On College Life -The Toast

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Aspects of Modern Oxford, by a mere don
A. D. Godley, 1894

Kids Today Want Trophies For Everything

“The undergraduate who has made a speech at the Union, or a century for his college second eleven, wants a printed certificate of his glorious achievements.”

On Absenteeism

“You announced yourself as too ill to go to a lecture, and then rode with the Bicester or played cricket to your heart’s content.”

On Coddling Students

“There are still the old problems to be faced–the difficulty of adapting old rules to new conditions–the danger on the one hand of treating boys too much like men, and on the other of treating men too much like boys. Hence college authorities generally fall back on some system of more or less ingenious compromise–a course which is no doubt prudent in the long run, and shows a laudable desire for the attainment of the Aristotelian ‘mean,’ but which, like most compromises, manages to secure the disapproval alike of all shades of outside opinion. We live with the fear of the evening papers before our eyes, and an erring undergraduate who has been sent down may quite possibly be avenged by a newspaper column reflecting on college discipline in general, and the dons who sent him down in particular. Every day martinets tell us that the University is going to the dogs from excess of leniency; while critics of the ‘Boys-will-be-boys’ school point out the extreme danger of sitting permanently on the safety valve, and dancing on the edge of an active volcano.”

The Party Scene

“Mr. Shenstone found, at Pembroke College, both sober men ‘who amused themselves in the evening with reading Greek and drinking water.'”

On Narcissism

“Now every one is anxious to see his own name and his friend’s name in print.”

Kids Are Different Today

“Even the Freshman, that delightful creation of a bygone age, is not by any means what he was. He is still young, but no longer innocent; the bloom is off his credulity; you cannot play practical jokes upon him any more.”

“If, however, the undergraduate occasionally displays the virtues of maturer age, there are certain indications that he is less of a grown-up person than he was in the brave days of old.”

“There is a naïveté and directness about undergraduate error which is the easy prey of any satirist; and curiously enough the public, and even that large class which sends its sons to the Universities, apparently likes to pretend a belief that youth is really brought up in an atmosphere of open and unchecked deviation from the paths of discipline and morality.”

“Perhaps the female mind is piqued by a subdued flavour of impropriety, dating from a period when colleges were not what they are; or more probably they find it gratifying to the self-respect of a superior sex to observe and to pity the notoriously ineffectual attempts of mere bachelors to render existence bearable.”


“At Commemoration a general sense of lobster salad pervades the atmosphere.”


“They are temporarily happy if they can see a Proctor in his robes of office, and rise to the enthusiasm of ‘never having had such a delightful day’ if the Proctor happens to ‘proctorise’ an undergraduate within the ken of their vision.”

In My Day We Had A Little Something Called A Work Ethic

“He is obliged to attend lectures, at least occasionally. His tutors compel him to attempt to pass his University examination at a definite date; and then–adding insult to injury–actually reproach him or even send him down for his ill success, just as if he had not always demonstrated to them by repeated statements and constant proofs of incapacity that he had not the smallest intention of getting through! Small wonder, perhaps, that on returning from a highly unsatisfactory interview with the University examiners to a yet more exasperating colloquy with the authorities of his college, he should wish that fate had not matched him with the ‘cosmic process’ of the nineteenth century; and that it had been his happier lot to come up to Oxford in the days when examinations were not, and his remote ancestors got their degrees without any vain display of mere intellectual proficiency.”

Beer And Skittles

“Even then the powers that be had decreed that life should not be completely beer, nor altogether skittles.”

“Sorry I Won’t Be In Class Tomorrow”

“Post arrives: chiefly bills and circulars: several notes from undergraduates. ‘Dear Sir,–May I go to London for the day in order to keep an important engagement.’ Dentist, I suppose. ‘Dear Mr. —-,–I am sorry that I was absent from your valuable lecture yesterday, as I was not aware you would do so.’ ‘Dear Sir,–I shall be much obliged if I may have leave off my lecture this morning, as I wish to go out hunting.’ Candid, at any rate. ‘Mr. —- presents his compliments to Mr. —- and regrets that he is compelled to be absent from his Latin Prose lecture, because I cannot come.’ Simple and convincing.”

I Guess I’m The Only One Who Cares About Dressing Appropriately These Days

“Undergraduates throw bread about. No one in evening dress but myself.”

An Eternal Truth

“Eleven: no more men, thank goodness.”

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