave the winner
farther from the best qualities of a teacher, remote from men and
still more remote from boys. It was a relief the other day to hear a
head-master say, 'I am looking for an under-teacher. I want first a
man, and next a man to teach.'" What is true of teaching is even more
obviously true of the great world of business and of politics. What it
wants is men.

The cause of the break-down of the elective system, as at present
constituted, is to be found in the machinery of instruction. The
office of the teacher has become inextricably mixed up with a totally
alien office--university discipline. Attendance at lectures is the
only means of recording a student's presence in the university, and
success in the examination in lecture courses is the only basis for
judging of his diligence. At the tolling of a bell the student leaves
all other affairs to report at a certain place. In the Middle Ages, as
we have seen, lectures were of necessity the main means of
instruction. Books were rare and their prices prohibitive. The master
read and the student copied. To-day, there are tens of thousands of
books in every college library. Only in the higher courses are
lectures necessary or profitable. But still instruction is carried on,
even in the most general courses, by means of professorial lectures.
Where great periods are covered by leaps and bounds, freshness or
individuality of treatment is quite impossible. The tolling of the
college bell dooms hundreds of students to hear a necessarily hurried
and inarticulate statement of knowledge which has been carefully
handled in printed form by the most brilliant writers, and to which a
tutor might refer the student in a few minutes' conference. Modify the
lecture system? It is the foundation of the police regulation. The
boasted freedom in elective studies simmers down to this, that it
enables the student to choose in what courses he shall be made the
unwilling ally of the administrative officer. The lectures waste the
time of the student and exhaust the energy of the teacher; but unless
the lecturers give them and the studious attend, how can the
university know that the shiftless stay away?

It is necessary, moreover, for the administrator to judge of the
student's success as well as of his diligence. Twice every year the
professors hold an examination lasting for three hours in each of
their several courses. Of late years an ingenious means has been
devised for making the examination system an even more perfect ally of
the police. In the middle of each term an examination of one hour is
held to insure that the student has not only attended lectures but
studied outside; and, in order to expose the procrastinator, it has
become the custom for the examination to be given without warning.
Like the lecture system, the examination system throws the onus of
discipline on the studious and the teachers. Two thousand students
write yearly 32,000 examination books. Quite obviously the most
advanced of the professors cannot spare time for the herculean task of
reading and duly grading their share of these books. They give over
most of them to underpaid assistants. The logical result of such a
system is that the examinations tend to be regarded merely as
statements of fact, and the reading of the books merely as clerical
labor. If academic distinctions are disprized in America, both in
college and out of it, this is amply explained by the fact that they
attest a student's diligence rather than his ability. They are
awarded, like a Sunday-school prize, in return for a certain number of
good-conduct checks.

It is not enough that the machinery of instruction wastes the time of
the student and debases the office of the examiner; it is, as I have
said, the cause of the break-down of the elective system. As long as
each student is required to pursue every study under the eye of the
disciplinarian, the decision as to what he shall study rests not with
his desires or his needs, but with an elaborate schedule of lectures
and examinations. So excessive are the evils of the present system
that no less a man than Professor William James has advocated the
abolition of the examinations.

This remedy is perhaps extreme; but the only alternative is almost as
radical. It is to enable the student, at least the more serious
student, to slip the trammels of the elective system, and to study
rationally, and to be rationally examined in, the subject or group of
subjects which he prefers. In a word, the remedy is to divide and
organize our courses of instruction for the more serious students into
groups corresponding in some measure to what the English call honor

It may be objected that already it is possible to read for honors. The
objection will scarcely convince any one who has taken the
examination. It is oral, and occupies an hour or two. The men who
conduct it are leading men in the department, and are often of
world-wide reputation. They are so great that they understand the
nature of the farce they are playing. No candidate is expected to
have covered the field of his honor subject even in the broadest
outlines. When the astute student is not sure of an answer, he
candidly admits the fact and receives credit for knowing that he does
not know--a cardinal virtue to the scientific mind. If I may be
allowed a personal instance, I went up for the examination in English
literature in complete ignorance as to all but a single brief
movement. When my ignorances were laid bare, the examiners most
considerately confined their questions to my period. We had much
pleasant conversation. Each of the examiners had imparted in his
courses his latest rays of new light, and each in turn gave me the
privilege of reflecting these rays to the others. For a brief but
happy hour my importance was no less than that of the most eminent
publication of the learned world. It need scarcely be said that such
examinations are not supposed to have much weight in judging of the
candidate's fitness. A more important test is a thesis studied from
original sources, and the most important is good-conduct marks in a
certain arbitrary number of set lecture courses. The policeman's
examination is supreme.



