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on that occasion. To look at the ladies, and to be seen by them; to meet with dear young friends of the other sex, some of whom had no doubt pledged their first and pure love to the embryo divine or lawyer, risking all the chances of an unformed character, amid the seductions of a college, willing to take for granted, that that which they loved must be good; some to play at billiards; and some to patronise milliner's shops and the confectioners, filled up this day of recreation.
Early engagements with collegians is a very common thing in our country. And certainly it is very natural that a young man, who has read of Dido and Æneas, and Ovid's Art of Love, should wish to know something practically of the passion. Such connections sometimes turn out well for the female ; but wo be to the young man who thus early shackles himself with a passion to clog his mind, disturb his peace, and create anxiety and restlessness at the time when he needs every energy he can summon to mould and create his character! And wo may be, too, to the fair young girl, that thus leans upon a reed, that may be strong enough to support her slight form for an hour of dalliance and love, in the time of youthful ardor and the vigor of hope, but which she has never tested in sickness, in distress, or in sorrow! If unfortunate in this long protracted engagement; if her lover look with new eyes upon himself, and the world, and her, as in ninety-nine times in a hundred he will, the freshness of her youth is gone ; her affections find no answer; all her darling imaginations are dispelled, and she becomes a hackneyed flirt, or a heartless coquette - - an unhappy old maid, or, worst of all, a dissatisfied wife.
I beg the reader's pardon for being so discursive; but my story is a picture of my mind, and if he does not gather good from the history itself, he may find a lesson in the execution of it.
I believe I was describing the idea boys have of college. Well I considered it as a place of perfect freedom, where I should at once be a man, govern my own hours, and do just as I pleased, in all respects. The chief happiness I anticipated, was in getting rid of lessons, for I never thought of any inducements to study, except fear of flogging; and I had understood they did not whip at college. So absolutely destitute was my character, at that time, of all high and elevated notions of learning. At school we knew of few books, beside our task-books : juvenile literature had not been born. It was the age of rocking-horses and puppet-shows — of cup and ball, top and marbles. We had, to be sure, Baron Trenck, and Baron Munchausen, Robinson Crusoe, and Peregrine Pickle, which we thought very funny. The only useful book I had ever read, before I went to college, was ‘Instinct Displayed ;' and I wish I could find it now. Peter Parley was a young man in his travels, and the Library of Entertaining Knowledge was not accumulated.
I loved to ride a swift horse better than any thing, and to skate. I was fond of music, and walks in the woods, in summer time. I was fond of females, because they rather caressed me; but we had no leading minds at our school. Most of us had been at Sidney Place for many years, and the few new comers soon assimilated to our useless habits. There was no inspiration in our teacher. He was a
money-catcher, and kept school on speculation. When I was entered at college, I was fourteen years of age, and perfectly ignorant of the world. I knew not of its vices, its miseries, the hard gripings of poverty, or the anxious cares of wealth. Of money, too, I was ignorant - of its value, the means of acquiring it, or the econo spending it. My wants were all supplied, and that was sufficient. I supposed they always would be, for I had received no lessons, beside those to fit me for college. Every body I saw seemed to be employed for pleasure's sake. I envied our milkman, because he was always driving about a cart; and stage-drivers, and coachmen seemed upon the pinnacle of felicity. I had no refined tastes, no lofty hopes, no aspirations after the beautiful and true. My mind was a barren waste. What wonder, then, that when I began my collegiate course, I should soon feel degraded !
Every year are sent to L College, the flower of the youth of our country — the sons of the opulent the children of good country clergymen, (pure, excellent young men,) and the favorites of the village over all the land.
I found myself surrounded by those altogether my superiors in scholarship, in taste, in habits of study — by those who came to acquire knowledge, while I only thought of the credit of being in college.
My father had furnished my room very bandsomely, and seemed sorry he could not expend more money for my outfit. He attended to the arrangement of the room, and was anxious that nothing should be wanting for my comfort, and to put me upon an equality with the best, as far as externals could go. My chum was a very clever, dull fellow, one of my school-mates, much my senior, who cared more for himself than any thing else, and would not have raised his hand to save my life, if it would cost him any trouble. He was thoroughly a selfish character, and really took pleasure in the troubles with which I was soon surrounded. This young man was under no obligation to save me, beyond a general moral interest we owe to all our fellow creatures, but he might have assisted me, and cautioned me when I took my first steps in error in errors that have destroyed my usefulness, and made me an unhappy man.
