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The further adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford under-graduate/Chapter 1



The intelligent reader—which epithet I take to be a synonym for every one who has perused the first part of the Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green,—will remember the statement, that the hero of the narrative "had gained so much experience during his Freshman's term, that, when the pleasures of the Long Vacation were at an end, and he had returned to Brazenface with his firm and fast friend Charles Larkyns, he felt himself entitled to assume a patronising air to the Freshmen, who then entered, and even sought to impose upon their credulity in ways which his own personal experience suggested." And the intelligent reader will further call to mind the fact that the first part of these memoirs concluded with the words—"it was clear that Mr. Verdant Green had made his farewell bow as an Oxford Freshman."

But, although Mr. Verdant Green had of necessity ceased to be "a Freshman" as soon as he had entered upon his second term of residence,—the name being given to students in their first term only,—yet this necessity, which, as we all know, non habet leges, will occasionally prove its rule by an exception; and if Mr. Verdant Green was no longer a Freshman in name, he still continued to be one by nature. And the intelligent reader will perceive when he comes to study these veracious memoirs, that, although their hero will no longer display those peculiarly virulent symptoms of freshness, which drew towards him so much friendly sympathy during the earlier part of his University career, yet that he will still, by his innocent simplicity and credulity, occasionally evidence the truth of the Horatian maxim,—

{{bc|{{fine block|"Quo semel est imbuta recens, servabit odorem
Testa diu;"[1]

which, when Smart-ly translated, means, "A cask will long preserve the flavour, with which, when new, it was once impregnated;" and which, when rendered in the Saxon vulgate, signifieth, "What is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh."

It would, indeed, take more than a freshman's term,—a two months' residence in Oxford,—to remove the simple gaucheries of the country Squire's hobbodehoy, and convert the girlish youth, the pupil of that Nestor of Spinsters, Miss Virginia Verdant, into the man whose school was the University, whose Alma Mater was Oxonia herself. We do not cut our wise teeth in a day; some people, indeed, are so unfortunate as never to cut them at all; at the best, two months is but a brief space in which to get through this sapient teething operation, a short time in which to graft our cutting on the tree of Wisdom, more especially when the tender plant happens to be a Verdant Green. The golden age is past when the full-formed goddess of Wisdom sprang from the brain of Jove complete in all her parts. If our Vulcans now-a-days were to trepan the heads of our Jupiters, they would find nothing in them! In these degenerate times it will take more than one splitting headache to produce our wisdom.

So it was with our hero. The splitting headache, for example, which had wound up the pleasures of Mr. Small's "quiet party," had taught him that the good things of this life were not given to be abused, and that he could not exceed the bounds of temperance and moderation without being made to pay the penalty of the trespass. It had taught him that kind of wisdom which even "makes fools wise;" for it had taught him Experience. And yet, it was but a portion of that lesson of Experience which it is sometimes so hard to learn, but which, when once got by heart, is like the catechism of our early days,—it is never forgotten,—it directs us, it warns us, it advises us; it not only adorns the tale of our life, but it points the moral which may bring that tale to a happy and peaceful end.

Experience! Experience! What will it not do? It is a staff which will help us on when we are jostled by the designing crowds of our Vanity Fair. It is a telescope that will reveal to us the dark spots on what seemed to be a fair face. It is a finger-post to show us whither the crooked paths of worldly ways will lead us. It is a scar that tells of the wound which the soldier has received in the battle of life. It is a lighthouse that warns us off those hidden rocks and quicksands where the wrecks of long past joys that once smiled so fairly, and were loved so dearly, now lie buried in all their ghastliness, stripped of grace and beauty, things to shudder at and dread. Experience! Why, even Alma Mater's doctors prescribe it to be taken in the largest quantities! "Experientia—dose it!" they say: and very largely some of us have to pay for the dose. But the dose does us good; and (for it is an allopathic remedy), the greater the dose, the greater is the benefit to be derived.

The two months' allopathic dose of Experience, which had been administered to Mr. Verdant Green, chiefly through the agency of those skilful professors, Messrs. Larkyns, Fosbrooke, Smalls, and Bouncer, had been so far beneficial to him, that, in the figurative Eastern language of the last-named gentleman, he had not only been "sharpened up no end by being well rubbed against University bricks," but he had, moreover, "become so considerably wide-awake, that he would very soon be able to take the shine out of the old original Weazel, whom the pages of History had recorded as never having been discovered in a state of somnolence."

Now, as Mr. Bouncer was a gentleman of considerable experience and was, too, (although addicted to expressions not to be found in "the Polite Preceptor,") quite free from the vulgar habit of personal flattery,—or, as he thought fit to express it, in words which would have taken away my Lord Chesterfield's appetite, "buttering a party to his face in the cheekiest manner,"—we may fairly presume, on this strong evidence, that Mr. Verdant Green had really gained a considerable amount of experience during his Freshman's term, although there were still left in his character and conduct many marks of viridity which—

"Time's effacing fingers,"

assisted by Mr. Bouncer's instructions, would gradually remove. However, Mr. Verdant Green had, at any rate, ceased to be "a Freshman" in name; and had received that University promotion, which Mr. Charles Larkyns commemorated by the following affiche, which our hero, on his return from his first morning chapel in the Michaelmas term, found in a conspicuous position on his oak.

Commission signed by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Mr. Verdant Green to be an Oxford Undergraduate, vice Oxford Freshman, sold out.

It is generally found to be the case, that the youthful Undergraduate first seeks to prove he is no longer a "Freshman," by endeavouring to impose on the credulity of those young gentlemen who come up as Freshmen in his second term. And, in this, there is an analogy between the biped and the quadruped; for, the wild, gambolling, school-boy elephant, when he has been brought into a new circle, and has been trained to new habits, will take pleasure in ensnaring and deluding his late companions in play.

The "sells" by which our hero had been "sold out" as a Freshman, now formed a stock in trade for the Undergraduate, which his experience enabled him to dispose of (with considerable interest) to the most credulous members of the generations of Freshmen who came up after him. Perhaps no Freshman had ever gone through a more severe course of hoaxing—to survive it—than Mr. Verdant Green; and yet, by a system of retaliation, only paralleled by the quadrupedal case of the before-mentioned elephant, and the biped-beadle case of the illustrious Mr. Bumble, who after having his own ears boxed by the late Mrs. Corney, relieved his feelings by boxing the ears of the small boy who opened the gate for him—our hero took the greatest delight in seeking every opportunity to play off upon a Freshman some one of those numerous hoaxes which had been so successfully practised on himself. And while, in referring to the early part of his University career, he omitted all mention of such anecdotes as displayed his own personal credulity in the strongest light—which anecdotes the faithful historian has thought fit to record,—he, nevertheless, dwelt with extreme pleasure on the reminiscences of a few isolated facts, in which he himself appeared in the character of the hoaxer.

These facts, when neatly garnished with a little fiction, made very palatable dishes for University entertainment, and were served up by our hero, when he went "down into the country," to select parties of relatives and friends (N.B.—Females preferred). On such occasions, the following hoax formed Mr. Verdant Green's pièce de résistance.
  1. Horace; ep. Lib. 1, ii', 69