12 MARCH 1864, Page 10


OXFORD during the last week has been the scene of two con- tests. That which we suppose we must call the greater of these has ended more disgracefully for the University than any in which she has been engaged in our time, and we sorrowfully own that that is saying a good deal. The Carlton Club has managed, with its usual happy knack, to drag its favourite seat of learning through the mud before the eyes of educated Europe, and to cause that learned body to do an act of mean dishonesty at which an insolvent Jew attorney would blush. Every honest Oxford man must be conscious of a feeling of personal disgrace whenever he thinks of his University ; a disgrace which cannot be wiped out until, not compensation—that is now beyond the power of Queen, Lords, and Commons, Hebdomadal Board, or the British nation— but some decent acknowledgment, has been made to Mr. Jowett for the noble devotion of eight of the best years of his life to the exhausting work, which the richest educational corporation in the world has allowed him to perform, as it has never yet been per- formed within their walls, without thanks and without salary.

Our concern, however, to-day is with the other contest, which came off on Saturday last, in the presence we are assured of up- words of 4,000 spectators, in the inclosure, and double that number in the road, on the new cricket-ground which the Christ- Church men have laid down, a little way on the other side of the Magdalen turnpike. Here the first of what are now to be yearly contests in athletic games between Oxford and Cambridge was held with great success. On the whole, we should think the spot chosen a better one both for soil and situation than Pont Meadow, where races used to be run in our day, and are not sorry that such tradition as there was should have been disregarded.

In passing, let us ask why at our great schools and colleges " athletic -games" should be always interpreted to mean simply running and jumping? The prejudices which are supposed to attach to such places would naturally lead them at least to admit the five classical games. Is, it a part of the national instinct to cultivate the legs in preference to all other parts of the body? We are certainly the only people who delight in walking or running for their own sakes. Philosophers have maintained the legs to be the most strictly human of all portions of the frame. " The two accomplishments," says Mr. Wendell Holmes, in his late in- genious essay on " The Human Wheel, its Spokes, and Felloes," " common to all mankind are talking and walking. Simple as they seem, they are yet acquired with vast labour, and very rarely understood by those who practise them." He maintains walking to be rather the more difficult and distinctively human of the two. On some such grounds, perhaps, our seats of learning base them- selves. With every wish, however, to treat the functions of the legs with all due consideration, we would put in a plea on behalf of other muscles. The " deltoid " and " biceps " should come in for their fair share of cultivation and honours, nor do we see why the " serratus magnus "and " rhomboidius" (so wonderfully developed, if the photographs spy truly, in Tom Sayers, and which give him his prodigious hitting power) should not be able to make a case for themselves against the rectus femoris," and that respectable muscle at the back of the thigh, commonly known as the " tailor's muscle," we have forgotten the scientific name. We were present at a joint festival of two gymnastic societies, a German and an English, held at the Crystal Palace last autumn, at which there were two exercises specially provided for the legs, running and jumping; two for the arms, ascending ropes and putting weights ; and two for the whole body, climbing a pole and the parallel and horizontal bars. Of course no strict line can be drawn between these exercises, all of them try more or less the whole frame. But the principle and aim of these societies, were, to our own tbintring, sounder than those of the Oxford and Cambridge Cominittee. They gave marks for each exercise, and prizes to those who gained the largest number on the whole series. No competitor could enter in one or two only and gain a prize. On that occasion we were very much struck by the marked supe- riority of the young Germans in all exercises except the running and jumping. In these our native youth so thoroughly beat the foreigners that, on the whole, a fair average of the prizes went to Englishmen ; but one could not help regretting that a little more scientific training had not been devoted to the upper members of young England.

It may be answered that the Universities supply the needful general training in boating and cricketing, which is doubtless to a certain extent true. All we are saying is, that there are many and admirable gymnastic exercises which would naturally be included under the title "athletic games," and which might beneficially be added to the present curriculum. It is, perhaps, doubtful whether it would be possible or advisable to work thoroughly out the gym- nastic rivalry between the two Universities. There are three sports which, more equally and searchingly than any others, try every muscle of the body, and every vital function, viz., boating, boxing, and wrestling; cricketing is not severe enough, fencing is

