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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Oxford and Her Colleges, by Goldwin Smith

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Title: Oxford and Her Colleges

Author: Goldwin Smith

Release Date: October 31, 2011 [EBook #37893]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Adrian Mastronardi and the Online Distributed
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A View from the Radcliffe Library










New York

All rights reserved



Copyright, 1893,



Norwood Press:
J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



[Pg v]


The writer has seldom enjoyed himself more than in showing an American friend over Oxford. He has felt something of the same enjoyment in preparing, with the hope of interesting some American visitors, this outline of the history of the University and her Colleges. He would gladly believe that Oxford and Cambridge, having now, by emancipation and reform, been reunited to the nation, may also be reunited to the race; and that to them, not less than to the Universities of Germany, the eyes of Ameri[Pg vi]cans desirous of studying at a European as well as at an American University may henceforth be turned.

It was once the writer's duty, in the service of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, to make himself well acquainted with the archives of the University and its Colleges. But he has also availed himself of a number of recent publications, such as the series of the Oxford Historical Society, the history of the University by Mr. Maxwell Lyte, and the volume on the Colleges of Oxford and their traditions, edited by Mr. Andrew Clark, as well as of the excellent little Guide published by Messrs. James Parker and Co.



[Pg 1]



o gain a view of Oxford from a central point, we mount to the top of the Radcliffe Library. We will hope that it is a fine summer day, that, as we come out upon the roof, the old city, with all its academical buildings lying among their gardens and groves, presents itself to view in its beauty, and that the sound of its bells, awakening the memories of the ages, is in the air. The city is seen lying on the spit of gravel between the Isis, as the[Pg 2] Thames is here called, which is the scene of boat races, and the Cherwell, famed for water-lilies. It is doubtful whether the name means the ford of the oxen, or the ford of the river (oxen being a corruption of ousen). Flat, sometimes flooded, is the site. To ancient founders of cities, a river for water carriage and rich meads for kine were prime attractions. But beyond the flat we look to a lovely country, rolling and sylvan, from many points of which, Wytham, Hinksey, Bagley, Headington, Elsfield, Stowe Wood, are charming views, nearer or more distant, of the city. Turner's view is taken from Bagley, but it is rather a Turner poem than a simple picture of Oxford.[Pg 3]


There is in Oxford much that is not as old as it looks. The buildings of the Bodleian Library, University College, Oriel, Exeter, and some others, mediæval or half mediæval in their style, are Stuart in date. In Oxford the Middle Ages lingered long. Yon cupola of Christ Church is the work of Wren, yon towers of All Souls' are the work of a still later hand. The Headington stone, quickly growing black and crumbling, gives the buildings a false hue of antiquity. An American visitor, misled by the blackness of University College, remarked to his host that the buildings must be immensely old. "No," replied his host, "their colour deceives you; their age is[Pg 4] not more than two hundred years." It need not be said that Palladian edifices like Queen's, or the new buildings of Magdalen, are not the work of a Chaplain of Edward III., or a Chancellor of Henry VI. But of the University buildings, St. Mary's Church and the Divinity School, of the College buildings, the old quadrangles of Merton, New College, Magdalen, Brasenose, and detached pieces not a few are genuine Gothic of the Founders' age. Here are six centuries, if you choose to include the Norman castle, here are eight centuries, and, if you choose to include certain Saxon remnants in Christ Church Cathedral, here are ten centuries, chronicled in stone. Of the corporate[Pg 5] lives of these Colleges, the threads have run unbroken through all the changes and revolutions, political, religious, and social, between the Barons' War and the present hour. The economist goes to their muniment rooms for the record of domestic management and expenditure during those ages. Till yesterday, the codes of statutes embodying their domestic law, though largely obsolete, remained unchanged. Nowhere else in England, at all events, unless it be at the sister University, can the eye and mind feed upon so much antiquity, certainly not upon so much antique beauty, as on the spot where we stand. That all does not belong to the same remote antiquity, adds to the inter[Pg 6]est and to the charm. This great home of learning, with its many architectures, has been handed from generation to generation, each generation making its own improvements, impressing its own tastes, embodying its own tendencies, down to the present hour. It is like a great family mansion, which owner after owner has enlarged or improved to meet his own needs or tastes, and which, thus chronicling successive phases of social and domestic life, is wanting in uniformity but not in living interest or beauty.


Oxford is a federation of Colleges. It had been strictly so for two centuries, and every student had been required to[Pg 7] be a member of a College when, in 1856, non-collegiate students, of whom there are now a good many, were admitted. The University is the federal government. The Chancellor, its nominal head, is a non-resident grandee, usually a political leader whom the University delights to honour and whose protection it desires. Only on great state occasions does he appear in his gown richly embroidered with gold. The acting chief is the Vice-Chancellor, one of the heads of Colleges, who marches with the Bedel carrying the mace before him, and has been sometimes taken by strangers for the attendant of the Bedel. With him are the two Proctors, denoted by their velvet sleeves, named[Pg 8] by the Colleges in turn, the guardians of University discipline. The University Legislature consists of three houses,—an elective Council, made up equally of heads of Colleges, professors, and Masters of Arts; the Congregation of residents, mostly teachers of the University or Colleges; and the Convocation, which consists of all Masters of Arts, resident or non-resident, if they are present to vote. Congregation numbers four hundred, Convocation nearly six thousand. Legislation is initiated by the Council, and has to make its way through Convocation and Congregation, with some chance of being wrecked between the academical Congregation, which is progressive, and the rural[Pg 9] Convocation, which is conservative. The University regulates the general studies, holds all the examinations, except that at entrance, which is held by the Colleges, confers all the degrees and honours, and furnishes the police of the academical city. Its professors form the general and superior staff of teachers.


Each College, at the same time, is a little polity in itself. It has its own governing body, consisting of a Head (President, Master, Principal, Provost, or Warden) and a body of Fellows. It holds its own estates; noble estates, some of them are. It has its private staff of teachers or tutors, usually taken from the[Pg 10] Fellows, though the subjects of teaching are those recognised by the University examinations. The relation between the tutors teaching and that of the professor is rather unsettled and debatable, varying in some measure with the subjects, since physical science can be taught only in the professor's lecture-room, while classics and mathematics can be taught in the class-room of the tutor. Before 1856 the professorial system of teaching had long lain in abeyance, and the tutorial system had prevailed alone. Each College administers its domestic discipline. The University Proctor, if he chases a student to the College gates, must there halt and apply to the College for extradition. To[Pg 11] the College the student immediately belongs; it is responsible for his character and habits. The personal relations between him and his tutor are, or ought to be, close. Oxford life hitherto has been a College life. To his College the Oxford man has mainly looked back. Here his early friendships have been formed. In these societies the ruling class of England, the lay professions and landed gentry mingling with the clergy, has been bred. It is to the College, generally, that benefactions and bequests are given; with the College that the rich and munificent alumnus desires to unite his name; in the College Hall that he hopes his portrait will hang, to be seen with grateful[Pg 12] eyes. The University, however, shares the attachment of the alumnus. Go to yonder river on an evening of the College boat races, or to yonder cricket ground when a College match is being played, and you will see the strength of College feeling. At a University race or match in London the Oxford or Cambridge sentiment appears. In an American University there is nothing like the College bond, unless it be that of the Secret, or, to speak more reasonably, the Greek Letter societies, which form inner social circles with a sentiment of their own.



The buildings of the University lie mainly in the centre of the city close[Pg 13] around us. There is the Convocation House, the hall of the University Legislature, where, in times of collision between theological parties, or between the party of the ancient system of education and that of the modern system, lively debates have been heard. In it, also, are conferred the ordinary degrees. They are still conferred in the religious form of words, handed down from the Middle Ages, the candidate kneeling down before the Vice-Chancellor in the posture of mediæval homage. Oxford is the classic ground of old forms and ceremonies. Before each degree is conferred, the Proctors march up and down the House to give any objector to the degree—an un[Pg 14]satisfied creditor, for example—the opportunity of entering a caveat by "plucking" the Proctor's sleeve. Adjoining the Convocation House is the Divinity School, the only building of the University, saving St. Mary's Church, which dates from the Middle Ages. A very beautiful relic of the Middle Ages it is when seen from the gardens of Exeter College. Here are held the examinations for degrees in theology, styled, in the Oxford of old, queen of the sciences, and long their tyrant. Here, again, is the Sheldonian Theatre, the gift of Archbishop Sheldon, a Primate of the Restoration period, and as readers of Pepys's "Diary" know, of Restoration character, but a patron of learning. University [Pg 15] exercises used, during the Middle Ages, to be performed in St. Mary's Church. In those days the church was the public building for all purposes, that of a theatre among the rest. But the Anglican was more scrupulous in his use of the sacred edifice than the Roman Catholic. In the Sheldonian Theatre is held the annual commemoration of Founders and benefactors, the grand academical festival, at which the Doctorate appears in its pomp of scarlet, filing in to the sound of the organ, the prize poems and essays are read, and the honorary degrees are conferred in the presence of a gala crowd of visitors drawn by the summer beauty of Oxford and the pleasures that[Pg 16] close the studious year. In former days the ceremony used to be enlivened and sometimes disgraced by the jests of the terræ filius, a licensed or tolerated buffoon whose personalities provoked the indignation of Evelyn, and in one case, at least, were visited with expulsion. It is now enlivened, and, as visitors think, sometimes disgraced, by the uproarious joking of the undergraduates' gallery. This modern license the authorities of the University are believed to have brought on themselves by encouraging political demonstrations. The Sheldonian Theatre is also the scene of grand receptions, and of the inauguration of the Chancellor. That flaunting portrait of George IV. in [Pg 17] his royal robes, by Lawrence, with the military portraits of the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia by which it is flanked and its gorgeousness is rebuked, mark the triumphs of the monarchs, whose cause had become that of European independence, over Napoleon. Perhaps the most singular ceremony witnessed by these walls was the inauguration of the Iron Duke as Chancellor of the University. This was the climax of Oxford devotion to the Tory party, and such was the gathering as to cause it to be said that if the roof of the Sheldonian Theatre had then fallen in, the party would have been extinguished. The Duke, as if to mark the incongruity, put on his academical cap[Pg 18] with the wrong side in front, and in reading his Latin speech, lapsed into a thundering false quantity.


The Clarendon was built with the proceeds of the history written by the Minister of the early Restoration, who was Chancellor of the University, and whose touching letter of farewell to her, on his fall and flight from England, may be seen in the Bodleian Library. There, also, are preserved documents which may help to explain his fall. They are the written dialogues which passed between him and his master at the board of the Privy Council, and they show that Clarendon, having been the political tutor of Charles the exile, too much bore himself as the[Pg 19] political tutor of Charles the king. In the Clarendon are the University Council Chamber and the Registry. Once it was the University press, but the press has now a far larger mansion yonder to the north-west, whence, besides works of learning and science, go forth Bibles and prayer-books in all languages to all quarters of the globe. Legally, as a printer of Bibles the University has a privilege, but its real privilege is that which it secures for itself by the most scrupulous accuracy and by infinitesimal profits.


