Harvard Reminiscenses of Fifty Years Ago.
"It is difficult for a Harvard man of today to call up a picture of the college life of half a century ago. Of course, a batch of picked men, interested in preparing for life, will be like another body with the same interest, though half a century parts them. But the methods of study are quite different now from what they were between 1830 and 1840; and the great increase in the number of students brings a hundred changes. The Cambridge of that day was much more distant from Boston than is that of today; for a regular line, even of a poorly administered horse railway, which gives you for five cents a car once in five minutes, makes communication much easier than an hour in an omnibus which charged you a quarter of a dollar for each ride.
At that time, with one or two of what we call voluntary studies, which were, I think, all in the modern languages, the general drift of the college required the same work from one man as it did from another. There was a good classical course, a good mathematical course, almost nothing in natural history, good teaching in the modern languages, and excellent training in English. The courses in political economy, metaphysics, and morals were interesting, though they did not go far. Such as they were, these were almost the same for everybody; one man might take Spanish and another Italian, but every one had to study French, and every one had to study German. For the rest, it was a little unusual for picked men to get some special advanced class, in which they were not marked, and in which they took, and knew they took, extra time from their teachers.
"Really to live in Cambridge, without running into Boston once or twice a day, as an undergraduate may today, made a different thing of college life. I remember that Newton, in my class, told me, the day we graduated, that he had been at every chapel exercise and every college exercise since the day he entered. When I expressed my amazement, he said quietly, "Why should not I have done this? I had nothing to do in Boston as you had, with your home there. Cambridge was my home. If I lived in Cambridge, I might as well do the things for which I came there." I could not have found many such instances as that, but the story is worth telling, as showing how much larger a part the college and its work played in a young man's life than it does now, when he is tempted to try the experiences of that other university which is called the city of Boston. For every city is a university; every city has a great deal to teach, and has a great many illustrations of what are taught in other colleges; and we must not wonder if the men of today, who find themselves close to the streets of Boston, to its courts, its State House, its schools, its concerts, its theatres, its dances, its lectures, and its other opportunities for study or amusement, avail themselves often of what that university at their side has to teach."