The first week I acquitted myself pretty well, in Latin ; at least, I thought so. The next week came Greek. I knew nothing of the Grammar – I took dead set after dead set, that is, I was set down. For the first time in my life, my cheek burned with shame for not knowing a lesson. I retired to my room to weep. I was mortified to appear ignorant, where every body thought so much of learning. My pride was hurt, for the appearance, not for the fact. Sections of the class alternated each week in Latin and Greek. The Greek week was my abhorrence. I used to sit up night after night till two o'clock, to try to master my lesson. My chum would not assist me, and I was too proud to ask assistance of strangers. I knew not how to go to work. I laid
head upon my book and wept. Disgrace followed disgrace, but I soon found I had fellows in company, and part of my mortification subsided.
I wished to be considered as a man, as a gentleman : and here in the outset I found all my furniture and regard to dress could not save me from sinking in the estimation of my classmates. When I visited home, to my father's inquiries how I liked college, my answers were only tears. He could not understand my case: he was not enough of a scholar to penetrate my mind. I was considered a lively, smart boy, and he could see no difficulty in my way, and thought his eldest son must, of course, do well.
This scene of tears, at home, was often repeated, till at last it ceased — for I had become hardened. I found I could not excel as a scholar, and I took another path. I begged my lessons out, as at school; my classmates prompted me; I boasted of more studying, and this saved my reputation for talents. I missed as often as I could with impunity. I bought translations- I framed excuses in short, I rubbed along one term, without being suspended for idle
Mine was the case of very many young men who enter college, particularly from the South, with more pride than learning. They are lively, intelligent young men, and in society, rank high — much before the patient, drudging students, who are laying up rich stores for the future. Accustomed to lead, they do not relish the inferiority they are made to feel in the recitation room; so they ridicule .digging,' and try to shine as geniuses men who can recite tolerably well from mother wit.
But where was my mind at this time? What was my advancement? Where were my father's golden hopes ? All about to be buried! Next to my room, there lived Tom Reine. He is dead - God save him! He came to college, eighteen years
age. He had been through the whole field of vices, long before that time. He was a good fellow, in common acceptation, vicious from habit, generous from carelessness, and selfish, too, sometimes, from an utter want of any fixed principle. Pleasure was his employment. To attain a favorite object, he would betray his best friend; and to avoid trouble, he would do a favor to his worst enemy. His mind was premature. He wrote good poetry, talked elegantly and easily upon all subjects, and always appeared well at recitation ; sometimes, for effect, very splendidly. Every body said he might be the first scholar in the class, if he pleased ; and this kind of reputation was just what satisfied him.
I suppose he discovered a spice of the devil in me, and so he took me into his keeping. We were inseparable — spent our time in singing, smoking, and sometimes we drank of a night large draughts of wine. This last was an excess I seldom ventured upon, for I woke in the morning after a debauch as crazy as I went to bed. Smoking was our favorite stimulant, which, while it intoxicates the mind, does not, for the time, much affect the body. A young man may keep himself excited by tobacco for years, and yet be called temperate, though (I speak from experience,) it as much clouds the sense, and ruins the mind, as wine.
Tom laughed me out of my sensitiveness, and said it was beneath a man of spirit to care ad—n about scholarship. His words soothed my feelings, and I very soon became as idle and indifferent as himself. Still I was, in my own estimation, degraded. I had, as yet, not gone far in dissipation. The early instructions of my mother still,
at times, had an influence over me; and when I compared myself with what I began to find out I ought to be, I was very unhappy. I was disappointed at finding that, at college, to be respectable, more labor was to be undergone than at school, and that those of the wild and dissipated only were admitted to clubs, who softened their faults by attention, generally, to their studies.
I had no such offset. I was nothing. I began to see the errors of my own education, and to regret them. With the strongest wish to be distinguished, I had not the power. Sysiphus like, I never could bring my resolutions to the sticking place, and every broken vow only weakened the force of my character.
In the same entry with myself, there were two young men, who made their books their pleasure. They had entered with a high standing, for they came from a school remarkable for the good habits of study of its pupils. They always came honorably prepared. They knew enough to make them wish to know more.
These young men were of infinite service to me, or wished to be. They were nearly of my own age, and saw the difficulty I had to contend with. They voluntarily assisted me in the most delicate manner, and endeavored to withdraw me from the influence of Tom Reine. I was in their room often, and they cautioned me of my danger. Would to heaven I had followed their advice!
