III. Medieval Oxford

[British Critic, July 1838]

{315} MOST persons who fall in with Dr. Ingram's "Memorials of Oxford," will only consider it as a collection of beautiful prints in illustration of a beautiful city. In consequence they will be likely to place it on their drawing-room table, and to consider that, having done this, they have sufficiently recognized its claims upon their notice. And it is really a most interesting publication, viewed merely as a work of art; but those who have been led to cast their eyes upon its letter-press, will find there matter of a very different complexion from the dull running accompaniment, large in type and small in sense, which is commonly introduced into such artistic publications, by way of increasing their bulk without changing their character.

The President of Trinity, in truth, the learned writer of this letter-press, is evidently not a man to figure as a mere chevalier aux dames, or to serve up in proper style some elegant offering to the fashion of the hour. Never was a man less like the writers of the prose of an annual or an album. He is, to all appearance, one of a race of men, now almost extinct, who lived all their days in and for the University. A place like Oxford, it need scarcely be said, alters very much year by year in the outward characteristics of its society; and more so, in a time like this, when alterations and developments of a serious nature are taking place in the structure of society in general. The movements which {316} have had so successful a course in the metropolis and great towns of England, cannot be altogether unknown and unheeded in the groves and halls of academic repose; newspapers, magazines, and reviews cannot possibly be made contraband; the fact cannot be concealed from Oxford residents that they are the objects of dislike to a considerable portion of the community, and of assault in certain august assemblies; and, in consequence, there has been, more or less, a revival in the members of the University of that energetic spirit, that resolve to take part and have a voice in the world's matters, which is one of its distinguishing marks in history. They have long determined that Church and State shall neither do nor suffer, without their own doing and suffering too. The circumstances of the times seem to force such a course upon an ancient institution, which has never been a mere abode of the Muses, but has ever twined the myrtle round the sword; yet, at the same time, granting this, so much is clear, that the Muses suffer by it, and do not thank the times for its necessity.

They have to mourn over the gradual disappearance of classical taste, antiquarian research, and local knowledge. Oxford was a place of leisurely thought, of multifarious, though undigested erudition, of wayward irregular exertion, of enthusiastic College feeling, of chronic indulgence illuminated by the graceful or brilliant sallies of wit. It was a place impartially the Alma Mater both of genius and of abuses. No examinations or class-lists directed the mind either of tutor or of pupil to definite studies and honourable toil, or raised his eyes from his College garden to the University schools, and from the schools to the busy walks of life. Oxford was his home, and with the advantages of home, it had the disadvantages; it was a very dear place, but a very idle one; it was one {317} Long Vacation. It was not a place of passage, not a lodging house for a term of years, not a means to an end,—as it is commonly now. Such a state of things, indeed, if its capabilities had been rightly understood, might have been productive of most beneficial results; the fault was, not that inducements for exertion were not sought for from without, but that there were no active principles spontaneously stirring within. One good effect, however, actually followed; very few Fellows of Colleges, we suspect, could now be found, who are well acquainted with the history or antiquities of their own Society, how it grew up into its present state, and by whose munificence it has been gradually enriched. On the other hand, talk with an old incumbent visiting the place for a few days, and, if a resident yourself, you will be surprised, if you have not cause to be ashamed, at his accurate knowledge of the minute circumstances of the domicile, where your outward man has lived perhaps for years, but whence your mind has been away. While you, rightly or wrongly, have been absorbed in ecclesiastical proceedings or scientific associations, he knows all about the College, from the curious show-books or the manuscripts of the library, and the number in full of old silver tankards in the buttery, down to the excellence of the pump-water, or the history of the common-room chairs. Such is the difference between the past age and the present;—between this busy anxious day and a time when Oxford was loved for its own sake, and was enjoyed with scarce a thought of what was outside of it.

