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View of the Revival of Learning in England, continued. Reformation of Religion. Its effects on Literature in England. Application of this digression to the main subject.
SOON after the year 1500, Lillye, the famous grammarian, who had learned Greek at Rhodes, and had afterwards acquired a polished Latinity at Rome under Johannes Sulpicius and Pomponius Sabinus, became the first teacher of Greek at any public school in England. This was at saint Paul's school in London, then newly established by dean Colet, and celebrated by Erasmus; and of which Lillye, as one of the most exact and accomplished scholars of his age, was appointed the first mastera. And that antient prejudices were now gradually wearing off, and a national taste for critical studies and the graces of composition began to be diffused, appears from this circumstance alone: that from the year one thousand five hundred and three to the reformation, there were more grammar schools, most of which at present are perhaps of little use and importance, founded and endowed in England, than had been for three hundred years before. The practice of educating our youth in the monasteries growing into disuse, near twenty new grammar schools were established within this period: and among these, Wolsey's school at Ipswich, which soon fell a sacrifice to the resentment or the avarice of Henry the Eighth, deserves particular notice, as it rivalled those of Winchester and Eton. To give splendor to the institution, beside the
Knight, Life of Colet, p. 19. Pace, above mentioned, in the Epistle dedicatory to Colet, before his Treatise De fructu qui ex Doctrina percipitur, thus compliments Lillye, edit. Basil. ut supr. 1517. p. 13. "Ut politiorem Latinitatem, et ipsam Romanam linguam, in Britanniam nostram introduxisse videatur.-Tanta[ei] VOL. III.
eruditio, ut extrusa barbarie, in qua nostri adolescentes solebant fere ætatem consumere," &c. Erasmus says, in 1514, that he had taught a youth, in three years, more Latin than he could have acquired in any school in England, ne Liliana quidem excepta, not even Lillye's excepted. Epistol. 165. P. 140. tom. iii.
scholars, it consisted of a dean, twelve canons, and a numerous choir 1. So attached was Wolsey to the new modes of instruction, that he did not think it inconsistent with his high office and rank, to publish a general address to the schoolmasters of England, in which he orders them to institute their youth in the most elegant literature. It is to be wished that all his edicts had been employed to so liberal and useful a purpose. There is an anecdote on record, which strongly marks Wolsey's character in this point of view. Notwithstanding his habits of pomp, he once condescended to be a spectator of a Latin tragedy of DIDO, from Virgil, acted by the scholars of saint Paul's school, and written by John Rightwise, the master, an eminent grammarian'. But Wolsey might have pleaded the authority of pope Leo the Tenth, who more than once had been present at one of these classical spectacles.
It does not however appear, that the cardinal's liberal sentiments were in general adopted by his brother prelates. At the foundation of saint Paul's school above mentioned, one of the bishops, eminent for his wisdom and gravity, at a public assembly, severely censured Colet the founder for suffering the Latin poets to be taught in the new structure, which he therefore styled a house of pagan idolatrym
In the year 1517, Fox, bishop of Winchester, founded a college at Oxford, in which he constituted, with competent stipends, two professors for the Greek and Latin languages". Although some slight idea of a classical lecture had already appeared at Cambridge in the system of collegiate discipline, this philological establishment may justly be looked upon, as the first conspicuous instance of an attempt to depart from the narrow plan of education, which had hitherto been held sacred in the universities of England. The course of the Latin professor, who is expressly directed to extirpate BARBARISM from the new society P, is not confined to the private limits of the college, but open to the students of Oxford in general. The Greek lecturer is ordered to explain the best Greek classics; and the poets, historians, and orators, in that language, which the judicious founder, who seems to have consulted the most intelligent scholars of the times, recommends by name on this
Tanner, Notit. Mon. p. 520. "Elegantissima literatura." Fiddes's Wolsey. Coll. p. 105.
1 Wood, Ath. Oxon. i. 15. See what is said of this practice, vol. ii. Sect. xxxiv.
"Episcopum quendam, et eum qui habetur a SAPIENTIORIBUS, in magno hominum conventu, nostram scholam blasphemasse, dixisseque, me erexisse rem inutilem, imo malam, imo etiam, ut illius verbis utar, Domum Idololatriæ," &c. [Coletus Erasmo. Lond. 1517.] Knight's Life of Colet, p. 319.
Statut. C.C.C. Oxon. dat. Jun. 20. 1517. cap. xx. fol. 51. Bibl. Bodl. MSS. Laud. 1. 56.
At Christ's college in Cambridge,
where, in the statutes given in 1506, a lecturer is established; who, together with logic and philosophy, is ordered to read, "vel ex poetarum, vel ex oratorum operibus." Cap. xxxvii. In the statutes of King's at Cambridge, and New college at Oxford, both much more antient, an instructor is appointed with the general name of INFORMATOR only, who taught all the learning then in vogue. Rotul. Comput. vet. Coll. Nov. Oxon. "Solut Informatoribus sociorum et scolarium, iv l. xii s. ii d."
"Lector seu professor artium humaniorum... BARBARIEM a nostro alveario extirpet." Statut. ut supr.
occasion, are the purest, and such as are most esteemed even in the present improved state of antient learning. And it is at the same time worthy of remark, that this liberal prelate, in forming his plan of study, does not appoint a philosophy-lecturer in his college, as had been the constant practice in most of the previous foundations: perhaps suspecting, that such an endowment would not have coincided with his new course of erudition, and would have only served to encourage that species of doctrine, which had so long choaked the paths of science, and obstructed the progress of useful knowledge.
These happy beginnings in favour of a new and rational system of academical education, were seconded by the auspicious munificence of cardinal Wolsey. About the year 1519, he founded a public chair at Oxford, for rhetoric and humanity, and soon afterwards another for teaching the Greek language; endowing both with ample salaries. About the year 1524, king Henry the Eighth, who destroyed or advanced literary institutions from caprice, called Robert Wakefield, originally a student of Cambridge, but now a professor of humanity at Tubingen in Germany, into England, that one of his own subjects, a linguist of so much celebrity, might no longer teach the Greek and oriental languages abroad: and when Wakefield appeared before the king, his majesty lamented, in the strongest expressions of concern, the total ignorance of his clergy and the universities in the learned tongues; and immediately assigned him a competent stipend for opening a lecture at Cambridge, in this necessary and neglected department of letters'. Wakefield was afterwards a preserver of many copies of the Greek classics, in the havoc of the religious houses. It is recorded by Fox, the martyrologist, as a memorable occurrence, and very deservedly, that about the same time, Robert Barnes, prior of the Augustines at Cambridge, and educated at Louvain, with the assistance of his scholar Thomas Parnell, explained within the walls of his own monastery, Plautus, Terence, and Cicero, to those academics who saw the utility of philology, and were desirous of deserting the Gothic philosophy. It may seem at first surprising, that Fox, a weak and prejudiced writer, should allow any merit to a catholic: but Barnes afterwards appears to have been one of Fox's martyrs, and was executed at the stake in Smithfield for a defence of Lutheranism.
But these innovations in the system of study were greatly discouraged and opposed by the friends of the old scholastic circle of sciences, and the bigoted partisans of the catholic communion, who stigmatised the Greek language by the name of heresy. Even bishop Fox, when he founded the Greek lecture above mentioned, that he might not appear to countenance a dangerous novelty, was obliged to cover his excellent
Wood, Hist. Univ. Oxon. i. 245. 246. But see Fiddes's Wolsey, p. 197.
" Wakefield's Oratio de Laudibus trium Linguar m, &c. Dated at Cambridge,
1524. Printed for W. de Worde, 4to.