Close by is the University Library, the Bodleian, one of those great libraries of the world in which you can ring up at a few minutes' notice almost any author of[Pg 20] any age or country. This Library is one of those entitled by law to a copy of every book printed in the United Kingdom, and it is bound to preserve all that it receives, a duty which might in the end burst any building, were it not that the paper of many modern books is happily perishable. A foundation was laid for a University Library in the days of Henry VI., by the good Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, who gave a collection of books. But in the rough times which followed, the Duke's donation perished, only two or three precious relics being saved from the wreck. Sir Thomas Bodley, a wealthy knight and diplomatist of the time of James I., it was who reared this pile, severely square and [Pg 21] bare, though a skilful variation of the string course in the different stories somewhat relieves its heaviness. In the antique reading-room, breathing study, and not overthronged with readers, the bookworm finds a paradise. Over the Library is the University Gallery, the visitor to which is entreated to avert his eyes from the fictitious portraits of founders of early Colleges, and to fix them, if he will, on the royal portraits which painfully attest the loyalty of the University, or, as a relief from these, on Guy Fawkes's lantern. Beneath the Library used to be the Schools or examination-rooms of the University, scenes of youthful hopes and fears; perhaps, as the aspirants to honours were[Pg 22] a minority, of more fears than hopes; and at those doors formerly gathered the eager crowd of candidates and their friends to read the class lists which were posted there. But the examination system has outgrown its ancient tenement and migrated to yonder new-built pile in High Street, more fitted, perhaps, by its elaborate ornamentation for the gala and the dance, than for the torture of undergraduates. In the quadrangle of the Bodleian sits aloft, on the face of a tower displaying all the orders of classical architecture, the learned King and royal theologian. The Bible held in his hand is believed to have fallen down on the day that Mr. Gladstone lost his election as Member[Pg 23] for the University of Oxford and set forth on a career of liberalism which has since led him to the disestablishment of the Church. We stand on the Radcliffe, formerly the medical and physical library, now a supplement and an additional reading-room of the Bodleian, the gift of Dr. Radcliffe, Court Physician and despot of the profession in the times of William and Anne, of whose rough sayings, and sayings more than rough, some are preserved in his "Life." He it was who told William III. that he would not have His Majesty's two legs for his three kingdoms, and who is said to have punished the giver of a niggardly fee by a prediction of death, which was fulfilled by[Pg 24] the terrors of the patient. Close at hand is the Ashmolean, the old University Museum, now only a museum of antiquities, the most precious of which is King Alfred's gem. Museum and Medical Library have together migrated to the new edifice on the north side of the city.

University College.St. Mary's Church.Queen's College.

But of all the University buildings the most beautiful is St. Mary's Church, where the University sermons are preached, and from the pulpit of which, in the course of successive generations and successive controversies, a changeful and often heady current of theology has flowed. There preached Newman, Pusey, and Manning; there preached Hampden, Stanley, and the authors of "Essays and Reviews."

[Pg 25]

Oxford and Cambridge were not at first Universities of Colleges. The Colleges were after-growths which for a time absorbed the University. The University of Oxford was born in the twelfth century, fully a century before the foundation of the first College. To recall the Oxford of the thirteenth century, one must bid vanish all the buildings which now meet our eyes, except yonder grim castle to the west of the city, and the stern tower of St. Michael's Church, at once the bell tower of the Church and a defence of the city gate facing the dangerous north. The man-at-arms from the castle, the warder from the gate, looks down upon a city of five or six thousand inhabitants,[Pg 26] huddled for protection under the castle, and within those walls of which a fine remnant is seen bounding the domain of New College. In this city there is a concourse of students brought together to hear a body of teachers who have been led, we know not how, to open their mart of knowledge here. Printing not having been invented, and books being scarce, the fountain of knowledge is the lecture-room of the professor. It is the age of an intellectual revival so remarkable as to be called the Mediæval Renaissance. After the migrations and convulsions, by which the world was cast in a new mould, ensues a reign of comparative peace and settled government, under which the de[Pg 27]sire of knowledge has been reawakened. Universities have been coming out all over Europe like stars in the night; Paris, famous for theology and philosophy, perhaps being the brightest of the constellation, while Bologna was famed for law and Salerno for medicine. It was probably in the reign of Henry I. that the company of teachers settled at Oxford, and before the end of the thirteenth century students had collected to a number which fable exaggerates to thirty thousand, but which was really large enough to crowd the little city and even the bastions of its walls. A light had shone on youths who sat in the shadow of feudal servitude. There is no more romantic period in the[Pg 28] history of human intellect than the thirteenth century.

The teachers, after the fashion of that age, formed themselves into a guild, which guarded its monopoly. The undergraduate was the apprentice; the degree was a license to teach, and carried with it the duty of teaching, though in time it became a literary title, unconnected with teaching, and coveted for its own sake. The University obtained a charter, elected its Chancellor, formed its academical Legislature of graduates, obtained jurisdiction over its own members. In time it marshalled its teachers and students into regular Faculties of theology, law, and medicine, with arts, or general and liberal[Pg 29] culture, if the name can be applied to anything so rudimentary as the literature and science of that day, forming the basis of all. At first the professors taught where they could; in the cloisters, perhaps, of St. Frydeswide's monastery, subsequently absorbed by Christ Church; in the porches of houses. A row of lecture-rooms, called the Schools, was afterwards provided in School Street, which ran north and south just under the Radcliffe. So little anchored was the University by buildings, that when maltreated at Oxford it was ready to pack up its literary wares and migrate to another city such as Northampton or Stamford. Many of the undergraduates at first were mere boys,[Pg 30] to whom the University was a grammar school. For the real University students the dominant study was that of the School philosophy, logical and philosophical, with its strange metaphysical jargon; an immense attempt to extract knowledge from consciousness by syllogistic reasoning, instead of gathering it from observation, experience, and research, mocking by its barrenness of fruit the faith of the enthusiastic student, yet training the mind to preternatural acuteness, and perhaps forming a necessary stage in the mental education of the race. The great instrument of high education was disputation, often repeated, and conducted with the most elaborate forms in the tournaments of the[Pg 31] Schools, which might beget readiness of wit and promptness of elocution, but could hardly beget habits of calm investigation or paramount love of truth. The great event in the academical life was Inception, when the student performed exercises which inaugurated his teachership; and this was commonly celebrated by a feast, the expenditure on which the University was called upon to restrain. Oxford produced some of the greatest schoolmen: Duns Scotus, the "subtle," who had written thirteen folio volumes of arid metaphysics before his early death; Bradwardine, the "profound," and Ockham, the "invincible and unmatched." The idol was Aristotle, viewed mainly as the[Pg 32] metaphysician, and imperfectly understood through translations. To reconcile Aristotelian speculation with orthodox theology was a hard task, not always successfully performed. Theology was, of course, first in dignity of the Faculties, but the most lucrative was the civil and canon law practised in the ecclesiastical courts and, as Roman, misliked by the patriotic Parliament. Philosophy complained that it had to trudge afoot while the liegemen of Justinian rode high in the car of preferment. Of physical science the hour was not yet come, but before its hour came its wonderful and almost miraculous precursor, Roger Bacon, who anticipated the invention of gunpowder and the tele[Pg 33]scope, and whose fabled study stood over Folly Bridge, till, with Carfax's monument and Cranmer's prison, it was cleared away by an improving city corporation. Roger Bacon was, of course, taken for a dealer in black arts; an astrologer and an alchemist he was, and at the same time an illustrious example of the service indirectly rendered by astrology and alchemy in luring to an investigation of nature which led to real discoveries, just as Columbus, seeking a western passage to the golden cities of the East, discovered America.


All the Universities belonged not to one nation but to Latin Christendom, the educated population of which circulated among[Pg 34] them. At one time there was a migration to Oxford from the University of Paris, which had got into trouble with the government. Of all the Universities alike, ecclesiastical Latin was the language. The scholars all ranked with the clerical order, so that at Oxford, scholar and clerk, townsman and layman, were convertible terms. In those days all intellectual callings, and even the higher mechanical arts, were clerical. The student was exempted by his tonsure from lay jurisdiction. The Papacy anxiously claimed the Universities as parts of its realm, and only degrees granted by the Pope's authority were current throughout Christendom. When, with Edward III., came the long war[Pg 35] between England and France, and when the confederation of Latin Christendom was beginning to break up, the English Universities grew more national.


Incorporated with the buildings of Worcester College are some curious little tenements once occupied by a colony from different Benedictine Monasteries. These, with the Church of St. Frydeswide, now Christ Church Cathedral, and the small remains of Osney Abbey, are about the only relics of monastic Oxford which survived the Reformation. But in the Middle Ages there were Houses for novices of the great Orders, Benedictines, Cistercians, Carmelites, Augustinians, and most notable[Pg 36] and powerful of all, the two great mendicant Orders of Dominicans and Franciscans. The Mendicants, who came into the country angels of humility as well as of asceticism, begging their bread, and staining the ground with the blood from their shoeless feet, soon changed their character, and began in the interest of Holy Church to grasp power and amass wealth. The Franciscans especially, like the Jesuits of an after day, strove to master the centres of intellectual influence. They strove to put the laws of the University under their feet. Struggles between them and the seculars, with appeals to the Crown, were the consequence. Attraction of callow youth to an angelic life seems to have[Pg 37] been characteristic of the Brethren of St. Francis, and it is conjectured that in this way Bacon became a monk. Faintly patronised by a liberal and lettered Pope, he was arraigned for necromancy by his Order, and ended his days in gloom, if not in a monastic prison. The Church of the Middle Ages with one hand helped to open the door of knowledge, with the other she sought to close it. At last she sought to close it with both hands, and in her cruel panic established the Inquisition.


Tory in its later days, the University was liberal in its prime. It took the part of the Barons and De Montfort against Henry III., and a corps of its students[Pg 38] fought against the King under their own banner at Northampton. Instead of being the stronghold of reaction, it was the focus of active, even of turbulent aspiration, and the saying ran, that when there was fighting at Oxford there was war in England. Oxford's hero in the thirteenth century was its Chancellor, Grosseteste, the friend of De Montfort and the great reformer of his day, "of prelates the rebuker, of monks the corrector, of scholars the instructor, of the people the preacher, of the incontinent the chastiser, of writings the industrious investigator, of the Romans the hammer and contemner." If Grosseteste patronised the Friars, it was in their first estate.[Pg 39]


At first the students lodged as "Chamberdekyns" with citizens, but that system proving dangerous to order, they were gathered into hostels, or, to use the more dignified name, Halls (aulæ) under a Principal, or Master of the University, who boarded and governed them. Of these Halls there were a great number, with their several names and signs. Till lately a few of them remained, though these had lost their original character, and become merely small Colleges, without any foundation except a Principal. The students in those days were mostly poor. Their indigence was almost taken for granted. Some of them begged; chests were provided by the charitable for loans to them.[Pg 40] A poor student's life was hard; if he was earnest in study, heroic. He shared a room with three or four chums, he slept under a rug, his fare was coarse and scanty, his garment was the gown which has now become merely an academical symbol, and thankful he was to be provided with a new one. He had no fire in his room, no glass in his window. As his exercises in the University Schools began at five in the morning, it is not likely that he read much at night, otherwise he would have to read by the light of a feeble lamp flickering with the wind. His manuscript was painful to read. The city was filthy, the water polluted with sewage; pestilence often swept through the crowded hive.[Pg 41]


Mediæval students were a rough set; not less rough than enthusiastic; rougher than the students of the Quartier Latin or Heidelberg, their nearest counterparts in recent times. They wore arms, or kept them in their chambers, and they needed them not only in going to and from the University over roads beset with robbers, but in conflicts with the townspeople, with whom the University was at war. With the townspeople the students had desperate affrays, ancient precursors of the comparatively mild town and gown rows of this century. The defiant horns of the town were answered by the bells of the University. Arrows flew; blood was shed on both sides; Halls were stormed and de[Pg 42]fended; till Royalty from Abingdon or Woodstock interfered with its men-at-arms, seconded by the Bishop with bell, book, and candle. A Papal Legate, an Italian on whom national feeling looks with jealousy, comes to Oxford. Scholars crowd to see him. There is a quarrel between them and his train. His cook flings a cauldron of boiling broth over an Irish student. The scholars fly to arms. The Legate is ignominiously chased from Oxford. Excommunications, royal thunders, and penitential performances follow. Jews settle in Oxford, ply their trade among the scholars, and form a quarter with invidiously wealthy mansions. There is a royal edict, forbidding them to exact more than forty-three[Pg 43] per cent interest from the student. Wealth makes them insolent; they assault a religious procession, and with them also the students have affrays. Provincial feeling is strong, for the students are divided into two nations, the Northern and the Southern, which are always wrangling, and sometimes fight pitched battles with bows and arrows. The two Proctors, now the heads of University police, were appointed as tribunes of the two nations to settle elections and other matters between them without battle. Amusements as well as everything else were rude. Football and other rough games were played at Beaumont, a piece of ground to the north of the city; but there was nothing like that[Pg 44] cricket field in the parks, nor like the sensation now created by the appearance of a renowned cricketer in his paddings before an admiring crowd, to display the fruit of his many years of assiduous practice in guarding his stumps. The Crown and local lords had to complain of a good deal of poaching in Bagley, Woodstock, Shotover, and Stowe Wood.


