« PreviousContinue »
short, the foundation of Waltham, instead of being simply CHAP. II. slurred over as a monastic foundation of the ordinary kind, well deserves to be dwelt upon, both as marking an era in our ecclesiastical history, and also as bearing the most speaking witness to the real character of its illustrious founder'.' Such was the conception which Roger Bacon saw revived in Harold's his own day, and which is still to be studied in the brief revived by and simple statutes of the most ancient of our English col- Merton. leges; the outcome of a mature and sagacious estimate of the wants and evils of the time, not unworthy of one whose experience combined that of a chancellor of the State and a bishop of the Church; of one who in his youth had sat at the feet of Adam de Marisco, but whose ripened judgement comprehended in all their bearings the evils that must necessarily ensue when the work of education is monopolised
1 Hist. of the Norman Conquest, II 440, 442, 444-5. I may perhaps venture to state that I had originally been inclined somewhat to dissent from the view here enforced by Mr Freeman, but a communication with which he has very courteously favoured me on the subject, and a careful perusal of Professor Stubbs's Prefaces, have placed the matter in another light. At the same time it may, I think, be questioned whether Harold's conception was of quite so unique and anti-Norman a character as Mr Freeman's language might lead us to infer, and in support of this opinion I would submit the following facts:-(1) In the year 1092, Picot, the Norman sheriff of Cambridgeshire, a man notorious for his misrule and rapacity in his bailiwick, instituted Secular Canons at St. Giles in Cambridge; the foundation being afterwards changed by Pain Peverell, the standard-bearer of Robert, duke of Normandy, into one for thirty Augustinian Canons, and removed to Barnwell, where it formed the priory. (Cooper, Annals, 1 20. Hist. of Barnwell Abbey, 9, 10, 11.) (2) Lanfranc, who had been educated at the monastery of Bec, established Secular Canons at St.Gregory's, whom archbishop Corboil afterwards removed, putting Regular or Augus
tinian Canons in their place. (Le-
in ea canonici seculares nimis ir-
Such at least is the opinion of
CHAP. II. by those with whom the interests of an order are likely to outweigh the interests of their disciples. To raise up an institution which should baffle that encroaching spirit of Rome which had startled Grosseteste from his allegiance, and to give an impulse to education that should diminish its subservience to purely ecclesiastical ideas, such was the design of Walter de Merton'; when we add that his statutes became the model on which those of the earlier colleges of England, both at Oxford and at Cambridge were framed, we shall
Bishop of Rochester. d. 1277.
need no excuse for dwelling at some length on their scope and character2.
Statutes of Merton College, 1270.
The first broad fact that challenges our attention in these statutes is the restriction whereby 'no religious person,' nemo religiosus, is to be admitted on the foundation; a provision which it may be well to place beyond all possible misapprehension. In those times, it is to be remembered, there existed only two professions, the Church and the inilitary life; the religious life, whether that of the monk or the friar, was a renunciation of the world; the former withdrawing from all intercourse with society, the latter disavowing any share in worldly wealth; and both merging, as it were, their individual existence in their corporate life. Exclusion of Such were the two classes whom Walter de Merton sought
orders from to exclude. It was his design to create a seminary for the
1 Ever a warm advocate of the liberty of the subject, and a staunch patron of education, Merton must have viewed with a jealous eye the advances of Rome and the increasing influence of her emissaries in the country. While filling the high office of chancellor of England, he had learned by experience how vain was the attempt to struggle with the ministers of Rome when once wealth and position had given them an overwhelming authority in Church and State. He therefore directed his attention to the principal seat of education, and endeavoured to raise in the secular schools a power which might, by crushing the strength of the monasteries, check the growth of the papal influence in the bud.'
Percival, Introd. to Statutes of Merton College, p. xiv. It is noted by the Bishop of Nelson, as a proof of the high estimation in which Walter de Merton was held by the royal family, that all its members contributed in some way to the foundation of his college. (Life, p. 7.) He was chancellor in the years 1261-2, a time when the troubles of Henry III. were at their height, and he not improbably earned the gratitude of the royal family by his able administration during the monarch's absence from the kingdom.
2 The statutes here referred to are those of 1270, and may be regarded as embodying the final views and intentions of the founder.
Church, and he accordingly determined to place it beyond CHAP. IL the power of either monks or friars to monopolize his foundation and convert it to their exclusive purposes. All around him, at Oxford, were to be seen the outward signs of their successful ambition: the Benedictine priory of St Frideswide, the Augustinian Canons at Oseney, the Franciscans in St. Ebbe's, the Dominicans in the Jewry, St. John's Hospital where Magdalen College was one day to stand, the Augustinian Friars on the future site of Wadham, the Carmelites, and the Friars de Pœnitentia. He might well think that enough had been done for the recluse and the mendicant, and that something might now be attempted on behalf of those who were destined to return again into the world, to mingle with its affairs as fellow-citizens, and to influence its thought and action by their acquired learning. On the other hand it would be erroneous to infer that Merton College was originally any thing more than a seminary for the Church, though such a limitation loses all its apparent narrowness when we consider that the clerical profession at this period varied purincluded all vocations that involved a lettered and technical ecclesiastic preparation. The civil law, as we know from Bacon's testi- times. mony, was already an ordinary study with ecclesiastics; so also was medicine, though professed chiefly by the Mendicants; while chancellors of the realm and ambassadors at foreign courts, like William Shyreswood and Richard of Bury or Walter de Merton himself, were selected chiefly from the clerical ranks; and even so late as the reign of Richard II, churchmen, like the warlike bishop of Norwich, might ride forth to battle, clad in complete armour, brandishing a twohanded sword, and escorted by a chosen body of lancers'. When such were the customary and recognised associations of the clerical life, it obviously becomes an unmeaning reproach to speak of the Church as usurping the functions of laymen; the truth would rather appear to be, as has been recently observed, 'that in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries statesmen and lawyers usurped the preferments of the Church than that ambitious churchen obtruded on 1 Blomefield, Hist. of Norfolk, III 109.
suits of the
not a monastery.
