Alfred John Church.

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parviso_, and so became, to use again the somewhat barbarous dialect,
_sophista generalis_, the visible signs and tokens of which honour was
the putting into my hands of a book of Aristotle, and round my neck,
by one of the bedels, when I had duly finished my answering, of a
little hood of some common black stuff, which same hood, as might be
concluded from its look, had done the like service for many before me.

As I am speaking of this matter I may anticipate the time somewhat in
this place, and relate how I afterwards answered for my degree, which
by great fortune I was able to do before that I was constrained to
leave Oxford. The questions on which I disputed were in part ethical,
and in part philosophical. And here, for the edifying of my readers, I
will set them forth, being two of each sort. First, then, came the

1. _Whether there can be administered by the art of the physician an
universal remedy?_

2. _Whether the moon can be inhabited? And whether, it being granted
that it has inhabitants, these have a popular or a despotic

After these came the ethical questions, in which were included

1. _Whether the die be a lawful means of acquiring property?_

2. _Whether a multitude of scholars be profitable to a commonwealth?_

But this was not done till after the time of which I have been now
speaking, when I was near upon completing my fourth academical year.



'Tis no small pleasure for me, and will be doubtless for any that
shall hereafter read what I have here written, to turn from wars and
fighting, of which I must perforce say much, to the quiet and
delectable realm of learning. And, though I would not be thought
wilfully to praise myself, I may say so much that, amidst all the
distractions of the time, which were indeed many and great, this realm
I did never wholly leave or desert, though compelled often to be
absent therefrom.

Having already spoken of these matters, I would now say somewhat of
that place which is, as it were, the capital of this kingdom to such
as are subjects thereof, within the limits of the University of
Oxford - I speak of Bodley's Library. This I do the more willingly
because I know not how long it may abide unharmed in its present
estate. For who knows not what shameful things were done, when, one
hundred years ago, or thereabouts, the visitors of King Edward, sixth
of the name, purged, as they did call it, the libraries of this place,
and among them that noble collection of manuscripts and books which
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and Thomas Kempe, some time Bishop of
London, with other benefactors, did bestow upon the University of
Oxford. Their commission was to do away with all that savoured of
Popish superstition. If, therefore, they spied in any volume any
illumination or picture, or even rubrical letter, such as are wont to
be used for the ornamentation of mass-books and the like, that they
incontinently destroyed without further examination, for such
examination they had not the will, or, it may be, the ability to make.
Such, indeed, was their ignorance, if one may believe the tradition
that is yet current in Oxford concerning this matter, that such books
wherein appeared angles or mathematical diagrams were thought
sufficient to be destroyed, because accounted Popish, or diabolical,
for, indeed, they stood in no less dread of witchcraft than of the
Pope. Nay, their folly had almost led them into the grossest impiety,
for among the books brought out to be destroyed were, 'tis said, many
copies of the New Testament in Greek, which, the character being
strange to them that handled them, were condemned as mischievous, and
had perished together with the rest, but that one wiser than his
fellows kept them from their fate. Certain it is that damage beyond
all counting was done in this way, the rage of these ignorant men
being especially directed against the works of Peter Lombard, and
Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus, and others, who are commonly called
the Schoolmen. These were carried on biers by rude young men of the
city to the market-place, and there, being piled in a great heap,
burned with fire. Others, against which they had no special hate, were
sold, and at such mean rates that one knows not whether to be more
angry or ashamed at their silliness. For what says John Bale on this
matter, who, as all know, was no lover of monks and monkery, but
rather hated all that savoured of Papistry with a perfect hatred. He
says that many reserved these books to scour their candlesticks and to
rub their boots; that others they sold to grocers and soap-sellers,
and some they sent over to the bookbinders, whole shipsful at a time,
to the wonderment of foreign nations. And again, descending to
particulars, he writes: "I know a merchant man, which shall at this
time be nameless, that bought the contents of two noble libraries for
forty shillings price: a shame it is to be spoken. This stuff hath he
occupied in the stead of grey paper by the space of more than these
ten years, and yet he hath store enough for as many years to come."
All that bought them made not such an ill use of their purchase. God
be thanked therefore! Thus a certain Dutchman, by trade a stationer,
living in St. Mary's Parish, bought some, which, being handed down by
him to his son, were in the end given to the Library when Sir Thomas
Bodley did restore it.

So much for the past, which I have here written down because I hold it
to be not impossible that the like may be done again. For the present,
indeed, this fate has been warded off, for when, as I shall hereafter
relate, this City of Oxford was delivered up to the Parliament, the
Lord-General did straightway set a guard to keep the Library from all
harm; and this he did, being a lover of learning, and well knowing
that there were in the army many persons who, having a zeal without
knowledge, would have utterly destroyed it. And, indeed, I know, not
whether these may not yet so prevail as to get the chief regimen of
things into their own hand, for, as all history teaches us, the course
of things in all such revolutions as this that hath lately overthrown
the constitution of this country is this: first, the moderate and
discreet have power; next, these either yield to the more violent and
extreme or are themselves carried away by their own headway; and last,
when the folly and wickedness of this excess has become altogether
unendurable, the old order is again set up. Meanwhile, being desirous
above all things to follow the truth, and to be just to all men, I
must acknowledge that so far more damage was done to the Library by
the King's friends while they held the city than has since been done
by his enemies, many books having been embezzled, the chains by which
the more precious are bound to their places being cut off, and other
injuries done. But to come back to my subject.

