Remarks of the Burial of Mathematics Class of 1856

Remarks of the Burial of Mathematics presents a rear documentation of a defunct Dartmouth Tradition, wherein each sophomore class, after finishing its required math education, would dispose of its math books in a ceremonial mock-funeral. The writers of The OEstrus, attempting to be iconoclastic as possible, ridiculed the event, mocking the members of the Class of 1856 that played a role in the burial. This transcription allows us to witness another aspect of the student life in antebellum Dartmouth College:


The Mathematics and the Metaphysics,—

Fall to them as your stomach serves you;

No profit grows, where is no pleasure taken.

(Taming of the Shrew) Fes 1st Seural

Gentlemen of the Sophomore Class –

I am reminded that when Ajax was no more—when the hand, which battled so manfully against “the Atridea,” had become powerless in death, his most bitter enemy drew near the corps and desired to take part in the funeral rites—for said he, “I declare that from this time forth I am so much his friend as before I was his foe, and I wish to assist in burying this dead body and share the toil.”

And it may be, gentlemen, that you can perceive a slight similarity to the burial of Ajax in the interment of Mathematics, for he was not a more bitter and implacable foe to the Trojan than Mathematics has proved to many of you; but like Ulysses, now that the enemy is no more, you are willing to lay aside hatred and show in the performance of the last offices of humanity—

If would indeed be change, if, on such an occasion, we should give no view to the emotion which agitate our breast—if we should permit this last relies of a companion who, for so long a period, has clung to us closer than a brother, to go not from us forever without a more cordial adieu, a more affectionate leave than we have been able to take in the Recitation Room.— And so I look back through the dim vista of my past connection with Mathematics and naught with my eye, save one Geometrical Series of mathematical “blanks” and algebraic “deads,” I feel how unfitting it is for us to address you, for I have been content to kiss only “the hew of the garment”— to sit at the foot of the Atlas ad watch with laundering eyes the profound scholarship of this aumbry. Phi Betas, without even a wish to become in like manner conversant the mysteries of Algebra, to wander amid the mazes of Analytical, or skim the “sealed Book” of Calculus—

If would indeed be pleasant to have the wise and progress of the Science of Mathematics, from the “natal day of Archimedes” down to the present hour, but I will not thus trespass upon your patience, gentlemen, but be content to point out in an imperfect manner, the marked similarity of these relics of the “old Inquisition” to certain feminine characters, which we meet in life.— Analytical finds its prototype among a class of young ladies, not very numerous in this vicinity, known as coquettes.— These countenances are wreathed with amides and their lives (like the preface to Analytical) with naught but horrid word, upon your introduction to them;— Where a more intimate acquaintance, ultimately repelling by disdainful look and ambiguous answers and again attaching by a ring lord or simple request, but in the end deserting entirely when you most need aid and comfort and consolation, just as ones Knowledge of Analytical forsaken him at the dread row of Examination.

Calculus may be compared to and of these same damsels, no longer in “the flower of his youth”— an “ever virgin”, whose precise age can be determined by no Mathematical calculation. She has changed her robes, it is true, but not their character nor her own, and imagine that her company and teachings are still eagerly sought after by all virtuous young men. She too plays her seducative seductive arts, but glimpses of the hook are visible beneath the tarnished guilding of the bate, and you are not inclined to bite with the save avidity as before— There is less romance in the affair,— more expression fall from her lips which you cannot understand,— there is a more perfect development of the blissful idea that you and being most essentially “taken in”. She does not desert you, for she cannot lose what she never possessed, but disgusted with the empty show, you forsake her as you forsake Calculus, without a single attempt to gain favor.                                                To what shall we liken these o shades Chases’ Algebra? Surely, youth and beauty and deception have nothing in common with thee. You resemble those stony-hearted, matronly ladies, rejoicing in the possession of marriageable daughters, who keep a “sleepless watch” and are so loud and vehement in their denunciation s of “bad young men”— No formula of oath, or Algebra, can explain your indignation towards those who have ever shown you the slightest disrespect or have been inattentive to your many wants

Your door will be barred against them and no subsequent repentance or devotion can atone for the error or win as approving smile from your grim visage. Your indignation (wrath) will transcend the wrath (indignation) of all the old ladies in Christendom, for, not content with diving the victim from your habitation, you will visit him in dreams by night— poison his happiness by day, making life wretched and death a blessing; like the hero of the old poem, you are

Impiger, iracundus, inexorbilis, acer”—

Such, gentlemen, are a few of the characteristics of our defunct companion— It may not be inappropriate to mention briefly certain forum members of this class, of whom it may be said that “we look for them but they are not there”— They commenced their Collegeath courts with joyous anticipation of the future and, like ourselves, sacrificed twelve dollars in yonder treasury with the erroneous supposition that they were paying tuition for “Freshman fall”—

Where are Bowers and Houston, who left our ranks with the “purple light” of Freshman fall still radiant upon them? Let Mathematics Answer: where are Hayes and Dogood, whose dispensed optics could be attributed only to the same great cause? Where is Hazen, whose looks were silvered as with the frosts of many winters? Where is Rogers??? If Analytical could speak, she would shake her “gory looks” and answer almost in the words of the murderers of “Cock Robin”;[1]

Who killed Rogers?

