Page images

The glimpses we are able to gain of our own universities CHAP. II. at this period are rare and unsatisfactory, but they sufficiently indicate the close relations existing between those bodies and the great school of Paris. The obscurity which involves their early annals is not indeed of the kind that follows upon an inactive or a peaceful career,

Such whose supine felicity but makes
In story chasms, in epocha mistakes,—

from Paris at


but through the drifting clouds of pestilence and famine, of internal strife and civil war, we discern enough to assure us that whatever learning then acquired, or thought evolved, or professors taught, was carried on under conditions singularly disadvantageous. The distractions which surrounded student life in Paris were to be found in but a slightly modified form at Oxford and at Cambridge, and indeed at all the newlyformed centres of education. The restlessness of the age was little likely to leave undisturbed the resorts of the youthful, the enquiring, and the adventurous. Frequent migrations sufficiently attest how troublous was the atmosphere. We have already noticed that large numbers of students, in Students the great migration from Paris, in the year 1229, availed Oxford and themselves of King Henry's invitation to settle where they pleased in this country; and the element thus infused at Cambridge is, in all probability, to be recognised in one of four writs, issued in the year 1231, for the better regulation of the university, in which the presence of many students 'from beyond the seas' is distinctly adverted to'. By another of these writs it is expressly provided that no student shall be permitted to remain in the university unless under the tuition of some master of arts,-the earliest trace, perhaps, of an attempt towards the introduction of some organization among the ill-disciplined and motley crowd that then represented the student community. An equally considerable immigration from Paris had also taken place at Oxford. The intercourse between these two centres was indeed surprisingly frequent in that age. It was not uncommon for the wealthier 1 Cooper's Annals, 1 42.

Oxonians at


CHAP. II students to graduate at more than one university; 'Sundry schools' were held, in the language of Chaucer, to make subtil clerkes;' and Wood enumerates no less than thirty-two eminent Oxonians who had also studied at Paris. Among the names are those of Giraldus Cambrensis, Daniel Merlac, Alexander Hales, Robert Grosseteste, Robert Pulleyne, Roger Bacon, Stephen Langton, Ægidius, Richard of Cornwall, and Kilwardby; and it may be added that this list might be considerably extended. 'Leland,' says Wood, 'in the lives of divers English writers that flourished in these times' (sub anno 1230), 'tells us that they frequented as well the schools of Paris as those of Oxford de more illustrium Anglorum, and for accomplishment sake did go from Oxford to Paris and so to Oxford again. Nay, there was so great familiarity and commerce between the said universities, that what one knew, the other straightway did, as a certain poet hath it thus:


Wood's ac


Migrations from Cambridge and Oxford.

Et procul et propius jam Francus et Anglicus eque
Norunt Parisius quid feceris Oxonieque.

This familiarity,' he adds, 'continued constant till the time of John Wycleve, and then our students deserting by degrees scholastical divinity, scarce followed any other studies but polemical, being wholly bent and occupied in refuting his opinions and crying down the orders of Mendicant Friars'.' We can hardly doubt that some quickening of thought must have resulted both from this habitual intercourse and the sudden influx of the year 1229; and that, though the foreign students were probably chiefly possessed at the time by feelings of angry dissatisfaction with Queen Blanche and William of Auvergne, and full of invectives against the obtrusive spirit of the new orders, something must have been learnt at Cambridge respecting that new learning which was exciting such intense interest on the continent, and which the authorities of Paris had been vainly endeavouring to stifle.

Within thirty years of this event Cambridge and Oxford in their turn saw their sons set forth in search of quieter abodes. The division into 'nations' in the continental uni

1 Wood-Gutch, 1 206-214.

versities was to some extent represented in England by that CHAP. II. of North and South, and was a special source of discord among the students. The animosities described by these factions belonged not merely to the younger portion of the community, but pervaded the whole university, and became productive of evils against which, in the colleges, it long afterwards became necessary to provide by special enactment. It was in the year 1261 that an encounter at Cambridge between two students, representatives of the opposing parties, gave rise to a general affray. The townsmen took part with either side, and a sanguinary and brutal struggle ensued. Outrage of every kind was committed; the houses were plundered, and the records of the university burnt. It was in consequence of these disturbances that a body of students betook themselves to Northampton, whither a like Migration migration, induced by similar causes, had already taken place bridge to from Oxford. The royal licence was even obtained for the ton. establishment of another studium generale, but to use the expression of Fuller, the new foundation 'never attained full bachelor,' for in the year 1264 the emigrants were ordered by special mandate to return to the scenes they had quitted. Within three-quarters of a century from this event a like migration took place from Oxford to Stamford, a scheme Migration which to judge from subsequent enactments was persevered to Stamford. in with some tenacity'. It would be surely an ignoble esti

