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College Papers
by [?]


On the 2nd of January 1824 was issued the prospectus of the Lapsus Linguae; or, the College Tatler; and on the 7th the first number appeared. On Friday the 2nd of April ‘Mr. Tatler became speechless.’ Its history was not all one success; for the editor (who applies to himself the words of Iago, ‘I am nothing if I am not critical’) overstepped the bounds of caution, and found himself seriously embroiled with the powers that were. There appeared in No. XVI. a most bitter satire upon Sir John Leslie, in which he was compared to Falstaff, charged with puffing himself, and very prettily censured for publishing only the first volume of a class- book, and making all purchasers pay for both. Sir John Leslie took up the matter angrily, visited Carfrae the publisher, and threatened him with an action, till he was forced to turn the hapless Lapsus out of doors. The maltreated periodical found shelter in the shop of Huie, Infirmary Street; and No. XVII. was duly issued from the new office. No. XVII. beheld Mr. Tatler’s humiliation, in which, with fulsome apology and not very credible assurances of respect and admiration, he disclaims the article in question, and advertises a new issue of No. XVI. with all objectionable matter omitted. This, with pleasing euphemism, he terms in a later advertisement, ‘a new and improved edition.’ This was the only remarkable adventure of Mr. Tatler’s brief existence; unless we consider as such a silly Chaldee manuscript in imitation of Blackwood, and a letter of reproof from a divinity student on the impiety of the same dull effusion. He laments the near approach of his end in pathetic terms. ‘How shall we summon up sufficient courage,’ says he, ‘to look for the last time on our beloved little devil and his inestimable proof-sheet? How shall we be able to pass No. 14 Infirmary Street and feel that all its attractions are over? How shall we bid farewell for ever to that excellent man, with the long greatcoat, wooden leg and wooden board, who acts as our representative at the gate of Alma Mater?’ But alas! he had no choice: Mr. Tatler, whose career, he says himself, had been successful, passed peacefully away, and has ever since dumbly implored ‘the bringing home of bell and burial.’

Alter et idem. A very different affair was the Lapsus Linguae from the Edinburgh University Magazine. The two prospectuses alone, laid side by side, would indicate the march of luxury and the repeal of the paper duty. The penny bi-weekly broadside of session 1828-4 was almost wholly dedicated to Momus. Epigrams, pointless letters, amorous verses, and University grievances are the continual burthen of the song. But Mr. Tatler was not without a vein of hearty humour; and his pages afford what is much better: to wit, a good picture of student life as it then was. The students of those polite days insisted on retaining their hats in the class-room. There was a cab-stance in front of the College; and ‘Carriage Entrance’ was posted above the main arch, on what the writer pleases to call ‘coarse, unclassic boards.’ The benches of the ‘Speculative’ then, as now, were red; but all other Societies (the ‘Dialectic’ is the only survivor) met downstairs, in some rooms of which it is pointedly said that ‘nothing else could conveniently be made of them.’ However horrible these dungeons may have been, it is certain that they were paid for, and that far too heavily for the taste of session 1823-4, which found enough calls upon its purse for porter and toasted cheese at Ambrose’s, or cranberry tarts and ginger-wine at Doull’s. Duelling was still a possibility; so much so that when two medicals fell to fisticuffs in Adam Square, it was seriously hinted that single combat would be the result. Last and most wonderful of all, Gall and Spurzheim were in every one’s mouth; and the Law student, after having exhausted Byron’s poetry and Scott’s novels, informed the ladies of his belief in phrenology. In the present day he would dilate on ‘Red as a rose is she,’ and then mention that he attends Old Greyfriars’, as a tacit claim to intellectual superiority. I do not know that the advance is much.