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BOOKS 'of the WEEK
Higher Education in Victoria
'A HISTORY OF THE UNIVER ?SITY OF MELBOURNE,' by Profes sor Ernest Scott (Melbourne Univer sity Press).
NO other University in Australia can lay claim to such a di verting and entertaining hls tj-M-l/»n1 ri-nnrrt as that Which PrO
fessor Ernest Scott has prepared for the University of Melbourne. It li a large book ol 200 pages, packed with a concise summary of records ' demonstrating not only the growth ol the University, In which the author h'as been the Professor of History for nearly 25 years, but turning vivid sidelights on the social conventions of Melbourne in the latter part ol the nineteenth century, revealing thf occasional acerbities of University life, giving anecdotes of many of the pro fessorial figures of the nineteenth century, with echoes of their grand manner, classical, pompous, and pre tentious, and character vignettes ol picturesque personages of Melbourne, from Sir Redmond Barry to Sir John Madden, and from the brilliant, pro vocative, and pernickety Hearn to the equally brilliant and provocative and sensitive Marshall Hall, who startled a very conventional Melbourne with his erotic poetry and strange phil osophy. Many histories of this kind consist of more or less interesting facts, related in dull and uninterest ing prose. That is not so with this book. It sparkles in places. It is not a dull, laborious chronicle of educa tional progress, but a brightly com menting narrative about the men who make trie University what it is, some times facing heavy financial losses, always cautious about treading too heavily on the social conventions, often blundering, often quarrelling, but always trying to do their best, ac cording to their own opinions, in lay ing down great principles. Who Was the Founder? Right at the outset there Is a fact that will astonish many old Melbourne University men and women who have been brought up in the belief that Sir Redmond Barry was the founder He was one of its most consistent workers, but the founder undoubtedly was Hugh Culling Eardley Childers after whom the Queensland town ol Childers was named. Childers was a Cambridge man, who came to Victoria in 1850, filled* some small appoint ments in the Government service, be came Auditor-General and Finance Minister, and in his first Budget Speech, on November 4, 1852, set aside a sum of £10,000 for the establish ment of a University. That was in creased to £20,000, with an endow ment of £9000 a year, and the Bill received the Royal assent on January 22 1853. Sir Redmond Barry was the first Chancellor, and, on August 28, ?1854, the first council (of whom Chil ders was one) selected the motto, 'Postera crescam laude' (esteemed by posterity), from the middle of a sen tence in Horace (Carmen XXX); and Dr. Ltidwig Becker prepared the de sign which subsequently became the University arms. Incidentally Hugh Childers had large pastoral Interests in Victoria and the Wide Bay district of Queensland. He returned to Eng land in 1859, and became prominent in the House of Commons as a staunch Gladstonlan. It was he also who es tablished the first telegraph line in Australia. The short-siehted' Gover nor Denison, of New South Wales (the man who altered the boundaries of Queensland to our disadvantage), called it 'Childers^s telegraph folly. A Cautious Beginning The usual acrimonious controversies and quarrels occurred about the site, and Democracy wrote letters to the papers when the site was selected on a rough primitive piece of bushland, 'cloven by a gully.' That primitive piece of bushland is now in the heart of Melbourne, and one of the most
Wilson Hall, Melbourne University
Wilson Hall, Melbourne University
beautiful spots. Sir Charles Hotham, the Governor, laid the foundation stone, but where it was laid nobody knows. There was no inscription on the face of the stone, but a brass plate, with a Latinised' inscription, was placed in a cavity of the stone, and was promptly buried in masonry. The University began with four pro fessors. One of them died within a few days after reaching Adelaide, and it looked as if the new University would have to begin without its beloved Classics, when William Edward Hearn, the professor of Modern History and Literature, came to the rescue by taking Classics as well as his own sub ject. Hearn. who was a remarkably able man, was qualified to take the additional work in his stride because lie had previously been a Professor of Classics in Gnlway in Ireland. Hearn was th.e most picturesque pro fessor of the early days; in fact, It is doubtful if he had his equal hi that respect until the rise of Marshall Hall. He was constantly