RECORD: Winstanley, D. A. ed. 1932. Henry Gunning: Reminiscences of Cambridge. Cambridge: University Press, pp. 32-41.
REVISION HISTORY: Photocopied by Candace Guite, scanned and OCRed by John van Wyhe. RN1
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Reminiscences of Cambridge
A SELECTION CHOSEN BY
D. A. WINSTANLEY
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
tually repaid. Bullen said that a Fellow of Sidney, of the name of Heslop, a particular friend of his mother, would lend it him for that short time. He made the application and succeeded, and the two friends set off for town. They attended several of the meetings in the Abbey, and at the end of the week thought of returning to Cambridge. On examining the state of their finances, they found that they had barely sufficient to take them to Cambridge on the outside of the coach. Tunstal proposed that they should put into their pockets and wrap about their persons as much of their clothes and linen as they conveniently could, and that the rest should be left at the Golden Cross, Charing Cross. Tunstal's whole wardrobe was disposed about his person; but Bullen was under the necessity of leaving a considerable part of his behind, particularly a coat which he had scarcely worn. In walking towards the George and Blue Boar, Tunstal laughed at his friend for his reluctance at leaving his best coat behind. A quarrel took place, and they parted, Tunstal taking the coach for Cambridge, and Bullen returning to the Golden Cross. He then confessed to his landlord the trick he had intended to play him, and told him how he had been duped by his friend. The landlord was pleased with his frankness, and suffered him to depart the next morning, taking his baggage with him, a written promise being given by Bullen that
he would send the money that was owing the very first opportunity. When he returned he applied to Tunstal for the money, who told him that his friends had deceived him, and that he was not likely to get any from that quarter. Heslop dunned poor BuUen two or three times a day, and at length applied to his mother, who out of a very limited income sent her son sufficient to pay his debts. In the spring of the following year Tunstal, who had been an unsuccessful candidate for a fellowship, was obliged to quit college: he went to America, where he became an assistant in a school.
Among the persons whom I was in the habit of meeting at the rooms of my friend Banks was Hare Townsend, a Fellow-commoner of Trinity Hall, and the only son of Alderman Townsend, of Bruce Castle. By relating an anecdote concerning him, I can best illustrate the manners of the University at that particular period. Entering the hall of Magdalene College one evening, much intoxicated, when the Society were at supper, he went to the Pensioners' table, laughed at the paltry fare with which they were regaling themselves, and said, if they would sup with him the following evening, he would show them how gentlemen ought to live. The Fellows were at supper at the upper table, but though he was in his cap and gown, and made a great noise, they took no notice whatever of the intrusion. Strange and almost incredible as it may
appear, it is a positive fact that all the members of the Pensioners' table (with the exception of two or three) accepted the invitation thus given from a man they had never seen before. The next evening the undergraduates went in a body to Townsend's room; he had ordered a magnificent supper to be prepared, and desired the butler to buy a new pail in which the punch was to be served up. As the butler was carrying the pail across the court in the dark, a magpie belonging to the college, whose conversational talents had rendered him a great favourite with the whole Society, perched upon the edge of the pail. The butler attempted to brush him off, but unfortunately brushed him into it: this was not discovered until the pail was set upon the table, when the magpie was irrecoverably dead. The evening was passed in a convivial manner, perfectly new to the undergraduates of Magdalene, whose temperate habits and devotion to tea were quite proverbial.
I well remember another occurrence at Trinity Hall, which happened within my own knowledge. One of the Fellow-commoners had taken his degree, and was about to quit college, which event they celebrated in the following manner: After supper, they brought into the centre of the court all the hampers they could find filled with straw, on the top of which they placed his tables, and on these they set the chairs, and the whole were surmounted
by his cap, gown, and surplice: they then set lire to the hampers, and with loud shouts danced round the pile till the whole was consumed. No college censure was passed upon the actors in this frantic exhibition, nor was there any investigation into the circumstances.
The great source of idleness, which consumed more time than all my other employments put together, was my passion for shooting, for which diversion Cambridge afforded the most extraordinary facilities. In going over the land now occupied by Downing-terrace, you generally got live or six shots at snipes. Crossing the Leys, you entered on Coe-Fen; this abounded with snipes. Walking through the osier-bed on the Trumpington side of the brook, you frequently met with a partridge, and now and then a pheasant. From thence to the lower end of Pemberton's garden was one continued marsh, which afforded plenty of snipes, and in the month of March a hare or two. If you chose to keep on by the side of the river, you came to Harston-Ham, well known to sportsmen; and at no great distance from this you arrived at Foulmire Mere, which produced a great variety of wildfowl. The heavy coach changed horses at the Swan, and would set you down, between seven and eight o'clock, at the Blue Boar. If you started from the other corner of Parker's Piece, you came to Cherryliinton Fen; from thence to Taversham,
Quy, Bottisham, and Swaffham Fens. In taking this beat, you met with great varieties of wildfowl, bitterns, plovers of every description, ruffs and reeves, and not unfrequently pheasants. If you did not go very near the mansions of the few country gentleman who resided in the neighbourhood, you met with no interruption. You scarcely ever saw the gamekeeper, but met with a great number of young lads, who were on the look-out for sportsmen from the University, whose game they carried, and to whom they furnished long poles, to enable them to leap those very wide ditches which intersected the Fens in every direction. I am happy to say that these incentives to idleness no longer exist. Thousands and tens of thousands of acres of land, which at the time I speak of produced to the owners only turf and sedge, are now bearing most luxuriant crops of corn. By removing a number of locks, which were formerly considered essential to the navigation of the Cam, and by deepening the channel, they have at the same time improved the river, and drained the lands to a considerable distance from its banks. At a few feet below the surface they meet with clay*, which proves the most valuable manure to the land; the crops are most abundant, and in a
* Oak-trees, as black and almost as hard as ebony, together with the antlers of stags, are found in great numbers, from which it appears that the Fens were once a huge forest.
