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Oxford by Andrew Lang

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This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk
from the 1922 Seeley, Service & Co. Ltd. edition.


by Andrew Lang


These papers do not profess even to sketch the outlines of a history
of Oxford. They are merely records of the impressions made by this
or that aspect of the life of the University as it has been in
different ages. Oxford is not an easy place to design in black and
white, with the pen or the etcher's needle. On a wild winter or late
autumn day (such as Father Faber has made permanent in a beautiful
poem) the sunshine fleets along the plain, revealing towers, and
floods, and trees, in a gleam of watery light, and leaving them once
more in shadow. The melancholy mist creeps over the city, the damp
soaks into the heart of everything, and such suicidal weather ensues
as has been described, once for all, by the author of John-a-Dreams.
How different Oxford looks when the road to Cowley Marsh is dumb with
dust, when the heat seems almost tropical, and by the drowsy banks of
the Cherwell you might almost expect some shy southern water-beast to
come crashing through the reeds! And such a day, again, is unlike
the bright weather of late September, when all the gold and scarlet
of Bagley Wood are concentrated in the leaves that cover the walls of
Magdalen with an imperial vesture.

Our memories of Oxford, if we have long made her a Castle of
Indolence, vary no less than do the shifting aspects of her scenery.
Days of spring and of mere pleasure in existence have alternated with
days of gloom and loneliness, of melancholy, of resignation. Our
mental pictures of the place are tinged by many moods, as the
landscape is beheld in shower and sunshine, in frost, and in the
colourless drizzling weather. Oxford, that once seemed a pleasant
porch and entrance into life, may become a dingy ante-room, where we
kick our heels with other weary, waiting people. At last, if men
linger there too late, Oxford grows a prison, and it is the final
condition of the loiterer to take "this for a hermitage." It is well
to leave the enchantress betimes, and to carry away few but kind
recollections. If there be any who think and speak ungently of their
Alma Mater, it is because they have outstayed their natural "welcome
while," or because they have resisted her genial influence in youth.


Most old towns are like palimpsests, parchments which have been
scrawled over again and again by their successive owners. Oxford,
though not one of the most ancient of English cities, shows, more
legibly than the rest, the handwriting, as it were, of many
generations. The convenient site among the interlacing waters of the
Isis and the Cherwell has commended itself to men in one age after
another. Each generation has used it for its own purpose: for war,
for trade, for learning, for religion; and war, trade, religion, and
learning have left on Oxford their peculiar marks. No set of its
occupants, before the last two centuries began, was very eager to
deface or destroy the buildings of its predecessors. Old things were
turned to new uses, or altered to suit new tastes; they were not
overthrown and carted away. Thus, in walking through Oxford, you see
everywhere, in colleges, chapels, and churches, doors and windows
which have been builded up; or again, openings which have been cut
where none originally existed. The upper part of the round Norman
arches in the Cathedral has been preserved, and converted into the
circular bull's-eye lights which the last century liked. It is the
same everywhere, except where modern restorers have had their way.
Thus the life of England, for some eight centuries, may be traced in
the buildings of Oxford. Nay, if we are convinced by some
antiquaries, the eastern end of the High Street contains even earlier
scratches on this palimpsest of Oxford; the rude marks of savages who
scooped out their damp nests, and raised their low walls in the
gravel, on the spot where the new schools are to stand. Here half-
naked men may have trapped the beaver in the Cherwell, and hither
they may have brought home the boars which they slew in the trackless
woods of Headington and Bagley. It is with the life of historical
Oxford, however, and not with these fancies, that we are concerned,
though these papers have no pretension to be a history of Oxford. A
series of pictures of men's life here is all they try to sketch.

It is hard, though not impossible, to form a picture in the mind of
Oxford as she was when she is first spoken of by history. What she
may have been when legend only knows her; when St. Frideswyde built a
home for religious maidens; when she fled from King Algar and hid
among the swine, and after a whole fairy tale of adventures died in
great sanctity, we cannot even guess. This legend of St. Frideswyde,
and of her foundation, the germ of the Cathedral and of Christ
Church, is not, indeed, without its value and significance for those
who care for Oxford. This home of religion and of learning was a
home of religion from the beginning, and her later life is but a
return, after centuries of war and trade, to her earliest purpose.
What manner of village of wooden houses may have surrounded the
earliest rude chapels and places of prayer, we cannot readily guess,
but imagination may look back on Oxford as she was when the English
Chronicle first mentions her. Even then it is not unnatural to think
Oxford might well have been a city of peace. She lies in the very
centre of England, and the Northmen, as they marched inland, burning
church and cloister, must have wandered long before they came to
Oxford. On the other hand, the military importance of the site must
have made it a town that would be eagerly contended for. Any places
of strength in Oxford would command the roads leading to the north
and west, and the secure, raised paths that ran through the flooded
fens to the ford or bridge, if bridge there then was, between
Godstowe and the later Norman grand pont, where Folly Bridge now
spans the Isis. Somewhere near Oxford, the roads that ran towards
Banbury and the north, or towards Bristol and the west, would be
obliged to cross the river. The water-way, too, and the paths by the
Thames' side, were commanded by Oxford. The Danes, as they followed
up the course of the Thames from London, would be drawn thither,
sooner or later, and would covet a place which is surrounded by half
a dozen deep natural moats. Lastly, Oxford lay in the centre of
England indeed, but on the very marches of Mercia and Wessex. A
border town of natural strength and of commanding situation, she can
have been no mean or poor collection of villages in the days when she
is first spoken of, when Eadward the Elder "incorporated with his own
kingdom the whole Mercian lands on both sides of Watling Street"
(Freeman's Norman Conquest, vol. i. p. 57), and took possession of
London and of Oxford as the two most important parts of a scientific
frontier. If any man had stood, in the days of Eadward, on the hill
that was not yet "Shotover," and had looked along the plain to the
place where the grey spires of Oxford are clustered now, as it were
in a purple cup of the low hills, he would have seen little but "the
smoke floating up through the oakwood and the coppice,"

[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]

The low hills were not yet cleared, nor the fens and the wolds
trimmed and enclosed. Centuries later, when the early students came,
they had to ride "through the thick forest and across the moor, to
the East Gate of the city" (Munimenta Academica, Oxon., vol. i. p.
60). In the midst of a country still wild, Oxford was already no
mean city; but the place where the hostile races of the land met to
settle their differences, to feast together and forget their wrongs
over the mead and ale, or to devise treacherous murder, and close the
banquet with fire and sword.

Again and again, after Eadward the Elder took Mercia, the Danes went
about burning and wasting England. The wooden towns were flaming
through the night, and sending up a thick smoke through the day, from
Thamesmouth to Cambridge. "And next was there no headman that force
would gather, and each fled as swift as he might, and soon was there
no shire that would help another." When the first fury of the
plundering invaders was over, when the Northmen had begun to wish to
settle and till the land and have some measure of peace, the early
meetings between them and the English rulers were held in the border-
town, in Oxford. Thus Sigeferth and Morkere, sons of Earngrim, came
to see Eadric in Oxford, and there were slain at a banquet, while
their followers perished in the attempt to avenge them. "Into the
tower of St. Frideswyde they were driven, and as men could not drive
them thence, the tower was fired, and they perished in the burning."
So says William of Malmesbury, who, so many years later, read the
story, as he says, in the records of the Church of St. Frideswyde.
There is another version of the story in the Codex Diplomaticus
(DCCIX.). Aethelred is made to say, in a deed of grant of lands to
St. Frideswyde's Church ("mine own minster"), that the Danes were
slain in the massacre of St. Brice. On that day Aethelred, "by the
advice of his satraps, determined to destroy the tares among the
wheat, the Danes in England." Certain of these fled into the
minster, as into a fortress, and therefore it was burned and the
books and monuments destroyed. For this cause Aethelred gives lands
to the minster, "fro Charwell brigge andlong the streame, fro
Merewell to Rugslawe, fro the lawe to the foule putte," and so forth.
It is pleasant to see how old are the familiar names "Cherwell,"
"Hedington," "Couelee" or Cowley, where the college cricket-grounds
are. Three years passed, and the headmen of the English and of the
Danes met at Oxford again, and more peacefully, and agreed to live
together, obedient to the laws of Eadgar; to the law, that is, as it
was administered in older days, that seem happier and better ruled to
men looking back on them from an age of confusion and bloodshed. At
Oxford, too, met the peaceful gathering of 1035, when Danish and
English claims were in some sort reconciled, and at Oxford Harold
Harefoot, the son of Cnut, died in March 1040. The place indeed was
fatal to kings, for St. Frideswyde, in her anger against King Algar,
left her curse on it. Just as the old Irish kings were forbidden by
their customs to do this or that, to cross a certain moor on May
morning, or to listen to the winnowing of the night-fowl's wings in
the dusk above the lake of Tara; so the kings of England shunned to
enter Oxford, and to come within the walls of Frideswyde the maiden.
Harold died there, as we have seen, but there he was not buried. His
body was laid at Westminster, where it could not rest, for his
enemies dug it up, and cast it forth upon the fens, or threw it into
the river. Many years later, when Henry III. entered Oxford, not
without fear, the curse of Frideswyde lighted also upon him. He came
in 1263, with Edward the prince, and misfortune fell upon him, so
that his barons defeated and took him prisoner at the battle of
Lewes. The chronicler of Oseney Abbey mentions his contempt of
superstitions, and how he alone of English kings entered the city:
"Quod nullus rex attemptavit a tempore Regis Algari," an error, for
Harold attemptavit, and died. When Edward I. was king, he was less
audacious than his father, and in 1275 he rode up to the East Gate
and turned his horse's head about, and sought a lodging outside the
town, reflexis habenis equitans extra moenia aulam regiain in
suburbio positam introivit. In 1280, however, he seems to have
plucked up courage and attended a Chapter of Dominicans in Oxford.

The last of the meetings between North and South was held at Oxford
in October 1065. "In urle quae famoso nomine Oxnaford nuncupatur,"
to quote a document of Cnut's. (Cod. Dipl. DCCXLVI. in 1042.) There
the Northumbrian rebels met Harold in the last days of Edward the
Confessor. With this meeting we leave that Oxford before the
Conquest, of which possibly not one stone, or one rafter, remains.
We look back through eight hundred years on a city, rich enough, it
seems, and powerful, and we see the narrow streets full of armed
bands of men--men that wear the cognisance of the horse or of the
raven, that carry short swords, and are quick to draw them; men that
dress in short kirtles of a bright colour, scarlet or blue; that wear
axes slung on their backs, and adorn their bare necks and arms with
collars and bracelets of gold. We see them meeting to discuss laws
and frontiers, and feasting late when business is done, and
chaffering for knives with ivory handles, for arrows, and saddles,
and wadmal, in the booths of the citizens. Through the mist of time
this picture of ancient Oxford may be distinguished. We are tempted
to think of a low, grey twilight above that wet land suddenly lit up
with fire; of the tall towers of St. Frideswyde's Minster flaring
like a torch athwart the night; of poplars waving in the same wind
that drives the vapour and smoke of the holy place down on the Danes
who have taken refuge there, and there stand at bay against the
English and the people of the town. The material Oxford of our times
is not more unlike the Oxford of low wooden booths and houses, and of
wooden spires and towers, than the life led in its streets was unlike
the academic life of to-day. The Conquest brought no more quiet
times, but the whole city was wrecked, stormed, and devastated,
before the second period of its history began, before it was the seat
of a Norman stronghold, and one of the links of the chain by which
England was bound. "Four hundred and seventy-eight houses were so
ruined as to be unable to pay taxes," while, "within the town or
without the wall, there were but two hundred and forty-three houses
which did yield tribute."

