George Birkbeck Norman Hill.

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themselves, however temperate in their private life, they are
— directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously —
enemies to College learning, College morality, and College
honour." ^

One of the poor students, describing his trials as a Fresh-
man, says : " Part of this year I was very poor. My washing
I did myself. About mid-year I was so short of money that
for nearly two months I ate but one or two meals a day. This
was the hardest period of my course, but rather incited than
discouraged me." In spite of all he went through, he ends
by saying: "My health, when I entered, was very poor. I
left College strong in body, better than at any time for ten
years. I have no hesitation in saying that an economical
student can get through honourably and happily for three
hundred dollars a year [;;{^6i.6.o]." ^ "A poor student's

^ Annual Reports, 1892-93, p. 103. 2 Students' Expenses, p. 43.


berth," writes another man, " is not exactly a bed of roses, but
I know that a sober-minded, industrious man can study in
Harvard College, and not only exist, but have an enjoyable
time on four hundred dollars a year [^81.15.0]." ^ A third
writer says: "A bright scholar or a shrewd business fellow
can entirely pay his expenses at Harvard; but it is no place
for a poor scholar or a lazy man." ^

There is a danger lest, in this sharp struggle for existence
in a university, somewhat too much of " the shrewd business
fellow " may be brought out in a youth's character. Almost all
these ways of earning money are honourable; but the adver-
tising scheme is unworthy of a student. I do not like the puff
of the young man who heads his advertisement, "Yale's Dis-
advantages." Such a heading would, no doubt, catch the eye
of a Harvard man; but it would little please him to know
that in his own University a race of young Barnums is grow-
ing up.

In the Boston Sunday Globe for December 31, 1893, "a
Poor Student at Harvard " published his Memoirs. He is
apparently still at College, so that a supplementary chapter
will some day have to be added. His father works in a fac-
tory, earning about nine dollars (^1.16.9) a week. The
son entered Harvard with a capital of tAventy-seven dollars
(^^5.10.3), all that was left over, after he had paid his debts,
of his earnings in the summer as a waiter in a mountain hotel.
He hired a room thirteen feet long by seven wide. At first
he spent on his food no more than one dollar and fifteen
cents a week (4s. io|d.). "I remembered," he writes, "how
Garfield had lived for thirty-three cents [is.4.Vd.] a week on
milk. I felt sure if he could, I could." He soon found that

1 Students^ Expenses, p. 22. ^ lb. p. 26,


his health was sinking under the spare diet, and that he was
becoming unfit for work. He took a better dinner, and so
raised his expenditure to two dollars and sixty-five cents a
week [los.iojd.]. "It kept me well; only I would get awfully
hungry every night at about ten o'clock. I used to drink
water for that." He at once set about earning money, and
before long was made one of the waiters at the Foxcroft Club.
He suffered from the humiliation of his position. "I felt
that there was a sort of feeling against me by many, and it
grated against my pride to be at the absolute mercy of some
of the men there. I have always thought that some knew just
how I felt, and rather added to my discomfort in all the ways
they could." He does not, however, give any instance of
insolence or unkindness. A man in such a position as his
is apt to see "the proud man's contumely" even where there
is none. He was too poor to pay for a laundress, and had to
keep his soiled linen till Thanksgiving Day, when he took it
home and had it washed there. When his clean clothes came
to an end he wore a jersey. "This, of course, caused re-
marks, which I felt very deeply, but I went on my way with a
heightened colour, but still with a feeling that I was doing
what was right."

In his vacations he got work as a druggist's assistant, as
head-waiter, and afterwards as manager in a summer hotel,
and as bookkeeper in a shoe-factory. He and one of his
comrades were engaged one summer by a firm of publishers
to sell books. " We were given a large city several hundred
miles away. We started in high feather; we walked and
tramped the streets for a week, and I never sold one. My
partner sold three, but two days later they all countermanded
their orders. That was the last straw, — we quit." It was, I


