« AnteriorContinuar »
in college may not be actually compelled to eat the dinner supplied in hall, any more than the proverbial horse can be made to drink the water; but he is obliged to pay for a certain amount of dinners in the week. Even in colleges where a man is allowed to take his name off hall as often as he likes, there is often a fine attached to the privilege. And in most colleges the rule is, that five dinners in the week are charged for at the full price. Moreover, it is only quite recently that undergraduates have been permitted by the University authorities to dine at their own expense anywhere except in hall, or in the case of out-college men at their lodgings. In addition to the ordinary or, to use a truer term, the extraordinary charges made for dinners at Oxford hotels, there is always for the undergraduate world a pleasing risk of being called upon to contribute a sovereign to the University chest for infringing the statutes. No doubt the original intention of this statute was to check the needless expense incurred by dining out of college, now practically nullified by the increased expense of the college dinner. It is only quite latterly that owing to a wise system of tolerance on the part of the authorities, one or two of the clubs have taken the initiative in supplying dinners at a moderate price. And here we may remark en passant that we have never yet heard of a case in which this liberty has been abused. We may even go further and say, that the presence of such competition has had a decidedly salutary effect in the way of improving the dinners and reducing the charges both of college cooks and of licensed lodging-house keepers. To return to our subject. These cooks-or, to give them their proper title, these kitchen farmers-are wise men enough in their generation. In one case which we happen to know of, and probably in others, they forestall complaint by serving up a really excellent dinner at a very moderate price-to the high table. The undergraduates have to be content with a very inferior table-d'hôte at about the same price. Common-room life is, we regret to say, apt to engender a certain amount of animal selfishness, and, provided that his own table be sufficiently furnished with royal dainties, the college fellow will often turn a deaf ear to the complaint of the undergraduate on the subject of the food supplied to him. Impunity in this as in other cases leads to audacity, and so it comes to pass that during the summer term, when cold dinners and late suppers are in vogue, the kitchen farmer does not hesitate to charge such prices as 17. 48. for a leg of elderly lamb, and 108. a couple for doubtful fowls. From four to five shillings is about the ordinary charge at a college in the High Street for a plain, very plain, cold
I always seem to run it up to 88.' This we have a distinct recollection of hearing an undergraduate say. Complaint is made, and it is decided by the official supervisor of the kitchen arrangements that the cook's charge is not excessive. 'The man must make his fair profit,' argues this gentleman, and the fellows are perfectly satisfied with the food and the price. It is a very minor considera
tion what the undergraduate may feel on such subjects. We have heard it stated that an eminent firm of contractors once declared that they would be willing to supply the ordinary hall dinners at less than one shilling per head, on the understanding that they were also to provide the college servants. We quite believe that they would make a fair profit out of the transaction. It is certain, at all events, that sundry of these kitchen farmers have made fortunes at the expense of the British parents who send their sons to the dearer colleges at Oxford.
It remains to make a few remarks on the subject of Oxford lodging-houses, which are nominally under the supervision of the University. Now, when we use the expression nominally under the supervision of the University,' we do not wish for an instant to imply that they are under anybody else's supervision. But we do plead guilty to a doubt as to their being really under any supervision at all. Certain delegates are appointed who, rumour says, sit for certain days in every week. And this statement we are quite willing to accept. In fact, so far as we know to the contrary, these gentlemen may sit every day and every hour of their lives; they certainly do not move much when their charge is concerned. Occasionally some new besom commences to sweep with some freedom at first. Raids have been made on lodgings, the story goes, where a servant girl, somewhat cleaner and better-looking than most of her class, was suspected of being likely to captivate the affections or undermine the morality of some over-susceptible youth. And the general result of these occasional fits of anxiety has been that the Oxford slavey' is conspicuous beyond her fellows for slovenliness and generally unhealthy and unprepossessing exterior. But the really obnoxious characterthe lodging-house keeper himself-retains his vantage-ground unsuspected and triumphant. We are far from wishing to imply that there are no thoroughly honest and respectable lodging-house keepers in Oxford. We might even go so far as to say that, according to their own lights, they are honest as a class. As a class they are also unreasonably extortionate. Nor can we altogether blame them. Custom is a rigid master. It is too much the custom among the citizens of Oxford to imagine that the ordinary undergraduate has either the purse of Fortunatus, or is at any rate a bird who can stand being plucked. So long as the University or the individual colleges take no active steps to put the lodging-houses on a more satisfactory footing, so long will the undergraduates in lodgings be at the mercy of their landlords. Let us examine a little more closely the present system.
An authorised list is issued by the delegates of licensed lodgings, and the price of each lodging is duly registered. They range from 108. to 608. a week. But let not the confiding undergraduate, who, fresh from school, flies to neither extreme, but takes fairly good rooms at from 208. to 308.-let him not, we say, lay to his soul the flattering unction that the higher or lower sum represents anything like
the real cost of his apartments. The extras' he will find to be in an Oxford lodging a very important consideration. These extras vary not a little in amount at different houses. We will give an instance of what extras may amount to from personal experience. We took lodgings in Oxford not very long ago, not as a freshman but as having had some experience of lodgings in other towns. While we were actuated by motives of economy, we had our own private ideas of comfort, and we aspired to lodgings at 258. a week; comfortable rooms enough, but by no means luxuriously furnished. We were content with very plain food, and for some days imagined we were living well within the margin of a modest income. At the end of the first week we wished to settle our account. Our landlord seemed to be quite hurt at the notion. Ready money was apparently no object to him. In fact he said so in almost as many words.