With the buildings of Robert D'Oily, a follower of the Conqueror's,
and the husband of an English wife, the heiress of Wigod of
Wallingford, the new Oxford begins. Robert's work may be divided
roughly into two classes. First, there are the strong places he
erected to secure his possessions, and, second, the sacred places he
erected to secure the pardon of Heaven for his robberies. Of the
castle, and its "shining coronal of towers," only one tower remains.
From the vast strength of this picturesque edifice, with the natural
moat flowing at its feet, we may guess what the castle must have been
in the early days of the Conquest, and during the wars of Stephen and
Matilda. We may guess, too, that the burghers of Oxford, and the
rustics of the neighbourhood, had no easy life in those days, when,
as we have seen, the town was ruined, and when, as the extraordinary
thickness of the walls of its remaining tower demonstrates, the
castle was built by new lords who did not spare the forced labour of
the vanquished. The strength of the position of the castle is best
estimated after viewing the surrounding country from the top of the
tower. Through the more modern embrasures, or over the low wall
round the summit, you look up and down the valley of the Thames, and
gaze deep into the folds of the hills. The prospect is pleasant
enough, on an autumn morning, with the domes and spires of modern
Oxford breaking, like islands, through the sea of mist that sweeps
above the roofs of the good town. In the old times, no movement of
the people who had their fastnesses in the fens, no approach of an
army from any direction could have evaded the watchman. The towers
guarded the fords and the bridge and were themselves almost
impregnable, except when a hard winter made the Thames, the Cherwell,
and the many deep and treacherous streams passable, as happened when
Matilda was beleaguered in Oxford. This natural strength of the site
is demonstrated by the vast mound within the castle walls, which
tradition calls the Jews' Mound, but which is probably earlier than
the Norman buildings. Some other race had chosen the castle site for
its fortress in times of which we know nothing. Meanwhile, some of
the practical citizens of Oxford wish to level the Jews' Mound, and
to "utilise" the gravel of which it is largely composed. There is
nothing to be said against this economic project which could interest
or affect the persons who entertain it. M. Brunet-Debaines'
illustration shows the mill on a site which must be as old as the
tower. Did the citizens bring their corn to be tolled and ground at
the lord's mill?

Though Robert was bent on works of war, he had a nature inclined to
piety, and, his piety beginning at home, he founded the church of St.
George within the castle. The crypt of the church still remains, and
is not without interest for persons who like to trace the changing
fortunes of old buildings. The site of Robert's Castle is at present
occupied by the County Gaol. When you have inspected the tower
(which does not do service as a dungeon) you are taken, by the
courtesy of the Governor, to the crypt, and satisfy your
archaeological curiosity. The place is much lower, and worse
lighted, than the contemporary crypt of St. Peter's-in-the-East, but
not, perhaps, less interesting. The square-headed capitals have not
been touched, like some of those in St. Peter's, by a later chisel.
The place is dank and earthy, but otherwise much as Robert D'Oily
left it. There is an odd-looking arrangement of planks on the floor.
It is THE NEW DROP, which is found to work very well, and gives
satisfaction to the persons who have to employ it. Sinister the
Norman castle was in its beginning, "it was from the castle that men
did wrong to the poor around them; it was from the castle that they
bade defiance to the king, who, stranger and tyrant as he might be,
was still a protector against smaller tyrants." Sinister the castle
remains; you enter it through ironed and bolted doors, you note the
prisoners at their dreary exercises, and, when you have seen the
engines of the law lying in the old crypt you pass out into the place
of execution. Here, in a corner made by Robert's tower and by the
wall of the prison, is a dank little quadrangle. The ground is of
the yellow clay and gravel which floors most Oxford quadrangles. A
few letters are scratched on the soft stone of the wall--the letters
"H. R." are the freshest. These are the initials of the last man who
suffered death in this corner--a young rustic who had murdered his
sweetheart. "H. R." on the prison wall is all his record, and his
body lies under your feet, and the feet of the men who are to die
here in after days pass over his tomb. It is thus that malefactors
are buried, "within the walls of the gaol."

One is glad enough to leave the remains of Robert's place of arms--as
glad as Matilda may have been when "they let her down at night from
the tower with ropes, and she stole out, and went on foot to
Wallingford." Robert seems at first to have made the natural use of
his strength. "Rich he was, and spared not rich or poor, to take
their livelihood away, and to lay up treasures for himself." He
stole the lands of the monks of Abingdon, but of what service were
moats, and walls, and dungeons, and instruments of torture, against
the powers that side with monks?

The Chronicle of Abingdon has a very diverting account of Robert's
punishment and conversion. "He filched a certain field without the
walls of Oxford that of right belonged to the monastery, and gave it
over to the soldiers in the castle. For which loss the brethren were
greatly grieved--the brethren of Abingdon. Therefore, they gathered
in a body before the altar of St. Michael--the very altar that St.
Dunstan the archbishop dedicated--and cast themselves weeping on the
ground, accusing Robert D'Oily, and praying that his robbery of the
monastery might be avenged, or that he might be led to make
atonement." So, in a dream, Robert saw himself taken before Our Lady
by two brethren of Abingdon, and thence carried into the very meadow
he had coveted, where "most nasty little boys," turpissimi pueri,
worked their will on him. Thereon Robert was terrified and cried
out, and wakened his wife, who took advantage of his fears, and
compelled him to make restitution to the brethren.

After this vision, Robert gave himself up to pampering the monastery
and performing other good works. He it was who built a bridge over
the Isis, and he restored the many ruined parish churches in Oxford--
churches which, perhaps, he and his men had helped to ruin. The
tower of St. Michael's, in "the Corn," is said to be of his building;
perhaps he only "restored" it, for it is in the true primitive style-
-gaunt, unadorned, with round-headed windows, good for shooting from
with the bow. St. Michael's was not only a church, but a watchtower
of the city wall; and here the old northgate, called Bocardo, spanned
the street. The rooms above the gate were used till within quite
recent times, and the poor inmates used to let down a greasy old hat
from the window in front of the passers-by, and cry, "Pity the
Bocardo birds":

"Pigons qui sont en 1'essoine,
Enserrez soubz trappe voliere,"

as a famous Paris student, Francois Villon, would have called them.
Of Bocardo no trace remains, but St. Michael's is likely to last as
long as any edifice in Oxford. Our illustrations represent it as it
was in the last century. The houses huddle up to the church, and
hide the lines of the tower. Now it stands out clear, less
picturesque than it was in the time of Bocardo prison. Within the
last two years the windows have been cleared, and the curious and
most archaic pillars, shaped like balustrades, may be examined. It
is worth while to climb the tower and remember the times when arrows
were sent like hail from the narrow windows on the foes who
approached Oxford from the north, while prayers for their confusion
were read in the church below.

That old Oxford of war was also a trading town. Nothing more than
the fact that it was a favourite seat of the Jews is needed to prove
its commercial prosperity. The Jews, however, demand a longer notice
in connection with the still unborn University. Meanwhile, it may be
remarked that Oxford trade made good use of the river. The Abingdon
Chronicle (ii. 129) tells us that "from each barque of Oxford city,
which makes the passage by the river Thames past Abingdon, a hundred
herrings must yearly be paid to the cellarer. The citizens had much
litigation about land and houses with the abbey, and one Roger
Maledoctus (perhaps a very early sample of the pass-man) gave
Abingdon tenements within the city." Thus we leave the pre-Academic
Oxford a flourishing town, with merchants and moneylenders. As for
the religious, the brethren of St. Frideswyde had lived but loosely
(pro libito viverunt), says William of Malmesbury, and were to be
superseded by regular canons, under the headship of one Guimond, and
the patronage of the Bishop of Salisbury. Whoever goes into Christ
Church new buildings from the river-side, will see, in the old
edifice facing him, a certain bulging in the wall. That is the mark
of the pulpit, whence a brother used to read aloud to the brethren in
the refectory of St. Frideswyde. The new leaven of learning was soon
to ferment in an easy Oxford, where men lived pro libito, under good
lords, the D'Oilys, who loved the English, and built, not churches
and bridges only, but the great and famous Oseney Abbey, beyond the
church of St. Thomas, and not very far from the modern station of the
Great Western Railway. Yet even after public teaching in Oxford
certainly began, after Master Robert Puleyn lectured in divinity
there (1133; cf. Oseney Chronicle), the tower was burned down by
Stephen's soldiery in 1141 (Oseney Chronicle, p. 24).


Oxford, some one says, "is bitterly historical." It is difficult to
escape the fanaticism of Antony Wood, and of "our antiquary," Bryan
Twyne, when one deals with the obscure past of the University.
Indeed, it is impossible to understand the strange blending of new
and old at Oxford--the old names with the new meanings--if we avert
our eyes from what is "bitterly historical." For example, there is
in most, perhaps in all, colleges a custom called "collections." On
the last days of term undergraduates are called into the Hall, where
the Master and the Dean of the Chapel sit in solemn state.
Examination papers are set, but no one heeds them very much. The
real ordeal is the awful interview with the Master and the Dean. The
former regards you with the eyes of a judge, while the Dean says,
"Master, I am pleased to say that Mr. Brown's PAPERS are very fair,
very fair. But in the matters of CHAPELS and of CATECHETICS, Mr.
Brown sets--for a SCHOLAR--a very bad example to the other
undergraduates. He has only once attended divine service on Sunday
morning, and on that occasion, Master, his dress consisted
exclusively of a long great-coat and a pair of boots." After this
accusation the Master will turn to the culprit and observe, with
emphasis ill represented by italics, "Mr. Brown, the COLLEGE cannot
hear with pleasure of such behaviour on the part of a SCHOLAR. You
are GATED, Mr. Brown, for the first fortnight of next term." Now why
should this tribunal of the Master and the Dean, and this dread
examination, be called collections? Because (Munimenta Academica,
Oxon., i. 129) in 1331 a statute was passed to the effect that "every
scholar shall pay at least twelve pence a-year for lectures in logic,
and for physics eighteenpence a-year," and that "all Masters of Arts
except persons of royal or noble family, shall be obliged to COLLECT
their salary from the scholars." This collection would be made at
the end of term; and the name survives, attached to the solemn day of
doom we have described, though the college dues are now collected by
the bursar at the beginning of each term.

By this trivial example the perversions of old customs at Oxford are
illustrated. To appreciate the life of the place, then, we must
glance for a moment at the growth of the University. As to its
origin, we know absolutely nothing. That Master Puleyn began to
lecture there in 1133 we have seen, and it is not likely that he
would have chosen Oxford if Oxford had possessed no schools. About
these schools, however, we have no information. They may have grown
up out of the seminary which, perhaps, was connected with St.
Frideswyde's, just as Paris University may have had some connection
with "the School of the Palace." Certainly to Paris University the
academic corporation of Oxford, the Universitas, owed many of her
regulations; while, again, the founder of the college system, Walter
de Merton (who visited Paris in company with Henry III.), may have
compared ideas with Robert de Sorbonne, the founder of the college of
that name. In the early Oxford, however, of the twelfth and most of
the thirteenth centuries, colleges with their statutes were unknown.
The University was the only corporation of the learned, and she
struggled into existence after hard fights with the town, the Jews,
the Friars, the Papal courts. The history of the University begins
with the thirteenth century. She may be said to have come into being
as soon as she possessed common funds and rents, as soon as fines
were assigned, or benefactions contributed to the maintenance of
scholars. Now the first recorded fine is the payment of fifty-two
shillings by the townsmen of Oxford as part of the compensation for
the hanging of certain clerks. In the year 1214 the Papal Legate, in
a letter to his "beloved sons in Christ, the burgesses of Oxford,"
bade them excuse the "scholars studying in Oxford" half the rent of
their halls, or hospitia, for the space of ten years. The burghers
were also to do penance, and to feast the poorer students once a
year; but the important point is, that they had to pay that large
yearly fine "propter suspendium clericorum"--all for the hanging of
the clerks. Twenty-six years after this decision of the Legate,
Robert Grossteste, the great Bishop of Lincoln, organised the payment
and distribution of the fine, and founded the first of the CHESTS,
the chest of St. Frideswyde. These chests were a kind of Mont de
Piete, and to found them was at first the favourite form of
benefaction. Money was left in this or that chest, from which
students and masters would borrow, on the security of pledges, which
were generally books, cups, daggers, and so forth.

