A Victorian guide for freshers shows wine and sex have always been top of the agenda
Party like it’s 1893
A Victorian guide for freshers from 1893 warned first years not to sleep around and gave advice on how to be arrogant.
Entitled The Fresher’s Don’t published in 1893 is being placed on display at Cambridge University, it’s part of an exhibition at St. John’s College about student life over the last 500 years.
Advice for Freshmen (they were all men at St. John’s in 1893) includes advice on girls, exhorting students to not “if you are in lodgings, get too familiar with your landlady’s daughter, as she is probably more clever than you.” It’s not all Don’ts though, as “with other men’s landlady’s daughters you may be less particular, but even then take care!”
The guide also warns students not to be offended if they think people are unfriendly in the street “Cambridge salutations are always distant”, and reminds freshers not to assume that they are superior just because of their residence at Cambridge.
Other advice has aged rather better, with instructions to not ‘attempt to keep every brand of wine under the sun-most undergrads cannot distinguish Bordeaux from Burgundy if served in a decanter’. Fresher wine knowledge is still poor 120 years later, with Sainsbury’s Basics still the most popular brand and the Bordeaux/Burgundy confusion rife.
The guide was written by Arthur Story, a Cambridge student who went on to become a grammar school teacher. The guide is not the only item on display at the exhibition at St. John’s College Library.
Other items include a photograph of Cuthbert Holthouse, the last recipient of the famous ‘Wooden Spoon’, a highly-prized award given to the student with the lowest passing mark each year in the Mathematics degree finals, and another photograph of a car that students suspended from the Bridge of Sighs over the River Cam in 1963 as a prank .
The award of the physical Wooden Spoon was discontinued after 1909.