The Life and Letters of Darwin, Vol. 1 HTML version

Cambridge Life
[My father's Cambridge life comprises the time between the Lent Term, 1828, when he
came up as a Freshman, and the end of the May Term, 1831, when he took his degree and
left the University.
It appears from the College books, that my father "admissus est pensionarius minor sub
Magistro Shaw" on October 15, 1827. He did not come into residence till the Lent Term,
1828, so that, although he passed his examination in due season, he was unable to take
his degree at the usual time,--the beginning of the Lent Term, 1831. In such a case a man
usually took his degree before Ash-Wednesday, when he was called "Baccalaureus ad
Diem Cinerum," and ranked with the B.A.'s of the year. My father's name, however,
occurs in the list of Bachelors "ad Baptistam," or those admitted between Ash-
Wednesday and St. John Baptist's Day (June 24th); ("On Tuesday last Charles Darwin, of
Christ's College, was admitted B.A."--"Cambridge Chronicle", Friday, April 29, 1831.)
he therefore took rank among the Bachelors of 1832.
He "kept" for a term or two in lodgings, over Bacon the tobacconist's; not, however, over
the shop in the Market Place, now so well known to Cambridge men, but in Sidney
Street. For the rest of his time he had pleasant rooms on the south side of the first court of
Christ's. (The rooms are on the first floor, on the west side of the middle staircase. A
medallion (given by my brother) has recently been let into the wall of the sitting-room.)
What determined the choice of this college for his brother Erasmus and himself I have no
means of knowing. Erasmus the elder, their grandfather, had been at St. John's, and this
college might have been reasonably selected for them, being connected with Shrewsbury
School. But the life of an under-graduate at St. John's seems, in those days, to have been
a troubled one, if I may judge from the fact that a relative of mine migrated thence to
Christ's to escape the harassing discipline of the place. A story told by Mr. Herbert
illustrates the same state of things:--
"In the beginning of the October Term of 1830, an incident occurred which was attended
with somewhat disagreeable, though ludicrous consequences to myself. Darwin asked me
to take a long walk with him in the Fens, to search for some natural objects he was
desirous of having. After a very long, fatiguing day's work, we dined together, late in the
evening, at his rooms in Christ's College; and as soon as our dinner was over we threw
ourselves into easy chairs and fell sound asleep. I was first to awake, about three in the
morning, when, having looked at my watch, and knowing the strict rule of St. John's,
which required men in statu pupillari to come into college before midnight, I rushed
homeward at the utmost speed, in fear of the consequences, but hoping that the Dean
would accept the excuse as sufficient when I told him the real facts. He, however, was
inexorable, and refused to receive my explanations, or any evidence I could bring; and
although during my undergraduateship I had never been reported for coming late into
College, now, when I was a hard-working B.A., and had five or six pupils, he sentenced
me to confinement to the College walls for the rest of the term. Darwin's indignation