[The following passage is taken from the autobiography of the late British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge.]
Cambridge, to me, was a place of infinite tedium; of afternoon walks in a damp, misty countryside; of idle days, and foolish vanities, and spurious enthusiasms. Even now when I go there, as my train steams into the station or my car reaches the outskirts, a sense of physical and mental inertia afflicts me. It was my father who tingled with excitement at the thought of my being at Cambridge; not me. It was he who used expressions like ‘my Alma Mater,’ or ‘sporting oak’; when he came to visit me at Cambridge he was thrilled by my rooms, the Union, dinner in hall, boating on the river; everything. If only he had gone to Cambridge instead of me! How hard he would have worked to get a first, whereas I did nothing and just managed to get a pass degree; how assiduous he would have been at the Union debates, whereas, though he paid for me to have a life subscription, I scarcely ever attended, and never once spoke. For me, the years at Cambridge were the most futile and dismal of my whole life.
How somehow second-rate it all was! Lawrence of Arabia, with many a scruffy acolyte sitting cross-legged and elfin among the unwashed-up crockery; his seemingly indestructible legend surviving every exposure of fraudulence and depravity. Lectures by Quiller-Couch, notes shaking in shaky hands. Wide checks and massive coloured tie to offset the gown and mortar-board. Or Old McTaggart muttering philosophically, and scattering anecdotes about himself with a lavish hand.
On the river—Give her ten! Or watching games and yelling. Or the university rag; requiring so little modification to become the university demo. Or just trudging to and fro on desolate afternoons. Then in the evening the chapel bell intruding into buttered toast, and sounding across the darkening court. The porter in his bowler pricking the names of those who attended evensong. Wearing a surplice; ‘Dearly beloved brethren,’ spoken down the nose with a sniff at the end of each sentence, ‘I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present...’ Then into hall for dinner. That smell always hanging about there of stale bread and old cheese! It must have got into the wood of the benches and tables. The clattering plates, the passing food, the Latin grace. Perhaps it all had a meaning once, but not for me. I found it as moribund as El Azhar, where the Mullahs chant monotonously and unintelligibly to a little circle of students dozing round them.
Click HERE to reach
the associated topic for this webpage.
For more topics click HERE.