The learned work, to which we referred in our first sentences, is an instance in point, to what good account a resident there may turn his devotion towards a place, which is beautiful as youth, and venerable as age; and since the antiquarian lore which is its characteristic {318} is uncommon just now, we think it may be interesting to put together here some leading facts about the early history of the University, which are scattered through its pages, before and apart from the history of its Colleges. Facts we call them in an antiquarian sense, not as ignorant that every single statement which we shall make has been, and will be controverted, (for what are the annals of the world in the judgment of this day but one large story book?) but in order to intimate that it is not our intention to dispute or to prove, but that we mean to surrender ourselves to the pleasing illusion, that there is such a thing as certainty attainable by the human mind, as regards matters which we can neither see nor touch.

1.

Little can be narrated in any connected way concerning the University previously to the Norman conquest. The ravages of the Danes, civil troubles, and the debased state of religion, interrupted and dispersed, at least the records, if not the schools and studies themselves, of the peaceful place; and the scanty glimpses, which are left to us, are like the broken remembrances with which we retrace that first mysterious portion of our childhood, ere memory has yet become continuous, and we begin to live in the thought of our own identity. However, amid the dim notions of almost fabulous ages, on which the institutions existing in later times force us back, we are naturally drawn to one passage of Saxon history, both from its interesting character, and the satisfactory evidence adducible for its main outline,—the history of St. Frideswide. It seems, that, about the year 727, a certain governor, provost, or vice-roy, "subregulus," he is called, of the name of Didan, ruled over a large portion of the city of Oxford with dignity and {319} honour. His wife's name was Saffrida, and their daughter was called Frideswide. Having received a religious education from a female of eminent sanctity, this young lady, not only embraced the monastic life herself, but induced certain others among her equals, of respectable families, to do the like. Her mother dying, her father sought consolation, according to the fashion peculiar to those times, in a work of piety, and employed himself in the construction of a convent, with its church, within the precincts of the city; and, having dedicated it to St. Mary and all Saints, he made over his foundation to his daughter. This Church, which was known by the name of St. Mary of Oxford "prope Tamesin," or "on the Thames," was the rudiments of the present cathedral, as the priory attached to it was of the present Christ Church.

Frideswide's priory was, even from the first, something beyond a simple religious foundation. She died on October 19, 740, and was buried in her own church; but, even before her death, or shortly after, the king of Mercia, in whose territory Oxford lay (Ethelbald), constructed certain inns for the advancement of learning in connection with the sacred edifice. Alfred, 150 years later, after wresting the city from the Danes, restored them. Nothing is known of her foundation for another hundred years, that is, till A.D. 1000, by which date the Priory of St. Frideswide has been richly endowed, its lands increased, and its church enlarged. Oxford was, at that time, the metropolis of Mercia, and had been a favourite seat of both Saxon and Danish monarchs. King Ethelred (1004) built the church tower, which, with the addition of a Norman story and spire, is still standing. So great was the king's satisfaction at his own work, that he calls it, in the half-modernized {320} spelling of an extant MS. "myn owne mynster in Oxenford." Another hundred years brought with it a fresh series of changes; the nuns were gone, never to return; secular canons had succeeded, had fallen into disorder, and in turn been dispossessed; and in their place an austere Norman, chaplain to Henry I., was made the prior of an establishment of regulars. Under this form the foundation stood till the time of Wolsey, when those further changes were made which brought it into its present shape. Meanwhile, the prior of St. Frideswide and his community were among the most learned and scientific persons of their times, and their sainted patroness was proportionally honoured. Her relics, as it seems to be ascertained, were in 1180 translated, in Wood's words, "from an obscure to a more noted place in the church," being deposited in a reliquary, which Dr. Ingram supposes to remain to this day; miracles are said to have followed; rich offerings were made at her shrine, and ample endowments were added to her foundation. A more splendid shrine received her relics in 1289, and one still more splendid about 1480. Sermons were preached at her cross, the University authorities went in annual procession to her altar, and as late as 1434 she is called in a public instrument "the special advocate of the flourishing University of Oxford."

2.