suspected, an undergraduate who, one day when I was sitting
under the veranda of a house at a seaside village on Cape
Cod, asked me to buy, first some books and then some scents.
He asked but once, and went away the moment I refused.
By his looks and his gentle manners, he seemed far too good
for so bad a trade. A man can pay too dearly even for a
university education. The "Poor Student" in term-time got
various kinds of employment. He canvassed for more than
one election; he worked in a lawyer's office; he read proofs,
and he was an author's copyist. This last piece of work
extended into the vacation. In term-time he used to begin
work with the author at ten at night, and kept on at it till an
hour and a half after midnight; all through the vacation he
was employed from twelve to fifteen hours a day. When this
heavy task came to an end he got an engagement on a news-
paper as the Harvard correspondent. " It was the busiest
time of the year. Two things had to be followed daily, — base-
ball and rowing. It really took all my day from three in the
afternoon. It was just the time of the year when I needed
every hour on my College work. The examinations were at
hand. But there was no help for it." He has gone through
the main part of the struggle, he says, and now makes enough
money to be able to indulge in a few comforts. He has no
longer to try to endure a New England winter in a fireless
room. When the thermometer fell below zero he had been
forced to order a supply of coal. He laments that his studies
have suffered greatly from the need that he has always been
under to give so much of his strength and time to earning
his bread. "But," he adds, "I have more than ten times
overbalanced that by the practical knowlcflge that comes
only by actual personal experience. When I get through


Harvard there'll be no such thing as my 'going out into the
world.' "

Many of the wealthy students are ready enough to help their
needy comrades. "Rich men," wrote the Dean of the Col-
lege in 1892, "even rich undergraduates, answer cheerfully a
call for money; but generosity of this sort tends to pauperize
such students as take kindly to pauperizing. Something has
been accomplished by a sort of floating loan-fund. Money
for the student is put into the hands of the Dean, who gives
the student to understand that, as soon as it is returned, it
will be lent to some other student equally in need. The
obligation thus involved is thought to be more effective than
a written promise to pay, which seems of itself a sort of quid
pro quo.''' ^

It is not only on his earnings that the poor scholar has to
depend. Just as we have in Oxford and Cambridge endow-
ments for scholarships and exhibitions, so Harvard is in pos-
session of large funds for distribution as "money-aids to
students. Merit and need are the elements which determine
distribution."^ No money is given, as it is so abundantly
given in the great English Universities, to merit alone, how-
ever great it may be. The merit of the wealthy student is at
Harvard rewarded only by honour; but even honour will not
always stir him up. "It is an interesting inquiry," wTites the
President, "how the College can supply the rich young man
with an appropriate stimulus to do his best. The problem,
however, is one which does not vex Harvard College alone;
it has long vexed rich parents and civilized society." ^ When

1 Annual Reports, 1891-92, p. 88.

^ Harvard University, by F. Bolles, p. 7.

* Annual Reports, 1891-92, p. 21.


Lord Southampton asked Bishop Watson of Llandaff, "how
he was to bring up his son so as to make him get forward in
the world, ' I know of but one way,' replied the Bishop; ' give
him parts and poverty. ' ' Well, then, ' replied Lord Southamp-
ton, ' if God has given him parts, I will manage as to the
poverty.'"^ Poverty at Harvard, however great, without at
all events some parts, is not looked upon as a title to relief.
Those only are to be helped who are worthy of receiving a
liberal education. In 1887 about fifty thousand dollars
(^10,225) were thus distributed; by 1893 the fund had in-
creased to eighty-nine thousand (^18,200.) By such leaps
and bounds does munificence advance in the United States.
Even this large sum can scarcely suffice for all the demands
of studious poverty. "One-half the students," writes a Har-
vard Instructor in Philosophy, "must be conceived as very'
poor, brought to College by intellectual and practical ambi-
tion, working hard at their books and for their maintenance,
and without time or money for much recreation, exercise, or
society. This class, from which the best scholars generally
come, is dubbed * the grinds. ' " - They are like the men whom
Arthur Pendennis despised, who every afternoon were to be
seen in their hob-nailed shoes trudging along the Trumping-
ton Road.

Of the well-to-do students the expenses seem to be higher
even than at Oxford. How much they have risen in the last
fifty years is shown by the following passage in the Life 0/
Charles Sumner.^ " His College bills did not exceed the
average bills of his Class. Including instruction, board in
commons, rent and charge of room, fuel, use of class-books

1 H. C. Robinson's Diary, I. 337.

* Educational Revinu, April, 1894, p. 322. ^ Vol. I., p. 53.