from Cam


from Oxford

1 So that that prophecy of old by the ancient British Apollo, Merlin, was come to pass, which runneth thus-Doctrine studium quod nunc riget ad Vada Boum | Tempore venturo celebrabitur ad Vada Saxi.' Wood-Gutch, 1 425. Vada Boum is here for Orford; Vada Sari for Stoneford or Stamford. The seer however is guilty of a false etymology; the root ox being of Keltic origin and signifying water. Stamford was distinguished by the activity of the Carmelites who had an extensive foundation there, and taught with considerable success. Several halls and colleges were founded and the remains of one of these, known as Brazen Nose College, exist at the present day. Scholars continued to resort to Stamford from

the old universities and elsewhere,
until the year 1333, when Edward
III, upon the urgent complaint and
application of the university of Ox-
ford, ordered all such students to
return under severe penalties, and
that effectually checked the progress
of a third university in this king-
dom; and in the following year the
university of Oxford, and most pro-
bably, likewise at the same time, the
university of Cambridge, with a
view to the exclusive enjoyment of
their own privileges, and the more
complete suppression of this for-
midable rival, agreed to bind their
regents by an oath, neither to teach
anywhere themselves as in a univer-
sity, except in Oxford or Cambridge,
nor to acknowledge, as legitimate

[ocr errors]

CHAP. II. mate of the spirit that actuated these little bands which would suggest to us that their enthusiasm was a delusion, and that, as far as we can estimate the value of the learning they strove to cultivate, their text books might as well have been left behind. We shall rather be disposed to honour the stedfastness of purpose that actuated these poor students in their desponding exodus. Their earnestness and devotion invest with a certain dignity even their obscure and errant metaphysics, their interminable logic, their artificial theology, and their purely hypothetical science; and if we reflect that it is far from improbable that in some future era the studies now predominant at Oxford and Cambridge may seem for the greater part as much examples of misplaced energy as those to which we look back with such pitying contempt, we shall perhaps arrive at the conclusion that the centuries bring us no nearer to absolute truth, and that it is the pursuit rather than the prize, the subjective discipline rather than the objective gain, which gives to all culture its chief meaning and worth.

On such grounds, and on such alone, we should be glad to know more of the real status of our students at this period and the conditions under which their work was carried on; in all such enquiries however we find ourselves encountered by insuperable difficulties arising from the destruction of our records. Antiquarian research pauses hopelessly baffled as it arrives at the barren wastes which so frequently attest the inroads of the fiery element upon the archives of our university. This destruction was of a twofold character,-designed and accidental: the former however having played by far the more important part. A blind and unreasoning hatred of a culture in which they could neither share nor sympathise, has frequently characterised the lower orders in this country, and Cambridge certainly encountered its full share of such manifestations. In the numerous affrays between town' and 'gown' the hostels were often broken open by the townsmen, who plundered them of whatever

regents, those who had commenced in
any other town in England.' Dean

Peacock's Observations, Appendix, p.
xxviii. See also note on Peck's Acade-

[ocr errors]

versity and College

they considered of any value, and destroyed everything that CHAP. II. bespoke a lettered community. In 1261 the records of the university were committed to the flames; the year 1322 Loss of Uniwas marked by a similar act of Vandalism; in 1381, during Cords by fire. the insurrections then prevalent throughout the country, Incendiary the populace vented their animosity in destruction on a yet larger scale. At Corpus Christi all the books, charters, and writings belonging to the society were destroyed. At St. Mary's the university chest was broken open, and all the documents met with a similar fate. The masters and scholars, under intimidation, surrendered all their charters, muniments, and ordinances, and a grand conflagration ensued in the market place; an ancient beldame scattered the ashes in the air, exclaiming 'thus perish the skill of the clerks'!' Similar though less serious outrages occurred in the reign of Henry v. Of the more general havoc wrought under royal authority at the time of the Reformation, we shall have occasion to speak in another place. The conflagrations resulting from accident were also numerous and destructive": though Fuller indeed holds it a matter for congratulation that far Fuller's view greater calamity was not wrought by such casualties: 'Whosoever,' he says, 'shall consider in both universities the illcontrivance of many chimneys, hollowness of hearths, shallowness of tunnels, carelessness of coals and candles, catchingness of papers, narrowness of studies, late reading, and long watching of scholars, cannot but conclude that an especial Providence preserveth those places.' The result of these dis- Opportuniasters has unfortunately resulted in a positive as well as forded for the negative evil. It is not simply that we are unable to deter- of forgeries. mine many points of interest in the antiquities of the university, but the absence of definite information has also afforded scope for the exercise of the inventive faculty to an extent which, in a more critical age, especially when presenting itself in connexion with a centre of enquiry and mental activity, seems absolutely astounding. It was easy for

of the case.

ties thus af


mia Tertia Anglicana, Appendix (B).

1 Cooper, Annals, 1 48, 79, 121.

2 The records of Clare Hall, which as those of one of the most ancient

college foundations would have had
a special value, were lost in the fire
of 1362, when the whole building
was burnt to the ground.

« PreviousContinue »