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19th Century Diary Exposes Cambridge University's Secrets

12.05.2008 - Charles Astor Bristed’s diary exposes Cambridge University

Charles Astor Bristed is our new hero. He was American student, and Yale graduate, who studied in Cambridge for five years in the 1840s. Bristed's diary, recounting his experiences abroad, is being published for the first time in over 100 years. It will be titled "Five Years in an English University." Unsurprisingly, most of it reads like an early version of our Evil Empire book.

Here are our favorite snippets from the highlty-recommended story on Times Online.

On the topic of his peers' views on prostitution: "It is talked of as a thing which is on the whole natural, excusable and, perhaps, to most men necessary."

On nonchalant invitations to visit prostitutes: "He had not known me two days before he asked me to accompany him to Barnwell on an evening after Hall, just as quietly as a compatriot might have asked me take a drink."

On British Women: “a pretty face is a rare sight in Cambridge . . . You don’t see one once in three months on average.”

On drinking games with classmates: “The coloured glass enabled me to fill and empty, in appearance, many times, while in reality I only poured out and tasted a few drops; the result of which stratagem was that two or three of the party put themselves completely hors de combat, and were deeply impressed with a sense of my capacity.”

On Cambridge: “Imagine the most irregular town that can be imagined, streets of the very crookedest kind, twisting about like those in a nightmare, and not infrequently bringing you back to the same point you started from.”

We cannot wait until the release of this great piece of non-fiction.

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