UNIVERSITY OF ---, Feb.---, 1879.
DEAR JIM, - As you were kind enough to ask me in your last letter for some account of my life here, I will give it to you, with a fair warning that you brought it on yourself.
Since I graduated (you know I took Classical Honors in '7-) I've been teaching Latin here. My position would be very pleasant if the students would only pronounce rightly, and not persist in spelling caelum, coelum, and cena, caena, or coena. The worst of the matter is that they are sustained by the only text-books to be had in this unenlightened district. Just think of it, Jim, while revelling in your texts of Bibl. Teubner., that we poor mortals can get no classics of later date than 1870. Then my pupils will take as models those antiquated old fossils who talked about the rules of euphony, and who translated princeps by chief or emperor, instead of head. In addition to these troubles I have to resist all the time the students' inclination to use Biblical English, or, in default of that, such provincial phrases as no well-educated man can employ.
These are my main difficulties when the men come to recitations, but alas! your degenerate system of voluntary attendance at recitations has been introduced here. The men seldom attend my recitations, and, when they do condescend to come, generally say, "Not prepared!"
Do you wonder what I do with such men? To anticipate your question I will go on and tell you my various plans for abolishing the nuisance.
Firstly. I send censure-marks to any one who answers "Not prepared!"
Secondly. I give out questions in class, and when students ask me where to look for information I tell them to look in a book!
Thirdly. No matter how good his examinations may be, I never give any one over 50 per cent who cuts my recitations one fourth of the time or more! and,
Fourthly. I put questions in Greek Composition on the examination-papers, so that no one shall get over 70 per cent in my courses unless he knows Greek as well as Latin.
Other instructors here use the curve system of marking to accomplish the same end, and declare that it is "infallible," but I make it a point never to use any system, - a principle that prevents my having to work outside of the recitations.
My method would be perfectly satisfactory if our Faculty were only as advanced as yours; but, unfortunately, they will not allow me to condition a man for cutting, "because," they blindly say, "voluntary attendance at recitations is allowed by the regulations." Just as if that were any reason! O, if our Faculty could only be brought to view the matter as yours does, I could manage that no one should get through in my courses without being present all the time; but, alas! Harvard civilization has not yet advanced as far as -. However, I give my men 41 per cent (the standard is the same as at Harvard), and thus, though they escape a condition, many lose their degrees through low averages. This, of course, is a great satisfaction to me.
When the new Latin Grammar, of which we hear so much, comes out (I understand it has already progressed as far as title-page and dedication), my work will be considerably lessened.
I understand from your President's Report that the voluntary attendance system succeeds well with you. You must have some excellent way of getting students to attend, for it can't be that men are allowed to cut without penalty.
Asking a thousand pardons for this egotistical note, Ever very truly yours,