Page images



(A REMINISCENCE OF OXFORD.) LIKE the dissipated roué in the play of through the medium of a crib. Here Mayfair,' who thus accounts for his at all events, whatever I


be not being in bed till five in the morn- elsewhere, “I am monarch of all I ing, I can say that “I always was a survey," and no one cares to dispute bit of a student;" and a special corner my right. There they stand, a someof my library is set apart for the recep

what motley collection, it must be tion of my ancient friends, my venera- confessed, both in size and binding, tion for which shrine is, I fear, by no ranging from the Greyfriars Latin and means shared by the other members of Greek Primers of half a century ago my family circle. On the contrary, I have to the Master of Balliol's Plato' and reason to believe that my wife views the 'Edipus Tyrannus' of Professor each fresh addition to its contents with Jebb. Often, as I look at them, my extreme disfavour. " What! more of mind wanders back over a long vista your ancient Greeks !” she is wont to of years, and recalls some quaint meexclaim when she comes upon me in mory of the days when as a schoolboy the act of hastily and somewhat sur- I hammered out by the aid of Dictionreptitiously undoing a fresh parcel of ary and Gradus Hexameters, or Longs books, the two last words being uttered and Shorts, of doubtful Latinity and much in the same tone that I have scanning, or listened as an underheard her use the expression “litter- graduate, too often with dull and ing rubbish,” in connection with the drowsy ear, to my College Tutor's shortcomings of an untidy housemaid. learned unravelling of some tortuous I have reason also to believe, that my passage in a Greek Chorus. One such sons fully endorse the opinion so em- memory occurred to me only a day or phatically expressed by Swift's Captain two ago, when, wishing to verify a with respect to the value of a classical quotation, I took from its shelf a education.

somewhat bruised and battered “Cor

pus Poetarum Latinorum' in which • Your Noveds, and Blutuchs, and Omurs and stuff,

I remember investing on my arrival as By — they don't signify this pinch of

a freshman in Oxford. In turning snuff.

over its pages I came upon half a To give a young gentleman right education, sheet of paper dotted with certain pencil The army's the only good school in the nation."

hieroglyphics that on closer inspection

I made out to be the numbers and Whatever volumes may be missing other particulars necessary for referfrom other parts of my library (and I ence to some score of lines of different notice by the way that Jorrocks' and authors whose poems are to be found * Soapey Sponge' are rarely in their in the volume. For a moment, though places), there are never any gaps in I recognised my own handwriting, my these shelves for which I am not memory was at fault as to how they myself responsible. Not even the got there, but on looking out one of disappearance of a Bohn's translation the lines in question there flashed upon ever shows the faintest desire on my recollection an episode of my the part of any inmate of my house, Oxford life which I had long since male or female, to gain that insight forgotten, but which for years after I into the “sweetness and light” of had shaken off the dust of the High " the original, which it is the fashion from my feet, I had never recalled now-a-days to say may be acquired without a keen sense of amusement.


One of the best and most popular of newly-joined freshman, an entirely the members of my college was Henry strange one.

One of these exceptions Pelham, and his wine parties were was a little fellow of the name of the most agreeable entertainments of Downey, of Merton, who for several their kind in the University. They years had been my schoolfellow and were by no means exclusively confined sworn friend at Grey Friars. We to one set, or to men his

were in the same house and in the college. On the contrary, the rapidly same class together, and had each maturing first from Balliol sat in left the school a year and a half ago, amicable contiguity to the hard rider in order, as the fashion then was, that from Christ Church or Trinity, and in the interval between school and the promising young orator of the college we might unlearn, in the dolce Union hobnobbed with the boating far niente of life with a private tutor, man from Brasenose, or the fast the small modicum of Greek and bowler or crack bat of the University Latin which the bulk of public schoolEleven. Pelham was an excellent boys, even to this day, ever succeed host, and had the happy knack of fusing in acquiring. Since then I had lost into harmony with each other these, sight of him, but on my entering ofttimes, under less skilful manage- Pelham's room he greeted me with a ment, discordant elements; and the joyous cry of recognition. “Glad we result was that, though it could not meet once more, old fellow !” said he, be said that every man invariably hid as I dropped into the vacant chair his own light under a bushel, there was beside him. “Heard you were up this less individual“ shop” talked at these term, and meant to come and look Symposia than at any other that I re- after you directly. Better place this member in the course of my University than that beastly Grey Friars on a cold

