And not by eastern windows only,
DURING a great national struggle for human rights, Laurel Town was touched by the high seriousness which rises from sincerity to the dea of human liberty and the laying down of lives in defence of that idea. Its baptism and its early years were thus purely of the spirit.
A miniature burg, it snuggles upon broad, fat lands, semicircling the height that rises to the west. From the hilltop the tiny city is half-buried in green leaves. Looking beyond and to the middle distance of the landscape, you find rich bottoms of orchard and of corn, and the Tiber-yellow waters of a broad river running through their plenty.
First immigrants to this country--those who came in back in the fifties--discovered the hill's likeness to the great Acropolis of Athens, and determined that upon it, as upon the heights of the ancient city of the golden grasshopper, the State's most sacred temple should be built. Thus were inspired library and museum, laboratories and lecture-rooms, of the University of Hesperus, whose roofs are gleaming in the vivid air to-day just as in some ancient gem a diamond lying upon clustering gold sends shafts of light through foliations of red metal.
The brow of this hill beetles toward the south, but instead of the blue waters of the Saronic Gulf which Sophocles in jocund youth saw dancing far at sea, Hesperus students sight hills rolling to the horizon, and thickets of elms and poplars fringing Indian Creek, and instead of the Pentelic mountains in the northeast they catch the shimmering light of the green ledges and limestone crests of the northern edge of the valley the river has chiselled.
But how, you ask--thinking of the fervor of the immigrants of 1854 and '55--how did this university come into being? In stirring and tentative times. The institution was first organized by Presbyterians, who later accepted a fate clearly foreordained, and sold to the Episcopalians. This branch of the church universal christened the educational infant Lawrence University, after a Boston merchant, who sent ten thousand dollars conditioned as a gift on a like subscription. The institution to this time was "on paper," as these founders said of early towns--that is, a plan, a scheme, a possibility. It finally became the kernel of the University of Hesperus when the State accepted from Congress a grant of seventy-two square miles of land.
"There shall be two branches of the University," the charter reads, "a male and a female branch." In clearer English, the institution was to be open to men and women.
Seeds of the convictions which admitted women to instruction had long been germinating, even before the independence of women was practically denied by the great Reformation. The idea was in the mind of our race when we were north-of-Europe barbarians. It found sporadic expression all through our literature. It is back of Chaucer in annals of the people and later in such chroniclers as Holinshed. Bishop Burnet, historian of his "Own Time," and also Fuller, he of the human, "Worthies," determined that "the sharpness of the wit and the suddenness of the conceits of women needed she-schools." Later Mary Wollstonecraft wrote: "But I still insist that not only the virtue but the knowledge of the two sexes should be the same in nature, if not in degree, and that women, considered not only as moral but rational creatures, ought to endeavor to acquire human virtues by the same means as men, instead of being educated like a fanciful kind of half-being. "And that moral and prudent sampler, Hannah More, declared: "I call education not that which smothers a woman with accomplishments, but that which tends to confirm a firm and regular system of character.
"A score of the names of these fore-workers for human liberty are known to us. But the names that are not known!--the pathos of it! that we cannot, looking below from our rung in the ladder, tell the countless who have striven, and fallen striving, that we are here because they were there, and that to them, often unrecognized and unthanked, our opportunities are due. They foreran their times, and their struggle made ours possible.
"'Tis not what man Does which exalts him, but what man Would do!"
But the immediate thought or impulse to make our Western State institutions co-educational, to give to the daughters the collegiate leisure and learning of the sons--to whom or to what shall we trace this idea? They used to explain it in Hesperus by telling you, "The people about us are for the most part New Englanders in blood, you know, perhaps not one, certainly not more than two generations removed to more genial lands, and still retaining the rigor and tenacity and devotion to principle of that stock." But one naturally answered this by saying, "In New England they did not in the fifties and sixties give their daughters the educational opportunities they gave their sons. In those decades there were attempts at women's colleges outside New England, but none in the neighborhood of Williams, Dartmouth, Amherst, Harvard, or Yale."