The college has shown a tendency, as I have indicated, to divide in
its social life into separate organizations for the purposes of
residence, dining, and athletics. In the administrative life, at least
the proctors and the freshman advisers are each in charge of separate
bodies of undergraduates. In the educational life, a similar tendency
is noticeable. Year by year there has been an increasing disposition
to supplement lectures or to substitute them by what is in effect
tutorial instruction. In the history courses, for example, the
lectures and examinations have for some time been supplemented by
private personal conferences. If the student is proceeding properly,
he is encouraged; if not, he is given the necessary guidance and
assistance. I do not know what the result has been in the teaching of
history; but in the teaching of English composition, where the
conferences have largely supplanted lectures, it has been an almost
unmixed benefit. The instructor's comments are given a directness and
a personal interest impossible either in the lecture-room or by means
of written correction and criticism; and the students are usually
eager to discuss their work and the means for bettering it. As the
lecture system proves more and more inadequate, the tutorial
instruction must necessarily continue to increase, and is not unlikely
to afford the basis for a more sensibly devised scheme of honor

If the American college were organized into separate halls, it would
be necessary and proper, as Mr. Bolles suggested, to place in each a
Dean and administrative board; and the most economical plan of
administration, as he pointed out, would be to give each administrator
as many duties as possible toward a single set of pupils. Thus the
proctor on each staircase of the hall would be the adviser of the men
who roomed on it. It would be only a logical extension of the
principle to give the proctor-adviser a tutorial office. All this
indicates a reversion toward the golden age of the mediæval hall.

Here is where the gain would lie: The administration of the hall would
make it no longer necessary to rely on the lecture courses for police
duty, and the wise guidance of a tutor would in some measure remove
the necessity of the recurrent police examinations. Thus the student
would be able to elect such courses only as the competent adviser
might judge best for him; and if the faculty were relieved of the
labor of unnecessary instruction and examination it would be possible,
with less expense than the present system involves, to offer a
well-considered honor examination, and to provide that the examination
books should be graded not with mere clerical intelligence, but with
the highest available critical appreciation. Thus and only thus can
the American honor degree be given that value as an asset which the
English honor degree has possessed for almost a century.

It would by no means be necessary as at Oxford to make the honor
examination the only basis for granting the degree. The fewer lecture
courses which the student found available would be those in which the
instruction is more advanced--the "university" courses properly
speaking; and his examinations in these would be a criterion, such as
Oxford is very much in need of, for correcting the evidence of the
honor examination. Furthermore, in connection with one or more of
these courses it would be easy for the student to prepare an honor
thesis studied from the original sources under the constant advice of
a university professor. Such an arrangement might be made to combine
in any desired proportion the merits of the English honor schools
with the merits of advanced instruction in America. With the
introduction of the tutor, the American hall would be the complete
counterpart of the mediæval hall of the golden age, and would solve
the educational as well as the social and administrative problem.

As to the details of the new system, experience would be the final
teacher; but for a first experiment, the English arrangement is in its
main outline suggestive. An American pass degree might be taken by
electing, as all students now elect, a certain number of courses at
random. For the increasing number of those who can afford only three
years' study, a pass degree would probably prove of the greatest
advantage. It was by making this sharp distinction between the pass
degree and the honor degree that the English universities long ago
solved the question, much agitated still in America, of the three
years' course. For the honor men[6] two general examinations would
probably suffice. For his second year honor examination (the English
"Moderations") a student might select from three or four general
groups. This examination would necessarily offer precisely that
opportunity for mental culture the lack of which Dean Briggs laments
as the worst feature of the elective system as at present conducted.
Furthermore, it would be easy to arrange the second year honor groups
so as to include only such subjects as are serviceable both for the
purposes of a general education and to lead up to the subjects the
student is likely to elect for final honors. For the final honor
examination the student might choose from a dozen or more honor
groups, in any one of which he would receive scientific culture of the
most advanced type, while at the same time, by means of private
reading under his tutor, he might fill in very pleasantly the outlines
of his subject. It is probable that such a system would even
facilitate the efforts of those who are endeavoring to transplant
German standards. According to Professor Münsterberg, the student who
specializes in the German university is a good two years or more in
advance of the American freshman. The spirit of German instruction
would thus require that the period of general culture be extended at
least to the middle of the undergraduate course.

