George Birkbeck Norman Hill.

Harvard college, by an Oxonian; online

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mount, and the Chancellor, with his inferior officers, held the supreme,
all-embracing authority."


English college of the Cambridge type, and it remained essen-
tially an English college down to the early years of this cen-
tury. ... It has always had the traditional freedom of an
English college, and none of the smaller discipline of a Ger-
man gymnasium ; but it has never had any of the very different
freedom of a German university." ^ More than half of the
students of the College live in great blocks of buildings known
as Dormitories, mostly standing in the Yard. These Dormi-
tories may be likened to the different quadrangles of a large
Oxford College, such as Christ Church, or, better still, to the
New Buildings of Magdalen — still known as Nero, though it
was in that " stately pile " that Gibbon had his rooms. Each
Dormitory stands apart. Round the Yard there is no lofty
enclosure with its single gateway, its great doors thrown open
in the daytime and closed after dark, its little wicket, and
its porter's lodge. There is, to be sure, at the main entrance
a gateway of fine proportions, built a few years ago by a former
student, but it stands there for state, not for use. The Yard is
almost everywhere enclosed by nothing more than a low rail-
ing, with numerous openings. Undergraduates can leave their
rooms and return to them at all hours. Nodes atque dies
patet janua. There is no "gateing" here.-

The twelve Dormitories of the College " have accommoda-
tions for 973 students, provided all double rooms are occupied
by two persons." In the oldest buildings the occupant has but
a single room, in which he lives by day and sleeps by night.
Many of the apartments consist of one sitting-room and two
bed-rooms. Two students often join together in taking one of

1 The Present and Ftiture of Harvard College, p. 21.
* At Oxford an undergraduate is said to be gated when he is forbidden
to leave the College after the dinner hour.


these, for the expense of the sitting-room is shared. " I shall
chum next year with Dorr," wrote Emerson, " and he appears
to be perfectly disposed to study hard." ^ Chmnming was of
old common enough in Oxford ; the evidences of it were left
less than forty years ago. When I entered Pembroke Col-
lege in 1855, there did not happen to be a set of rooms vacant.
By a University statute an undergraduate was at that time re-
quired to sleep within his College during his first three years of
residence. Another Freshman and I had each to find a sitting-
room in a neighbouring street. For a bedroom I had to
choose between " a double room," or a hole under a staircase
which was commonly used as a "scout's" pantry. With an
Englishman's love of independence, I chose the pantry. In
Harvard it often happens that a double room has but a single
tenant, when it is occupied by a student who is rich enough to
pay the full rent. The rents range from 1^25 (;^5.2.o) to $350
(_;2^ a year. There are, however, only eighteen rooms for
which the charge is so low as $56 (^11.9.0).- In the Oxford
Colleges the lowest rent is ^4 ($19.56). At Oriel the average
is ^11 ($53.80) ; at New College, ^14 ($68.46) ; at Balliol,
^15 ($73.35). In Christ Church the lowest rent is ;^8
($39.12), and the highest ;^28 ($137). In Magdalen, even
in Gibbon's "stately pile," not more than ^20 ($98) is
charged ; in the other Colleges the rents are below this sum.
In Harvard 292 rooms are rented more highly than the dearest

1 Emerson in Concord, ed. 1889, p. 23.

2 " The occupants of the only low-priced rooms in the College Yard
dormitories received in March the following notice : ' By vote of the
Corporation, February 26, 1894, the scale of prices of rooms in Hollis and
Stoughton is to be increased from the beginning of the academic year
1894-95.' The new rates are from 50 to 75 per cent, higiier than the
old." Harvard Graduates^ Magazine, June, 1894, p. 604.


in Oxford. As a considerable set-off against this higher charge,
the residence is longer by eleven weeks in each year.