208 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap. xi.

and other fees, they amounted for the four years to less than
eight hundred dollars [^163], which is now quite a mode-
rate expenditure for a single year." An undergraduate may
still live in great comfort at Oxford on two hundred pounds
a year, even though out of this sum he has to defray his out-
lay on clothes, amusements, and travelling.


From a College to a University. — George Ticknor. — Influence of Ger-
many. — Oxford Colleges Forty Years Ago. — Provincialism. — Founda-
tion of New Schools at Harvard. — Duties of Professors.

THOUGH Harvard College had from the beginning been
a university, in that it was a place where the arts and
sciences were studied and where degrees were conferred, yet
it was a university after the later English, and not after the
continental manner. It did not freely impart knowledge to all
who sought it in all the great departments of learning. It
bound down the students to a certain limited course ; it con-
fined them to a four years' track to be beaten by all alike.
Along this track all moved at the same pace — the quick kept
back by the slow, the hard workers by the idlers. There was
not that choice between classics and mathematics which, even
under the early examination schemes at Oxford, was allowed
to a certain extent ; neither was there that separation made
between passmen and classmen^ in the college lectures by
which the abler students were carried over a far wider field.
Everywhere there was a dead level, a dreary uniformity. Down
to the year 1767 each tutor had taught every subject to the
Class assigned to him, throughout the whole course. In
that year a change was made, and henceforth Greek, Latin,

1 Classmen or Honours-men at Oxford correspond to those who at Har-
vard take their degree cttm laiiJe, magna cum laiiJe, summa cum laude.


philosophy and mathematics were assigned each to a single
teacher.^ The tutors were no doubt for the most part sound
scholars of the old narrow school — much the same kind of
men as the masters of the English grammar schools and the
Fellows of the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. Among them,
however, had never risen a Bentley or a Porson, not even a
Markland or a Parr, to set and to keep the standard of scholar-
ship high. Greek must have been but little studied, for, accord-
ing to Ticknor, in the early years of the present century, " a
copy of Eu7-ipides in the original could not be bought at any
bookseller's shop in New England." ^ He had been educated
at Dartmouth College — Daniel Webster's College. " It is,
Sir, a small College ; and yet there are those who love it," said
that great advocate, with his eyes full of tears, when upholding
its charter before the Supreme Court. Ticknor had afterwards
studied privately under a good scholar, an Englishman, who
had been taught by Dr. Parr. On leaving him, he entered a
lawyer's office, but his heart was not in his work. In the year
1 8 14, when he was two and twenty, he chanced to read a
defence of the University of Gottingen that had been written
" against the ill-intentions of Jerome Bonaparte." He had
never before known the true nature of a university. " My
astonishment at these revelations," he writes, " was increased
by an account of its library, given by an Englishman who had
been there. I was sure that I should like to study at such a
university, but it was in vain that I endeavoured to get further
knowledge upon the subject. I would gladly have prepared
for it by learning German, but there was no one in Boston who
could teach me. Nor was it possible to get books. I bor-
rowed a Meidinger's Grammar, French and German, from my

1 Quincy's Harvard, II. 132. ^ i^ij-g ^j ^y_ j{ Prescoii, p. 8.


friend, Mr. Everett, and sent to New Hampshire, where I
knew there was a German Dictionary, and procured it. I also
obtained a copy of Goethe's Werther (through Mr. Shaw's
connivance) from amongst Mr. J. Q. Adams's books deposited
by him, on going to Europe, in the Athenaeum." ^ Neverthe-
less, in all this dearth of Greek and German books Boston was
known as "The Literary Emporium."- Judge Story, writing
of Harvard as he had known it in the last years of the eigh-
teenth century, says : " The intercourse between us and foreign
countries was infrequent ; and except to English literature and
science, I might almost say, we had no means of access. Even
in respect to them we had little more than a semi-annual
importation of the most common works. Two ships only plied
as regular packets between Boston and London, one in the
spring and the other in the autumn, and their arrival was an
era in our college life." ^ Ticknor's father, a well-to-do Boston
grocer, who, like Ticknor himself, had passed through Dart-
mouth College and had a respect for learning, allowed his son
to give up the law and to go and study at Gottingen.