Now, in this affair of 1214 we have a strange passage of history,
which happily illustrates the growth of the University. The
beginning of the whole affair was the quarrel with the town, which,
in 1209, had hanged two clerks, "in contempt of clerical liberty."
The matter was taken up by the Legate--in those bad years of King
John the Pope's viceroy in England--and out of the humiliation of the
town the University gained money, privileges, and halls at low
rental. These were precisely the things that the University wanted.
About these matters there was a constant strife, in which the Kings,
as a rule, took part with the University. The University possessed
the legal knowledge, which the monarchs liked to have on their side,
and was therefore favoured by them. Thus, in 1231 (Wood, Annals, i.
205), "the King sent out his Breve to the Mayor and Burghers
commanding them not to overrate their houses"; and thus gradually the
University got the command of the police, obtained privileges which
enslaved the city, and became masters where they had once been
despised, starveling scholars. The process was always the same. On
the feast of St. Scholastica, for example, in 1354, Walter de
Springheuse, Roger de Chesterfield, and other clerks, swaggered into
the Swyndlestock tavern in Carfax, began to speak ill of John de
Croydon's wine, and ended by pitching the tankard at the head of that
vintner. In ten minutes the town bell at St. Martin's was rung, and
the most terrible of all Town-and-Gown rows began. The Chancellor
could do no less than bid St. Mary's bell reply to St. Martin's, and
shooting commenced. The Gown held their own very well at first, and
"defended themselves till Vespertide," when the citizens called in
their neighbours, the rustics of Cowley, Headington, and Hincksey.
The results have been precisely described in anticipation by Homer:

[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]

Which is as much as to say, "The townsfolk call for help to their
neighbours, the yokels, that were more numerous than they, and better
men in battle . . . so when the sun turned to the time of the loosing
of oxen the Town drave in the ranks of the Gown, and won the
victory." They were strong, the townsmen, but not merciful. "The
crowns of some chaplains, viz. all the skin so far as the tonsure
went, these diabolical imps flayed off in scorn of their clergy," and
"some poor innocents these confounded sons of Satan knocked down,
beat, and most cruelly wounded." The result, in the long run, was
that the University received from Edward III. "a most large charter,
containing many liberties, some that they had before, and OTHERS THAT
HE HAD TAKEN AWAY FROM THE TOWN." Thus Edward granted to the
University "the custody of the assize of bread, wine, and ale," the
supervising of measures and weights, the sole power of clearing the
streets of the town and suburbs. Moreover, the Mayor and the chief
Burghers were condemned yearly to a sort of public penance and
humiliation on St. Scholastica's Day. Thus, by the middle of the
fourteenth century, the strife of Town and Gown had ended in the
complete victory of the latter.

Though the University owed its success to its clerkly character, and
though the Legate backed it with all the power of Rome, yet the
scholars were Englishmen and Liberals first, Catholics next. Thus
they had all English sympathy with them when they quarrelled with the
Legate in 1238, and shot his cook (who, indeed, had thrown hot broth
at them); and thus, in later days, the undergraduates were with Simon
de Montfort against King Henry, and aided the barons with a useful
body of archers. The University, too, constantly withstood the
Friars, who had settled in Oxford on pretence of wishing to convert
the Jews, and had attempted to get education into their hands. "The
Preaching Friars, who had lately obtained from the Pope divers
privileges, particularly an exemption, as they pretended, from being
subject to the jurisdiction of the University, began to behave
themselves very insolent against the Chancellors and Masters."
(Wood, Annals, i. 399.) The conduct of the Friars caused endless
appeals to Rome, and in this matter, too, Oxford was stoutly
national, and resisted the Pope, as it had, on occasions, defied the
King. The King's Jews, too, the University kept in pretty good
order, and when, in 1268, a certain Hebrew snatched the crucifix from
the hand of the Chancellor and trod it under foot, his tribesmen were
compelled to raise "a fair and stately cross of marble, very
curiously wrought," on the scene of the sacrilege.

The growth in power and importance of academic corporations having
now been sketched, let us try to see what the outer aspect of the
town was like in these rude times, and what manner of life the
undergraduates led. For this purpose we may be allowed to draw a
rude, but not unfaithful, picture of a day in a student's life. No
incident will be introduced for which there is not authority, in
Wood, or in Mr. Anstey's invaluable documents, the Munimenta
Academica, published in the collection of the Master of the Rolls.
Some latitude as to dates must be allowed, it is true, and we are not
of course to suppose that any one day of life was ever so gloriously
crowded as that of our undergraduate.

The time is the end of the fourteenth century. The forest and the
moor stretch to the east gate of the city. Magdalen bridge is not
yet built, nor of course the tower of Magdalen, which M. Brunet-
Debaines has sketched from Christ Church walks. Not till about 1473
was the tower built, and years would pass after that before
choristers saluted with their fresh voices from its battlements the
dawn of the first of May, or sermons were preached from the beautiful
stone pulpit in the open air. When our undergraduate, Walter de
Stoke, or, more briefly, Stoke, was at Oxford, the spires of the city
were few. Where Magdalen stands now, the old Hospital of St. John
then stood--a foundation of Henry III.--but the Jews were no longer
allowed to bury their dead in the close, which is now the "Physic
Garden." "In 1289," as Wood says, "the Jews were banished from
England for various enormities and crimes committed by them." The
Great and Little Jewries--those dim, populous streets behind the
modern Post Office--had been sacked and gutted. No clerk would ever
again risk his soul for a fair Jewess's sake, nor lose his life for
his love at the hands of that eminent theologian, Fulke de Breaute.
The beautiful tower of Merton was still almost fresh, and the spires
of St. Mary's, of old All Saints, of St. Frideswyde, and the strong
tower of New College on the city wall, were the most prominent
features in a bird's-eye view of the town. But though part of
Merton, certainly the chapel tower as we have seen, the odd muniment-
room with the steep stone roof, and, perhaps, the Library, existed;
though New was built; and though Balliol and University owned some
halls, on, or near, the site of the present colleges, Oxford was
still an university of poor scholars, who lived in town's-people's

Thus, in the great quarrel with the Legate in 1238, John Currey, of
Scotland, boarded with Will Maynard, while Hugh le Verner abode in
the house of Osmund the Miller, with Raynold the Irishman and seven
of his fellows. John Mortimer and Rob Norensis lodged with Augustine
Gosse, and Adam de Wolton lodged in Cat Street, where you can still
see the curious arched doorway of Catte's, or St. Catherine's Hall.
By the time of my hero, Walter Stoke, the King had not yet decreed
that all scholars of years of discretion should live in the house of
some sufficient principal (1421); so let him lodge at Catte Hall, at
the corner of the street that leads to New College out of the modern
Broad Street, which was then the City Ditch. It is six o'clock on a
summer morning, and the bells waken Stoke, who is sleeping on a flock
bed, in his little camera. His room, though he is not one of the
luxurious clerks whom the University scolds in various statutes, is
pretty well furnished. His bed alone is worth not less than
fifteenpence; he has a "cofer" valued at twopence (we have plenty of
those old valuations), and in his cofer are his black coat, which no
one would think dear at fourpence, his tunic, cheap at tenpence, "a
roll of the seven Psalms," and twelve books only "at his beddes
heed." Stoke has not

"Twenty bookes, clothed in blak and reed,
Of Aristotil and of his philosophie,"

like Chaucer's Undergraduate, who must have been a bibliophile.
There are not many records of "as many as twenty bookes" in the old
valuations. The great ornament of the room is a neat trophy of
buckler, bow, arrows, and two daggers, all hanging conveniently on
the wall. Stoke opens his eyes, yawns, looks round for his clothes,
and sees, with no surprise, that his laundress has not sent home his
clean linen. No; Christina, of the parish of St. Martin, who used to
be Stoke's lotrix, has been detected at last. "Under pretence of
washing for scholars, multa mala perpetrata fuerunt," she has
committed all manner of crimes, and is now in the Spinning House,
carcerata fuit. Stoke wastes a malediction on the laundress, and,
dressing as well as he may, runs down to Parson's Pleasure, I hope,
and has a swim, for I find no tub in his room, or, indeed, in the
camera of any other scholar. It is now time to go, not to chapel--
for Catte's has no chapel--but to parish Church, and Stoke goes very
devoutly to St. Peter's, where we shall find him again, later in the
day, in another mood. About eight o'clock he "commonises" with a
Paris man, Henricus de Bourges, who has an admirable mode of cooking
omelettes, which makes his company much sought after at breakfast-
time. The University, in old times, was full of French students, as
Paris was thronged by Englishmen. Lectures begin at nine, and first
there is lecture in the hall by the principal of Catte's. That
scholar receives his pupils in a bare room, where it is very doubtful
whether the students are allowed to sit down. From the curious old
seal of the University of St. Andrews, however, it appears that the
luxury of forms was permitted, in Scotland, to all but the servitors,
who held the lecturer's candles. The principal of Catte's is in
academic dress, and wears a black cape, boots, and a hood. The
undergraduates have no distinguishing costume. After an hour or two
of viva voce exercises in the grammar of Priscian, preparatory
lecture is over, and a reading man will hurry off to the "schools," a
set of low-roofed buildings between St. Mary's and Brasenose. There
he will find the Divinity "school" or lecture-room in the place of
honour, with Medicine on one hand and Law on the other; the lecture-
rooms for grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, geometry, and
astronomy, for metaphysics, ethics, and "the tongues," stretching
down School Street on either side. Here the Praelectors are holding
forth, and all newly made Masters of Arts are bound to teach their
subject regere scholas, whether they like it or not. Our friend,
Master Stoke, however, is on pleasure bent, and means to pay his fine
of two-pence for omitting lecture, and go off to the festival of his
nation (he is of the Southern nation, and hates Scotch, Welsh, and
Irish) in the parish Church. He stops in the Flower Market and at a
barber's shop on his way to St. Peter's, and comes forth a wonderful
pagan figure with a Bacchic mask covering his honest countenance,
with horns protruding through a wig of tow, with vine-leaves twisted
in and out of the horns, and roses stuck wherever there is room for
roses. Henricus de Bourges, and half a dozen Picardy men, with some
merry souls from the Southern side of the Thames, are jigging down
the High, playing bag-pipes and guitars. To these Stoke joins
himself, and they waltz joyously into the church, and in and out of
the gateways of the different halls, singing, -

"Mihi est propositum in taberna mori,
Vinum sit appositum morientis ori,
Ut dicant, quum venerint, angelorum chori
Deus sit propitius huic potatori."

The students of the Northern nations mock, of course, at these
revellers, thumbs are bitten, threats exchanged, and we shall see
what comes of the quarrel. But the hall bells chime half-past noon;
it is dinner-time in Oxford, and Stoke, as he throws off his mask
(larva) and vine-leaves, mutters to himself the equivalent for "there
WILL be a row about this." There will, indeed, for the penalty is
not "crossing at the buttery," nor "gating," but--excommunication!
(Munim. Academ., i. 18.) Dinner is not a very quiet affair, for the
Catte's men have had to fight for their beer in the public streets
with some Canterbury College fellows who were set on by their Warden,
of all people, to commit this violence (ut vi et violentia raperent
cerevisiam aliorum scholarum in vico): however, Catte's has had the
best of it, and there is beer in plenty. It is possible, however,
that fish is scarce, for certain "forestallers" (regratarii) have
been buying up salmon and soles, and refusing to sell them at less
than double the proper price. On the whole, however, there a rude
abundance of meat and bread; indeed, Stoke may have fared better in
Catte's than the modern undergraduate does in the hall of the college
protected by St. Catherine. After dinner there would be lecture in
Lent, but we are not in Lent. A young man's fancy lightly turns to
the Beaumont, north of the modern Beaumont Street, where there are
wide playing-fields, and space for archery, foot-ball, stool-ball,
and other sports. Stoke rushes out of hall, and runs upstairs into
the camera of Roger de Freshfield, a reading man, but a good fellow.
He knocks and enters, and finds Freshfield over his favourite work,
the Posterior Analytics, and a pottle of strawberries. "Come down to
the Beaumont, old man," he says, "and play pyked staffe." Roger is
disinclined to move, he MUST finish the Posterior Analytics. Stoke
lounges about, in the eternal fashion of undergraduates after
luncheon, and picking up the Philobiblon of Richard de Bury (then
quite a new book), clinches his argument in favour of pyke and staffe
with a quotation: "You will perhaps see a stiff-necked youth
lounging sluggishly in his study . . . He is not ashamed to eat fruit
and cheese over an open book, and to transfer his cup from side to
side upon it." Thus addressed, Roger lays aside his Analytics, and
the pair walk down by Balliol, to the Beaumont, where pyked staffe,
or sword and buckler, is played. At the Beaumont they find two men
who say that "sword and buckler can be played sofft and ffayre," that
is, without hard hitting, and with one of these Stoke begins to
fence. Alas! a dispute arose about a stroke, the by-standers
interfered, and Stoke's opponent drew his hanger (extraxit cultellum
vocatum hangere), and hit one John Felerd over the sconce. On this
the Proctors come up, and the assailant is put in Bocardo, while
Stoke goes off to a "pass-supper" given by an inceptor, who has just
taken his degree. These suppers were not voluntary entertainments,
but enforced by law. At supper the talk ranges over University
gossip, they tell of the scholar who lately tried to raise the devil
in Grope Lane, and was pleased by the gentlemanly manner of the foul
fiend. They speak of the Queen's man, who has just been plucked for
maintaining that Ego currit, or ego est currens, is as good Latin as
ego curro. Then the party breaks up, and Stoke goes towards Merton,
with some undergraduates of that college, Bridlington, Alderberk, and
Lymby. At the corner of Grope Lane, out come many men of the
Northern nations, armed with shields, and bows and arrows. Stoke and
his friends run into Merton for weapons, and "standing in a window of
that hall, shot divers arrows, and one that Bridlington shot hit
Henry de l'Isle, and David Kirkby unmercifully perished, for after
John de Benton had given him a dangerous wound in the head with his
faulchion, came Will de la Hyde and wounded him in the knee with his

These were rough times, and it is not improbable that Stoke had a
brush with the Town before he got safely back to Catte's Hall. The
old rudeness gave way gradually, as the colleges swallowed up the
irregular halls, and as the scholars unattached, infando nomine
Chamber-Dekyns, ceased to exist. Learning, however, dwindled, as
colleges increased, under the clerical and reactionary rule of the
House of Lancaster.