The better reason is the historic--noted in every movement of our Aryan race. In this is found what New England civilization has done, not in Hesperus alone, but in Wisconsin, in California, in Minnesota, and wherever else it has united with other forces, and lost the self-consciousness and self-complacency which in our generation are distinguishing and abiding traits upon its own granitic soil. Prejudices which eat energy and dwarf activity colonists have commonly left behind, whether they have entered the swift black ship of the sea or the canvas-covered wagon of the prairie. This was said of those who sailed westward and built up ancient Syracuse some twenty-six centuries agone, and it is true also of the colonists of these later days.
The drawing up of the charter of the University of Hesperus shows how humanly, simply, and freely State building may be done. Judge Chadwick, of Laurel Town, gives the candid narrative: "In the spring of 1864 the Misses Chapin and Miss Elizabeth Watson, who had established a school here, and who were anxious that the University should be organized, besought governor Robinson to see that it was done. He, or they (or perhaps but one of them), came to me and insisted that I should go to the capital and secure the passage of an act organizing the University. The session of the Legislature was near its close. I went to the capital. In the State library I hunted up the various charters of similar institutions, and taking the Michigan University charter for my guide, drafted the act to organize the University of the State. . . . Judge Emery was the member of the House. . . . I do not remember who was the Senator. . . . I gave the draft to Judge Emery, who introduced it into the house, and by suspension of the rules got it through. It went through the Senate in the same way, and was approved by the governor--Carney"
But the seed of fire from which this University sprang in the days when men were fighting for unity, for an idea--this you cannot understand without a word about the brilliant essence that enwraps you in that land--Hesperus air and light. This ether no man can describe. It is as clear as a diamond of finest quality, and each infinitesimal particle has a thousand radiant facets. You think to take it in your hand. It is as intangible as a perfume, as illusive as the hopes of man's ultimate perfection. The colors of liquid rose are hidden in it and the glow of gold, and it gives flame to the dullest matter. It glances upon a gray tree-trunk, and the trunk glitters in purple and silver-white. It is so limpid and dry that a hill or a bush, or a grazing sheep far away, stands out in clear relief. It vitalizes. It whispers of the infinite life of life. Like the sea, it presses upon you a consciousness of illimitability and immeasurable strength. It is "most pellucid air," like that in which the chorus of the "Medea" says the Athenians were "ever delicately marching."
It is as like the atmosphere of Italy as the sturdy peach-blossoms which redden Hesperus boughs in March are like the softer almond-flowers. The same indescribable grace and radiance are in both essences. But there are the Hesperus blizzards--vast rivers of icy air which sweep from upper currents and ensphere the softness and translucent loveliness of the earth with such frosts as are said to fill all heaven between the stars.
Under such dynamic skies young men and women have been gathering now these forty years--before the September equinox has fairly quenched the glow of summer heat. During a long estivation a sun burning in an almost cloudless heaven has beaten upon them day by day. The glow has purified and expanded their skin, has loosened their joints, and clothed them in the supple body of the south. Through the darkness of the night ten thousand stars have shone above their slumbers, and wind voices out of space have phu-phy-phispered through secretive pines and rolled tz-tz-tz upon the leathery leaves of oaks. Such days and nights have been over them since the wild grape tossed its fragrant blossoms in damp ravines in the passion of May.
These students have come from all kinds of homes, from meagre town houses, from the plainest and most forlorn farm-houses, and from other houses laden and bursting with plenty--and plenty in Hesperus is always more plenty than plenty anywhere else. Many of these young people have been nurtured delicately, but a large number have doubtless tasted the bitterness of overwork and the struggle of life before their teens.
Perhaps their parents came to Hesperus newly wedded, or in the early years of married life with a brood of little children. If their coming was not in the stridulous cars of some Pacific or Santa Fé railway, then it was over the hard-packed soil in most picturesque of pioneer fashions--a huge canvas-covered wagon carrying the family cookstove, beds, and apparel, and, under its creaking sides, kettles for boilers, pails for fetching water from the nearest run, and axes to cut wood for evening fires. Every article the family carried must answer some requirement or use. The horses, too, have their appointed tasks, for, the journey once accomplished, they will mark off the eighty acres the family are going to pre-empt, and afterwards pull the plough through the heavy malarious sod.
