Imágenes de páginas

mental difference of system. I was told by a professor at Columbia that he often used to be asked how it was possible to enter "Oxford College." The phrase is natural to an American and extremely amusing to an Englishman. For in America, as I understand it, the words "college" and "university" are used more or less indifferently. A man "goes to college" and he means merely by that that he goes to a university. It is therefore natural to speak of going to "Oxford College." For the constitution of a university in the United States is not like the Constitution of the United States. The only universities whose constitutions are like the Constitution of the United States are Oxford and Cambridge.

Just as the United States consists of united States, so Oxford University consists of united colleges. There are, I think, twenty-six colleges at Oxford, to one or other of which practically every undergraduate belongs. He will live and eat and sleep in the college buildings when he first comes, as we say, "into residence." Even when, after two years, owing to overcrowding, he is turned out of college and has to find lodgings for himself in the town he is still a member of his college. He may still dine in the college hall any night that he wishes to do so, and it is to the college authorities that he is responsible for the work that he does (or does not). At Oxford we are Democrats rather than Republicans. The college rights are very jealously guarded. It is the college which is responsible for all internal discipline, and, as recent experience has shown, it is practically impossible for the University authorities to touch an undergradute if the college authorities see fit to take his side.

There are two very prominent features of American university life of the development of which, owing to this college system, Oxford has never felt any need-the class and the fraternity. Take first the class. Some ten days ago I watched at Columbia the tug-of-war between the freshmen and the sophomores, and I heard and partly saw its preliminary processions. Those repetitions of 'One-Nine-Two-Four" and "One-NineTwo-Five" were the most curious things that I heard in all America. What was the reason for this violence of loyalty? Why should a man feel any community to another man simply because, if all went well (and, after having heard of the psychological tests which Columbia imposes, that in itself was almost inconceivable), they would both graduate on the same vague day some two or three years hence? It is impossible to understand a loyalty without feeling it, and no doubt I am wrong in thinking that this class loyalty must be a very artificial thing, perhaps even a nonexistent thing, as a genuine emotion, like another class loyalty, that very empty "solidarity of the proletariat" of hich we hear so much.

or at Oxford we do not have class

loyalty because we do not need class loyalty. The college system supplies us with our lesser loyalty, our hated friend and ever-present enemy, whom we meet and to whom we talk every day of our lives and whose existence is so essential to the existence of a university. All the athletic contests that are not interuniversity are inter-collegiate. The colleges, varying as they do considerably, are still nearly enough equal in num bers to make this possible. And this college loyalty is certainly no artificial thing. By 1936 the class of 1926 can exist only, I suppose, as a memory. But a college is a lasting thing, a building. perhaps half a thousand years old. It is something substantial to which the old graduate can return, and he need not find a contemporary in order to find a sharer of his loyalty and his love. It is only in an arithmetical sense that this college loyalty can be called a lesser loyalty, for if two old friends were to meet they would soon forget that they were Oxonians in their remembrance that they were at Balliol or at Christ Church together.

The complete absence of this consciousness of year makes almost unintelligible to us the system of "hazing," which still survives in some American universities. There, too, it seems to be dying. At Oxford we never hazed. Before the war there was a certain formality of intercourse between a freshman and a senior (a senior is with us any one who is an undergraduate and not a freshman). The freshman would not speak to the senior until the senior had first called and left his card. But after the war we found that freedom had rather abruptly ceased to broaden down from precedent to precedent. An ex-colonel of forty-three might be a freshman and an ex-schoolboy of nineteen a senior. Our English sense of humor, even if, as Americans say, it does not exist, was sufficient to kill Oxford's last relics of class consciousness.

American friends often used to ask me whether at Oxford we have "fraternities." But fraternities, like classes, supply in American university life a need which Oxford, because of her college system, does not have. The object of a fraternity is, as I understand, to give the student somewhere to live. With us the college is above all things the place of residence. The difference is, first, that a college is, as I have tried to show, much more besides; and, secondly, that admission to a college comes, not through the election of those who already belong to it, but the passing of certain tests and examinations which the college authorities ordain.

We thus ought by rights to be free from the main charge against American fraternities-that they encourage the clique-but we are not. The fraternities, limited as they are, still survive at Yale, satisfying, as far as I could make out, no want whatsoever of their members. So at Oxford. I have shown that

we have no need for fraternities, but that is a different thing from showing that they do not exist. We can eat, we can even entertain in our private rooms, but still we must needs have our clubs. And there at least we jealously and uselessly reserve to ourselves the privileges of cliquishness. The Oxford Club is more like the Eating Club of Princeton than anything else that I saw in America, only it is more an addition to and less a part of our life than the Princeton Eating Club seemed to be.

