XXVI
THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE LITERARY SOCIETIES
In other chapters of this work a rather comprehensive account has
been given of the organization and activities of the Philomathesian
and Euzelian Literary Societies in the years before the Civil War and
in the Reconstruction period after the
War.1
In the present chapter
something will be said of them in their period of greatest prosperity,
their golden age, and in their years of decline and present low estate.
Their golden age ended about the close of the century; then for two
decades they fought an unequal fight to maintain their status, and
since 1922, when fraternities were regularly legalized and society
membership was made optional, they have been hardly more than
shadows of their former selves.
Until 1922 the Societies were regarded as an organic part of the
College. In the making up of the calendar for the week, Friday night
and Saturday after chapel service were given over to them. During
these years they assumed the responsibility of keeping check on the
whereabouts and conduct of their members who constituted all the
students. Following the custom established in the early years each
Society had a meeting on Friday night for debate and another meeting
on Saturday morning for business and for declamations and reading of
original essays. At each of these meetings absences were ascertained
by roll-call and made the subject of penalties. Every week at first, and
later not less often than once in two weeks, every member had an as-
signed duty in the way of debate, declamation or essay. There was no
doubt that this work had a cultural and educational value which
justified the time devoted to it, and since 1880 this has been
recognized in the college catalogue. Evidence is abundant that the
work of the Societies was cheerfully done even though the debates
were often protracted beyond midnight. The members not
participating except as listeners sat through the long hours
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1 Volume I, chapters XXXIII-XXXVII; Volume II, chapter IV.
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