In Oxford, when I was an undergraduate, the furniture was
always the property of the occupant, who took it, or as much
of it as he pleased, at a valuation from his predecessor. What-
ever additions he made were in like manner valued. For the
furniture of my rooms, which were in the Attics, I was charged
on entrance about ^14 ($68.50). I laid out ^4 ($19.56),
and received on leaving nearly as much as I had paid at first.
At the present time in many Colleges the furniture is owned
by the Corporation, who charge for it in a higher rent. In
Harvard the rooms are let unfurnished. Professor Peabody,
in his \xvt\y Re??iiniscetices, thus describes the furniture as he
had known it nearly seventy years ago : " In my time a
student's room was remarkable chiefly for what it did not
have — for the absence, I might almost say, of all tokens of
civilization. The feather-bed was regarded as a valuable
chattel; but ten dollars [^2.1] would have been a fair auc-
tion-price for all the other contents of an average room. I
doubt whether any fellow-students of mine owned a carpet. A
second-hand dealer had a few threadbare carpets, which he
leased at an extravagant price to certain Southern members of
the Senior Class. The rooms were heated by open wood-fires.
Almost every room had among its transmittenda a cannon-ball,
which on very cold days was heated to a red heat, and placed
on a skillet ; while at other times it was often utilized by being
rolled down stairs at such times as might most nearly bisect a
tutor's night-sleep."^

The late Master of my College, who died less than three
years ago, told me that, when he was a Junior Fellow, the

^Reminiscences of Harvard College, p. 196.


floor of the Common Room, which was carpetless, was
sprinkled with fine sand every morning. An ancient Fellow of
Exeter College, who is still remembered by one or two of the
Seniors, angrily resisted the proposal to introduce a carpet into
their Common Room. If one were laid down, he said, he
would never set foot on it. It was laid down, and he kept to
his word.

Mr. Frank fjolles, late Secretary of Harvard University,
whose untimely death is greatly deplored, recently published a
curious collection of letters from forty students of the College,
— all "very poor, earnest, scholarly, eager to secure remunera-
tive work, and likely to be methodical and accurate in money
matters," in which " are described in detail their necessary ex-
penses."^ Some of these men lived in furnished lodgings;
others have not separated their room-rent from their outlay for
furniture. In the sixteen letters where the charges are kept
apart, the lowest expenditure in a year on furniture was $5
(^1.0.5) ; the highest $48 (^^9.16.0) ; the average being
;^20 (^4.1.8). Some of this outlay would, no doubt, be re-
covered by each student as he went out of residence, but the
sale is not managed by the College as it is at Oxford. There
is no transference from the out-going to the in-coming tenant.
Every man before leaving sells his furniture as best he can,
piece by piece. It sometimes happens that a rich student,
in all the carelessness which comes from a full purse, leaves his
furniture behind as a present to his fortunate but unknown

A Loan-Furniture Association has lately been founded,
" which lends students sets of furniture at a price just sufficient
to replace the property as it is worn out. The charge for a

^ Students^ Expenses, by Frank Bolles, 1893, p. 9.


set is $5 (;!{^i.o.5) a year." It is managed by a Board of
Directors chosen by ballot from among the officers and stu-
dents of the University.^

The students who do not "room" in College — to use a
word in common use in America — reside in "private Dormi-
tories," in boarding-houses, in private families, or in ordinary
lodgings. The University Committee on the Reception of
Students, at the opening of each year, publishes a descriptive
list of rooms to let, with the rents asked for the academic year.
"This grouping of facts and figures," writes the Secretary,
" has tended to establish uniformity and stability in rates. By
covering a large residence area, the list has extended competi-
tion and made rates more moderate than they might otherwise
have been." " The following entries which I have selected from
this list show both the character of the lodgings and the fulness
of the information : —

" Rent $50 [^{'10.4. 6], one-eighth of a mile from the College, one room
on the fourth flour [the third according to our reckoning, for in America the
ground floor is the first], twelve feet by eleven, with one window to the
south, furnished; stove; light ; fuel not provided; no bath-room."

" Rent $200 [^40.18.0], suite of two rooms on the second floor, one six-
teen feet and a half square, the other sixteen by eleven, with four win-
dows to the south and west, unfurnished; stove ; no fuel or light."

" Rent $500 [;i^i02.4.o], half a mile from the College; suite of two rooms
on the second floor, one twelve feet by fourteen, the other eleven feet by
thirteen, with five windows to the north and west; stove; bath-room;
no fuel or light."