We have now arrived at a period in the history of Oxford which is
confused and unhappy, but for us full of interest, and perhaps of
instruction. The hundred years that passed by between the age of
Chaucer and the age of Erasmus were, in Southern Europe, years of the
most eager life. We hear very often--too often, perhaps--of what is
called the Renaissance. The energy of delight with which Italy
welcomed the new birth of art, of literature, of human freedom, has
been made familiar to every reader. It is not with Italy, but with
England and with Oxford, that we are concerned. How did the
University and the colleges prosper in that strenuous time when the
world ran after loveliness of form and colour, as, in other ages, it
has run after warlike renown, or the far-off rewards of the saintly
life? What was Oxford doing when Florence, Venice, and Rome were
striving towards no meaner goal than perfection?

It must be said that "the spring came slowly up this way." The
University merely reflected the very practical character of the
people. In contemplating the events of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, in their influence on English civilisation, we are
reminded once more of the futility of certain modern aspirations. No
amount of University Commissions, nor of well-meant reforms, will
change the nature of Englishmen. It is impossible, by distributions
of University prizes and professorships, to attract into the career
of letters that proportion of industry and ingenuity which, in
Germany for example, is devoted to the scholastic life. Politics,
trade, law, sport, religion, will claim their own in England, just as
they did at the Revival of Letters. The illustrious century which
Italy employed in unburying, appropriating, and enjoying the
treasures of Greek literature and art, our fathers gave, in England,
to dynastic and constitutional squabbles, and to religious broils.
The Renaissance in England, and chiefly in Oxford, was like a bitter
and changeful spring. There was an hour of genial warmth, there
breathed a wind from the south, in the lifetime of Chaucer; then came
frosts and storms; again the brief sunshine of court favour shone on
literature for a while, when Henry VIII. encouraged study, and Wolsey
and Fox founded Christ Church and Corpus Christi College; once more
the bad days of religious strife returned, and the promise of
learning was destroyed. Thus the chief result of the awakening
thought of the fourteenth century in England was not a lively delight
in literature, but the appearance of the Lollards. The intensely
practical genius of our race turned not to letters, but to questions
about the soul and its future, about property and its distribution.
The Lollards were put down in Oxford; "the tares were weeded out" by
the House of Lancaster, and in the process the germs of free thought,
of originality, and of a rational education, were destroyed.
"Wyclevism did domineer among us," says Wood; and, in fact, the
intellect of the University was absorbed, like the intellect of
France during the heat of the Jansenist controversy, in defending or
assailing "267 damned conclusions," drawn from the books of Wyclif.
The University "lost many of her children through the profession of
Wyclevism." Those who remained were often "beneficed clerks." The
Friars lifted up their heads again, and Oxford was becoming a large
ecclesiastical school. As the University declared to Archbishop
Chichele (1438), "Our noble mother, that was blessed in so goodly an
offspring, is all but utterly destroyed and desolate." Presently the
foreign wars and the wars of the Roses drained the University of the
youth of England. The country was overrun with hostile forces, or
infested by disbanded soldiers. Plague and war, war and plague, and
confusion, alternate in the annals. Sickly as Oxford is to-day by
climate and situation, she is a city of health compared to what she
was in the middle ages. In 1448 "a pestilence broke out, occasioned
by the overflowing of waters, . . . also by the lying of many
scholars in one room or dormitory in almost every Hall, which
occasioned nasty air and smells, and consequently diseases." In the
general dulness and squalor two things were remarkable: one, the
last splendour of the feudal time; the other, the first dawn of the
new learning from Italy. In 1452, George Neville of Balliol, brother
of the King-maker, gave the most prodigious pass-supper that was ever
served in Oxford. On the first day there were 600 messes of meat,
divided into three courses. The second course is worthy of the
attention of the epicure:


Vian in brase. Carcell.
Crane in sawce. Partrych.
Young Pocock. Venson baked.
Coney. Fryed meat in paste.
Pigeons. Lesh Lumbert.
Byttor. A Frutor.
Curlew. A Sutteltee.

Against this prodigious gormandising we must set that noble gift, the
Library presented to Oxford by Duke Humfrey of Gloucester. In the
Catalogue, drawn up in 1439, we mark many books of the utmost value
to the impoverished students. Here are the works of Plato, and the
Ethics and Politics of Aristotle, translated by Leonard the Aretine.
Here, among the numerous writings of the Fathers, are Tully and
Seneca, Averroes and Avicenna, Bellum Trojae cum secretis secretorum,
Apuleius, Aulus Gellius, Livy, Boccaccio, Petrarch. Here, with
Ovid's verses, is the Commentary on Dante, and his Divine Comedy.
Here, rarest of all, is a Greek Dictionary, the silent father of
Liddel's and Scott's to be.

The most hopeful fact in the University annals, after the gift of
those manuscripts (to which the very beauty of their illuminations
proved ruinous in Puritan times), was the establishment of a
printing-press at Oxford, and the arrival of certain Italians, "to
propagate and settle the studies of true and genuine humanity among
us." The exact date of the introduction of printing let us leave to
be determined by the learned writer who is now at work on the history
of Oxford. The advent of the Italians is dated by Wood in 1488.
Polydore Virgil had lectured in New College. "He first of all taught
literature in Oxford. Cyprianus and Nicholaus, Italici, also arrived
and dined with the Vice-President of Magdalen on Christmas Day. Lily
and Colet, too, one of them the founder, the other the first Head
Master, of St. Paul's School, were about this time studying in Italy,
under the great Politian and Hermolaus Barbarus. Oxford, which had
so long been in hostile communication with Italy as represented by
the Papal Courts, at last touched, and was thrilled by the electric
current of Italian civilisation. At this conjuncture of affairs, who
but is reminded of the youth and the education of Gargantua? Till
the very end of the fifteenth century Oxford had been that "huge
barbarian pupil," and had revelled in vast Rabelaisian suppers: "of
fat beeves he had killed three hundred sixty seven thousand and
fourteen, that in the entering in of spring he might have plenty of
powdered beef." The bill of fare of George Neville's feast is like
one of the catalogues dear to the Cure of Meudon. For Oxford, as for
Gargantua, "they appointed a great sophister-doctor, that read him
Donatus, Theodoletus, and Alanus, in parabolis." Oxford spent far
more than Gargantua's eighteen years and eleven months over "the book
de Modis significandis, with the commentaries of Berlinguandus and a
rabble of others." Now, under Colet, and Erasmus (1497), Oxford was
put, like Gargantua, under new masters, and learned that the old
scholarship "had been but brutishness, and the old wisdom but blunt,
foppish toys serving only to bastardise noble spirits, and to corrupt
all the flower of youth."

The prospects of classical learning at Oxford (and, whatever may be
the case to-day, on classical learning depended, in the fifteenth
century, the fortunes of European literature) now seemed fair enough.
People from the very source of knowledge were lecturing in Oxford.
Wolsey was Bursar of Magdalen. The colleges, to which B. N. C. was
added in 1509, and C. C. C. in 1516, were competing with each other
for success in the New Learning. Fox, the founder of C. C. C.,
established in his college two chairs of Greek and Latin, "to
extirpate barbarism." Meanwhile, Cambridge had to hire an Italian to
write public speeches at twenty pence each! Henry VIII. in his youth
was, like Francis I., the patron of literature, as literature was
understood in Italy. He saw in learning a new splendour to adorn his
court, a new source of intellectual luxury, though even Henry had an
eye on the theological aspect of letters. Between 1500 and 1530
Oxford was noisy with the clink of masons' hammers and chisels.
Brasenose, Corpus, and the magnificent kitchen of Christ Church, were
being erected. (The beautiful staircase, which M. Brunet-Debaines
has sketched, was not finished till 1640. The world owes it to Dr.
Fell. The Oriel niches, designed in the illustration, are of rather
later date.) The streets were crowded with carts, dragging in from
all the neighbouring quarries stones for the future homes of the fair
humanities. Erasmus found in Oxford a kind of substitute for the
Platonic Society of Florence. "He would hardly care much about going
to Italy at all, except for the sake of having been there. When I
listen to Colet, it seems to me like listening to Plato himself"; and
he praises the judgment and learning of those Englishmen, Grocyn and
Linacre, who had been taught in Italy.

In spite of all this promise, the Renaissance in England was rotten
at the root. Theology killed it, or, at the least, breathed on it a
deadly blight. Our academic forefathers "drove at practice," and saw
everything with the eyes of party men, and of men who recognised no
interest save that of religion. It is Mr. Seebohm (Oxford Reformers,
1867), I think, who detects, in Colet's concern with the religious
side of literature, the influence of Savonarola. When in Italy "he
gave himself entirely to the study of the Holy Scriptures." He
brought to England from Italy, not the early spirit of Pico of
Mirandola, the delightful freedom of his youth, but his later
austerity, his later concern with the harmony of scripture and
philosophy. The book which the dying Petrarch held wistfully in his
hands, revering its very material shape, though he could not spell
its contents, was the Iliad of Homer. The book which the young
Renaissance held in its hands in England, with reverence and
eagerness as strong and tender, contained the Epistles of St. Paul.
It was on the Epistles that Colet lectured in 1496-97, when doctors
and abbots flocked to hear him, with their note-books in their hands.
Thus Oxford differed from Florence, England from Italy: the former
all intent on what it believed to be the very Truth, the latter all
absorbed on what it knew to be no other than Beauty herself.

We cannot afford to regret the choice that England and Oxford made.
The search for Truth was as certain to bring "not peace but a sword"
as the search for Beauty was to bring the decadence of Italy, the
corruption of manners, the slavery of two hundred years. Still, our
practical earnestness did rob Oxford of the better side of the
Renaissance. It is not possible here to tell the story of religious
and social changes, which followed so hard upon each other, in the
reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth. A few
moments in these stormy years are still memorable for some terrible
or ludicrous event.

That Oxford was rather "Trojan" than "Greek," that men were more
concerned about their dinners and their souls than their prosody and
philosophy, in 1531, is proved by the success of Grynaeus. He
visited the University and carried off quantities of MSS., chiefly
Neoplatonic, on which no man set any value. Yet, in 1535, Layton, a
Commissioner, wrote to Cromwell that he and his companions had
established the New Learning in the University. A Lecture in Greek
was founded in Magdalen, two chairs of Greek and Latin in New, two in
All Souls, and two already existed, as we have seen, in C. C. C.
This Layton is he that took a Rabelaisian and unquotable revenge on
that old tyrant of the Schools, Duns Scotus. "We have set Dunce in
Bocardo, and utterly banished him from Oxford for ever, with all his
blind glosses . . . And the second time we came to New College we
found all the great quadrant full of the leaves of Dunce, the wind
blowing them into every corner. And there we found a certain Mr.
Greenfield, a gentleman of Buckinghamshire, gathering up part of the
same books' leaves, as he said, therewith to make him sewers or
blanshers, to keep the deer within his wood, thereby to have the
better cry with his hounds." Ah! if the University Commissioners
would only set Aristotle, and Messrs. Ritter and Preller, "in
Bocardo," many a young gentleman out of Buckinghamshire and other
counties would joyously help in the good work, and use the pages, if
not for blanshers, for other sportive purposes!

