Saturday, April 30, 2016


College Students

Mark Pattison (1813-1884), Memoirs (London: Macmillan and Co., 1885), pp. 52-54:
Another contrast which staggered me between myself and others was their attitude to the studies of the place. I had come up all eagerness to learn. Having had next to no teaching at home, I exaggerated in imagination what a teacher could do for me. I thought that now at last I should be in the company of an ardent band of fellow-students, only desirous of rivalling each other in the initiation which the tutors were to lead into the mysteries of scholarship, of composition, of rhetoric, logic, and all the arts of literature. Philosophy did not come within my purview. I did not know there was such a thing.

I was soon disillusioned. I found lectures regarded as a joke or a bore, contemned by the more advanced, shirked by the backward; Latin and Greek regarded as useless, except for the purpose of getting a degree; and as for modern literature, the very idea of its existence had never dawned upon these youths, none of whom knew any language but English. Such was my simplicity that I had believed that no one went to college but those who were qualified, and anxious, to study. Nor was the difference between the passman and the honourman a sufficient clearing up of the paradox, for such it seemed to me, that men should flock to a university not to study. It fairly puzzled me to find that even William Froude, whom his elder brother was compelling to read for classical honours, "hated Sophocles"—so he once told me—and regarded the whole job as a disgusting grind.

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