No sooner are the pencil-marks obliterated from our fingers and cuffs, and no sooner are the piles of blue books safe in the hands of the dread examiner, revealing, by their deficiencies, awful tales of nights at Carl's and the Howard, than, instead of being harassed by dire visions of a vacation passed in making up conditions, we are crushed beneath the no less awful question what to do with it. In the coming fall, the oft-repeated query, "Did you enjoy your vacation?" will be answered by a careless, "Yes," under which lurks an uneasy feeling that a summer to which we have long looked forward has slipped away and left but little behind it. For we no sooner have our time than we are possessed with an eager desire to kill it; and our joy, when released from the Annuals, is changed to disgust at finding an elephant on our hands.
Some few happy men find pleasure in books, - ay, and in books that are not novels, - and grind, with blissful visions of required studies anticipated; but many, though dreading the approach of the awful "last Thursday," are crushed under that most oppressive of "soft things," - a thirteen weeks' vacation.
But why is it that many of us, instead of returning in the fall rested, and braced for a year's work, find hard study even more irksome than before? Is it not because, instead of seeking change and novelty during the vacation, we live very much the same kind of life, the zest and tonic of a little study being removed? The student who spends his time entirely among our fashionable resorts, loafing, and playing the gallant to the same ever-present fair ones that throng our assembly-rooms and concert halls in the winter, becomes, through long nursing of his ennui, even less inclined for positive brain-work than before; and if, as is usually the case, his laziness has extended to bodily exercises, he returns to college but little improved in health.
Even the student who spends his thirteen weeks in Europe, though he has doubtless enjoyed his vacation, returns scarcely better prepared for the ensuing year. For, in the way of amusement, he merely exchanges the Museum for the Bouffes Parisiennes, Brighton Road for the Bois de Boulogne, and Papanti's for the Mabille. To be sure, it is a great thing to see the world, make the grand tour, etc.; but visiting picture-galleries and palaces, and dreaming under the combined influence of a cigar and the Lake of Como, are very poor preparations for mathematics and logic, relieved only by the milder diversions of a Cambridge winter; and the average student is apt to return with a much clearer conception of the works of Offenbach than of those of Michael Angelo, and of Monaco than of the Matterhorn.
The objects of a vacation are recreation and recuperation, and they must be sought in novelty, spiced with a little excitement; and if, by way of change, we can acquire some new accomplishment, or do a little solid reading, we need not consider this an encroachment on our period of rest. We have a whole continent before us; why not take a lesson of the English and German students? Where is the Harvard exploring party, the Canoe Club, the American Alpine Club? For in our forests and on our mountains and prairies, and not alone in a Saratoga drawing-room, should we seek change, and relief from our masters for the larger portion of the year, - Study and Society.