THE Nassau Literature of Princeton contains an article strongly recommending the institution of a system of Intercollegiate literary contests something similar to that suggested last year in Scribner's by Mr. T. W. Higginson. It is stated as the firm belief of the writer that Intercollegiate rivalry should extend to a contest of brains as well as muscle, and this belief is stated to be based upon the following reasons.
In the first place, it is argued that a plan for such a contest as the proposed is feasible, and furthermore, that it would be unaccompanied by the difficulties and expense with which boating is necessarily encumbered. It is suggested that prizes be announced in the most important branches; that the particular subjects be designated one year previous to the time of contest; that the judges be men of national celebrity, and the contests open to all the colleges in America. To avoid too large a number of contestants, each college would decide upon the man to represent it in each particular department.
Secondly, the writer urges as favorable to the project "the generous rivalry, communion, and fellowship" which would ensue therefrom. He regards the "emulation and enthusiasm provoked and produced" by the regatta as one of its best features, and asserts that "all this would be realized on a more elevated scale" in the proposed contest.
In the third place, he argues that a college reward is of limited value, because the reputation accruing from it is of an almost purely local character, and that a contest open to all the colleges in the land would call forth more contestants and rouse more ambition on account of the widespread reputation which would crown successful competitors.
And lastly, it is claimed that a system of intercollegiate contests would raise the standard of culture, and promote the cause of education in this country. Allusion is made to the skill in boating which has been attained by college oarsmen, and this is attributed to the intercollegiate regattas. The writer closes with an appeal to the college press to discuss this question thoroughly, and if it appear "right and advisable" to "put it through," assuring the students that if such a system be really desired by themselves, it will not be long destitute of influential men to support it.
We agree with the writer in pronouncing his proposed system feasible, and admit that it need not be attended with any but a trifling expense to competitors, if, as he asserts, philanthropists will be so ready to aid it with their thousands; but as to the advantages which would result from such an arrangement, we think the writer is over-enthusiastic, and perhaps a little inclined to indulge - we quote his own words - in "distorted and visionary imagination." For instance, does he feel quite sure about that generous rivalry to which he makes allusion? We regret to say that our remembrance of the scenes in the Massasoit House on the night after the last regatta pictures anything but a condition of "communion and fellowship" between some of the principal contestants. And is that ambition a laudable one, which allows a Princeton or a Harvard man to be careless of distinction in the sight of his Alma Mater alone, but would spur him on, with the pleasing hope of reading in the various journals of the country, that Smith of Princeton or Harvard took a Greek prize at the intercollegiate contest? We think not, decidedly.
The final argument, that intercollegiate contests would promote the cause of education, if true, is certainly an admirable reason for their adoption. But that truth we fail to see. The writer has certainly proved it nowhere; he only claims it. And there is surely something weak in an argument which says because boating was made intercollegiate and flourished, that therefore education will be promoted under a system of intercollegiate literary contests.
But though unconvinced of the efficacy of the proposed plan, we are glad to see such a subject agitated and discussed, and to know that the enthusiasm and wide-awake spirit which Princeton has manifested of late is not confined to the ball-field and the in futuro river.