CHAPTER XVII. CAMBRIDGE AND LOWELL.
The two places of most general interest in the vicinity of Boston are Cambridge and Lowell. Cambridge is to Massachusetts, and, I may almost say, is to all the Northern States, what Cambridge and Oxford are to England. It is the seat of the university which gives the highest education to be attained by the highest classes in that country. Lowell also is in little to Massachusetts and to New England what Manchester is to us in so great a degree. It is the largest and most prosperous cotton-manufacturing town in the States.
Cambridge is not above three or four miles from Boston. Indeed, the town of Cambridge properly so called begins where Boston ceases. The Harvard College - that is its name, taken from one of its original founders - is reached by horse-cars in twenty minutes from the city. An Englishman feels inclined to regard the place as a suburb of Boston; but if he so expresses himself, he will not find favor in the eyes of the men of Cambridge.
The university is not so large as I had expected to find it. It consists of Harvard College, as the undergraduates' department, and of professional schools of law, medicine, divinity, and science. In the few words that I will say about it I will confine myself to Harvard College proper, conceiving that the professional schools connected with it have not in themselves any special interest. The average number of undergraduates does not exceed 450, and these are divided into four classes. The average number of degrees taken annually by bachelors of art is something under 100. Four years' residence is required for a degree, and at the end of that period a degree is given as a matter of course if the candidate's conduct has been satisfactory. When a young man has pursued his studies for that period, going through the required examinations and lectures, he is not subjected to any final examination as is the case with a candidate for a degree at Oxford and Cambridge. It is, perhaps, in this respect that the greatest difference exists between the English universities and Harvard College. With us a young man may, I take it, still go through his three or four years with a small amount of study. But his doing so does not insure him his degree. If he have utterly wasted his time he is plucked, and late but heavy punishment comes upon him. At Cambridge, in Massachusetts, the daily work of the men is made more obligatory; but if this be gone through with such diligence as to enable the student to hold his own during the four years, he has his degree as a matter of course. There are no degrees conferring special honor. A man cannot go out "in honors" as he does with us. There are no "firsts" or "double firsts;" no "wranglers;" no "senior opts" or "junior opts." Nor are there prizes of fellowships and livings to be obtained. It is, I think, evident from this that the greatest incentives to high excellence are wanting at Harvard College. There is neither the reward of honor nor of money. There is none of that great competition which exists at our Cambridge for the high place of Senior Wrangler; and, consequently, the degree of excellence attained is no doubt lower than with us. But I conceive that the general level of the university education is higher there than with us; that a young man is more sure of getting his education, and that a smaller percentage of men leaves Harvard College utterly uneducated than goes in that condition out of Oxford or Cambridge. The education at Harvard College is more diversified in its nature, and study is more absolutely the business of the place than it is at our universities.
The expense of education at Harvard College is not much lower than at our colleges; with us there are, no doubt, more men who are absolutely extravagant than at Cambridge, Massachusetts. The actual authorized expenditure in accordance with the rules is only 50l. per annum, i.e. 249 dollars; but this does not, by any means, include everything. Some of the richer young men may spend as much as 300l. per annum, but the largest number vary their expenditure from 100l. to 180l. per annum; and I take it the same thing may be said of our universities. There are many young men at Harvard College of very small means. They will live on 70l. per annum, and will earn a great portion of that by teaching in the vacations. There are thirty-six scholarships attached to the university, varying in value from 20l. to 60l. per annum; and there is also a beneficiary fund for supplying poor scholars with assistance during their collegiate education. Many are thus brought up at Cambridge who have no means of their own; and I think I may say that the consideration in which they are held among their brother students is in no degree affected by their position. I doubt whether we can say so much of the Sizars and Bible clerks at our universities.
At Harvard College there is, of course, none of that old-fashioned, time-honored, delicious, medieval life which lends so much grace and beauty to our colleges. There are no gates, no porter's lodges, no butteries, no halls, no battels, and no common rooms. There are no proctors, no bulldogs, no bursers, no deans, no morning and evening chapel, no quads, no surplices, no caps and gowns. I have already said that there are no examinations for degrees and no honors; and I can easily conceive that in the absence of all these essentials many an Englishman will ask what right Harvard College has to call itself a university.