Victorian advice for the modern fresher

The world of 1893 is a scary place.

advice Freshers Freshers Week modern Students University of Cambridge victorian

Victorian Freshers were given a handy guide to help them adjust to life at Cambridge, and as The Tab reverts to the archaic medium of the printing press, it seemed only right that we include some content which addresses this year’s cohort in a proper 19th century style.

Let us set the scene: Number plates appear for the first time in Paris. Thomas Edison finishes work on the first Motion picture, while Mormon temples spring up in the US. The zipper is invented, Tchaikovsky rivets the world with the first performance of “Pathetique,” and Henry Perky patents shredded wheat. Herman Goring is Born, Wilfred Owen dies, and you, a fresh-faced undergraduate have been thrust into the world of high calibre academia.

Fortunately, Arthur J. Story (St John’s – 1893) has written you a guide addressing some of the more important etiquette you will need to get to grips with if you are to embody a “proper” Cambridge student. With a little help from The Tab in updating some of the advice, we have translated this advice which still rings true today.

Want to be as fetching as this gentleman? Follow our advice

1)Don’t, if you are in lodgings, get too familiar with your landlady’s daughter (or son).

Translation: Don’t shit where you eat. Sleeping with your various neighbours might seem like a good idea at first, but when they haven’t done the washing up for a month and start going out with your best mate, things get awkward.

2) Do not walk the streets four abreast as if you were part proprietor of the town.

Translation: Don’t go out on Saturdays. Students descend on Cambridge’s assorted clubs every night of the week, much to the dismay of all the other residents. Saturday is their day. Stay in and play Scrabble or something, or risk get head-butted in Spoons (what a first Saturday that was).

We are NOT amused

3) Don’t attempt to keep every brand of wine under the sun. Most undergrads cannot distinguish “Bordeaux” from “Burgundy” if served in a decanter.

Translation: Buy Sainsbury’s Basics wine. As long as you sieve out the bits, and put it into a decanter, no one will know the difference.

4) Don’t forget to be courteous to your landlady.

Translation: Don’t be a dick to the porters. They will probably end up carrying you home from a bop, or turning off a fire alarm you set off by “burning toast” at 3am. It’s worth having them on your side.

5) Don’t, if you are a teetotaller, wear a blue ribbon. An obtruded virtue is almost as objectionable as vice.

Translation: Don’t bang on about how long you’ve been in the library for to your hungover golem of a friend. They have a headache, and 2,000 words in for 12pm. They don’t need to know how hard you are working.

6) Don’t play the piano all day, however accomplished you may be.

Translation: Throwing shapes to Darude Sandstorm at 3am might seem like a great idea after a night out at Junction. It’s less fun for your neighbours.

7) Don’t forget your engagements. Nothing is more rude.

Translation: No matter how hungover you are, go to your supervision. Sit there and mumble something about the abstract of an article you read that morning. Your supervisor will know, but will probably teach you something regardless. You can probably skip your lectures that day though.

Offended, us? Never

8) Don’t be ready to think a man has offended you. Cambridge salutations are always distant.

Translation: Don’t get offended by ornamental bronze sculptures. I will say no more lest I offend.

9) Don’t reply to a Boating Coach. His position is a very thankless one, and it is no wonder that he is occasionally irritable, or even mildly abusive.

Translation: Constantly talking about rowing is a symptom of getting up at 5am and splashing around in a cold river. They seem to speak a different language. Do not engage with rowing “banter.”

And last, but certainly not least,

10) Don’t let your residence in Cambridge cause you to assume superiority over others.

Translation: You are at Cambridge. Awesome. Just don’t be a dick about it.