An American At Oxford Part 11

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A concrete plan for an American hall will perhaps make the project clearer. The poorer students at Harvard have for some years had a separate dining-hall, Foxcroft, where the fare and the system of paying for it are adapted to the slenderest of purses. They have also lived mainly in certain primitive dormitories in which the rooms are cheapest. More than any other set of men except the clubmen they are a united body, or are capable of being made so. When next a bequest is received, might not the University erect a building in which a hundred or two of these men could live in common? The quadrangle would insure privacy, the first requisite of community life; the kitchen and dining-hall would insure the maximum comfort and convenience with the minimum expense. Nothing could contribute more to the self-respect and the general standing of the poorer students than a comfortable and well-ordered place and way of living, if only because nothing could more surely correct the idiosyncrasies in manners and appearance which are fostered by their present discomfort and isolation.

The life of the hall would not of course be as strictly regulated as the life in an English college--perhaps no more strictly than in any other American college building. If in the hope of creating a closer community feeling stricter rules were adopted, they should be adopted, as in a mediaeval hall, only by consent of the undergraduates.

Such a hall would develop athletic teams of its own, and would produce university athletes. Under the present arrangement, when the poorer students are members of university teams, they may, and often do, become honorary members of the university clubs; but their lack of means and sometimes of the manner of the world make it difficult for them to be at home in the clubs; their social life is usually limited to a small circle of friends. If they had first been trained in the life of a hall, they would more easily fall in with the broader life outside; and instead of being isolated as at present, they would exert no small influence both in their hall and in the university. Few things could be better for the general life of the undergraduate than the cooperation of such men, and few things could be better for the members of a hall than to be brought by means of its leading members into close connection with the life of the university.

If such a hall were successful, it could not fail to attract serious students of all sorts and conditions. At Oxford, Balliol has for generations been known as in the main unfashionable and scholarly; but it is seldom without a blue or two, and its eight has often been at the head of the river. As a result of all this, it never ceases to attract the more serious men from the aristocracy and even the n.o.bility. In America, the success of one residential hall would probably lead to the establishment of others, so that in the end the life of the university might be given all the advantages of a dual organization.

No change could be more far reaching and beneficial. The American inst.i.tutions of the present are usually divided into two cla.s.ses, the university, or "large college," and the "small college." The merit of the large colleges is that those fortunately placed in them gain greater familiarity with the ways of the world and of men, while for those who wish it, they offer more advanced instruction--the instruction characteristic of German universities. But to the increasing number of undergraduates who are not fortunately placed, their very size is the source of unhappiness; and for those undergraduates who wish anything else than scientific instruction, their virtues become merely a detriment. It is for this reason that many wise parents still prefer to intrust the education of their sons to the small colleges. These small colleges possess many of the virtues of the English universities; they train the mind and cultivate it, and at the same time develop the social man. If now the American university were to divide its undergraduate department into organized residential halls, it would combine the advantages of the two types of American inst.i.tution, which are the two types of instruction the world over. Already our college life at its best is as happy as the college life in England; and the educational advantages of the four or five of our leading universities are rapidly becoming equal to those of the four or five leading universities in Germany. A combination of the residential hall and the teaching university would reproduce the highest type of the university of the Middle Ages; and in proportion as life and knowledge have been bettered in six hundred years, it would better that type. England has lost the educational virtues of the mediaeval university, while Germany, in losing the residential halls, has lost its peculiar social virtues. When the American university combines the old social life with the new instruction, it will be the most perfect educational instruction in the history of civilization.


[4] For a detailed statement as to the course such a student would be able to pursue under the English system of honor schools, see Appendix III.

[5] _The Atlantic Monthly_, October, 1900.

[6] For full details as to the scheme of an English honor school, see Appendix III.



In one or two particulars it seemed to me that we might learn from the English methods of training. On the Oxford team we took long walks every other day instead of track work. Our instructions were to climb all the hills in our way. This was in order to bring into play new muscles as far as possible, so as to rest those used in running.

Though similar walks are sometimes given in America as a preliminary "seasoning," our training, for months before a meeting, is confined to the track. This is not unwise as long as a runner's stride needs developing; and in the heat of our summers such walks as the English take might sometimes prove exhausting. Yet my personal observations convinced me that for distance runners--and for sprinters, too, perhaps--the English method is far better. Under our training the muscles often seem overpowered by nervous la.s.situde; at the start of a race I have often felt it an effort to stand. In England there was little or none of this; we felt, as the bottle-holders are fond of putting it, "like a magnum of champagne."