"Habent sua fata libelli," as Terentianus Maurus says, in a
frequently quoted verse. If Cromwell's Commissioners were hard on
Duns, the Visitors of Edward VI. were ruthless in their condemnation
of everything that smacked of Popery or of magic. Evangelical
religion in England has never been very favourable to learning.
Thus, in 1550 "the ancient libraries were by their appointment
rifled. Many manuscripts, guilty of no other superstition than red
letters in the front or titles, were condemned to the fire . . . Such
books wherein appeared angles were thought sufficient to be
destroyed, because accounted Papish or diabolical, or both." A cart-
load of MSS., lucubrations of the Fellows of Merton, chiefly in
controversial divinity, was taken away; but, by the good services of
one Herks, a Dutchman, many books were preserved, and, later, entered
the Bodleian Library. The world can spare the controversial
manuscripts of the Fellows of Merton, but who knows what invaluable
scrolls may have perished in the Puritan bonfire! Persons, the
librarian of Balliol, sold old books to buy Protestant ones. Two
noble libraries were sold for forty shillings, for waste paper. Thus
the reign of Edward VI. gave free play to that ascetic and
intolerable hatred of letters which had now and again made its voice
heard under Henry VIII. Oxford was almost empty. The schools were
used by laundresses, as a place wherein clothes might conveniently be
dried. The citizens encroached on academic property. Some schools
were quite destroyed, and the sites converted into gardens. Few men
took degrees. The college plate and the jewels left by pious
benefactors were stolen, and went to the melting-pot. Thus
flourished Oxford under Edward VI.

The reign of Mary was scarcely more favourable to letters. No one
knew what to be at in religion. In Magdalen no one could be found to
say Mass, the fellows were turned out, the undergraduates were
whipped--boyish martyrs--and crossed at the buttery. What most
pleases, in this tragic reign, is the anecdote of Edward Anne of
Corpus. Anne, with the conceit of youth, had written a Latin satire
on the Mass. He was therefore sentenced to be publicly flogged in
the hall of his college, and to receive one lash for each line in his
satire. Never, surely, was a poet so sharply taught the merit of
brevity. How Edward Anne must have regretted that he had not knocked
off an epigram, a biting couplet, or a smart quatrain with the sting
of the wit in the tail!

Oxford still retains a memory of the hideous crime of this reign. In
Broad Street, under the windows of Balliol, there is a small stone
cross in the pavement. This marks the place where, some years ago, a
great heap of wooden ashes was found. These ashes were the remains
of the fire of October 16th, 1555--the day when Ridley and Latimer
were burned. "They were brought," says Wood, "to a place over
against Balliol College, where now stands a row of poor cottages, a
little before which, under the town wall, ran so clear a stream that
it gave the name of Canditch, candida fossa, to the way leading by
it." To recover the memory of that event, let the reader fancy
himself on the top of the tower of St. Michael's, that is,
immediately above the city wall. No houses interfere between him and
the open country, in which Balliol stands; not with its present
frontage, but much farther back. A clear stream runs through the
place where is now Broad Street, and the road above is dark with a
swaying crowd, out of which rises the vapour of smoke from the
martyrs' pile. At your feet, on the top of Bocardo prison (which
spanned the street at the North Gate), Cranmer stands manacled,
watching the fiery death which is soon to purge away the memory of
his own faults and crimes. He, too, joined that "noble army of
martyrs" who fought all, though they knew it not, for one cause--the
freedom of the human spirit.

It was in a night-battle that they fell, and "confused was the cry of
the paean," but they won the victory, and we have entered into the
land for which they contended. When we think of these martyrdoms,
can we wonder that the Fellows of Lincoln did not spare to ring a
merry peal on their gaudy-day, the day of St. Hugh, even though Mary
the Queen had just left her bitter and weary life?

It would be pleasant to have to say that learning returned to Oxford
on the rising of "that bright Occidental star, Queen Elizabeth." On
the other hand, the University recovered slowly, after being "much
troubled," as Wood says, "AND HURRIED UP AND DOWN by the changes of
religion." We get a glimpse, from Wood, of the Fellows of Merton
singing the psalms of Sternhold and Hopkins round a fire in the
College Hall. We see the sub-warden snatching the book out of the
hands of a junior fellow, and declaring "that he would never dance
after that pipe." We find Oxford so illiterate, that she could not
even provide an University preacher! A country gentleman, Richard
Taverner of Woodeaton, would stroll into St. Mary's, with his sword
and damask gown, and give the Academicians, destitute of academical
advice, a sermon beginning with these words:

"Arriving at the mount of St. Mary's, I have brought you some fine
bisketts baked in the Oven of Charitie, carefully conserved for the
chickens of the Church, the sparrows of the spirit, and the sweet
swallows of salvation.

In spite of these evil symptoms, a Greek oration and plenty of Latin
plays were ready for Queen Elizabeth when she visited Oxford in 1566.
The religious refugees, who had "eaten mice at Zurich" in Mary's
time, had returned, and their influence was hostile to learning. A
man who had lived on mice for his faith was above Greek. The court
which contained Sydney, and which welcomed Bruno, was strong enough
to make the classics popular. That famed Polish Count, Alasco, was
"received with Latin orations and disputes (1583) in the best
manner," and only a scoffing Italian, like Bruno, ventured to call
the Heads of Houses THE DROWSY HEADS--dormitantes. Bruno was a man
whom nothing could teach to speak well of people in authority.
Oxford enjoyed the religious peace (not extended to "Seminarists") of
Elizabeth's and James's reigns, and did not foresee that she was
about to become the home of the Court and a place of arms.


The gardens of Wadham College on a bright morning in early spring are
a scene in which the memory of old Oxford pleasantly lingers, and is
easily revived. The great cedars throw their secular shadow on the
ancient turf, the chapel forms a beautiful background; the whole
place is exactly what it was two hundred and sixty years ago. The
stones of Oxford walls, when they do not turn black and drop off in
flakes, assume tender tints of the palest gold, red, and orange.
Along a wall, which looks so old that it may well have formed a
defence of the ancient Augustinian priory, the stars of the yellow
jasmine flower abundantly. The industrious hosts of the bees have
left their cells, to labour in this first morning of spring; the
doves coo, the thrushes are noisy in the trees. All breathes of the
year renewal, and of the coming April; and all that gladdens us may
have gladdened some indolent scholar in the time of King James.

In the reign of the first Stuart king of England, Oxford became the
town that we know. Even in Elizabeth's days, could we ascend the
stream of centuries, we should find ourselves much at home in Oxford.
The earliest trustworthy map, that of Agas (1578), is worth studying,
if we wish to understand the Oxford that Elizabeth left, and that the
architects of James embellished, giving us the most interesting
examples of collegiate buildings, which are both stately and
comfortable. Let us enter Oxford by the Iffley Road, in the year
1578. We behold, as Agas enthusiastically writes:

"A citie seated, rich in everything,
Girt with wood and water, meadow, corn, and hill."

The way is not bordered, of course, by the long, straggling streets
of rickety cottages, which now stretch from the bridge half-way to
Cowley and Iffley. The church, called by ribalds "the boiled
rabbit," from its peculiar shape, lies on the right; there is a gate
in the city wall, on the place where the road now turns to Holywell.
At this time the walls still existed, and ran from Magdalen past "St.
Mary's College, called Newe," through Exeter, through the site of Mr.
Parker's shop, and all along the south side of Broad Street to St.
Michael's, and Bocardo Gate. There the wall cut across to the
castle. On the southern side of the city, it skirted Corpus and
Merton Gardens, and was interrupted by Christ Church. Probably if it
were possible for us to visit Elizabethan Oxford, the walls and the
five castle towers would seem the most curious features in the place.
Entering the East Gate, Magdalen and Magdalen Grammar School would be
familiar objects. St. Edmund's Hall would be in its present place,
and Queen's would present its ancient Gothic front. It is easy to
imagine the change in the High Street which would be produced by a
Queen's not unlike Oriel, in the room of the highly classical edifice
of Wren. All Souls would be less remarkable; at St. Mary's we should
note the absence of the "scandalous image" of Our Lady over the door.
At Merton the fellows' quadrangle did not yet exist, and a great
wood-yard bordered on Corpus. In front of Oriel was an open space
with trees, and there were a few scattered buildings, such as
Peckwater's Inn (on the site of "Peck"), and Canterbury College. Tom
Quad was stately but incomplete. Turning from St. Mary's past B. N.
C., we miss the attics in Brasenose front, we miss the imposing
Radcliffe, we miss all the quadrangle of the Schools, except the
Divinity school, and we miss the Theatre. If we go down South
Street, past Ch. Ch. we find an open space where Pembroke stands.
Where Wadham is now, the most uniform, complete, and unchanged of all
the colleges, there are only the open pleasances, and perhaps a few
ruins of the Augustinian priory. St. John's lacks its inner
quadrangle, and Balliol, in place of its new buildings, has its old
delightful grove. As to the houses of the town, they are not unlike
the tottering and picturesque old roofs and gables of King Street.

To the Oxford of Elizabeth's reign, then, the founders and architects
of her successor added, chiefly, the Schools' quadrangle, with the
great gate of the five orders, a building beautiful, as it were, in
its own despite. They added a smaller curiosity of the same sort, at
Merton; they added Wadham, perhaps their most successful achievement.
Their taste was a medley of new and old: they made a not
uninteresting effort to combine the exquisiteness of Gothic
decoration with the proportions of Greek architecture. The tower of
the five orders reminds the spectator, in a manner, of the style of
Milton. It is rich and overloaded, yet its natural beauty is not
abated by the relics out of the great treasures of Greece and Rome,
which are built into the mass. The Ionic and Corinthian pillars are
like the Latinisms of Milton, the double-gilding which once covered
the figures and emblems of the upper part of the tower gave them the
splendour of Miltonic ornament. "When King James came from Woodstock
to see this quadrangular pile, he commanded the gilt figures to be
whitened over," because they were so dazzling, or, as Wood expresses
it, "so glorious and splendid that none, especially when the sun
shone, could behold them." How characteristic of James is this
anecdote! He was by no means le roi soleil, as courtiers called
Louis XIV., as divines called the pedantic Stuart. It is easy to
fancy the King issuing from the Library of Bodley, where he has been
turning over books of theology, prosing, and displaying his learning
for hours. The rheumy, blinking eyes are dazzled in the sunlight,
and he peevishly commands the gold work to be "whitened over."
Certainly the translators of the Bible were but ill-advised when they
compared his Majesty to the rising sun in all his glory.

James was rather fond of visiting Oxford and the royal residence at
Woodstock. We shall see that his Court, the most dissolute, perhaps,
that England ever tolerated, corrupted the manners of the students.
On one of his Majesty's earliest visits he had a chance of displaying
the penetration of which he was so proud. James was always finding
out something or somebody, till it almost seemed as if people had
discovered that the best way to flatter him was to try to deceive
him. In 1604, there was in Oxford a certain Richard Haydock, a
Bachelor of Physic. This Haydock practised his profession during the
day like other mortals, but varied from the kindly race of men by a
pestilent habit of preaching all night. It was Haydock's contention
that he preached unconsciously in his sleep, when he would give out a
text with the greatest gravity, and declare such sacred matters as
were revealed to him in slumber, "his preaching coming by
revelation." Though people went to hear Haydock, they were chiefly
influenced by curiosity. "His auditory were willing to silence him
by pulling, haling, and pinching him, yet would he pertinaciously
persist to the end, and sleep still." The King was introduced into
Haydock's bedroom, heard him declaim, and next day cross-examined him
in private. Awed by the royal acuteness, Haydock confessed that he
was a humbug, and that he had taken to preaching all night by way of
getting a little notoriety, and because he felt himself to be "a
buried man in the University."

That a man should hope to get reputation by preaching all night is
itself a proof that the University, under James, was too
theologically minded. When has it been otherwise? The religious
strife of the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Mary, was not
asleep; the troubles of Charles's time were beginning to stir.
Oxford was as usual an epitome of English opinion. We see the
struggle of the wildest Puritanism, of Arminianism, of Pelagianism,
of a dozen "isms," which are dead enough, but have left their
pestilent progeny to disturb a place of religion, learning, and
amusement. By whatever names the different sects were called, men's
ideas and tendencies were divided into two easily recognisable
classes. Calvinism and Puritanism on one side, with the Puritanic
haters of letters and art, were opposed to Catholicism in germ, to
literature, and mundane studies. How difficult it is to take a side
in this battle, where both parties had one foot on firm ground, the
other in chaos, where freedom, or what was to become freedom of
thought, was allied with narrow bigotry, where learning was chained
to superstition!

