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Contents of Volume Twenty-Seven.
Atlantic Monthly and its Contributors,
By the Sea,
Charlotte Bronte, .
Class of '62,
College Favor and Rules for Gaining It,
Cypress and the Laurel,
Death of Lyon,
Did you ever Write Poetry?
Edgar A Poe,
Editors' Table, .
.36, 76, 118, 157, 207, 247, 292, 334
Hour or Two in the College Library,
How will the War Affect our Literature ?
Hugh Miller, ......
Influence of the Faculty upon the Literary Culture of College,
James Gates Percival,
Last Days of Washington,
.30, 74, 111, 153, 205, 243, 278, 330
Our Prize System.
The True Student,
Our Prize System. The prize system, which, within the last generation, has impressed itself upon the advancing thought and scholarship of Yale, now stands as a permanent influence of the University. It is a conspicuous feature in the method and outgoings of College life. Although of humble origin, and exposed in its childhood to jealousy, misrepresentation, and wide resistance, yet having undergone the ordeal of a discriminating experience, and being now, in its maturer strength, not isolated from, but cooperating with other motives that stimulate to activity, it aims to secure the high usefulness and dignity of which it is proved capable by a long line of beneficent results. This has been effected by regarding the system as an educational instrument, as a means in itself to an external and superior end. Without it, false and artificial standards of excellence must inevitably prevail in the College world. The prize system has, therefore, naturally grown to be a power in our intellectual life. We may thus be pardoned for noticing, in a brief and cursory manner, the leading advantages that flow from the feature in its close connection with the aims and interests of Yalensian society.
It may be well, however, previous to this, to glance at some objections urged against the prize-theory, as affecting the student mind and character. We are often told, for example, that the hope of a prize is a motive that degrades, if it does not vitiate mental endeavor. If emuVOL. XXVII.
lation be deemed a synonym with envy, arrogance, ambition, and a host of kindred passions, at once evil in their nature and their unfoldings, the opponents of the prize system may well condemn the essential baseness of its actuating principle. It is just that such motives as these should be characterized as both debasing and criminal. But the passions just named we claim to be the corrupt fruitage, the distorted excrescence, rather than the normal outgrowth of a genuine rivalry. Such stunted and unnatural growths must be referred, mainly at least, to the student himself. The whole spirit and tendency of the prize system looks toward another and a far different result. The fact of the naturalness and universality of the wish to excel, and of the heightened energy of this craving in proportion to the higher intelligence of the national and individual mind, amply attests the laudability and healthfulness of a properly restrained emulation.
The motive at the foundation of nearly all the effort in life is the same love of excellence—a state, which, to be attained, as its meaning and etymology alike declare, must involve and enjoin the surpassing of others. The passion to improve and so outstrip our fellows in the world's great race, is no less essential and vitalizing than the air itself. We feel, and feel truly, that it has been implanted in us by a beneficent Creator, and is subject to His tempering and benignant sway. Provided it be held under rigid control it is a healthful principle of our nature. Emulation not seldom coexists with love of study for its own sake, and then it quickens and invigorates all scholarly endeavor. Nor does this spirit, as many assert, breed jealousy and selfishness. Its whole aim and out-look is toward a thorough appreciation of rival merit. The truest friends are often the most eager competitors in the lists of manly effort. Moreover, the admiration of the beaten contestant for bis rival, is only deepened and intensified by the fresh evidence of his attainments and genius. He respected his friend's abilities before; he honors and venerates them now. It is only to a feeble and sordid intellect, that a rival's triumph brings envy and distrust. As the first regret at personal inferiority or rising spleen at an unanticipated failure passes away, it gives place to cordial sympathy with a friend's success, all the manlier and more reliable, that it has passed the ordeal of a bitter disappointment. But still we are confronted by the objection, that our system affects those most deeply, who need its incentives the least. This may contain an inkling of the truth, but its tone is eminently unjust. Are we furnishing the scholar with a needless, and therefore an inexpedient and unhealthy stimulus to exertion, because we superadd to his thirst for knowledge, in its purest form, the love of its rewards and amenities ?