It was a great day in the history of Harvard when this young
Bostonian set out to explore a German university. On Novem-
ber TO, 1815, he wrote to his father from GotUngen of his
Greek tutor. Dr. Schultze : " Every day I am filled with new
astonishment at the variety and accuracy, the minuteness and
readiness, of his learning. Every day I feel anew, under the
oppressive weight of his admirable acquirements, what a morti-
fying distance there is between a European and an American

'^ Life of George Ticknor, I. II.

2 At all events, a few years later it was frequently so called. Life oj
H. W. Longfellow, I. 37.

8 Life of Joseph Story, I. 48.


scholar ! We do not yet know what a Greek scholar is ; we do
not even know the process by which a man is to be made one.
Dr. Schultze is hardly older than I am. It never entered into
my imagination to conceive that any expense of time or talent
could make a man so accomplished in this forgotten language
as he is." ^ For the first time in his life, something beyond a
mere collection of books, a library fit for scholars was opened
to the young American. He had, moreover, at his service a
large staff of able and learned Professors. " At least seventy
or eighty different courses of lectures," he wrote, " are going on
at the same time." Some of the Professors were poor enough,
for the miseries caused by the great wars still overhung the
land. One of them told him " that when Germany was thus
impoverished, if a Professor at Jena appeared in his lecture-
room with a new waistcoat, the students applauded him ;
being asked what occurred if a new coat made its appearance,
he exclaimed : * Gott bewahre ! such a thing never hap-
pened.' " " Ticknor was struck with " the accuracy with which
time is measured and sold by the Professors. Every clock that
strikes is the signal for four or five lectures to begin and four
or five others to close. In the intervals you may go into the
streets and find they are silent and empty ; but the bell has
hardly told the hour before they are filled with students, with
their portfolios under their arms, hastening from the feet of one
Gamaliel to those of another — generally running in order to
save time, and often without a hat. As soon as they reach the
room they take their places and prepare their pens and paper.
The Professor comes in almost immediately, and from that
time till he goes out the sound of his disciples taking notes
does not for an instant cease." ^

1 Life of Ticknor, I. 73. "^ lb. I. 280. ^ lb. I. 82.


Ticknor had been studying at Gottingen little more than a
year when he received from Harvard the offer of the Smith
Professorship of the French and Spanish Languages and Litera-
ture, and the College Professorship of the Belles-Lettres.' He
was to stay on in Europe for some time longer to complete his
education. He stayed four years in all, studying in Germany,
France, Italy, and Spain. One lesson the future Professor
learned in a talk with Goethe, on whom he called when passing
through Weimar. " Once Goethe's genius kindled, and in spite
of himself he grew almost fervent as he deplored the want of
extemporary eloquence in Germany, and said that the English
is kept a much more living language by its influence. * Here,'
he said, ' we have no eloquence — our preaching is a monoto-
nous, middling declamation — public debate we have not at
all, and if a little inspiration sometimes comes to us in our
lecture-rooms, it is out of place, for eloquence does not teach.' " -
Ticknor was but eight and twenty when he returned to America,
and entered on his new duties at Harvard. On August lo,
1819, he delivered his opening address in the Old Church of
Cambridge before "a cultivated audience " which came together
" to hsten to the utterance of the ripest scholarship .\mcrica
could then boast." ^ These are the words of Ticknor's bio-
grapher, George Hillard, himself no mean scholar. America
surely can look back with some complacency on the advance
she has made in learning since those days.

Ticknor, though he was by far the most important, was not the
first student sent from the United States to qualify himself for
a Professor's chair. In 1802, Benjamin Silliman at the age of
twenty-two had been appointed Professor of Chemistry and
Geology at Yale. Of neither science had he any knowledge,

'^Life of Ticknor, \. 116, 321. "^ lb. I. 114. ^ lb. I. 320.


