L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by C. S. RANN, OXFORD;
Messr. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Messrs. PEARSON
And ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Messrs. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, May 30, 1789.
—————————— Nil Animis in corpora
Natura indidget, steriles moriuntur ——— JUVENAL.
VENERABLE as is the memory of those friends to literature, and religion, who have bequeathed their fortunes for the support of seminaries, where the learned may cultivate the one, and defend the other; their respective foundations seem erroneous to many in that part of the system, which makes the enjoyment of their donations perpetual, and by a comfortable subsistence, enables the possessors of their liberality to repose from youth to age, in torpid tranquillity and unanimating repose.
The objectors usually look on this matter in two points of view; in the first place, they consider the influence this perpetuity has on the learning; in the second, its effect on the habits of men.
On the first part of this subject, they urge that men are accustomed, the moment they are put in possession of a fellowship, to look upon their fortunes, if not already made, at least in prospect secure. They conceive themselves certain of preferment in a length of time, and they know themselves sure of subsistence till that preferment takes place. One of the first incitements to industry, the apprehension of want, is removed; and unless their minds have a strong natural propensity to literature, they soon neglect studies, in the pursuit of which they are not prompted by emulation, or animated by hopes of reward; if indeed, their learning could prevail on their seniors to marry, or if by pursuing science, they could acquire the art of conveying a fit of the gout to an old incumbent, their exertions would be of service to them, and riding their Pegasus with a spur , they would doubtless be able to make greater excursions in the regions of literary desert then they now do.
Though many particular instances may be adduced in opposition to these remarks, the general tenor of them will, I fear, be found true. There certainly have been, and there as certainly are, fellows of colleges possessed of the profoundest learning, and most comprehensive knowledge; but when we consider, that every gentleman of this rank has had a liberal education, and that learning is his profession, we shall find the number of those who have made themselves remarkable for erudition, or acquired respect by ability, comparatively small.
On the second part of this subject it has been remarked, that those who are far removed from social enjoyments, soon forget social habits; without acquaintance with the world, men quickly relax into the coarseness of vulgar, or stiffen into the uncouthness of formal manners, their stock of ideas too replenished by no new objects, soon becomes exhausted, and having nothing to demand their attention they sink into drowsy stupidity. Other there are, who having too much activity not to think at all, and yet not sense enough to think properly acquire from a gloomy and contracted situation, gloomy and contracted ideas, unhappy in themselves, they see every object with a jaundiced eye, they judge of manners from those they observe within the precincts of a common room, and form their estimation of the world, from the appearance of a college.
The justice of these objections is too obvious to be denied, restrained from the blandishments of female society, and cut off from every species of domestic enjoyment, with nothing to captivate the affections, with nothing to enlarge the soul, apathy succeeds to feeling; the glow of imagination, and the flame of ardour subside, the sweets of friendship, and the smiles of love are unknown, the heart defended from all warm emotions becomes frozen, and the man who has devoted his youth to inactive solitude, too frequently finds spleen, and misanthropy the companions of his age. A college existence, like a small piece of stagnate water, though it may be defended from the agitation of tempests, seldom experiences the pleasing influence of the breeze; brushed by no winds, exhilarated by no stream, it soon becomes unpleasant, and noxious: whilst the current of an active life; though sometimes ruffled by storms, is enlivened by its own motion, and diffuses health and pleasure to all within its influence.
On the other side of the question, it is certainly hard, that men should lose a subsistence at the very time of life they stand most in need of it, and that a youth of ease should be succeeded by an age of labour. But let men rely on their talents, and exert themselves, let their youth be of labour, and their age will be of ease, let them know that they must not trust to sinecures for support, and they Soon will not want their assistance, and if it should sometimes happen, that merit unrecommended should be destitute of patronage. and learned assiduity should not meet with reward, the partial evil should be disregarded in the general good.
I have been induced to enter on this investigation by the following letters, which clearly tend to establish the impropriety of perpetual fellowships, for however the writers differ in their dispositions, though the same path has led one of them to misery, the other to a negative kind of happiness; they seem perfectly to agree in being useless to society, and in the want of praise-worthy acquirements — But let my correspondents speak for themselves.
To the LOITERER,
Young Man,For so I suppose you are, from your tendency to mirth; I have observed most of your papers have been written with an air of cheerfulness, and that one part of your design has been to make your readers laugh, but as there can be nothing more weak than intentions of this kind, I take up my pen to send you some advice and instruction.