On the seat of the wagon the wife and mother, wrapped in extremes of cold in a patchwork quilt, at times nursed the baby, and in any case drove with a workmanlike hand. John goodman was sometimes back with the collie, snapping his blacksnake at the cattle and urging them on. But oftenest father and mother were up in the seat, and boy and girl trooping behind in barefooted and bareheaded innocence, enjoying happy equality and that intimate contact with the cows which milky udders invite.
Now this, or some way like this, was the introduction of a quota of Hesperus men and women to their fat earth and electric atmosphere. It is therefore not to be wondered at that these young people come to their University with little of the glamour nourished by delicate environment and the graces of life. Their earliest years have been spent upon the bed-rock of nature wrestling with the hardest facts and barest realities. They have suffered the deprivations and the unutterable trials of patience and faith which the world over are the lot of pioneers; and they have had the returns of their courage. Every self-respecting man and boy has been, perhaps still is, expected to do the work of two men. Every woman and girl to whom the god of circumstance had not been kind must be ready to perform, alike and equally well, the duties of man or woman--whichever the hour dictated. "Hesperus," says an unblushing old adage of the fifties--"Hesperus is heaven to men and dogs and hell to women and horses."
But from whatever part of the State the students come to their University, he and she commonly come--they are not sent. The distinction is trite, but there is in it a vast difference. In many cases they have made the choice and way for themselves. They have earned money to pay their living while at school, and they expect, during the three, four, or five years they are in their intellectual Canaan, to spend vacations in work--in harvesting great wheat-fields of Philistia, or in some other honest bread-winning. They are so close to nature, and so radiantly strong in individuality, that no one of them, so far as rumor goes, has ever resorted to the commonest method of the Eastern impecunious collegian for filling his cobwebbed purse with gold. The nearest approach I know to such zeal was the instance of the student who slept (brave fellow) scot-free in an undertaker's establishment. He answered that functionary's night-bell. Then he earned half-dollars in rubbing up a coffin or washing the hearse; adding to these duties the care of a church, milking of cows, tending of furnaces, digging of flower-beds, beating of carpets, and any other job by which a strong and independent hand could win honest money for books and clothing and food. It was as true for him now as when Dekker, fellow-player with Shakespeare and "a high-flier of wit even against Ben Jonson himself"--to use Anthony à Wood's phrase --when Dekker sang--
"Then he that patiently want's burden bears,
To one young man, whose course was preparing him for studies of Knox's theology upon Knox's own heath, a harvest of forty acres of wheat brought a competence, as this arithmetic will show: 40 X 50 X $0.50 = $1000. He planted, he said, in the early days of September, before leaving for college, and cut the grain after commencement in June. The blue-green blades barely peeped through the glebe during winter. When springtime came, and the hot sun shone upon the steaming earth, and the spirit of growth crept into the roots, an invalid father--the young planter being still in academic cassock--kept the fences up and vagrant cows from mowing the crop under their sweet breath. Other men often told of like ways of earning not only college bread but also college skittles.
Women students had commonly not so good a chance at wresting German lyrics or Plato's idealism from a wheatfurrow. Report of such advantages at least never reached my ear. But this may be due to the fact that women are reticent about the means of their success, while men delight to dwell upon their former narrow circumstances and triumphant exit from such conditions.
Some Hesperus girl may have made money in hay, and indeed have made the hay as charmingly as Madame de Sévigné reports herself to have done and certainly, in Hesperus conditions, without the episode of the recalcitrant footman which Mistress de Sévigné relates. Now and then a young woman did say that she was living during her studies on funds she herself had earned. One doughty maiden, "a vary parfit, gentil knight," her face ruddy with healthy blood, her muscles firm and active such a girl said one day, in extenuation of her lack of Greek composition, that "her duties had not permitted her to prepare it."
"But that is your duty, to prepare it," I answered. "Are you one of those students who never allow studies to interfere with `business'?"
