|Chapter Title||HOW I GOT IT.|
|Newspaper Title||Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT : 1873 - 1927)|
|Trove Title||My Doctor's Degree|
MY DOCTOR'S DEGREE.
(Concluded from our last.)
HOW I GOT IT.
Having waited on the road to pay a short visit to an old college friend whom I had not seen for many years, but who I nevertheless knew would feel interested in hearing of my present plans, I did not reach Cambridge till late on the evening following the day of my leaving my parish.
The old town seemed quite strange to me after so many years' absence, but I speedily got installed in comfortable quarters at the Eagle, where, by the by, if alone I should recommend all my gentlemen readers to locate themselves; though I should be inclined to believe that the pleasant private rooms in the Bull Hotel, looking over that most re- nowned Trampington Street, would be preferred by most ladies. To tell the truth, when I first reached Cambridge I wished myself back again in my parish. No one but an old Cambridge man can tell or imagine the feelings which come rushing and flooding in upon you when you visit that scene of these young years of your former life. Whether they look back to follies and extravagancies, wild, reckless deeds and revelries, or to the quiet, steady progress of the striving, persevering student, with perhaps but few pleasures, but certainly with but few pains-all, I should think, must revisit Cambridge with some feelings of melancholy. Everything must be viewed under such a different aspect; there are no longer the same friends about you-they are scattered abroad to ex- perience the world's vicissitudes; and you yourself have been tasting, too, of
life sufficiently to show you that all is not gold that glitters, and that you must be often deceived before you can have confidence in your wisdom. I did not intend to be drawn into this strain of moralizing ; I do not know how it is, but I do sometimes give way to trains of thought to which I formerly was not accustomed. Perhaps it is sermon writing brings on the habit ; but no, it was not so before I was married. Ah ! and that brings me back to my narra- tive of how I got my doctor's degree. My first act was to discover what were the duties I had to perform in order to obtain my object; and really when I heard them I fancied them extremely formidable. My greatest difficulty was
about a Latin sermon, or, as they call it, a concio ad clerum, which I found I had to preach before the University in St. Mary's church. Now I, in my best days, had never been very great in Latin ; it had never as a language been my forte, and certainly the composition of it had always been to me the most difficult part of the study ; and here I
had now to write a sermon in that dread
language, and preach it before learned old doctors, who, thought I, know Latin better than English, and perhaps think in Latin. Well, while I was pondering over my troubles, having written many beginnings to sermons, each of which I had in turn rejected, I received a letter from my old friend in the country, requesting me to call upon a young acquaintance of his at St. John's, who was staying up during the vacation, chiefly, I think, because he had no particular place to which he cared to go. I was very glad to make friends with any one in my present dull state, even with an undergraduate ; I had been away from Cambridge for many years, and, therefore, was not much afflicted with that eye-sore to the younger members of our universities, "donnishness." As I was sitting with him one evening-by-the-by, I think it must have been the first of our acquain- tance-I told him my difficulty about
"My dear sir," said he, directly, " don't trouble yourself for a moment about it; no doubt your Latin has grown a little rusty down in your quiet parish; allow me to write it for you, it will be both interesting and useful to me, and if you don't particularly object to preach
"Thank yon, very sincerely, my young friend," interrupted I; " you will be careful, however, about doctrine, and so on, of course; but I will come -or you had better come and take a quiet dinner with me, and we'll read it over together when you've finished it.
And this was the way I managed to write, or rather not to write, my concio ad clerum. But then came the preach- ing; I confess I was nervous at the idea; conceive a false quantity! The
day came ; the dean and father of the college - the latter, I remember, a young man of abont five-and-twenty accompanied me to the church, and slipped out by a side door as I entered. I was conducted in state to the pulpit, and preached my much-thought-of, much-dreamt-of Latin sermon to the attentive (?) ears of the vice-chancellor, an esquire bedell, and the parish clerk, whom a fee of four shillings reconciled to the infliction I had bestowed upon
This one difficulty over, another com- menced ; for though I was willing to compound by money in order to be free from as many exercises as possible, yet there were some, like this my last ser- mon, far instance, that could not be avoided. To commence, I discovered I was compelled to keep what is termed in university parlance an Act in the pre- sence of the Regius Professor of Di- vinity and other learned dignitaries. I will not, however, enlarge on my trouble on this point, for, by the assist- ance of my young friend at St. John's,
I found that more than two-thirds of
my fears were groundless, and the re- maining third not very tremendous: indeed, the chief annoyance after all was the necessity of sitting in the divinity schools-and a very dull, particularly
sombre kinds or places they are-for some part of three hours ; but as we commenced the proceedings just before the clock struck two, and concluded them a few minutes after the stroke of three, we made, as the saying is, the best of a bad job. The auditory, too, by-the-by, was by no means more for- midable than I had found them in my celebrated condo ad clerum ; the indi- viduals who composed it being, besides the professor and my opponent, only the afore-mentioned college father, aged
Apropos of my opponent, why he
should be called so I don't know, for no two men ever agreed better than we did; we made acquaintance on the spot, and many a long conversation assisted to beguile the tediousness of my sojurn
in Alma Mater. In a moment of con- fidential familiarity I revealed to him reasons for taking "my doctor's de- gree," and with the same spirit he ex- plained to be his motives for undertak- ing the same step.
