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The Charm of Oxford by J. Wells

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Italics are represented as /italics/.



Warden of Wadham College, Oxford

Illustrated by

Second Edition (Revised)


First published 1920
Second edition 1921

"'Home of lost causes'--this is Oxford's blame;
'Mother of movements'--this, too, boasteth she;
In the same walls, the same yet not the same,
She welcomes those who lead the age-to-be."

"Much have ye suffered from time's gnawing tooth,
Yet, O ye spires of Oxford domes and towers,
Gardens and groves, your presence overpowers
The soberness of reason."

[Plate 1. Christ Church : The Cathedral from the Garden]



There are many books on Oxford; the justification for this new one is
Mr. Blackall's drawings. They will serve by their grace and charm
pleasantly to recall to those who know Oxford the scenes they love;
they will incite those who do not know Oxford to remedy that defect
in their lives.

My own letterpress is only written to accompany the drawings. It is
intended to remind Oxford men of the things they know or ought to
know; it is intended still more to help those who have not visited
Oxford to understand the drawings and to appreciate some of the
historical associations of the scenes represented.

I have written quite freely, as this seemed the best way to create
the "impression" wished. I have to acknowledge some obligations to
Messrs. Seccombe & Scott's /Praise of Oxford/, a book the pages of
which an Oxford man can always turn over with pleasure, and to Mr. J.
B. Firth's /Minstrelsy of Isis/; it is not his fault that the poetic
merit of so much of his collection is poor. Oxford has not on the
whole been fortunate in her poets. My own quotations are more often
chosen for their local colour than for their poetic merit.

I have unavoidably had to borrow a good deal from my own /Oxford and
its Colleges/, but the aim of the two books is very different.

April 1920.






In what does the charm of Oxford consist? Why does she stand out
among the cities of the world as one of those most deserving a visit?
It can hardly be said to be for the beauty of her natural
surroundings. In spite of the charm of her

"Rivers twain of gentle foot that pass
Through the rich meadow-land of long green grass,"

in spite of her trees and gardens, which attract a visitor,
especially one from the more barren north, Oxford must yield the palm
of natural beauty to many English towns, not to mention those more

But she has every other claim, and first, perhaps, may be mentioned
that of historic interest.

An Englishman who knows anything of history is not likely to forget
of how many striking events in the development of his country Oxford
has been the scene. The element of romance is furnished early in her
story by the daring escape of the Empress-Queen, Matilda, from Oxford
Castle. The Provisions of Oxford (1258) were the work of one of the
most famous Parliaments of the thirteenth century, the century which
saw the building of the English constitution, and the students of the
University fought for the cause which those Provisions represented.
The burning of the martyr bishops in the sixteenth century is one of
the greatest tragedies in the story of our Church. The seventeenth
century saw Oxford the capital of Royalist England in the Civil War,
and though there was no actual fighting there, Charles' night march
in 1644 from Oxford to the West, between the two enclosing armies of
Essex and Waller, is one of the most famous military movements ever
carried out in our comparatively peaceful island. The Parliamentary
history, too, of Oxford in the seventeenth century is full of
interest, for it was there that in 1625 Charles' first Parliament met
in the Divinity School. And fifty years later, his son, Charles II,
triumphed over the Whig Parliament at Oxford, which was trying by
factious violence to force the Exclusion Bill on a reluctant king and
nation. Few towns beside London have been the scene of so many great
historical events; yet any one who looks below the surface will
attach less importance to these than to the great changes in thought
which have found in Oxford their inspiration, and which make it a
city of pilgrimage for those interested in the development of
England's real life. Matthew Arnold's famous description, hackneyed
though it is by quotation, gives one aspect of Oxford, an aspect
which will appeal to many beside the scholar poet:

"Beautiful city! so venerable, so lovely, so unravaged by the fierce
intellectual life of our century, so serene!

'There are our young barbarians, all at play.'

And yet, steeped in sentiment as she lies, spreading her gardens to
the moonlight, and whispering' from her towers the last enchantments
of the Middle Ages, who will deny that Oxford, by her ineffable
charm, keeps ever calling us nearer to the true goal of all of us, to
the ideal, to perfection--to beauty, in a word, which is only truth
seen from another side?"

But this is not the real intellectual charm of Oxford, which has been
ever the centre of strenuous life, rather than of dilettante
dreamings. From the very beginning, she has been a city of
"Movements." Some visitors, then, will come to Oxford as the home and
the burial-place of Roger Bacon, representing as he does the
Franciscan Order, with its Christ-like sympathy for the poor and its
early attempts to develop the knowledge of Natural Science; Oxford
was in the thirteenth century the great centre of the Friars'
movement in England. Others will remember that in the next century it
produced, in John Wycliffe, the great opponent of the Friars, the man
who, as the first of the Reformers, is to many the most interesting
figure in mediaeval English religious history. In the sixteenth
century, Oxford plays no great part in the actual revolution in the
English Church; yet it will be a place attractive to many who cherish
the memory of the "Oxford Reformers," the members of Erasmus' circle
--John Colet, Thomas More, William Grocyn, and other scholars--who
hoped by sound learning to amend the Church without violent change.
Some, on the other hand, will see in the sixteenth-century Oxford,
the school which trained men for the Counter-Reformation, such as the
heroic Jesuit, Campion, or Cardinal Alien, the founder of the English
College at Douai. The Anglican "Via Media" found its special
representatives in Oxford in Jewel and Hooker, and in Laud, the
practical genius who carried out its principles in the Church
administration of his day. It was fitting that the movement for the
revival of Church teaching in England in the nineteenth century
should be an Oxford movement, and Newman's pulpit at St. Mary's and
the chapel of Oriel College are sacred in the eyes of Anglicans all
over the world. In the interval between Laud and Newman, Church
principles had found a different development in another Oxford man;
John Wesley's character and spiritual life were built up in Oxford,
till he went forth to do the work of an Evangelist during more than
half of the eighteenth century. Wycliffe, More, Hooker, Laud, Wesley,
Newman, these are not the names of men who have affected the
religious history of the world as did Luther, Calvin or Ignatius
Loyola; but they have affected profoundly the religious life of the
English-speaking race, and Oxford must ever be a sacred place for
their sakes.

And Oxford has been the starting-point of other than religious
movements. No place in England has such a claim on the Englishmen of
the New World as has Oxford. It was there that Richard Hakluyt taught
geography, and collected in part his wonderful store of the tales of
enterprise beyond the sea. Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his half-brother,
Sir Walter Raleigh, both Oxford men, were the founders of English
colonization. By their failures they showed the way to success later,
and Calvert in Maryland, Penn in Pennsylvania, John Locke in the
Carolinas, and Oglethorpe in Georgia are all Oxford men who rank as
founders of States in the great Union of the West. And in our own
day, Cecil Rhodes has once more proved that the academic dreamer can
go out and advance the development of a great continent. By his
magnificent foundation of scholarships at Oxford, he showed that he
considered his old university a formative influence of the greatest
importance in world history. Oxford with reason puts up one tablet to
mark his lodgings in the city, and another to commemorate him in her
stately Examination Schools.

[Plate II, St. Mary's Spire]

But there are many to whom the past, whether in the realm of action
or in the realm of ideas, does not appeal, whether it be from lack of
knowledge or from lack of sympathy. To some of these Oxford makes a
different appeal as perhaps the best place in England for studying
the development of English architecture. The early Norman work of the
Castle and St. Michael's, the Transition work of the cathedral, the
very early lancet windows of St. Giles' Church (consecrated by the
great St. Hugh of Lincoln himself), the Decorated Style as seen in
St. Mary's spire and in Merton chapel, the glories of the specially
English style, the Perpendicular, in Wykeham's work at New College
and in Magdalen Tower, the Tudor magnificence of Wolsey's work at
Christ Church, the last flower of Gothic at Wadham and at St. John's,
the triumph of Wren's genius, alike in the classical style at the
Sheldonian and in "Gothic" as in Tom Tower, the Classical work of
Hawkesmore at Queen's and of Gibbs in the Radcliffe, the wonderful
beauty of Mr. Bodley's modern Gothic in St. Swithun's Quad at
Magdalen, and the skilful adaptation of old English tradition to
modern needs by Sir Thomas Jackson at Trinity and at Hertford--what
other city can show such a series of architectural beauties? And it
must not be forgotten that Oxford disputes with York the honour of
having the most representative sequence of painted glass windows in
England. Oxford, indeed, is a paradise for the student of Art.
Nowhere, except at Cambridge, can the series of architectural works
be paralleled, and at both universities the charm of their ancient
buildings is enhanced by their beautiful setting in college gardens.

It is not an accident that in the old universities more than anywhere
else, so much of beauty has survived, nor is it to be put down as a
happy piece of academic conservatism. It is rather the natural result
of their constitution and endowment. What has been so fatal to the
beauty of old England elsewhere has been material prosperity. The
buildings inherited from the past had to go, at least so it was
thought, because they were not suited to modern methods, or because
the site they occupied was worth so much more for other purposes. But
the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge could not carry on their work on
different sites; "residence" was an essential of academic
arrangements; and there was no temptation to the fellows of a college
to make money by parting with their old buildings, for their incomes
were determined by Statute, and any great increase of wealth would
not advantage individual fellows. Hence, while great nobles and great
merchants sold their splendid houses and grounds, and grew rich on
the unearned increment, and while non-residential universities moved
bodily from their old positions to new and more fashionable quarters,
Oxford and Cambridge colleges went on working and living in the same
places. Much the same reasons have preserved, in many old towns,
picturesque alms-houses, to show the modern world how beautiful
buildings once could be, while all around them reigns opulent
ugliness. Certain it is that only in one instance, in recent times,
has an Oxford college contemplated selling its old site and buildings
and migrating to North Oxford, and then the sacrilegious attempt was
outvoted. Hence, as has been said, the two old English Universities
possess in an unique degree the

"Strange enchantments of the past
And memories of the days of old."

The charms of Oxford for the historical student and for the lover of
Art have been spoken of. But a large part of the world comes under
neither head; to it the charm of Oxford consists in the young lives
that are continually passing through it. Oxford and Cambridge present
ever attractive contrasts between their young students and their old
buildings, between the first enthusiasm of ever new generations, and
customs and rules which date back to mediaeval times.