To this Oxford, with its crowd of youth thirsting for knowledge, its turbulence, its vice, its danger from monkish encroachment, came Walter de Merton, one of the same historic group as Grosseteste and Grosseteste's friend, Adam de Marisco, the man of the hour, with the right device [Pg 45] in his mind. Merton had been Chancellor of Henry III. amidst the political storms of the time, from which he would gladly turn aside to a work of peaceful improvement. It was thus that violence in those ages paid with its left hand a tribute to civilisation. Merton's foundation is the first College, though University and Balliol come before it in the Calendar in deference to the priority of the benefactions out of which those Colleges grew. Yonder noble chapel in the Decorated style, with its tower and the old quadrangle beneath it, called, nobody knows why, Mob Quad, are the cradle of College life. Merton's plan was an academical brotherhood, which combined monastic[Pg 46] order, discipline, and piety with the pursuit of knowledge. No monk or friar was ever to be admitted to his House. The members of the House are called in his statutes by the common name of Scholars, that of Fellows (Socii), which afterwards prevailed here and in all the other Colleges, denoting their union as an academical household. They were to live like monks in common; they were to take their meals together in the Refectory, and to study together in the common library, which may still be seen, dark and austere, with the chain by which a precious volume was attached to the desk. They had not a common dormitory, but they must have slept two or three in a room. Probably[Pg 47] they were confined to their quadrangle, except when they were attending the Schools of the University, or allowed to leave it only with a companion as a safeguard. They were to elect their own Warden, and fill up by election vacancies in their own number. The Warden whom they had elected, they were to obey. They were to watch over each other's lives, and hold annual scrutinies into conduct. The Archbishop of Canterbury was to visit the College and see that the rule was kept. But the rule was moral and academical, not cloistral or ascetic. The mediæval round of religious services was to be duly performed, and prayers were to be said for the Founder's[Pg 48] soul. But the main object was not prayer, contemplation, or masses for souls; it was study. Monks were permanently devoted to their Order, shut up for life in their monastery, and secluded from the world. The Scholars of Merton were destined to serve the world, into which they were to go forth when they had completed the course of preparation in their College. They were destined to serve the world as their Founder had served it. In fact, we find Wardens and Fellows of Merton employed by the State and the Church in important missions. A Scholar of Merton, though he was to obey the College authorities, took no monastic vow of obedience. He took no monastic vow of[Pg 49] poverty; on the contrary, it was anticipated that he would gain wealth, of which he was exhorted to bestow a portion on his College. He took no monastic vow of celibacy, though, as one of the clerical order, he would of course not be permitted to marry. He was clerical as all Scholars in those days were clerical, not in the modern and professional sense of the term. The allowances of the Fellow were only his Commons, or food, and his Livery, or raiment, and there were to be as many Fellows as the estate could provide with these. Instruction was received not in College, but in the Schools of the University, to which the Scholars of Merton, like the other Scholars, were to resort. A[Pg 50] sort of grammar school, for boys of the Founder's kin, was attached to the College. But otherwise the work of the College was study, not tuition, nor did the statutes contemplate the admission of any members except those on the foundation.



Merton's plan, meeting the need of the hour, found acceptance. His College became the pattern for others both at Oxford and Cambridge. University, Balliol, Exeter, Oriel, and Queen's were modelled after it, and monastic Orders seem to have taken the hint in founding Houses for their novices at Oxford. University College grew out of the benefaction of William of Durham, an ecclesiastic who[Pg 51] had studied at Paris, and left the University a sum of money for the maintenance of students of divinity. The University lodged them in a Hall styled the Great Hall of the University, which is still the proper corporate name of the College. In after days, this Hall, having grown into a College, wished to slip its neck out of the visitorial yoke of the University, and on the strength of its being the oldest foundation at Oxford, claimed as founder Alfred, to whom the foundation of the University was ascribed by fable, asserting that as a royal foundation it was under the visitorship of the Crown. Courts of law recognised the claim; a Hanoverian court of law probably recognised it with[Pg 52] pleasure, as transferring power from a Tory University to the King; and thus was consecrated a fiction in palliation of which it can only be said, that the earliest of our literary houses may not improperly be dedicated to the restorer of English learning. Oriel was founded by a court Almoner, Adam de Brome, who displayed his courtliness by allowing his Scholars to speak French as well as Latin. Queen's was founded by a court Chaplain, Robert Egglesfield, and dedicated to the honour of his royal mistress, Queen Philippa. It was for a Provost and twelve Fellows who were to represent the number of Christ and his disciples, to sit at a table as Egglesfield had seen in a picture[Pg 53] the Thirteen sitting at the Last Supper, though in crimson robes. Egglesfield's building has been swept away to make room for the Palladian palace on its site. But his name is kept in mind by the quaint custom of giving, on his day, a needle (aiguille) to each member of the foundation, with the injunction, Take that and be thrifty. Yonder stone eagles too on the building recall it. Exeter College was the work of a political Bishop who met his death in a London insurrection.

As the fashion of founding Colleges grew, that of founding Monasteries decreased, and the more as the mediæval faith declined, and the great change drew near. That change was heralded by the[Pg 54] appearance of Wycliffe, a genuine off-spring of the University, for while he was the great religious reformer, he was also the great scholastic philosopher of his day. To what College or Hall his name and fame belong is a moot point among antiquaries. We would fain imagine him in his meditations pacing the old Mob Quadrangle of Merton. His teaching took strong and long hold of the University. His reforming company of "poor priests" drew with it the spiritual aspiration and energy of Oxford youth. But if his movement has left any traces in the shape of foundations, it is in the shape of foundations produced by the reaction against it, and destined for its overthrow.


[Pg 55]

Yonder rises the bell tower of New College over a famous group of buildings, with ample quadrangle, rich religious chapel, a noble Hall and range of tranquil cloisters, defaced only by the addition of a modern upper story to the quadrangle and Vandalic adaptation of the upper windows to modern convenience. This pile was the work of William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, a typical character of the Middle Ages, prelate, statesman, and court architect in one, who negotiated the peace of Bretigny and built Windsor Castle. The eye of the great architect as well as of the pious Founder must have ranged with delight over his fair creation. It is likely that[Pg 56] New College, as a foundation highly religious in its character, was intended to counteract Wycliffism as well as to replenish the clergy which had been decimated by the Black Death. Wykeham was a reformer in his way, and one of the party headed by the Black Prince which strove to correct the abuses of the court in the dark decline of Edward III. But he was a conservative, religious after the orthodox fashion, and devoted to the worship of the Virgin, to whom his College was dedicated, after whom it was named, and whose image surmounts its gate. The College of St. Mary of Winton his foundation was entitled. In its day it might well be called New College. New it[Pg 57] was in its scale, having seventy Fellows and Scholars besides ten Chaplains, three Clerks, and sixteen Choristers for the services of the Chapel, which is still famous for its choir. New it was in the extent and magnificence of its buildings. New it was in the provision made for solemn services in its Chapel, for religious processions round its cloisters, for the daily orisons of all its members. New it was in the state assigned to its Warden, who was not to be like the Warden of Merton, only the first among his humble peers, living with them at the common board, but to resemble more a great Abbot with a separate establishment of his own, keeping a sumptuous hospitality and drawn by[Pg 58] six horses when he went abroad. New it was in having undergraduates as well as graduates on the foundation, and providing for the training of the youth during the whole interval between school and the highest University degree. Even further back than the time of admittance to the University, stretched the care of the reformer of education. The most important novelty of all, perhaps, in his creation, was the connection between his College and the school which he founded at Winchester, his cathedral city, to feed his College with a constant supply of model Scholars. This was the first of those great Public Schools which have largely moulded the character of the ruling class [Pg 59] in England. The example was followed by Henry VI. in connecting King's College, Cambridge, with Eton, and would have been followed by Wolsey had he carried out his design of connecting Cardinal College with his school at Ipswich. From the admission of an undergraduate element into the College it naturally followed that there should be instruction of the juniors by the seniors, and superintendence of study within the College walls. This was yet another novelty, and Wykeham seems to have had an additional motive for adopting it in the low condition of the University Schools, from the exercises of which attention had perhaps been diverted by the religious move[Pg 60]ment. In the careful provision for the study of Grammatica, that is, the elements of Latin, we perhaps see a gleam of the Renaissance, as the style of the buildings belonging to the last order of mediæval architecture indicates that the Middle Age was hastening to its close. But it was one of Wykeham's objects to strengthen the orthodox priesthood in a time of revolutionary peril. Ten of his Fellows were assigned to the study of civil, ten to that of canon, law. Two were permitted to study medicine. All the rest were to be theologians. The Founder was false to his own generous design in giving a paramount and perpetual preference in the election of Fellows to his own kin, who,[Pg 61] being numerous, became at length a fearful incubus on his institution. It is not likely that his own idea of kinship was unlimited, or extended beyond the tenth degree. All the Fellows and Scholars were to be poor and indigent. This was in unison with the mediæval spirit of alms-giving as well as with the mediæval theory of poverty as a state spiritually superior, held, though not embodied, by wealthy prelates. Study, not teaching, it is always to be remembered, was the principal duty of those who were to eat the Founder's bread.



The Statutes of New College are elaborate, and were largely copied by other[Pg 62] founders. They present to us a half-monastic life, with the general hue of asceticism which pervades everything mediæval. Here, as in the case of Merton, there are no vows, but there is strict discipline, with frugal fare. The Commons, or allowances for food, are not to exceed twelve pence per week, except in the times of dearth. Once a year there is an allowance of cloth for a gown. There is a chest for loans to the very needy, but there is no stipend. The Warden rules with abbatial power, though in greater matters he requires the consent of the Fellows, and is himself under the censorship of the Visitor, the Bishop of Winchester, who, however, rarely interposed. Every year he goes on[Pg 63] "progress" to view the College estates, there being in those days no agents, and is received by tenants with homage and rural hospitality. The Fellows and Scholars are lodged three or four in a room, the seniors as monitors to the juniors. Each Scholar undergoes two years of probation. As in a baronial hall the nobles, so in the College Hall the seniors, occupy the dais, or high table, while the juniors sit at tables arranged down the Hall. In the dining-hall the Fellows and Scholars sit in silence, and listen to the reading of the Bible. In speaking they must use no tongue but the Latin. There is to be no lingering in the Hall after dinner, except when in winter a fire is lighted on some[Pg 64] church festival. Then it is permitted to remain awhile and rehearse poems, or talk about the chronicles of the kingdom, the wonders of the world, and other things befitting clerical discourse. This seems to be the principal concession made to the youthful love of amusement. As a rule, it appears that the students were confined to the College and its cloisters when they were not attending the Schools of the University. They are forbidden to keep hounds or hawks, as well as to throw stones or indulge in any rough or noisy sports. The injunctions against spilling wine and slops in the upper rooms, or beer on the floor of the Hall, to the annoyance of those who lodged beneath, betoken a rough style[Pg 65] of living and rude manners. The admission of strangers is jealously restricted, and on no account must a woman enter the College, except a laundress, who must be of safe age. There were daily prayers for the Founder's soul, daily masses, and fifty times each day every member of the College was to repeat the salutation to the Virgin. The Founder's obit was to be celebrated with special pomp. Self-love in a mediæval ascetic was not annihilated by humility, though it took a religious form. Thrice every year are held scrutinies into life and conduct, at which the hateful practice of secret denunciation is admitted, and the accused is forbidden to call for the name of his accuser. Every cloistered soci[Pg 66]ety, whether monastic or academic, is pretty sure to seethe with cabals, suspicions, and slanders. Leave of absence from the College was by statute very sparingly allowed, and seldom could the young Scholar pay what, in the days before the letter post, must have been angel's visits to the old people on the paternal homestead. The ecclesiastical and ascetic system of the Middle Ages had little regard for domestic affection. It treated the boy as entirely a child of the Church. In times of pestilence, then common, the inmates of the Colleges usually went to some farm or grange belonging to the College in the neighbourhood of Oxford, and those were probably pleasant days for the younger [Pg 67] members. Oaths of fearful length and stringency were taken to the observation of the statutes. They proved sad traps for conscience when the statutes had become obsolete, a contingency of which the Founders, ignorant of progress and evolution, never dreamed.