" The fact is, Mr. Smith," said he, " that I am in the habit of scribbling and publishing a little, and as the pub-
lishers and booksellers tell me that D.D. after a name adds a certain degree of weight to the book, why I consented to adopt these cabalistic letters ; and be- tween you and myself I hope the alte- ration will pay the expense."
I liked the man for his honesty.
"But," added he, "to-morrow, if you are willing, I will introduce you to a soon-to-be fellow doctor of ourselves, whose case bears some slight resem- blance to yours. He has married a lady with a title, and I fancy that all will soon discover that his sole object in fol- lowing our course is that Doctor and Lady Emily Patten sounds vastly more satisfactory to both parties than Mr. and Lady Emily Patten.
The next day fully confirmed what my friend had told me. Never was a poor man more belabored by a title than
was I-no man before could ever have been so loved by a Lady Emily. " Pray, Mr. Smith, step up for one moment, I have a word to say to Lady Emily ; you must let me introduce you to her lady- ship, she will be delighted to know you."
Poor Lady Emily ! she was very fat, certainly above forty, and it would be most unfair to call her fair ; but Lady Emily suffered much from nervous de- bility, she told me. It might be so, and perhaps that may account for her rather steady application to port wine, which I remarked when I dined with her lady- ship. It has been said to be a good remedy for ladies. Peace be with thee, Lady Emily!
In order to avoid keeping certain ex- ercises, it is customary to deposit about fifty pounds in the university chest, as a pledge that during the ensuing term you will come up and keep them ; in case of failing to do so the sum is forfeited. To obtain this permission I was compelled to obtain what is called a caution grace, for which purpose it is necessary to procure the signatures of a majority of the heads of colleges, that is, nine out of the seventeen. For this purpose, accompanied by my college parent, I occupied nearly the whole of a morning, besides an hour and a half in the evening, in calling at the different lodges. I might write much concern- ing my reception by each master; I might tell of the haughty bearishness of a Hill, the polished courtesy of a French, the gentleman-like affability of a Latham, or the pleasant cordiality of an Ains- worth ; but this would fill too much paper, and is not strictly connected with the matter I am describing, Suffice it to say, that by the time the nine names were procured I felt myself considerably weary, and not disposed to commence my sermon for the following Sunday, for I had yet another official discourse to deliver, but, happily for me, in my own mother tongue. I had thought much upon this sermon ; I intended it to be a sermon of no ordinary excel- lence ; and when, having read it over for the third time on Saturday evening, I made my last final alterations, I con- fess that I felt a proper pride in my production. Being the vacation I knew that there would be but a small con- gregation present; but I felt rather nervous in the anticipation. The man- ner of the ceremony (for ceremony it is in a great measure) is this.
On entering the vestry you are re- spectfully informed that your place is
there. I confess that I did not quite, understand what this meant, till I was enlightened by being placed on a small mat just inside the door; there to stand unnoticed and apart from the various heads and professors that gardually drop in and chat carelessly round the table. A little bell tinkles, the organ swells forth, the two esquire bedells with their large silver maces of office head the procession, the vice-chancel- lor, masters, and professors, and others that bear office in that one body, slowly follow to the gallery appropriated to their especial use (rejoicing, by-the-by, in the rather opposite names of "throne" and "Golgotha"), and the preacher still remains standing on his mat. But another esquire bedell now comes to him, and preceding him down the body of the church called the pit, between rows of M.A.'s and fel- low-commoners, leaves him at the bottom of the round pulpit, ascend- ing which by some internal wind- ing stair, the preacher then reappears from its bowels in a style which has been known in some cases to suggest to infantine minds in the aisles below the idea of that amusing and well-known toy, Jack-in-the-box. In truth, that Church of St. Mary, in term time, on a Sunday afternoon, is a right noble sight. The deep side and west galleries crowded with the undergraduates, the body equally densely filled with the masters of arts, the east gallery with
its doctors and noblemen, are a sight which once seen is not easily forgotten. How different is this, thought I, to my simple church with its poorly-clad wor- shippers ! and yet, when I returned and preached on the first Sunday, I rejoiced in the difference, and would not have changed their attentive faces for all the pomp and pride of great St. Mary's.
And now, my different duties com- pleted, nothing remained but the cere- mony itself to be performed upon me; and when the day arrived it certainly appeared to me a strange performance. After a long Latin speech, read in a deeply impressive manner by the Pro- fessor of Divinity, but of which, un- fortunately, through my afore-men- tioned small knowledge of the language, I understood but very little, we stood round him, while he certainly treated us in the most confidential and endear-
ing manner. Taking us each separately by the hand he bade us sit in his own seat ; but this was a trying part to un- dergo, for wearied with my long stand- ing, I, to whom he addressed himself first, was so enchanted with what I thought his politeness, that gladly did I seat myself in his well-padded velvet chair of state ; scarcely, how- ever, had I leaned back in its luxurious arms, ere he, in the same polite manner, handed me from it, and performed the tantilizing office to my companions. He then placed a velvet hat on each of our heads, then his ring on each of our fingers, and lastly, to crown his delicate attentions, he bestowed a kiss on our right cheeks.
And this was how I got "my doctor's degree." I sometimes doubt whether I am happier than I was before ; but Mrs. Smith is often talking to me of the delightful change which has taken place in my condition, so I take her word, for surely she ought to know.