"No," she said, quickly; "but let me tell you how it happened. The boarding-house where I stay is kept by a friend of my mother. She offers me board if I will help her. So I get up at five in the morning and cook breakfast, and after I have cleaned up I come up here. In the afternoon I sweep and dust, and it takes me till nearly dark. The evening is the only time I have for preparing four studies."
What became of this girl, you ask? She married a professor in an Eastern college.
It is well to reiterate, however, in order to convey no false impression of Hesperus sturdiness and self-reliance, that many, probably a majority, of the students were supported by their natural protectors. But it is clear that there is more self-maintenance self-reliance in money matters--at the Hesperus University than in any college generally known in the East, and that the methods of obtaining self-succor are at times novel and resultant from an agricultural environment. In evidence that there are students more fortunate one should rather say more moneyed, for the blessings of money are not always apparent to the inner eye are the secret societies which flourish among both men and women. The club or society houses, for the furnishing of which carte blanche has been given the individual humanely known as interior decorator, see not infrequently courtesies from one Greek letter society to another, then and there kindly wives of the professors matronizing.[54-2]*
An early introduction into the battle of life breeds in us humans practicality and utilitarianism. Most unfortunately it disillusions. It takes from the imaginativeness which charms and transfigures the early years of life. In the University of Hesperus one found the immediate fruit of this experience in the desire of the student, expressed before he was thoroughly within the college gates, of obtaining that which would be of immediate practical advantage to himself. He demanded what the Germans call brodstudien, and sometimes very little beyond the knowledge which he could convert into Minnesota wheat or some other iota of the material prosperity which surges from east to west and waxes on every side of our land. How strenuously one had to fight this great impulse! and against what overwhelming odds! It was a reacting of King Canute's forbiddance to the sea, and, like that famous defeat, it had its humors.
You could see so plainly that this demon of practicality had been implanted by want, and privation, and a knowledge drunk with the mother's milk, that the struggle of life on that untested soil was a struggle to live; you could see this so plainly that you often felt constrained to yield to its cry and urgency.
And the weapons at hand to fight it were so few! Materialism on every hand. And it was plain, also, that here was but an eddy in the wave that the impulse toward brodstudien was undoubtedly but a groping forward in the great movement of the half-century that has endowed realschulen from St. Petersburg to San Francisco, and is perhaps but the beginning of the industrial conquest of the world--in its first endeavors necessarily crippled, over-zealous and impotent of best works.
Yet in the face of every concession there came anew to your conscience the conviction, haunting unceasingly, of the need of the idea in academic life, of the need of the love of study for its own sake, of a broader education of the sympathies, of greater activity in the intangible world of thought and feeling--desires of souls "hydroptic with a sacred thirst." To these alone did it behoove us to concede, for through the spirit alone could the "high man" sustainedly lift up his heart--
"Still before living he'd learn how to live--
The ratio of Hesperus students who chose the old form of scholastic training, called through long centuries the Humanities, was some little time ago not more than one-fifth of those in the department of literature and arts. Since the number was so small--all departments would then hardly count five hundred students--the growth was favored of that most delightful feature of small-college life, friendship between instructor and undergraduate. Such offices often grew to significant proportions during a student's four collegiate years. All genialities aided them; and nothing sinister hindered.
The young folks, hearts were as warm as may be found upon any generous soil, and they held a sentiment of personal loyalty which one needed never to question. They went to their University, after such longing and eagerness, so thoroughly convinced that there was to be found the open sesame to whatever in their lives had been most unattainable, that their first attitude was not the critical, negative, which one notices in some universities deemed more fortunate, but the positive and receptive. If they did not find that which to their minds seemed best, had they not the inheritance of hope?--a devise which Hesperus earth and air entail upon all their children, and upon which all are most liberally nurtured.
Then the Hesperus youth had a defect, if one may so put it, that aided him materially to a friendly attitude with his instructors. He was, with rare exceptions, as devoid of reverence for conventional distinctions as a meadow-lark nesting in last year's tumble-weed and thinking only of soaring and singing. In this, perhaps, is the main-spring of the reason why nearly every student, either through some inborn affinity or by election of studies, drifted into genial relations with some member of the faculty.
