George Birkbeck Norman Hill.

Harvard college, by an Oxonian; online

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maker. "Tenants who desire to employ any one to make
fires, black boots, etc., must arrange with the porters of the
buildings in which they live." So says the University Catalogue.

1 Students' Expenses, p. 35.



X. HARVARD COLLEGE. 175

The porter is not required to carry up fuel or water, to light
the fire, to carry down the ashes, or to take care of the lamps.
For each of these services there is a separate charge. The
poorer students save their money by doing some or all of these
duties themselves. ISIy guide hoped that a wealthy benefactor
would, before long, be found, who would lay a supply of water
on every floor of every dormitory. The use of the bath in the
bedchamber is, I was informed, not common. Less than sixty
years ago it was scarcely known at Oxford. The Head of one
of our Colleges, who, on Sunday evenings when he is in the
vein, charms the Common Room with his stories of past days,
told me that soon after he entered, an aggrieved " scout " com-
plained to one of the tutors of an undergraduate on his staircase,
who required him every day to carry all the way up to his room
a can of cold water for his morning bath. The tutor replied
that he could not interfere, and that his master's orders must
be obeyed. At the same time he sent for the youth, who, like
Swift, *' washed himself with oriental scrupulosity," and remon-
strated with him on the needless trouble he was giving. " I
myself," he added, "take a hot bath once a week, and no
gentleman need take more." When I entered Oxford in the
year 1855, the morning bath had become somewhat general.
At Harvard, the River Charles which flows hard by, into which
Longfellow, Lowell, and the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table
used to plunge, is now too foul for bathing. There are no
public baths in the town. The Gymnasium has a few, but a
very few. In the Crimson I have seen more than one com-
plaint of their deficiency. In this respect Har\'ard is far
behind Yale, whose noble gymnasium is amply supplied. It
has been said, and with some reason too, that Harvard has
only to make its wants known, when a benefactor speedily



176 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap.

arises. I trust that the voice of a stranger may reach a rich
man's ears, and remove this reproach from a great University.
The rooms we visited in Hastings v^^ere on the top floor.
They were pleasant and comfortable — very like the rooms in
one of our Colleges, only the bedchamber was far better.
There was the wide window-seat with its red cushions and out-
look over the tops of the graceful American elms. Above the
two doors of the sitting-room were hanging one or two printed
notices, which had been appropriated or misappropriated by
some means or other. It is the pride of a Freshman to have
his walls adorned with signs and " shingles " which he has
" ragged." ^ An oblong piece of wood called a shingle takes
the place in America of the brass plate on the outside door.
It is not fastened to the door, but is hung near it on the wall.
These shingles, and in fact all kinds of announcements and
notices, the adventurous Freshman delights to carry off, sur-
veying his room with just pride, when he sees on the walls
such inscriptions as : " Jones & Co., Civil, Sanitary, and Land-
scape Engineers"; "Thomas Smith, M.D., Office Hours 2-4;
7-9 " ; " Hair-dressing and Complexion Parlors " ; " Under-
takers. Locker's Casket Warehouse " ; " The College Dining
Rooms and Ice Cream Parlors." These trophies correspond
to the door-knockers which have been known to adorn the
rooms of a Christ Church undergraduate. One kind of shin-
gles is won by easier, but, perhaps, no less glorious means,

" Peace hath her victories no less renowned
Than war."

Harvard abounds in clubs, and each club has its own shingle.

^ "Ragging simply means stealing" — Harvard Stories, by W. K. Post,
p. 66.



X. HARVARD COLLEGE. Yll

These are not looked upon as lawful trophies of war. There
is honour among thieves. Shame and not glory would be the
lot of him who should hang on his walls the shingle of a club
to which he did not belong. So nice is the point of honour
that, much as admission into some of these clubs is coveted,
when the period of election is drawing near, a youth of a deli-
cate mind, if he has a friend among the members, shuns his
rooms for fear he should be suspected of improperly canvassing
him for his vote. With the cavalier poet he would say, —

" I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more."

Some clubs, it should seem, are started only to increase the
display of shingles. A student told me that he belonged to
more than one which, to the best of his knowledge, had never
met since the day of their creation. Undergraduate-nature
seems to be the same on both sides of the Atlantic, however
much it may vary in its manifestations. In America it is per-
haps a little more transparently boyish. Some of these clubs
imitate the follies of Freemasonry in their secret rites of initia-
tion. Their very names they try to conceal, letting themselves
be known to outsiders only by one or two letters of the Greek
alphabet. The most famous of all the clubs, the Phi Beta
Kappa, — "our beloved Phi Beta Kappa," as Professor Good-
win justly calls it, — which was founded in 1779, remained a
mystery for more than fifty years. It was not till 1831 that
"the veil of secrecy was withdrawn, and the mystic letters
$. B. K. were found to stand for $tAoo-o


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Online LibraryGeorge Birkbeck Norman HillHarvard college, by an Oxonian; → online text (page 14 of 26)