In the interval between the foundation of New College and the revolution, religious and intellectual, which we call the Reformation, were founded Lincoln, All Souls', Magdalen, and Brasenose. Lincoln, All Souls', and Brasenose lie immediately round us, close to what was the centre of academical life. Magdalen we recognise in the distance by the most[Pg 68] beautiful of towers. Lincoln was theological, and was peculiar in being connected with two of the Churches of Oxford, which its members served, and the tithes and oblations of which formed its endowment. Its Founder, Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln, had as a graduate resident at Oxford been noted for sympathy with the Wycliffites. But when he became Bishop of Lincoln, the fact dawned upon him that the Scriptures too freely interpreted were dangerous. He went over to the Reaction, burned Wycliffe's body, and determined to found a little college of true students in theology, who would "defend the mysteries of the sacred page against those igno[Pg 69]rant laics who profaned with swinish snouts its most holy pearls." His successor, Bishop Rotherham, being of the same mind, carried forward the work, and gave the College statutes enjoining the expulsion of any Fellow convicted of favouring in public or in private heretical tenets, and in particular the tenets of "that heretical sect lately sprung up which assails the sacraments, diverse orders and dignities, and properties of the Church." Rotherham had evidently a keen and just sense of the fact, that with the talismanic sacraments of the Church were bound up its dignity and wealth. The two orthodox prelates would have stood aghast if they could have fore[Pg 70]seen that their little College of true theologians would one day number among its Fellows John Wesley, and that Methodism would be cradled within its walls. They would not less have stood aghast if they could have foreseen that such a chief of Liberals as Mark Pattison, would one day be its Rector. The history of these foundations is full of lessons for benefactors who fancy that they can impress their will upon posterity.

All Souls' was designed by its Founder, Archbishop Chicheley, ad orandum as well as ad studendum; it was to serve the purpose of a chantry not less than of a College. The sculptured group of souls over the gateway in High Street[Pg 71] denotes that the Warden and Fellows were to pray for the souls of all Christian people. But particularly were they to pray for the souls of "the illustrious Prince Henry, late King of England, of Thomas, Duke of Clarence, and of all the Dukes, Earls, Barons, Knights, Esquires, and others who fell in the war for the Crown of France." Of that unhappy war Chicheley had been the adviser; and seeing the wreck which his folly, or, if the suspicion immortalised by Shakespeare is true, his selfish policy, as the head of a bloated Establishment threatened with depletion, had wrought, he may well have felt the sting of conscience in his old age. The figures in[Pg 72] the new reredos of the Chapel tell the story of the foundation.


Magdalen was the work of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of Henry VI., another statesman-prelate who turned from the political storm to found a house of learning. Of all the houses of learning in England, perhaps of any country, that which Waynflete founded is the loveliest, as he will say who stands in its cloistered and ivy-mantled quadrangle, either beneath the light of the summer's sun or that of the winter's moon. Some American architect, captivated by the graces of Magdalen, has reproduced them in his plan for a new University [Pg 73] in California. Those courts, when newly built, were darkened by the presence of Richard III. Waynflete came to Oxford to receive the king; and this homage, paid by a saintly man, seems to show that in those fierce times of dynastic change, Richard, before the murder of his nephews, was not regarded as a criminal usurper, perhaps not as a usurper at all. The tyrant was intellectual. In him, as still more notably in Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, nicknamed for his cruelty the Butcher, but literary and a benefactor to the University, was something like an English counterpart of the mixture in the Italian Renaissance of culture with licentiousness and crime. But as he sat[Pg 74] beside Waynflete in the Hall wooing popularity by apparent attention to the exercises, Richard's thoughts probably were far away. A red rose among the architectural ornaments is found to have been afterwards painted white. It changed, no doubt, with fortune, when she left the red for the white rose. A new relation between College and University is inaugurated by the institution at Magdalen of three Readers to lecture to the University at large.


Magdalen College, First Quadrangle.


The old quadrangle of Brasenose remains much as it was left by its co-founders, a munificent Bishop and a pious Knight. It is of no special his[Pg 75]toric interest, and its importance belongs to later times. It absorbed several Halls, the sign of one of which was probably the brazen nose which now adorns its gate, and so far it marks an epoch.


The quiet and sombre old quadrangle of Corpus Christi lies yonder, by the side of Merton, much as its Founder left it. Now we have come to the real dawn of the English Renaissance, a gray dawn which never became a very bright day; for in England, as in Germany and other Teutonic countries, reawakened and emancipated intellect turned to the pursuit of truth rather than of beauty, and the great movement was less a birth of literature[Pg 76] and of art than of reformation in religion. This is the age of Grocyn, the teacher of Greek; of Linacre, the English Hippocrates; of Colet, the regenerator of education; of Sir Thomas More, who carried culture to the Chancellorship of the realm, and whose "Utopia" proclaims the growth of fresh aspirations and the opening of a new era in one way, as Rabelais did in another. Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, uncle of Henry VI., had perhaps opened the epoch at Oxford by his princely gift of books, in which the Renaissance literature was strongly represented, and which was the germ of the University Library. Soon Erasmus will visit Oxford and chant in elegant Latin the praises of the classi[Pg 77]cal and cultured circle which he finds there. Now rages the war between the humanists of the new classical learning, called the Greeks, and its opponents, the Trojans, who desired to walk in the ancient paths, and who, though bigoted and grotesque, were, after all, not far wrong in identifying heresy with Greek, since the study of the New Testament in the original was subversive of the mediæval faith. Again, as in the cases of Merton, Wykeham, and Waynflete, a statesman-prelate turns in old age from the distractions of State to found a house of learning. Foxe, Bishop of Winchester, was the chief counsellor and diplomatist of Henry VII., in whose service he had no[Pg 78] doubt passed anxious hours and trodden dark paths. It may have been partly for the good of his soul that he proposed to found a house in Oxford for the reception of young monks from St. Swithin's Priory in Winchester while studying in Oxford. He was diverted from that design, and persuaded to found a College instead, by his friend Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, who is represented as saying, "What, my Lord, shall we build houses and provide livelihoods for a company of bussing monks whose end and fall we ourselves may live to see? No, no. It is more meet, a great deal, that we should have care to provide for the increase of learning and for such as by their learning shall do[Pg 79] good in the Church and Commonwealth." Supposing the prognostication embodied in these words genuine, they show that to an enlightened Bishop the dissolution of the Monasteries seemed inevitable. The statutes of Foxe's College are written in a style which affects the highest classical elegance. They elaborate throughout the metaphor of a bee-hive with its industrious insects and its store of intellectual honey. They embody the hopes of the Renaissance and depict a College of the Humanities. There is to be a Reader in Greek, and for the subjects of his lectures a long list of great Greek authors is assigned. There is to be a Reader of Latin, for whose lectures a similar list of Latin au[Pg 80]thors is given, and who is to keep "barbarism," that mortal sin in the eyes of a devotee of the Renaissance, out of the hive. Theology is not forgotten. The Founder pays a due, possibly somewhat conventional, tribute to its surpassing importance. Of this, also, there is a Professor, but its guides in interpreting Scripture are not to be the mediæval textbooks, such as Aquinas and the Master of the Sentences, but the Greek and Latin Fathers, including the daring Origen and Augustine the favourite of Luther. The Readers are to lecture not to the College only, but to the University at large, a new provision, connecting the College with the University, which hardly took effect till[Pg 81] very recent times. One of the first Readers was the learned Spaniard, Juan Luis Vives, whose appointment bespoke the cosmopolitan character of the humanist republic of letters. The statutes were signed by the Founder with a trembling hand eight months before his death, so that only in imagination did he see his literary bees at work.


Yonder to the south is Tom Tower, where hangs the great bell, which, "swinging slow with sullen roar," was heard by Milton at Forest Hill. It was tolled a hundred and one times for the hundred and one students of Wolsey's House. The Tower, or Cupola, was the work, not[Pg 82] of Wolsey but of Wren. Around the great quadrangle over which it rises are seen the lines for cloisters which were never built. The balustrade on the top of the quadrangle is an alien work of modern times. The Church of St. Frydeswide's Monastery does duty as the College Chapel, in place of the grand Chapel in the perpendicular style, which, had the Founder's plan taken effect, would have stood there. Moreover, that which should have been wholly a College is made to serve and to expend a part of its power as the Chapter of the Diocese of Oxford, lending its Chapel as the Cathedral, a niggardly arrangement which has been productive of strained relations[Pg 83] between occupants of the See and Heads of the College. Ample and noble are the courts of Wolsey. Worthy of his magnificence is the great Hall, the finest room, barring Westminster Hall, in England, and filled with those portraits of Alumni, which, notwithstanding the frequency of pudding sleeves, form the fairest tapestry with which hall was ever hung. But it all falls short of Wolsey's conception. Had Wolsey's conception been fulfilled, Ipswich would have been a nursery of scholars for Cardinal College, as Winchester was for New College, and Eton for King's College, Cambridge. The Cardinal was an English Leo X. in morals, tastes, perhaps in beliefs; a true Prince,[Pg 84] not of the Church but of the Renaissance. For him, perhaps, as for Foxe, it was a refreshment to turn from public life, full, as it must have been, of care and peril for the Vizier of a headstrong and capricious despot, to the calm happiness of seeing his great College rise, and gathering into it the foremost of teachers and the flower of students. But in the midst of his enterprise the sky of the Renaissance became overcast with clouds, and the storm of religious revolution, which had long been gathering, broke. Forewarnings of the storm Wolsey had received, for he had found that in opening his gates to the highest intellectual activity he had opened them to free inquiry and to hetero[Pg 85]doxy. Himself, too, had set the example of suppressing monasteries, though he did this not for mere rapine or to gorge his parasites, but to turn useless and abused endowments to a noble use. Wolsey all but drew his foundation down with him in his fall. The tyrant and his minions were builders of nothing but ruin. Christ Church, as at last it was called, was threatened with confiscation and destruction, but was finally spared in its incomplete condition, appropriated by Henry as his own foundation, and dedicated to the honour of the king, whose portrait, in its usual attitude of obtrusive self-conceit, occupies in the Hall the central place, where the portrait of the Cardinal should[Pg 86] be. The Cardinal's hat, on the outer wall of the house, is left to speak of the true Founder. That the College was to be called after its Founder's name, not, like the Colleges of Wykeham and Waynflete, after the name of a Saint, seems a symptom of the pride which went before Wolsey's fall.


Now come upon the hapless University forty years of religious revolution, the monuments of which are traces of destruction and records of proscription. All the monastic houses and houses for monastic novices were forfeited to the Crown, and their buildings were left desolate, though, from the ruins of some of them,[Pg 87] new Colleges were afterwards to rise. Libraries which would now be priceless, were sacked and destroyed because the illumination on the manuscripts was Popish. It was the least to be deplored of all the havoc, that the torn leaves of the arid tomes of Duns Scotus were seen flying about the quadrangle of New College, while a sporting gentleman of the neighbourhood was picking them up to be used in driving the deer. There is a comic monument of the religious revolution in the coffer shrine at Christ Church, in which the dust of Catherine, wife of the Protestant Doctor, Peter Martyr, is mingled with that of the Catholic Saint, Frydeswide. Catholicism, in its hour of[Pg 88] triumph under Mary, had dug up the corpse of the heretic's concubine and buried it under a dung-hill. Protestantism, once more victorious, rescued the remains, and guarded against a repetition of the outrage, in case fortune should again change, by mingling them with those of the Catholic Saint. A more tragic memorial of the conflict is yonder recumbent cross in Broad Street, close to the spot, then a portion of the town ditch, where Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley died. Bocardo, the prison over the neighbouring gate of the city, from the window of which Cranmer, then confined there, witnessed the burning of Latimer and Ridley, was pulled down at the begin[Pg 89]ning of this century. The Divinity School, Christ Church Cathedral, and St. Mary's Church witnessed different scenes of the drama. St. Mary's witnessed that last scene, in which Cranmer filled his enemies with fury and confusion by suddenly recanting his recantation, and declaring that the hand which had signed it should burn first. College archives record the expulsion, readmission, and re-expulsion of Heads and Fellows, as victory inclined to the Protestant or Catholic side. So perished the English Renaissance. For the cultivation of the humanities there could be no room in a centre of religious strife.[Pg 90]


Fatal bequests of the religious war were the religious tests. Leicester, as Chancellor, introduced subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles to keep out Romanists; King James, that to the three articles of the Thirty-sixth Canon to keep out Puritans. These tests, involving scores of controverted propositions in theology, were imposed on the consciences of mere boys. The Universities were thus taken from the nation and given to the State Church, which, in the course of time, as dissent from its doctrines gained ground, came to be far from identical with the nation.