but he had distinguished himself in his mathematical studies.
Such appointments are not unknown in the history of English
Universities. Last century Watson, afterwards Bishop of Llan-
daff, was appointed to the Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge.
He was as ignorant of the science as young Silliman. Never-
theless, of his Chemical Essays Sir Humphry Davy said that
" he could scarcely imagine a time in which they would be
superannuated."^ From the Chair of Chemistry he was trans-
ferred to the Chair of Divinity, of which he knew no more
than an ordinary parson — that is to say, very little. By his
industry, however, he filled the post not without distinction.
In the same University seventy-six years ago, Adam Sedgwick
was made Professor of Geology, though he was as ignorant of
that science as Watson had been of Chemistry. He, too, justified
the appointment. In like manner in modern days Oxford has
seen a retired naval captain appointed to a Professorship of
History over the heads of Dr. Stubbs, Mr. Freeman, IMr.
Froude, Mr. Church, and Mr. Pearson. No doubt it was
thought that with time he would add to his first class and his
orthodoxy a competent knowledge of the subject which he
was advanced to teach. This, I beUeve, he has succeeded in
doing. The late Professor of Arabic in Oxford, who had been
appointed with the same ignorance and the same expectation,
never took the trouble to dispel the one and to satisfy the other.
Silliman made but a short stay in Europe. For the winter
session he studied in the University of Edinburgh. On his
return to America he wrote : " A much higher standard of
excellence than I had before seen was presented to me, espe-
cially in Edinburgh," ^

iDe Quincey's Works, II. io6.

^ Life of Benjamin Silliman, I. 195.


In 1825, six years after Ticknor entered on his duties at
Harvard, Longfellow graduated at Bowdoin College — the
Alma Mater not only of him but of Hawthorne. It so hap-
pened that at the Commencement at which he took his degree,
the Board of Trustees voted to found a Chair of Modern Lan-
guages. The young Bachelor of Arts, who was but eighteen,
had, it is said, in his examination pleased one of the Trustees
by his elegant translation of an Ode of Horace. An informal
proposal was made by the Board to his father that the youth
" should visit Europe, for the purpose of fitting himself for his
position, with the understanding that on his return he should be
appointed to the Professorship." ^ Accordingly, he spent three
years in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. Like Ticknor, he
studied in Gottingen. On his return at the age of two and
twenty he received the appointment. Five years later, on
Ticknor's resignation, he was offered his Professorship at Har-
vard ; but it was suggested to him by the President that he
would do well " to reside in Europe, at his own expense, a year
or eighteen months for the purpose of a more perfect attain-
ment of the German." For eighteen months he studied the
Northern languages in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Hol-
land, and on his return at the age of twenty-nine was made

It was "with the vision of a real University, where all the
great divisions of human knowledge should be duly repre-
sented and taught," that Ticknor "returned fresh from a two
years' residence at Gottingen."^ He was before his time,
and he saw the vision "fade into the light of common day."
"When I came home from Europe," he writes, "not having

1 Life ofH. W. Longfellow, I. 68. 2 /^, i. 203, 243.

« Life of G. Ticknor, II. 422.


been educated at Cambridge [Massachusetts], and having
always looked upon it with great veneration, I had no misgiv-
ings about the wisdom of the organization and management of
the College there." ^ He soon discovered how great were the
changes which were needed in Harvard. He set about one
of the hardest of tasks that a young man can take upon him-
self — to teach teachers, to instruct instructors, to convince a
University that its time-honoured system needs a thorough
reform. The President was against him; almost all the Pro-
fessors were against him; even the students were against him.
The President was Kirkland, whom Lowell has so pleasantly
described. "He was a man of genius, but of genius that
evaded utilization. . . . There was that in the soft and
rounded (I had almost said melting) outlines of his face
which reminded one of Chaucer. . . . He was one of those
misplaced persons whose misfortune it is that their lives over-
lap two distinct eras, and are already so impregnated with one
that they can never be in healthy sympathy with the other." ^
Ticknor appealed to the Corporation, who consulted the whole
body of teachers about his proposals. A large majority of
them steadily resisted any change of importance.^ Among
the Professors was Edward Everett, "whose coming from
Germany," Emerson said, "was an immediate and profound
influence in New England education."* It does not appear,
however, that he supported Ticknor in his great reformation.
Some years later, when he was President of the College, " he
threw his weight against the system." ^

1 Life of G. Ticknor, I. 354.

2 Literary Essays, by J. R. Lowell, ed. 1890, I. S3.

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Online LibraryGeorge Birkbeck Norman HillHarvard college, by an Oxonian; → online text (page 16 of 26)