I know them now. They are of moderate talents, but both rising fast in the world by the force of mere industry. One of them, more particularly my friend, is the most remarkable person I ever knew, for the strong determination of his character. I believe these young men studied fourteen hours a day, during the freshman year. Such labor, even upon Latin and Greek, will lay the foundation, in any good mind, for incalculable usefulness. A mind thus disciplined in its infancy, will never shrink from that toil, which, more than any thing else, makes men great at the bar.
Though I appreciated the character of these young men, and wished to imitate them, my acquaintance with them did little else than put off for a short time the result of
I was so indurated in sloth and frivolity, that from the most bitter reflections upon my own conduct, I could turn, upon the slightest temptation, with the most thoughtless inconsistency to my usual pastimes.
I have not here to describe many scenes of gross debauchery. L- is not the place for such. Drinking at taverns and shops is not the vice of L students; and it is too much trouble, and comes too unhandy, and youth is generally too indifferent to wine, to have it brought often enough to the rooms to create a habit. The old L
tavern tells a whole chapter upon the sobriety of the students. It is and ever has been, since I could recollect, a dirty place, the resort of horse-jockeys and grog-drinkers. A student is never seen there in the day time, and only at night, for the sake of a beef-steak or a broiled chicken. What few scenes of dissipation I can recollect, then, were managed in our rooms. Tobacco is the vice of students. To that, and the recklessness of youth, they are indebted for their wild spirits. Our nerves get shattered at college by the use of this weed and late hours; and after we get more broadly into the world, we are fit subjects for the inroad of grosser habits. But
as to eating, I think I have witnessed wonderful feats in that line of iudulgence. We had suppers sometimes - a pair of chickens to a
Who could study or think of books under such a regimen ? How differently heaven dispenses the powers of gormandizing! One man eats his fill, without any inconvenience; another trembles for the consequences as he passes his spare diet to his mouth. The gastric juice of some men will corrode even iron, for they eat with impunity any thing, from a tough beef-steak to cold roast pork and hard boiled eggs, and these in any quantity; while the fancied dyspeptic dabbles with his dry toast and tea, cuts his meat into shreds, and then is half killed with the horrors of digestion. Such men must go to their meals as the thief to the gallows only the last has the advantage, in having to suffer but once. lf
you would choose a man of feats in eating, go to the walls of a college look for a spare, tall young man, whose large bones hang together as if by wires. Let him have a hatchet-face, a long nose, skinny hands, large feet, very unusually long legs, which have supported him for about eighteen years,
Set him down to a table of any thing, keep him in good humor, and 'make believe to eat yourself. You shall see miracles ! And then the best of the joke is, to see his ease of deportment after the mass is stowed. He is as thin as before. He grins in horrible delight, as his memory runs over his late feast. You may perhaps have some fears for your own bread and steaks: the passion is up; soothe him with a cigar, but do not be alone long, with such a man. Well — go to tea with him a college tea, of hot cakes and cold ham or beef, and you will see that the reservoir is empty, ready to be filled. But what is most remarkable, is, that this very Ajax will go to his room, and study six hours at a sitting, upon Greek or mathematics, after such feeding, and be up in the morning, going smiling to prayers.
Different from him, is the little gentleman who comes to college with a taste adulterated at home, by sweet-meats and cakes, from his infancy. He cannot think of boarding in commons; he eats at a private table, but lives mostly in his room, upon oranges, candy, and gingerbread. Such little men are excellent at a supper of ducks. Chicken is too cheap and vulgar. To eat with appetite, they must be sure the dish is genteel.
But if you would see good sport, go to the room of some young freshman, who is more bent upon fun than style. He is preparing for a feast at ten o'clock at night. He is roasting his potatoes by a blazing fire, and a group of six or eight are watching the process, with rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. By and by the table is set - his study table — the butter is unrolled from a sheet of paper - it was hooked from commons; perhaps the potatoes were hooked too. The salt is produced from his waistcoat pocket, and an old knife or two is found. Some eat with their fingers, and the knife passes round for the butter: the salt is used with less ceremony.
• How devilish hot this is !' says one, who runs about the room, as if it would stop the pain.
• Ha - ha — ha!' roar out the whole club of little potato eaters. They are all so happy, they can laugh at any thing.