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Life Beyond the Law

A Historical & Special Collections exhibit exploring student life outside the Harvard Law School classroom.

Introduction

Concerts and shows across the Boston and Cambridge area may have satisfied the urge to see and hear professionals, but many law students are artists and musicians in their own right. Students who play music, act, sing, and dance have often shared their talents with friends and classmates closer to home. Albert Burt wrote to his brother Farlow in March 1912 that “there must be something about the feeling of descending water that makes the folks under it want to sing for the majority of the fellows tune up when they get into the shower.” From singing in the shower and impromptu sessions in the dorms to formal concerts in off-campus venues, HLS students have performed for their friends and colleagues since the earliest days of the Law School.

 

image of Albert F. Burt's 1912 letter to Edward A. BurtDetail of letter from Albert F. Burt to Edward A. Burt; April 7, 1912; Albert F. Burt Papers; Box 1, Folder 7; HOLLIS no. 13846966

"These are lively times in the dormitory; boxing matches in the common room, tennis and foot races in the hallways, organ and violent duet one evening, piano duet the next afternoon. Some of these I miss and am told about afterward, others I hear going on at the time, and still otehrs I manage to attend. A musical streak struck here about two weeks ago, one evening we had two violins, a mandolin, and a piano, all going at the same time, but fortunately all acting independing each in a room by himself."

Students Celebrating the Arts

undated black and white photograph of students playing music in a dorm room
Walter Hastings Dormitory Room; Walter R. Fleischer, Harvard University News Office, photographer; Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 in.; Photographs of Harvard Law School Students: Sports, Rest, and Recreation; Box 2, Folder 8

Celebrations of the arts were sometimes part of formal school-sponsored events but have also come from law students themselves.  As one student wrote in a semester preview of arts events in the Harvard Law Record, “Although it is fun to simply explore the cultural life of Harvard, it is special to support HLS students as they find lives outside the narrow limits of the law.”

image of a 1994 flyer for Sweeney Todd, performed by the HLS Drama Society
Sweeny Todd Flyer; 1994; Harvard Law School Ephemera Collection

Supporting Student Artists

Celebrations of the arts were sometimes part of formal school-sponsored events and campus groups, such as the HLS Drama Society and Office of the Registrar. In December 1976, the Office of the Registrar began "an informal afternoon concert series to help invigorate the cultural life of the Law School."

However, students have also taken it upon themselves to celebrate their colleagues' artistic talents. As one student wrote in February 1998 in a semester preview of arts events in the Harvard Law Record, “Although it is fun to simply explore the cultural life of Harvard, it is special to support HLS students as they find lives outside the narrow limits of the law.”

Robert Jennings and "The Lion and Albert"

Robert Jennings, a Choate fellow who attended Harvard Law School during the 1936-1937 academic year, performed in a Winthrop House show in April 1937. Winthrop House residents, of which Jennings was one for the duration of his time in Cambridge, have long staged performances as part of their regular activities during the school year. In this particular show, Jennings performed an entr’acte. Meaning “between the acts,” “entr’acte” refers to a short piece performed between two acts of a larger production. Jennings performed a popular, humorous monologue called “The Lion and Albert.” The piece was written by Scottish poet, scriptwriter, and comedian Marriot Edgar and first performed by English actor Stanley Holloway. The monologue is about a couple who takes their son to the zoo only to see him eaten by a lion.

image of the first page of a program for a 1937 show performed by Winthrop House residents

image of the second page of a program for a 1937 show performed by Winthrop House residents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
Excerpt (April 25, 1937) and photographic reproduction from Letters from America from R.Y. Jennings: written during the academic year spent at the University of Harvard 1936-37; [s.l. : s.n., 2009]; HOLLIS no. 12064914

“I gave the “Lion and Albert” (text gleaned from a gramophone record) and “Sam, Sam”. Both nights it was a great success. Most people, to my amazement, said it was the high light of their evening and I even had the congratulations from the House Masters. . . . I seem to have discovered, quite by accident, a histrionic gift, which I had no idea that I possessed. I am rather pleased about it because it is quite an asset socially, to be able to do things like that rather well.”

"The Leisure Class"

image of an October 25, 1991 article in the Harvard Law Record entitled "The Leisure Class to Play Club III"

“The Leisure Class to Play Club III,” October 25, 1991; Harvard Law Record, vol. 93, no. 5; HOLLIS no. 116790

image of a 1992 flyer for The Leisure Class playing at T.T. The Bear's

     image of a 1992 flyer for The Leisure Class playing at Bunratty's

image of a 1992 flyer for The Leisure Class playing at T.T. The Bear's

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Flyers for The Leisure Class; 1992; Harvard Law School Ephemera Collection