one-sided, developing the right arm and left leg almost to deformity. Of the three supreme gymnastic tests, then, boating is already provided for satisfactorily. Boxing, we fear, can never be introduced into these yearly competitions, for the simple reason that the only real test of superiority therein is " giving out," as the chawbacons say. First blood or first knock-down blow would be utterly fallacious tests, which the rival youth of the Universities would savagely scout, and no umpire or referee could enforce when the men's blood was up. But this is not so with wrestling. The best of three fair back falls is a perfectly under- stood and acknowledged law, which every man would accept in a moment ; and wrestling, though perhaps more trying to the body, is far less trying to the temper than boxing. It has the advantage, too (kicking being prohibited, as, of course, it would be between gentlemen), of being the most interesting of all games to watch to any one who has a glimmering of first principles. On the whole, then, we hope to live to see Oxford and Cambridge contending in the wrestling ring as well as on the river. The national sport is sadly losing ground both in the far north and far west. Cumberland and Westmoreland, Cornwall and Devon, would wake up again if they heard that the young squire and the parson's son knew how to play, and had stood a good bout for the honour of their University. We have wandered away from our text, an error excusable, perhaps, when our subject was legs. To return to Saturday's games, we notice, in the first place, that no reasonably good account of them has yet appeared. It is quite useless to tell us that A cleared 5 feet 4 inches, while B knocked down the cross-bar at 5 feet. We cannot the least tell from these premisses which is the best height jumper. The same with the long jump. Little Tomkins, b feet 2 in height., jumps 16 feet, or three times the length of his own small person with half a foot to spare. Jenkins, who stands 6 feet in his stockings, and has a loin like a cat, and not an ounce of flesh on his long carcase, jumps 17 feet 6 inches, or three times his own length less half a foot, and stands first in the newspaper Lists. Obviously to judge at all as to the comparative merits of the men you must, at least, have a careful statement of their height and weight. Possibly, however, our old friend Bell's Life will give us all necessary information, and we shall refer to those racy columns with more than usual interest, for several of the races, notably the second hurdle race of 200 yards, is involved in more than usual penny-a-line mistiness at present. How, "at the end," Wynne Finch could have "taken a flying leap at a drop of 2 feet," so winning "by a few inches only," while Daniel " got the second place by half a yard," we are profoundly puzzled to understand.

But let us, 0 muse of muscular Christianity I here sing the names of heroes. The contests were eight in number, out of these two Oxford men won 4 ; Gooch, of Merton, the high and long jumps ; and Derbyshire, of Wadham, the 100 yards and half-mile flat races. Four victors came from the banks of Cam, all of them of Trinity, of whom Daniel won the 120 yards hurdle race, Wynne Finch (as above narrated) the 200 yards hurdle race, Laws the one-mile flat race, and Garnett the steeple-chase, over two miles of fair hunting country.

The performances were on the average decidedly good, taking the state of the ground into account. The high jumping was, on the whole, the most remarkable. There were four competitors. Of these the winner, Gooch, cleared 5 feet 5 inches ; Osborne, of Trinity, Cambridge, and Wyatt Smith, of Christchurch, cleared 5 feet 4 inches ; and Getty, of Christ's, Cambridge, .5 feet 3 inches. This is first-rate. There are a great many easier things to do than clearing a gate 4 feet 6 inches high, which is, or was in our time, the test of a first-class jumper. After that every inch told more and more, and you would rarely find more than one or two boys in a generation at a public school, and perhaps three or four at Oxford or Cambridge, who could make certain of anything over 5 feet. If readers will consider the amount of spring it must take, in direct contravention of the laws of gravitation, to throw a body weighing from 140 to 170 lbs. (the average weight of young English athletes) from the ground 5 feet into the air, and then contemplate that as residing in one of their own legs—for you can only take off from one leg at a time—they will, we think, rise from such contemplation humbler and wiser men. We have not space for criticism on the races, and, as above stated, our information is defective. In conclusion, how- ever, we must congratulate the Universities on having made another step towards recognizing this branch of a liberal education, hitherto much neglected.

Perhaps we are over-sanguine in inferring anything from the presence of many of the College authorities, but the names of such well-known men as the Rev. A. H. Faber, of New College, and the Rev. Leslie Stephen, of Trinity Hall, who acted, the one as judge, the other as referee, show at once • that it is not a simple undergraduate movement, and so likely to fall through in a year or two. The more such a rivalry can be recognized and cal- tivatcd the better it would be for the Universities. We groaned over the billiard matches between them, which were started last year, and hope never to hear more of them. Billiards is a fine game, but its necessary surroundings at Oxford and Cambridge— and in London, too, for the matter of that—make it irredeemably slang and demoralizing. We would about as soon see the game of unlimited loo or chicken hazard proposed as an object of academical distinction. But nothing can be better for young England than the public rivaly in cricket, boating, tennis, and racquets, which we have already, and which may now, with a little care, be thoroughly supplemented by this yearly meeting for athletic games. There will be nothing to desire soon in the shape of encouragement for the scientific pursuit of gymnastics. Oxford, at least, has no excuse for shortcomings, having a first-rate pro- fessor at her doors in Mr. Maclaren, perhaps the most scientific gymnast now living, and we seriously believe that the future chances of success in life of nine Oxford men out of ten would be twice what they are if they would put themselves through his course during their undergraduate years. The tenth man is a Hercules in muscle with the stomach of an ostrich ; it is no matter to himself or the nation what he does. Nothing can kill or weary the critter.