Such is the history of the earliest endowment for learning, in a place which was destined to be so fruitful in similar noble institutions. The next that has to be noticed takes us back to the important era, which, while it forms a sort of commencement of our civil history, brought the University also up on to a new stage of {321} its existence. Only ten years had passed after the troubles attendant on the conquest, in which Oxford largely partook, when we find signs of returning peace, religion and learning in that city. The Castle Tower, which still is seen on the left hand of the road by travellers leaving for Bath or Cheltenham, belonged to the collegiate Church of St. George, and was founded at that date by Robert d'Oiley for secular canons of the order of St. Augustine, being such, (observes Wood) as were "most fit for a University, and not bound to keep their cloister, as regulars are." Here they continued till their translation to Oseney in 1149, "at which time," says the same writer, "this their said habitation became a nursery for secular students, subject to the chancellor's jurisdiction." Brumman le Riche endowed this same Church of St. George, on its first foundation, with land in the northern suburbs of Oxford; whence, as Dr. Ingram supposes, came the tradition that the University was anciently on that side of the town. Thus established as a scholastic institution, St. George's continued, as a dependency of Oseney Abbey, till the dissolution of the latter, being governed by statutes similar in some respects to those of more recent colleges, and consisting of a warden, fellows, and scholars. The warden was always to be chosen from the canons of Oseney; the fellows and scholars were sworn to the performance of divine service, and to obedience to the warden and to a life of charity and purity. There were five secular priests, and the scholars were in number twelve, for the most part Welshmen. Such was the record of the earliest scholastic foundations of Oxford, being situated on a spot originally a palace, and now a gaol.

Since Oseney has been mentioned, it may be allowed us to bestow a few words of notice on this celebrated {322} foundation, though it lies somewhat off the line of University history. It was founded, as we have said, in the early part of the 12th century, where the castle now stands, as a priory of Augustinian canons; and, when it had removed to the adjacent isle of Oseney, so many benefactions poured in, that the priory became an abbey, and ultimately one of the largest and most magnificent in the kingdom. From the great extent and splendour of its buildings, Wood says, "it was one of the first ornaments and wonders of this place and nation." The island, on which it was placed, was one of those formed by the winding branches of the Ouse or Isis, whence it derived its name of Oseney. The church, dedicated, as St. Frideswide's, to St. Mary the Virgin, was lofty, and was adorned with two towers; its bells were celebrated as the best in England in those times, and are those known in Dean Aldrich's time and in our own, as "the merry Christ Church bells." The famous Tom of Oxford, which tolls nightly at nine o'clock, was the bell in the clock-tower. The edifice was enriched with a variety of chapels, having not less than twenty-four distinct altars. The abbot's house was also celebrated for its splendour, and was frequently honoured by the company of kings, high prelates, and nobles of the first rank; having a hall, as a writer describes it, "more befitting a common society than a private man." The cloisters, the kitchen, the great hall, and the infirmary, were on a corresponding scale of magnificence. King Henry III., after he had raised the siege of Kenilworth, passed his Christmas here, celebrating the season for seven days' space, "with great revelling and mirth." Of all these gorgeous buildings scarcely a vestige now remains; and, had not a knowledge of the site been preserved by tradition and the diligence of antiquarians, it {323} could not from the face of the land have been conjectured. Some unevenness in a broad and fertile meadow marks the site of the great quadrangle; and a wall, gate, and window, belonging to its outbuildings, are still standing, near a mill which inherits its name. Its church bells, its sole extant memorial, were transferred, as we have said, together with its endowments, to Christ Church at the date of the Reformation.

3.

