January 30: J. W. Alexander – Student Days

Letters of J. W. Alexander, pp. 16-17.


Another month is tapering off to non-entity, and with it closes the first half of our winter term. On Monday next commences a recess from study of two weeks’ duration; and, as you know that feelings of leisure and disenthralment are: wont to creep over one before the vacation makes such feelings strictly allowable, you will not be surprised to hear that I am doing nothing about this time. Beware of dreaming that I have nothing to do; for since that unwarrantable boast in my last, that I was almost master of my time, I have been punished for my temerity by an influx of duties innumerable. The “pressure of business ” upon me has been so mighty for two or three weeks, that my system has been considerably deranged in its bodily as well as mental parts. When I speak of business, I do not mean to convey to you the impression that my studies, &e., have been the only absorbents of my time, for the pursuits of the class do not necessarily consume many hours of the day; but my mind has been harassed by a multitude of questions in daily agitation, in these metaphysico-theologico-literario walks of science; questions from which I could not in justice to myself turn away my attention, but which have, at the same time, eaten up my vacant hours, and caused a host of unanswered letters to lie in my drawer praying for audience. At the present moment, being 10 o’clock P. M., (more or less,) I feel fit for no severe exertion; my animal spirits have been sucked up by a difficult Hebrew passage, a difficult mathematical query, and a difficult point in morals since tea, so that I am in a very proper state to utter that farrago of floating ideas commonly called when taken in a body, and put on paper, “A Letter.” These ideas have been swimming in cerebro, I know not how long, crying for enlargement, and I. am now arraying them before me on this piece of coarse foolscap, (by the way, the only connecting link between them, so incoherent are they and unsocial.) My roommate left me this evening. I am now sole proprietor of this my little chamber. View me in imagination, seated in my chum’s immense elbow chair, writing by the light of a shaded lamp, heated by a funereal looking stove just before me. Beginning at the south corner of my domicile, you observe first a row of shelves, containing all my little store of books, and many not my own, modestly covered by a gingham veil. In the same corner you may discern my spacious literary throne with all its appendages of drawers, &c. I need not direct your eyes to my scanty stock of chairs. A red desk standing in solemn guise among the sticks of fuel which lie, in a capacious box, ready to feed the aforesaid stove. A high stool. A table. A mirror large enough to reflect my haggard features. An assortment of trunks, my own and Waterbury’s. Three maps. A wash stand and appurtenances. A solitary picture to decorate my naked walls. A cluster of pantaloons in suspense. An axe and saw wherewithal our wood is cut. And finally, (though not least precious,) near to my room mate’s couch is placed my lowly cot, into which wearied nature bids me presently creep. Pardon the vagaries of a half-crazed student. Good-bye, for this night.

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