This diary was written by John Erigena Robinson, who graduated from Seton Hall College in 1874. His diary concerns his everyday life at the college, including worrying about assignments, writing letters to his family and friends, and playing for the college’s baseball team. The campus that Robinson studied at during the mid-1870s was one that centered on a structured, liberal arts education that was emblematic of Catholic higher education during his age. He entered into a world of study at Setonia that consisted of two sessions lasting five months apiece from September through June.
John Erigena Robinson was the son of William Erigena Robinson, a congressman and a journalist whose political career is mentioned several times in the diary. Robinson must have been inspired by his father’s journalistic pursuits, because he writes in the diary about his desire to start a student newspaper for Seton Hall College. On January 26, 1873 he wrote:
“To start a paper. How, when, and where? These were the things that occupied me during the day and I may add during the night as I went to bed and fell asleep with visions of shears scraps and papers flying here and there. If we can only get the permission of Malley who owns a press and of Dr. Corrigan who heads the College we are all right. We have fixed the name it is the Setonian. We have got the outline and the matter for each page and now for the permission of the two worthies who at least in this case have a great case in hand!”
Unfortunately, Robinson never realized his dream of starting The Setonian. A full explanation is never given in the diary, but on February 14, 1873 he laments that his plans will not come to fruition:
“George and Bill received a valentine today. I also received one. It had a picture of an editor on it and some ridiculous rhyming lines beneath it. It was sent to me as it had got around that I was going to start a paper in the college. Alas, the poor ‘Setonian’ is but a dream of the past.”
The reasons why Robinson was not able to start a college newspaper are unknown, but fortunately for Seton Hall it was not completely “a dream of the past” but simply deferred. A college newspaper was eventually founded in 1924—51 years after Robinson’s plans and with the same name he proposed, The Setonian.