In the first lull, however, new Colleges arose, partly out of the ruins of the monas[Pg 91]tic houses of the past. Trinity College, of which the quiet old quadrangle is curiously mated with a fantastic Chapel of much later date, was founded out of the ruin of Durham College, a Benedictine House. Its Founder, Sir Thomas Pope, was one of that group of highly educated lay statesmen, eminent both in the councils of kings and among the patrons of learning, which succeeded the great Prelates of the Middle Ages. He was a Catholic, as his statutes show; but a liberal Catholic, not unfriendly to light, though little knowing perhaps whither it would lead him. Among his friends was Sir Nicholas Bacon, who bequeathed to him the splendid whistle, then used to call[Pg 92] servants, which is seen round his neck in his portrait. Another of his friends was Pole, who showed his intellectual liberality by recommending him to enjoin in his statutes the study of Greek. St. John's College, again, rose out of the wreck of a Bernardine House. The Founder was not a statesman or a prelate, but a great citizen, Sir Thomas White, sometime Lord Mayor of London, who had amassed wealth in trade, and made a noble use of it. White also was of the olden faith. That the storm was not over when his College was founded is tragically shown by the fate of Campion, who, when White was laid in the College Chapel, preached the funeral sermon, and afterwards becoming [Pg 93] a Jesuit and an emissary of his Order, was brought to the rack and to the scaffold. There was also a great secession of Fellows when the final rupture took place between Rome and Elizabeth. In the group of cultivated Knights and statesmen, who patronised learning and education, may be placed Sir William Petre, the second Founder of Exeter College, whose monument is its old quadrangle, and Sir Thomas Bodley, whose monument is the Bodleian Library. If Petre and Bodley were Protestants, while Pope and White were Catholics, the difference was rather political than religious. In religion the public men changed with the national government, little sharing the passions of either theological party.



[Pg 94]

Jesus, whose old quadrangle, chapel, and hall belong to early Stuart times, was the first distinctly Protestant College. This its name, in contrast with Colleges named after Saints, denotes. The second Protestant College was Wadham, the buildings of which stand in their pristine beauty, vying with Magdalen, perhaps even excelling it in the special air of a house of learning, and proving that to be interesting and impressive it is not necessary to be mediæval. At the same time Wadham shows how long the spirit of the Middle Ages clung to Oxford; for the style of the Chapel is anterior by a century and a half to the date. Here we have a conscious desire, on the[Pg 95] part of the architect, to recall the past. The Founder, Sir Nicholas Wadham, was a wealthy Western land-owner. We may dismiss the tradition that his first design was to found a College of Roman Catholic priests in Italy, and his second to found a Protestant College at Oxford, as at most significant of the prolonged wavering of the religious balance in the minds of a number of the wealthier class. The statutes were, in the main, like those of the mediæval Colleges, saving in making the Fellowship terminable after about twenty-two years, thus more clearly designating the College as a school for active life. The prohibition of marriage was retained, not as an ascetic ordinance, but[Pg 96] as a concomitant of the College system. In the mediæval Colleges it was not necessary to extend the prohibition to the Heads, who, being priests, were bound to celibacy by the regulations of their Order; but marriage being now permitted to the clergy generally, the prohibition was in the statutes of Wadham expressly extended, in the interest of the College system, to the Head. Hence it is an aspersion on the reputation of Dame Dorothy Wadham, who, after her husband's death, carried out his design, and whose effigy kneels opposite that of her loving lord in the old quadrangle, to say that she was in love with the first Warden, and because he would not marry [Pg 97] her, forbade him by statute to marry any other woman.



These foundations, followed by that of Pembroke and the building of the South quadrangle of Merton, of the South quadrangle of Lincoln, of the West front of St. John's, of the quadrangle and hall of Exeter, of part of the quadrangle of Oriel, of the West quadrangle of University College, as well as of the Bodleian Library, the Schools' quadrangle, the Convocation House, and of the gateway of the Botanic Garden, prove that, though the old University system, with its scholastic exercises, had become hollow, there was life in Oxford, and the interest of patrons of learn[Pg 98]ing was attracted to it during the period between the Reformation and the Rebellion. It was also felt to be a centre of power. Elizabeth twice visited it, once in the heyday of her youthful glory, and again in her haggard decline. On the first occasion she exerted with effect those arts of popularity which were the best part of her statesmanship. On both occasions she was received with ecstatic flattery and entertained with academical exercises at tedious length, and plays, to our taste not less tedious, performed in College Halls. Her successor could not fail to exhibit himself in a seat of learning, where he felt supreme, and, to do him justice, was not unqualified, to shine. To his benig[Pg 99]nity the University owes the questionable privilege of sending two members to the House of Commons, whereby it became entangled in political as well as in theological frays.


Great changes, however, had by this time passed or were passing over the University. As in former days the Halls had absorbed the Chamberdekyns, so the Colleges had now almost absorbed the Halls. They did this, not by any aggression, but by the natural advantages of wealth, their riches always increasing with the value of land, and by their reputation. Most of them, in addition to the members on the foundation, took students as boarders, and[Pg 100] they got the best and wealthiest. Universities, losing their pristine character as marts of available knowledge, and becoming places of general education, ceased, by a process equally natural, to be the heritage of the poor and became the resort of the rich. The mediæval statutes of the Colleges still limited the foundations to the poor, but even these in time, by cunning interpretation, were largely evaded. Already in the later Middle Ages Oxford had received, and, it seems, too complacently received, young scions of the aristocracy and gentry, the precursors of the noblemen and the silk-gowned gentleman-commoners of a later day. The Black Prince had been for a short time at[Pg 101] Queen's College. In the reign of Henry VI., George Neville, the brother of the King-maker, had celebrated the taking of his degree, a process which was probably made easy to him, with banquets which lasted through two days on a prodigious scale. At the same time and for the same causes the system of College instruction grew in importance and gradually ousted the lectures of University Professors. Fellows of Colleges were not unwilling to add to their Commons and Livery the Tutor's stipend. Thus the importance of the College waxed while that of the University waned, and the College Statutes became more and more collectively the law of the University. These Statutes[Pg 102] were mediæval and obsolete, but they were unalterable, the Heads and Fellows being sworn to their observance, and there being no power of amendment, since the Visitor could only interpret and enforce. Thus the mediæval type of life and study was stereotyped and progress was barred. The Fellowships having been originally not teacherships or prizes, but aids to poor students, the Founders deemed themselves at liberty in regulating the elections to give free play to their local and family partialities, and the consequence was a mass of preferences to favoured counties or to kin. With all these limitations, the teaching body of the University was now practically saddled. Even the restrictions[Pg 103] to particular schools—as to Winchester in the case of New College, to Westminster, which had been substituted for Wolsey's Ipswich, in the case of Christ Church, and to Merchant Tailors' School in the case of St. John's—were noxious, though in a less degree, albeit their bad influence might be redeemed by some pleasant associations. Worst of all, however, in their effect were the restrictions to the clerical Order. This meant little in the Middle Ages, when all intellectual callings were clerical, when at Oxford gownsman and clerk, townsman and laic, were convertible terms. Wykeham, Foxe, and Wolsey themselves were thorough laymen in their pursuits and character,[Pg 104] though they had received the tonsure, were qualified, if they pleased, to celebrate mass, and derived their incomes from bishoprics and abbeys. But the Reformation drew a sharp line between the clerical and the other professions. The clergyman was henceforth a pastor. The resident body of graduates and the teaching staff of Oxford belonging almost exclusively to the clerical profession, the studies and interests of that profession now reigned alone. Whatever life remained to the University was chiefly absorbed in theological study and controversy. This was the more deplorable as theology, in the mediæval sense, was a science almost as extinct as astrology or alchemy. Oxford was turned[Pg 105] into the cock-pit of theological party. At the same time she was bound hand and foot to a political faction, because her clergymen belonged to the Episcopal and State Church, the patrons and upholders of which, from political motives, were the Kings and the Cavaliers, or, as they were afterwards called, the Tories. Cambridge suffered like Oxford, though with some abatement, because there, owing to the vicinity of a great Puritan district, high Anglicanism did not prevail, and, for reasons difficult to define, the clergy altogether were less clerical. Newton was near forfeiting his Fellowship and the means of prosecuting his speculations because he was not in Holy Orders. Luck[Pg 106]ily, a Lay Fellowship fell just in time. Let Founders, and all who have a passion for regulating the lives of other people, for propagating their wills beyond the reach of their foresight, and for grasping posterity, as it were, with a dead hand, take warning by a disastrous example.


As the Colleges became the University, their Heads became the governors of the University. They formed a Board called the Hebdomadal Council, which initiated all legislation, while the executive was the Vice-Chancellorship, which, though legally elective, was appropriated by the Heads, and passed down their list in order. With a single exception, the Headships[Pg 107] were all clerical, and they were almost always filled by men of temperament, to say the least, eminently conservative. Thus academical liberty and progress slept.


On the eve of another great storm we have a pleasant glimpse of Oxford life and study in Clarendon's picture of Falkland's circle, at Great Tew, within ten miles of Oxford, whither, he says, "most polite and accurate men of that University resorted, dwelling there as in a College situated in a purer air, so that his was a University bound in a less volume, whither his intellectual friends came not so much for repose as study, and to exam[Pg 108]ine and refine those grosser propositions which laziness and consent made current in conversation." This indicates that, while study was going on, liberal inquiry was also on foot. But clouds again gathered, the storm again came, and once more from the ecclesiastical quarter. The triumph of the Reformation, the accession of a Protestant Queen, and the Chancellorship of Leicester, who, for politic purposes, played the Puritan, had been attended by a general expulsion or secession of the Romanising party, which left the University for a time in the hands of the Calvinists and Low Churchmen. Hooker, the real father of Anglicanism, had, for a time, studied Church antiquity[Pg 109] in the quiet quadrangle of Corpus, but he had come into collision with Puritanism, and had, for a time, been driven away by it. Perhaps its prevalence may have ultimately inclined him to exchange the University for a far less congenial sphere. The clergy, however, of an Episcopal Church, and one which laid claim to Apostolical succession, was sure in time to come round to High Church doctrine. To High Church doctrine the clergy of Oxford did come round under the leadership of Laud, University Preacher, Proctor, President of St. John's College, and afterwards Chancellor of the University. Of Laud there are several memorials at Oxford. One is the inner quadrangle of[Pg 110] St. John's College, ornamented in the style of Inigo Jones, where the Archbishop and Chancellor, in the noontide of his career, received with ecstasies of delight, ecclesiastical, academical, and political, his doomed king and master with the fatal woman at Charles's side. Another is a fine collection of oriental books added to the Bodleian Library. A third and more important is the new code of statutes framed for the reformation of the University by its all-powerful Chancellor. A fourth is the statue of the Virgin and Child over the porch of St. Mary's Church, which, as proof of a Romanising tendency, formed one of the charges against the Archbishop, though it was really put up [Pg 111] by his Chaplain. The fifth is the headless corpse which lies buried in the Chapel of St. John's College, whither pious hands conveyed it after the Restoration. Laud was a true friend of the University and of learned men, in whom, as in Hales, he respected the right of inquiry, and to whom he was willing to allow a freedom of opinion which he would not allow to the common herd. He was not so much a bigot as a martinet. It was by playing the martinet in ecclesiastical affairs that he was brought into mortal collision with the nation. In the code of statutes which by his characteristic use of autocratic power he imposed on Oxford the martinet is betrayed; so is the belief in the effi[Pg 112]cacy of regulation. We see the man who wrecked a kingdom for the sake of his forms. Nor had Laud the force to deliver University education from the shackles of the Middle Ages and the scholastic system. But the code is dictated by a genuine spirit of reform, and might have worked improvement had it been sustained by a motive power.



