'Speake Latine Alwayes' and Other Rules for Cambridge Students in 1660

James Duport's advice to young scholars shows just how much the college experience has changed in the last 350 years.
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The Cambridge University Library copy of the Duport Rules (Add. MS 6986), by permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.

Like football? Chatting with friends? Sleeping in on Sundays? Speaking in English? You wouldn’t have made it past freshmen orientation at University of Cambridge in the 17th century.

In a more than 350-year-old list of rules and guidelines for first-year students, Cambridge tutor James Duport advises students on everything from their sartorial decisions to their choices in friends. Although Cambridge’s website says Duport’s advice “would make edifying reading for the freshers joining the university,” modern-day college students might have a tough time following his advice. Duport advises them to “Speake Latine alwayes in the Hall.” And when hanging out in your dorm, Duport would like students to “Use often to dispute & argue Logick, and Phylosophy with your Chamberfellow, and acquaintance when you are together.”

Duport told students to arrive at chapel on time, and “come not drooping in (after the uncouth & ungodly manner of some) when almost all is done.” All these early-morning Chapel services and roommate philosophy disputes might be exhausting, but sleeping in on Sunday is not a solution: “Rise earlier on the Lords day, then ordinary, & be more carefull to trimme your soules then bodyes.” It’s not quite clear what Duport meant when he told students to “let yr Garb be grave & sober, yet cheerful & pleasant”, but today’s college uniform of leggings, jeans, and sweatshirts are probably not what he had in mind.

Modern athletics programs would also be problematic for Duport. Football is “a rude, boistrous exercise, & fitter for Clownes then for Schollers,” he writes. Tennis would be a better choice, but only “sparingly and never immediately after meales, it being then too violent & too stirring.”

Duport’s advice to “Avoid all profane scurrilous, unsavoury, rotten, frothy communication,” makes me think he would not be a fan of Facebook, texting, or Snapchat. I suspect he would be horrified by the entire concept of Twitter, with all its incessant chatting and the general absence of Latin. But his advice arrived in the 21st century courtesy of tweets from Cambridge University:

James Duport's complete list of rules for "Pupils & Schollers" is reproduced below:

 

Images from The Cambridge University Library copy of the Duport Rules (Add. MS 6986), by permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.

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Julia Ryan writes for and produces The Atlantic's Education Channel.

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