網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

guage in the manner of utterance. Contrast the rapid utterance of our everyday dialect, full of contractions and clipped forms, with the more distinct enunciation of the pulpit or the platform. Thus, in conversation, we habitually employ such contractions as I'll, don't, won't, it's, we'd, he'd, and the like, which we should never use in public speaking, unless of set purpose, to give a markedly colloquial tinge to what we have to say.

LIFE AT OXFORD 1

John CORBIN

I

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.

To the undergraduate the university is an abstract institution that at most examines him two or three times, "plows" 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 medieval roof of the Divinity School; perhaps because he receives from the vice-chancellor a copy of the university statutes, written

1 From An American at Oxford. Reprinted by permission of, and by special arrangement with, Houghton, Mifflin Company.

in medieval 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 center.” In the daily life of the undergraduate, in his religious obseryances, 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. 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 freedom.

The virtue of the college lies in the fact that it gives every man a suitable home, and provides that he come under the best influences of the university with the least possible effort and delay. When a freshman arrives at the college the medieval gate is unbarred by a very modern porter, who lifts boxes and bags from the hansom in the most obliging manner; and he is presently shown to his cloisteral chambers by a friendly and urbane butler or steward. To accommodate the newcomers in the more populous colleges a measure is resorted to that shocks all American ideas of academic propriety. Enough seniorsfourth and third year men—are turned out of college to make room for the freshmen. The assumption is that these 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, by insuring them against the distractions of life in the college, it gives them a solid year for study before 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.

When the freshman has been shown to his room he falls to the care of the "scout," a dignitary in the employ of the college who stands in somewhat less than the place of a parent and more than that of a servant to some half a dozen fellows whose rooms are adjacent. 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 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, however, as, I confess, I did, through ignorance, mine host, the scout, clandestinely levies on the man above for sheets, on the man below for knives

and forks, and on the man across the way for table linen. And there is no call for either 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," the scout says kindly, "you will order your own linen and cutlery." How high a state of civilization such an arrangement implies can be appreciated only by those who have turned up friendless in an American university.

As soon as the freshman is settled in his rooms, and 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 upper classman 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 fellow 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 newcomers.

In the first weeks of a freshman's residence he finds sundry pasteboards tucked beneath his door—the upper classman's call is seldom 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 in return. He goes again and again until he finds his upper classman. By direct introduction from the tutor or by this formality of calling, the freshman soons meets half a dozen upper classmen, generally second-year men, and in due time he receives little notes like this:

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »