A recent number of the Transcript contains a letter from Oxford which gives many interesting particulars of life at an English university:
Oxford consists of twenty-one colleges, three halls and at present two private halls. The colleges are, All Souls, Balliol, Brasenose, Christ Church, Corpus Christi, Exeter, Hertford, Jesus, St. John's, Keble, Lincoln, Magdalen, Merton, New, Oriel, Pembroke, Queen's, Trinity, University (the oldest, endowed in 1249 A. D.), Wadham, Worcester; the halls are, St. Edmund, St. Mary and New Inn; the private halls are, Charsley's and Turrell's.
Each college has its own standing, either social or literary, and its men are judged accordingly. Christ Church has always been pre-eminently the college for noblemen, and many of England's most distinguished sons, among the nobility, have been graduated there.
The literary standing of the college depends greatly on the energy and scholarship of its master or warden. Some colleges that once stood low now take high rank, because of the determination of a newly appointed master to raise their standing. In the first rank for thoroughness of scholarship today stand Balliol and Corpus Christi, while University, Trinity and New take second rank, and Worcester and Wadham are regarded as very low.
Many students reside in their colleges, while some have apartments in town, and the regulations for those who reside in their colleges are not very different from those (and they are few and simple enough) which govern Harvard men who live in the college dormitories. With us, those who are responsible for the good order of their buildings are denominated proctors, but in the English universities the proctor is a very different and much grander person. Those whose duty it is in the separate colleges of Oxford to keep order and conduct the examinations are the tutors, most of whom reside within the walls.
The university has forty-six professors, the most recently appointed of whom is the Whyte professor of moral philosophy, W. Wallace, M. A. (Merton College), appointed in 1882. The professor of natural philosophy, Bartholomew Price, M. A., of Pembroke, is one of the two who has served longest, having received his appointment in 1853. Two others have served since 1855, one of whom is the professor of Greek, Benjamin Jowett, M. A., now vice-chancellor of the university.
The professors receive high salaries, and lecture regularly or irregularly, as the case may be. Some live at Oxford, some come there only at intervals to deliver a lecture or two, and then go away. Some are appointed for life, some for a longer or shorter period, as it happens. The professor of poetry, now J. C. Sharp, M. A., of Balliol, is appointed every ten years. This professorship has been held among others by Keble and Matthew Arnold. The professorship of fine arts, now vacant, was filled a short time ago by Mr. Ruskin. To the university lectures the men of the various colleges come up indiscriminately. Beside the providing of university lectures for the students, the university exercises a general disciplinary supervision, by means of two proctors, with high salaries, who are appointed annually, and are assisted by four pro-proctors, and on occasion by their own servants, who are known as bulldogs.
A proctor or pro-proctor is supposed to make the rounds of the main streets adjoining the college every night, and it is expected that in case of any row they shall not be far off. The fifth of November is the time for the annual row between town and gown, and then the whole force is likely to be on hand. One of the regulations is that the cap and gown shall be worn during the morning, without the college walls. During the afternoon it is not required, but in the evening it is positively demanded. If a proctor meets an undergraduate in the morning without the college dress he is likely to avoid him if possible, as the feeling is not strict in reference to the matter at this time of day. If he cannot help seeing the man, he takes his name and the college and fines him lightly. In the evening, however, there is no escape from a penalty if the student is caught without the wall in ordinary dress. At Oxford, there is among the students, a general disposition to avoid the dress as much as possible, while at Cambridge it is hardly good form to go without it. At a wine party at Cambridge a student is not likely to appear without his gown; at Oxford he is sure to come in ordinary evening dress.
The recognized sports consist of athletics, boating, billiard, racquets, tennis, lawn tennis, chess, golf, bicycling, foot-ball and cricket. Matches are played between the two universities, or among the various colleges themselves, or between college teams and outside clubs.
One of the first questions a visitor to Memorial Hall, the largest dining-hall in the world, asks, as he sees the four, or five, or six hundred Harvard students at lunch or dinner, is, "How do the English students dine?" Each college at Oxford has its dining-hall, or commons, where the late dinner is taken by a large number of men together. But the habit of eating alone, so foreign to American tastes, prevails to a large extent in England, and most college men take breakfast and luncheon in their rooms, either alone, or with some fellow student. These meals are prepared by the student himself or his scout, and the provisions are frequently obtained from the store-room or commons buttery, and charged on the student's bill. Orders for dinner are given in the morning, and a charge made in accordance with what is ordered. We see, thus, how many breakfast and supper parties are given by the students of the English colleges, and that the cost of "board" will vary indefinitely, according to a man's hospitality and his tastes.