winter's morning, ain't it? Different Pelham had been at Oxford about a stuff this, too, from old Swisher's year and a half when I went up to swipes,'” he added, as he refilled his keep my first term. His father and glass from the passing magnum. mine were country squires in different Downey was, as I have already menparts of Clayshire; and Pelham and tioned, of the light-weight order, and I had already made each other's of an extremely youthful appearance. acquaintance at a cricket match be- His boyish voice and laugh, his freshtween the north and south of the coloured, cherubic face, with its blue county, of which I now remember eyes and more than slightly “tiplittle but the fact that the division tilted” nose, gave him a look of such which I represented received a some- childish innocence and simplicity, that what ignominious beating in a single a physiognomist would scarcely have innings. One of the first cards left hesitated to pronounce his patronymic upon me was his, speedily followed by to be a singular misnomer, so far as it an invitation to wine in his rooms. might be taken to indicate the possesThither accordingly I adjourned on the sion of sharp wits and absence of appointed evening shortly after dining youthful verdure on the part of its in hall, and found some fifteen or six- owner. The physiognomist who drew teen men already gathered round the any such conclusion, and tried to folmahogany, and discussing with much low it up to his own advantage, would apparent gusto some excellent claret have found that he had wofully miswhich, I need hardly say, our host had taken his man, as the sequel of my not purchased from an Oxford wine- story will show. merchant. The party was composed Very different indeed in outward of men of various colleges, our own appearance was another of my Grey being fairly represented, and with Friars contemporaries, Parr of Balthree or four exceptions was to me, a liol, who sat near our host on the


opposite side of the table. By two bookshelves. That Parr proved to be years and more my senior at the right was a matter of surprise to no school, he was now in his third year one, and the beaten man was the first of residence, and had well sustained frankly to own that he had been misat Oxford the high reputation as a taken, and admit that he had met scholar he had won at Grey Friars. with the due reward of his rashness There he had carried all before him, in venturing to dispute so paramount and his school career had culminated an authority. This admission gave in a Balliol scholarship, to which he the cue to Todhunter to take up his had since added the Hertford and parable and launch out into one of his Ireland, and mounted the rostrum effusive laudations of Parr and all his more than once at Commemoration to works. Pretty plainly hinting that recite his prize compositions before an his late opponent was one of that class undergraduate audience that bellowed who rush in where angels fear to tread, indiscriminately its praise or censure. he went on to dilate on Parr's prodiParr's undoubted talents commanded gious powers of memory, and told as universal respect, but on the whole it an instance of them how he and a rival could not be said that he was popular Balliol luminary, being on a reading amongst his fellows. At school he had party together during the last long been looked on as a bit of a bully; and vacation, had amused themselves during at college, though he could be pleasant their daily constitutionals by capping enough when he chose, he was noted Greek and Latin verses. Day after for a somewhat overbearing manner, day, nay week after week, according and was withal by no means patient to Todhunter's account, had the match of contradiction. This tendency to continued, and finally been drawn by self-assertion always manifested itself mutual consent, to be renewed should more strongly whenever, as on the the pair ever meet again in similar occasion of which I am writing, Tod- circumstances. Parr listened with hunter, familiarly dubbed “ Toady," considerable self-complacency to his was one of the company, another Grey satellite's narrative of his achieveFriars man who had there been Parr's ments, and flung himself back in his satellite, and who worshipped him and chair with an air of contempt when hung on his every sentence much after Todhunter concluded by offering to lay the fashion that Boswell did on those a “pony" that there was no one in the that fell from the lips of the Great room who would enter the lists that Lexicographer.

evening with his hero at the same The claret circulated freely, and for amusement. a while the conversation flowed as Todhunter spake, and, like the gods freely from one topic to another, men whom Zeus challenged to a trial of talking together in groups without an strength on the topmost peak of manyattempt on anyone's part to monopo- ridged Olympus, “we all kept silent lise the talk. Gradually, however, the and were still, marvelling at his sayvoice of Parr rose high above the rest, ing, for he spake very masterfully." as he somewhat authoritatively and But suddenly the silence was broken, dictatorially set his opposite neighbour and the challenge taken up in a most right on the authorship and exact word- unlooked-for quarter. “ Well," said ing of a Latin quotation, upon which the clear boyish voice of little Downey the other had been rash enough to “my knowledge of Greek is strictly venture. Somewhat nettled by Parr's limited, as you Grey Friars fellows tone, his adversary obstinately held to are aware, to the verb Túrtw as practihis own version, and the result was a cally conjugated by old Swisher, but reference to a neatly bound 'Corpus if no one else will have a shy, and he Poetarum Latinorum' which occupied will give me the first start, I don't a conspicuous position on Pelham's mind having a canter against old Parr


" I sup:

over the Latin course for your pony, please. And as to poets, let us say Toady, and I'll take my chance of any line out of that big volume that being distanced by your Balliol crack.” you were poring over just now.” At

Had a bombshell burst in the mid- this there was a fresh roar of laughter. dle of our party we could not have “What, all the poets in the Corpus,' been more astounded. Parr turned Downey!" said Todhunter, "why, how as red as a turkey-cock; his pro- hard must have been reading since minent eyes nearly started out of his you left Grey Friars !

