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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 threepence?
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 cloisteral. Just how cloisteral 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.
I have not come to a trust in the college system without experience. I have also sounded the undergraduates as to whether they would find use for a greater liberty. I found that the fellows were not only content with their lot, but would 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 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 universal good comradeship and mutual loyalty.
The only question remaining was of the actual moral results of the semicloistered life. As for drinking, in spite of the fact that wine is sold to the students at any and all times by the college, 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 certainly most fortunate. When fellows are turned loose for their jubilations amid the florid vices of a great city, as is often the case with us, the consequences to their general morality are sometimes the most hideous. The lives of the men in English colleges are clean, in
credibly clean. The few men to whom immorality seems inevitable-and such are to be found in all communitieshave recourse to London. But as their expeditions take place in daylight and cold blood, and are, except at a 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.
It will be seen that the English college affords those peculiar advantages of community life-eating, sleeping, work, and play—that with us are confined to fraternities and clubs, and where these are in their very nature exclusive the college is consciously and effectively inclusive. The very fact of being at Oxford insures one a well-ordered life and ample opportunity for making friends. Society life, as we know it, is obviously superfluous. The social organizations in a college are, for the most part, for the promotion of recognized undergraduate activities-athletics, debating, etc.—and are open to all who are qualified for membership. Each college, to be sure, is likely to have its wine club, membership in which is a purely social distinction; and in the university, as a whole, there are, as in American universities, many exclusive organizations most pleasant and useful to belong to. But their evil effects are annulled by the fact that the life in the colleges is so admirably adapted to supplying all normal social wants. The college is a man's home, , while the university is, like the city he lives in, full of interests and activities which it is pleasant but not necessary to form a part of. And here is the point of chief moment. By the very conditions of residence in colleges the members of the exclusive societies come into daily contact, each with the life of the college he belongs to,
and the esprit de corps of the college is so strong that they seldom or never cease to be loyal to its interests. No matter how distinguished a varsity oarsman may be, he has the keenest interest in the boating reputation of his college, as the annual bumping races testify. And socially it is the same. The news of the university at large is first reported and discussed over afternoon tea at the great university society, Vincent's; by dinner time it has been brought into the dining-halls of all the great colleges. In an incredibly short time all undergraduate news and the judgments upon it of the men best qualified to judge ramify the college, and men who seldom stir beyond the college walls are brought closely in touch with the innermost spirit of the university life. Here again the compact communities within those college walls—so terrible to Americans—make possible a freedom of interplay of all social forces unknown at Harvard or Yale. The real Union of Oxford, social, athletic, and intellectual, exists quite apart from the so-called Oxford Union; it results from the nice adjustment between the residential life of the colleges and the social life of the university. Thus Oxford and Cambridge combine the intellectual advantages of a large university with the social advantages possible in a small college.
THE SOCIAL VALUE OF THE COLLEGE-BRED 1
Of what use is a college training? We who have had it seldom hear the question raised—we might be a little nonplussed to answer it offhand. A certain amount of meditation has brought me to this as the pithiest reply which I myself can give: The best claim that a college education can possibly make on your respect, the best thing it can aspire to accomplish for you, is this: that it should help you to know a good man when you see him. This is as true of women's as of men's colleges; but that it is neither a joke nor a one-sided abstraction I shall now endeavor to show.
What talk do we commonly hear about the contrast between college education and the education which business or technical or professional schools confer? The college education is called higher because it is supposed to be so general and so disinterested. At the "schools" you get a relatively narrow practical skill, you are told, whereas the “collèges” give you the more liberal culture, the broader outlook, the historical perspective, the philosophic atmosphere, or something which phrases of that: sort try to express. You are made into an efficient instrument for doing a definite thing, you hear, at the schools; but, apart from that, you may remain a crude and smoky kind of petroleum, incapable of spreading light. The
1 An address before The Association of American Alumnæ, at Radcliffe College, November 7, 1907. Reprinted by permission of McClure's Magazine.