The period of the Civil War is a gap in academical history. Its monuments are only traces of destruction, such as the defacement of Papistical images and window paintings by the Puritan soldiery, and the sad absence of the old College plate, of which two thousand five hundred ounces[Pg 113] went to the Royal mint in New Inn Hall, only a few most sacred pieces, such as the Founder's drinking-horn at Queen's, and the covered cup, reputed that of the Founder, at Corpus, being left to console us for the irreparable loss. Exeter College alone seems to have shown compunction; perhaps there had remained in her something of the free spirit for which in the days of Wycliffe she had been noted. Art and taste may mourn, but the University, as a centre of Episcopalianism, had little cause to complain; for the war was justly called the Bishops' war, and by the Episcopal Church and the Queen, between them, Charles was brought to the block. Oxford was bound by her[Pg 114] ecclesiasticism to the Royal cause, and she had the ill luck to be highly available as a place of arms from her position between the two rivers, while she formed an advanced post to the Western country in which the strength of the King's cause lay. During those years the University was in buff and bandolier, on the drill ground instead of in the Schools, while the Colleges were filled with the exiled Court and its ghost of a Parliament. Traces of works connecting the two rivers were not long ago to be seen, and tradition points to the angle in the old city wall under Merton College as the spot where Windebank, a Royalist officer, was shot for surrendering his post. There was a reign of garri[Pg 115]son manners as well as of garrison duties, and to the few who still cared for the objects of the University, even if they were Royalists, the surrender of the city to the Parliament may well have been a relief.


Then came Parliamentary visitation and the purge, with the inevitable violence and inhumanity. Heads and Fellows, who refused submission to the new order of things, were turned out. Mrs. Fell, the wife of the Dean of Christ Church, deposed for Royalism, refused to quit the Deanery, and at last had to be carried out of the quadrangle, venting her wrath in strong language as she went, by a squad of Parliamentary mus[Pg 116]keteers. But the Puritans put in good men: such as Owen, who was made Dean of Christ Church; Conant, who was made Rector of Exeter; Wilkins, who was made Warden of Wadham; and Seth Ward, the mathematician, who was made President of Trinity College. Owen and Conant appear to have been model Heads. The number of students increased. Evelyn, the Anglican and Royalist, visiting Oxford, seems to find the academical exercises, and the state of the University generally, satisfactory to his mind. He liked even the sermon, barring some Presbyterian animosities. Nor did he find much change in College Chapels. New College was "in its ancient garb,[Pg 117] notwithstanding the scrupulosity of the times." The Chapel of Magdalen College, likewise, was "in pontifical order," and the organ remained undemolished. The Protectorate was tolerant as far as the age allowed. Evelyn was cordially received by the Puritan authorities and hospitably entertained. Puritanism does not seem to have been so very grim, whatever the satirist in "The Spectator" may say. Tavern-haunting and swearing were suppressed. So were May-poles and some innocent amusements. But instrumental music was much cultivated, as we learn from the Royalist and High Church antiquary Anthony Wood, from whom, also, we gather that dress, though less donnish,[Pg 118] was not more austere. Cromwell, having saved the Universities from fanatics who would have laid low all institutions of worldly learning, made himself Chancellor of Oxford, and sought to draw thence, as well as from Cambridge, promising youths for the service of the State. Even Clarendon admits that the Restoration found the University "abounding in excellent learning," notwithstanding "the wild and barbarous depopulation" which it had undergone; a miraculous result, which he ascribes, under God's blessing, to "the goodness and richness of the soil, which could not be made barren by all the stupidity and negligence, but choked the weeds, and would not suffer the poison[Pg 119]ous seeds, which were sown with industry enough, to spring up." Puritanism might be narrow and bibliolatrous, but it was not obscurantist nor the enemy of science. We see this in Puritan Oxford as well as in Puritan Harvard and Yale. In Puritan Oxford the scientific circle which afterwards gave birth to the Royal Society was formed. Its chief was Warden Wilkins, and it included Boyle, Wallis, Seth Ward, and Wren. It met either in Wilkins's rooms at Wadham, or in those of Boyle. Evelyn, visiting Wilkins, is ravished with the scientific inventions and experiments which he sees. On the stones of Oxford, Puritanism has left no trace; there was hardly any building during[Pg 120] those years. There were benefactions not a few, among which was the gift of Selden's Library.

Upon the Restoration followed a Royalist proscription, more cruel, and certainly more lawless, than that of the Puritans had been. All the good Heads of the Commonwealth era were ejected, and the Colleges received back a crowd of Royalists, who, during their exclusion, had probably been estranged from academical pursuits. Anthony Wood himself is an unwilling witness to the fact that the change was much for the worse. "Some Cavaliers that were restored," he says, "were good scholars, but the majority were dunces." "Before the War," he says[Pg 121] in another place, "we had scholars who made a thorough search in scholastic and polemical divinity, in humane learning and natural philosophy, but now scholars study these things not more than what is just necessary to carry them through the exercises of their respective Colleges and the University. Their aim is not to live as students ought to do, temperate, abstemious, and plain in their apparel, but to live like gentry, to keep dogs and horses, to turn their studies into places to keep bottles, to swagger in gay apparel and long periwigs." Into the Rectorship of Exeter, in place of the excellent Conant, was put Joseph Maynard, of whom Wood says, "Exeter College is now much debauched[Pg 122] by a drunken Governor; whereas, before, in Doctor Conant's time, it was accounted a civil house, it is now rude and uncivil. The Rector is good-natured, generous, and a good scholar, but he has forgot the way of College life, and the decorum of a scholar. He is much given to bibbing, and when there is a music meeting in one of the Fellow's chambers, he will sit there, smoke, and drink till he is drunk, and has to be led to his lodgings by the junior Fellows." This is not the only evidence of the fact that drinking, idling, and tavern-haunting were in the ascendant. Study as well as morality, having been the badge of the Puritan, was out of fashion. Wilkins's scientific circle took its depart[Pg 123]ure from Oxford to London, there to become the germ of the Royal Society. The hope was gone at Oxford of a race of "young men provided against the next age, whose minds, receiving the first impressions of sober and generous knowledge, should be invincibly armed against all the encroachments of enthusiasm." The presence of the merry monarch, with his concubines, at Oxford, when his Parliament met there, was not likely to improve morals. Oxford sank into an organ of the High Church and Tory party, and debased herself by servile manifestos in favour of government by prerogative. Non-conformists were excluded by the religious tests, the operation of which was[Pg 124] more stringent than ever since the passing of the Act of Uniformity. The love of liberty and truth embodied in Locke was expelled from Christ Church; not, however, by the act of the College or of the University, but by Royal warrant, though Fell, Dean of Christ Church, bowed slavishly to the tyrant's pleasure; so that Christ Church may look with little shame on the portrait of the philosopher, which now hangs triumphant in her Hall. The Cavaliers did not much, even in the way of building. The Sheldonian Theatre was given them by the Archbishop, to whom subscriptions had been promised, but did not come in, so that he had to bear the whole expense himself. He was[Pg 125] so deeply disgusted that he refused ever to look upon the building.


Over the gateway of University College stands the statue of James II. That it should have been left there is a proof both of the ingrained Toryism of old Oxford, and of the mildness of the Revolution of 1688. Obadiah Walker, the Master of the Colleges, was one of the political converts to Roman Catholicism, and it was in ridicule of him that "Old Obadiah, Ave Maria," was sung by the Oxford populace. A set of rooms in the same quadrangle bears the trace of its conversion into a Roman Catholic Chapel for the king. It faces the rooms of Shelley. Reference[Pg 126] was made the other day, in an ecclesiastical lawsuit, to the singular practice which prevails in this College, of filing out into the ante-chapel after the sacrament to consume the remains of the bread and wine, instead of consuming them at the altar or communion table. This probably is a trace of the Protestant reaction which followed the transitory reign of Roman Catholicism under Obadiah Walker. All are familiar with the Magdalen College case, and with the train of events by which the most devoutly royalist of Universities was brought, by its connection with the Anglican Church and in defence of the Church's possessions, into collision with the Crown, and arrayed for the[Pg 127] moment on the side of constitutional liberty. After the Revolution the recoil quickly followed. Oxford became the stronghold of Jacobitism, the scene of treasonable talk over the wine in the Common Room, of riotous demonstrations by pot-valiant undergraduates in the streets, of Jacobite orations at academical festivals, amid frantic cheers of the assembled University, of futile plotting and puerile conspiracies which never put a man in the field. "The king to Oxford sent a troop of horse." But the troop of horse was not called upon to act. There was a small Hanoverian and constitutional party, and now and then it scored a point against its adversaries, who dared[Pg 128] not avow their disloyalty to the reigning dynasty. A Jacobite Proctor, having intruded into a convivial meeting of Whigs, they tendered him the health of King George, which, for fear of the treason law, he was fain to drink upon his knees.


In the early part of the eighteenth century there was some intellectual life in Christ Church, to which Westminster still sent up good scholars, and which was the resort of the nobility, in whom youthful ambition and desire for improvement might be stirred by the influences of political homes, and the prospects of a public life. Dean Aldrich was a scholar and a virtuoso. The spire of All Saints' Church [Pg 129] is a soaring monument of his taste, if not of his genius, for architecture. In the controversy with Bentley about the Epistles of Phalaris, Christ Church, though she was hopelessly in the wrong, showed that she had some learning and some interest in classical studies. Otherwise the eighteenth century is a blank, or worse than a blank, in the history of the University. The very portraits on the College walls disclose the void of any but ecclesiastical eminence. That tendency to torpor, which, as Adam Smith and Turgot have maintained, is inherent in the system of endowments, fell upon Oxford in full measure. The Colleges had now, by the increase in value of their estates, become[Pg 130] rich, some of them very rich. The estates of Magdalen, Gibbon tells us, were thought to be worth thirty thousand pounds a year, equivalent to double that sum now. Instead of being confined to their original Commons and Livery, the Heads and Fellows, as administrators of the estate, were now dividing among themselves annually large rentals, though they failed to increase in equal proportion the stipends of the Scholars and others who had no share in the administration. The statutes of mediæval Founders had become utterly obsolete, and were disregarded, notwithstanding the oath taken to observe them, or observed only so far as they guarded the interest of sine[Pg 131]curists against the public. Nor were any other duties assumed. A few of the Fellows in each College added to their income by holding the tutorships, the functions of which they usually performed in the most slovenly way, each Tutor professing to teach all subjects, while most of them knew none. In the Common Room, with which each of the Colleges now provided itself, the Fellows spent lives of Trulliberian luxury, drinking, smoking, playing at bowls, and, as Gibbon said, by their deep but dull potations excusing the brisk intemperance of youth. Even the obligation to residence was relaxed, and at last practically annulled, so that a great part of the Fellowships became sinecure sti[Pg 132]pends held by men unconnected with the University. About the only restriction which remained was that on marriage. Out of this the Heads had managed to slip their necks, and from the time of Elizabeth downwards there had been married Heads, to the great scandal of Anthony Wood and other academical precisians, to whom, in truth, one lady, at least, the wife of Warden Clayton of Merton, seems to have afforded some grounds for criticism by her usurpations. But in the case of the Fellows, the statute, being not constructive, but express, could not be evaded except by stealth, and by an application of the aphorism then current, that he might hold anything who would hold his tongue.[Pg 133] The effect of this, celibacy being no longer the rule, was to make all the Fellows look forward to the benefices, of a number of which each College was the patron, and upon which they could marry. Thus devotion to a life of study or education in College, had a Fellow been inclined to it, was impossible, under the ordinary conditions of modern life. Idleness, intemperance, and riot were rife among the students, as we learn from the novels and memoirs of the day. Especially were they the rule among the noblemen and gentlemen-commoners, who were privileged by their birth and wealth, and to whom by the servility of the Dons every license was allowed. Some Colleges took[Pg 134] only gentlemen-commoners, who paid high fees and did what they pleased. All Souls' took no students at all, and became a mere club which, by a strange perversion of a clause in their statutes, was limited to men of high family. The University as a teaching and examining body had fallen into a dead swoon. Few of the Professors even went through the form of lecturing, and the statutory obligation of attendance was wholly disregarded by the students. The form of mediæval disputations was kept up by the farcical repetition of strings of senseless syllogisms, which were handed down from generation to generation of students. The very nomenclature of the system had become un[Pg 135]meaning. Candidates for the theological degree paced the Divinity School for an hour, nominally challenging opponents to disputation, but the door was locked by the Bedel, that no opponent might appear. Examinations were held, but the candidates, by feeing the University officer, were allowed to choose their own examiners, and they treated the examiner after the ordeal. The two questions, "What is the meaning of Golgotha?" and "Who founded University College?" comprised the examination upon which Lord Eldon took his degree. A little of that elegant scholarship, with the power of writing Latin verses, of which Addison was the cynosure, was the most of which Ox[Pg 136]ford could boast. Even this there could hardly have been had not the learned languages happened to have formed an official part of the equipment of the clerical profession. Of science, or the mental habit which science forms, there was none. Such opportunities for study, such libraries, such groves, a livelihood so free from care could scarcely fail, now and then, to give birth to a learned man, an Addison, a Lowth, a Thomas Warton, an Elmsley, a Martin Routh.



