A recent number of the Gentleman's Magazine contains an article on the subject which gives in a pleasant way many curious facts. Perhaps that which strikes us first in reading it is the change in the manner of governing students; considering a student a man and not a child. Even as late as 1699 the college records at Cambridge, England, show that offenders were "wipt in the buttry" with a lash, though even here was a great advance, for about a century previous we read that a certain mother gave instructions to her son's tutor to "trewly belassch him," adding, "so did the last maystr and the best that he ever had." Another peculiarity, at least to Americans, is the supreme control a man's tutor had over him. He bought his clothes, gave him his very scanty allowance of pocket money, and attended to all his financial transactions, as well as to his moral training. Life at a university was exceedingly cheap. We instance a nobleman's son whose yearly allowance was forty pounds, this being expected to cover everything. There was indeed little chance to spend money, for the statutes of the college even went so far as to expressly forbid such extravagance as hunting or the wearing of "great muffs," both being symptoms of what the tutor called "the humorous lust of boastful expense."
From the letters of this tutor we gather the following miscellaneous facts : Winter quarters were more expensive than others, and the "excessive rate of things" made it difficult for the youth, though studiously inclined, to keep within his "stint" or allowance. The rent of his chamber, to be divided between himself and his chamber-fellow, was only 12s. a year, and 7s. 4d. supplied him with coal and candles from the end of long vacation till the beginning of March (1614-5).
All this economy was directly owing to the tutor's supervisions, for every remittance passed through his hands. There are some very amusing letters between the tutor mentioned above and the mother of his "Pupil Anthony Gawdy" on the subject of whether it would be cheaper to have a dressing gown made at Cambridge or at home; and the pedagogue quite agrees with her ladyship in her letter where she states : "Whether I think it were not amiss if you willed him to defer yet making up of it till his coming home, which may happily save yet which ye Taylor here made a reckoning to have had for his share."
The writer of the article says also "that this overseeing of the clothes formed part of a recognized system is clear from the fact that they fell under the tutor's immediate charge at Oxford as well as at Cambridge. Lady Harley, in 1639, wrote to her son at Magdalen Hall, "I like the stuff for your cloths well; but the cullor of those for everyday I do not like so well; the silk chamlet I like very well, both cullor and stuff. Let your stokens be always of the same culler of your cloths, and I hope you now were Spanisch leather shows. If your tutor does not intend to bye your silke stokens to wear with your silke shute,..I will bestow a peare on you." This same good lady also sends to her fortunate son a "turky pye with two turky's in it."
But in one respect at least the students of that date differed widely from those in our own day, for after being reprimanded he writes thus repentantly home to his mother : "If the tobacco I have sometimes taken be a just grievance to any, I desire them to know yt if ye forbearance or utter aviodance of it will give ym content, I shall quickly quite ridd myself of it."
However, like all other students he found the paths of knowledge very steep and hard to climb, and we read the sorrowful intelligence in a letter from the young man's tutor to his mother that "not long since your kinsman being in the Colledge Buttry at Beaver at the pmitted hower between 8 and 9 of ye clock at night, the Deane came in, charged him to be gone, he told him he would and was presently deputing. The Deane tells him, unless Sr Gawdy you bad forthwith gone I should have sett you out : upon that your kinsman not brooking those speeches, turns back, and pulls one his hat and tells him, seeings he used him soe, he would not yet out, upon that the Deane strikes him with his fist in the face. He beeing a man and of a spirit could not forbeare, but repaies the Deane with interest; for this he was convened before the Master and fellows, and a severe Censure passed one him."
What was the style of living at the college from which "Sir Gawdy" was so rudely expelled ? The fellows drank out of silver "potts" and had considerable silverware for their table, but "the undergraduates drank and ate out of pewter, an arrangement which saved breakage, and had the additional advantage that when the mugs and platters got bent out of all shape, the pewterer took them back as old metal, and a new stock of "dishes, sauces, and porringers" was laid in, the cost being ninepence-halfpenny a pound."
The college steward was in the habit of dispensing food to poor wayfarers, as a matter of course, and in several instances the college is recorded as doing little acts of kindness toward people "now growne very poor by consent." Yet we can hardly accuse them of being too lavish in their expenditures in this line, for we also read that the munificent sum of two shillings was bestowed on "two poor women who weeded ye garden two days."
It is most remarkable how the very spirit of university life has changed in the last two centuries in every way Two centuries ago does not appear to one somehow as being such a great length of time as the changes they have brought about in college life would indicate. And yet with all their oddities we can not refuse "our admiration for the simple tastes and inexpensive habits of our forefathers as we find them recorded in those pages."