Some such reorganization of our methods of teaching and examining, and
I fear only this, would enable an undergraduate to choose what he
wants and to pursue it with a fair chance of success. It would make
the elective system elective.

A concrete plan for an American hall will perhaps make the project
clearer. The poorer students at Harvard have for some years had a
separate dining-hall, Foxcroft, where the fare and the system of
paying for it are adapted to the slenderest of purses. They have also
lived mainly in certain primitive dormitories in which the rooms are
cheapest. More than any other set of men except the clubmen they are a
united body, or are capable of being made so. When next a bequest is
received, might not the University erect a building in which a hundred
or two of these men could live in common? The quadrangle would insure
privacy, the first requisite of community life; the kitchen and
dining-hall would insure the maximum comfort and convenience with the
minimum expense. Nothing could contribute more to the self-respect and
the general standing of the poorer students than a comfortable and
well-ordered place and way of living, if only because nothing could
more surely correct the idiosyncrasies in manners and appearance which
are fostered by their present discomfort and isolation.

The life of the hall would not of course be as strictly regulated as
the life in an English college--perhaps no more strictly than in any
other American college building. If in the hope of creating a closer
community feeling stricter rules were adopted, they should be adopted,
as in a mediæval hall, only by consent of the undergraduates.

Such a hall would develop athletic teams of its own, and would produce
university athletes. Under the present arrangement, when the poorer
students are members of university teams, they may, and often do,
become honorary members of the university clubs; but their lack of
means and sometimes of the manner of the world make it difficult for
them to be at home in the clubs; their social life is usually limited
to a small circle of friends. If they had first been trained in the
life of a hall, they would more easily fall in with the broader life
outside; and instead of being isolated as at present, they would exert
no small influence both in their hall and in the university. Few
things could be better for the general life of the undergraduate than
the coöperation of such men, and few things could be better for the
members of a hall than to be brought by means of its leading members
into close connection with the life of the university.

If such a hall were successful, it could not fail to attract serious
students of all sorts and conditions. At Oxford, Balliol has for
generations been known as in the main unfashionable and scholarly;
but it is seldom without a blue or two, and its eight has often been
at the head of the river. As a result of all this, it never ceases to
attract the more serious men from the aristocracy and even the
nobility. In America, the success of one residential hall would
probably lead to the establishment of others, so that in the end the
life of the university might be given all the advantages of a dual

No change could be more far reaching and beneficial. The American
institutions of the present are usually divided into two classes, the
university, or "large college," and the "small college." The merit of
the large colleges is that those fortunately placed in them gain
greater familiarity with the ways of the world and of men, while for
those who wish it, they offer more advanced instruction--the
instruction characteristic of German universities. But to the
increasing number of undergraduates who are not fortunately placed,
their very size is the source of unhappiness; and for those
undergraduates who wish anything else than scientific instruction,
their virtues become merely a detriment. It is for this reason that
many wise parents still prefer to intrust the education of their sons
to the small colleges. These small colleges possess many of the
virtues of the English universities; they train the mind and cultivate
it, and at the same time develop the social man. If now the American
university were to divide its undergraduate department into organized
residential halls, it would combine the advantages of the two types of
American institution, which are the two types of instruction the world
over. Already our college life at its best is as happy as the college
life in England; and the educational advantages of the four or five of
our leading universities are rapidly becoming equal to those of the
four or five leading universities in Germany. A combination of the
residential hall and the teaching university would reproduce the
highest type of the university of the Middle Ages; and in proportion
as life and knowledge have been bettered in six hundred years, it
would better that type. England has lost the educational virtues of
the mediæval university, while Germany, in losing the residential
halls, has lost its peculiar social virtues. When the American
university combines the old social life with the new instruction, it
will be the most perfect educational instruction in the history of


[4] For a detailed statement as to the course such a student would be
able to pursue under the English system of honor schools, see Appendix

[5] _The Atlantic Monthly_, October, 1900.

[6] For full details as to the scheme of an English honor school, see
Appendix III.



In one or two particulars it seemed to me that we might learn from the
English methods of training. On the Oxford team we took long walks
every other day instead of track work. Our instructions were to climb
all the hills in our way. This was in order to bring into play new
muscles as far as possible, so as to rest those used in running.
Though similar walks are sometimes given in America as a preliminary
"seasoning," our training, for months before a meeting, is confined to
the track. This is not unwise as long as a runner's stride needs
developing; and in the heat of our summers such walks as the English
take might sometimes prove exhausting. Yet my personal observations
convinced me that for distance runners--and for sprinters, too,
perhaps--the English method is far better. Under our training the
muscles often seem overpowered by nervous lassitude; at the start of a
race I have often felt it an effort to stand. In England there was
little or none of this; we felt, as the bottle-holders are fond of
putting it, "like a magnum of champagne."