Many of the lodgings consist of only one room. In Oxford,
in the lodgings licensed by the University, in which alone under-
graduates are allowed to lodge, a separate bedroom must be

^ Students' Expenses, p. 5 ; Harvard University, by Frank BoUes, p. 5.
2 Students' Expenses, p. 5.


provided. It is, however, sometimes little better than a closet.
" Good order is maintained in College and private Dormitories
by graduates or instructors holding appointments as Proctors.
Proctors are under the direction of the Regent. At the dis-
cretion of the Regent, a Proctor may be placed in any private
house where students lodge, if the maintenance of good order
in the house seems to require it." ^ This is a heavy, though a
just tax on the householder, who has to provide a room for
the Proctor free of charge. A studious set of men living in
College have been known to ask that a more rigorous Proctor
might be sent to reside on their staircase.

The students board where they please. There is no buttery-
hatch or kitchen-hatch, whence breakfasts, lunches, and suppers
are sent out to men's rooms. They had both existed in old
days, for they were not among the institutions from which the
Puritans had fled, who, with all their strictness, were by no
means careless of the creature comforts. In the early days
each student " received his sizing of food upon a pewter plate
and his beer in a pewter mug. They were delivered by the
butler to the servitors," who would carry them into the Hall.^
The buttery-hatch fell first. In the first year of this century it
was closed forever. The kitchen-hatch struggled on for a few
years longer, but it, too, was at length closed. " Commons,"
the meals provided by the College and eaten in the Hall,
continued till 1849.^ Professor Peabody gives the following

1 Harvard University, by F. Bolles, p. 5. "The Regent is a University
officer who exercises a general supervision over the conduct and welfare of
the students." Catalogue, p. 32.

2 The Early College Buildings at Catnbridge, by A. M. Davis, p. 22.

3 An Historical Sketch of Harvard University, by W. R. Thayer, 1890,
p. 42.


description of a student's fare and daily life, as he had known
it seventy years ago : —

" The student's Ufe was hard. Morning prayers were in sum-
mer at six ; ^ in winter about half an hour before sunrise, in a
bitterly cold chapel. Thence half of each Class passed into
the several recitation-rooms, and three-quarters of an hour
later the bell rang for a second set of recitations, including the
remaining half of the students. Then came breakfast, which,
in the College Commons, consisted solely of coffee, hot rolls
and butter, except when the members of a mess had succeeded
in pinning to the nether surface of the table, by a two-pronged
fork, some slices of meat from the previous day's dinner. Be-
tween ten and twelve every student attended another recitation
or a lecture. Dinner was at half-past twelve. There was another
recitation in the afternoon, except on Saturdays ; then evening
prayers at six, or in winter at early twilight ; then the evening
meal, plain as the breakfast, with tea instead of coffee, and
cold bread for the hot rolls. After tea the Dormitories rang
with song and merriment till the study-bell, at eight in winter,
at nine in summer, sounded the curfew for fun and frolic, pro-
claiming dead silence throughout the College premises. On
Sunday all were required to attend worship twice each day in
the College Chapel. . . . The charge for Commons was a
dollar and seventy-five cents a week [seven shillings and two
pence]. The food had not been deficient in quantity, but it
was so mean in quality, so poorly cooked and so coarsely served
as to disgust those who had been accustomed to the decencies
of the table, and to encourage a mutinous spirit, rude manners,

^ Dr. Johnson, writing from University College, Oxford, on June i, 1775,
says: "I went this morning to the chapel at six." Letters of Samuel
jfohnson, I. 323,


and ungentlemanly habits ; so that the dining-halls were seats
of boisterous misrule and nurseries of rebelHon." '

It was in coming from Hall that Prescott the historian was
struck in the eye by a piece of hard crust thrown by a disor-
derly student, and half-blinded for life. Like Milton, he was
supported in his task — supported by a deep love of learning
and an unconquerable spirit.

In defiance of rules, the undergraduates began to take their
meals outside the College. It was in vain that President
Quincy,^ who came into office in 1829, purchased in England
for the use of the Hall a handsome service of plate stamped
with the College seal. During the war between the North and
the South it was all sold. For some time, however, it had been
lying idle, for " Commons " had been abolished a few years
earlier. When the kitchen was closed, " the half-score or more
of swine," no doubt, disappeared ; in Professor Peabody's time
they had been kept in sties close to the back of the Hall.