But apart from the charm of contrast, Oxford has everything to make
life attractive for young men. It is true that the old buildings
combine with a dignity a millionaire could not surpass a standard of
material comfort which in some respects is below that of an up-to-
date workhouse. An amusing instance has occurred of this during the
war. The students of one of the women's colleges, expelled from their
own modern buildings, which had been turned into a hospital, became
tenants of half of one of the oldest colleges. It was very romantic
thus to gain admission to the real Oxford, but the students soon
found that it was very uncomfortable to have their baths in an out-
of-the-way corner of the college. And baths themselves are but a
modern institution at Oxford; at one or two colleges still the old
"tub in one's room" is the only system of washing. Perhaps this
instance may be thought frivolous, but it is typical of Oxford, which
has been described, with some exaggeration in both words, as a home
of "barbaric luxury."

But after all, comfort in the material sense is the least important
element in completeness of life. Oxford has everything else, except,
it is true, a bracing climate. She has society of every kind, in
which a man ranks on his merits, not on his possessions; he is valued
for what he is, not for what he has; she gives freedom to her sons to
live their own life, with just sufficient restraint to add piquancy
to freedom, and to restrain those excesses which are fatal to it; she
has intellectual interests and traditions, which often really affect
men who seem indifferent to them; life in her, as a rule, is not
troubled by financial cares--for her young men, most of them, either
through old endowments or from family circumstances, have for the
moment enough of this world's goods. In view of all this, and much
more, is it not natural that Oxford has a charm for her sons? And
this is enhanced with many by all the force of hereditary tradition;
the young man is at his college because his father was there before
him; the pleasure of each generation is increased by the reflection
of the other's pleasure. What traditional feeling in Oxford means
may, perhaps, be illustrated by the story of an old English worthy,
though one only of the second rank. Jonathan Trelawney, one of the
Seven Bishops who defied James II, was a stout Whig, but when it was
proposed to punish Oxford for her devotion to the Pretender, the
Government found they could not reckon on his vote, though he was
usually a safe party man. "I must be excused from giving my vote for
altering the methods of election into Christ Church, where I had my
bread for twenty years. I would rather see my son a link boy than a
student of Christ Church in such a manner as tears up by the roots
that constitution."

But the days of hereditary tradition are over, and Trelawney belongs
to an age long past; Oxford now is exposed to an influence compared
to which the arbitrary proceedings of a king are feeble. A democratic
Parliament with a growing Labour party has far more power to change
Oxford than the Stuarts ever had, and even at this moment (1919) a
third Royal Commission is beginning to sit. Will it modify, will it--
transform Oxford?

The first answer seems to be that the very stones of Oxford are
charged with her traditions. During the War the colleges have been
full of officer-cadets; they were men of all ranks of life and of
every kind of education; they came from all parts of the world; they
were of all ages, from eighteen to forty, at least. Their training
was a strenuous one by strict rule, a complete contrast to the free
and easy life of academic Oxford. Yet in their few months of
residence, most of them became imbued with the college spirit; they
considered themselves members of the place they lived in; they tried
to do most of the things undergraduates do. If Oxford thus, to some
extent, moulded to her pattern men who, welcome as they were, were
only accidental, surely the college spirit may be trusted to
assimilate whatever material the changed conditions of social or of
political life furnish to it. The hope of many at Oxford is that
there will be a great development and a great change. On one side it
will be good if Oxford becomes to a much greater extent not only an
all-British, but also a world university; on another side it is to be
hoped that far more than ever before men of all classes in England
will come to Oxford. It would surprise many of the University's
critics to find how much had already been done in these directions.
It is certainly not true now that, as one of Oxford's critics wrote,

"Too long, too long men saw thee sit apart
From all the living pulses of the hour."

On the contrary, the Oxford of the last generation has already become
markedly more cosmopolitan, and she has been drawing to her an ever-
increasing number of able men of every class.

But these developments, thus begun, will certainly be carried much
further in the near future. Oxford will be altered. Some of her
customs will be changed. This may well issue in great and lasting
good, though there will be loss as well as gain. But an Oxford man
may be pardoned if he believes and hopes that his university will
remain the university he has loved. There is a saying current in
Oxford about Oxford men, which may not be out of place here--"If you
meet a stranger, and if after a time you say to him, 'I think you
were at Oxford,' he accepts it, as a matter of course, and is
pleased. If you do the same to a Cambridge man, he indignantly
replies, 'How do you know that?'" No doubt the saying is turned the
other way round at Cambridge, and no doubt it is equally true and
equally false of both universities, i.e. it is positively true and
negatively false, like so many other statements. But it is positively
true; the Oxford man is proud of having been at Oxford; the past and
the present alike, his political and his religious beliefs, his
traditions and his social surroundings, all endear Oxford to him. May
it ever be so.


"Like to a queen in pride of place, she wears
The splendour of a crown in Radcliffe's dome."

[Plate III. View of Radcliffe Square]

The visitor to Oxford often asks--"Where is the University?" The
proper answer is: "The University is everywhere," for the colleges
are all parts of it. But if a distinction must be made, and some
buildings must be shown which are especially "University Buildings,"
then it is undoubtedly in the Square, of which this picture shows one
side, that they must be found. Immediately on the right is the
Bodleian Library, the domed building in the centre is the Radcliffe
Library, and in the background rises the spire of St. Mary's. Of this
last building the tower and spire go back nearly to the beginnings of
Oxford; they date from the time of Edward I; but for a century, at
least, before they were erected, the students of Oxford had met for
worship and for business in the earlier church, which stood on the
site of the present St. Mary's.

The Bodleian Library occupies the old Examination Schools, which were
built, in the reign of James I, for the reformed University of
Archbishop Laud; within the memory of men who do not count themselves
old, the university examinations were still held in this building.
Finally, the shapely dome between the Bodleian and St. Mary's is the
work of James Gibbs, the greatest English architect of the eighteenth
century, to whom Cambridge owes its Senate House, and London the
noble church of St. Martin's in the Fields. The dome was built for a
separate library, the foundation of Dr. John Radcliffe, Queen Anne's
physician, the most munificent of Oxford benefactors; it is still
managed by his trustees, a body independent of the University, but
since 1861 they have lent it to the Bodleian Library for a reading-
room. It is fitting that the oldest public library in the modern
world, a title the Bodleian can proudly claim, should have the finest
reading-room, where 400 students can have each his separate desk, and
where, if so minded and so physically enduring, they can put in
twelve hours' work in a day. No other great library in Europe allows
such privileges.

Round these three University buildings are grouped three colleges:
Hertford, the youngest of Oxford foundations, the re-creation of an
old hall by a Victorian financial magnate. Sir Thomas Baring; All
Souls', standing a little beyond, of which the part here shown is the
corner of the great Law Library, founded by Sir William Codrington in
the days of good Queen Anne; while on the other side of the Radcliffe
is Brasenose College (for pictures of which see Plates II and XV). No
non-academic building fronts on the Square; the one or two houses
facing on the south-west corner are occupied by college tutors. The
academic influence has spread even under the earth, for between the
Bodleian and the Radcliffe there is a great subterranean chamber of
two stories, excavated 1909-1910, which, when full, will contain
1,000,000 books.

It is refreshing to turn from the thought of so much dead industry,
as these multitudes of unread books will represent, to the
inspiration of the buildings. They are the very epitome of Oxford.
The classic symmetry of Gibbs' dome looks across at the soaring spire
of the mediaeval University Church, while the Bodleian is one of the
best examples of the Jacobean Gothic, which still held its own in
Oxford when the classical style was triumphing elsewhere. Such
contrasts are typical of Oxford. The University had a European
reputation in the days when it was one of the two great centres of
mediaeval scholasticism. Roger Bacon, the most famous name in
mediaeval science, no doubt saw the tower of St. Mary's beginning to
rise. The University welcomed the Classical Revival, it survived the
storms of the Reformation, it was the great centre of the building up
of Anglican theology under the Laudian rule, it was one of the
inspirations of English science in the seventeenth century, though
Dr. Radcliffe's generous benefactions are a little later, and have
hardly begun to yield their full fruit till our own day. Such are the
learned traditions of the Radcliffe Square, while it has also been
the centre of the young lives which, for seven centuries at least,
have enjoyed their happiest years in Oxford.

The view from the Radcliffe roof is undoubtedly the best in Oxford.
It has been thus described by the worst of the many poets who have
celebrated the University:

"Spire, tower and steeple, roofs of radiant tile,
The costly temple and collegiate pile,
In sumptuous mass of mingled form and hue,
Await the wonder of thy sateless view."

But Robert Montgomery is more likely to be remembered for Macaulay's
merciless but well-deserved chastisement than for his praises of
Oxford. Even their utter bathos cannot degrade a group of buildings
so wonderful.


"Ye mossy piles of old munificence,
At once the pride of learning and defence."
J. WARTON, /Triumph of Isis/

The east side of the University buildings proper was shown in the
last picture (Plate III); in the following (Plate IV), the north side
of the same block is seen. The old University "schools" lay just
inside the city wall, and Broad Street, which is there represented,
occupies the site of the ditch, which ran on the north of the wall.
This picture is a fitting supplement to the last, for the Sheldonian
Theatre on the right of it and the Clarendon Building in the
background may claim rank even with the Bodleian and the Radcliffe as
the University's special buildings.

The Sheldonian celebrated its two hundred and fiftieth anniversary
only last year (1919), when the music which had been performed at its
opening was performed once more. It is a building interesting from
many points of view. Architecturally it marks the first complete
flowering of the genius of Sir Christopher Wren. He was only thirty-
seven when it was completed, and had been previously known rather as
a man of science than as an architect; he was Oxford's Professor of
Astronomy; but Archbishop Sheldon chose him to build a worthy meeting
place for his University, even as at the same time he was being
called by the king to prepare plans for rebuilding London after the
Great Fire.

The very existence of the Sheldonian marks the development of
University ideas. The simple piety--or was it the worldliness?--of
Pre-Reformation Oxford had seen nothing unsuitable in the ceremonies
of graduate Oxford and the ribaldries of undergraduate Oxford taking
place in the consecrated building of St. Mary's; but the more sober
genius of Anglicanism was shocked at these secular intrusions, and
Sheldon provided his University with a worthy home, where its great
functions have been performed ever since.