I says Analytical,

With my “Elements of Integral,”

I Killed Rogers.—

In view of all these losses which we have experienced, is it wrong to give thanks that the enemy, which caused these gentlemen to seek another home, no longer lives? Permit me to call your attention for a moment to the alarming increase of Mathematical drudgery in the attainment of what the Faculty are facetiously disposed to term, “a liberal education.”

Horace relates his intercourse with Mathematics in a few words: (“Ingenious Athens”, said he, “imported to me a little more of useful learning, so that I could distinguish a straight line from a curve”—) No man ever possessed a more correct idea of the worth of this science—(“a little more of useful learning”) says the old poet, and this in Athens amid the Classic shades and grows from the Academy; “Alas for the degeneracy of the times”; How changed in every feature is that Science ones comprehended in the simple sentence, “to distinguish a straight line from a curve”. Year by year this poison is slowly insinuating itself with the very vitals of a Collegeath education and as long it will permeate the whole system—

In several sister Colleges, Mathematics has actually had the audacity to set frat within the sacred threshold of “Junior year”—

Gentlemen, are not wrongs like these enough to make thee very “stones cry out”? Are they not enough

“To stir a fever in the blood of Freshmen,

And make their infant sinners strong so steel?

Let me say a word in regard to our manner of burial. We live in a region where the remains of a Calculus even, are hardly secure from sacrilegious hounds.—We are soon to be surrounded by a company of individuals, well described by a graceful writer, as “wild, specious, sceptically-inclined young gentlemen, whose handkerchiefs smell of ether and whose gloves are strongly suggestive of rhubarb; whose talk views large with bold jests on grave subjects xxxx and whose very laughter has a sort of bony rattle about it”— These individuals would disinter, without mercy, the relics of Algebra, if they supposed the cause of Medical science would thereby be advanced.

We are constrained to believe that no further dissection is necessary than what has been already made in the Recitation Room.

The present Sophomore Class have never been able to discover in Algebra any heart, or milk or human kindness, or one singe, individual bowel of compassion—we leave the task to a coming generation.

It is peculiarly fortunate that we have read directions concerning the manner of burial from the mouth of Calculus itself.

Only a few nights since, the shade of Calculus appeared in a vision, to a most worthy member of our band; with the same innocent look it has always worn during life, and easily recognized by the maze of “Curves and Functions”, “asymptotes” and “differential coefficients”, which hang gracefully about it as a mouth of gauge—And thus it addressed the Sophomore, “Let our last resting-place be near the scene of our labors, so that we may snuff the foggy air of the coming “Freshman Fall”, and listen to the tread of Sophomore and Freshmen feet as they hurry to their morning devotions; Bury with us, the Blackboard, for as we were one in Life, in death we would not be divided, and trace upon the board, mystic characters— a spice potent to save us from the rapacious hands of the medics, for no man can read these characters and live “___Thus spoke Calculus and vanished; It is needless to add that these last requests shall be entirely complied with.

Now finally Calculus “goeth to its long home and the Sophomores “go about the streets”—

Let us take a brief retrospect of the past— For months we have known that Calculus was to be take from us and yet so few have endeavored to smooth its passage down the sale of years. One by one the few friends who had cherished it in their bosoms, dropped off,— seemed disposed to cut its acquaintance and, when offered an introduction in the Recitation Room, around turn their backs and say, “I never knew you”.

At last, one fine Summer morning between the hours of six and seven, it breathed its last— Some of you were present and with pencil and paper in hand, noted down the last words,

“Which it bequeathed as a rich legacy

To its issue”—

Algebra and the beauteous Analytical had long before been pronounced incurable, and you remember how you brought them in, wane and pale, carefully concealed beneath your coat, lest “the winds of Heaven should visit them too roughly”,— how you laid them carefully upon the floor and transcribed upon paper, their last, incoherent expressions.

Long, long will it be, gentlemen, ere’ you will forget the many and gracious words you have rec’d through the instrumentality of “the departed”.— You would not pass through another such an ordeal,

Through ‘tevere to buy a world of happy days,

So full of dismal terror was the time”.

It is with regret that we learn that the tender sympathies (?) of certain individuals, will not permit them to be present on this occasion. We have consideration for such reasons when we think of the tender and loving bond which united them to Mathematical science.

But if Mathematics occupy any place in our affection, let it be the same position which the Nuns occupy in Church- “a corner pew”, which the broad-aisles and galleries of our hearts are still open to more worthy thoughts,— more pleasant remembrances.

Gentlemen, these rites hasten toward their completion— Charon, the ferryman of Hades, is waiting impatiently to bear these Shades over the river Styx, in the Bark Utopia, which has been loaned him through the courtesy of certain gentlemen of the “Upper Classes” for whom we have the most profound and unmitigated respect.

Thus let us scatter dirt with plenteous hands, and in the beautiful and touching words of the Negro melody, say “Farewell forever”, for

“Oh, we shall never see thee again,

Never, never, never, never, never”.


at the Burial


The Mathematics


The (Sophomore) Class of ‘56


Dartmouth College.


[1] From the English nursery rhyme “Who Killed Cock Robin?”


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