This idea of long walks, which the English have arrived at
empirically, has been curiously approved in America by scientific
discovery. It has been shown that after muscles appear too stiff from
exhaustion to move, they can be excited to action by electric
currents; while the motor nerves on being examined after such fatigue
are found to be shrunken and empty, as in extreme old age. The limit
of muscular exertion is thus clearly determined by the limit of the
energy of the motor nerve. Now in a perfectly trained runner, the
heart and lung must obviously reach their prime simultaneously with
the motor nerves used in running; but since these organs are ordained
to supply the entire system with fuel, they will usually require a
longer time to reach prime condition than any single set of nerves.
Thus continual track work is likely to develop the running nerves to
the utmost before the heart and lungs are at prime. Conversely stated,
if the development of the running nerves is retarded so as to keep
pace with the development of the heart and lungs, the total result is
likely to be higher. All this amounts to what any good English trainer
will tell you--that you must take long walks on up and down grades in
order to rest your running muscles and at the same time give your
heart and lungs plenty of work--that is, in order to keep from getting
"track stale."

The amount of work we did from day to day will best be understood,
perhaps, by quoting one or two of the training-cards. For the hundred
yards the training during the final ten days was as follows: _Monday_
and _Tuesday_, sprints (three or four dashes of sixty yards at top
speed); _Wednesday_, a fast 120 yards at the Queen's Club grounds;
_Thursday_, walk; _Friday_, sprints; _Saturday_, 100 yards trial at
Queen's Club; _Sunday_, walk; _Monday_, light work at Queen's Club;
_Tuesday_, easy walk; _Wednesday_, inter-varsity sports. The man for
whom this card was written happened to be over weight and short of
training, or he would have had less track work. If he had been
training for the quarter in addition to the hundred, he would have had
fewer sprints, and, instead of the fast 120, a trial quarter a week
before the sports, with perhaps a fast 200 on the following Friday.
For the mile, the following is a characteristic week's work, ending
with a trial: _Sunday_, walk; _Monday_, one lap (1/3 mile); _Tuesday_,
two laps, fast-ish; _Wednesday_, walk; _Thursday_, easy mile;
_Friday_, walk; _Saturday_, a two lap trial (at the rate of 4.30 for
the mile). For the three miles, the following is a schedule of the
first ten days (the walks are unusually frequent because the "first
string" had a bruise on the ball of his foot): _Monday_, walk;
_Tuesday_, walk; _Wednesday_, two slow laps at the Queen's Club;
_Thursday_, walk; _Friday_, walk; _Saturday_, a long run at the
Queen's Club; _Sunday_, walk; _Monday_, four laps, fast-ish, at the
Queen's Club; _Tuesday_, walk; _Wednesday_, inter-varsity sports. The
chief difference between this work and what we should give in America
is in the matter of walking.


The value of international contests as a basis for comparing English
and American training is impaired by the fact that the visiting team
is pretty sure to be under the weather, as may be indicated by
summarizing the history of international contests. The first
representatives we sent abroad, the Harvard four-oared crew of 1869,
became so overtrained on the Thames on work which would have been only
sufficient at home, that two of the four men had to be substituted.
The substitutes were taken from the "second" crew, which had just come
over from the race at Worcester. The men in this crew had been so
inferior as oarsmen that they had been allowed to compete against Yale
only after vigorous protest; but in the race against Oxford, owing
probably to the brevity of their training in England, the substitutes
pulled the strongest oars in the boat. The crew got off very well, but
when the time came for the final effort, the two original members had
not the nervous stamina to respond.

The experience of the Yale athletes who competed against Oxford in
1894 was much the same. Their performances in the games were so far
below their American form that they won only the events in which they
literally outclassed their opponents--the hammer, shot, and broad
jump. They were sportsmen enough not to explain their poor showing,
and perhaps they never quite realized how the soft and genial English
summer had unnerved them; but several competent observers who had
watched their practice told me that they lost form from day to day.
Their downfall was doubtless aided by the fact that instead of
training at Brighton or elsewhere on the coast, they trained in the
Thames valley and at Oxford.