The building is a triumph of construction; it is doubtful if so large
an unsupported roof can be found elsewhere; but Wren is not to be
held responsible for the outside ugly flat roof, which was put on 100
years ago, because it was said, quite falsely, that Wren's roof was
unsafe. That architect had set himself the problem of getting the
greatest number of people into the space at his disposal, and he
managed to fit in a building that will hold 1,500. It was also
intended for the Printing Press of the University, but was only used
in that way for a short time, as in 1713 Sir John Vanbrugh put up the
Clarendon Building, to house this department of University activity.
The "heaviness" of Vanbrugh's buildings was a jest even in his own
time; someone wrote as an epitaph for him

"Lie heavy on him. Earth, for he
Laid many a heavy load on thee."

Blenheim Palace, his greatest work, is indeed a "heavy load." But the
same criticism can hardly be brought against the columned portico,
which forms a fine ending for the Broad Street. Vanbrugh's building
was superseded in its turn, when the increasing business of the
Oxford Printing Press was moved to the present building in 1830.

[Plate IV. Sheldonian Theatre, etc., Broad Street]

Since then, all kinds of University business have been carried on in
the old Printing Press. The University Registrar and the University
Treasurer (his style is "Secretary of the University Chest") have
their offices there; the Proctors exercise discipline from there; the
various University delegacies and committees meet there. And another
side of Oxford life, not yet (in January 1920) fully recognized as
belonging to the University, has found a home there; the top floor
has been for twenty years past the centre of women's education in
Oxford, a position elevated indeed, for it is up more than fifty
stairs, but commodious and dignified when reached at last.

Perhaps the Clarendon Building has gained in lightness of effect by
being contrasted with the clumsy mass of the Indian Institute, which
forms the background of our picture. The nineteenth century proudly
criticized the taste of the eighteenth; but it may well be doubted if
any building in Oxford of the earlier and much-abused century is more
inartistic and inappropriate than "Jumbo's Joss House," which used to
rouse the scorn and anger of the late Professor of History, Edward A.

No Oxford colleges are in this picture, though a small part of
Exeter, one of Sir Gilbert Scott's least happy erections in Oxford,
appears on the right, and a little piece of Trinity on the left; the
last-named is the college of Professor Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch,
better known as "Q," one of the most delightful of Oxford's minor
poets. The opening lines of his poem, "Alma Mater,"

"Know ye her secret none can utter,
Hers of the book, the tripled crown?
Still on the spire the pigeons flutter,
Still by the gateway flits the gown,
Still in the street from corbel and gutter
Faces of stone look down,"

may well have been inspired by this very scene in the Broad, for the
grim faces of stone that surround the Sheldonian are one of the
features and the puzzles of Oxford. Are they the Roman Emperors, or
the Greek Philosophers, or neither? It does not matter, for they are
unlike anything in heaven or in earth, and yet they are loved by all
true Oxford men for their uncompromising ugliness, which has been
familiar to so many generations.


"For the house of Balliol is builded ever
By all the labours of all her sons,
And the great deed wrought and the grand endeavour
Will be hers as long as the Isis runs."

The story is told of the old Greek admirals, after their victory at
Salamis over the Persian king, that, when invited to name the two
most deserving commanders, they each put their own name first, and
then one and all put the Athenian Themistocles second. If a vote, on
these principles, were taken in Oxford as to which was the best
college, there is little doubt that Balliol would secure most of the
second votes.

It is one of the three oldest colleges, and actually has been in
occupation of its present site longer than any other of our Oxford
foundations--for more than six centuries and a half. Yet its
greatness is but a thing of yesterday compared to the antiquity of
Oxford, and it is fitting that a college which has come to the front
in the nineteenth century should be mainly housed in nineteenth
century buildings.

Balliol has indeed ceased to be the "most satisfactory pile and range
of old lowered and gabled edifices," which Nathaniel Hawthorne saw in
the "fifties" of the last century. The painful imitation of a French
chateau, the work of Sir Alfred Waterhouse, which forms the main part
of our picture, was put up about 1868 (mainly by the munificence of
Miss Hannah Brackenbury), and only the old hall and the library,
which lie behind, remain of Pre-Reformation Balliol.

In the background of our picture (Plate V) can be seen the Fisher
Building, known to all Balliol men for the still existing
inscription, "Verbum non amplius Fisher," which tradition says was
put up at the dying request of the eighteenth-century benefactor.

While it is true that the pre-eminence of Balliol is a growth of the
nineteenth century, yet the college can count among its worthies one
of the greatest names in English mediaeval history, that of John
Wycliffe. He was probably a scholar of Balliol, and certainly Master
for some years about 1360. But he left the college for a country
living, and his time at Balliol is not associated with either of his
most important works--his translation of the Bible or his order of
"Poor Preachers." While at Balliol, he was rather "the last of the
Schoolmen" than "the first of the Reformers."

The modern greatness of Balliol is due to the fact that the college
awoke more rapidly from the sleep of the eighteenth century than most
of Oxford, and as early as 1828 threw open its scholarships to free
competition. Hence even as early as the time of Dr. Arnold at Rugby,
a "Balliol scholarship" had become "the blue riband of public-school
education." It has now passed into popular phraseology to such an
extent that lady novelists, unversed in academic niceties, confer a
"Balliol scholarship" on their heroes, even when entering Cambridge.

Balliol has known how to take full advantage of its opportunity.
Governed by a series of eminent masters, especially Dr. Scott of
Greek dictionary fame, and Professor Jowett, the translator of Plato
and the hero of more Oxford stories than any other man, it has been
ready to adapt itself to every new movement. While the governing
bodies of other colleges in the middle of the last century were too
often looking only to raising their own fellowships to the highest
possible point, the Balliol dons were denying their own pockets to
enrich and strengthen their college.

Hence, undoubtedly, Balliol for a long time past has had a lion's
share of Oxford's great men; two Archbishops of Canterbury, Tait and
Temple, the present Archbishop of York, Cardinal Manning, a Prime
Minister in Mr. Asquith, a Speaker in Lord. Peel, two Viceroys of
India in Lord Lansdowne and Lord Curzon, poets like Clough, Matthew
Arnold and Swinburne, these are only some of the more outstanding
names. It is this which makes Balliol Hall so particularly
interesting to the ordinary man; knowledge of present-day affairs,
not of history, is all that is needed to appreciate its array of

Nor has Balliol been unmindful of the social movements of our time.
It is the chosen home of the Workers' Educational Association in
Oxford, and in Arnold Toynbee it produced one of the pioneers and
martyrs of modern social progress. Truly Balliol has much more to
show to the visitor than its ultra-modern front on the Broad would

The street, on which Balliol looks out, is associated with the most
famous scene of Oxford history; the stone with a cross in the middle
of the road marks the traditional site of the burning of the bishops,
Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, although their memorial has been
erected 200 yards further north in St. Giles', and though
antiquarians argue (probably correctly) that the actual pyre was a
little further south, in fact, behind the present row of Broad Street

But it is the living activity of the college, not the sad memories of
the street in front, that gives the interest to the picture. The
intellectual life of the Balliol men has been well described by
Professor J. C. Shairp, whose verses on "Balliol Scholars" are likely
to be remembered by Oxford in long days to come for their
associations, if not for their poetic merits. He describes what a
privilege it is "to have passed," with men who became famous

"The threshold of young life,
Where the man meets, not yet absorbs, the boy,
And ere descending to the dusky strife,
Gazed from clear heights of intellectual joy
That an undying image left enshrined."

This will come home to many, as they think on their happy Oxford
days when they had life all before them, even though their
contemporaries have not become archbishops like Temple or poets like
Matthew Arnold.

[Plate V. Balliol College, Broad Street Front]


"I passed beside the reverend walls
In which of old I wore the gown."

[Plate VI. Merton College : The Tower]

Merton is not only the oldest college in Oxford, it is also, as is
claimed on the monument of the founder, Walter de Merton, in his
Cathedral of Rochester, the model of "omnium quotquot extant
collegiorum." Peterhouse, the first college at Cambridge, which was
founded (1281) seven years later than Merton, had its statutes
avowedly copied from those of its Oxford predecessor.

So important a new departure in education calls for special notice.
It is interesting to see how the English college system grew out of
the long rivalry between the Regular and the Secular clergy which was
so prominent in the mediaeval church. The Secular clergy, who had in
their ranks all the "professional men" of the day, civil servants,
architects, physicians, as well as, those devoted to religious
matters in the strict sense, were always jealous of the monks and the
friars, who, living by a "rule" in their communities, were much less
in sympathy with English national feelings than the Seculars, who
lived among the laity. Hence the growing influence of the Regular
Orders, especially of the Franciscans and the Dominicans, in
thirteenth-century Oxford, excited the alarm of a far-seeing prelate
like Walter de Merton. There was a real danger that the most
prominent and best of the students might be drawn into the great new
communities, which were rapidly adding to their learning and their
piety the further attractions of great buildings and splendid

The founder of Merton had the same purpose as the founder of the
College of the Sorbonne at Paris, a slightly earlier institution
(1257). He intended that his college should rival the houses of the
Dominicans and the Franciscans. These friaries were in the southern
part of Oxford, and have completely perished, leaving behind only the
names of two or three mean streets; but the college system which
Walter de Merton founded has grown with the growth of Oxford and of
England, and is to-day as vigorous and as useful as ever.

Walter de Merton provided his fellows with noble buildings, at once
for their common life and for their own private accommodation, and
also with endowments sufficient to enable them to live in comfort,
free from anxiety; most important of all, he gave them powers of
self-government, so that they might recruit their own numbers and
carry out for themselves the objects prescribed by him in his

In this great foundation then the three characteristic features of a
college are found--a common life, powers of self-government, with the
right of choosing future members, and endowments that enable religion
and learning to flourish, free from more pressing cares. It is these
features which distinguish the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, and
which have determined their history.

