IN these days, when college discipline is managed with such precision, and the unhappy student who enters No. 5 is passed on from room to room, as his iniquities grow larger and his excuses weaker, until he comes out of the sieve feeling very small indeed, - in these dismal times it is refreshing to look back to the happy days of our fathers, when postal cards were not invented, when the Registrar was unheard of, and the Dean troubled not the dreams of Freshmen.
It was my good fortune to become the owner of a "Bible" of those days, and from it I have selected a few facts that may be interesting to students of the present edition of that work of reference.
The first thing noticeable about it is its size. It is a pamphlet of fifty pages, and has an index as large as our present "Bible." In it are rules about every imaginable thing a student ought not to do, and every offence is punished by a fine, - a source of revenue that would be very remunerative nowadays.
I am sure many would avail themselves of the following rule: -
"Undergraduates who fail in the duties, or commit the offences, pointed out in this chapter, incur fines as follows: For coming, after the exercises are begun, to daily prayers, two cents; for absence from prayers, without sufficient reason, three cents; for absence from church without sufficient reason, offered before the ringing of the second bell, and allowed by the President, or one of the professors or tutors, thirty-three cents."
The rules are very strict about the observance of the "Lord's day," among them being this: "No one shall profane the day by unnecessary business, or visiting or receiving visits, or walking on the common or in the streets or fields." It might be well also to remember that they were obliged to attend church on Thanksgiving. Prayers were twice a day, at night as well as morning, by which means, I presume, the fines were vastly increased.
Study hours were strictly kept; and "cuts" from recitations or lectures were fined thirty-three cents. The students were obliged to declaim alternately in English and in one of the ancient languages.
The rules under the head of "misdemeanors and criminal offences" are the most astonishing. I will quote a few of them: -
"If any one buy, sell, or barter books, apparel, or any other thing, above two dollars in value, without the leave of the President, his tutor, guardian, parent, or patron, such contracts shall be deemed absolutely void; and the offending persons, either buyers or sellers, shall be fined not exceeding five dollars."
"If any one play at cards or dice, he shall be fined, not exceeding one dollar for the first, and two dollars for the second offence."
"No scholar shall go into any tavern or victualling house in Cambridge, to eat aud drink there, - unless in the presence of his parent or guardian, - without leave from the President, a professor, or tutor, under a penalty not exceeding fifty cents."
"If any make tumultuous, troublesome, or indecent noises to the dishonor or disturbance of the College, or town, or any of its inhabitants; or without the leave of the Immediate Government, shall make bonfires, or illuminations, or play off fireworks, or be in any way aiding or abetting the same, they subject themselves to a fine not exceeding five dollars."
Perhaps the saddest of all rules, if we consider the effect it would have upon society men, is the following: -
"No undergraduate shall be an actor, or in any way a partaker, in any stage plays, interludes, masquerades, or theatrical entertainments, in the town of Cambridge, or a spectator at the same; under a penalty not exceeding two dollars. Nor shall he attend theatrical amusements in any other place in term time, under the penalty of ten dollars for the first offence; and if it be repeated, such other college punishment as the Immediate Government may judge adequate to rendering the prohibition effectual. Nor shall he attend any ball, assembly, or party of pleasure, during term time, unless authorized by the President at the request of the parent, guardian, or patron, under the penalty of not less than five dollars."
These extracts will, I think, plainly show that some change for the better has taken place in College rules within the last fifty years, although perhaps they have not quite reached perfection yet.