The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

V. University Journalism

§ 2. A. C. Hilton

Among many excellent composers of parody in verse, A. C. Hilton is pre-eminent. The two numbers of The Light Green, which are mainly his work, were produced just before and after he took his degree at Cambridge (1872), and are still sold in reprints. They represent a solitary flowering of wit and craftsmanship, for he died young. The Light Green ridiculed The Dark Blue, a magazine now forgotten, which was published in London, but was understood to represent the life and thought of young Oxford. Hilton’s supreme achievement is a parody of Bret Harte’s Heathen Chinee. The Heathen Pass-ee secretes about his person tips for examination purposes instead of the cards of his prototype:

  • On the cuff of his shirt
  • He had managed to get
  • What we hoped had been dirt,
  • But which proved, I regret,
  • To be notes on the rise of the Drama,
  • A question invariably set.
  • … …
  • In the crown of his cap
  • Were the Furies and Fates,
  • And a delicate map
  • Of the Dorian States,
  • And we found in his palms which were hollow,
  • What are frequent in palms,—that is dates.
  • The last two lines are perfect in point, expression and likeness to the original. Almost equally famous are The Vulture and the Husbandman, after Lewis Carroll, and The Octopus, after Swinburne.

    Special brilliance is certainly needed to make university magazines live; their humour is limited in scope, and refers to persons who do not survive in the public memory; jests pass with many repetitions from Oxford to Cambridge and back again, and even to America, where an old story of Whewell is now current concerning a new professor of encyclopaedic range. Hence, a great number of university magazines are forgotten, and a study of them at large does not suggest that they deserved to be more than ephemeral. The Shotover Papers, or Echoes of Oxford (1874–5) may serve as a typical example of parodies and comments which, praised in their day, have now lost their savour. In such magazines, the social history and atmosphere of the university are fairly recorded for the future historian; but the Promethean touch which lifts the local to the permanent is wanting. Great men, however, will always attract great attention even by their immature efforts. Thus, The Snob and The Gownsman are still remembered because they contained the work of Thackeray; but they were not brilliant periodicals; and comic treatments, by comparatively unknown persons, of subjects set for prize poems are quite as good as Thackeray’s Timbuctoo.