For fifteen years the students boarded where they pleased —
singly or in clubs. According to the American custom, even
those who lived in lodgings must have gone out of the house
for their meals. Our lodging-house system, where each lodger
provides his own food and has his meals in his own room, and
where the landlady supplies the cooking and the service, is un-
known in New England. All who occupy rooms in a house
either take their meals at one common table or go abroad for
them. There could be no Autocrat of the Breakfast Table with
us. Our Autocrat would be a king without subjects. In 1865,

1 Reminiscences, pp. 29, 197.

2 The name of this distinguished New England family is always pro-
nounced Quinzy. The English author De Quincey is in like manner by
Americans called De Quinzey.


the Corporation fitted up an old railway station for a dining-
club. As they had met with no success as caterers, they put it
mainly under the management of the members. How far had
"Fair Harvard" sunk beneath its English model — "but oh
how fallen ! " — with its undergraduates dining, not in a noble
hall, but in a renovated " depot." ^ The age of meanness was
soon to pass away. In the Civil War twelve hundred and thirty-
nine Harvard men served in the army and navy of the North.
Ninety-five fell fighting on the side of liberty. To their mem-
ory a noble building has been raised under the name of
Memorial Hall.

In it more than a thousand students take their meals. As
they pass in through the spacious transept, they see inscribed
before them on the walls the names of those who fell. Few
more touching records are anywhere to be read than the long
list of these men who died for their country, most of them in
the very prime of their youth. Here in a few simple lines,
without one wasted word of praise, are given each man's name,
his birthplace, his age, his standing in the University, and the
battle in which he fell. Dull, indeed, must be the heart of the
young American who does not here feel his love strengthened
for that Union and that liberty which these men died to save.

" So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must.
The youth replies, I can.''^

The dining-hall is hung round with the portraits of Harvard
worthies, old Presidents, Judges, and Governors of the Common-

^ A railway station — or rather I should say a railroad station — is com-
monly called a depot. Though in trait and restaurant the final / is
sounded by Americans, in depot it is left silent.

170 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap. ix.

wealth ; soldiers and builders-up of Constitutions ; Story the
great jurist ; Prescott, Emerson, Motley, Longfellow, and Lowell.
Here stands the bust of Charles Russell Lowell ; " the perfec-
tion of a man and a soldier," as Sheridan said of him. Fifteen
years before the battle at Cedar Creek, in which he fell, his
uncle had urged the lad " to pay his way honourably in life by
being of use." ^ He paid his way full royally.

'^Letters of J. R. Lowell, I. l8l.


A Visit to Three Dormitories. — Dining Qubs. — The Liquor Law. —
Baths. — Signs and "Shingles." — Clubs. — Politics. — Christmas. — A
Student's Library.

ON a pleasant afternoon in June a friendly undergraduate
showed me three sets of rooms ; the first in a lodging-
house, the second in Hastings, the most modern of the Dormi-
tories, and the third in ^Matthews, a Dormitor)' built twenty-one
years ago. In the lodging-house he himself lived with three
friends, each having a separate bedroom, but all sharing in a
common sitting-room. I might almost have thought myself in
a comfortable lodging in Oxford. In the sitting-room there
was a piano and a couch or two, but none of those absurdly
deep and low chairs in which the English undergraduate
delights, though, if his room is small, a single one nearly blocks
it up. On the walls hung engravings and photographs, mostly
gathered by my undergraduate friend in a recent tour in
Europe. There is, I am told, a small knot of men which
affects engravings after Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and their school
of painters. On the shelves there was a large and well-chosen
set of books, most of them historical, for he was studying his-
tory. I asked him how with his three chums — " room-mates,"
to use the American term — he managed to secure a quiet
time for study. He replied that he mostly read in the Library
— in a room set apart for students of history, and well stocked
with all the works they can need. Of the authors most in