Walter de Merton definitely prescribed that none of the fellows who
benefited by his foundation should be monks or friars; to take the
vows involved forfeiture of a fellowship. He also especially urged on
the members of his society that, when any of them rose to "ampler
fortune" /(uberior fortuna)/, they should not forget their /alma

The founder died in 1277, so that none of the college buildings were
complete in his time, except perhaps the treasury, which, with its
high-pitched roof of stone, lies in the opposite corner of the Mob
Quad to that shown in our picture. Why the Quad is called "The Mob
Quad," nobody knows. As was fitting, the chapel was the first part of
the college to be finished--about 1300--and it is a splendid specimen
of early Geometrical Gothic; it retains a little of the old glass,
given by one of the early fellows.

The north side of the Mob Quad, which is shown in our picture, is
very little later than the Chapel, and the whole of the Quad was
finished before 1400; the rooms in it have been the homes of Oxford
men for more than five centuries. It is sad to think that so unique a
building was almost destroyed in the middle of the nineteenth
century, by the zeal of "reformers"; it was actually condemned to be
pulled down, to make way for modern buildings, but, fortunately,
there was an irregularity in the voting. Mr. G. C. Brodrick, then a
young fellow, later the Warden of the college, insisted on the matter
being discussed again at a later meeting, and at this the Mob Quad
was saved by a narrow majority. "He will go to Heaven for it," as
Corporal Trim said of the English Guards, who saved his broken
regiment at Steinkirk.

The "reformers" of Merton had to be content with cutting down their
beautiful "Grove" and spoiling the finest view in Oxford by erecting
the ugliest building which Mid-Victorian taste inflicted on the

In the old buildings which so narrowly escaped destruction may have
lived John Wycliffe, who is claimed as a fellow of Merton in an
almost contemporary list; his activity in Oxford belongs rather to
the later time, when he was Master of Balliol. His is one of the
outstanding names in English history; the success of Merton in
producing great men of a more ordinary kind can be judged from the
fact that between 1294 and 1366 six out of the seven Archbishops of
Canterbury were Merton men.

In the great period of the seventeenth century, Merton had the
distinction of being one of the few colleges which were
Parliamentarian in sympathy. Hence the Warden was deposed by King
Charles, who installed in his place a really great man, William
Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood. But the king
did more harm than good to the college; it was turned into lodgings
for Queen Henrietta Maria and her court, and ladies were intruded and
children born within college walls. These proceedings were
respectable, though unusual; but the college was even more humiliated
by the visit of Charles II, who installed there, among other court
ladies, the notorious Duchess of Cleveland. The college, however,
with the Revolution, returned to less courtly views, and its Whig
connection found an honourable representative in Richard Steele, the
founder of the /Tatler/. It is not surprising that so cheerful a
gentleman left Oxford without a degree, but "with the love of the
whole society." The college register specially notes his gift of his
/Tatler/; he was acting on the sound rule, by no means so universally
followed as it ought to be, that Oxford authors should present their
books to their college library.

Merton, as has been said, is the "type" college, if one may thus
apply a scientific term; hence it is fitting that to it belong the
two men to whom perhaps Oxford owes most. Thomas Bodley was a fellow
and lecturer in Greek there, before he left Oxford for diplomacy, and
accumulated that wealth which he used to endow the oldest and the
most fascinating, if not the largest, of British libraries. And among
the men who have gained from "the rare books in the public library" a
way to a "perfect elysium," none better deserves remembrance than the
Mertonian, Antony Wood, whose monument stands in Merton Chapel, but
who has raised /monumentum aere perennius/ to himself, in his
/History of the University of Oxford/ and his /Athenae Oxonienses/.

[Plate VII. Merton College : The Library Interior]


"Hail, tree of knowledge! thy leaves fruit; which well
Dost in the midst of Paradise arise,
Oxford, the Muses' paradise,
From which may never sword the blest expel.
Hail, bank of all past ages! where they lie
To enrich, with interest, posterity."

"The appearance of the library" (at Merton), says the great Cambridge
scholar, J. Willis Clark, in his /Care of Books/, "is so venerable,
so unlike any similar room with which I am acquainted, that it must
always command admiration."

He classes it with the libraries at Oxford of Corpus, St. John's,
Jesus, and Magdalen, and he regretfully adds that no college library
in his own University has retained the same old features as these
have done. But none of the four can compare with Merton, either in
antiquarian interest or in picturesqueness; it stands in a class by

The Library was built by the munificence of Bishop Reed of Chichester
between 1377 and 1379; the dormer windows, however (seen in Plate
VII), are later in date. The bookcases in the larger room were made
in 1623; one of the original half cases, however, was spared, that
nearest to the entrance on the north side, and this is the most
interesting single feature in the whole library. It need hardly be
said that the reading-desk in early times was actually attached to
the bookcase; the library then was a place to read in, not one from
which books were taken to be read. The books were to be kept "in some
common and secure place," and they were "chained in the library
chamber for the common use of the fellows" (J. W. Clark).

The old case that has been retained still has its chained books, and
traces of the arrangement for chains can be seen in the other cases.
Merton was one of the last libraries in Oxford to keep its books in
chains; these were only removed in 1792; in the Bodleian the work had
been begun a generation earlier (in 1757).

Not all books, however, were chained; by special arrangements in old
college statutes, some of them were allowed out to the fellows. The
register of Merton contains interesting entries as to how the books
were distributed, e.g. on August 26, 1500, "choice was made of the
books on philosophy; it was found there were in all 349 books, which
were then distributed." This was a large number: at King's,
Cambridge, less than half a century before, there were only 174 books
on all subjects, and in the Cambridge University Library in 1473,
only 330.

If a book was borrowed, great precautions were taken; the Warden of
Merton in 1498 had to obtain the leave of the college to take out a
book which he wanted; then, "in the presence of the four seniors," he
received his book, depositing two volumes of St. Jerome's
Commentaries as pledges for its safe return. A similar ceremony, with
a similar entry in the register, marked the replacement of the book
in the library. Though printing was already beginning to multiply
books, yet then, and for long after, a book was a most valuable
possession. The features of these venerable tomes are well described
by Crabbe:

"That weight of wood, with leathern coat o'erlaid,
Those ample clasps, of solid metal made,
The close pressed leaves, unclosed for many an age,
The dull red edging of the well-filled page,
On the broad back the stubborn ridges rolled,
Where yet the title shines in tarnished gold,
These all a sage and laboured work proclaim,
A painful candidate for lasting fame."

Such books are numbered by hundreds in every college library, and it
is only too true of them that:

"Hence in these times, untouched the pages lie
And slumber out their immortality."

The reception of such a book in a library was an event, and the
record of one gift occupies six whole lines in the Merton Register;
its donors are named as "two venerable men," and the entry sweetly
concludes, "Let us, therefore, pray for them."

The library, problem, acute everywhere, is perhaps especially so in a
college library. How can it keep pace with the multiplicity of
studies? How should it deal with books indispensable for a short
time, perhaps for one generation, and then superseded? Even apart
from the question of the cost of purchase, the amount of space
available is small, considering modern needs. These problems and such
as these have not yet been solved by college librarians; but the
college library, quite apart from the books in it, is an education in
itself. The old days of neglect are past, the days reflected in the
scandalous story--told of more than one college--about the old fellow
who was missing for two months, and, after being searched for high
and low, was found hanging dead in the college library. Now the
libraries everywhere are being used continually, and men can realize
in them, perhaps better than anywhere else, how great the past of
Oxford has been, and can form some idea of the labours of forgotten
generations, which have made the University what it was and what it

Every library has its treasures, to show the present generation how
beautiful an old book can be which was produced in days when its
production was not a mere publisher's speculation, but the work of a
scholar seeking to promote knowledge and advance the cause of Truth.
And it does not require much imagination for a student, in a building
like Merton Library, to conjure up the picture of his mediaeval
predecessor, sitting on his hard wooden bench, with his chained MSS.
volume on the shelf above, and poring over the crabbed pages in the
unwarmed, half-lighted chamber. If the picture brings with it the
thought of the transitoriness of human endeavour, and if the words of
the Teacher seem doubly true, "Of making of books there is no end,
and much study is a weariness of the flesh," yet in the fresh life of
young Oxford, such reflections are only salutary; pessimism, despair
of humanity, are not vices likely to flourish among undergraduates in
the healthy society of modern colleges.

Those only, it might be said, can properly reform the present who
understand the past, and it is perhaps the spirit of the Merton
Library, at once old and new, which has inspired the statesmen whom
Merton has sent to take part in the government of Britain during the
last half-century. Lord Randolph Churchill, the founder of Tory
democracy, his present-day successor in the same role, Lord
Birkenhead, and the ever young Lord Halsbury are men of the type
which Walter de Merton wished to train, "for the service of God in
Church and State," men who champion the existing order, but who are
willing to develop and improve it on the old lines.


"Here at each coign of every antique street
A memory hath taken root in stone,
Here Raleigh shone."

[Plate VIII. Oriel College and St. Mary's Church]

It is a curious coincidence that three of the most troubled reigns of
English history have been marked by double college foundations in
Oxford. That of Henry VI, in spite of constant civil war, threatening
or actual, saw the beginnings of All Souls' and of Magdalen; the
short and sad reign of Mary Tudor restored to Oxford Trinity and St.
John's; and in an earlier century the ministers of Edward II, the
most unroyal of our Plantagenet kings, gave to Oxford Exeter and
Oriel. The king himself was graciously pleased to accept the honour
of the latter foundation, and his statue adorns the College Quad,
along with that of Charles I, in whose day the whole College was
rebuilt. The front may be compared architecturally with those of
Wadham and of University, which date from about the same period (the
first part of the seventeenth century), when, under the fostering
care of Archbishop Laud, Oxford increased greatly in numbers, in
learning, and in buildings. Though Oriel has neither the bold sweep
of University nor the perfect proportions of Wadham, it yet is a
pleasing building, at least in its front.

Like New College, Oriel is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and, also
like New College, the name of "St. Mary's" early gave way to a
popular nickname. The College at once on its foundation received the
gift of a tenement called "L'Oriole," which occupied its present
site, and its name has displaced the real style of the College in
general use.

