The Spike: or, Victoria College Review 1912
A work of Genius
A work of Genius.
At an early hour in the morning a student, exercising his limbs, or perhaps communing with the sunrise, on Kelburne Park, came suddenly into contact with a loose leaf of foolscap. Under the impression that it might perchance be a spare copy of Prof. Garrow's much-prized notes, he hastily grasped the interesting document, out found, to his sorrow, that 'twas nothing more than a page of prose, written in an unfamiliar tongue. This page he carried to a certain Professor of Languages, in the hope that it might be something of importance; and that worthy gentleman has pronounced it to be a letter written in Anglo-French (a new language).
In the opinion of the Professor the writer of this manuscript is some student of languages, who, inspired by the work of Montesquieu, has aspired to writing a book of letters, modelled on the "Lettres Persanes," and dealing with the affairs of the College; and that, during a period of insomnia, caused by the production of so brilliant a work, this genius has wandered disconsolate on Kelburne Park, where the gentle breezes have played havoc with the masterpiece, and scattered some of its pages broadcast.
The following is a rough translation of the letter, which may serve to show the Spike reading public how much genius passes through the College corridors unnoticed:—
The College Student to His Friend
To-day we have had a lecture, most delightfully entertaining, concerning the vagaries of Voltaire, the importance of being a good cook rather than a cultured musician, and capability of women to manage men. 'Almost any woman,' says Monsieur, 'can manage any man.' If not, she is unworthy to be put into a play.' Monsieur le professeur is a strange man. Always one finds in his lectures something of the delicious quality that one calls the 'spice.' Perhaps it is a little anecdote of the pleasant life of a rich prisoner in the Bastille, or perhaps a page 12 startling theory concerning the habits of man—as for example, that he tries at all times to give a false impression, since to appear in his true colours would show him to be a person very insignificant indeed. But whether it be this or that, be assured that there is always something by means of which even the dullest student may call to mind the teachings of Monsieur. With what great relish did he tell us of that little epigram of Voltaire: 'Our descendants will tell lies just as our ancestors did.' One imagines that he spoke with the conviction of experience.
Eh bien, concerning your question as to whether Noah was responsible for the celebrated bon mot 'after the deluge,' by dint of much reading in our extended library I have discovered that the remark belongs to no less a personage than Madame Pompadour, regarding whom you, of a certainty, must know something.
The customs of the people of this College are quite extraordinary. At the commencement one joins clubs innumerable, and afterwards complains that one has no time to attend their meetings. Of their library, all the world says 'It is hopelessly inadequate,' and yet there are but a learned few who read more than the books set apart for the purposes of examinations. Many people there are who, in public places, make witty jokes, but few save themselves find these laughable.
There is just returned to this city one who has been to America—a man with a broad smile and poetic tendencies. One says that he is favouably impressed as regards Americans—more particularly concerning the women—but that he insists that our idea of their method of speech is entirely unfounded. They speak the mother tongue quite as well as we—if not better. Absurd, is it not?
But why worry you with these details? Altogether, these are a delightful people, for the most part very young, but wholly natural in manner—a charm that is rarely to be found in these times of artificiality.Wellington, 9th September, 1912.