The Universities being the regular finishing schools of the gentry and the professions, men who had passed through them became eminent in after life, but[Pg 137] they owed little or nothing to the University. Only in this way can Oxford lay claim to the eminence of Bishop Butler, Jeremy Bentham, or Adam Smith, while Gibbon is her reproach. The figures of Lord Eldon and Lord Stowell, whose ponderous twin statues sit side by side in the Library of University College, were more academical, especially that of Lord Stowell, who was Tutor of his College, and held a lectureship of Ancient History. Here and there a Tutor of the better stamp, no doubt, would try to do his duty by his pupils. A rather pathetic interest attaches to Richard Newton, who tried to turn Hart Hall into a real place of education, and had some distinguished pupils, among[Pg 138] them Charles Fox. But the little lamp which he had kindled went out in the uncongenial air. On the site, thanks to the munificence of Mr. Baring, now stands Hertford College. Johnson's residence at Pembroke College was short, and his narrative shows that it was unprofitable, though his High Church principles afterwards made him a loyal son and eulogist of the University. One good effect the interdiction of marriage had. It kept up a sort of brotherhood, and saved corporate munificence from extinction by the private interest of fathers of families. As the College revenues increased, building went on, though after the false classical fashion of the times and mostly for the purpose of[Pg 139] College luxury. Now rose the new quadrangle of Queen's, totally supplanting the mediæval College, and the new buildings at Magdalen and Corpus. A plan is extant, horrible to relate, for the total demolition of the old quadrangle of Magdalen, and its replacement by a modern palace of idleness in the Italian style. To this century belong Peckwater and Canterbury quadrangles, also in the classical style, the first redeemed by the Library which fills one side of the square, and which has a heavy architectural grandeur as well as a noble purpose. To the eighteenth century we also mainly owe the College gardens and walks as we see them; and the gardens of St. John's, New College, Wad[Pg 140]ham, Worcester, and Exeter, with the lime walk at Trinity and the Broadwalk—now unhappily but a wreck—at Christ Church, may plead to a student's heart for some mitigation of the sentence on the race of clerical idlers and wine-bibbers, who, for a century, made the University a place, not of education and learning, but of dull sybaritism, and a source, not of light, but of darkness, to the nation. It is sad to think how different the history of England might have been had Oxford and Cambridge done their duty, like Harvard and Yale, during the last century.


At the end of the last or beginning of the present century came the revival. At[Pg 141] the end of the last century Christ Church had some brilliant classical scholars among her students, though the great scene of their eminence was not the study but the senate. The portraits of Wellesley and Canning hang in her Hall. In the early part of the present century the general spirit of reform and progress, which had been repressed during the struggle with revolutionary France, began to move again over the face of the torpid waters. Eveleigh, Provost of Oriel, led the way. At his College and at Balliol the elections to Fellowships were free from local or genealogical restrictions. They were now opened to merit, and those two Colleges, though not among the first in wealth or[Pg 142] magnificence, attained a start in the race of regeneration which Balliol, being very fortunate in its Heads, has since in a remarkable manner maintained. The examination system of Laud had lacked a motive power, and had depended, like his policy, on his fiat instead of vital force. There was no sufficient inducement for the examiner to be strict or for the candidate to excel. The motive power was now supplied by a list of honours in classics and mathematics, and among the earliest winners in the first class in both schools was Robert Peel.



Scarcely, however, had the University begun to awake to a new life, when it[Pg 143] was swept by another ecclesiastical storm, the consequence of its unhappy identification with clericism and the State Church. The liberal movement which commenced after the fall of Napoleon and carried the Reform Bill, threatened to extend to the religious field, and to withdraw the support of the State from the Anglican Church. This led the clergy to look out for another basis, which they found in the reassertion of High Church and sacerdotal doctrines, such as apostolical succession, eucharistical real presence, and baptismal regeneration. Presently the movement assumed the form of a revival of the Church of the Middle Ages, such as High Church imagination pictured it, and ultimately of[Pg 144] secession to Rome. Oxford, with her mediæval buildings, her High Church tradition, her half-monastic Colleges, and her body of unmarried clergy, became the centre of the movement. The Romanising tendencies of Tractarianism, as from the "Tracts for the Times" it was called, visible from the first, though disclaimed by the leaders, aroused a fierce Protestant reaction, which encountered Tractarianism both in the press and in the councils of the University. The Armageddon of the ecclesiastical war was the day on which, in a gathering of religious partisans from all sections of the country which the Convocation House would not hold, so that it was necessary to adjourn[Pg 145] to the Sheldonian Theatre, Ward, the most daring of the Tractarian writers, after a scene of very violent excitement, was deprived of his degree. This was the beginning of the end. Newman, the real leader of the movement, though Pusey, from his academical rank, was the official leader, soon recognised the place to which his principles belonged, and was on his knees before a Roman Catholic priest, supplicating for admission to the Church of Rome. A ritualistic element remained, and now reigns, in the Church of England; but the party which Newman left, bereft of Newman, broke up, and its relics were cast like drift-wood on every theological or philosophical shore. Newman's[Pg 146] poetic version of mediæval religion, together with the spiritual graces of his style and his personal influence, had for a time filled the imaginations and carried away the hearts of youth, while the seniors were absorbed in the theological controversy, renounced lay studies, and disdained educational duty except as it might afford opportunities of winning youthful souls to the Neo-Catholic faith. Academical duty would have been utterly lost in theological controversy, had it not been for the Class List, which bound the most intellectual undergraduates to lay studies by their ambition, and kept on foot a staff of private teachers, "coaches," as they were called, to prepare men for[Pg 147] the examinations, who did the duty which the ecclesiastical Fellows of the University disdained. The Oxford movement has left a monument of itself in the College founded in memory of Keble, the gentle and saintly author of "The Christian Year." It has left an ampler monument in the revival of mediæval architecture at Oxford, and the style of new buildings which everywhere meet the eye. The work of the Oxford Architectural Society, which had its birth in the Neo-Catholic movement, may prove more durable than that movement itself. Of the excess to which the architectural revival was carried, the new Library at University College, more like a mediæval Chapel[Pg 148] than a Library, is a specimen. It was proposed to give Neo-Catholicism yet another monument by erecting close to the spot where Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley died for truth, the statue of Cardinal Newman, the object of whose pursuit through life had been, not truth, but an ecclesiastical ideal. Of the reaction against the Tractarian movement the monument is the memorial to the Protestant martyrs Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, the subscription for which commenced among the Protestants who had come up to vote for the condemnation of Ward, and which Tractarians scornfully compared to the heap of stones raised over the body of Achan.[Pg 149]


Here ended the reign of ecclesiasticism, of the Middle Ages, and of religious exclusion. The collision into which Romanising Oxford had been brought with the Protestantism of the British nation, probably helped to bring on the revolution which followed, and which restored the University to learning, science, and the nation. The really academical element in the University invoked the aid of the national government and Legislature. A Royal Commission of Inquiry into the state of the University and its Colleges was appointed, and though some Colleges closed their muniment rooms, and inquiry was obstructed, enough was revealed in the Report amply to justify legislative[Pg 150] reform and emancipation. An act of Parliament was passed which set free the University and Colleges alike from their mediæval statutes, restored the University Professoriate, opened the Fellowships to merit, and relaxed the religious tests. The curriculum, the examination system, and the honour list were liberalised, and once more, as in early times, all the great departments of knowledge were recognised and domiciled in the University. Science, long an exile, was welcomed back to her home at the moment when a great extension of her empire was at hand. Strictly professional studies, such as practical law and medicine, could not be recalled from their professional seats.[Pg 151] Elections to Fellowships by merit replaced election by local or school preferences, by kinship, or by the still more objectionable influences which at one time had been not unfelt. Colleges which had declined the duty of education, which had been dedicated to sinecurism and indolence, and whose quadrangles had stood empty, were filled with students, and once more presented a spectacle which would have gladdened the heart of the Founder. A Commission, acting on a still more recent Act of Parliament, has carried the adaptation of Oxford to the modern requirements of science and learning further than the old Commission, which acted in the penumbra of mediæval and ecclesiasti[Pg 152]cal tradition, dared. The intellectual Oxford of the present day is almost a fresh creation. Its spirit is new; it is liberal, free, and progressive. It is rather too revolutionary, grave seniors say, so far as the younger men are concerned. This is probably only the first forward bound of recovered freedom, which will be succeeded in time by the sober pace of learning and scientific investigation. Again, as in the thirteenth century, the day of Grosseteste and Simon de Montfort, Oxford is a centre of progress, instead of being, as under the later Stuarts, the stronghold of reaction. Of the College revival, the monuments are all around in the new buildings, for which increasing [Pg 153] numbers have called, and which revived energy has supplied. Christ Church, New College, Magdalen, Merton, Balliol, Trinity, University have all enlarged their courts, and in almost every College new life has been shown by improvement or restoration. Of the reign of mediævalism the only trace is the prevalence in the new buildings of the mediæval style, which architectural harmony seemed to require, though the new buildings of Christ Church and Trinity are proofs of a happy emancipation from architectural tradition. The University revival has its monument in the new examination Schools in High Street, where the student can no longer get his degree by giving the meaning of[Pg 154] Golgotha and the name of the Founder of University College. There are those who, like Mark Pattison, look on it with an evil eye, regarding the examination system as a noxious excrescence and as fatal to spontaneous study and research; though they would hardly contend that spontaneous study and research flourished much at Oxford before the revival of examinations, or deny that since the revival Oxford has produced the fruits of study and research, at least to a fair extent. The restoration of science is proclaimed by the new Museum yonder; a strange structure, it must be owned, which symbolises, by the unfitness of its style for its purpose, at once the unscientific character[Pg 155] of the Middle Ages, and the lingering attachment of Oxford to the mediæval type. Of the abolition of the religious tests, and the restoration of the University to the nation, a monument is Mansfield College for Congregationalists, a vision of which would have thrown an orthodox and Tory Head of a College into convulsions half a century ago. Even here the mediæval style of architecture keeps its hold, though the places of Catholic Saints are taken by the statues of Wycliffe, Luther, John Knox, Whitefield, and Wesley. By the side of Mansfield College rises also Manchester College for Independents, in the same architectural style. Neither of them, however, is in[Pg 156] the Oxford sense a College; both are places of theological instruction.