As early as 1606, Mr. William Laud, B.D., of St. John's College,
began to disturb the University. The young man preached a sermon
which was thought to look Romewards. Laud became SUSPECT, it was
thought a "scandalous" thing to give him the usual courteous
greetings in the street or in the college quadrangle. From this time
the history of Oxford, for forty years, is mixed up with the history
of Laud. The divisions of Roundhead and of Cavalier have begun. The
majority of the undergraduates are on the side of Laud; and the
Court, the citizens, and many of the elder members of the University,
are with the Puritans.

The Court and the King, we have said, were fond of being entertained
in the college halls. James went from libraries to academic
disputations, thence to dinner, and from dinner to look on at
comedies played by the students. The Cambridge men did not care to
see so much royal favour bestowed on Oxford. When James visited the
University in 1641, a Cambridge wit produced a remarkable epigram.
For some mysterious reason the playful fancies of the sister
University have never been greatly admired at Oxford, where the brisk
air, men flatter themselves, breeds nimbler humours. Here is part of
the Cantab's epigram:

"To Oxenford the King has gone,
With all his mighty peers,
That hath in peace maintained us,
These five or six long years."

The poem maunders on for half a dozen lines, and "loses itself in the
sands," like the River Rhine, without coming to any particular point
or conclusion. How much more lively is the Oxford couplet on the
King, who, being bored by some amateur theatricals, twice or thrice
made as if he would leave the hall, where men failed dismally to
entertain him.

"The King himself did offer,"--"What, I pray?"
"He offered twice or thrice--to go away!"

As a result of the example of the Court, the students began to wear
love-locks. In Elizabeth's time, when men wore their hair "no longer
than their ears," long locks had been a mark, says Wood, of
"swaggerers." Drinking and gambling were now very fashionable,
undergraduates were whipped for wearing boots, while "Puritans were
many and troublesome," and Laud publicly declared (1614) that
"Presbyterians were as bad as Papists." Did Laud, after all, think
Papists so very bad? In 1617 he was President of his college, St.
John's, on which he set his mark. It is to Laud and to Inigo Jones
that Oxford owes the beautiful garden-front, perhaps the most lovely
thing in Oxford. From the gardens--where for so many summers the
beauty of England has rested in the shadow of the chestnut-trees,
amid the music of the chimes, and in air heavy with the scent of the
acacia flowers--from the gardens, Laud's building looks rather like a
country-house than a college.

If St. John's men have lived in the University too much as if it were
a large country-house, if they have imitated rather the Toryism than
the learning of their great Archbishop, the blame is partly Laud's.
How much harm to study he and Waynflete have unwittingly done, and
how much they have added to the romance of Oxford! It is easy to
understand that men find it a weary task to read in sight of the
beauty of the groves of Magdalen and of St. John's. When Kubla Khan
"a stately pleasure-dome decreed," he did not mean to settle students
there, and to ask them for metaphysical essays, and for Greek and
Latin prose compositions. Kubla Khan would have found a palace to
his desire in the gardens of Laud, or where Cherwell, "meandering
with a mazy motion," stirs the green weeds, and flashes from the
mill-wheel, and flows to the Isis through meadows white and purple
with fritillaries.

"And here are gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossoms many an incense-bearing tree";

but here is scarcely the proper training-ground of first-class men!

Oxford returned to her ancient uses in 1625. Soon after the
accession of Charles I. the plague broke out in London, and Oxford
entertained the Parliament, as six hundred years before she had
received the Witan. There seemed something ominous in all that
Charles did in his earlier years--the air, or men's minds, was full
of the presage of fate. It was observed that the House of Commons
met in the Divinity School, and that the place seemed to have
infected them with theological passion. After 1625 there was never a
Parliament but had its committee to discuss religion, and to stray
into the devious places of divinity. The plague pursued Charles to
Oxford. In those days, and long afterwards, it was a common
complaint that the citizens built rows of poor cottages within the
walls, and that these cottages were crowded by dirty and indigent
people. Plague was bred almost yearly at Oxford, and Charles really
seems to have improved the sanitary arrangements of the city.

Laud, the President of St. John's, became, by some intrigue,
Chancellor of the University. He made Oxford many presents of Greek,
Chinese, Hebrew, Latin, and Arabic MSS. There may have been--let us
hope there were--quiet bookworms who enjoyed these gifts, while the
town and University were bubbling over with religious feuds. People
grumbled that "Popish darts were whet afresh on a Dutch grindstone."
A series of anti-Romish and anti-Royal sermons and pamphlets,
followed as a rule by a series of recantations, kept men's minds in a
ferment. The good that Laud did by his gifts--and he was a
munificent patron of learning--he destroyed by his dogmatism.
Scholars could not decipher Greek texts while they were torturing
biblical ones into arguments for and against the opinions of the
Chancellor. What is the true story about the gorgeous vestments
which were found in a box in the house of the President of St.
John's, and which are now preserved in the library of that college?
Did they belong to the last of the old Catholic presidents of what
was Chichele's College of St. Bernard before the Reformation? Were
they, on the other hand, the property of Laud himself? It has been
said that Laud would not have known how to wear them. Fancy sees him
treasuring that bright ecclesiastical raiment, [Greek text which
cannot be reproduced], in some place of security. At night, perhaps,
when candles were lit and curtains drawn, and he was alone, he may
have arrayed himself in the gorgeous chasuble before the mirror, as
Hetty wore her surreptitious finery. "There is a great deal of human
nature in man." If Laud really strutted in solitude, draped rather
at random in these vestments, the ecclesiastical gear is even more
interesting than the thin ivory-headed staff which supported him on
his way to the scaffold; more curious than the diary in which he
recorded the events of night and day, of dreaming hours and waking.
In the library at St. John's they show his bust--a tarnished, gilded
work of art. He has a neat little cocked-up moustache, not like a
prelate's; the face is that of a Bismarck without strength of

In speaking of Oxford before the civil war, let us not forget that
true students and peaceable men found a welcome retreat beyond the
din of theological fictions. Lord Falkland's house was within ten
miles of the town. "In this time," says Clarendon, in his immortal
panegyric, "in this time he contracted familiarity and friendship
with the most polished men of the University, who found such an
immenseness of wit and such a solidity of judgment in him, so
infinite a fancy, bound in by a most logical ratiocination, such a
vast knowledge that he was not ignorant in anything, yet such an
excessive humility as if he had known nothing, that they frequently
resorted and dwelt with him, as in a college situated in a purer air;
so that his house was a university in a less volume, whither they
came not so much for repose as study; and to examine and refine those
grosser propositions, which laziness and consent made current in
vulgar conversation."

The signs of the times grew darker. In 1636 the King and Queen
visited Oxford, "with no applause." In 1640 Laud sent the University
his last present of manuscripts. He was charged with many offences.
He had repaired crucifixes; he had allowed the "scandalous image" to
be set up in the porch of St. Mary's; and Alderman Nixon, the Puritan
grocer, had seen a man bowing to the scandalous image--so he
declared. In 1642 Charles asked for money from the colleges, for the
prosecution of the war with the Parliament. The beautiful old
college plate began its journey to the melting-pot. On August 9th
the scholars armed themselves. There were two bands of musqueteers,
one of pikemen, one of halberdiers. In the reign of Henry III. the
men had been on the other side. Magdalen bridge was blocked up with
heaps of wood. Stones, for the primitive warfare of the time, were
transported to the top of Magdalen tower. The stones were never
thrown at any foemen. Royalists and Roundheads in turn occupied the
place; and while grocer Nixon fled before the Cavaliers, he came back
and interceded for All Souls College (which dealt with him for figs
and sugar) when the Puritans wished to batter the graven images on
the gate. On October 29th the King came, after Edgehill fight, the
Court assembled, and Oxford was fortified. The place was made
impregnable in those days of feeble artillery. The author of the
Gesta Stephani had pointed out, many centuries before, that Oxford,
if properly defended, could never be taken, thanks to the network of
streams that surrounds her. Though the citizens worked grudgingly
and slowly, the trenches were at last completed. The earthworks--a
double line--ran in and out of the interlacing streams. A
Parliamentary force on Headington Hill seems to have been unable to
play on the city with artillery. Barbed arrows were served out to
the scholars, who formed a regiment of more than six hundred men.
The Queen held her little court in Merton, in the Warden's lodgings.
Clarendon gives rather a humorous account of the discontent of the
fine ladies "The town was full of lords (besides those of the
Council), and of persons of the best quality, with very many ladies,
who, when not pleased themselves, kept others from being so." Oxford
never was so busy and so crowded; letters, society, war, were all
confused; there were excursions against Brown at Abingdon, and alarms
from Fairfax on Headington Hill. The siege, from May 22nd to June
5th, was almost a farce. The Parliamentary generals "fought with
perspective glasses." Neither Cromwell at Wytham, nor Brown at
Wolvercot, pushed matters too hard. When two Puritan regiments
advanced on Hinksey, Mr. Smyth blazed away at them from his house.
As in Zululand, any building made a respectable fort, when cannon-
balls had so little penetrative power, or when artillery was not at
the front. Oxford was surrendered, with other places of arms, after
Naseby, and--Presbyterians became heads of colleges!


In Merton Chapel a little mural tablet bears the crest, the name, and
the dates of the birth and death, of Antony Wood. He has been our
guide in these sketches of Oxford life, as he must be the guide of
the gravest and most exact historians. No one who cares for the past
of the University should think without pity and friendliness of this
lonely scholar, who in his lifetime was unpitied and unbefriended.
We have reached the period in which he lived and died, in the midst
of changes of Church and State, and surrounded by more worldly
scholars, whose letters remain to testify that, in the reign of the
Second Charles, Oxford was modern Oxford. In the epistles of
Humphrey Prideaux, student of Christ Church, we recognise the foibles
of the modern University, the love of gossip, the internecine
criticism, the greatness of little men whom rien ne peut plaire.

Antony Wood was a scholar of a different sort, of a sort that has
never been very common in Oxford. He was a perfect dungeon of books;
but he wrote as well as read, which has never been a usual practice
in his University. Wood was born in 1632, in one of the old houses
opposite Merton, perhaps in the curious ancient hall which has been
called Beham, Bream, and Bohemiae Aula, by various corruptions of the
original spelling. As a boy, Wood must have seen the siege of
Oxford, which he describes not without humour. As a young man, he
watched the religious revolution which introduced Presbyterian Heads
of Houses, and sent Puritanical captains of horse, like Captain James
Wadsworth, to hunt for "Papistical reliques" and "massing stuffs"
among the property of the President of C. C. C. and the Dean of Ch.
Ch. (1646-1648). In 1650 he saw the Chancellorship of Oliver
Cromwell; in 1659 he welcomed the Restoration, and rejoiced that "the
King had come to his own again." The tastes of an antiquary
combined, with the natural reaction against Puritanism, to make
Antony Wood a High Churchman, and not averse to Rome, while he had
sufficient breadth of mind to admire Thomas Hobbes, the patriarch of
English learning. But Wood had little room in his heart or mind for
any learning save that connected with the University. Oxford, the
city, and the colleges, the remains of the old religious art, the
customs, the dresses--these things he adored with a loverlike
devotion, which was utterly unrewarded. He owed no office to the
University, and he was even expelled (1693) for having written
sharply against Clarendon. This did not abate his zeal, nor prevent
him from passing all his days, and much of his nights, in the study
and compilation of University history.

