I hope the author of the following letter will excuse the omission of some parts, and allow me to remark, that the Journal of the Citizen in the Spectator has almost precluded the attempt of any future writer.
—Non ita Romuli Praescriptum, et intonsi Catonis Auspiciis, veterumque normâ. HOR. Lib. ii. Ode xv. 10.
You have often solicited correspondence. I have sent you the Journal of a Senior Fellow, or Genuine Idler, just transmitted from Cambridge by a facetious correspondent, and warranted to have been transcribed from the common-place book of the journalist.
Monday, Nine o’Clock. Turned off my bed-maker for waking me at eight. Weather rainy. Consulted my weather-glass. No hopes of a ride before dinner.
Ditto, Ten. After breakfast, transcribed half a sermon from Dr. Hickman. N.B. Never to transcribe any more from Calamy; Mrs. Pilcocks, at my curacy, having one volume of that author lying in her parlour-window.
Ditto, Eleven. Went down into my cellar. Mem. My Mountain will be fit to drink in a month’s time. N.B. To remove the five-year old port into the new bin on the left hand.
Ditto, Twelve. Mended a pen. Looked at my weather-glass again.
Quicksilver very low. Shaved. Barber’s hand shakes.
Ditto, One. Dined alone in my room on a sole. N.B. The shrimp-sauce not so good as Mr. H. of Peterhouse and I used to eat in London last winter at the Mitre in Fleet-street. Sat down to a pint of Madeira. Mr. H. surprised me over it. We finished two bottles of port together, and were very cheerful. Mem. To dine with Mr. H. at Peterhouse next Wednesday. One of the dishes a leg of pork and pease, by my desire.
Ditto, Six. Newspaper in the common room.
Ditto, Seven. Returned to my room. Made a tiff of warm punch, and to bed before nine; did not fall asleep till ten, a young fellow commoner being very noisy over my head.
Tuesday, Nine, Rose squeamish. A fine morning. Weather-glass very high.
Ditto, Ten. Ordered my horse, and rode to the five-mile stone on the Newmarket road. Appetite gets better. A pack of hounds, in full cry, crossed the road, and startled my horse.
Ditto, Twelve. Drest. Found a letter on my table to be in London the 19th inst. Bespoke a new wig.
Ditto, One. At dinner in the hall. Too much water in the soup. Dr. Dry always orders the beef to be salted too much for me.
Ditto, Two. In the common room. Dr. Dry gave us an instance of a
gentleman who kept the gout out of his stomach by drinking old Madeira.
Conversation chiefly on the expeditions. Company broke up at four. Dr.
Dry and myself played at backgammon for a brace of snipes. Won.
Ditto, Five. At the coffee-house. Met Mr. H. there. Could not get a sight of the Monitor.
Ditto, Seven. Returned home, and stirred my fire. Went to the common room, and supped on the snipes with Dr. Dry.
Ditto, Eight. Began the evening in the common room. Dr. Dry told several stories. Were very merry. Our new fellow, that studies physick, very talkative toward twelve. Pretends he will bring the youngest Miss —— to drink tea with me soon. Impertinent blockhead!
Wednesday, Nine. Alarmed with a pain in my ankle. Q. The gout? Fear I can’t dine at Peterhouse; but I hope a ride will set all to rights. Weather-glass below Fair.
Ditto, Ten. Mounted my horse, though the weather suspicious. Pain in my ankle entirely gone. Caught in a shower coming back. Convinced that my weather-glass is the best in Cambridge.
Ditto, Twelve. Drest. Sauntered up to the Fish-monger’s hill. Met Mr. H. and went with him to Peterhouse. Cook made us wait thirty-six minutes beyond the time. The company, some of my Emmanuel friends. For dinner, a pair of soles, a leg of pork and pease, among other things. Mem. Pease-pudding not boiled enough. Cook reprimanded and sconced in my presence.
Ditto, after Dinner. Pain in my ankle returns. Dull all the afternoon. Rallied for being no company. Mr. H.’s account of the accommodations on the road in his Bath journey.
Ditto, Six. Got into spirits. Never was more chatty. We sat late at whist. Mr. H. and self agreed at parting to take a gentle ride, and dine at the old house on the London road to-morrow.
Thursday, Nine. My sempstress. She has lost the measure of my wrist.
Forced to be measured again. The baggage has got a trick of smiling.
Ditto, Ten to Eleven. Made some rappee snuff. Read the magazines. Received a present of pickles from Miss Pilcocks. Mem. To send in return some collared eel, which I know both the old lady and miss are fond of.
Ditto, Eleven. Glass very high. Mounted at the gate with Mr. H. Horse skittish, and wants exercise. Arrive at the old house. All the provisions bespoke by some rakish fellow-commoner in the next room, who had been on a scheme to Newmarket. Could get nothing but mutton-chops off the worst end. Port very new. Agree to try some other house to-morrow.
Here the journal breaks off: for the next morning, as my friend informs me, our genial academick was waked with a severe fit of the gout; and, at present, enjoys all the dignity of that disease. But I believe we have lost nothing by this interruption: since a continuation of the remainder of the journal, through the remainder of the week, would most probably have exhibited nothing more than a repeated relation of the same circumstances of idling and luxury.
I hope it will not be concluded, from this specimen of academick life, that I have attempted to decry our universities. If literature is not the essential requisite of the modern academick, I am yet persuaded, that Cambridge and Oxford, however degenerated, surpass the fashionable academies of our metropolis, and the gymnasia of foreign countries. The number of learned persons in these celebrated seats is still considerable, and more conveniencies and opportunities for study still subsist in them, than in any other place. There is at least one very powerful incentive to learning; I mean the GENIUS of the place. It is a sort of inspiring deity, which every youth of quick sensibility and ingenious disposition creates to himself, by reflecting, that he is placed under those venerable walls, where a HOOKER and a HAMMOND, a BACON and a NEWTON, once pursued the same course of science, and from whence they soared to the most elevated heights of literary fame. This is that incitement which Tully, according to his own testimony, experienced at Athens, when he contemplated the porticos where Socrates sat, and the laurel-groves where Plato disputed.
But there are other circumstances, and of the highest importance, which render our colleges superior to all other places of education. Their institutions, although somewhat fallen from their primaeval simplicity, are such as influence, in a particular manner, the moral conduct of their youth; and in this general depravity of manners and laxity of principles, pure religion is no where more strongly inculcated. The academies, as they are presumptuously styled, are too low to be mentioned; and foreign seminaries are likely to prejudice the unwary mind with Calvinism. But English universities render their students virtuous, at least by excluding all opportunities of vice; and, by teaching them the principles of the Church of England, confirm them in those of true Christianity.