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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2011
  • First published in: 1865

CHAP. VIII - DONS

Summary

I am now approaching a more delicate part of my task. Hitherto I have attempted to sketch a few phases of undergraduate life, and undergraduates are, after all, nothing but a body of young Englishmen of the average type, not very profoundly affected by the influences of the place. Those influences have not had time to produce, as it were, a chemical effect upon their mental constitution; they only coat it with a superficial deposit. The youth often takes off with his cap and gown all that divides him from the common herd of mankind. He becomes, as Falstaff says, little better than one of the wicked. A few associations drawn from the river, the cricket-field, or the lecture-room still float in his mind. He preserves, possibly even for life, some college friendships. He carries away more or less intellectual and social polish. But without depreciating the benefits of a University education, I must confess that in three years we cannot change our geese into swans; we must be content with giving to our goslings a rather more graceful gait.

It is very different with those who have passed the best years of their lives within our walls, who have imbibed our prejudices and our creeds with their daily food, and who have, as it were, taken the very shape of the walls within which they live.

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