The pleasantest part of my day's work used to be in the retirement of the Greek study and from eight to nine in the morning. Never a student of mine who did not come at that hour for some occasion or need. One man snatched the opportunity to read at sight a good part of the Odyssey. Another took up and discussed certain dialogues of Plato. Another who aimed at theological learning studied the Greek Testament and the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles." Others came in to block out courses of work. Still others were preparing papers and gathering arguments, authorities, and data for debating societies and clubs.
In that hour, too, a sympathetic ear would hear many a personal history told with entire frankness and naïveté. One poor fellow had that defect of will which is mated at times with the humorous warmth which the Germans call gemuth, and the added pain of consciousness of his own weakness. Another clear-headed, muscular-handed, and ready youth measured his chances of getting wood to saw,--"just the exercise he needed, out of doors,"--horses to groom, and the city lamps to light, to earn the simple fare which he himself cooked. Many a pathetic story found tongue in that morning air, and times were when fate dropped no cap of recognition and granted no final victory. In hearing the details of hope deferred, of narrow estate and expansive ambition, you longed for the fabled Croesus touch which turned want to plenty, or, more rationally, you projected a social order where the young and inapt should not suffer for the sins of others, but be within the sheltering arms of some sympathetic power.
There was the mildness of the chinook to this social blizzard, however, for groups moved even in the dewy hour of half-past eight toward the open door of the Greek lecture-room, laughing at the last college joke or secret society escapade, and forecasting who would be the next penitent before the council. Also certain youths and maids, between whom lay the engagement announced by a ring on the heart-finger--these one might see hanging over and fingering--
"Vor Liebe und Liebesweh"--
volumes lying upon my table, and in their eagerness and absorption of the world in two, dog-earing the golden edges of ever-living Theocritus. And why not? Such entanglements in the web of love oftenest differed in no way from the innocence and simplicity of the pristine Daphnes and Coras. They were living again, the Sicilian shepherd and shepherdess, and wandering in the eternally virid fields of youth. The skies and trees and waters were merely not of Trinacria. But Hesperus heavens omitted no degree of ardor.
And had you seen her, you would never have blamed the youth for loving the college maid. She has the charm abloom in the girlhood of every land, and most of all in this of ours. Physically she differs little from her sister in Eastern States. Her form is as willowy. She has, except in the case of foreign-born parents, the same elongated head and bright-glancing eye. Her skin sometimes lacks in fairness owing to the desiccating winds of the interior; but there is the same fineness of texture.
Power of minute observation and a vivacious self-reliance are characteristics of the girl of the University of Hesperus--and, indeed, of the girl throughout the West. She sees everything within her horizon. Nothing escapes her eye or disturbs her animated self-poise. She has not the Buddhistic self-contemplation the New England girl is apt to cultivate; nor is she given to talking about her sensations of body and moods of mind. I never heard her say she wanted to fall in love in order to study her sensations--as a Smith College alumna studying at Barnard once declared. She rarely pursues fads. Neither is she a fatalist. And she never thinks of doubting her capacity of correct conclusions upon data which she gathers with her own experience of eye and ear. From early years she has been a reasoner by the inductive method, and a believer in the equality and unsimilarity of men and women. Undeniably her mental tone is a result of the greater friction with the world which the girl of the West experiences in her fuller freedom. Conventionalism does not commonly overpower the individual--social lines are not so closely defined--in those States where people count by decades instead of by centuries.
And what is said of this University girl's observing faculties is in nowise untrue of her brother's. Nature, the most Socratic of all instructors and the pedagogue of least apparent method, seems actually to have taught him more than his sister, as, in fact, the physical universe is apt to teach its laws more clearly to the man than to the woman, even if she hath a clearer vision of the moral order. Perhaps the man's duties knit him more closely to physical things.
With clear, far-seeing eyes--for plenty of oxygen has saved them from near-sightedness--a Hesperus boy will distinguish the species of hawk flying yonder in the sky, forming his judgment by the length of wing and color-bars across the tail. I have heard him comment on the tarsi of falcons which whirled over the roadway as he was driving, and from their appearance determine genus and species. He knows the note and flight of every bird. He will tell you what months the scarlet tanager whistles in the woods, why leaves curl into cups during droughts, and a thousand delicate facts which one who has never had the liberty of the bird and squirrel in nowise dreams of.
