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College Papers
Chapter 1. Edinburgh Students In 1824
On the 2nd of January 1824 was issued the prospectus of the Lapsus Linguae;
or, the College Tatler; and on the 7th the first number appeared. On Friday the
2nd of April 'Mr. Tatler became speechless.' Its history was not all one success;
for the editor (who applies to himself the words of Iago, 'I am nothing if I am not
critical') overstepped the bounds of caution, and found himself seriously
embroiled with the powers that were. There appeared in No. XVI. a most bitter
satire upon Sir John Leslie, in which he was compared to Falstaff, charged with
puffing himself, and very prettily censured for publishing only the first volume of a
class- book, and making all purchasers pay for both. Sir John Leslie took up the
matter angrily, visited Carfrae the publisher, and threatened him with an action,
till he was forced to turn the hapless Lapsus out of doors. The maltreated
periodical found shelter in the shop of Huie, Infirmary Street; and No. XVII. was
duly issued from the new office. No. XVII. beheld Mr. Tatler's humiliation, in
which, with fulsome apology and not very credible assurances of respect and
admiration, he disclaims the article in question, and advertises a new issue of
No. XVI. with all objectionable matter omitted. This, with pleasing euphemism, he
terms in a later advertisement, 'a new and improved edition.' This was the only
remarkable adventure of Mr. Tatler's brief existence; unless we consider as such
a silly Chaldee manuscript in imitation of Blackwood, and a letter of reproof from
a divinity student on the impiety of the same dull effusion. He laments the near
approach of his end in pathetic terms. 'How shall we summon up sufficient
courage,' says he, 'to look for the last time on our beloved little devil and his
inestimable proof-sheet? How shall we be able to pass No. 14 Infirmary Street
and feel that all its attractions are over? How shall we bid farewell for ever to that
excellent man, with the long greatcoat, wooden leg and wooden board, who acts
as our representative at the gate of Alma Mater?' But alas! he had no choice: Mr.
Tatler, whose career, he says himself, had been successful, passed peacefully
away, and has ever since dumbly implored 'the bringing home of bell and burial.'
Alter et idem. A very different affair was the Lapsus Linguae from the Edinburgh
University Magazine. The two prospectuses alone, laid side by side, would
indicate the march of luxury and the repeal of the paper duty. The penny bi-
weekly broadside of session 1828-4 was almost wholly dedicated to Momus.
Epigrams, pointless letters, amorous verses, and University grievances are the
continual burthen of the song. But Mr. Tatler was not without a vein of hearty
humour; and his pages afford what is much better: to wit, a good picture of
student life as it then was. The students of those polite days insisted on retaining
their hats in the class-room. There was a cab-stance in front of the College; and
'Carriage Entrance' was posted above the main arch, on what the writer pleases
to call 'coarse, unclassic boards.' The benches of the 'Speculative' then, as now,
were red; but all other Societies (the 'Dialectic' is the only survivor) met