The schools of which we have already spoken, were situated on the banks of the Thames: but now, receding from the river, we must proceed up the rising ground to the north, to the spot occupied by the present Worcester College, where lay the land with which le Riche endowed the Church of St. George. Here was the great Benedictine College, founded by John Giffard, Baron of Brimesfield, in 1283, for the reception of the novices sent from the Benedictine Abbey at Gloucester. In the original documents connected with this place, its site is much extolled for its suitableness to an abode for study: a consideration which seems to have induced Giffard to enlarge his establishment, in order to be a "studium generale" for all the Benedictine youths in the province of Canterbury; three-fourths of such novices being, it is said, at that time sent to Oxford, and the remainder to Cambridge. The Benedictines were then, as in later times, a learned body of men, as their founder designed; and, a tax being imposed at a general chapter of the order on their greater abbeys, buildings adequate to the occasion quickly rose. Those belonging to each community were distinct from each other, and distinguished each by appropriate escutcheons and rebusses over the doors, some of which remain to this day. The students {324} were governed by a superior called "Prior Studentium," chosen by themselves, by a rule similar to that which is still nominally observed in the University, as regards the election of the Principals of Halls. About the year 1343 we find two chairs of theology established for their instruction, one in this establishment, and the other at Durham College.

Thus we are introduced to a sister foundation. Durham College was the seminary of the Benedictine priory at Durham. It was founded about 1286, under a grant of land made "to God, and to our Lady, and to St. Cuthbert, and to the prior and convent of Durham," and it was placed, not far from Gloucester College, on about the present site of Trinity. Several bishops of Durham became the benefactors of the foundation, among whom Richard Angervyle, or de Bury, in the beginning of the fourteenth century, left them his great collection of books, which was to be open for the use of all students. The building erected to receive this collection by his immediate successor, still remains; and there are those among the living generation of Trinity men, who, though not Benedictine novices, were gainers in their undergraduate days by a like liberality on the part of the College, and associate a summer vacation, long past, with the calm recesses of its library. At the end of the thirteenth century the foundation consisted of eight fellows, who were to be priests or monks, one being warden or prior, and eight secular scholars; at the time of the great religious revolution of the sixteenth, it was, with other regular houses, suppressed, and its revenues transferred to the new dean and chapter of Durham.

4.

The institutions, and the schools connected with them, {325} which we have hitherto described, were of a monastic character, richly endowed, and situated in the suburbs of the town, as beseemed places of retirement and of dignity. But meanwhile inside the town, and without the advantages resulting from the power and wealth of Augustinians or Benedictines, was growing up a distinct family, as it may be called, of schools,—secular schools as the former were claustral, which were the germ out of which the collegiate system was afterwards formed. There is a spot in the centre of the city, where Alfred is said to have lived, and which may be called the birthplace or fountain-head of three societies still existing, University College, Oriel, and Brasenose. Brasenose claims to preserve the memory of his palace, Oriel of his church, and University of his school or academy.

(1.) Of these Brasenose is still called in its formal style "the king's hall," which is the name by which Alfred himself in his laws calls his palace; and it has its present singular title from a corruption of brasinium or brasinhuse as originally occupying that part of the royal mansion which was devoted to the purposes of brewing.

(2.) The history of the adjacent church, which has belonged to Oriel College for the more than 500 years which have elapsed since its foundation, is a sort of repetition of what had already taken place in the instance of Frideswide's. A convent of women had been the beginning of the first schools, and of a church of St. Mary, on the banks of the Thames; and a convent, though a little way out of Oxford, was closely associated with the later schools, out of which came the present Colleges, and with a second St. Mary's in the heart of the place. The liberty of Littlemore lies on an elevated plain, two or three miles from Oxford. Of old it was covered with woods, and is bounded by a brook which joins the {326} Thames. Situated upon this brook, even in Saxon times, was a Benedictine nunnery, which was rebuilt after the conquest, and the remains of which still bear the Saxon name of Mynchery. What was its original connexion with Oxford does not appear; but for some reason or other, the church which Alfred is said to have built on the site of the present University Church, and which is spoken of as "St. Mary's," in the Doomsday survey, is known to have been dedicated to "our Lady of Littlemore." This Church, it is supposed, Alfred made the nucleus, or at least it was in fact the starting point, of a large collection of schools, both claustral and especially secular. They ran from the west end of the Church, at right angles to it, and towards the north, flanking "the king's Hall of Brasinhuse," as we have described it, in a long street, called School Street, which reached the northern wall of the city, that is, up to the present Broad Street. These schools were large rooms, which either were integral portions of the several halls or inns for students, situated in the street, or were first-floors over tradesmen's shops, and were dependencies on monastic bodies in the neighbourhood. Among the latter the convent of Littlemore had a place; besides possessing the ancient hall, now called St. Alban's, and then Nun Hall, to the south of the Church, it had schools in the street just mentioned, which were called after the name of St. Mary of Littlemore.

