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The Life of John Coleridge Patteson

Undergraduate Life At Balliol And Journeys On The
Continent. 1845--1852.
University life is apt to exert a strong influence upon a man's career. It comes at the age
at which there is probably the most susceptibility to new impressions. The physical
growth is over, and the almost exclusive craving for exercise and sport is lessening; there
is more voluntary inclination to intellectual application, and the mind begins to get fair
play. There is also a certain liberty of choice as to the course to be taken and the persons
who shall become guides, and this renders the pupilage a more willing and congenial
connection than that of the schoolboy: nor is there so wide a distance in age and habits
between tutor and pupil as between master and scholar.
Thus it is that there are few more influential persons in the country than leading
University men, for the impress they leave is on the flower of English youth, at the very
time of life when thought has come, but action is not yet required. At the same time the
whole genius loti, the venerable buildings with their traditions, the eminence secured by
intellect and industry, the pride that is taken in the past and its great men, first as
belonging to the University, and next to the individual college, all give the members
thereof a sense of a dignity to keep up and of honour to maintain, and a certainty of
appreciation and fellow-feeling from the society with which they are connected.
The Oxford of Patteson's day was yet untouched by the hand of reformation. The
Colleges were following or eluding the statutes of their founders, according to the use
that had sprung up, but there had been a great quickening into activity of intellect, and the
religious influences were almost at their strongest. It was true that the master mind had
been lost to the Church of England, but the men whom he and his companions had helped
to form were the leaders among the tutors, and the youths who were growing up under
them were forming plans of life, which many have nobly carried out, of unselfish duty
and devotion in their several stations.
Balliol had, under the mastership of Dr. Jenkyns, attained pre- eminence for success in
the schools, and for the high standard required of its members, who formed 'the most
delightful society, the very focus of the most stimulating life of the University,' within
those unpretending walls, not yet revivified and enlarged.
Here Coleridge Patteson came to reside in the Michaelmas term of 1845; beginning with
another attempt for the scholarship, in which he was again unsuccessful, being bracketed
immediately after the fourth with another Etonian, namely, Mr. Hornby, the future head-
master, His friend, Edmund Bastard, several of his relations, and numerous friends had
preceded him; and he wrote to his sister Fanny:--
'You cannot think what a nice set of acquaintance I am gradually slipping into. Palmer
and myself take regular familiar walks; and Riddell, another fellow who is the pet of the
College, came up the other evening and sat with me, and I breakfast with them, and dine,
 
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