The author of Wood's biography has left a picture of his sombre and
laborious old age. He rose at four o'clock every morning. He
scarcely tasted food till supper-time. At the hour of the college
dinner he visited the booksellers' shops, where he was sure not to be
disturbed by the gossip of dons, young and old. After supper he
would smoke his pipe and drink his pot of ale in a tavern. It was
while he took this modest refreshment, before old age came upon him,
that Antony once fell in, and fell out, with Dick Peers. This Dick
was one of the men employed by Dr. Fell, the Dean of Ch. Ch., to
translate Wood's History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford
into Latin. The translation gave rise to a number of literary
quarrels. As Dean of Ch. Ch., Dr. Fell yielded to the besetting sin
of deans, and fancied himself the absolute master of the University,
if not something superior to mortal kind. An autocrat of this sort
had no scruples about changing Wood's copy whenever he differed from
Wood in political or religious opinion. Now Antony, as we said, had
eyes to discern the greatness of Hobbes, whom the Dean considered no
better than a Deist or an Atheist. The Dean therefore calmly altered
all that Wood had written of the Philosopher of Malmesbury, and so
maligned Hobbes that the old man, meeting the King in Pall Mall,
begged leave to reply in his own defence. Charles allowed the
dispute to go on, and Hobbes hit Fell rather hard. The Dean retorted
with the famous expression about irritabile illud et vanissimum
Malmesburiense animal. This controversy amused Oxford, but bred bad
feeling between Antony Wood and Dick Peers, the translator of his
work, and the tool of the Dean of Ch. Ch. Prideaux (Letters to John
Ellis; Camden Society, 1875) describes the battles in city taverns
between author and translator:

"I suppose that you have heard of the continuall feuds, and often
battles, between the author and the translator; they had a skirmish
at Sol Hardeing [keeper of a tavern in All Saints' parish], another
at the printeing house [the Sheldonian theatre], and several other

From the record of these combats, we learn that the recluse Antony
was a man of his hands:

"As Peers always cometh off with a bloody nose or a black eye, he was
a long time afraid to goe annywhere where he might chance to meet his
too powerful adversary, for fear of another drubbing, till he was
pro-proctor, and now Woods (sic) is as much afraid to meet him, least
he should exercise his authority upon him. And although he be a good
bowzeing blad, yet it hath been observed that never since his
adversary hath been in office hath he dared to be out after nine,
least he should meet him and exact the rigor of the statute upon

The statute required all scholars to be in their rooms before Tom had
ceased ringing. It was, perhaps, too rash to say that the Oxford of
the Restoration was already modern Oxford. The manners of the
students were, so to speak, more accentuated. However much the
lecturer in Idolology may dislike the method and person of the Reader
in the Mandingo language, these two learned men do not box in
taverns, nor take off their coats if they meet each other at the
Clarendon Press. People are careful not to pitch into each other in
that way, though the temper which confounds opponents for their
theory of irregular verbs is not at all abated. As Wood grew in
years he did not increase in honours. "He was a mere scholar," and
consequently might expect from the greater number of men disrespect.
When he was but sixty-four, he looked eighty at least. His dress was
not elegant, "cleanliness being his chief object." He rarely left
his rooms, that were papered with MSS., and where every table and
chair had its load of books and yellow parchments from the College
muniment rooms. When strangers came to Oxford with letters of
recommendation, the recluse would leave his study, and gladly lead
them about the town, through Logic Lane to Queen's, which had not
then the sublimely classical front, built by Hawksmoor, "but
suggested by Sir Christopher Wren." It is worthy of his genius.
Wood died in 1695, "forgiving every one." He could well afford to do
so. In his Athenae Oxonienses he had written the lives of all his

Wood, "being a mere scholar," could, of course, expect nothing but
disrespect in a place like Oxford. His younger contemporary,
Humphrey Prideaux, was, in the Oxford manner, a man of the world. He
was the son of a Cornish squire, was educated at Westminster under
Busby (that awful pedagogue, whose birch seems so near a memory), got
a studentship at Christ Church in 1668, and took his B.A. degree in
1672. Here it may be observed that men went up quite as late in life
then as they do now, for Prideaux was twenty-four years old when he
took his degree. Fell was Dean of Christ Church, and was showing
laudable zeal in working the University Press. What a pity it is
that the University Press of to-day has become a trading concern, a
shop for twopenny manuals and penny primers! It is scarcely proper
that the University should at once organise examinations and sell the
manuals which contain the answers to the questions most likely to be
set. To return to Fell; he made Prideaux edit Lucius Florus, and
publish the Marmora Oxoniensia, which came out 1676. We must not
suppose, however, that Prideaux was an enthusiastic archaeologist.
He did the Marmora because the Dean commanded it, and because
educated people were at that period not uninterested in Greek art.
At the present hour one may live a lifetime in Oxford and only learn,
by the accident of examining passmen in the Arundel Room, that the
University possesses any marbles. In the walls of the Arundel Room
(on the ground-floor in the Schools' quadrangle) these touching
remains of Hellas are interred. There are the funereal stelae, with
their quiet expression of sorrow, of hope, of resignation. The young
man, on his tombstone, is represented in the act of rising and taking
the hand of a friend. He is bound on his latest journey.

"He goeth forth unto the unknown land,
Where wife nor child may follow; thus far tell
The lingering clasp of hand in faithful hand,
And that brief carven legend, Friend, farewell.

O pregnant sign, profound simplicity!
All passionate pain and fierce remonstrating
Being wholly purged, leave this mere memory,
Deep but not harsh, a sad and sacred thing." {1}

The lady chooses from a coffer a trinket, or a ribbon. It is her
last toilette she is making, with no fear and no regret. Again, the
long-severed souls are meeting with delight in the home of the just
made perfect.

Even in the Schools these scraps of Greek lapidary's work seem
beautiful to us, in their sober and cheerful acceptance of life and
death. We hope, in Oxford, that the study of ancient art, as well as
of ancient literature, may soon be made possible. These tangible
relics of the past bring us very near to the heart and the life of
Greece, and waken a kindly enthusiasm in every one who approaches
them. In Humphrey Prideaux's letters there is not a trace of any
such feeling. He does his business, but it is hack-work. In this he
differs from the modern student, but in his caustic description of
the rude and witless society of the place he is modern enough. In
his letters to his friend, John Ellis, of the State Paper Office, it
is plain that Prideaux wants to get preferment. His taste and his
ambition alike made him detest the heavy, beer-drinking doctors, the
fast "All Souls gentlemen," and the fossils of stupidity who are
always plentifully imbedded in the soil of University life.
Fellowships were then sold, at Magdalen and New, when they were not
given by favour. Prideaux grumbles (July 28th, 1674) at the laxness
of the Commissioners, who should have exposed this abuse: "In town,
one of their inquirys is whether any of the scholars weare pantaloons
or periwigues, or keep dogs." The great dispute about dogs, which
raged at a later date in University College, had already begun to
disturb dons and undergraduates. The choice language of Oxford
contempt was even then extant, and Prideaux, like Grandison in Daniel
Deronda, spoke curtly of the people whom he did not like as "brutes."
"Pembroke--the fittest colledge in the town for brutes." The
University did not encourage certain "players" who had paid the place
a visit, and the players, in revenge, had gone about the town at
night and broken the windows.

When the journey from London to Oxford is so easily performed, it is
amusing to read of Prideaux's miserable adventures, in the diligence,
between a lady of easy manners, a "pitiful rogue," and two
undergraduates who "sordidly affected debauchery."

"This ill company made me very miserable all the way. Only once I
could not but heartily laugh to see Fincher be sturdyly belaboured by
five or six carmen with whips and prong staves for provoking them
with some of his extravagant frolics."

The "violent affection to vice" in the University, or in the country,
was, of course, the reaction against the godliness of Puritan
captains of horse. Another form of the reaction is discernible in
the revived High Church sentiments of Prideaux, Wood, and most of the
students of the time.

The manners of the undergraduates were not much better than those of
the pot-house-haunting seniors. Dr. Good, the Master of Balliol, "a
good old toast," had much trouble with his students.

"There is, over against Balliol College, a dingy, horrid, scandalous
ale-house, fit for none but draymen and tinkers, and such as, by
going there, have made themselves equally scandalous. Here the
Balliol men continually, and by perpetuall bubbing, add art to their
natural stupidity, to make themselves perfect sots."

The envy and jealousy of the inferior colleges, alas! have put about
many things, in these latter days, to the discredit of the Balliol
men, but not even Humphrey Prideaux would, out of all his stock of
epithets, choose "sottish" and "stupid." In these old times,
however, Dr. Good had to call the men together, and -

"Inform them of the mischiefs of that hellish liquor called ale; but
one of them, not so tamely to be preached out of his beloved liquor,
made answer that the Vice-Chancelour's men drank ale at the "Split
Crow," and why should not they too?"

On this, old Dr. Good posted off to the Vice-Chancellor, who, "being
a lover of old ale" himself, returned a short answer to the head of
Balliol. The old man went back to his college, and informed his
fellows, "that he was assured there were no hurt in ale, so that now
they may be sots by authority." Christ Church men were not more
sober. David Whitford, who had been the tutor of Shirley the poet,
was found lying dead in his bed: "he had been going to take a dram
for refreshment, but death came between the cup and the lips, and
this is the end of Davy." Prideaux records, in the same feeling
style, that smallpox carried off many of the undergraduates, "besides
my brother," a student at Corpus.

The University Press supplied Prideaux with gossip. They printed "a
book against Hobs," written by Clarendon. Hobbes was the heresiarch
of the time, and when an unhappy fellow of Merton hanged himself, the
doctrines of Hobbes were said to have prompted him to the deed. To
return to the Press. "Our Christmas book will be Cornelius Nepos . .
. Our marbles are now printing." Prideaux, as has been said, took no
interest in his own work.

"I coat (quote) a multitude of authors; if people think the better of
me for that, I will think the worse of them for their judgement. It
beeing soe easyly a thinge to make this specious show, he must be a
fool that cannot gain whatsoever repute is to be gotten by it. If
people will admire him for this, they may; I shall admire such for
nothing else but their good indexs. As long as books have these, on
what subject may we not coat as many others as we please, and never
have read one of them?"

It is not easy to gather from this confession whether Prideaux had or
had not read the books he "coated." It is certain that Dean Aldrich
(and here again we recognise the eternal criticism of modern Oxford)
held a poor opinion of Humphrey Prideaux. Aldrich said Prideaux was
"incorrect," "muddy-headed," "he would do little or nothing besides
heaping up notes"; "as for MSS. he would not trouble himself about
any, but rest wholly upon what had been done to his hands by former
editors." This habit of carping, this trick of collecting notes,
this inability to put a work through, this dawdling erudition, this
horror of manuscripts, every Oxford man knows them, and feels those
temptations which seem to be in the air. Oxford is a discouraging
place. College drudgery absorbs the hours of students in proportion
to their conscientiousness. They have only the waste odds-and-ends
of time for their own labours. They live in an atmosphere of
criticism. They collect notes, they wait, they dream; their youth
goes by, and the night comes when no man can work. The more praise
to the tutors and lecturers who decipher the records of Assyria, or
patiently collate the manuscripts of the Iliad, who not only teach
what is already known, but add to the stock of knowledge, and advance
the boundaries of scholarship and science.

One lesson may be learned from Prideaux's cynical letters, which is
still worth the attention of every young Oxford student who is
conscious of ambition, of power, and of real interest in letters. He
can best serve his University by coming out of her, by declining
college work, and by devoting himself to original study in some less
exhausted air, in some less critical society.

Among the aversions of Humphrey Prideaux were the "gentlemen of All
Souls." They certainly showed extraordinary impudence when they
secretly employed the University Press to print off copies of Marc
Antonio's engravings after Giulio Romano's drawings. It chanced that
Fell visited the press rather late one evening, and found "his press
working at such an imployment. The prints and plates he hath seased,
and threatened the owners of them with expulsion." "All Souls," adds
Prideaux, "is a scandalous place." Yet All Souls was the college of
young Mr. Guise, an Arabic scholar, "the greatest miracle in the
knowledge of that I ever heard of." Guise died of smallpox while
still very young.

Thus Prideaux prattles on, about Admiral Van Tromp, "a drunken greazy
Dutchman," whom Speed, of St. John's, conquered in boozing; of the
disputes about races in Port Meadow; of the breaking into the Mermaid
Tavern. "We Christ Church men bear the blame of it, our ticks, as
the noise of the town will have it, amounting to 1,500 pounds." Thus
Christ Church had little cause to throw the first stone at Balliol.
Prideaux shows little interest in letters, little in the press,
though he lived in palmy days of printing, in the time of the
Elzevirs; none at all in the educational work of the place. He
sneers at the Puritans, and at the controversy on "The Foundations of
Hell Torments shaken and removed." He admits that Locke "is a man of
very good converse, but is chiefly concerned to spy out the movements
of the philosopher, suspected of sedition, and to report them to
Ellis in town. About the new buildings, as of the beautiful western
gateway, where Great Tom is hung, the work of Wren, Prideaux says
little; St. Mary's was suffering restoration, and "the old men,"
including Wood, we may believe, "exceedingly exclaim against it."
That is the way of Oxford, a college is constantly rebuilding amid
the protests of the rest of the University. There is no question
more common, or less agreeable than this, "What are you doing to your
tower?" or "What are you doing to your hall, library, or chapel?" No
one ever knows; but we are always doing something, and working men
for ever sit, and drink beer, on the venerable roofs.