Poor fellow, head; and if hair ever does actually no wonder your whiskers have fallen stand on end with either astonishment off, I only wonder your hair isn't or fear, his may fairly be said to have snow-white into the bargain.” “Don't done so. “ You impudent little beggar," be personal, Toady," answered the he blurted out at length, “what on imperturbable Cherub; " whiskers or earth do you mean by cheeking me no whiskers, I am ready to swallow like that? Why I remember at Grey the whole · Corpus,' but if Parr objects, Friars

“ Come, come, Parr, there's a long-winded fellow near the don't get in a wax, old fellow,” said end of it I don't mind cutting out. Downey, in a tone of voice that only One Silly-something or another. I added fuel to the fire of Parr's wrath ; confess I never read a line of him and I meant what I said, but of course I've forgotten his name." if you funk, I'll let Toady off, without

pose you mean Silius Italicus," said even asking for half-forfeit. And Parr. “The very party," replied Dowpray spare us your Grey Friars re- ney.“Well,” said Parr, beginning to reminiscences, as they can hardly be a cover his temper, “cut him out, by all subject of general interest to the means if you like , we shall still have present company."

a pretty wide field to range over.” At At the idea of Parr's funking to length it was settled between Pelham encounter Downey there was a general and Todhunter as umpires, firstly, that roar of laughter, in the midst of which the match should last for two hours, Parr sat chafing and fuming, and and that if neither party was brought finally began to open the vials of his to a standstill by the end of that wrath upon the unfortunate Tod- time it should be considered as hunter, for having made him the sub- drawn ; secondly, that a minute only ject of a ridiculous challenge, and one should be allowed for one antagonist moreover totally unauthorised on his to follow the other, and in the event part. Here, however, our host inter- of either failing to keep time he should fered, and, pouring oil on the troubled be declared the loser; thirdly, that waters, suggested that if Downey was either antagonist on being challenged in serious earnest he had better be by bis adversary to do so, should give taken at his word, and given his his authority for the line quoted, to chance of winning his money, or re- be verified in case of doubt by a referceiving his quietus. To this Parr, ence to the Corpus. During the with not the best grace in the world, settlement of these terms opinions as assented, and with an air of ill-con- to the result of the contest were freely cealed contempt offered to accede to outspoken, and with one single excepDowney's condition that he should tion they were unanimous, that have first start, further ironically in- Downey would speedily find that he quiring over what limits as to time, had caught a Tartar. I am afraid and over what range of Latin poets it will be a case of 'Infelix puer, atque he proposed, that their contest should impar congressus,'” said Monckton, a extend. “Well,” said Downey, “as noted punster, who prided himself, and to time, I am quite ready to leave that not altogether without reason, on the to Pelham and Todhunter to settle happiness of his classical quotations. together; the whole term if you Downey, however, nothing daunted,

laid out another “pony ” round the I don't suppose Parr will question my table at five to one in backing himself authority, and I will trouble him for to win. The others evidently looked

an x." upon the match as a piece of bravado I noticed an uneasy twitching about on his part, for which, for some reason Parr's mouth at this selection of best known to himself, he was prepared Downey's, which confirmed me in my to pay pretty expensively.

idea that this classical giant would I have said, however, that there meet with the fate of Goliath at the was one exception to this general hands of David. Nevertheless he chorus, and that exception was myself. promptly answered, I have already mentioned that Downey and I had been close friends at school,

“Xanthia Phoceu, prius insolentem.” and no one knew better than I did

The line was scarcely out of his that this innocent-looking little cherub

mouth before Downey responded “Parr had two sides to his character. Idle

sticks to Horace, and I can't do better and careless as he was about his than follow his lead. school work, childish in voice and outward appearance, he was very far

“ Mittit venenorum ferax." from being the fool that he possibly Trouble you for another x Parr.” looked, and that certainly his pas- The perspiration broke out on Parr's tors and masters declared him to be.

forehead, as he replied after a moI was convinced in my own mind

ment's pausethat he had not accepted Todhunter's challenge and risked losing his money

“Xerxis et imperio bina coisse vada," as a mere bit of bounce. I did not for and added, “ if you dispute my line a moment suppose that during the you will find it in the first elegy of the time I had lost sight of him he had Second Book of Propertius." so far changed his nature and devoted “Far be it from me to dispute any himself to classical study as to have a quotation of yours, most learned hope of successfully encountering Parr Parr," said Downey, “I have only got on his own battle-field. But I did

to cap it, let us go to Juvenal for a think that in some occult manner or change. another Downey had got hold of one of his “good things” in reference to

* Ad summum, nec Maurus erat, nec

Sarmata, nec Thrax." capping verses, which would probably result in his antagonist's discomfiture. That's a line I'm sure you know For once in a way, therefore, I re- well, and I'll trouble you once more to solved to break through my rule

cap me with an x.about betting, and said with some- But to the general astonishment the thing of a freshman's shyness, “I

answer came not. Turning red and don't like to see an old school-friend

pale by turns, Parr sat mute. His begin a fight like this without a single upper lip worked nervously, but no backer, and so far as a modest “ fiver'

sound came from his mouth. “Surely goes, I am ready to take any of you he's not already in extremis,'” cried at five to one.” My offer was promptly Monckton. “Take a life pill, old taken in pounds by four of the party, Parr.” An anxious silence ensued, till and then as no one appeared inclined to Pelham, who sat with his watch before follow my example Pelbam called on him, cried “Time's up-Downey, I Downey to make a start.

declare you the winner,” and handed “Well," said Downey, “I'll begin him the stakes. “Well, I never with our friend Horace for old ac

thought that a dose of Downey and quaintance sake :

Co.'s 'XXX' would have floored him

like that,” cried the inveterate “Nec vaga cornix."


« PreviousContinue »