The experience of the Cornell crew, of which I got full and frank
information while crossing the Atlantic with them after the race, was
along the same lines. Before leaving Ithaca, they rowed over the
equivalent of the Henley course in time that was well under seven
minutes, and not far from the Henley record of six minutes, fifty-one
seconds. At Henley they rowed their first trial in seven minutes and
three seconds, if my memory serves, and in consequence were generally
expected to win. From that day they grew worse and worse. Certain of
the eight went stale and had to be substituted. In the race the crew,
like the earlier Harvard crew, went to pieces when they were called on
for a spurt--the test of nerve force in reserve--and were beaten in
wretchedly slow time. They had gone hopelessly stale on work which
would have been none too much in America.

The experience of the Yale crew in the year after was similar to that
of Harvard and Cornell. The crew went to pieces and lost the race for
the lack of precisely that burst of energy for which American
athletes, and Yale in particular, are remarkable.

Meantime one or two American athletes training at Oxford had been
gathering experience, which, humble though it was, had the merit of
being thorough. Mr. J. L. Bremer, who will be remembered in America as
making a new world's record over the low hurdles, steadily lost
suppleness and energy at Oxford, so that he was beaten in the quarter
mile in time distinctly inferior to his best in America. Clearly, the
effect of the English climate is to relax the nervous system and
thereby to reduce the athlete's power both of sprinting _per se_ and
of spurting at the finish of the race. My own experience in English
training confirmed the conclusion, and pointed to an interesting
extension of it. I was forced to conclude that the first few weeks in
England are more than likely to undo an athlete, and especially for
sprinting; and even if he stays long enough to find himself again, his
ability to sprint is likely to be lessened. In the long run, on the
other hand, the English climate produces staying power in almost the
same proportion as it destroys speed.

When the joint team of track athletes from Yale and Harvard went to
England in 1899, the powers that were took advantage of past
experiences, and instead of going to the Thames valley to train, they
went to Brighton; and instead of doing most of their training in
England, they gave themselves only the few days necessary to get their
shore legs and become acquainted with the Queen's Club track. As a
result, the team was in general up to its normal form, or above it,
and, except for the fact that one of the men was ill, would have won.

The experience of the English athletes who came to America in 1895
points to a similar conclusion. Though the heat was intense and
oppressive and most of the visitors were positively sick, one of the
sprinters, in spite of severe illness, was far above his previous
best, while all of the distance men went quite to pieces. Thus our
climate would seem to reduce the staying power of the English
athletes, and perhaps to increase the speed of sprinters.

It appears on the whole probable that in these international contests
the visiting athlete had best do as much as possible of his training
at home, and it follows that the visiting team is at a distinct and
inevitable disadvantage.


The scope and content of an English honor school is well illustrated
in the following passage from the Oxford examination statutes, which
treats of the final school in English literature. The system will be
seen to be very different from a system under which a student may
receive honors in ignorance of all but a single movement in English

§ 10. _Of the Honour School of English Language and Literature._

1. The Examination in the School of English Language and Literature
shall always include authors or portions of authors belonging to the
different periods of English literature, together with the history of
the English language and the history of English literature.

The Examination shall also include Special Subjects falling within or
usually studied in connexion with the English language and literature.

2. Every Candidate shall be expected to have studied the authors or
portions of authors which he offers (1) with reference to the forms of
the language, (2) as examples of literature, and (3) in their relation
to the history and thought of the period to which they belong.

He shall also be expected to show a competent knowledge (1) of the
chief periods of the English language, including Old English
(Anglo-Saxon), and (2) of the relation of English to the languages
with which it is etymologically connected, and (3) of the history of
English literature, and (4) of the history, especially the social
history, of England during the period of English literature which he

3. The Examination in Special Subjects may be omitted by Candidates
who do not aim at a place in the First or Second Class.

4. No Candidate shall be admitted to examination in the Final Honour
School of English Language and Literature, unless he has either
obtained Honours in some Final Honour School or has passed the First
Public Examination [_i. e._ Moderation].

5. The Examination shall be under the supervision of a Board of

6. It shall be the duty of the Board of Studies in framing
regulations, and also of the Examiners in the conduct of the
Examination, to see that as far as possible equal weight is given to
language and literature: provided always that Candidates who offer
Special Subjects shall be at liberty to choose subjects connected
either with language or with literature or with both.

7. The Board of Studies shall by notice from time to time make
regulations respecting the Examination; and shall have power--

(1) To prescribe authors or portions of authors.

