Ah, exam time – when the air becomes sweeter, the sun becomes warmer and every element in the created universe cries out to be enjoyed. But not by the harried student.
T’was ever thus.
Here, from the archives, we present the study timetable, from May 1826, of Hugh Edward Prior who entered Trinity College Dublin in the 1820s and who won ‘schol’ in 1825. His father was Thomas Prior, the professor of Greek and lecturer in divinity (and a man who referred to the provost, Thomas Elrington, in his diary, as a ‘tyrannical knave’).
Young Mr Prior was preparing for his final examinations; he was eventually to graduate BA 1827, MA 1831.
The subjects upon which Matthew was spending his days were astronomy, Greek and Joseph Butler’s philosophical work Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed (1736).
It is clear that Matthew Prior had a healthy attitude to work-life balance, so necessary for the stressed student. Not only did he regularly – almost daily – dine with friends, he also scheduled time to go to Chapel; his first recorded period dedicated to his Greek studies saw him read 630 lines of text ‘notwithstanding dancing &c’. Even more importantly, like a good son, he recorded time spent ‘walking about with Mother’.
This little record is part of the evidence for the influence of Methodism in Ireland generally and in Trinity specifically in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The systematic approach to doing the right thing, in the right way, to become a person likely to be of service to one’s community was a characteristic of this branch of evangelical Protestantism. A near contemporary of Prior’s in TCD, Matthew Maine Fox, kept a commonplace book between the years 1820-1825, which reveals the same religious influence and which includes ‘rules for the regulation of Mr Fox’s time to be adopted by him with the Divine Assistance’; this remains in private hands but a copy was presented to the Library in 2006.