And why should he not? All beasts of the prairie and insects of the air are known to him as intimately as were the rising and setting stars to the old seafaring, star-led Greeks. During his summer the whip-poor-will has whistled in the shadow of the distant timber, and the hoot-owl has ghosted his sleep. He has wakened to the carol of the brown thrush and the yearning call of the mourning dove, as the dawn reached rosy fingers up the eastern sky.
He has risen to look upon endless rows of corn earing its milky kernels, and upon fields golden with nodding wheat-heads. And from the impenetrable centre of the tillage, when the brown stubble has stood like needles to his bare feet, he has heard the whiz of the cicada quivering in the heated air. The steam-thresher has then come panting and rumbling over the highway, and in the affairs of men the boy has made his first essay. He cuts the wires that bind the sheaves, or feeds the hopper, or catches the wheat, or forks away the yellow straw, or ties the golden kernels in sacks, or brings water to the choked and dusty men. He runs here and there for all industries.
Perhaps it is because of his association with such fundamentals of life that this boy has great grasp upon the physical world. In his very appearance one sees a life untaught in the schools of men. In looking at him there is nothing of which you are so often reminded as of a young cottonwood-tree. The tree and the boy somehow seem to have a kinship in structure, and to have been built by the same feeling upward of matter. And this perhaps he is--a broad-limbed, white-skinned, animalized, great-souled poplar, which in ages long past dreamed of red blood and a beating heart and power of moving over that fair earth--after the way that Heine's fir-tree dreamed of the palm--and finally through this yearning became the honest boysoul and body which leaps from pure luxuriance of vigor, and runs and rides and breathes the vital air of Hesperus to-day.
But even with the strong-limbed physique which open-air life upbuilds, the Hesperus students have their full quota of nervousness. Elements in their lives induce it. First there is the almost infinite possibility of accomplishment for the ambitious and energetic--so little is done, so much needs to be. Again, temperature changes of their climate are most sudden and extreme. A third incentive to nervous excitation is the stimulant of their wonderful atmosphere, which is so exhilarating that dwellers upon the Hesperus plateau suffer somnolence under the air-pressure and equilibrium of the seaboard.
Unfortunately the students have until lately had nothing that could be called a gymnasium, in which they might counterpoise nerve-work with muscular action. At one time they endeavored to equip a modest building. In the Legislature, however, the average representative, the man who voted supplies, looked back upon his own boyhood, and, recalling that he never suffered indigestion while following the plough down the brown furrow, set his head against granting one dollar of the State's supplies for the deed fool athletics; in fact, he lapsed for the moment into the mental condition of, say, a Tory of Tom Jones's time or a hater of the oppressed races of to-day.
This one instance will possibly give a shadow of impression of the power base politics--reversions to conditions our race is evolving from--have had in Hesperus University life. The power was obtained in the beginning chiefly because of the University's sources of financial support--appropriations by biennial Legislatures in which every item, the salary of each individual professor, was scanned, and talked over, and cut down to the lowest bread-and-water figure, first by the committee in charge of the budget and afterwards by the Legislature in full session. One instance alone illustrates. In the early spring of 1897, when the University estimate was before the Legislature for discussion and the dominating Populists were endeavoring to reduce its figure, a legislator sturdily insisted: "They're too stingy down there at the University. They're getting good salaries, and could spare a sum to some one who would undertake to put the appropriations through." One thousand dollars was said to be "about the size of the job." A cut of twenty per cent., generally speaking, upon already meagre salaries resulted to a faculty too blear-eyed politically and unbusiness-like to see its financial advantage. After two or three years the stipends were restored to their former humility, the Legislature possibly having become ashamed.
And in the make-up of the senatus academicus, or board of regents, thereby hangs, or there used to hang, much of doubt and many a political trick and quibble. It was a variation of the dream of the Texas delegate to the nominating convention--"The offices! That's what we're here for." For if a Democratic governor were elected, he appointed from his party men to whom he was beholden in small favors. The members of the board were Democrats, that is, and were expected to guard the interests of their party. Or if the voters of Hesperus chose a Republican executive, he in turn had his abettors whom he wanted to dignify with an academic course for which there were no entrance examinations beyond faithfulness to party lines and party whips. It thus happened that the fitness of the man has not always been a prime consideration in his appointment. More often because he was somebody's henchman, or somebody's friend, the executive delighted to honor him.
These political features in the board of regents materially affected the faculty. For instance, if there were among the professors one who illustrated his lectures or class-room work by examples of the justice and reasonableness of free trade, he acted advisedly for his tenure if he lapsed into silence when the Republicans were in power. But if, on the other hand, he advocated protection instead of free trade, while the Democrats held State offices--which happened only by unusual fate--it was prudent for the professor to hold his tongue.
Upon every question of the day, and even in presenting conditions of life in ancient days, as, for instance, in Greece, the faculty were restrained, or at least threats were rendered. The petty politics of an agricultural democracy acted upon academic life in precisely the same way that autocracy and clericalism in Germany have affected its university faculties. In Hesperus professors have been dismissed without any excuse, apparent reason, or apology, because of a change of administration at the State capital and a hungry party's coming into power. In various callings, or lines of life, the individual may be, nay, often is, wantonly sacrificed, but surely one of the saddest results of political shystering is the cheapening of the professor's chair, and rendering that insecure for the permanence of which active life and its plums have been yielded.
Hinging immediately upon the political machine are the rights of and recognition of women in university government and pedagogic work. The fact that two or three women were the strenuous initiators of the institution has been forgotten, and no longer is there faith that
"The women's cause is man's; they rise or sink
With all its coeducation, Hesperus has not yet evolved--as have New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Wisconsin--to women regents or trustees. The people have not yet awakened to the justice of demanding that, in a State institution open to young women as well as to young men, women as well as men shall be in its government and direction.
And within the brown walls of the institution a woman may not carry her learning to the supreme pedagogic end. "People ridicule learned women," said clear-eyed Goethe, speaking for his world, the confines of which at times extend to and overlap our own, "and dislike even women who are well informed, probably because it is considered impolite to put so many ignorant men to shame." Such a man--an ignorant man, one of the party appointees just now spoken of--when a woman was dismissed from the Greek chair some years ago, declared, "The place of women is naturally subordinate; we shall have no more women professors." It was a pitiful aping of dead and gone academic prejudices. To this day, however, but one act--that rather an enforced one--has gainsaid his dictum. A woman has been appointed to the chair of French. It remains to be seen whether her salary is the same as that of the men doing work of equal grade and weight with her own.
"We cross the prairie as of old
sang the men and women of the fifties as their train pulled out of Eastern stations and their steamboats paddled up the waters of the Big Muddy. But how often it happens that what one generation will die for, the next will hold of little value, or even in derision!
Not wholly independent of politics, not without the uses and abuses of politics, is a great corporation which one of necessity mentions because it has played no small part in Hesperus University life. In those portions of our country where the units of the Methodist church are segregate few know the gigantic secular power it possesses in the South and in the West. The perfection of its organization is like that of the Roman Catholic Church where it is longest at home, or like the unity of the Latter Day Saints in their centre, Utah. The Methodists in Hesperus far outnumber in membership and money any other denomination. They are tenacious of their power, as religious denominations have ever been, and aggressive in upbuilding schools of their own voice and foundation. The question, "What shall we do to keep on the good side of the Methodists?" was, therefore, not frequently asked in Hesperus University politics. The answer was practical: "Make us Methodists. Bring Methodism to us to stop the antagonism of a powerful body." Such a solving of the problem--for these reasons--was not high-minded; it was not moral courage. But it was thought politic--and it was done.
Some of the best elements of our day have been profoundly at work among the Methodists. Many of the denomination have been in the vanguard of the march to better things. But it is fair to the course of Hesperus University, which has sometimes halted, to say that sagacious vigor and a knowledge of the best--ta Beltista--were not in every case the claim to distinction of its Methodist head. "Aus Nichts," says Fichte, "wird nimmer Etwas." But mediocrity--or worse did not always prevail. Under absolutely pure and true conditions a man would be chosen for his fitness to fill the office of Chancellor, no matter what his religious bias, unless, indeed, that bias marred his scholarship and access to men, and thus really became an element in his unfitness.