(2) To specify one or more related languages or dialects to be offered
either as a necessary or as an optional part of the Examination.

(3) To name periods of the history of English literature, and to fix
their limits.

(4) To issue lists of Special Subjects in connexion either with
language or with literature or with both, prescribing books or
authorities where they think it desirable.

(5) To prescribe or recommend authors or portions of authors in
languages other than English, to be studied in connexion with Special
Subjects to which they are intimately related.

(6) To determine whether Candidates who aim at a place in the First or
Second Class shall be required to offer more than one Special

(_ii_) _Regulations of the Board of Studies for the Examinations in
1901 and 1902._

The subjects of examination in this School are--

     I. Portions of English Authors.

     II. The History of the English Language.

     III. The History of English Literature.

     IV. (In the case of those Candidates who aim at a
     place in the First or Second Class) a Special Subject of
     Language or Literature.


Candidates will be examined in the following texts:--


     The texts printed in Sweet's _Anglo-Saxon Reader_.

     _King Horn._


     Laurence Minot.

     _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight._

     Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_, the _Prologue_ and the following

       _The Knight's_, _The Man of Law's_, _The Prioress's_, _Sir
       Thopas_, _The Monk's_, _The Nun's Priest's_, _The Pardoner's_,
       _The Clerk's_, _The Squire's_, _The Second Nun's_, _The Canon's

     _Piers Plowman_, the _Prologue_ and first seven _passus_ (text

     Shakespeare, with a special study of the following Plays:
     _Midsummer Night's Dream_, _King John,_ _Much Ado about
     Nothing_, _Macbeth_, _Cymbeline_.

     Milton, with a special study of _Paradise Lost_.

These texts are to be studied (1) with reference to the forms of the
language; (2) as examples of literature; and (3) in their relation to
the history and thought of the period to which they belong.

After Milton no special texts are prescribed, but Candidates are
expected to show an adequate knowledge of the chief authors.


Candidates will be examined in the Philology and History of the
Language, in Gothic (the Gospel of St. Mark), and in Translation from
Old English and Middle English authors not specially offered.


The Examination in the History of English Literature will not be
limited to the prescribed texts. It will include the history of
criticism and of style in prose and verse; for these subjects,
Candidates are recommended to consult the following works:--

     Sidney, _Apology for Poetry_.

     Daniel, _Defence of Rhyme_.

     Dryden, _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, and _Preface to Fables_.

     Addison, Papers on Milton in the _Spectator_.

     Pope, _Essay on Criticism_.

     Johnson, _Preface to Shakespeare_ and _Lives of the Poets_.

     Wordsworth, _Prefaces, etc., to Lyrical Ballads_.

     Coleridge, _Biographia Literaria_.


Candidates who aim at a place in the First or Second Class will be
expected to offer a Special Subject, which may be chosen from the
following list:--

     1. Old English Language and Literature to 1150 A. D.

     2. Middle English Language and Literature, 1150-1400 A. D.

     3. Old French Philology, with special reference to Anglo-Norman
     French, together with a special study of the following texts:--

       Computus of Philippe de Thaun, Voyage of St. Brandan, The Song
       of Dermot and the Earl, Les contes moralisés de Nicole Bozon.

     4. Scandinavian Philology, with special reference to Icelandic,
     together with a special study of the following texts:--

       Gylfaginning, Laxdæla Saga, Gunnlaugssaga Ormstungu.

     5. Elizabethan literature, 1558-1637 A. D.

     6. English literature, 1637-1700 A. D.

     7. English literature, 1700-1745 A. D.

     8. Wordsworth and his contemporaries, 1797-1850 A. D.

     9. History of Scottish poetry to 1600 A. D.

Candidates who desire to offer any other subject or period as a
Special Subject must obtain the leave of the Board of Studies a year
before the Examination.

Candidates who offer a period of English Literature will be expected
to show a competent knowledge of the History, especially the Social
History, of England during such period.

The following scheme of papers is contemplated:--

     1. Beowulf and other Old English texts.

     2. King Horn, Havelok, Minot, Sir Gawain.

     3. Chaucer and Piers Plowman.

     4. Shakespeare.

     5. Milton.

     6. History of the language.

     7. Gothic--O. E. and M. E. translations.

     8. } History of the Literature, including questions
     9. } on the history of criticism. Two papers, (1)
          to 1700, (2) after 1700.

     10. Special Subjects.

The Riverside Press

_Electrotyped and printed by H. O. Houghton & Co._

_Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._

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