Moreover, as time went on, the Church of St. Mary became almost the domicile of the students, who had from the first lived under its shadow. In School Street there were, even as late as the fifteenth century, as many as thirty-two schools; at an earlier date the want of room for lectures and exercises, especially in the case of Lent Bachelors, led to encroachments upon St. Mary's. {327} By permission of the Crown, to whom, till the foundation of Oriel, the Church belonged, as many as six of its chapels or chantries were used as schools for public acts and degrees, being assigned to separate Faculties. The public library, erected over a chapel of Henry I., still remains, and is the present law school. The foundation of Oriel seems to have the beginning of a change. A new church was projected to the south of the old building. Adam de Brom, rector of the Church, and first founder of Oriel, began, or at least completed, its tower; the chancel was built by a Provost of Oriel in the middle of the fifteenth century; and the nave and aisle by the University at the end of it.

The same causes which led to the erection of the Church, led also to the contemplation of Schools, worthy of a great University. They were withdrawn from the chapels of St. Mary's, and from the halls of School Street, and gradually brought together at its upper end, on their present site. Of the existing buildings the beautiful Divinity School was not finished, till towards the end of the fifteenth century, nor the quadrangle before the time of James I. In the interval between these dates a remarkable instance occurred of the vicissitudes to which the abodes of learning are exposed. The ordinary exercises and scholastic acts in the University being suspended during the religious troubles of Edward VI.'s reign, the present ante-chapel, as it may be called, of the Divinity School was converted into a garden and a pig-market; and the schools themselves, being abandoned by the masters and scholars, were occupied by glovers and laundresses. In Wood's words, "There where Minerva sat as regent for several ages, was nothing remaining all the reign of King Edward VI. but wretched solitariness, and nothing but a dead silence appeared." {328}

(3). We have seen Alfred's residence develop itself, if I may so speak, into St. Mary's Church and the University Schools, as representations of the two great elements of education, religion and learning; but to complete the account, notice must be taken of the much-debated point, whether that celebrated king gave to any of his schools a principle of continuity, or, in more intelligible language, whether he founded or established any particular society or college. This, as is well known, is maintained in the affirmative by University College, which claims to be the identical school, hall, or inn, which Alfred instituted; and Dr. Ingram considers that its pretensions to this high antiquity and glorious parentage are not so shadowy as is commonly supposed. Such a claim is recognized in an order of Parliament as early as 1384, and in licenses of mortmain and other grants from the Crown in the reigns of Henry IV. and VI., Elizabeth and James I.; moreover, it is indirectly but distinctly confirmed in a judgment of the Court of King's Bench in 1726. As far, however, as the question is an historical one, this only can be said for it,—that the bequest of the founder of the College in the thirteenth century was laid out in getting possession of the Brasenose or Brasin-huse with its schools, which has already been described as Alfred's palace; near which the members of the College resided for about eighty years, when they seem to have removed to their present site.

5.