In a perspective of the University of Hesperus it is necessary to consider these various controlling forces as well as the spiritual light of its students. And yet to those who have faith in its growth in righteousness there is an ever-present fear. The greatness of the institution will be in inverse proportion to the reign of politics, materialism, and denominationalism in its councils, and the fear is that the people may not think straight and see clear in regard to this great fact. Upon spiritual lines alone can its spirit grow, and if an institution of the spirit is not great in the spirit, it is great in nothing.
Its vigor and vitality are of truth in its young men and women. One boy or one girl may differ from another in glory, but each comes trailing clouds of light, and of their loyalty and stoutheartedness and courage for taking life in hand too many paeans cannot be chanted, or too many triumphant io raised. They have been the reason for the existence of the institution now more than a generation. Their spiritual content is its strength, and is to be more clearly its strength when guidance of its affairs shall have come to their hands.
Their spiritual content, we say--it should reflect that life of theirs when heaven seems dropping from above to their earth underfoot--in addition to the labors and loves of men and women, a procession of joys from the February morning the cardinal first whistles "what cheer."
While dog-tooth violets swing their bells in winds of early March bluebirds are singing. The red-bud blossoms, and robins carol from its branches. Then the mandrake, long honored in enchantment, opens its sour-sweet petals of wax. Crimson-capped woodpeckers test tree-trunks and chisel their round house with skilful carpentry. The meadow-lark whistles in mating joy. Purple violets carpet the open woods. Trees chlorophyl their leaves in the warm sun. The wild crab bursts in sea-shell pink, and sober orchards shake out ambrosial perfume. Soft, slumberous airs puff clouds across the sky, and daylight lingers long upon the western horizon. Summer is come in.
The cuckoo cries. The hermit thrush pipes from his dusky covert. Doves, whose aching cadences melt the human heart, house under leaves of grapevine and hatch twin eggs. Vast fields of clover bloom in red and white, and butterflies and bees intoxicate with honey swarm and flit in all-day ravaging. Vapors of earth rise in soft whirls and stand to sweeten reddening wheat and lancet leaves of growing corn.
Arcadia could hold nothing fairer, and the god Pan himself, less satyr and more soul than of old, may be waiting to meet you where some fallen cottonwood bridges a ravine and the red squirrel hunts his buried shagbarks.
There "life is sweet, brother. There's day and night, brother, both sweet things; sun and moon and stars" brother, all sweet things. There's likewise a wind on the heath."
They have most brilliant suns. They breathe sparkling, lambent ether. They look daily upon elm and osage orange, oaks and locusts in summer so weighted with leaves that no light plays within the recess of branches. All the night winds sough through these dusky trees, while slender voices, countless as the little peoples of the earth, murmur in antiphonal chorus.
And above are the patient stars and Milky Way dropping vast fleeces of light upon our earth awhirl in the dear God's Arms.
The West is large. That which would be true of a university in one part of its broad expanse might not be true of another institution of like foundation some distance away. And what might be said of a college or university independent of politics, would in nowise be averable of one pretty well controlled by that perplexing monitor.
Again, a fact which might be asserted of a college built up by some religious denomination might be radically false if claimed for one supported by the taxpayers of a great commonwealth, and hedged by sentiment and statute from the predominance of any ecclesiasticism.
You speak of the general characteristics of the University of Michigan, but these characteristics are not true of the little college down in Missouri, or Kentucky, or Ohio. Neither would the facts of life in some institutions in Chicago be at one with those of a thriving school where conditions are markedly kleinstadtisch.
In speaking of the West we must realize its vast territory and the varying characteristics of its people. Of what is here set down I am positive of its entire truth only so far as one institution is concerned, namely, the titulary--that is, the University of Hesperus--which recalleth the city bespoken in the Gospel according to Matthew--that it is set upon a hill and cannot be hid.