It is only fitting that, as in our picture, St. Mary's Church should
be combined with Oriel, for the founder was Vicar of St. Mary's, and
the presentation to that living has ever since been in the hands of
the College. It was as a Fellow of Oriel that Newman became, in 1828,
Vicar of St. Mary's, from the pulpit of which, during thirteen years,
he moulded all that was best in the religious life of Oxford. The
glorious spire of the church was still new when the College was

Oriel and its chapel are among the places for religious pilgrimage in
Oxford. As Lincoln draws from all parts of the world those who
reverence the name of John Wesley, so the Oxford Movement and the
Anglican Revival had their starting-point, and for some time their
centre, in Oriel. The connection of the College with the Movement was
not in either case a mere accident; the Oxford Revival, at any rate,
was profoundly influenced by the personality of Newman, and Newman,
both by attraction and by repulsion, was largely what Oriel made him.
Among those who were with him at the College were Archbishop Whately,
whose Liberalism repelled him, Hawkins, the Provost, whose views on
"Tradition" began to modify the Evangelicalism in which he had been
brought up, Keble, whose /Christian Year/ did more for Church
teaching in England than countless sermons, Pusey, already famous for
his learning and his piety, who was to give his name to the Movement,
and, slightly later, Church, afterwards Dean of St. Paul's, the
historian of the Movement, and Samuel Wilberforce, who, as Bishop of
Oxford, was to show how profoundly it would increase the influence of
the English Church.

Such a combination of famous names at one time is hardly found in the
history of any other college, and it would be easy to add others
hardly less known, who were also members of the same body at that
famous time. Hero-worshippers can still see the rooms where these
great men lived, and the Common Room in which they met and argued, in
the days when Oxford did less teaching and had more time for talking
and for thinking than the busy, hurrying ways of the twentieth
century allow. But Oriel has many other associations besides those of
the Oxford Movement. Walter Raleigh, the most fascinating of
Elizabethans, was a student there, and probably in Oxford met the
great historian of travel and discovery, Richard Hakluyt (a Christ
Church man), whose influence did so much to bring home to Oxford the
wonders of the strange worlds beyond the seas. It was probably also
through his connection with Oriel that Raleigh made the acquaintance
of Harriot, who shared in his colonial ventures in Virginia, and who
became the historian of that foundation, so full of importance as the
beginning of the new England across the Atlantic. It was only fitting
that the Raleigh of the nineteenth century, Cecil John Rhodes, should
also be an Oriel man, who was never weary of acknowledging what he
owed to Oxford, and who showed his faith in her by his works. The
Rhodes' Foundation expends his millions in bringing scholars to
Oxford from the whole world; already its influence has been great
during its twenty years of existence; what it will be in the future,
only the future can show. If Mr. Rhodes gave his millions to the
University, he gave his tens of thousands to his old College. The
result on the High Street is--to put it gently--not altogether happy;
but perhaps time may soften the lines of Mr. Champney's somewhat
uninspired front, though it is not likely to quicken interest in the
statues of the obscure provosts which adorn it.


"The building, parent of my young essays,
Asks in return a tributary praise;
Pillars sublime bear up the learned weight,
And antique sages tread the pompous height."

Queens's is one of the six oldest colleges in Oxford, and is far on
to celebrating its sexcentenary, but it has purged itself of the
Gothic leaven in its buildings more completely than any other Oxford
foundation. It does not even occupy its own old site, for the
building originally lay well back from the High Street. It was only
the "civilities and kindnesses" of Provost Lancaster which induced
the Mayor and Corporation of Oxford, in 1709, to grant to Queen's
College "for 1,000 years," "so much ground on the High Street as
shall be requisite for making their intended new building straight
and uniform." And so the most important of "the streamlike windings
of the glorious street" was in part determined by a corrupt bargain
between "a vile Whig" (as Hearne calls this hated Provost) and a
complaisant mayor. But much of the credit for the beauty of this part
of the High must also be given to the architect of University College
(seen in Plate IX on the left), who, whether by skill or by accident,
combined at a most graceful angle the two quads, erected with an
interval of some eighty years between them (1634 and 1719).

A man must, indeed, be a Gothic purist who would wish away the
stately front quadrangle of Queen's, designed by Wren's favourite
pupil, Hawkmoor, while the master himself is said to be responsible
for the chapel of the College, the most perfect basilican church in

If Queen's has been revolutionary in its buildings, it has been
singularly tenacious of old customs. Its members still assemble at
dinner to the sound of the trumpet (blown by a curious arrangement
/after/ grace has been said); it still keeps up the ancient and
honoured custom of bringing in the boar's head--"the chief service of
this land"--for dinner on Christmas Day; while on New Year's Day, the
Bursar still, as has been done for nearly 600 years, bids his guests
"take this and be thrifty," as he hands each a "needle and thread,"
wherewith to mend their academic hoods; the /aiguille et fil/ is
probably a pun on the name of the founder, Robert Eglesfield. The
College at these festivities uses the loving, cup, given it by its
founder, perhaps the oldest piece of plate in constant use anywhere
in Great Britain; five and a half centuries of good liquor have
stained the gold-mounted aurochs' horn to a colour of unrivalled
softness and beauty.

Robert Eglesfield was almoner of the good Queen Philippa, wife of
Edward III, and, like Adam de Brome, the founder of Oriel, he, too,
commended his college to a royal patron. Ever since his time, the
"Queen's College" has been under the patronage of the Queen's consort
of England, and the connection has been duly acknowledged by many of
them, especially by Henrietta Maria, the evil genius of Charles I,
and by Queen Caroline, the good genius of George II. Her present
Gracious Majesty, too, has recognized the college claim. The Queens
Regnant have no obligations to the college, but Queen Elizabeth gave
it the seal it still uses, and good Queen Anne was a liberal
contributor to the rebuilding of the college in her day; her statue
still adorns the cupola on the front to the High.

[Plate IX. High Street]

No doubt it was the royal connection which brought to Queen's, if
tradition may be trusted, two famous warrior princes, the Black
Prince and Henry V; though it is at least doubtful whether the
Queen's poet, Thomas Tickell, Addison's flattering friend, had any
authority for the picture he gives of their college life. He
describes them as:

"Sent from the Monarch's to the Muses' Court,
Their meals were frugal and their sleeps were short;
To couch at curfew time they thought no scorn,
And froze at matins every winters morn."

The College has an interesting portrait of the great Henry, which may
be authentic; but that of the Black Prince, which adorns the college
hall, is known to have been painted from a handsome Oxford butcher's
boy, in the eighteenth century. While we condemn the lack of historic
sense in the Provost and Fellows of that day, we may at least acquit
them of any intention of pacificist irony in their choice of a model.

Queen's has had better poets than Tickell on its rolls, but, by a
curious chance, the two most eminent--Joseph Addison and William
Collins--were both tempted away from their first college by the
superior wealth and attractions of Magdalen.

The old local connections which were such a marked feature in the
statutes of founders, and which so profoundly influenced Oxford down
to the Commission of 1854, have been almost swept away at other
colleges; but at Queen's they have always been strongly maintained.
It has been, and is, emphatically, a north-country college. Not the
least important factor in maintaining this tradition has been the
great benefaction of Lady Elizabeth Hastings, fondly and familiarly
known to all Queen's men as "Lady Betty." Steele wrote of her when
young, that to "love her was a liberal education"; this may have been
flattery, but her bounty, at any rate, has given a "liberal
education" to hundreds of north-country men, who come up from the
twelve schools of her foundation to her college at Oxford.

It is interesting to note in Modern Oxford, attempts to re-establish
those local connections, which the wisdom of our ancestors
established, and which the self-complacency of Victorian reformers
"vilely cast away."


"There the kindly fates allowed
Me too room, and made me proud,
Prouder name I have not wist,
With the name of Wykehamist."

[Plate X. New College : The Entrance Gateway]

Among the "Founders" of Oxford colleges, three stand out pre-eminent
--all three bishops of Winchester and great public servants. If
Wolsey has undisputed claims for first place, there can be little
doubt that, in spite of the great public services of Bishop Foxe, the
Founder of Corpus, the second place must be assigned to William of
Wykeham, "sometime Lord High Chancellor of England, the sole and
munificent founder of the two St. Mary Winton colleges." Others,
beside Wykehamists, hear with pleasure the magnificent roll of the
titles of the Founder of New College, when one of his intellectual
sons occupies the University pulpit, and gives thanks for "founders
and benefactors, such as were William of Wykeham."

In Oxford, without doubt, his great claim to be remembered will be
held to be his college with the school at Winchester, which he linked
to it. But he was also a reformer and a champion of Parliamentary
privilege in the days when the "Good Parliament" set to work to check
the misgovernment of Edward III in his dotage, and, as an architect,
he is equally famous as having given to Windsor Castle its present
shape, and as having secured the final triumph of the Perpendicular
style by his glorious nave at Winchester.

William of Wykeham is a very striking instance of what is too often
Forgotten--viz., that in the Mediaeval Church all professional men,
and not simply spiritual pastors, found their work and their reward
in the ranks of the clergy. As "supervisor of the king's works," he
earned the royal favour, which, after sixteen years of service,
rewarded him with the rich bishopric of Winchester. Such a career and
such a reward seem to modern ideas incongruous, even as they did to
John Wycliffe, his great contemporary, who complained of men being
made bishops because they were "wise in building castles." But many
forms of service were needed to create England; Wykeham and Wycliffe
both have a place in the roll of its "Makers." At all events, if
Wykeham obtained his wealth by secular service, he spent it for the
promoting of the welfare of the Church, as he conceived it. The
purpose of his two colleges was to remedy the shortness of clergy in
his day, and to assist the /militia clericalis/, which had been
grievously reduced /pestilentiis, guerris et aliis mundi miseriis/
(an obvious reference to the Black Death).

New College was planned on a scale of magnificence which far exceeded
any of the earlier colleges. It was emphatically the "New College,"
[1] and its foundation (it was opened in 1386) marks the final
triumph of the college system.

[1] The popular name has entirety displaced its official style.
Rather more than a generation ago, an historically minded Wykehamist
tried to revive the proper style of his college, and headed all his
letters "The College, of St. Mary of Winchester, Oxford." The result
was disastrous for him; the replies came to the Vicar of St. Mary's,
to St. Mary's Hall, to Winchester, anywhere but to him; and very soon
practical necessity overcame antiquarian, propriety.

Its Warden was to have a state corresponding to that of the great
mitred abbots; the stables, where he kept his six horses, on the
south side of New College Lane (to be seen in Plate X on the right),
show, by their perfect masonry, how well the architect-bishop chose
his materials and how skilfully they were worked.

