2 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 36


How much might be written on the philosophy of places I What do we mean by the character of a place Why is it that the ugliest of places are sometimes delightful, and that the most beautiful sometimes leave us cold P Lawyers are still perplexed as to what constitutes a place ; and who can be surprised ? Who has not been to places which, somehow or another, are not places at all? A place, to be a place, must have a unity, an atmosphere, a complexus of associations, which are distinctly its own. The pre-eminent places- -Versailles, for instance, or Rome, or the Golden Horn—are those in which a vast universe of memories has blended, mysteriously and inseparably, with the material objects which compose them ; such places are the symbols of civilisations,— the embodied images of the ideals of mankind. In England we have only one of these "world-places," as a German might call them,—the City of London; but perhaps it is the greatest of all. On a humbler level, no country is so rich in distinctive and exquisite localities, and among these it would be difficult to point to one more characteristic, more complete, more certainly, in fact, a place, than Cambridge. Oxford—so superior in many ways—can hardly from this point of view compete with her sister University. For the Oxford of to-day is no longer, alas ! a quiet group of Colleges, forming, with their appurtenances, a little town; it is a large town in the midst of which are to be found some Colleges. Both Universities, it is true, have wisely banished the railway station to the uttermost limits of their territory.—At which of them was it that the fair American exclaimed : "Oh, Mr. Brown, what made you build your Colleges so far from the station ? "—But in the case of Oxford the precaution has been of no avail ; an alien population has taken up its abode cheek by jowl with the most ancient of her sanctities, and the unity of the place has gone for ever. It is only now in the recesses of one of those vast and high-walled gardens which are the glory of Oxford that one can quite escape from "the weariness, the fever, and the fret" of the modern provincial town, with its newsboys, and its shop-windows, and its motors. Cambridge has been much more fortunate. For one thing, there are fewer "aliens," and, in addition, the Colleges have been able to huddle close to the river; so that, like good strategists, they

are protected on the rear. " Camus, reverend sire," has come to the rescue of his University, with the happiest result. For

there upon his banks, as if by some enchantment, the genius loci has found a habitation,—beautiful, unspoiled, harmonious, and rich with memories and dreams.

Mr. J. W. Clark has long been known to lovers of Cambridge as a faithful and sympathetic imide to the beauties and the antiquities of the place ; and his be?k, which • Cambridge. By J. W. Clark, kiL, Reirbdrary of Cambridge nraiverstiy- London : Seeley and Co. E.6aa

appears now in an enlarged form, embellished with a great , number of illustrations and a somewhat dazzling cover, will

be welcome to all those who are not above being told where to go and what to look at. Mr. Clark is full of information, and he conveys it fluently and easily, so that his volume is less like a guide-book thim a conversation. He carries his reader with him over the ground he knows so well, discoursing pleasantly of old times and customs, often dropping into the reminiscent, and ready with an anecdote at every turn. One of his most interesting chapters contains an account of the old mediaeval town as it was in the days before the University had come into existence, when Hereward the Wake was still defiant at Ely, and William the Conqueror built his castle on the site of the Roman station of Camboritum. The castle has long since disappeared, but the hill where it stood remains the Castle Hill, from which, at the mysterious hour of mid- night, many a generation of Verdant Greens have anxiously scanned the surrounding view in the hope of catching a glimpse of "the term dividing." The Conqueror went to Cambridge to build a castle; of a very different nature was the visit of Queen Elizabeth. On August 6th, 1564, her Majesty witnessed in state, in King's Chapel, a performance of a comedy by Plautus in the original Latin,—" which she stayed out," the chronicler tells us, "though it held in acting till twelve o'clock at night." Truly, tempora mutantur, Si nos mutamur in : what would the present Fellows of King's say, one would like to know, to a midnight performance of Plautus in their chapel P

Mr. Clark tells, of course, some good stories of Bentley, the "Mighty scholiast whose unwearied pains

Made Horace dull, and humbled Milton's strains," as Pope's libel has it; and he quotes from an amusing broad- side levelled at the great Doctor at the time of his quarrel With the Fellows of Trinity. "Why," was the indignant question of thirty of the rebellious Fellows—" why did you use scurrilous Words and Language to several of the Fellows, particularly by calling Mr. Eden an Ass, and Mr. Basely the College Dog, and by telling Mr. Cock he would die in his shoes ? " One cannot wonder that the outraged Master described the pamphlet as "the last effort of vice and idleness against virtue, learning, and good discipline." After Bentley, perhaps the most striking figure of eighteenth-century Cambridge was one of a totally opposite nature,—that of the poet Gray. Gray's spirit, compact of quiet humour and gentle melancholy, could hardly, one feels, have come to maturity else- where than among the courts and alleys of the old University town ; one could almost imagine that it haunts them still. And what a queer, remote, delightful place that old Cambridge must have been ! It is, too, one of the charms of Cambridge history that the old world of those days lingered on there for so long that the last relics of it still existed within living memory. Quite a short time since—" sixty years," Mr. Clark says—coaches rumbled down Trumpington Street, and Masters' wives went to visit each other (there was no one else to visit) in sedan chairs; and a few years before that a barber's shop stood at the great gate of Trinity, where the Fellows had their hair powdered ; and in a shop in Benet Street there was an umbrella—the only umbrella in the University, one must suppose—which was hired out by the hoar. In those days the distant spire of the village church of Coton could be seen at the end of the lime avenue of Trinity—" a type," says Mr. Clark, "of a College Fellowship—being a long, but not unpleasant road, with a church at the end of it." The spire has disappeared now—Mr. Clark does not say why—and the easy times have disappeared with it. Were they too easy ? "When is full term at Cambridge P" the old riddle went; and the answer was doubtless as true as it was uncomplimentary, —"When the three Tutors of Trinity are to be found on the steps of the Atheneum."

It is not only with the old times that Mr. Clark is concerned; he writes with equal interest and sympathy of the old buildings. Cambridge, like so many English things, grew to be itself almost casually, and as it were by accident. The great court of Trinity—that triumph of irregular symmetry—was evolved out of a chaos of insignificant erections; and Clare College, which looks to-day as if it must have sprung into existence in a single night—such is the perfect unity of its design— was a hundred years in building. If one were to try to define the particular fascination of Cambridge architecture,

one would have to take into account this characteristic of waywardness and spontaneity. How different is the impression produced by Oxford, with her solemn and noble masses, her wide perspectives, and her imposing domes ! In spite of Trinity, in spite even of King's Chapel, Cambridge, as a whole, lacks grandeur. There is no "High" in Cambridge, there are no great public spaces, there are none of those mouldering vestiges of large antiquity which, in Oxford, fill one with a strange awe. The real enchantment of Cambridge is of the intimate kind; an enchantment lingering in nooks and corners, coming upon one gradually down the narrow streets, and ripening year by year. The little river amid its lawns and willows, the old trees in the old gardens, the obscure bowling-greens, the crooked lanes with their glimpses of cornices and turrets, the low dark doors opening out on to sunny grass,—in these, and in things like these, dwells the fascination of Cambridge.