I am, Sir, lay-fellow of a college, and have enjoyed my fellowship full thirty years, neglect not therefore my admonitions, as I must in so long a time have become thoroughly acquainted with mankind; the world has been my chief study, and I have found out by proofs as evident as the sun, that it is a world of care and villainy; Sir, there is no honesty among the men, there is no love among the women, my bed-maker is, I am convinced, a sad rogue, and my laundress has proved herself an arrant jilt. What cause then can there be for mirth in this scene of misery, and guilt? there is nothing proves a man’s folly so much as seeing him with a smile upon his countenance.
As I think you are immersed in error, I send you the result of my thoughts on this subject; and if you have a grain of sense, you must perceive the justice of my reasoning; in future, Sir, wear a more serious aspect, set the misery of their conditions before the eyes of your readers, and represent the world, as it really is, the scene of unsocial discontent, and unalleviated woe — as you follow or neglect the admonitions, you must expect the praise, or censure of,
Your experienced adviser,
To the LOITERER.SIR,
You seem to encourage correspondents, I hope therefore you will have no objection to receive my communications, and do not let it excite your vanity to hear, that I approve of your work, especially of those papers which you have dedicated to the concerns of Oxford; you cannot employ too many on subjects of so interesting a nature, and indeed I wonder very much that you have not yet celebrated the pleasures of a college life — from this omission, I am inclined to think, that you are some young man who have never been acquainted with the delights of a good fellowship. Believe me, Sir, you have a great deal of pleasure to come, if you acquire one, and I will endeavour to convince you of it.
My father was (and I am not ashamed to own it) a small tradesman in a western borough. It was his intention to have brought me up to his own business, and I was sent, for a few years previous to entering on my apprenticeship, to our freeschool, but my father having obliged a great man at an election, obtained from him a promise of providing for me in a genteel, and handsome manner. This promise seemed for a long while forgotten, till at last (just as the report of a new election began to circulate) I was removed from school, where I had continued in anxious expectation till my eighteenth year, and sent to take possession of an advantageous scholarship, which the interest of our member had procured for me in this place.
The hopes I had anticipated of happiness when I should come to Oxford, were not disappointed at my arrival — I considered myself as a gentleman, and thus naturally felt a partiality for the place, which had raised me to so flattering a situation; I made some friends; and love conviviality, though I always took care to live within the bounds of my little income. What however afforded me the greatest pleasure was, that I found it was not impossible to go through the university, without much study and application, amusements for which I had ever entertained but little taste. Thus, my life passed on very pleasantly, and though I frequently heard some of my companions complaining of the sameness, the bore of a college existence, yet I always thought that to listen to lectures, even “invita Minerva" was more tolerable, then to watch behind a counter, and to rise every morning at an early hour to attend chapel, was more agreeable, then to sweep out the shop at a much earlier one.
In length of time, by a slow, though certain succession, I attained the heighth of my ambition, which was centered in a fellowship, and found myself possessed of a perpetual independence without any single thing to do for it, my time was my own, and I might be (if possible) more lazy than I had before been; in addition to which comforts, there was a great deal of good eating and drinking going forward, and a set of jolly companions in the common room — Can it therefore be surprising that my happiness increased with my fellowship, when such were the comforts, such the accumulated pleasures that attended it.
It is now upwards of twenty years since 1 have considered myself, if not the happiest, and richest man alive, at least as happy as I ever expected, and as rich as I desire to be. I remember how yesterday passed, I know today will pass in the same manner, and look forward to the morrow with the pleasing expectation that a similar scene will succeed, life elapses in an uninterrupted tranquillity, and my time is marked only by the celebration of a gaudy, or the return of a college election some — people indeed declaim against the confinement of a university life, and wonder how I can support, with seeming content, so continual a residence; but lord, Sir, what hardship is there in living at home, for in that light I consider my (college) when surrounded with friends, and gratified with every pleasure I can desire, especially when I have no where else to got. Adieu, Sir, and after wishing you success with your work, which I suppose you now think the best wish I can make you, I shall conclude with wishing you, what you will hereafter esteem a much more preferable thing, viz, a good fellowship.
I am yours,
N.B. The LION is received; but as he is rather
mysterious, we hope for a second favour—We are
happy to acknowledge an old, and valuable friend
under the signature :+: :+: :+:
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