Tarnmoor’s ABCs: Dartmouth College

Dartmouth Hall

Dartmouth Hall

It was a beautiful place to spend four years, even if I had never really been more than a few miles away from home by myself before then. I went from being a valedictorian who had won all the non-sports-related honors at Chanel High School to one of hundreds of similar people from all around the country, including those famous prep schools that have sprouted up over all of New England.

At that time, Dartmouth College was isolated by the fact that the Interstate Highway system had not yet made its way into New Hampshire and Vermont. Today, Hanover, New Hampshire, is less than two hours from Boston via I-89. During the months of January and February, we were at times cut off from all supplies until the snow plows could cut a channel for cars and trucks. All four years, I stayed in Middle Wigwam Hall, which was later renamed to McLane Hall. My dorm stood a mile from the center of campus. To get to class, I had to trudge past the eerie old Hanover cemetery, with its tombs dating back to the Eighteenth Century, often on a sidewalk that had obligingly turned into a sheet of ice.

During those years, I suffered frequently from severe frontal headaches, which were the result of a pituitary tumor (chromophobe adenoma) pressing on my optic nerve. The attacks occurred on 50% of all days, with the “penumbra” of the headache beginning around 11 am and reaching a crescendo around midnight. That’s why I did most of my homework before midnight and 3 am. It was not until after I graduated that I was properly diagnosed: Until then, doctors did not know what to think—especially since MRIs and CT Scans had not yet been invented.

Pain and all, I loved Dartmouth. The quality of the instructors was, for the most part, incredibly high. Particularly in the English department, I had a succession of professors I will never forget: men like Chauncey Loomis, Peter Bien, and Thomas Vance.

At first, I hoped to become an English professor, until the movies turned by head. The Dartmouth Film Society screened great films, including a huge year-round Alfred Hitchcock festival. Plus I made the acquaintance of Arthur L. Mayer, the former “Merchant of Menace” from New York’s Rialto Theater and the author of Merely Colossal (1953). It was while at Dartmouth that I decided to go to graduate school in film history and criticism at UCLA—and that’s how I wound up in La La Land.

Dartmouth College had been founded as a missionary school for Indians in 1769 under the patronage of the Earl of Dartmouth. In 1819, the school made legal history when Daniel Webster argued before the Supreme Court in Trustees of Dartmouth College vs. Woodward, better known as the Dartmouth College Case. President Franklin “Handsome Frank” Pierce graduated from there and went on to become one of the most mediocre presidents in U.S. history.

I will leave you with the official seal of Dartmouth:

“A Voice Crying in the Desert”

“A Voice Crying in the Desert”

The motto was most appropriate considering the school’s winter isolation.

 

G. K. Chesterton vs Conservatism

G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton

We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better. But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse. The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative. The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post. But this which is true even of inanimate things is in a quite special and terrible sense true of all human things. An almost unnatural vigilance is really required of the citizen because of the horrible rapidity with which human institutions grow old. It is the custom in passing romance and journalism to talk of men suffering under old tyrannies. But, as a fact, men have almost always suffered under new tyrannies; under tyrannies that had been public liberties hardly twenty years before. Thus England went mad with joy over the patriotic monarchy of Elizabeth; and then (almost immediately afterwards) went mad with rage in the trap of the tyranny of Charles the First. So, again, in France the monarchy became intolerable, not just after it had been tolerated, but just after it had been adored. The son of Louis the well-beloved was Louis the guillotined. So in the same way in England in the nineteenth century the Radical manufacturer was entirely trusted as a mere tribune of the people, until suddenly we heard the cry of the Socialist that he was a tyrant eating the people like bread. So again, we have almost up to the last instant trusted the newspapers as organs of public opinion. Just recently some of us have seen (not slowly, but with a start) that they are obviously nothing of the kind. They are, by the nature of the case, the hobbies of a few rich men. We have not any need to rebel against antiquity; we have to rebel against novelty. It is the new rulers, the capitalist or the editor, who really hold up the modern world. There is no fear that a modern king will attempt to override the constitution; it is more likely that he will ignore the constitution and work behind its back; he will take no advantage of his kingly power; it is more likely that he will take advantage of his kingly powerlessness, of the fact that he is free from criticism and publicity. For the king is the most private person of our time. It will not be necessary for any one to fight again against the proposal of a censorship of the press. We do not need a censorship of the press. We have a censorship by the press.—G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy