Friday, March 26, 2010

A Gentleman's Proper Education

I am feeling poorly educated.  I have been reviewing a prospectus for Georgetown College dated August 1835.  It's of particular interest because my husband and I both attended Georgetown many, many decades later.  I doubt we could have managed the 19th century curriculum (not that I would have been given the opportunity).

The school year ran from September 15th to July 31st which, while sparing the students Washington D.C. in August, still exposed them to it's wretched summers.  Fr. Mulledy, the school's president, wrote of the College's location on the Potomac river as "particularly healthy" and of the "distance between the College and the Capitol being only an ordinary walk".  The Capitol and school haven't moved,  but not many of us would consider the four plus miles an ordinary walk - especially considering the four mile return trip slopes uphill.

The course of study lasted seven years, substituting roughly for our high school and college studies.  The young men studied seven years of Latin, six of Greek and six of English Composition.  They were taught Geography for five years, read the Bible, Homer, Virgil, Sophocles, Livy, and at least ten classical authors whose names never before crossed my field of vision.  The received "an hour and a quarter every day, in Mathematics" culminating in "Solid Geometry, Spherics, the use of the Globes, Conics and the Calculus", and an hour a day of French.  Bookkeeping was available as an elective.  For additional charges the gentlemen were taught Italian, Spanish or German, Music, Drawing, Dancing and Fencing.

Their lives were far more prescribed than ours.  The required wardrobe puts the modern camp list to shame.  For public ceremonies the young men had to bring white pantaloons and black silk waistcoats for summer; blue suits with black velvet waistcoats for winter.  For regular use they needed two suits, "six shirts, six pairs of stockings, six pocket handkerchiefs, three pairs of shoes, a hat and a cloak or great coat".  All activities were under the watchful eye of the prefects and students were allowed to leave the College only once a year.  Even those whose family lived nearby were only allowed brief monthly visits and none were "allowed to visit any person except his parents or legal guardian".  Pocket money was deposited with Fr. Mulledy, and doled out at his discretion.

The $200 annual tuition included "board and lodging, washing and mending linen and stockings, for the use of books, (philosophical and mathematics excepted,) pens, ink, and writing paper, slates and pencils, medical aid and medicine".

And finally, to my utter delight and amusement, each student was required to provide "a silver spoon, marked with his name".  Hoya Saxa.

Source:  "Georgetown College in the District of Columbia" dated August 1835, from the Thomas Meredith Papers (MS1795, Box 1, Folder 5), Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.  

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