Quips, Cranks, and Wanton Wiles: Origins of the College Yearbook’s Title

In yesterday’s issue of the campus newspaper, The Davidsonian, an article by Emma Brentjens ’21 profiled the two women behind the school’s yearbook–Quips and Cranks. Mariah Clarke ‘18 and Hayley Atkins ‘18 are currently co-Editors-in-Chief of the 123 year-old publication. The Quips and Cranks was founded in 1895 and, according to College Archivist DebbieLee Landi, the yearbook originally served as a creative outlet for students, becoming the second campus publication of student work and interests beyond the Davidson Monthly. Since 1895, Quips and Cranks has connected students, archivists and alumni with Davidson College’s past.

Cloth book cover. Colorblocked with one thick teal stripe on the left side, the rest is beige. "QUIPS AND CRANKS" is written in gold lettering.

Quips and Cranks 1895, volume I.

While most members of the Davidson community are more than familiar with the college yearbook, Quips and Cranks, they may be less familiar with the origins of its title.  

The title comes from a line of Milton’s poem L’Allegro as published in his 1645 anthology, Poems. The poem is a companion to another Milton piece, Il Penseroso. As Jennifer Hickey and Thomas H. Luxon of the John Milton Reading Room at Dartmouth College describe the pairing, “l’allegro is the “happy person who spends an idealized day in the country as a festive evening in the city, il penseroso is “the thoughtful person” whose night is filled with meditative walking in the woods and hours of study in a ‘lonely Towr’.” The poem puts at odds the sensations of mirth and melancholy through the perspectives of a man enjoying the wonders of nature in the countryside and vibrant city life.

Specifically, the yearbook title comes from this passage:

Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee

Jest and youthful Jollity,

Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,

Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles,

Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,

And love to live in dimple sleek;

Sport that wrinkled Care derides,

And Laughter holding both his sides.

Here, Milton is idolizing the joys the nature brings to one who walks within it, such joys indeed are also brought to the students of Davidson College by one another. For those who seek to share some of that joy, digitized copies of the Quips and Cranks dating back to the 1895 edition and as recent as 2011 can be found on the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections website.

Matte silver book cover featuring shiny lowercase cursive writing reading "davidson" up the right side of the cover and the wildcat logo. "Quips and Cranks" is featuring on the lower left diagonal side of the logo.

Quips and Cranks 2017, volume CXIV.

The full version of L’Allegro can be found here.

The John Milton Reading Room article on L’Allegro can be found here.

The article from The Davidsonian can be founds here.


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