CHAP. II. civil and legal offices'. The restriction of Merton College to The college the clergy cannot consequently be held to have excluded any of those professions that possess a curriculum at either Oxford or Cambridge at the present day. Considerable stress has indeed been laid on the extent to which the monastic mode of life was reproduced in the discipline imposed upon our colleges, but a very slight examination of the early statutes is sufficient to show that such an approximation was simply for the purposes of organisation and economy: the essential conception of the college was really anti-monastic, and its limitation to those designed for the clerical profession was simply a necessary consequence of the fact that the activity of the Church embraced nearly all the culture of the age2.
1 Dean Hook, Lives of the Archbishops, IV 73. The expression used by Hugh Balsham (A.D. 1276) in his decision as arbitrator between his own archdeacon and the Master of Glomery, sive scholares sive laici, shows how entirely ecclesiastical was the character of the Universities at this time. Laymen and clerks, as Mr Anstey observes, were the nearest equivalents to the modern town' and gown,' Munimenta Acad. I vi. At the same time the very varied character of the activity of churchmen in the Middle Ages has induced many to maintain that the universities were as much secular as ecclesiastical. L'importante question,' says M. Thurot, in his very able treatise, 'de savoir si l'Université était un corps laïc ou ecclésiastique a été toujours controvertée...Elle fut toujours traitée comme un corps ecclésiastique au xiii au xive et au xv siècle... Elle fut même généralement traitée comme un corps laïc au xviie et au xviiie siècle'. De l'Organisation de l'Enseignement dans l'Université de Paris au Moyen-Age. Par Charles Thurot. Paris, 1850, pp. 29-31.
2 'It is customary with the ignorant to speak of our colleges as monastic institutions, but, as every one knows who is acquainted with the history of the country, the colleges with very few exceptions were introduced to supplant the monasteries. Early in the 12th century the opinion began to prevail, that the monaste
ries were no longer competent to supply the education which the improved state of society demanded. The primary object of the monastery was, to train men for what was technically called "the religious life," -the life of a monk. Those who did not become monks availed themselves of the advantages offered in the monastic schools; but still, a monastic school was as much designed to make men monks, as a training school, at the present time, is designed to make men schoolmasters, although some who are so trained betake themselves to other professions.' Dean Hook, Lives of the Archbishops, 111 339. Our founder's object,' remarks the bishop of Nelson, I conceive to have been to secure for his own order in the Church, for the secular priesthood, the academical benefits which the religious orders were so largely enjoying, and to this end I think all his provisions are found to be consistently framed. He borrowed from the monastic institutions the idea of an aggregate body living by common rule, under a common head, provided with all things needful for a corporate and perpetual life, fed by its secured endowments, fenced from all external interference, except that of its lawful patron; but after borrowing thus much, he differenced his institution by giving his beneficiaries quite a distinct employment, and keeping them free from all those
The next important feature is the character of the culture CHAP. IL which the founder designed should predominate among the Character of scholars'. It was his aim to establish a 'constant succession at Merton. of scholars devoted to the pursuits of literature,' 'bound to employ themselves in the study of arts or philosophy, theology or the canon law;' 'the majority to continue engaged in the liberal arts and philosophy until passed on to the study of theology, by the decision of the warden and fellows, and as the result of meritorious proficiency in the first-named subjects. The order in which the different branches are here enumerated may be regarded, as is the case with all the early college statutes, as significant of the relative importance attached by the founder to the different studies. The Theology canon law is recognised, but the students in that faculty are on Law expressly limited to four or five; to the civil law even favour is shewn, for the study is permitted only to canonists, and as ancillary to their special study, pro utilitate ecclesiastici regiminis, and the time to be devoted to it is made dependent on the discretion of the warden. A judicious remedy for the prevailing ignorance of grammar which Bacon so emphatically lamented, is provided by a clause requiring that one of the fellows, known as the grammaticus, shall devote himself expressly to the study, and directing
and the Ca
less ted as studies
after satisfactory attain
perpetual obligations which constituted the essence of the religious life......The proofs of his design to benefit the Church through a bettereducated secular priesthood, are to be found, not in the letter of their statutes, but in the tenour of their provisions, especially as to studies, in the direct averments of some of the subsidiary documents, in the fact of his providing Church patronage as part of his system, and in the readiness of prelates and chapters to grant him impropriations of the rectorial endowments of the Church.' Bp. of Nelson's Life of Walter de Merton, p. 22.
1 The term scholar' may be regarded as nearly equivalent to 'fellow,' in our early college statutes, indicating a student entirely supported by the revenues of the foun
dation and participating in the gene-
2. While he provides for a good liberal education, and general grounding in all subsidiary knowledge, he jealously guards his main object of theological study both from being attempted too early by the half-educated boy, and from being abandoned too soon for the temptations of something more profitable. It should be remembered that while the warden is charged with the duty of keeping an illiterate youth from commencing the crowning study, he has no authority for dispensing with it in any one case.' Ibid. p. 27.
3 Compendium Philosophia, ed. Brewer, p. 419.