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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870)

The German Student

From “Excursions on the Rhine”

IT was at Bonn that we saw the first specimen of the common student, with his enormous pipe, his tightly buttoned coat, his turn-down collar, and his microscopic cap, which, however strong the wind may be, thanks to the student’s skilful maneuvering with his neck, remains on the extreme summit of his head, as if held down by a nail.

The German student of to-day is well worth considering. Without a penny to his name, but trusting to Providence, like the birds of heaven, he sallies forth upon a pilgrimage through the country, pipe in hand, tobacco-pouch at side, and Koerner’s poems in his pocket. He goes on foot, however great the distance: sun and shade are free to all. As for his other wants, the “Philistine” will take care of them. So, when he sees a carriage, whether it contains strangers or natives, the student removes his pipe from his mouth, takes his embryonic cap off his head, and accosts the travelers, cheerfully offering them his company on the journey. Rarely does a German deny a gift to the passing student. At some other place, on some other road in Germany, his son is likewise passing, and perhaps at that very moment is making an appeal to the purse of the father whose son he is now assisting. The innkeeper, on his side, is full of indulgence and kindness for the pilgrim studiosus, whatever his academical rank; and whether he be a “finch,” a “fox,” or an “old house,” he is the swallow returning with every spring, and is welcome to shelter under mine host’s roof. As for food—fellow-countrymen can easily come to an understanding on that point; besides, the French and the English tourists will pay. Thus, without being asked whether he has money or no, on arriving at an inn the student always has his glass of Rhine wine or his bottle of beer, and he is usually asked what brand he prefers at that. He receives a dinner taken from every one else’s dinner, and, if the hostelry be too crowded, a bed of fresh straw that sometimes is a sweeter couch than any stuffed mattress in the whole house. At daybreak the student rises in joyful spirits, drinks another glass of Rhine wine, lights his eternal pipe, and resumes his journey. Then, after having seen the battle-fields of Jena, Ulm, and Leipsic, he returns to his university with the degree of “mossy head,” drinks a few more thousand pints of beer, smokes a few more thousand pipes, exchanges a few score more of rapier strokes, and afterward goes back again to family life, still drinking, still smoking, but no longer dueling.

In the university town of Heidelberg I found more of my old friends, the students. They were exactly the same as at Bonn, the only difference in their faces being the difference between their pipes.