182 Life and Letters of Francis Galton
Apparently shortly before taking his degree Galton drew up a petition concerning the badness of dinner "at Hall." The fate it met with-if ever presented-I do not find recorded'.
To the Master and Seniors of Trinity College.
We being the whole of the undergraduate pensioners of Trinity College who are now in residence, beg to call your attention to the very uncomfortable character of the dinners at Hall. It had been intended last year that a memorial to this effect should have been sent. But it was understood that the Steward of the College expressed his wish that such a measure should not be resorted to, as he was then preparing a report in his official capacity, one which we hoped could not fail of meeting with attention as the evil arose not from the smallness of the sum we pay for our dinner, but from the mismanagement of it. On this account the memorial of last year was not proceeded with, but the Steward's report having failed in producing any improvement we take these means of calling your serious attention to the subject as strongly as is consistent with the respect we owe you. We complain of the dirtiness of the waiters, the bad state of the cutlery, and the pewter dishes, which with the character of the meat give the tables an appearance far from gentlemanly and very inferior to that of most of the Cambridge smaller colleges and all of the Oxford ones. And this appearance has created a very general feeling among visitors to the prejudice of Trinity, which for the honour of our College we would gladly see removed. We make no petition for unnecessary luxury at Hall, but only desire that our meal there should not be inferior to what is usual in society at the present day and to which therefore as gentlemen we feel ourselves entitled, and more especially so when it is acknowledged that the sum we now pay for it could by management fully satisfy our requirement.
Possibly a hunt in the Trinity minute books might provide the reply of the Master and Seniors to this petition. Such a body has generally a ready answer, as when at the beginning of the century the undergraduates of another large Cambridge College petitioned for dinner at 1 o'clock instead of 12, stating, for one reason, that it would give an hour longer for the morning's work, and the Master and Seniors replied that they thoroughly approved of their reason and that to meet their views in future chapel would be at 6 a.m. instead of 7 !
' Bristed writes : "The tables of the Undergraduates, arranged according to their respective years, are supplied with abundance of plain joints and vegetables, and beer and ale ad libitum, besides which, soup, pastry, and cheese can be `sized for,' that is, brought in portions to individuals at an extra charge; so that on the whole a very comfortable meal might be effected but for the crowd and confusion, in which respect the hall dinner much resembles our steamboat meals. The attendance also is very deficient and of the roughest sort." Five Years in an English University (1840-5), 3rd ed. p. 35.