There is, or has been, a very close parallel in England to the American fraternity, but it was not at Oxford or Cambridge, but at the English public school. The English public school is not, like the American public school, public. It is the most exclusive and expensive private, or, as you would say, preparatory, school in the country. It was, it is true, stolen from the public and only the name now remains as record of the theft. Eton, for instance, was founded by King Henry VI to provide an education "for seventy poor scholars." For these seventy scholars accommodation was provided in the college. As time went on, the reputation of Eton's education grew and people would come from afar to share it. Where were they to live? They formed themselves into groups and took lodgings with landladies about in the town. These landladies were called dames and the houses dames' houses. The dames' houses at Eton a hundred years ago were, so far as I can discover, very like the American fraternities of to-day. The difference (and the downfall) was that their inmates were younger, and therefore noisier, than the university students. The noise defeated the dame. The evolution of the last hundred years has been that the dames have paid the penalty of their incompetence, which was to change their sex. They have been replaced by the house masterteacher and housekeeper in one-and fraternity has become paternity, with the house master as a very paternal autocrat. The self-determination of the organization has been regularized out of existence. Is not this almost what exPresident Wilson wished to see happen at Princeton, and will history repeat itself?

There was one side of Oxford life about which Americans seemed everywhere much better informed than I was. It was the Oxford tutorial system. I confess that it had never occurred to me before that Oxford had a tutorial system, but, on thinking it over, I suppose that it has. To use a tutor in order to teach I had always thought too obvious a device to be dignified by the name of system. But it has apparently been accepted as such in America, and even rejected as such and opposed as such. But acceptance and rejection and opposition are none of them really acceptance or rejection or opposition to the Oxford system. For the Oxford system of teach



ing implies the Oxford system of getting a degree, and that is a system which does not exist in America.

In America degrees are gained by taking a certain number of courses, and to take a course means, as it seems, to go through a certain prescribed ritual. Whether the Oxford system is or is not popular depends on whether it is or is not a part of the ritual. Thus at Princeton I found that it was, and was therefore accepted. At Harvard it was not. It was therefore looked on as a mere extra, and very properly disliked. But at Oxford it is neither a part of a ritual nor an extra. It is a convenience.

The confusion comes from a failure to realize the difference between the Oxford lecturer and the American lecturer. The Oxford lecturer is like a porter. Just as a porter is a person who offers to carry your grip for you, and if you prefer to carry it yourself it is your business, so a lecturer at Oxford is a person who offers to help you to get a degree, but if you prefer to get it without his assistance it is your business. And it I would not be unfair to add that with some lecturers it is very much easier to get it without assistance.

Oxford University requires a student, before it will give him a degree, to have slept for forty-two nights during each of the three terms of three years within three miles of Carfax (a crossroads in the center of Oxford) and to have passed two public examinations-that is to say, to have written two series of papers which convince the appointed examiners that he knows as much about

his subject as he ought to know. How he acquires that requisite knowledge is his own business. If he is one who learns easily from lectures, there are lectures and there is a tutor to advise him to which lectures to go. But, if not, let him shut himself up with his books and never enter a lecture-room.

At Yale and at Swarthmore I was allowed to attend classes. At Swarthmore I am sorry to say that I was noticed and the ordinary course of study was interrupted in order that the class might enjoy the much more highly educative experience of laughing at my complete ignorance of the history of British foreign policy. But Yale was made of sterner stuff. The subject was the growth of trades unions. What I may call the lecture part of the class might well have been a lecture delivered at Oxford, except that the Oxford lecturer would not have known so many facts. What was very un-Oxonian was the preliminary written questions to see if the students had read what they were told to read. An Oxford lecturer, like Gallio, would have cared for none of these things, and, if he had, his class would have told him to mind his own business.

I saw much else that was new and wonderful. I found that universities in America have publicity agents. In Eng land we still pretend, having first taken care not to succeed, that we wish to keep out of the papers. At Harvard I was shown the mysteries of your university journalism, and, as a harassed university journalist myself, wondered at the free

dom and energy and imagination which could find facts enough to fill a daily newspaper. At Columbia I tripped even more badly, and joined the great lost army of contributors. But Swarthmore was perhaps our most interesting experience. There we found-what does not exist in England-honest co-education in working. It was so honest that I even had to debate against a lady. The co-education of Oxford means that men and women, as a concession, are allowed to live in the same town and, when they have finished doing that, to write the same letters after the name. Oxford's interpretation of the equality of the sexes is to call its women students Bachelors of Arts. Cambridge has women students, but no interpretation of the equality of the sexes. It is therefore the more praised of Professor Leacock. But it was a novelty to go into a university dinner and sit down between two ladies. I was surprised, and perhaps the test of co-education's success at Swarthmore is that everybody else present was surprised that I was surprised. But of that I cannot say.

