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Idler 033 [No. 33: Journal of a fellow of a college]
by [?]

Ditto, after Dinner. Pain in my ankle returns. Dull all the afternoon. Rallied for being no company. Mr. H.’s account of the accommodations on the road in his Bath journey.

Ditto, Six. Got into spirits. Never was more chatty. We sat late at whist. Mr. H. and self agreed at parting to take a gentle ride, and dine at the old house on the London road to-morrow.

Thursday, Nine. My sempstress. She has lost the measure of my wrist. Forced to be measured again. The baggage has got a trick of smiling.

Ditto, Ten to Eleven. Made some rappee snuff. Read the magazines. Received a present of pickles from Miss Pilcocks. Mem. To send in return some collared eel, which I know both the old lady and miss are fond of.

Ditto, Eleven. Glass very high. Mounted at the gate with Mr. H. Horse skittish, and wants exercise. Arrive at the old house. All the provisions bespoke by some rakish fellow-commoner in the next room, who had been on a scheme to Newmarket. Could get nothing but mutton-chops off the worst end. Port very new. Agree to try some other house to-morrow.

Here the journal breaks off: for the next morning, as my friend informs me, our genial academick was waked with a severe fit of the gout; and, at present, enjoys all the dignity of that disease. But I believe we have lost nothing by this interruption: since a continuation of the remainder of the journal, through the remainder of the week, would most probably have exhibited nothing more than a repeated relation of the same circumstances of idling and luxury.

I hope it will not be concluded, from this specimen of academick life, that I have attempted to decry our universities. If literature is not the essential requisite of the modern academick, I am yet persuaded, that Cambridge and Oxford, however degenerated, surpass the fashionable academies of our metropolis, and the gymnasia of foreign countries. The number of learned persons in these celebrated seats is still considerable, and more conveniencies and opportunities for study still subsist in them, than in any other place. There is at least one very powerful incentive to learning; I mean the GENIUS of the place. It is a sort of inspiring deity, which every youth of quick sensibility and ingenious disposition creates to himself, by reflecting, that he is placed under those venerable walls, where a HOOKER and a HAMMOND, a BACON and a NEWTON, once pursued the same course of science, and from whence they soared to the most elevated heights of literary fame. This is that incitement which Tully, according to his own testimony, experienced at Athens, when he contemplated the porticos where Socrates sat, and the laurel-groves where Plato disputed[2].

But there are other circumstances, and of the highest importance, which render our colleges superior to all other places of education. Their institutions, although somewhat fallen from their primaeval simplicity, are such as influence, in a particular manner, the moral conduct of their youth; and in this general depravity of manners and laxity of principles, pure religion is no where more strongly inculcated. The academies, as they are presumptuously styled, are too low to be mentioned; and foreign seminaries are likely to prejudice the unwary mind with Calvinism. But English universities render their students virtuous, at least by excluding all opportunities of vice; and, by teaching them the principles of the Church of England, confirm them in those of true Christianity.

[1] Mr. Thomas Warton.

[2] A rich assemblage of examples, of the “influence of perceptible objects in reviving former thoughts and former feelings,” is collected in Dr. Brown’s Philosophy of the Human Mind, vol. 2, Lecture 38.