Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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@ElizaBTweetin: July 4, 1873: Subdued Celebration

Posted on July 1, 2014

In 1873, Wheaton's newest graduates did not flee the campus as quickly as they do today.  On July 4, two days after Commencement, Mrs. Wheaton hosted lunch and tea for several members of the Class of 1873. Her beloved niece Mary brought along Mary Bachelder, Ella Stearns, and Winifred Marvle.

Winifred, or "Win" as Mrs. Wheaton calls her, had just published the editorial in the Class of 1873's final number of the Rushlight. We quote it here as voicing not only the opinion of the author, but of many of us as we look back upon our college years.

Editorial [1]

Why is it that we are always seeking after the unattainable, always wanting something we have not? A year ago, some of us thought tomorrow’s happiness could not be paralleled for then we should be through school and with the whole world before us, we could surely find something more congenial than school books and school life, but now the last day with those books and of that life has come, we look back upon the last year with a strange yearning to live it over; the troubles which at the beginning loomed up stern and unconquerable, have vanished, and we have only pleasant recollections, and memories which will never die.

We shake hands with Bishop Butler, with a half-defined fear that the “strange difficulties” we encountered there may be over-balanced by greater ones in our future life.

Norton's East Main St. stately elms

Norton's East Main St. stately elms

The path of duty, so plainly marked out for us during these past years, cannot be retrodden; we shall find new duties and responsibilities. Turn wherever we may, we shall soon be conscious of a change, and though much against our will we shall find ourselves unavoidably beginning a new life different in many respects from anything we have before experienced. Nor does the future look so dazzling as when half veiled by a year’s time, and we conclude the truth must have been spoken by those who told us, “Your school days are your happiest”. We cannot endure to think of bidding our teachers and school friends goodbye for years, and it may be forever, and although we may go to more lively places than Norton we surely can never find a place where there are so many beautiful things in nature! Indeed I think the flowers and insects must be inexhaustible, for notwithstanding the numerous classes of pupils in Natural History and Botany, we still find an abundance of each; and where but in Norton do the birds come in such numbers or sing so sweetly. While reading the other day, I found it stated, that students were apt to become like the places they were educated in; New Haven for instance, being so level and shady, and the professors so classical, that while the addresses of the graduates were remarkable for clearness and simplicity of style there was a lack of fire and magnetism [sic.] in the delivery and presumably in the character. Who knows what influence the Berkshire hills had upon Dr. Hopkins system of moral Science [2]? Could it be that Daniel Webster’s mental activity was quickened by his companionship with the mountains during his college course at Dartmouth?

Sarah Morecock (Mrs. Thomas) Boylston, Harvard Portrait Collection

Sarah Morecock (Mrs. Thomas) Boylston, Harvard Portrait Collection

Other things than those Nature affords help to form our character and opinions; it may be the portrait of Madame Boylston looking benignantly down upon the alumni dinners at Harvard, gives to those present a wrong impression of feminine capacity and renders them incapable of judging correctly of the woman of the nineteenth Century.

If characters are formed in this manner how is it with regard to Norton? The country surely is level and the elms vie with those of New Haven in size and gracefulness, but our teachers are practical as well as classical, and while our surroundings tend to awaken within us a sense of the graceful and beautiful and strengthen our imagination, they teach us that all this beauty in nature was not intended to dream and wonder over, but to observe and profit by; that the characters in history although they did live so long ago were real personages with as many trials, temptations, sorrows and joys as we have, differing it may be in degree but not in kind; that we may climb the same hills they climbed and catch glimpses of the same beauty they delighted in.

School education has been defined as the art of teaching one how to use a book; this is true as far as it goes but books are not the only things offered us for improvement; it is our duty and right to select from everything and everybody that which we need for enjoyment and culture, but we must not go about the world like aggravated interrogation points, always asking and never giving, if we make a study of others we must expect and be willing to give freely what we receive; besides the right of the thing, this is an obligation in view of self interest, for in the natural constitution and course of things, those who give most receive most.

So while we have unavoidably caught the spirit of peace, quiet and culture which pervades this place, if our education has been a true one, we must as a class and individually possess the magical power of extracting the good from our surroundings anywhere and this power will strengthen the exercise, until

“Like the hazel twig in faithful hands” it will

“Point surely to the hidden springs of truth.” [3]

                                                                   —Winifred Marvle

[1] Rushlight, July 1873, Vol. 18, no. 3.

[2] The Rev. Dr. Mark Hopkins published his 1844 Lectures before The Lowell Institute, January 1844, as Evidences of Christianity in 1863.

[3] James Russell Lowell published his poem Rhœcus in 1844.


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