Web Exclusives: Under the Ivy
by Gregg Lange '70

Book labelDecember 13, 2006:
A Tiger carol
A wondrous Yuletide gift in the desperate times of 1943

By Gregg Lange ’70

When we old-timers think of Princeton, there are two seasons that generally aren’t included in our daydreams – summer and Christmas. Anyone in New Jersey with half a brain is down the shore in the summer, not watching the smog gather on Route 1. And just about everybody is someplace else for the holidays over winter break – not honed in on Dante and black holes and the Prince and stuff. We won’t even address the uncomfortable juxtaposition of orange and black with red and green (yuck).

So leaving you a nice seasonal present by the virtual roaring fireplace Under the Ivy would be problematic, except for the inspired intervention of the late Harold Dodds *14. Chosen president of Princeton in 1933, he resolutely faced a Depression followed immediately by a continuation of the world war that earlier had traumatized his own college generation and that would claim in turn many of his close friends and charges.

Approaching Christmas of 1943, the country and Nassau’s sons faced the certainty of an impending year bloodier than any since the Civil War. In the teeth of this, rather than despair, Dodds chose to send Christmas gifts. Each of the 1,300 Princetonians in the service received three books of his own choosing, each with a personal bookplate, delivered wherever he might be. With apologies to Dickens (see below, who did a pretty fair job on the Christmas front himself), Dodds brought the Best Damn Place of All to the Worst Damn Place of All. Alumni of the 1930s and ’40s speak about the gesture to this day.

The wonder of this gift, transcending even that time and desperate circumstance, is that anyone at all can immediately participate in it by the simple act of reading the 70 widely varying titles from which the Princetonians could choose. You may be ’06, you may be ’69, or you may be a member of the Class of 1942 who received those books those many years ago, but simply looking at these is certain to recall Princeton to your mind, and perhaps as well the better angels of our nature, as Lincoln (see below) put it.

Here, then, is my 2006 present for you – the present sent to Princeton’s servicemen at Christmas 1943:

The Education of Henry Adams Adams
American Short Stories of the 19th Century
Confessions St. Augustine
In the Midst of Life Bierce
Lavengro Borrow
The Thirty-Nine Steps Buchan
The Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan
Collected Stories Lewis Carroll
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
Don Quixote Cervantes
Abraham Lincoln Lord Charnwood
The Moonstone Collins
Comprehensive Anthology of American Verse
Lord Jim Conrad
The Enormous Room cummings
The Origin of Species Darwin
The Pickwick Papers Dickens
Crime and Punishment Dostoyevsky
The Three Musketeers Dumas
The Nature of the Physical World Eddington
How Russia Prepared Edelman
Elizabethan Playwrights
English Verse (Vol. III)
English Verse (Vol. IV)
A Passage to India Forster
Fourteen Great Detective Stories
Penguin Island France
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Great Modern Short Stories
The Making of the Earth Gregory
A Farewell to Arms Hemingway
The Odyssey Homer
The Purple Land Hudson
Toilers of the Sea Hugo
Man’s Place in Nature, and Other Essays Thomas Huxley
The Varieties of Religious Experience William James
Man; A History of the Human Body Keith
Collected Short Stories Lardner
Arrowsmith Sinclair Lewis
Of Human Bondage Maugham
Moby Dick Melville
Essays Montaigne
Pocket History of the United States Nevins and Commager
Mutiny on the Bounty Nordhoff and Hall
The Conspiracy of Pontiac Parkman
Pensees and The Provincial Letters Pascal
The Grammar of Science Pearson
An Outline of European Architecture Pevsner
The Philosophy of Plato
Pocket Book of Verse
Shakespeare: the Complete Works (Vol. I)
Shakespeare: the Complete Works (Vol. II)
Shakespeare: the Complete Works (Vol. III)
The Seven Plays
Tortilla Flat Steinbeck
The Red and the Black Stendhal
Treasure Island and Kidnapped Stevenson
Eminent Victorians Strachey
Christianity and the Social Order Temple
Henry Esmond Thackery
Walden Thoreau
History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides
Anna Karenina Tolstoy
War and Peace Tolstoy
Fathers and Sons Turgenev
An Introduction to Mathematics Whitehead
The Journal, and Other Papers Wollman

And so, as Tiny Tim observed: God bless us, every one! P

Lange '70Gregg Lange '70 is a member of the Princetoniana Committee and the Alumni Council Committee on Reunions, an Alumni Schools Committee volunteer, and a trustee of WPRB radio.