Philosophy 4 by Owen Wister

I love this charming, nostalgic story of college days in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1880's. I think it will captivate anyone familiar with the Boston area.

Owen Wister is best known for his novel, "The Virginian," which helped codify the legend of the cowboys of the American West (and which is the source of the line "When you call me that, smile."

As far as I can tell, "Philosophy 4" is out of copyright and out of print. (Anybody interested in reprinting it is urged to contact me.)


Copyright © 1997 by Daniel P. B. Smith. All rights reserved.

I first ran across "Philosophy 4" in the MIT library when I was an undergraduate. I found it enchanting at the time. I still do now. I found a copy in a second-hand bookstore, which became a prized possession which I now share with you. It is an unforgettable picture of a bygone day which I think will resonate with others who, like me, went to college in the Boston area. It is full of little details that create a sense of time and place. Imagine the tower of Memorial Hall being visible from Jamaica Plain; imagine a trip from Cambridge to Braintree in which the most noticeable sound was that of church clocks striking. I am haunted by a character saying "reverently" that "the rum there is old Jamaica brought in slave-ships." I cherish such passages as:

"they reached Harvard Square. Not your Harvard Square, gentle reader, that place populous with careless youths and careful maidens and reticent persons with books, but one of sleeping windows and clear, cool air and few sounds ; a Harvard Square of emptiness and conspicuous sparrows and milk wagons and early street-car conductors in long coats going to their breakfast; and over all this the sweetness of the arching elms."

Notes on the text:

My purpose is to reproduce the flavor of the original as closely as follow. Accordingly, I have included the complete text of all the front matter and the publisher's advertisements appearing in the back. To the best of my proofreading ability, I have reproduced spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, punctuation and word usage exactly as they appear in the original. Some examples:

-- the spelling of the word "favourite"

-- the uncapitalized "its weight" in the passage "According to Plato,

Locke, Berkeley, where would the sweetness of a honeycomb reside? Where would its shape? its weight?"

-- The question mark outside the quotation marks in the passage:

Did not Billy remember singing "Brace up and dress the

Countess," and "A noble lord the Earl of Leicester"?

-- The phrase "I waked John up"

The text spacing conventions of the original are quite different from what I am used to. I haven't tried to reproduce them because they are difficult to proofread accurately and look irritating to me when rendered in monospaced type. For example, one passage in the book would be transcribed as follows. There is almost an en-space before and after question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks, and even semicolons:

he continued, eying Bertie. This came
as near direct praise as the true son of
our soil -- Northern or Southern -- often
thinks well of. Bertie was pleased, but
made a modest observation, and " Are
we near the tavern ? " he asked. " Bird-
in-Hand ! " the son of the soil echoed ;
and he contemplated them from his gate.

Because I do not want to depart from plain ASCII, I have also omitted a dieresis which the original places on the second e of the word "reentered."

What do you think?

--Daniel P. B. Smith
Forward (Part I)
Date created: 3/6/97
Last modified: 3/7/97
Introduction Copyright © 1997, Daniel P. B. Smith; All Rights Reserved
Comments to: Dan Smith

Dan Smith's home page