Teaching The Prince To Take Notes by Christopher Morley

Story type: EssayThe Prince of Wales probably suffers severely during his tours abroad, for he is a shy youth; but he also makes many friends, for he is a delightfully si …

Story type: Essay

The Prince of Wales probably suffers severely during his tours abroad, for he is a shy youth; but he also makes many friends, for he is a delightfully simple and agreeable person. When we used to see him he looked a good deal like the traditional prince of the fairy tales, for he was a slender boy with yellow hair, and blue eyes, and a quick pink blush. And we feel toward him the friendly sense of superiority that the college alumnus always feels toward the man who was a freshman when he himself was a senior; for the prince and ourself stood in that relation a few years ago at a certain haunt of letters.

There was a course of lectures on history that we were to attend. It was a popular course, and the attendance was large. Arriving late at the first lecture the room was packed, and we could see from the door that there was only one empty seat. This happened to be in the very front row, and wondering how it was that so desirable a place had not been seized we hastened to it. The lecturer was a swift talker, and we fell to taking notes busily. Not for some minutes did we have a chance to scrutinize our surroundings. We then saw that in the adjoining chair sat the prince, and surmised that no one had wanted to take the chair for fear of being twitted by his companions for a supposed desire to hobnob with royalty.

If we remember correctly, it was the prince’s first term of college life. The task of taking notes from a rapid-fire lecturer was plainly one to which he was not accustomed, and as he wrestled with his notebook we could see that he had not learned the art of considering the lecturer’s remarks and putting down only the gist of them, in some abbreviated system of his own, as every experienced student learns. Grant Robertson, the well-known historian, was lecturing on English constitutional documents, and his swift and informal utterance was perfectly easy to summarize if one knew how to get down the important points and neglect the rest. But the unhappy prince, desperately eager to do the right thing in this new experience, was trying to write down every word. If, for instance, Mr. Robertson said (in a humorous aside), “Henry VIII was a sinful old man with a hobby of becoming a widower,” the experienced listener would jot down something like this: H 8, self-made widower. But we could see that the prince was laboriously copying out the sentence in full. And naturally, by the end of a few paragraphs, he was hopelessly behind. But he scribbled away industriously, doing his best. He realized, however, that he had not quite got the hang of the thing, and at the end of the lecture he turned to us with most agreeable bashfulness and asked if we would lend him our notebook, so that he could get down the points that he had missed. We did so, and briefly explained our own system of abbreviating. We noticed that in succeeding sessions our royal neighbour did very much better, learning in some measure to discriminate between what was advisable to note down and what was mere explanatory matter or persiflage on the part of the lecturer. But (if we must be candid) we would not recommend him as a newspaper reporter. And, indeed, the line of work to which he has been called does not require quite as intense concentration as that of a cub on what Philip Gibbs calls “The Street of Adventure.”

No one could come in contact with the prince without liking him, for his bashful, gentle, and teachable nature is very winning. We remember with a certain amusement the time that Grant Robertson got off one of his annual gags to the effect that, according to the principle of strict legitimacy, there were in Europe several hundred (we forget the figure) people with a greater right to the British throne than the family at present occupying it. The roomful of students roared with genial mirth, and the unhappy prince blushed in a way that young girls used to in the good old days of three-piece bathing suits.

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