The entrance tower, in the centre of the picture, with its statues of
the Blessed Virgin and of the Founder in adoration below on her left,
was the abode of the Warden; but his lodgings, still the most
magnificent home in Oxford, extended in both directions from the

Behind this front lay Wykeham's Quad, nestling under the shadow of
the towering chapel and hall on the north side. Here also, as in the
stables, the technical knowledge of the Founder is seen; his
"chambers," after more than 500 years, have still their old stone
unrenewed; while the third story, added 300 years later on (1674-5),
has had to be entirely refaced.

But it is in the public buildings, and especially in the chapel, that
the greatness of Wykeham, as an architect, is best seen. In spite of
the destructive fanaticism of the Reformation, and the almost equally
destructive "restorations" of the notorious Wyatt, and of Sir Gilbert
Scott (who inexcusably raised the height of the roof), the chapel
still is indisputably the finest in Oxford. And its glass may
challenge a still wider field. The eight great windows in the ante-
chapel, dating from the Founder's time, rival the glories of the
French cathedrals; the windows of the chapel proper, whatever be
thought of their artistic success, are a unique instance of what
English glass-makers could do in the eighteenth century; and Sir
Joshua Reynolds' west window (the outside of which is seen in the
centre of the next picture) has at all events the suffrages of the
majority, who agree with Horace Walpole that it is "glorious," and
that "the sun shining through the transparencies has a magic effect."
It must be added, however, that Walpole soon changed his mind, and
was very severe on Sir Joshua's "washy virtues," which have been
compared to "seven chambermaids."

Not the least interesting feature of the Founder's chapel is its
detached bell-tower, seen in the next picture, on the north side of
the cloisters. He obtained leave to place this on the city wall, a
large section of which the College undertook to maintain-thus adding
a permanent charm to their own garden.

The magnificence of the Founder Bishop is well seen in his splendid
crozier, bequeathed to him by his college, and still preserved on the
north side of the chapel. The results of his work, for Oxford and for
learning, will be briefly told of in the next chapter.

[Plate XI. New College : The Tower]


"Round thy cloisters, in moonlight,
Branching dark, or touched with white:
Round old chill aisles, where, moon-smitten,
Blanches the Orate, written
Under each worn old-world face."

William of Wykeham's College had other marked features besides its
magnificent scale. Previous colleges had grown; at New College
everything was organized from the first. As the great architectural
History of Cambridge says: "For the first time, chapel, hall,
library, treasury, the Warden's lodgings, a sufficient range of
chambers, the cloister, the various domestic offices, are provided
for and erected without change of plan." The chapel especially gave
the model for the T shape, a choir and transepts without a nave,
which has become the normal form in Oxford. The influence of
Wykeham's building plan may be traced elsewhere also--at Cambridge
and even in Scotland.

In these well-planned buildings, definite arrangements were made for
college instruction, as opposed to the general teaching open to the
whole University; special /informafores/ were provided, who were to
supervise the work of all scholars up to the age of sixteen. This
marks the beginning of the Tutorial System, which has ever since
played so great a part in the intellectual life of England's two old

Wykeham's scholars all came from Winchester, and were supposed to be
/pauperes/, but as one of the first, Henry Chichele, afterwards Henry
V's Archbishop of Canterbury and the Founder of All Souls', was a son
of the Lord Mayor of London, it is obvious that the qualification of
"poverty" was interpreted with some laxity. It was not until the
middle of the nineteenth century that others than Wykehamists were
admitted as scholars.

The fact that a mere boy was elected to a position which provided for
him for life was not calculated to stimulate subsequent intellectual
activity, and Wykehamists themselves have been among the first to say
that the intellectual distinction of the great bishop's beneficiaries
has by no means corresponded to the magnificence of the foundation or
the noble intentions of the Founder. Antony Wood records in the
seventeenth century that there was already an "ugly proverb" as to
New College men--"Golden scholars, silver Bachelors, leaden Masters,
wooden Doctors," "which is attributed," he goes on, "to their rich
fellowships, especially to their ease and good diet, in which I think
they exceed any college else."

The nineteenth century has changed all this; the small and close
college of pre-Commission days has become one of the largest and most
intellectual in the University; but Winchester men in their Oxford
college fully hold their own in every way against the scholars from
the world outside, who are now admitted to share with them the
advantages of Wykeham's foundation.

The bishop's careful provision, however, of good teaching at his
school and in his college bore good fruit at first, whatever may have
been the result later. If Corpus is especially the college of the
revival of learning, New College had prepared the way, and the first
Englishman to teach Greek in Oxford was the New College fellow,
William Grocyn, whom Erasmus called the "most upright and best of all
Britons." From the same college, about the same time, came the patron
of Erasmus, Archbishop Warham, of whose saintly simplicity and love
of learning he gives so attractive a picture. Warham was not
forgetful of his old college, and presented the beautiful "linen
fold" panelling which still adorns the hall.

At the time of the Reformation, New College was especially attached
to the old form of the faith, and it has been maintained that the
dangerous lowness of the wicket entrance in the Gate Tower was due to
the deliberate purpose of the governing body, who resolved that
everyone who entered the college, however Protestant his views,
should bow his head under the statue of the Blessed Virgin above. At
any rate, one New College man in the seventeenth century attributed
his perversion to "the lively memorials of Popery in statues and
pictures in the gates and in the chapel of New College."

Certain it is that under Elizabeth, after the purging of the college
from its recusant fellows, who contributed a large share of the Roman
controversialists to the colleges of Louvain and Douai, Wykeham's
foundation sank, as has been said, into inglorious ease for two
centuries. Yet, during this period, it had the honour of producing
two of the Seven Bishops who resisted King James II's attack on the
English Constitution--one of them the saintly hymn writer, Thomas
Ken. And to the darkest days of the eighteenth century belongs the
most famous picture of the ideal Oxford life: "I spent many years, in
that illustrious society, in a well-regulated course of useful
discipline and studies, and in the agreeable and improving commerce
of gentlemen and of scholars; in a society where emulation without
envy, ambition without jealousy, contention without animosity,
incited industry and awakened genius; where a liberal pursuit of
knowledge and a genuine freedom of thought was raised, encouraged,
and pushed forward by example, by commendation, and by authority."
These were the words of Bishop Lowth, whose great work on /The Poetry
of the Hebrews/ was delivered as lectures for the Chair of Poetry at

The spirit of Oxford has never been better described, and even that
bitter critic, the great historian Gibbon, admits that Lowth
practised what he preached, and that he was an ornament to the
University in its darkest period. Of the days of Reform a forerunner
was found in Sydney Smith, the witty Canon of St. Paul's.

The names of New College men famous for learning or for political
success, during the last half-century, are too recent to mention, but
it is fitting to put on record that to New College belongs the sad
distinction of having the longest Roll of Honour in the late War. It
has lost about 250 of its sons, including four of the most
distinguished young tutors in Oxford; History and Philosophy,
Scholarship and Natural Science are all of them the poorer for the
premature loss of Cheesman and Heath, Hunter and Geoffrey Smith;
their names are familiar to everyone in Oxford, and they would have
been familiar some day to the world of scholars everywhere. /Dis
aliter visum est/.


"This is the chapel; here, my son,
Thy father dreamed the dreams of youth,
And heard the words, which, one by one,
The touch of life has turned to truth."

[Plate XII. Lincoln College : The Chapel Interior]

The name of Lincoln College recalls a fact familiar to all students
of ecclesiastical history, though surprising to the ordinary man--
viz., that Oxford, till the Reformation, was in the great diocese of
Lincoln, which stretched right across the Midlands from the Humber to
the Thames. This fact had an important bearing on the history of the
University; its bishop was near enough to help and protect, but not
near enough to interfere constantly. Hence arose the curious position
of the Oxford Chancellor, the real head of the mediaeval University
and still its nominal head; though an ecclesiastical dignitary, and
representing the Bishop, the Oxford Chancellor was not a cathedral
official, but the elect of the resident Masters of Arts. How
important this arrangement was for the independence of the University
will be obvious.

The ecclesiastical position of Oxford is responsible also for the
foundation of four of its colleges; both Lincoln and Brasenose,
colleges that touch each other, were founded by Bishops of Lincoln;
Foxe and Wolsey, too, though holding other sees later, ruled over the
great midland diocese.

Richard Fleming, the Bishop of Lincoln, who founded the college that
bears the name of his see, was in some ways a remarkable man. When
resident in Oxford, he had been prominent among the followers of John
Wycliffe and had shared his reforming views; but he was alarmed at
the development of his master's teaching in the hands of disciples,
and set himself to oppose the movement which he had once favoured. He
founded his "little college" with the express object of training
"theologians" "to defend the mysteries of the sacred page against
those ignorant laics, who profaned with swinish snouts its most holy
pearls." It is curious that Lincoln's great title to fame--and it is
a very great one--is that its most distinguished fellow was John
Wesley, the Wycliffe of the eighteenth century.

The connection of Oxford and Lincoln College with Wesley and his
movement is no accidental one, based merely on the fact that he
resided there for a certain time. Humanly speaking, Wesley's
connection with Lincoln was a determining factor in his spiritual and
mental development, and it was while he was there that his followers
received the name of "Methodists," a name given in scorn, but one
which has become a thing of pride to millions. Wesley was a fellow of
Lincoln for nine years, from 1726 to 1735. During the most
impressionable years of a man's life--he was only twenty-three when
he was elected fellow--he was developing his mental powers by an
elaborate course of studies, and his spiritual life by the careful
use of every form of religious discipline which the Church
prescribed. A college, with its daily services and its life apart
from the world, rendered the practice of such discipline possible. It
was because Wesley and his followers, his brother Charles, George
Whitefield and others, observed this discipline so carefully that
they obtained their nickname. It is with good reason that Lincoln
Chapel is visited by his disciples from all parts of the world; it
has been little altered since his time, his pulpit is still here, and
the glass and the carving which make it very interesting, if not
beautiful, are those which he saw daily.