at loggerheads with an ultra -conservative council because, like most educated Irishmen, he was a fierce partisan in politics, and the last thing the council ever wanted to hear from the lips of a professor was a ref erence to religion or to politics. In 1869 the council nearly took a fit when Professor Halford asked leave to deliver a lecture on Protoplasm. The council scented menace in the very word, and whatever the genial profes sor (the father of one of Brisbane's well-known doctors) may have had to say about protoplasm was lost. Even as recently as 1890 the council refused leave to Professor Laurie to address the assembled school-teachers ou 'Morality in State Schools.' No, no; something might be said in these lec tures that would involve the University in a controversy, and that would have been too tragic to contemplate. It was an age that loved platitudes, pompous ness, and . pretentiousness. How it cheered Governor Bowen (he lias been Queensland's first Governor) when, in 1874, in a rhetorical address, he ex pressed the hope that the University, 'like the fountain of Arethusa, would ever pour a calm and sweetening stream through the often stormy and bitter waves and conflicting currents of trade and politics!' Women and Music One of the most interesting- chap ters in the book is that in which Pro fessor Ernest Scott relates the bitter controversies that arose over the edu cation of girls. No. the early council was distinctly not in favour of edu cating short-skirted Delilahs, but in October, 1871, it agreed, very unwil lingly, to permit them to take the matriculation examination. Thus far, no farther. And the council folded its arms with satisfaction as smugly as any modern Canute could do. Bit by bit the council lost ground, and finally, largely through Dr. Charles Pearson, an Oxford man, it had to yield. Iii 1881 20 women matriculated, one of them being Mary Gaunt, afterwards a novelist; and in 1883 Bella Guerin
took the first Arts degree conferred on a woman. An amusing battle occurred about the degree of medicine. To permit women to attend lectures and demon strations on anatomy. Perish the thought. Here the council would 'never yield! Convention in Melbourne sup ported the council. It was unthinkable that graceful women should be asked or permitted to go into anatomy rooms. But again the council had to yield, and Grace Clara Stone and Margaret Whyte took their medical degrees in 1891. Two years later Leonora Jessie Little graduated in Science. Another interesting chapter la that describing Professor G. W. L. Mar shall Hall's energetic fights with council and newspapers. Hall was a musical genius. He came to Melbourne in 1891 and soon showed that he had a genius for making enemies. His friends were .. devoted to him; his enemies, Including the Melbourne 'Argus,' detested him. Their hatred of this eccentric Professor of Music was not lessened by some of his clever quip at their expense, one of which was: — I must ccmfeai, to my dlitreu, That I have many foes; And every day for thorn I pr»y, With thumb unto my nose, A ding-dong battle between Profes; sor Marshall Hall and the 'Argus,' and occasionally the 'Age,' lasted for months, in fact, at intervals, for years. In 1895 he established the Con servatorium. About that time he pub lished a book of poems. The 'Argus' described it as ?'immodest and irrever ent with a sting in every offensive line.' The Churches rose in protest against the publication of such 'lasci- vious' verses. But as Professor Scott remarks, 'only 38 copies of the poems had been sold.' Finally he lost his professorship. The council played somewhat crudely and most unfairly with an eminent English committee who had been commissioned to recom mend a successor, and Marshall Hall started a private conservatorium in Melbourne. In 1914 he was re appointed, but he died in the follow ing year. Professor Scott has another enter taining chapter about that fiery law yer, Edward Jenks, and his quarrels with the Senate and his tilts with Sir John Madden. He relates the full story of the Dickson and Perclval frauds which very nearly broke the University in 1901, and concludes a remarkably entertaining story- with the development of the University after the war. The changed conditions are shown in one striking statement. In the early clays stables were built to accommo date 20 horses for the students, who liad to come long distances. The stables disappeared when public trans port became available. Nearly half a century later it became necessary to provide racks for bicycles; now the parking area for cars is becoming in adequate. Professor Scott remarks that 'a landing place for aeroplanes has not yet been acquired.'