The trouble everywhere was the shortness of time. I had never time to judge. I was whirled into a university life that was very different from any that I had ever known. I told it to join the League of Nations, and then I was whirled out of it. Nothing was left but a remembrance of wonderful friendship and hospitality and a great longing to come again and learn more truly what manner of men and women they are who give these great gifts.

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

S London filled with gloom?

[ocr errors]

The question is not original. In point of fact, it has been so often asked of late as to become almost commonplace.

The crowds of tourists entering Paris from London do not hesitate to speak their minds. To the average Parisian such sentiments as the following are quite familiar: "The atmosphere of London is positively depressing!" "What a burst of sunshine here compared with London!" "How glad I am to escape from that grim, gloomy city!"

The Paris press, too, has dwelt upon this drab theme. Nor is the London press silent. There is an almost brutal frankness about the editorials of the English press. Papers like the "Daily Telegraph" and the "Morning Post" have alluded again and again to the strange depression that seems to have gripped the heart of the Empire. Indeed, it is said to have spread throughout the country, like the insidious germ of "walking typhoid."

One London daily actually offered a prize of ten pounds to be handed by its agent to the man or woman who might be heard to utter the heartiest laugh. If Dr. Samuel Johnson were only living!

A laugh bribe is a new species of graft, and England is serious enough to make it possible. The prize has yet to be won.

Then there is the "Brighter London Movement," in which the Church and State have combined with grim determination.

The two most talked-about men in England to-day seem bent on winning that prize. Between the royal smile of the youthful Prince of Wales and the subtle smile beneath the stubby mustache of Lloyd George it would be hard to make the award.

Now, assuming that the press and the blic both express the truth, there is

presented a most fascinating study. The very mystery that beclouds it makes it much more interesting than the somber diagnosis of sleeping sickness.

As an earnest student of the signs of the times, I confess that the subject laid strong hold upon me. But the climax was reached when an old friend of mine -a noted Baltimore physician-introduced the matter as we chatted over a cup of tea in the Hotel Crillon in Paris.

"How I wish," said he, earnestly, "that I could prolong my stay that I might examine into this London gloom from a purely psychological angle!"

That remark, casually made, brought into instant play a plan that had long lodged in my sub-conscious mind.

Then and there I confided to my friend the physician and alienist my determination to cross the Channel, visit prominent men in London, tackle the man in the street, and learn the facts at first hand. Above all, to watch and to listen.

The enthusiasm of my friend was a source of the greatest inspiration. He prepared for me with much care a plan of campaign which I promised to carry out to the letter.

In this spirit I entrained in the Gare du Nord for Calais, en route to London, and the story that follows is a faithful and impartial chronicle of events.

The channel between Calais and Dover, it must be confessed, is not conducive to serenity of mind. High speed in a heavy sea has a disturbing influence over mind and matter.

So must have thought the eight men who filled a first-class compartment in a Dover-to-London express. We looked one another over in caustic silence. As the minutes flew by I began to realize that my mission had already begun on English soil.

It was a clear case of one American in the midst of a bunch of Englishmen. Alpine sticks, rubber coats, and plumpy

kits heaped high in the racks suggested Switzerland.

After the first hour the silence became painful.

We were like an order of monks, octave in number, observing the vow. There we were, passing through the rich fields of Kent, amid a golden harvest that seemed to reflect God's sunshine, and as glum as a group of sightseers ir the devastated regions of France.

Three of the men at length took out their pipes and gazed vacantly into the unfilled bowls. The fourth opened out the "Morning Post"-a paper larger than the French roll of bread called baguette, and almost as crusty. Un opened magazines rested on the knees of the two men in front of me,. while the seventh, a heavy-set, ruddy-faced man, slowly uncovered a sandwich.

Its contents broke the silence. The man at his side turned away his head with an angry look, and I heard him mutter, or rather whisper, a word that rhymes with ham.

That was the only word spoken in the space of three hours. There was real solid comfort to me in the screech of the engine's whistle.

My mind recalled the language of the good Book, and I could not help com. paring my state with that of the angels when "there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour."

How to break the intolerable silence was the problem.

Finally, I made a feint, to use the language of the prize ring, to get an opening. Taking a cigar from my case, I slowly searched in every pocket for a match; and, failing, reopened the case with a well-heaved sigh in order to re place the cigar.

The feint worked like a charm. The gentleman at my side, who had broken that long silence with the word that rhymes with ham, struck a wax match

« AnteriorContinuar »