Professor Charles Eliot Norton in his lecture last evening on "Harvard Recollections" described in a most delightful way the College life at Harvard over half a century ago when he was an undergraduate, and brightly sketched several of the most noteworthy members of the Faculty of that time.
A wonderful change and growth, he said, has taken place in American life during the last fifty years, and Harvard, which reflects the conditions of the outside world as almost no other institution of learning, has changed as wonderfully. Back in the forties and fifties life at Harvard was so simple, and so different from today that the student of today can scarcely imagine it. Then there were no dormitories outside the Yard; the Yard was the centre of all College life. One of the chief temporal ambitions of every student was to room on the Yard; a room in Holworthy being the summit of his hopes. There was very little except the bare necessities in these Yard rooms, but few were carpeted, and almost none contained any such decorations as pictures or casts.
The life was as simple as the rooms. The students were obliged to rise for prayer at 6 o'clock in summer and at 7 or 7.30 in winter. The work was almost all required, and almost entirely conducted by means of recitations instead of lectures. There were only two hundred and seventy-five men in the whole College, and a man through his classes, not only became well acquainted with his classmates, but came to know thoroughly their moral and intellectual capabilities. The College life was much closer than today.
The students had the advantage of instructors of distinction not only in learning but in character. One of the greatest of these was Dr. James Walker, subsequently President of the College, who was a deeply religious man of reserved, strong character, great force of intellect and most impressive presence, and possessing a rare gift of twinkling humor which enabled him to enter deeply into the lives of all the students. Henry Wadsworth Long fellow, just rising to fame, was then an instructor, whom the students loved as a man of great sweetness of nature, of most universal culture, and a most thorough gentleman. Josiah Quincy, the President of the College, was a man of the greatest public gifts. He was remarkably eloquent and so broadminded that he made all the students feel he was one of them.
In closing, Professor Norton strongly emphasized the boundless debt we all owe to Harvard, saying that the only way we can begin to repay it is by making ourselves the worthiest men and living closest to our highest ideals.