Whatever becomes of this question, we may at least recognize in the foundation of University College the commencement of that collegiate system, which is the form into which the present University is almost or altogether cast. Colleges seem to have arisen, in consequence of the {329} irregularities and disorders of University life, when it had lost the checks which a religious rule originally provided. When literature, no longer confined within the precincts and discipline of a monastery, wandered forth into the halls and chambers of School Street, and dispersed itself among a hundred separate circles, what was to be expected as its lot but confusion and trouble? During the first part of the thirteenth century the disorders, consequent upon such free trade in letters, reached their height, and what aggravated their seriousness was the almost incredible number of students, whom the reputation of the place attracted thither. In the last years of Henry III., they are said to have amounted to thirty thousand; while in the beginning of that monarch's reign there had been no more than three thousand. Just before he came to the throne, all three thousand on one occasion seceded from the university, as Matthew Paris tells us, leaving not one behind. Serious quarrels and tumults between hostile parties were also frequent, of which loss of life was no uncommon issue. Moreover, the buildings themselves, in which the students were lodged, were of a wretched and unsafe character. Fires were frequent; this led to the citizens building with stone and slate, instead of timber and thatch; and when they could not afford this expense, they raised a high stone wall between every fourth or sixth house, remains of which are still to be seen. But the institutions, which came in with the middle of the thirteenth century, brought a remedy for both the physical and moral evils of the place. To Walter de Merton, the founder of Merton College (A.D. 1264), is commonly attributed the introduction of the collegiate system; and to William of Wykeham, the founder of New, in the latter part of the following century, the praise of {330} establishing it in buildings of suitable splendour and solidity.

The history, however, of the Colleges has been too often gone over, and is too familiar to the world, to call for any notice here. We have preferred to confine our remarks to the original shape in which an academical system showed itself, when as yet it was cherished in the bosom of sacred institutions, which, as not existing at this day, are in consequence almost forgotten. The monastic bodies of the middle age, have not even left their names to the flourishing establishments, which are erected on their site, and, more or less, endowed with their property. Yet that they should have risen again in any shape in these latter days, is remarkable enough, and most encouraging to those whom the turbulence and the dangers of the present hour might else induce to despond as to the future. St. Frideswide's Priory, St. George's Church, the Abbey of Oseney, the establishments for the Gloucester and Durham Benedictines have gone their way; but Christ Church is a magnificent monument to the memory of the abbots and canons regular whom it has succeeded; Trinity College occupies the place of Durham, and Worcester the buildings of Gloucester; St. John's is a revival of a Cistercian establishment, founded on its site in the fifteenth century, and Wadham has risen amid the ruins of a foundation of Augustines in the thirteenth, whose disputative powers were kept in memory in the exercises of the University schools down to 1800 [Note]. {331}

6.

Such is the vitality, such the reproductive powers, of this celebrated University. If any of her children, who have no special claim to speak, may presume to offer her counsel, ours would be that she should never forget that her present life is but the continuation of the life of past ages, and that her constituent members are, after all, in a new form and with new names, the Benedictines and Augustinians of a former day. The monastic principle, a most important element in the social character of the Church, lingers among them, while it has been absorbed elsewhere in the frivolous or selfish tempers and opinions of an advanced period of civilization. To the Universities is committed the duty of cherishing and exemplifying Christian simplicity, nobleness, self-devotion, munificence, strictness, and zeal, which have well-nigh vanished in other places. To them only it is allotted, especially if chapters are to be swept away, to show that the Christian can be deeply read in the philosophy of ancient truth, and serenely prescient of the future from his comprehension of the past. To them only it falls, as being out of the world, to measure and expose the world, and, as being in the heart of the Church, to strengthen the Church to resist it. It is their very place to be old-fashioned; let them have but the moral and intellectual strength not to forget or to be ashamed of being so, but to carry out the doctrines, which are their inheritance, boldly, without haggling at the price they must pay in order to act consistently with their mission. We say this the rather, because it is impossible not to see a disposition in certain questions to shrink from that line of conduct which alone has saved them heretofore, or can maintain for them their historical position in time to {332} come. Institutions come to nothing which are untrue to the principle which they embody; Oxford has failed in all respects, has compromised its dignity, and has done injury to its inward health and stability, as often as it has forgotten that it was a creation of the middle ages, and has affected new fashions, or yielded to external pressure. It conceded nothing at the time of the Rebellion, but waited to be robbed, and it gained all back in the course of a few years; it submitted, by its own act, to William of Orange, and years of disgrace followed. A few years ago, a passing humour seized it to open its gates to the Association for Science; Dissenters of all hues were brought to gaze upon its buildings, "its precious things, the silver and the gold, and the spices and the precious ointments,"—there was nothing among its treasures that it showed them not. Four of the most eminent among them, each of a separate persuasion, were honoured with degrees; and it was condescendently predicted by not the least eminent of his body (Unitarian, I believe) that by such a policy Oxford had added a hundred years to its existence. Scarcely had a twelvemonth passed, when the fruits of that policy appeared: those who had been admitted to covet, felt disposed to steal; they felt a greater pang that its gates were closed against them, than pleasure in the memory of the short week, during which they had been opened to them; and the visit of the savans to Alma Mater was the precursor of the Bill, introduced into the Commons, for the permanent admission of Dissenters to its lecture-rooms. Such is the inevitable consequence of aping or of trembling at the external world. {333}