On the North of the city, where fifty years ago stretched green fields, is now seen a suburb of villas, all of them bespeaking comfort and elegance, few of them overweening wealth. These are largely the monuments of another great change, the removal of the rule of celibacy from the Fellowships, and the introduction of a large body of married teachers devoted to their profession, as well as of the revival of the Professorships, which were always tenable by married men. Fifty years ago the wives of Heads of Houses, who generally married late in life[Pg 157] if they married at all, constituted, with one or two officers of the University, the whole female society of Oxford. The change was inevitable, if education was to be made a profession, instead of being, as it had been in the hands of celibate Fellows of Colleges, merely the transitory occupation of a man whose final destination was the parish. Those who remember the old Common Room life, which is now departing, cannot help looking back with a wistful eye to its bachelor ease, its pleasant companionship, its interesting talk and free interchange of thought, its potations neither "deep" nor "dull." Nor were its symposia without important fruits when such men as Newman and Ward,[Pg 158] on one side, encountered such men as Whately, Arnold, and Tait, on the other side, in Common Room talk over great questions of the day. But the life became dreary when a man had passed forty, and it is well exchanged for the community that fills those villas, and which, with its culture, its moderate and tolerably equal incomes, permitting hospitality but forbidding luxury, and its unity of interests with its diversity of acquirements and accomplishments, seems to present the ideal conditions of a pleasant social life. The only question is, how the College system will be maintained when the Fellows are no longer resident within the walls of the College to temper and control the younger members,[Pg 159] for a barrack of undergraduates is not a good thing. The personal bond and intercourse between Tutor and pupil under the College system was valuable as well as pleasant; it cannot be resigned without regret. But its loss will be compensated by far superior teaching. Half a century ago conservatism strove to turn the railway away from Oxford. But the railway came, and it brings, on summer Sundays, to the city of study and thought not a few leaders of the active world. Oxford is now, indeed, rather too attractive; her academical society is in danger of being swamped by the influx of non-academical residents.[Pg 160]


The buildings stand, to mark by their varying architecture the succession of the changeful centuries through which the University has passed. In the Libraries are the monuments of the successive generations of learning. But the tide of youthful life that from age to age has flowed through college, quadrangle, hall, and chamber, through University examination-rooms and Convocation Houses, has left no memorials of itself except the entries in the University and College books; dates of matriculation, which tell of the bashful boy standing before the august Vice-Chancellor at entrance; dates of degrees, which tell of the youth putting forth, from his last haven of tutelage, on[Pg 161] the waves of the wide world. Hither they thronged, century after century, in the costume and with the equipments of their times, from mediæval abbey, grange, and hall, from Tudor manor-house and homestead, from mansion, rectory, and commercial city of a later day, bearing with them the hopes and affections of numberless homes. Year after year they departed, lingering for a moment at the gate to say farewell to College friends, the bond with whom they vowed to preserve, but whom they were never to see again, then stepped forth into the chances and perils of life, while the shadow on the College dial moved on its unceasing round. If they had only left their names in the rooms[Pg 162] which they had occupied, there would be more of history than we have in those dry entries in the books. But, at all events, let not fancy frame a history of student life at Oxford out of "Verdant Green." There are realities corresponding to "Verdant Green," and the moral is, that many youths come to the University who had better stay away, since none get any good and few fail to get some harm, saving those who have an aptitude for study. But the dissipation, the noisy suppers, the tandem-driving, the fox-hunting, the running away from Proctors, or, what is almost as bad, the childish devotion to games and sports as if they were the end of existence, though they are too common a part of [Pg 163] undergraduate life in the University of the rich, are far from being the whole of it. Less than ever are they the whole of it since University reform and a more liberal curriculum have increased, as certainly they have, industry and frugality at the same time. Of the two or three thousand lamps which to-night will gleam from those windows, few will light the supper-table or the gambling-table; most will light the book. Youthful effort, ambition, aspiration, hope, College character and friendship have no artist to paint them,—at least as yet they have had none. But whatever of poetry belongs to them is present in full measure here.


[Pg 164]



[Pg 165]


Addison, Joseph, 136.

Aldrich, Henry, 128.

Alfred (King), 24, 51.

All Souls' College, 67 et sq.

Amusements, mediæval, 43.

Antiquity, apparent, of the buildings, 3.

Architectural revival at Oxford, 147, 148.

Aristotle, 31.

Ashmolean Museum, 24.

Augustinians, 35.

Aulæ, 39.

Bacon, Roger, 32, 33, 37.

Bacon, Sir Nicholas, 91.

Balliol College, 50;
intellectual revival in, 141.

Baring, T. C., 138.

Benedictines, 35.

Bentham, Jeremy, 137.

Bentley, Richard, 129.

Black Prince, the, 100.

Bocardo, 88.

Bodleian Library, 19, 20, 21, 97.

Bodley, Sir Thomas, 20, 93.

Bologna, University of, 29.

Botanic Garden, 97.

Boyle, Charles, 119.

Bradwardine, Thomas, 31.

Brasenose College, 67 et sq., 74, 75.

Broadwalk, the, 140.

Brome, Adam de, 52.

Buildings, dates of, 3 et sq.

Butler, Bishop, 137.

Cardinal College, 83.

Carmellites, 35.

Celibacy enjoined on Heads of Colleges, 96;
effects of its withdrawal, 132, 133.

Chamberdekyns, 39, 99.
[Pg 166]
Charles I. at Oxford, 113, 114.

Charles II. at Oxford, 123.

Chicheley, Archbishop, 70, 71.

Christ Church Cathedral, 35.

Christ Church College, 80 et sq.;
intellectual revival in, 128, 129, 140, 141.

Cistercians, 35.

Civil War, Oxford in the time of the, 112 et sq.

Clarendon, Earl of, 18, 107.

Clarendon Building, 18, 19.

Clarendon Press, 19.

Class Lists, 142.

Clayton, Thos., wife of, 132.

Clerical profession, dominance of, 104.

Colet, John, 76.

College life, 9 et sq.

Colleges, administration and government of, 9 et sq.;
growing importance of, 99 et sq.;
the present intellectual revival in the, 152 et sq.

Commemoration, 15.

Common Room life, 157.

Commons, 49.

Commonwealth, Oxford in the time of the, 114 et sq.

Conant, John, 116.

Congregation, 8.

Convocation, 8.

Convocation House, 13, 14, 97.

Corpus Christi College, 75.

Cranmer, Archbishop, 88, 89.

Cromwell, Oliver, Chancellor of Oxford, 118.

Degrees, manner of conferring, 13.

Disputation, stress laid upon, 30.

Divinity School, 14.

Dominicans, 36.

Duns Scotus, 31.

Durham College, 91.

Egglesfield, Robert, 52.

Eldon, Lord, 135, 137.

Elizabeth (Queen), 98.

Elmsley, Peter, 136.

Erasmus, D., 76.

"Essays and Reviews," authors of, 24.

Eton, 59.

Eveleigh, John, 141.

Evelyn, John, 116, 119.

Examinations, 21, 22.

Examination system, the, 153, 154.
[Pg 167]
Examination-rooms. See Schools.

Exeter College, 50, 53 et sq.

Faculties, 28.

Falkland, Viscount, 107.

Fawkes's (Guy) lantern, 21.

Fell, John, 124.

Fellows, 46.

Fellowships, 102.

Fleming, Bishop, 68.

Founders, portraits of, 21.

Foxe, Bishop, 77.

Franciscans, 36.

Frydeswide, St., 87.

Gibbon, Edward, 137.

Gladstone, W. E., 22.

Graduation. See Degrees.

Great Hall of the University, the, 51.

Great Tew, 107.

Grocyn, William, 76.

Grosseteste, Robert, 38, 44.

Halls, 39, 98, 99.

Hart Hall, 137.

Hebdomadal Council, 106.

Hertford College, 138.

High Church Traditions at Oxford, 144 et sq.

Hooker, Richard, 108.

Houses, monastic, 50.

Humanists, the, 77.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, 20, 76.

Inception, 31.

Jacobitism at Oxford, 127, 128.

James I., 22, 98.

James II., statue of, 125.

Jesus College, 94.

Jews at Oxford in the Middle Ages, 42.

Johnson, Samuel, at Oxford, 138.

Keble, John, 147.

Keble College, 147.

Laud, Archbishop, 109 et sq.

Leicester, Earl of, 108.

Lime Walk at Trinity College, the, 140.

Linacre, Thomas, 76.

Lincoln College, 67 et sq.

Livery, 49.

Locke, John, 124.

Lowth, Robert, 136.
[Pg 168]

Magdalen College, 67 et sq., 72 et sq., 130.

Magdalen College Case, 126.

Manchester College, 155.

Manning, H. E., 24.

Mansfield College, 155.

Marisco, Adam de, 44.

Martyr, Catherine, 87.

Maynard, Joseph, 121.

Mendicant Orders, 36.

Merton, Walter de, 44, 45.

Merton College, 45 et sq.

Mob Quad, 45.

Monastic Orders, 35.

Monastic Oxford, 35.

Monasteries, 35, 37, 50, 53.

Montfort, Simon de, 37, 38.

More, Sir Thomas, 76.

Museum, the Ashmolean. See Ashmolean.

Museum, the University, 153, 154.

Neo-Catholicism. See Tractarianism.

Neville, George, 101.

Newman, J. H., 14, 24, 145, 148.

New College, 55 et sq.

Newton, Isaac, 105.

Newton, Richard, 137.

Non-conformists excluded, 123.

Ockham, 31.

Oldham, Hugh, 78.

Oriel College, 50, 52.

Osney Abbey, 35.

Owen, John, 116.

Oxford (the name), derivation of, 2.

Oxford Architectural Society, 147.

Oxford (the city), situation of, 1;
environs of, 1, 2;
of the 13th century, 27 et sq.

Oxford (the University), administration and government of, 7 et sq., 106 et sq.;
origin and growth of, 25 et sq.;
political proclivities of, 28, 37, 105;
in the 18th century, 130 et sq.;
in the 19th century, 140 et sq.;
intellectual revival of, in the present day, 152.

Oxford Movement, the. See Tractarianism.

Oxford University Commissions (1850 and 1876), 149, 151.
[Pg 169]

Papacy, the, and the Universities, 34, 37.

Paris, University of, 27, 34.

Pattison, Mark, 70.

Pembroke College, 97.

Peel, Robert, 142.

Petre, Sir William, 93.

Philippa, Queen, 52.

Philosophy, Scholastic, early addiction to, 30.

Pope, Cardinal, 92.

Pope, Sir Thomas, 91.

Portraits of Founders, 21.

Press, the University (see also Clarendon Press), 19.

Proctors, 10, 13, 14.

Professors, 10.

Protectorate, the. See Commonwealth.

Puritanism and Oxford, 115 et sq.

Pusey, E. B., 24, 145.

Queen's College, 50, 52.

Radcliffe, Dr. John, 23.

Radcliffe Library, 23.

Reformation, influence of, on Oxford, 108, 110.

Religious tests, 90.

Renaissance, the Mediæval, 23.

Restoration, the, and Oxford, 120 et sq.

Revolution, the (1688), and Oxford, 125, 127.

Richard III. at Oxford, 73, 74.

Rotheram, Bishop, 69.

Routh, Martin, 136.

Royal Commissions. See Oxford University Commissions.

Royal Society, The, 119 et sq.

St. Frydeswide's Church, 35.

St. John's College, 92.

St. Mary of Winton, College of, 56.

St. Mary's Church, 15, 24.

St. Michael's Church, 25.

Salerno, University of, 27.

Scholars, 46 et sq.

Schools, the, 21.

Schools, the new examination, 153.

Sermons, University, 24.

Sheldon, Archbishop, 14.

Sheldonian Theatre, 14, 15, 124, 125.

Smith, Adam, 137.

Socii, 46.

Sports, 162.
[Pg 170]
Statutes, fettering influence of, 101, 102;
disregarded, 130.

Stowell, Lord, 137.

Student life, mediæval, 39 et sq., 63 et sq.

Students, mediæval, 39, 41 et sq.;
their affrays with the townspeople, 41, 42;
their amusements, 43.

Suburbs of Oxford, 156 et sq.

Teachers, the first, at Oxford, 28.

Tests. See Religious tests.

Theology, 32.

Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, 73.

Tom Tower, 81.

Tractarianism, 145 et sq.

Trinity College, 91.

"Trojans, The," 77.

Turner's picture of Oxford, 2.

Tutors, 9.

Undergraduate life, modern, 162, 163.

Universities, rise of, in Europe, 27.

University College, 51.

University Gallery, 21.

"Verdant Green," 162.

Vice-Chancellorship, the, 106.

Vives, Juan Luis, 81.

Wadham, Dorothy, 96.

Wadham, Sir Nicholas, 95.

Wadham College, 94.

Walker, Obadiah, 126.

Ward, Seth, 116.

Ward, W. G., 145.

Warton, Thomas, 136.

Waynflete, Bishop, 72, 73.

Wellington, Duke of, his inauguration as Chancellor, 17.

Wesley, John, 70.

White, Sir Thomas, 92, 93.

Wilkins, John, 116, 119, 122.

William of Durham, 50.

William of Wykeham, 55 et sq.

Winchester School, 58.

Windebank, Thos., 114.

Wolsey, Cardinal, 59, 81, 82 et sq.

Wood, Anthony (quoted), 120, 121.

Worcester College, 35.

Wren, Christopher, 3, 82.

Wycliffe, John, 54.

Wykeham. See William of Wykeham.

End of Project Gutenberg's Oxford and Her Colleges, by Goldwin Smith


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