Dr Johnson in St Andrews

In 1773, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, in the course of their tour of the Scottish highlands and islands, visited St Andrews. The University was then in a parlous state, with scarcely a hundred students. Things are very different now, but Dr Johnson’s comment has a resonance with the present situation in Britain, I think:

It was surely not without just reproach, that a nation, of which the commerce is hourly extending, and the wealth encreasing, denies any participation of its prosperity to its literary societies; and while its merchants or its nobles are raising palaces, suffers its universities to moulder into dust.

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
This entry was posted in history, maybe politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dr Johnson in St Andrews

  1. oscilor says:

    Luckily, things had improved a century later, when the university college of Dundee was formed as an offshoot of St Andrews. William Topaz McGonagall wrote these encouraging words:

    “The College is most handsome and magnificent to be seen,
    And Dundee can now almost cope with Edinburgh or Aberdeen,
    For the ladies of Dundee can now learn useful knowledge
    By going to their own beautiful College.”


    “My son, get knowledge,” so said the sage,
    For it will benefit you in your old age,
    And help you through this busy world to pass,
    For remember a man without knowledge is just like an ass.”


    • Lovely stuff! Someone else who rhymes “college” with “knowledge” (in the company of Bob Dylan and Steely Dan).

    • Charles Leedham-Green reminded me of the rhyme from The Masque of Balliol (ca 1880), on Benjamin Jowett:

      I am Master of this College,
      What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.