'My gentlemen,' he was pleased to remark, usually pay at the end of the term. We never care about being paid before." The extreme affability of the man awoke our suspicions, and we persisted in our request. In the course of the day our bill was brought. When we caught sight of the list of 'extras' we were no longer surprised that the production of the bill should have been delayed. We give the charges as we found them :
These were the 'extras.' The following was the scale of the ordinary
Breakfast, consisting of tea, dry toast and
o per diem
A cup of tea (our own tea)
38. 6d. to 5
In addition to this, a pound each of coffee, tea and sugar, had been purchased for our use.
In plain words, the Oxford lodging-house keeper considers himself justified in charging hotel prices for the meals which he supplies, and at the same time making his victims pay twice over for many separate items in the collective account. To live in lodgings at Oxford on the same footing as one would live in lodgings elsewhere, providing one's own food and paying one's own bills, is out of the question. The lodging-house keeper, like the kitchen farmer, enjoys a monopoly, and the demand for lodgings in the more central parts of the town is always at least equal to the supply.
'If you don't like the rooms, Sir, I've plenty of applications for them. Only, of course, you must pay for the term.' Such is the answer given to the undergraduate who may happen to discover at the end of his first week that he is expected to pay 50s. for accommodation which he had contracted to receive at 258. In the majority of cases the discovery is made at the end of the first term. The Oxford freshman is of an unsuspicious turn of mind, and can see no reason why his own conduct in respect of looking at his weekly account should vary from my other gentlemen,' who prefer to have their bill sent in at the end of term.
It has been urged in extenuation of these preposterous charges that lodging-house keepers at Oxford have only six months in the year during which to make their living. But the fact must not be lost sight of that the occupation of the lodgings at Oxford is during term-time almost a certainty, even under existing circumstances, and would be quite a certainty were some of the charges modified. Moreover the period of residence in Oxford constitutes a longer and a more certain season than that in London or sea-side places; and, after all, the cry of short seasons' is in every instance a mere excuse for extortionate prices. And we may remark that very few of the Oxford lodging-house keepers are entirely dependent on their lodgings for support. Most of them have some further definite occupation; many keep shops, and in some cases the production of the regular bill at the end of term is supplemented by an ingenious and unassailable shop account.'
Complaint to the delegates is generally ineffectual. The landlord is careful to keep within the letter, though he may violate the spirit, of the agreement signed at the beginning of each term. Yes, and there are cases where no complaint is made from prudential motives. What Jugurtha said of Rome holds good, we fear, of Oxford, Omnia sunt venalia,' and that especially in the matter of the lodging-house system. The boy-lodger is willing to overlook the landlord's excessive charges; the landlord-for there is a quid pro quo for everythingis equally ready to doctor the gate bill which is sent in every week to the college authorities. This is true of many lodging-houses, duly licensed by the University delegates, and therefore liable to be let to boys fresh from school.
That such a state of things should exist is as discreditable to University management as it is impossible that there should be no remedy for it. Neither the University as a body nor the individual colleges can be considered poor. The larger colleges, at any rate, with such a system of general accounts as we have given a specimen of, ought to be very rich, and these are the colleges which send most men into lodgings. What is there to prevent them from gradually getting into their own hands eligible lodging-houses, and putting in occupation as landlords superannuated servants, or other pensioners, whose charges should be fixed and payable through the college bursar. The new buildings which we see annually rising around us seem to be
the real cost of his apartments.
were living wel' of the first seemed to be no object t • My S end of t1 treme
in our we cr
the University. It it those talked of Oxoincomes, for the purpose of the present type. First let il be time enough to invite
even on the present system of raduate. We should be rather by their present system of maof money is spent in many colleges. e are informed in one quarter that mer receives an annual fixed salary of rable percentage of the profits of the cutler resigned his situation in order to cs, on the ground that the latter was the
d when, in addition to this, we see college en at Oxford rapidly acquiring fortunes, swered. Our own impression is that twenty years rangements of many of our colleges will have ery sweeping reforms, or the majority of Oxford
ure in the calendar as non-ascripti, and will ents of the licensed lodging-house keepers by on the principle of the present St. Catharine's we powers that be in Oxford to decide whether such As at all desirable.
Reform is, as we have said said, breathing over the Oxford, and amongst its partisans are to be found the my of Alma Mater's most distinguished sons. There is
hope that the changes in the matter of the Schools,' e being gradually introduced, will, under their guidance, changes for the better. And if a University education doubt it has, a beneficial effect on those who receive it, by at the privilege be extended as widely as possible. But
and the most essential step towards opening the universities he poorer classes of society must consist in giving the means of ising to such of the present class of undergraduates as have ew, and that can only be done by a considerable reduction of cical expenses.
NOTICE TO CORRESPONDENTS.
Communications to the Editor should be addressed to him at 39 Abw 8.C. As the Magazine has an ample staff of Contributors, MSS. are not invited sont previous correspondence, and uninvited MSS. cannot be returned exat the convenience of the Editor. No copies of verses can be returned.