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SELDOM does the saying "One must go abroad to learn the news" appear more pertinent than when applied to the events of college life. Not only may we find in almost any newspaper changes in college laws and customs, which are here regarded as mere possibilities, there stated as facts; but the account of events is so padded by the ingenious reporter that we hardly recognize them. Most marvellous, too, are the stories told us by everybody, but especially by young ladies, of the way college students spend their time. If we might believe them, our life is only a round of smoking, lounging, singing, theatre-going, and general making of ourselves happy. College fellows have "such good times" that many of these fair creatures would turn Amazons, and fight the Demon of Ignorance in classic shades, if "the powers that be" would allow them.
On the truth of these stories it is unnecessary to comment. To say that college life consists of nothing but study would be equally false. College life is like a polygon, but its many sides are by no means equal. Looking at it from a different side each time, we get a different idea of the whole figure; no one idea is complete in itself, yet each has something of truth in it.
To many it may seem unwise to so split up our time between study, exercise, literary work, theatres, concerts, our societies, reading, singing, and the like, that, through the very multiplicity of our pursuits, no one of them receives the attention it deserves. Perhaps it is; yet just as we furnish a college room with many more things than any sensible person would think of putting in any room in a private house, so may we not profitably engage in many more pursuits in college than we can when we enter upon our life-work? This very breadth of range in the subjects which take our attention tends to make us more liberal in our views of the occupations and interests of others. Taking it for granted (though it is seldom true) that a man is trying to get as much good as possible from his college years, is seeking to broaden and strengthen his character, - and this should be the chief aim of our early life, the question with him will not be, "Ought I to give any time to each of these occupations?" but "How much time ought each to have?"
There is one side of our college "polygon" which it seems to me does not receive its due share of attention. The social side, meaning the intercourse of college men in their own rooms, is the one to which I refer. Let us go through the different buildings in the evening. About half the rooms we find locked; their inmates gone for amusement into Boston or elsewhere. We will take a look into some of the others. Here, in Matthews, is a man with one elbow resting on the table, the hand supporting his forehead, while a book is outspread before his half-closed eyes. He must be a deep thinker, he is so quiet. Across the hall we find a man stretched on his back on the lounge, reading Middlemarch. In Holworthy is a party engaged in a "square game of draw poker," following the example of our Minister to England. In the fifth story of Thayer we find a man with a large Liddell and Scott before him, and a green shade over his eyes. He must be a Freshman. We enter a room in Weld, where one occupant looks up from his solitary pipe to inform us that his chum has gone out to take a run up to Porter's for crew-training.
How little of sociability we see! how few rooms where men are engaged in friendly conversation or debate! Almost every one seems to be pursuing his own business or pleasure in solitude. Of course this is not true of all fellows: some of us cultivate the social element of college life to the detriment of the studious, as we know to our cost; yet, on the other hand, a good many seldom see their classmates except in recitation, at the table, or at society meetings. Harvard men are almost proverbially taciturn. "Deep streams run still," some one may answer. True; yet this should not be allowed to dwarf our social life, and probably it does not to any appreciable extent. Pressure of varied occupations, and a disinclination to move from one's easy-chair when comfortably seated, are more frequent causes why we see so little of each other socially.
Some cynical old bookworm complains that it is not worth while to spend one's time talking with college fellows; it's better to read Macaulay, Carlyle, or Lowell, and so learn something that will be worth remembering, - Mndev ayav. It is true the conversation when fellows meet socially is not usually very profound. It would not be profitable to take careful notes of the remarks made, for future study. Emerson has said more weighty, and Holmes more witty, things than one often hears on such occasions; yet these desultory conversations are very useful as a part of college life. They make men better acquainted, and thus strengthen class feeling. They cultivate freedom of utterance, and give one a chance to set forth his ideas and have them freely criticised, which, however unpleasant, is good for us. They furnish excellent opportunities to study human nature. We can often learn more of a man's character by hearing him argue hotly for ten minutes than by a week's casual acquaintance. Social life at college, whether it be spent in conversation, card-playing, or other amusement, we cannot afford wholly to neglect; our years here are incomplete without some seasoning of this kind. Some of the brightest scenes in our retrospect of these years will be those in which we recall three or four companions seated with us by the open windows in summer evenings, or around the fire in winter, talking desultorily of present pleasures and half-formed plans.
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