What a contrast there is between the ordinary hum-drum town and one that can boast of some institution of learning, be it ever so small. The power of education seems to throw a gloss over all, and the life seems more quiet, re-fined and ideal. The presence of the students in the streets in England, attired in their ridiculously short gowns, in Germany with parti-colored caps, gives an idea of gaiety and life to the throng of busy passers-by. All is University, for the very townsfolk can do nothing but talk of this new rule, that escapade of the students, the coming boat race and the thousand and one occurrences that mark the daily life at any large college. Cambridge is no exception to the rule and may be looked upon as one large school, so general is the influence cast upon it by its many colleges. Few places are more ideal or better fitted for a large university than this same Cambridge, and it is thanks to the perspicuity of our ancestors that the University of Cambridge at the present date ranks among the first in the world. The fertile, low-lying plain, surrounded and traversed by the Cam, sets off well the dark mass of buildings with the famous stone bridge, from which the name Cambridge is derived. As early as the twelfth century, pale faced students, who burned their lamps far into the night, began to flock to the place and were compelled at first to board out among the few miserable dwellings of the town. One by one the colleges were founded until, in Milton's time, the supremacy of Oxford University was threatened. As in Oxford the colleges all face upon one broad street, while their pleasant gardens border on the banks of their patron river. Of the Museums, the Fitzwilliam is the chief, noted for its fine collection of engravings, while many a fine piece of statuary can be found in its halls. The Senate House, dreaded by the incoming freshman, and the University Library, with its half million volumes, among them an original MSS on vellum of the four Gospels and the book of Acts of the Apostles, next meet one's attention. The largest, if not the finest college is Trinity, which claims to be the largest in Europe. Ex tending on both sides of the street it is entered through the fine King's Gateway, near which stands the statue of Henry VIII. Within is a large court or "quad," called Neville's Fountain, bounded by the lodge of the master and his assistants. This lodge is filled with works of art and possesses a treasure in the shape of its Gothic Hall. Sir Christopher Wren designed the library of Trinity, and it is a fine specimen of his peculiar style of architecture. Trinity College library possesses the invaluable mathematical MSS. of Sir Isaac Newton, also the Mss. of the poet, John Milton, among its 100,000 volumes.
St. Johns College comes next to Trinity, and is more famous for its modern improvements than its old buildings. The old portion of the college extends to the banks of the Cam, while the new portion stretches away on the other side. Its New Court is justly celebrated. The Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII, was the patroness of this college. St. Peters, or Peterhouse as it is generally called, is the oldest of the Cambridge colleges, as it was founded in 1257 by one Hugh de Balsham, and boasts a long list of celebrated graduates. It is to this college that the famous deer park is attached. Kings College, the gift of Henry VI, is connected with the great school of Eton, and boasts the tiniest chapel among the colleges of Cambridge. The stained glass of this chapel is remarkably fine, and has been renowned for its beauty ever since the days of Henry VII. Caius College (pronounced Keys), is third in size and may be called a Medical College, since a court physician to William and Mary founded it. The alterations in this college are many, but it still retains three old gateways called respectively those of Humility, of Virtue, and of Honor. Trinity Hall is the legal college, and is more celebrated for its gardens than its buildings. While the partisans of the red and the white roses, or rather of Lancaster and York, were busily engaged in the conflict that eventually put Lancaster upon the throne, they did not forget to found Queen's College as a monument for future generations. E Asmus was a fellow of this college. A peculiar bridge, the mathematical bridge, leads the writer at Queens College to the other side of the Cam.
The library of Corpus Christi College was acquired under rather strange conditions. Archbishop Parker lent his library to the college on the condition that if ever 25 books should be missed from its shelves, all the collection should go to Caius College.
Catherine Hall College is the only hall in all Cambridge, and has produced a large number of theological writers. Who does not know the college of Chaucer, called by him "Soler Hall at Cambridge," but now named Clare. This small college, which can boast of but one beautiful court, was once one of the largest in the town. Emanuel was built upon the site of a Dominican monastery, and in the strife between the King and the people became known and marked as a Puritan college. It is of this college, and its companion in the Puritan faith, Sidney Sussex, that Charles I said "They are the nurseries of Puritans." Oliver Cromwell graduated from Sydney Sussex, and the cast of his features taken after his death, of which our own Gore Hall possesses a copy, is kept here.
The college of Milton, called Christ's, is of small extent and possesses few objects of interest save the celebrated mulberry tree that belonged to John Milton. Sir Christopher Wren built the library of Pembroke College. Spencer, Gray, and Wm. Pitt are among its alumni. Jesus, now called Magdalen College, possesses three entire libraries, and treasures among its relics, the original Mss of Pepy's. Diary.
Downing College was founded last of all, in 1800, but presses hard upon its famous predecessors, as far as fine buildings and a thorough course of instruction goes.