few years the rents will be much higher than those of the best uplands. A large steam-engine, that was erected for the purpose of throwing the superfluous water into the river, is frequently employed in throwing it back again to supply the cattle with water, of which in dry summers they are frequently in want. The sport which the Fens afforded, and of which I was so fond, unfortunately could be pursued with success during every month in the year. A very common practice, during the spring and summer months, was for a party to divide into two sets, one on a shooting scheme, and the other on a boating and fishing expedition, both parties agreeing to meet and dine at Clayhithe. There was a public-house on each side of the river, where fish was dressed to perfection; the charges were very moderate, and the ale very good. The fishing-party (who frequently went as far as Upware, and occasionally to Dimmock's Court) scarcely ever failed to get an abundance of fish; but if they were unfortunate, the landlord of the smaller house had well-stored ponds, from which the deficiency was quickly and amply supplied. Some of the party were in the habit of gambling in the following way: They bargained with the proprietor of these ponds to be allowed to keep all the fish they caught at a single throw, or any number of throws, for a sum agreed on: the sum varied from half-a-crown to a guinea, according to the size of the net, the
skill of the caster, the state of the ponds, and the number of throws. Two things were remarkable; though some splendid pike and perch were occasionally caught, yet the proprietor was always a winner. Sometimes I have been called out to see a person land an enormous fish which was visibly enclosed in the net. In his anxiety to make sure of his prize, he thankfully followed the advice, or gladly accepted the assistance, of a good-natured bystander, who was smoking his pipe by the side of the water, and who was usually a friend of the landlord; it is scarcely necessary to add, that with such an assistant the huge fish generally escaped. The pull against the stream, with the unwieldy boats then in use, was an arduous task, and we returned home more fatigued by our day's 'pleasure than a bricklayer's labourer after the hardest day's work.
Smoking was at that time going out of fashion amongst the junior members of our combination rooms, except on the river in the evening, when every man put a short pipe in his mouth. I took great pains to make myself master of this elegant accomplishment, but I never succeeded, though I used to renew the attempt with a perseverance worthy of a better cause. When we arrived at Chesterton, two or three of our party would sometimes leave the boat and stop to play at billiards; but this was generally disapproved of, and the billiard-
players were seldom admitted into our future parties.
At that time supper was the usual meal of society, the cooks (by an order made the year before I came to college) not being allowed to furnish a dinner to an undergraduate without a note from one of the Tutors, which was never granted except some strangers were expected. A supper, to men of your own college, was in general a very harmless, inexpensive affair. At eight o'clock, your bed-maker brought you a "sizi rig-bill" ( a bill of fare, in which the price of each article was set down); you chose what you thought proper, and ordered it to be taken to the room of the friend by whom you had been asked to sup. As we dined at half-past one, and there was no supper in the hall, there were several of these parties every night. Our host furnished bread and cheese, butter and beer. No wine was introduced, but the master of the feast prepared, before the arrival of his guests, a quantity of punch which he put into a tea-pot, and placed on the hob by the fireside to keep it hot. These tea-pots were of various sizes (some of them enormous), and supplied by the bed-makers, who charged according to the size. Nothing could be more unexceptionable than these meetings.
One of the places of attraction about this time was a very small and humble looking house, about the middle of what is now called King's Parade, in
which was a shop window fitted with a glass case, containing trinkets and jewellery of various kinds. At the back of this case was placed a chair sufficiently elevated to show the bust of the person who sat on it. As soon as the fashionable world began to move, which at that period was between 10 and 11 a.m., this seat was occupied by a very handsome girl, whom it was not a difficult matter to recognise as a Jewess. The shop, which would not hold more than half-a-dozen persons, was always filled with University men, usually among the higher class, and in the course of the morning a considerable portion of the contents of the glass case had found purchasers; some of them were taken away, but the larger portion were offered to the Lady of the Shrine which, with much affected reluctance, she at length consented to receive. These little coquett-ings displayed by the young Jewess were most fascinating, and showed she had been skilfully trained. The trinkets thus restored gradually found their way again into the glass-case, where they were so judiciously arranged that few persons would detect having seen them before. Rose Elkin was in truth a finished coquette; she was devoted to admiration, but I never heard the slightest impeachment on her character. She was never to be seen in the street without her mother; and when any party was formed, or any country excursion planned, she only accepted the invitation with the
proviso that her mother was to accompany her. I remember but one man who could boast of having had a tete-a-tete with her; his name was Dilke, of Emmanuel, and he effected it by the following stratagem: A party had been formed for passing the day at Bourn Bridge, and Dilke was to convey her and her mother. When they arrived at Babraham plantations, he contrived to drop his handkerchief, as if by accident, out of the carriage window. The old woman begged him to pick it up, but he replied he would not leave the carriage for a dozen handkerchiefs. She remonstrated with him on his extravagance, remarking on the texture of the cambric, being of the most expensive description. He laughingly told her, that if she would get out and pick it up, she should have it for her trouble. When fairly on her way, Dilke intimated to the postilion to drive on, and the old lady was obliged to follow on foot to Bourn Bridge, which was, fortunately for her, but a very short distance. She arrived in a great rage, but was at length pacified by Dilke promising her five more handkerchiefs to make up a set.
Some of the aristocratic admirers of the beautiful Jewess (for she was indeed beautiful, and Shylock would have been proud of her, particularly as she would have added to his jewels, instead of squandering them away), were very desirous she should be seen by the Prince of Wales, who never failed attending Newmarket Races.
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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