« AnteriorContinua »
SKETCHES FROM CAMBRIDGE.
THE world may be divided into the two classes of those who have and those who have not received a University education. With regard to the latter, I can only repeat the remark said to have been originally applied to the small colleges by a member of Trinity College, Cambridge-" They, too, are God's creatures." I think it is a pity that more rays do not emanate from the great focus of intellectual life in England to clear up some of the dark places of the land. Because-perhaps from no fault of theirs
they have not sat at the feast, is that a reason for grudging them the crumbs that fall from our table ? Undignified as it may appear, I would rather invite them to come and be edified. I would lift a corner of the veil which hangs over our venerable courts, and covers from the profane eye the sacred mysteries of the learned. I would admit the outside barbarians, as our Chinese friends call us, at least to the gallery, though they are excluded from the stage where we act our parts in life. Something, I know, has been done. Tom Brown has given us a glimpse of Oxford as seen from the undergraduate's point of view. Cuthbert Bede has set forth in Verdant Green certain caricatures which represent, I suppose, the current popular myths of student life. But neither these, nor other more ambitious attempts, give the whole truth; they miss many characteristic features of one of the most characteristic products of English society; our Universities have grown with our growth; they reflect our present peculiarities, and with them they mingle strangely traditions and customs brought unimpaired from long past centuries; they are typified by their own habitations;
not spick and span new edifices, fresh from the builder's hand, and neatly adapted to the wants of the passing generation, but ancient and historic buildings, with fragments from the days of the Edwards, additions made under Elizabeth, and restorations and adaptations under Victoria; awkward and inconvenient in some details, but incomparably picturesque, and perhaps still more solid than their mushroom rivals. They cannot be summed up in half-a-dozen plans and elevations, but present continually fresh points of view for the traveller, new nooks and corners for the inquiring antiquary, and an infinite variety of beautiful effects for the painter. Perhaps, then, I am not presumptuous in trying to catch some aspects which have escaped others, and if not to correct, at least to supplement their descriptions.
I am not about to present any credentials of my fitness for the task. I would rather escape notice as a man must do who would reveal masonic secrets; I have no fancy for being torn to pieces by "a hideous rout" of infuriate heads of houses. Were it possible, I would not even say whether I lived on the
banks of the Cam, where the greasy stream stagnates under the quaint old bridges and past lovely gardens, like a worthless print set in a golden frame, or where the Isis sweeps in graceful curves past Christchurch meadows, and reflects the most beautiful of all distant views of an English town. Such concealment would be useless. The initiated would at once determine the point. I shall not, however, hint at the special benefactor to whose pious foundation in past years I owe my pleasant retreat. It is enough to say that our college has all that is essential to the ideal of a college. There is the ancient corner of building, half merged in more modern structures, which our founder acquired or did not acquire, together with an adjacent field, from certain monks. There is the less venerable court, which affords a perfect example of Elizabethan architecture. There is the atrocious pile of obtrusive ugliness which some sixty years ago repaired the ravages of a fire. We have of course a hall, which has been restored to show the old oak roof, and a chapel, which causes me to live in daily fear of another restoration and another liberal subscription.