7.

And while Oxford never shows so well as when resisting innovation and rallying round an ancient principle which is imperilled, it never shows so cowardly as when, professing to be doing this, it nevertheless thinks it right to protest against and dissociate itself from those, who did the same in their own day centuries ago. Yet this is an inconsistency, into which its members, in common with our whole Church, have been again and again betrayed ever since the Reformation, when political changes and the growth of liberal notions have rendered the principles cherished in the University unpopular in the nation. Men cannot bear to be associated in the present day with those of former times whom the present day contemns; and, instead of denying that those old worthies are really contemptible, they set about proving that they themselves do not resemble them,—though they do. Hence the common practice, in other places especially, of men's purchasing for themselves a toleration of what the world calls intolerance, by their own declarations against the alleged intolerance in their forefathers, and of managing to hide their own modicum of so-called formality and superstition, by loud denunciations of those who in time past had just a little more of both than themselves. And hence they try to escape the odium of being anti-Reformers in the nineteenth century, by professing to be true sons of the Reformation made in the sixteenth; and to wash themselves clean of the imputation of Popery by laying it on thick as regards historical characters who are incapable now either of self-defence or of retort.

How much better and more honest would it be, when {334} asked whether their zeal against innovation now would not have been zeal against reformation three centuries back, to avow that it is our duty to stand by what is established till it is proved to be wrong, and to maintain customs which we have inherited, though it would be a duty to resist them before they had been actually received! Who considers it an inconsistency in Sir Robert Peel to stand by the Reform Act, now that it has become law, which, before it passed, he strenuously resisted? How would it be wise in him to oppose what has been carried, yet how would it not be absurd in him to defend it on its intrinsic merits? This way of viewing the position of the University is intelligible; but it really is losing time and toil to deny, what is as plain as day, that Oxford has, and ever has had, what men of the world will call a Popish character, that in opinion and tone of thought its members are successors of the old monks, or that those who now speak against Wesleyans and Independents, would also have opposed the Foxes and Knoxes of the Reformation. Surely it is our wisdom, as we follow, so to profess we follow, ancient times. Let us not fear to connect ourselves with our predecessors; let us discern in our beautiful homes the awful traces of the past, and the past will stand by us. Let us stand upon the vestiges of the old city, and, with the hero in the poet's romance, we shall find a talisman amid the ruins. "The talisman is Faith." Or in the words of another poet, who speaks with the affection of a son of Oxford,

But thou, my mother, green as erst and pure,
       Thy willows wave, thy meeting waters glide:
Untarnished on thy matron breast endure
       The treasured gems, thy youth's delight and pride.
{335}
       Firm Loyalty, serene and fond,
       Wearing untired her lofty bond;
       Awful Reverence bending low
       Where'er the heavens their radiance throw;
       And Wisdom's mate, Simplicity,
That in the gloom dares trust the guiding arm on high;
       These of old, thy Guardians tried,
       Daily kneeling at thy side,
And wont by night to fan our vigil fires,
We feel them hovering now around the aŽrial spires.

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Note

The practice of holding disputations apud Augustinenses, colloquially called "doing Austins," continued down to the introduction of the new examination statute. They were held in the school of Natural Philosophy, every Saturday in full term; and every B.A., after his Lent determination, was bound to dispute there once every year, either as opponent or respondent, before he could proceed to his Master's degree.
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