August 31, 1861 – Harper’s Weekly
From Harper’s Weekly, August 1, 1857:
The illustration which crowns these pages suggests another defect of our system. It is deficient in respect of physical training. That game of football, which we are happy to say is not yet extinct, ought to be a matter of as much concern as the Greek or mathematical prize. Indeed of the two it is the more useful exercise.
Here the English are vastly our superiors. At Cambridge it is quite common for a senior wrangler to be likewise stroke-oar in the college boat; and a well-known statesman of England is remembered for having thrashed a potent butcher, after forth-three rounds, within a week of his taking a double-first.
A professor at Cambridge, whose name it is hardly necessary to mention when we say that he is a walking encyclopedia, and the first mathematician in England, albeit a pious divine, and a man of staid character and devout habits, happened to be taking his constitutional on the banks of the river at the time of the boat-race. The river is narrow; a dexterous movement of the tiller, when the boats are side by side, will often decide the race by driving one of the competitors too near the bank. Well, this learned and pious churchman, having sauntered to the river-side just as the boats were passing, watched them for a moment with a calm face.
Soon, old memories of by-gone contests rushed to his mind – the struggle fired his blood; he was seen to clench his fists and to walk with firmer tread. As they came to a turn in the river he actually ran, in full collegiate costume as he was. His cap blew off – he never noticed it. He began to wave his arms. A crowd around him, unconscious of his presence, were shouting, “Go it, Trinity!” “Yoicks, Caius!” The boats were approaching a very narrow part of the river, the Caius men half a length ahead. The spectators were shouting in a frenzy of excitement, when above the tumult arose the sonorous and stentorian voice of the venerable professor: “Port, Caius, you scoundrel” D—n it, port your helm, man!” and as the shrewd order was instantly obeyed, in a still more energetic voice, “Optime, Johannes!” then suddenly recollecting himself, “God bless me, gentlemen, I have forgotten myself!” and the old gentleman walked off at a round pace, blushing like a girl, amidst the vociferous applause of the students.
We had rather chronicle a great boat-race at Harvard or Yale, or a cricket-match with the United States Eleven, than all the prize poems or the orations on Lafayette that are produced in half a century.