This idea of long walks, which the English have arrived at empirically, has been curiously approved in America by scientific discovery. It has been shown that after muscles appear too stiff from exhaustion to move, they can be excited to action by electric currents; while the motor nerves on being examined after such fatigue are found to be shrunken and empty, as in extreme old age. The limit of muscular exertion is thus clearly determined by the limit of the energy of the motor nerve. Now in a perfectly trained runner, the heart and lung must obviously reach their prime simultaneously with the motor nerves used in running; but since these organs are ordained to supply the entire system with fuel, they will usually require a longer time to reach prime condition than any single set of nerves.

Thus continual track work is likely to develop the running nerves to the utmost before the heart and lungs are at prime. Conversely stated, if the development of the running nerves is r.e.t.a.r.ded so as to keep pace with the development of the heart and lungs, the total result is likely to be higher. All this amounts to what any good English trainer will tell you--that you must take long walks on up and down grades in order to rest your running muscles and at the same time give your heart and lungs plenty of work--that is, in order to keep from getting "track stale."

The amount of work we did from day to day will best be understood, perhaps, by quoting one or two of the training-cards. For the hundred yards the training during the final ten days was as follows: _Monday_ and _Tuesday_, sprints (three or four dashes of sixty yards at top speed); _Wednesday_, a fast 120 yards at the Queen's Club grounds; _Thursday_, walk; _Friday_, sprints; _Sat.u.r.day_, 100 yards trial at Queen's Club; _Sunday_, walk; _Monday_, light work at Queen's Club; _Tuesday_, easy walk; _Wednesday_, inter-varsity sports. The man for whom this card was written happened to be over weight and short of training, or he would have had less track work. If he had been training for the quarter in addition to the hundred, he would have had fewer sprints, and, instead of the fast 120, a trial quarter a week before the sports, with perhaps a fast 200 on the following Friday.

For the mile, the following is a characteristic week's work, ending with a trial: _Sunday_, walk; _Monday_, one lap (1/3 mile); _Tuesday_, two laps, fast-ish; _Wednesday_, walk; _Thursday_, easy mile; _Friday_, walk; _Sat.u.r.day_, a two lap trial (at the rate of 4.30 for the mile). For the three miles, the following is a schedule of the first ten days (the walks are unusually frequent because the "first string" had a bruise on the ball of his foot): _Monday_, walk; _Tuesday_, walk; _Wednesday_, two slow laps at the Queen's Club; _Thursday_, walk; _Friday_, walk; _Sat.u.r.day_, a long run at the Queen's Club; _Sunday_, walk; _Monday_, four laps, fast-ish, at the Queen's Club; _Tuesday_, walk; _Wednesday_, inter-varsity sports. The chief difference between this work and what we should give in America is in the matter of walking.


The value of international contests as a basis for comparing English and American training is impaired by the fact that the visiting team is pretty sure to be under the weather, as may be indicated by summarizing the history of international contests. The first representatives we sent abroad, the Harvard four-oared crew of 1869, became so overtrained on the Thames on work which would have been only sufficient at home, that two of the four men had to be subst.i.tuted.

The subst.i.tutes were taken from the "second" crew, which had just come over from the race at Worcester. The men in this crew had been so inferior as oarsmen that they had been allowed to compete against Yale only after vigorous protest; but in the race against Oxford, owing probably to the brevity of their training in England, the subst.i.tutes pulled the strongest oars in the boat. The crew got off very well, but when the time came for the final effort, the two original members had not the nervous stamina to respond.

The experience of the Yale athletes who competed against Oxford in 1894 was much the same. Their performances in the games were so far below their American form that they won only the events in which they literally outcla.s.sed their opponents--the hammer, shot, and broad jump. They were sportsmen enough not to explain their poor showing, and perhaps they never quite realized how the soft and genial English summer had unnerved them; but several competent observers who had watched their practice told me that they lost form from day to day.

Their downfall was doubtless aided by the fact that instead of training at Brighton or elsewhere on the coast, they trained in the Thames valley and at Oxford.

The experience of the Cornell crew, of which I got full and frank information while crossing the Atlantic with them after the race, was along the same lines. Before leaving Ithaca, they rowed over the equivalent of the Henley course in time that was well under seven minutes, and not far from the Henley record of six minutes, fifty-one seconds. At Henley they rowed their first trial in seven minutes and three seconds, if my memory serves, and in consequence were generally expected to win. From that day they grew worse and worse. Certain of the eight went stale and had to be subst.i.tuted. In the race the crew, like the earlier Harvard crew, went to pieces when they were called on for a spurt--the test of nerve force in reserve--and were beaten in wretchedly slow time. They had gone hopelessly stale on work which would have been none too much in America.