The chapel is the memorial of the devotion to Lincoln of another
churchman, more successful than Wesley from a worldly point of view,
but now forgotten by all except professed students of history. John
Williams, Bishop of Lincoln from 1621 to 1641, was the last
ecclesiastic who "kept" the Great Seal of England. He had the
misfortune to differ from Laud on the Church Question of the day, and
was prosecuted before the Star Chamber for subornation of perjury,
and heavily fined. There seems no doubt that he was guilty; but it
was to advocacy of moderation and to his dislike of the king's
arbitrary rule that he owed the severity of his punishment. Whatever
his moral character, at all events he gave his college a beautiful
little chapel, which is often compared to the slightly older one at
Wadham; that of Lincoln is much the less spacious of the two, but in
its wood carvings, at any rate, it is superior.

Lincoln had the ill-fortune, in the nineteenth century, to produce
the writer of one of those academic "Memoirs," which reveal, with a
scholar's literary style, and also with a scholar's bitterness, the
intrigues and quarrels that from time to time arise within college
walls. Mark Pattison is likely to be remembered by the world in
general because he is said to have been the original of George
Eliot's "Mr. Casaubon"; in Oxford he will be remembered not only for
the "Memoirs," but also as one who upheld the highest ideal of
"Scholarship" when it was likely to be forgotten, and who criticized
the neglect of "research." The personal attacks were those of a
disappointed man; the criticisms, one-sided as they were, were
certainly not unjustified.

A university should certainly exist to promote learning, and Mark
Pattison, with all his unfairness, certainly helped its cause in
Oxford. But a university exists also for the promotion of friendships
among young men, and for the development of their social life. Of
this duty, Oxford has never been unmindful, and perhaps it is in
small colleges like Lincoln that the flowers of friendship best
flourish. It is needless to make comparisons, for they flourish
everywhere; but it is appropriate to quote, when writing of one of
the smaller Oxford colleges, the verses on this subject of a recent
Lincoln poet (now dead); they will come home to every Oxford man:

"City of my loves and dreams,
Lady throned by limpid streams;
'Neath the shadow of thy towers,
Numbered I my happiest hours.
Here the youth became a man;
Thought and reason here began.
Ah! my friends, I thought you then
Perfect types of perfect men:
Glamour fades, I know not how,
Ye have all your failings now,"

But Oxford friendships outlast the discovery that friends have
"failings"; as Lord Morley, who went to Lincoln in 1856, writes:
"Companionship (at Oxford) was more than lectures"; a friend's
failure later (he refers to his contemporary, Cotter Morison's
/Service of Man/) "could not impair the captivating comradeship of
his prime."


"Where yearly in that vernal hour
The sacred city is in shades reclining,
With gilded turrets in the sunrise shining:
From sainted Magdalene's aerial tower
Sounds far aloof that ancient chant are singing,
And round the heart again those solemn memories bringing."

Macaulay was too good a Cambridge man to appreciate an Oxford college
at its full worth; but he devotes one of his finest purple patches to
the praise of Magdalen, ending, as is fitting, "with the spacious
gardens along the river side," which, by the way, are not "gardens."
Antony Wood praises Magdalen as "the most noble and rich structure in
the learned world," with its water walks as "delectable as the banks
of Eurotas, where Apollo himself was wont to walk." To go a century
further back, the Elizabethan, Sir John Davies, wrote:

"O honeyed Magdalen, sweete, past compare
Of all the blissful heavens on earth that are."

Such praises could be multiplied indefinitely, and they are all

The good genius of Magdalen has been faithful to it throughout. The
old picturesque buildings on the High Street, taken over (1457) by
the Founder, William of Waynflete, from the already existing hospital
of St. John, were completed by his munificence in the most attractive
style of English fifteenth century domestic architecture; Chapel and
Hall, Cloisters and Founder's Tower, all alike are among the most
beautiful in Oxford. When classical taste prevailed, the
architectural purists of the eighteenth century were for sweeping
almost all this away, and had a plan prepared for making a great
classic quad; but wiser counsels, or lack of funds, thwarted this
vandalistic design, and only the north side of the new quad was
built, to give Magdalen a splendid specimen of eighteenth century
work, without prejudice to the old. And in our own day, the genius of
Bodley has raised in St. Swithun's Quad a building worthy of the best
days of Oxford, while the hideous plaster roof, with which the
mischievous Wyatt had marred the beauty of the hall, was removed, and
a seemly oak roof put in its place. It is a great thing to be
thankful for, that one set of college buildings in Oxford, though
belonging to so many periods, has nothing that is not of the best.

But the great glory of Magdalen has not yet been mentioned. This is,
without doubt, its bell tower, which, standing just above the River
Cherwell, is worthily seen, whether from near or far. A most curious
and interesting custom is preserved in connection with it. Every May
morning, at five o'clock (in Antony Wood's time the ceremony was an
hour earlier), the choir mounts the tower and sings a hymn, which is
part of the college grace; in the eighteenth century, however, the
music was of a secular nature and lasted two hours. The ceremony has
been made the subject of a great picture by Holman Hunt, and has been
celebrated in many poems; the sonnet of Sir Herbert Warren, the
present President, may be quoted as worthily expressing something of
what has been felt by many generations of Magdalen men:

"Morn of the year, of day and May the prime,
How fitly do we scale the steep dark stair,
Into the brightness of the matin air,
To praise with chanted hymn and echoing chime,
Dear Lord of Light, thy sublime,
That stooped erewhile our life's frail weeds to wear!
Sun, cloud and hill, all things thou fam'st so fair,
With us are glad and gay, greeting the time.
The College of the Lily leaves her sleep,
The grey tower rocks and trembles into sound,
Dawn-smitten Memnon of a happier hour;
Through faint-hued fields the silver waters creep:
Day grows, birds pipe, and robed anew and crowned,
Green Spring trips forth to set the world aflower."

The tower was put to a far different use when, in the Civil War, it
was the fortress against an attack from the east, and stones were
piled on its top to overwhelm any invader who might force the bridge.

Tradition connects this tower with the name of Magdalen's greatest
son, Thomas Wolsey, who took his B.A. about 1486, at the age of
fifteen, as he himself in his old age proudly told his servant and
biographer, Cavendish. Certainty he was first Junior and then Senior
Bursar for a time, while the tower was building, 1492-1504. But the
scandal that he had to resign his bursarship for misappropriation of
funds in connection with the tower may certainly be rejected.

On the right of Magdalen Bridge, looking at the tower, as we see it
in the picture, stretches Magdalen Meadow, round which run the famous
water walks. The part of these on the north-west side is especially
connected with Joseph Addison, who was a fellow at Magdalen from 1697
to 1711. He was elected "demy" (at Magdalen, scholars bear this name)
the first year (1689) after the Revolution, when the fellows of
Magdalen had been restored to their rights, so outrageously invaded
by King James. This "golden" election was famous in Magdalen annals,
at once for the number elected--seventeen--and for the fame of some
of those elected. Besides the greatest of English essayists, there
were among the new "demies," a future archbishop, a future bishop,
and the high Tory, Henry Sacheverell, whose fiery but unbalanced
eloquence overthrew the great Whig Ministry, which had been the
patron of his college contemporary.

Magdalen Meadow preserves still the well-beloved Oxford fritillaries,
which are in danger of being extirpated in the fields below Iffley by
the crowds who gather them to sell in the Oxford market.

Of the part of the College on the High Street, the most interesting
portion is the old stone pulpit (shown in Plate XIV). The connection
of this with the old Hospital of St. John is still marked by the
custom of having the University sermon here on St. John the Baptist's
Day; this was the invariable rule till the eighteenth century, and
the pulpit (Hearne says) was "all beset with boughs, by way of
allusion to St. John Baptist's preaching in the wilderness." Even as
early as Heame's time, however, a wet morning drove preacher and
audience into the chapel, and open-air sermons were soon given up
altogether, only to be revived (weather permitting) in our own day.
The chapel lies to the left of the pulpit, and is known all the
world over for its music; there are three famous choirs in Oxford--
those of the Cathedral, of New College, and of Magdalen, and to the
last, as a rule, the palm is assigned. It is to Oxford what the choir
of King's is to Cambridge; but the chapel of Magdalen has not

"The high embowed roof
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light"

of the "Royal Saint's" great chapel at Cambridge.


"Sing sweetly, blessed babes that suck the breast
Of this sweet nectar-dropping Magdalen,
Their praise in holy hymns, by whom ye feast,
The God of gods and Waynflete, best of men,
Sing in an union with the Angel's quires,
Sith Heaven's your house."

Magdalen College was founded by William of Waynflete, Bishop of
Winchester, who had been a faithful minister of Henry VI. He had
served as both Master and Provost of the King's own college at Eton
(and also as Master of Winchester College before), and from Eton he
brought the lilies which still figure in the Magdalen shield. As a
member of the Lancastrian party, he fell into disgrace when the
Yorkists triumphed, but he made his peace with Edward IV, whose
statue stands over the west door of the chapel, with those of St.
Mary Magdalene, St. John the Baptist, St. Swithun (Bishop of
Winchester), and the Founder. And the Tudors were equally friendly to
the new foundation; Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's unfortunate elder
brother, was a resident in Magdalen on two occasions, and the College
has still a splendid memorial of him in the great contemporary
tapestry, representing his marriage with Catharine of Aragon.

To the very early days of Magdalen belongs its connection with the
Oxford Reform Movement and the Revival of Learning. Both Fox and
Wolsey, successively Bishops of Winchester, and the munificent
founders of Corpus and of Cardinal (i.e. Christ Church) Colleges,
were members of Waynflete's foundation, and so probably was John
Colet, Dean of St. Paul's, whose learning and piety so impressed
Erasmus. "When I listen to my beloved Colet," he writes in 1499, "I
seem to be listening to Plato himself"; and he asks--why go to Italy
when Oxford can supply a climate "as charming as it is healthful" and
"such culture and learning, deep, exact and worthy of the good old
times ?" Erasmus' praise of Oxford climate is unusual from a
foreigner; the more usual view is that of his friend Vives, who came
to Oxford soon after as a lecturer at the new college of Corpus
Christi; he writes from Oxford: "The weather here is windy, foggy and
damp, and gave me a rough reception."

