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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
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 toʻ. 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
from Paris at
> Cooper's Annals, 1 42.
CHAP. II. students to graduate at more than one university; ‘Sundry
schools' were held, in the language of Chaucer, to 'make
Anthony Wood's account.
Et procul et propius jam Francus et Anglicus eque
• This familiarity,' he adds, "continued constant till the time
Within thirty years of this event Cambridge and Oxford
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
Northampfrom 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 126+ 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
1.So that that prophecy of old by the old universities and elsewhere, the ancient British Apollo, Merlin, until the year 1333, when Edward was come to pass, which runneth III, upon the urgent complaint and thus :-Doctrinæ studium quod nunc application of the university of Oxviget ad Vada Boum | Tempore ven- ford, ordered all such students to turo celebrabitur ad Vada Saxi.' return under severe penalties, and Wood-Gutch, 1 425. Vada Boum is that effectually checked the progress here for O.xford; Vada Sari for Stone- of a third university in this kingford or Stamford. The seer however dom; and in the following year the is guilty of a false etymology; the root university of Oxford, and most pro
ox being of Keltic origin and signify- bably, likewise at the same time, the ing water. Stamford was distinguish- university of Cambridge, with a ed by the activity of the Carmelites view to the exclusive enjoyment of who had an extensive foundation their own privileges, and the more there, and taught with considerable complete suppression of this for
Several halls and colleges midable rival, agreed to bind their were founded and the remains of one of regents by an oath, neither to teach these, known as Brazen Nose College, anywhere themselves as in a univerexist at the present day. “Scholars sity, except in Oxford or Cambridge, continued to resort to Stamford from nor to acknowledge, as legitimate
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 oultivate, 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 betweentown' and 'gown' the hostels were often broken open by the townsmen, who plundered them of whatever 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- Opportuni, asters has unfortunately resulted in a positive as well as fortel 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
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