The experience of the Yale crew in the year after was similar to that of Harvard and Cornell. The crew went to pieces and lost the race for the lack of precisely that burst of energy for which American athletes, and Yale in particular, are remarkable.

Meantime one or two American athletes training at Oxford had been gathering experience, which, humble though it was, had the merit of being thorough. Mr. J. L. Bremer, who will be remembered in America as making a new world's record over the low hurdles, steadily lost suppleness and energy at Oxford, so that he was beaten in the quarter mile in time distinctly inferior to his best in America. Clearly, the effect of the English climate is to relax the nervous system and thereby to reduce the athlete's power both of sprinting _per se_ and of spurting at the finish of the race. My own experience in English training confirmed the conclusion, and pointed to an interesting extension of it. I was forced to conclude that the first few weeks in England are more than likely to undo an athlete, and especially for sprinting; and even if he stays long enough to find himself again, his ability to sprint is likely to be lessened. In the long run, on the other hand, the English climate produces staying power in almost the same proportion as it destroys speed.

When the joint team of track athletes from Yale and Harvard went to England in 1899, the powers that were took advantage of past experiences, and instead of going to the Thames valley to train, they went to Brighton; and instead of doing most of their training in England, they gave themselves only the few days necessary to get their sh.o.r.e legs and become acquainted with the Queen's Club track. As a result, the team was in general up to its normal form, or above it, and, except for the fact that one of the men was ill, would have won.

The experience of the English athletes who came to America in 1895 points to a similar conclusion. Though the heat was intense and oppressive and most of the visitors were positively sick, one of the sprinters, in spite of severe illness, was far above his previous best, while all of the distance men went quite to pieces. Thus our climate would seem to reduce the staying power of the English athletes, and perhaps to increase the speed of sprinters.

It appears on the whole probable that in these international contests the visiting athlete had best do as much as possible of his training at home, and it follows that the visiting team is at a distinct and inevitable disadvantage.


The scope and content of an English honor school is well ill.u.s.trated in the following pa.s.sage from the Oxford examination statutes, which treats of the final school in English literature. The system will be seen to be very different from a system under which a student may receive honors in ignorance of all but a single movement in English literature.

-- 10. _Of the Honour School of English Language and Literature._

1. The Examination in the School of English Language and Literature shall always include authors or portions of authors belonging to the different periods of English literature, together with the history of the English language and the history of English literature.

The Examination shall also include Special Subjects falling within or usually studied in connexion with the English language and literature.

2. Every Candidate shall be expected to have studied the authors or portions of authors which he offers (1) with reference to the forms of the language, (2) as examples of literature, and (3) in their relation to the history and thought of the period to which they belong.

He shall also be expected to show a competent knowledge (1) of the chief periods of the English language, including Old English (Anglo-Saxon), and (2) of the relation of English to the languages with which it is etymologically connected, and (3) of the history of English literature, and (4) of the history, especially the social history, of England during the period of English literature which he offers.

3. The Examination in Special Subjects may be omitted by Candidates who do not aim at a place in the First or Second Cla.s.s.

4. No Candidate shall be admitted to examination in the Final Honour School of English Language and Literature, unless he has either obtained Honours in some Final Honour School or has pa.s.sed the First Public Examination [_i. e._ Moderation].

5. The Examination shall be under the supervision of a Board of Studies.

6. It shall be the duty of the Board of Studies in framing regulations, and also of the Examiners in the conduct of the Examination, to see that as far as possible equal weight is given to language and literature: provided always that Candidates who offer Special Subjects shall be at liberty to choose subjects connected either with language or with literature or with both.

7. The Board of Studies shall by notice from time to time make regulations respecting the Examination; and shall have power--

(1) To prescribe authors or portions of authors.

(2) To specify one or more related languages or dialects to be offered either as a necessary or as an optional part of the Examination.

(3) To name periods of the history of English literature, and to fix their limits.

(4) To issue lists of Special Subjects in connexion either with language or with literature or with both, prescribing books or authorities where they think it desirable.

(5) To prescribe or recommend authors or portions of authors in languages other than English, to be studied in connexion with Special Subjects to which they are intimately related.

(6) To determine whether Candidates who aim at a place in the First or Second Cla.s.s shall be required to offer more than one Special Subject.

(_ii_) _Regulations of the Board of Studies for the Examinations in 1901 and 1902._

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An American At Oxford Part 11 summary

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