Colet's lectures on the Epistle to the Romans, perhaps delivered in
Magdalen College, marked an epoch in the way of the interpretation of
Holy Scripture, by their freedom from traditional methods and by
their endeavour to employ the best of the New Learning in determining
the real meaning of the Apostle. To the same school as Colet in the
Church belonged Reginald Pole, Archbishop in the gloomy days of Queen
Mary, the only Magdalen man who has held the See of Canterbury.

Elizabeth visited the College, and gently rebuked the Puritan
tendencies of the then President, Dr. Humphrey, who carried his
scruples so far as to object to the academical scarlet he had to wear
as a Doctor of Divinity, because it savoured of the "Scarlet Woman."
"Dr. Humphrey," said the queen, with the tact alike of a Tudor
sovereign and of a true woman, "methinks this gown and habit become
you very well, and I marvel that you are so strait-laced on this
point--but I come not now to chide." This President complained that
his headship was "more payneful than gayneful," a charge not usually
brought against headships at Oxford.

In the seventeenth century, Magdalen was, for a short time, the very
centre of England's interest. James II, in his desire to force Roman
Catholicism on Oxford, tried to fill the vacant Presidency with one
of his co-religionists. His first nominee was not only disqualified
under the statutes, but was also a man of so notoriously bad a
character that even the king had to drop him. Meanwhile, the fellows,
having waited, in order to oblige James, till the last possible
moment allowed by the statutes, filled up the vacancy by electing one
of their own number, John Hough. When the king pronounced this
election irregular and demanded the removal of the President and the
acceptance of his second nominee, the fellows declared themselves
unable thus to violate their statutes, even at royal command, and
were accordingly driven out. The "demies," who were offered
nominations to the fellowships thus rendered vacant, supported their
seniors, and, in their turn, too, were driven out; they had showed
their contempt for James' intruded fellows by "cocking their hats" at
them, and by drinking confusion to the Pope. When the landing of
William of Orange was threatening, James revoked all these arbitrary
proceedings, but it was too late; he had brought home, by a striking
example, to Oxford and to England, that no amount of past services,
no worthiness of character, no statutes, however clear and binding,
were to weigh for a moment with a royal bigot, who claimed the power
to "dispense" with any statutes. The "Restoration" of the Fellows on
October 25, 1688, is still celebrated by a College Gaudy, when the
toast for the evening is /jus suum cuique/.

Hough remained President for thirteen years, during most of which
time he was bishop--first of Oxford and then of Lichfield. He finally
was translated to Worcester, where he died at the age of ninety-
three, after declining the Archbishopric of Canterbury. His monument,
in his cathedral, records his famous resistance to arbitrary

Magdalen in the eighteenth century has an unenviable reputation,
owing to the memoirs of its most famous historian, Edward Gibbon, who
matriculated, in 1752, and who describes the fourteen months which
elapsed before he was expelled for becoming a Roman Catholic, "as the
most idle and unprofitable of my whole life." The "Monks of
Magdalen," as he calls the fellows, "decent, easy men," "supinely
enjoyed the gifts of the founder." It should be added that Gibbon was
not quite fifteen when he entered the College, and that his picture
of it is no doubt coloured by personal bitterness. But its
substantial justice is admitted. Certainly, nothing could be feebler
than the /Vindication of Magdalen College/, published by a fellow
James Hurdis, the Professor of Poetry; his intellectual calibre may
perhaps be gauged from the exquisite silliness of his poem, "The
Village Curate," of which the following lines, addressed to the
Oxford heads of houses, are a fair specimen:

"Ye profound
And serious heads, who guard the twin retreats
Of British learning, give the studious boy
His due indulgence. Let him range the field,
Frequent the public walk, and freely pull
The yielding oar. But mark the truant well,
And if he turn aside to vice or folly,
Show him the rod, and let him feel you prize
The parent's happiness, the public good."

Magdalen might fairly claim that a place so beautiful as it is,
justifies itself by simply existing, and the perfection of its
buildings and the beauty of its music must appeal, even to our own
utilitarian age. But it has many other justifications besides its
beauty; its great wealth is being continually applied to assist the
University by the endowment of new professorships, especially for the
Natural Sciences, and to aid real students, whether those who have
made, or those who are likely to make, a reputation as researchers.
It is needless to mention names: every Oxford man and every lover of
British learning knows them.

[Plate XIV. Magdalen College : The Open-Air Pulpit]

For the world in general, which cares not for research, the success
of the College under its present President, Sir Herbert Warren,
himself at once a poet and an Oxford Professor of Poetry, will be
evidenced by its increase in numbers and by its athletic successes.
They will judge as our King judged when he chose Magdalen for the
academic home of the Prince of Wales. The Prince, unlike other royal
persons at Magdalen and elsewhere, lived (1912-14) not in the
lodgings of the President, or among dons and professors, but in his
own set of rooms, like any ordinary undergraduate. He showed, in
Oxford, that power of self-adaptation which has since won him golden
opinions in the great Dominion and the greater Republic of the West.


"Of the colleges of Oxford, Exeter is the most
proper for western, Queen's for northern, and
Brasenose for north-western men."
FULLER, /Worthies/.

[Plate XV. Bresenose College, Quadrangle and Radcliffe Library]

Brasenose college is in the very centre of the University, fronting
as it does on Radcliffe Square, where Gibbs' beautiful dome supplies
the Bodleian with a splendid reading-room. And this site has always
been consecrated to students; where the front of Brasenose now stands
ran School Street, leading from the old /Scholae Publicae/, in which
the disputations of the Mediaeval University were held, to St. Mary's

It was from this neighbourhood that some Oxford scholars migrated to
Stamford in 1334, in order to escape one of the many Town and Gown
rows, which rendered Mediaeval Oxford anything but a place of quiet
academic study. They seem to have carried with them the emblem of
their hall, a fine sanctuary knocker of brass, representing a lion's
head, with a ring through its nose; this knocker was installed at a
house in Stamford, which still retains the name it gave, "Brasenose
Hall." The knocker itself was there till 1890, when the College
recovered the relic (it now hangs in the hall). The students were
compelled by threats of excommunication to return to their old
university, and down to the beginning of the nineteenth century,
Oxford men, when admitted to the degree of M.A., were compelled to
swear "not to lecture at Stamford."

The old "King's Hall," which bore the name of "Brasenose," was
transformed into a college in 1511 by the munificence of our first
lay founder, Sir Richard Sutton; he shared his benevolence, however,
with Bishop Smith, of Lincoln. The College celebrated, in 1911, its
quatercentenary in an appropriate way, by publishing its register in
full, with a group of most interesting monographs on various aspects
of the College history.

The buildings are a good example of the typical Oxford college; the
Front Quad, shown in our picture, belongs to the time of the
Founders, but the picturesque third story of dormer windows, which
give it a special charm, dates from the reign of James I, when all
colleges were rapidly increasing their numbers and their
accommodation. Of the rest of the buildings of Brasenose, the chapel
deserves special notice, for it was the last effort of the Gothic
style in Oxford, and it was actually finished in the days of
Cromwell, not a period likely to be favourable to the erection of new
college chapels.

Brasenose (or B.N.C., as it is universally called) has produced a
prime minister of England in Henry Addington, whom the college record
kindly describes as "not the most distinguished" statesman who has
held that position: but a much better known worthy is John Foxe, the
Martyrologist, whose chained works used to add a grim charm of horror
to so many parish churches in England; the experiences of the young
Macaulay, at Cheddar, are an example which could be paralleled by
those of countless young readers of Foxe, who, however, did not
become great historians and are forgotten. Somewhat junior to Foxe,
at B.N.C., was Robert Burton, the author of the /Anatomy of
Melancholy/, who found both his lifework as a parish vicar, and his
burial-place in Oxford.

But these names, and the names of many other B.N.C. worthies, hardly
attain to the first rank in the annals of England's life. The
distinguishing features of the College have long been its special
connection with the Palatine counties, Lancashire and Cheshire, and
its prominence in the athletic life which is so large a part of
Oxford's attraction. To the connection with Lancashire, B.N.C. owes
the name of its college boat, "The Child of Hale"; for John
Middleton, the famous, giant, who is said to have been 9 ft. 3 in.
high (perhaps measurements were loose when James I was king), was
invited by the members of his county to visit the College, where he
is said to have left a picture of his hand; this the ever curious
Pepys paid 2s. to see. A more profitable connection between
Lancashire and B.N.C. is the famous Hulmeian endowment, which is
almost a record instance of the value of the unearned increment of
land to a learned foundation.

The rowing men of Brasenose are as famous as the scholars of Balliol.
The poet parodist, half a century ago, described her as:

"Queen of the Isis wave,
Who trains her crews on beef and beer,
Competitors to brave,"

and the lines written in jest were a true compliment. The young
manhood of England had maintained its vigour by its love of
athletics, and has learned, in the discipline of the athletic club,
how to obey and also how to command. Hence it was fitting that to
B.N.C. should fall the honour of giving to Britain her greatest
soldier in the Great War; Lord Haig of Bemerside was an undergraduate
member of the College in the 'eighties of the last century, and the
College has honoured him and itself by making him an Honorary Fellow.

Most Oxford colleges have their quaint and distinctive customs; that
of Brasenose was certainly not inappropriate to the character that
has just been sketched. Every Shrove Tuesday some junior member of
the College presented verses to the butler in honour of Brasenose
ale, and received a draught in return. The custom is recorded by
Hearne more than two hundred years ago, and may well be older,
though, as the poet of the Quatercentenary sadly confessed, its
attribution to King Alfred--

"Our woven fantasy of Alfred's ale,
By conclusive cut of critic dry,
Is shredded clean away."

The most distinguished poet who thus commemorated the special drink
of England and of B.N.C. was Reginald Heber, bishop and hymn-writer,
who composed the verses in 1806; the compositions have been collected
and published at least three times. When the old brew-house was
pulled down to make room for the New Quad, the College gave up
brewing its own beer, and its poets ceased to celebrate it; but the
custom was revived, as has been said, in 1909. It may be permitted to
a non-Brasenose man to quote and echo the patriotic expressions of
the versifier of 1886:

"Shall Brasenose, therefore, fail to hold her own?
She nerves herself, anew, for coming strife,
Her vigorous pulses beat with strength and life.
Courage, my brothers! Troubles past forget!
On to fresh deeds! the gods love Brasenose yet."

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