Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White - Vol. 1

By Andrew Dickson White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
EVOLUTION OF "THE CORNELL IDEA" -- 1850-1865

T O Trinity Hall at Hobart College may be assigned whatever honor that shadowy personage, the future historian, shall think due the place where was conceived and quickened the germ idea of Cornell University. In that little stone barrack on the shore of Seneca Lake, rude in its architecture but lovely in its surroundings, a room was assigned me during my first year at college; and in a neighboring apartment, with charming views over the lake and distant hills, was the library of the Hermean Society. It was the largest collection of books I had ever seen, -- four thousand volumes, -- embracing a mass of literature from "The Pirate's Own Book" to the works of Lord Bacon. In this paradise I reveled, browsing through it at my will. This privilege was of questionable value, since it drew me somewhat from closer study; but it was not without its uses. One day I discovered in it Huber and Newman's book on the English universities. What a new world it opened! My mind was sensitive to any impression it might make, on two accounts: first, because, on the intellectual side, I was woefully disappointed at the inadequacy of the little college as regarded its teaching force and equipment; and next, because, on the esthetic side, I lamented the absence of everything like beauty or fitness in its architecture.

As I read in this new-found book of the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, and pored over the engraved views of quadrangles, halls, libraries, chapels, -- of all the

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