BRAZENOSE COLLEGE, OXFORD, January 11, 1879.
DEAR W -: I have been to my uncle's at Berry Hill, Hants, for the Christmas holidays, or you may be sure I should not have delayed so long in answering your last letter, and in thanking you for the Harvard papers you sent me. I read in them the account of last autumn's sports, but, to tell you frankly, I was surprised as much at the poor records as at the few entries. To think that only two contestants appeared for the half-mile run, for instance, - only two out of a thousand men at your University! Why, at Eton or Harrow or any school here, I am sure there would have been ten times that number, at least half of whom would have beaten that time. Tell me, is it that Harvard men take no interest in athletic games, or that they are lazy? For your papers are always full of sporting news, and would lead a stranger to suppose that the chief aim of your University was to train the body.
I suppose by this time that you have received the reply that our crew sent yours, and I am sure that you will not misinterpret our reasons for not rowing. It would be impossible for us to keep the 'Varsity in training five months after the annual race with the Cantabs, - and then if we lose this it would hardly pay you to come over and whip the vanquished. It is with regret, however, that we cannot take this opportunity of testing the prowess of your great "eight," for the majority of Englishmen are more than pleased to see these international contests. I have heard my cousin, who is now a Fellow, and was a Junior at Baliol ten years ago, say that your crew of '69 lacked only good form to equal the best of ours, and as your present boat seems to have acquired this, - to judge from what you say, - I think the chances must have been very even had we been able to arrange a race.
I have been surprised at the amount of credit the Columbian crew took to itself; and, although I admired its pluck in the Henley races, it did not row the best University four in England by any means. Can you explain to me how, with so few athletic men at Harvard, as appears from the account of the games I above mentioned, you are able to get up so fine an eight? I hope it does n't imply that your University is content to see these few men do all the work, and win all the laurels, while it looks on, applauding victories, and finding fault at defeats.
By the way, I met several of your men last summer, and was surprised to see them attempt to imitate us in dress and manners. Why is it, when most of the people in the States accuse us of being conservative snobs, that they come over here and copy these very snobs in loud clothes and detestable habits? Naturally enough, they don't take our nicest people for models; just as we who may not know any first class Parisians, form our opinions of the French nation from what we see of "cabbies" and shop-girls. You see I am trying not to be prejudiced either against you Yankees or for us. I send by this post some Oxford newspapers that may interest you, and remain
J. S. N.