request there are several copies kept. His meals he took in
Memorial Hall. He complained much of the quality of the
food and the cookery. Though in his own home a plain table
was kept, nevertheless the fare always seemed to him luxurious
after Harvard. Some allowance must probably be made for
the ordinary discontent of an undergraduate. I remember
how in my college days some of my fellow-students grumbled
over their dinner — "it was not fit," they said, " for a gentle-
man to eat " ; though it was quite as good as any young fellow
with a healthy appetite could require, and much better than
many got at home. From a late number of the Crimson I
have extracted the following information about the meals in
Memorial Hall : " There have been on the average one thou-
sand and eighty-five students per meal, half at the club tables
and half at the general tables. The price of board has aver-
aged for the past year three dollars ninety- two cents [i6s.]
a week. The bread is baked in the kitchens. The food left
over is never served again in any form, but is sold daily to
the poor people of Cambridge. Among the items of expendi-
ture are 756 boxes of oranges, 13,680 pounds of grapes,
590 pounds of honey, 306 tons of ice, and 534 tons of
coal." The consumption of ice seems enormous ; in an
Oxford College I doubt whether in my time a single pound
was bought for use at the table, and even now it is very rarely
seen. Ices, if we indulged in any, were ordered from the
confectioner's. In America ice is everywhere used at almost
every meal, at all events in the summer. If they ever come
to take afternoon tea like other good Christians, they will, I
verily believe, begin it, and perhaps end it, with a glass of iced
water. Ice-cream — ice-milk would, I suspect, more accurately
describe the dish — is twice a week served instead of pudding


to the one thousand and eighty-five students in Memorial Hall,
and is served plentifully. Americans who have travelled com-
plain of the niggardliness of the helping of ices in England, At
my first evening party at Cambridge I was so much astonished
at the size of the piece that was brought me that I asked the
servant to let me have only half the quantity. Even then I
had at least three times as much as I was used to at home.
Everything is on a great scale in the United States — even
ices. After this experience I had no difficulty in understand-
ing how one thousand and eighty-five students required three
hundred and six tons of ice for thirty-six weeks of residence.
After all, it only gives them a weekly allowance of seventeen
and a half pounds for each man, and a great deal of it they
take in icing their water.

The charges of Memorial Hall were too high for the poorer
students, who, in 1889, founded a Club of their own, under the
name of the Foxcroft. It opened with sixty members, but in
less than three years it numbered over two hundred. It pro-
vides no common meal, but every one orders what he pleases,
as at a tavern. The average expenditure is less than two
dollars eighty cents a week (eleven shillings and six pence),
while some members bring theirs as low as two dollars (eight
shiUings and two pence) .^ A student gives the following
curious account of a club on a much smaller scale : —

" I have tried boarding in several ways and find the most pleasant and
economical, as well as healthful, to be a club of about twenty-five men,
which we manage ourselves. We have an organization under the man-
agement of a board of three Directors, who oversee matters, recommend
members, and decide other questions. We hire a lady who furnishes
dining-room and everything, except dishes, and prepares the food. A
Steward collects the board, buys provisions, and manages the finances for

1 Harvard University, by F. Bolles, p. 5; Students' Expenses, p. 4.


his board. Monthly statements show the financial standing, and we live
as well as possible upon ;?2.50 \_\os. 30'.] per week. We have good food
and plenty, as attested by the fact that each of our men has gained in
weight each year. Many wiser heads have predicted our failure, but by
close economy and a general feeling of co-operation, we are this year
more prosperous than ever."^

It is in vain for any young scapegrace of a student at dinner
in an American University " to remember the poor creature,
small beer." To desire it would show as vilely in him as in
Prince Hal. ISIy friend, the undergraduate, told me that this
prohibition had, he thought, a bad result. It was better for
those who liked a glass of beer to take it at their meals, and
not, as they now do, in their rooms. It cannot be bought in
Cambridge, which, with its widely-scattered population of
seventy thousand thirsty souls, has put itself under the prohi-
bition law ; but it is got in casks or in bottles from Boston,
and is offered to callers as wine used to be offered at Oxford.
After a great victory at baseball or football, men are known to
go all the way to Boston to drink, and often drink heavily.

Under the guidance of my friend, I passed from his lodgings
to Hastings Dormitory, where the accommodation is excellent.
Like the other dormitories, it is built with separate staircases,
on much the same plan as an Oxford College. There were,
moreover, bath-rooms for common use, and a water supply to
each floor. In all the other dormitories the water has to
be carried up in cans from the ground floor, as is still the
case in most Oxford Colleges. Every staircase has its por-
ter and "goody." The "goody" corresponds to our bed-

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Online LibraryGeorge Birkbeck Norman HillHarvard college, by an Oxonian; → online text (page 13 of 26)