Long intercourse with Prideaux's letters, and mournful memories of
Oxford new buildings, tempt a writer to imitate Prideaux's spirit.
Let us shut up his book, where he leaves Oxford, in 1686, to become
rector of Saham-Toney, in Norfolk, and marry a wife, though, says he,
"I little thought I should ever come to this."


The name of her late Majesty Queen Anne has for some little time been
a kind of party watch-word. Many harmless people have an innocent
loyalty to this lady, make themselves her knights (as Mary Antoinette
has still her sworn champions in France and Mary Stuart in Scotland),
buy the plate of her serene period, and imitate the dress. To many
moral critics in the press, however, Queen Anne is a kind of
abomination. I know not how it is, but the terms "Queen Anne
furniture and blue china" have become words of almost slanderous
railing. Any didactic journalist who uses them is certain at once to
fall heavily on the artistic reputation of Mr. Burne Jones, to rebuke
the philosophy of Mr. Pater, and to hint that the entrance-hall of
the Grosvenor Gallery is that "by-way" with which Bunyan has made us
familiar. In the changes of things our admiration of the Augustan
age of our literature, the age of Addison and Steele, of Marlborough
and Aldrich, has become a sort of reproach. It may be that our
modern preachers know but little of that which they traduce. At all
events, the Oxford of Queen Anne's time was not what they call "un-
English," but highly conservative, and as dull and beer-bemused as
the most manly taste could wish it to be.

The Spectator of the ingenious Sir Richard Steele gives us many a
glimpse of non-juring Oxford. The old fashion of Sanctity (Mr.
Addison says, in the Spectator, No. 494) had passed away; nor were
appearances of Mirth and Pleasure looked upon as the Marks of a
Carnal Mind. Yet the Puritan Rule was not so far forgotten, but that
Mr. Anthony Henley (a Gentleman of Property) could remember how he
had stood for a Fellowship in a certain College whereof a great
Independent Minister was Governor. As Oxford at this Moment is much
vexed in her Mind about Examinations, wherein, indeed, her whole
Force is presently expended, I make no scruple to repeat the account
of Mr. Henley's Adventure:

"The Youth, according to Custom, waited on the Governor of his
College, to be examined. He was received at the Door by a Servant,
who was one of that gloomy Generation that were then in Fashion. He
conducted him with great Silence and Seriousness to a long Gallery
which was darkened at Noon-day, and had only a single Candle burning
in it. After a short stay in this melancholy Apartment, he was led
into a Chamber hung with black, where he entertained himself for some
time by the glimmering of a Taper, till at length the Head of the
College came out to him from an inner Room, with half a dozen Night
Caps upon his Head, and a religious Horror in his Countenance. The
Young Man trembled; but his Fears increased when, instead of being
asked what progress he had made in Learning, he was ask'd "how he
abounded in Grace?" His Latin and Greek stood him in little stead.
He was to give an account only of the state of his Soul--whether he
was of the Number of the Elect; what was the Occasion of his
Conversion; upon what Day of the Month and Hour of the Day it
happened; how it was carried on, and when completed. The whole
Examination was summed up in one short Question, namely, WHETHER HE
WAS PREPARED FOR DEATH? The Boy, who had been bred up by honest
Parents, was frighted out of his wits by the solemnity of the
Proceeding, and by the last dreadful Interrogatory, so that, upon
making his Escape out of this House of Mourning, he could never be
brought a second Time to the Examination, as not being able to go
through the Terrors of it."

By the year 1705, when Tom Hearne, of St. Edmund's Hall, began to
keep his diary, the "honest folk"--that is, the High Churchmen--had
the better of the Independent Ministers. The Dissenters had some
favour at Court, but in the University they were looked upon as
utterly reprobate. From the Reliquiae of Hearne (an antiquarian
successor of Antony Wood, a bibliophile, an archaeologist, and as
honest a man as Jacobitism could make him) let us quote an example of
Heaven's wrath against Dissenters

"Aug. 6, 1706. We have an account from Whitchurch, in Shropshire,
that the Dissenters there having prepared a great quantity of bricks
to erect a spacious conventicle, a destroying angel came by night and
spoiled them all, and confounded their Babel in the beginning, to
their great mortification.

Hearne's common-place books are an amusing source of information
about Oxford society in the years of Queen Anne, and of the
Hanoverian usurper. Tom Hearne was a Master of Arts of St. Edmund's
Hall, and at one time Deputy-Librarian of the Bodleian. He lost this
post because he would not take "the wicked oaths" required of him,
but he did not therefore leave Oxford. His working hours were passed
in preparing editions of antiquarian books, to be printed in very
limited number, on ordinary and LARGE PAPER. It was the joy of Tom's
existence to see his editions become first scarce, then VERY SCARCE,
while the price augmented in proportion to the rarity. When he was
not reading in his rooms he was taking long walks in the country,
tracing Roman walls and roads, and exploring Woodstock Park for the
remains of "the labyrinth," as he calls the Maze of Fair Rosamund.
In these strolls he was sometimes accompanied by undergraduates, even
gentlemen of noble family, "which gave cause to some to envy our
happiness." Hearne was a social creature, and had a heart, as he
shows by the entry about the death of his "very dear friend, Mr.
Thomas Cherry, A.M., to the great grief of all that knew him, being a
gentleman of great beauty, singular modesty, of wonderful good
nature, and most excellent principles."

The friends of Hearne were chiefly, perhaps solely, what he calls
"honest men," supporters of the Stuart family, and always ready to
drink his Majesty's (King James') health. They would meet in
"Antiquity Hall," an old house near Wadham, and smoke their honest
pipes. They held certain of the opinions of "the Hebdomadal
Meeting," satirised by Steele in the Spectator (No. 43). "We are
much offended at the Act for importing French wines. A bottle or two
of good solid Edifying Port, at honest George's, made a Night
cheerful, and threw off Reserve. But this plaguy French Claret will
not only cost us more Money but do us less good." Hearne had a poor
opinion of "Captain Steele," and of "one Tickle: this Tickle is a
pretender to poetry." He admits that, though "Queen's people are
angry at the Spectator, and the common-room say 'tis silly dull
stuff, men that are indifferent commend it highly, as it deserves."
Some other satirist had a plate etched, representing Antiquity Hall--
a caricature of Tom's antiquarian engravings. It may be seen in
Skelton's book.

Thanks to Hearne, it is easy to reproduce the common-room gossip, and
the more treasonable talk of honest men at Antiquity Hall. The
learned were much interested, as they usually are at Oxford, in
theological discussion. Some one proved, by an ingenious syllogism,
that all men are to be saved; but Hearne had the better of this
Latitudinarian, easily demonstrating that the comfortable argument
does not meet the case of madmen, and of deaf-mutes, whom Tom did not
expect to meet in a future state. The ingenious, though depressing
speculations of Mr. Dodwell were also discussed: "He makes the air
the receptacle of all souls, good and bad, and that they are under
the power of the D--l, he being prince of the air." "The less
perfectly good" hang out, if we may say so, "in the space between
earth and the clouds," all which is subtle, and creditable to Mr.
Dodwell's invention, but not susceptible of exact demonstration. The
whole controversy is an interesting specimen of Queen Anne
philosophy, which, with all respect for the taste of the period, we
need not wish to see revived. The Bishop of Worcester, for example,
"expects the end of the world about nine years hence." While the
theology of Oxford is being mentioned, the zeal of Dr. Miller, Regius
Professor of Greek, must not be forgotten. The learned Professor
endeavoured to convert, and even "writ a Letter to Mrs. Bracegirdle,
giving her great encomiums (as having himself been often to see plays
acted whilst they continued here) upon account of her excellent
qualifications, and persuading her to give over this loose way of
living, and betake herself to such a kind of life as was more
innocent, and would gain her more credit." The Professor's advice
was wasted on "Bracegirdle the brown."

Politics were naturally much discussed in these doubtful years, when
the Stuarts, it was thought, had still a chance to win their own
again. In 1706, Tom says, "The great health now is "The Cube of
Three," which is the number 27, i.e. the number of the protesting
Lords." The University was most devoted, as far as drinking toasts
constitutes loyalty. In Hearne's common-place book is carefully
copied out this "Scotch Health to K. J.":

"He's o'er the seas and far awa',
He's o'er the seas and far awa';
Altho' his back be at the wa'
We'll drink his health that's far awa'."

The words live, and ring strangely out of that dusty past. The song
survives the throne, and sounds pathetically, somehow, as one has
heard it chanted, in days as dead as the year 1711, at suppers that
seem as ancient almost as the festivities of Thomas Hearne. It is
not unpleasant to remember that the people who sang could also fight,
and spilt their blood as well as their "edifying port." If the
Southern "honest men" had possessed hearts for anything but tippling,
the history of England would have been different.

When "the allyes and the French fought a bloudy battle near Mons"
(1709, "Malplaquet"), the Oxford honest men, like Colonel Henry
Esmond, thought "there was not any the least reason of bragging."
The young King of England, under the character of the Chevalier St.
George, "shewed abundance of undaunted courage and resolution, led up
his troups with unspeakable bravery, appeared in the utmost dangers,
and at last was wounded." Marlborough's victories were sneered at,
his new palace of Blenheim was said to be not only ill-built, but
haunted by signs of evil omen.

It was not always safe to say what one thought about politics at
Oxford. One Mr. A. going to one Mr. Tonson, a barber, put the barber
and his wife in a ferment (they being rascally Whigs) by maintaining
that the hereditary right was in the P. of W. Tonson laid
information against the gentleman; "which may be a warning to honest
men not to enter into topicks of this nature with barbers." One
would not willingly, even now, discuss the foreign policy of her
Majesty's Ministers with the person who shaves one. There are
opportunities and temptations to which no decent person should be
wantonly exposed. The bad effect of Whiggery on the temper was
evident in this, that "the Mohocks are all of the Whiggish gang, and
indeed all Whigs are looked upon as such Mohocks, their principles
and doctrines leading thus to all manner of barbarity and
inhumanity." So true is it that Conservatives are all lovers of
peace and quiet, that (May 29th, 1715) "last night a good part of the
Presbyterian meeting-house in Oxford was pulled down. The people ran
up and down the streets, crying, King James the Third! The true
king! No Usurper. In the evening they pulled a good part of the
Quakers' and Anabaptists' meeting-houses down. The heads of houses
have represented that it was begun by the Whiggs." Probably the
heads of houses reasoned on a priori principles when they arrived at
this remarkable conclusion.

In consequence of the honesty, frankness, and consistency of his
opinions, Mr. Hearne ran his head in danger when King George came to
the throne, which has ever since been happily settled in the
possession of the Hanoverian line. A Mr. Urry, a Non-juror, had to
warn him, saying, "Do you not know that they have a mind to hang you
if they can, and that you have many enemies who are very ready to do
it?" In spite of this, Hearne, in his diaries, still calls George I.
the Duke of Brunswick, and the Whigs, "that fanatical crew." John,
Duke of Marlborough, he styles "that villain the Duke." We have had
enough, perhaps, of Oxford politics, which were not much more
prejudiced in the days of the Duke than in those of Mr. Gladstone.
Hearne's allusions to the contemporary state of buildings and of
college manners are often rather instructive. In All Souls the Whigs
had a feast on the day of King Charles's martyrdom. They had a
dinner dressed of woodcock, "whose heads they cut off, in contempt of
the memory of the blessed martyr." These men were "low Churchmen,
more shame to them." The All Souls men had already given up the
custom of wandering about the College on the night of January 14th,
with sticks and poles, in quest of the mallard. That "swopping"
bird, still justly respected, was thought, for many ages, to linger
in the college of which he is the protector. But now all hope of
recovering him alive is lost, and it is reserved for the excavator of
the future to marvel over the fossil bones of the "swopping, swopping

As an example of the paganism of Queen Anne's reign--quite a
different thing from the "Neo-paganism" which now causes so much
anxiety to the moral press-man--let us note the affecting instance of
Geffery Ammon. "He was a merry companion, and his conversation was
much courted." Geffery had but little sense of religion. He is now
buried on the west side of Binsey churchyard, near St. Margaret's
well. Geffery selected Binsey for the place of his sepulchre,
because he was partial to the spot, having often shot snipe there.

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