[Illustration: _The Bodleian Library, Oxford._

Sir Thomas Bodley's Library, then, is a spacious building, of which
the main chamber lies east and west, having ten windows on either
side, and furnished in most goodly sort with shelves and other needful
appurtenances. The chief glory of this chamber is the roof, divided
into squares, on each of which are painted the arms of the University,
being the open Bible with the seven seals, of which St. John speaks in
the Revelation (but others take it of the seven liberal arts), and the
words, "DOMINUS ILLUMINATIO MEA."[8] On the bosses that are between
each compartment are painted the arms of Sir Thomas Bodley himself. At
the east end of this chamber is the bust of the pious founder, Sir
Thomas Bodley, who has been dead at this present time of writing
(1651) eight-and-thirty years. Of this bust King James I., visiting
the Library three years after his coming to the throne, said, having
read the well-merited praises that have been inscribed there, "Verily,
his name should be _Godley_ rather than Bodley." The wit of this
saying is indeed but indifferent, but it has what all wit does not
possess, that is to say, truth. To this chamber has been added at the
eastern end what may be called a picture gallery, also furnished with
bookshelves, which occupies the whole of the upper story of the

[8] "The Lord is my Light."

So much of the building, but of the precious things which it contains
I cannot profess to speak. Of printed books there must be near upon
thirty thousand, a number which it staggers the mind only to conceive;
but as for reading them, not the life-time of Methuselah himself would
suffice.[9] Of manuscripts also there is a great store, some of them
being most uncommonly rare and precious, as, for example, to mention
one only out of many, is a manuscript of the Gospels, sent by St.
Gregory to St. Augustine, his missionary to this realm of England, a
treasure long preserved in St. Augustine's Abbey in the City of
Canterbury, and given to this Library some fifty years since by Sir
Robert Cotton. In this temple of the Muses, then, to speak the
language of Paganism, I was accustomed to spend many hours; at the
first, while I was as yet an undergraduate, by favour and
recommendation of Master Webberley, of whom I have before spoken, and
afterwards, having been admitted to the degree of Bachelor, of my own
right. 'Tis rich in books of that classical learning which I have
always, so far as it has been possible for me, especially followed,
and most conveniently ordered for students, to whom indeed it is
specially commended by the courtesy of its officers.[10] 'Twas indeed
but little visited by readers in my time, the Muses having been driven
out both there and elsewhere by the tumult of arms. Yet there were
some faithful students who seemed not to care one jot who ruled the
realm so that they were not disturbed in this their peculiar province;
as for me, my young blood permitted me not to reach so serene a
height, but I never suffered myself to be wholly distracted from
study, as were many of my fellows, by the excitements of war. I have
myself seen more than once the King come into the Library, desiring to
see some book that was therein. This he did because Bodley's statutes
forbid the lending out of any book or manuscript, be the borrower who
he may. But I remember that in the year 1645, while I was reading in
the great chamber (I bear in mind that it was winter time and passing
cold), there came an order to Master Rous, then and now Bodley's
Librarian, in these words: "Deliver unto the bearer hereof, for the
present use of his Majesty, a book intituled _Histoire Universelle
du Sieur d'Aubigné_, and this shall be your warrant." To this Dr.
Samuel Fell, Dean of Christ Church and then Vice-Chancellor, had
subscribed, "His Majesty's use is in command to us." But Master Rous
would have none of it, having sworn to observe the statutes of the
Library, which statutes forbid all lending of the books without any
respect of persons. Therefore he goes to the King and shows him the
statutes, which being read, the King would not have the book nor
permit it to be taken out of the Library, saying that it was fit that
the will and statutes of the pious founder should be religiously
observed. Would that he had been like-minded in all things! So much I
may say without damage to my fidelity. It had been happier so for him
and for this realm of England.

[9] What would Philip Dashwood have said of the _three
hundred thousand volumes_ of which the Library now
consists? - A. C.

[10] Still a tradition of the Library. - A. C.

And thus I am reminded of a strange thing that I heard from the lips
of Master Verneuil, who was in those days Deputy-Librarian. The King,
coming into the Library on a certain day, was shown a curious copy of
the poet Virgil. Then the Lord Falkland that was with him (the same
that was slain at the second battle of Newbury, to the great loss of
this realm and sorrow of all the better sort on either side) would
have his Majesty make trial of his fortune by the _Sortes Virgilianæ_.
This is a kind of augury which has been very much used for some ages
past, the manner of it being thus: The person that will consult the
oracle, if I may so speak, taking a penknife or bodkin in his hand,
thrusts it, turning his head away at the same time, into the volume of
Virgil. This done, he opens the book and takes the place to which the
instrument may point as the answer that Fate intends for him. On this
occasion, therefore, the King lighted upon this period, being part of
the imprecation which Queen Dido invokes on Æneas that has deserted
her. It was Englished thus by Master Thomas Phaer, about one hundred
years since.

"Yet let him vexed be with arms and wars of peoples wild,
And hunted out from place to place, an outlaw still exiled.
And let him beg for help, and from his child dissevered be,
And death and slaughter vile of all his kindred let him see,
And when to laws of wicked peace he doth himself behight,
Yet let him never reign, nor in this life to have delight,
But die before his day, and rot on ground without a grave."

The King being in no small degree discomposed at this accident, the
Lord Falkland would himself make trial of the book, hoping to fall on
some passage that should have no relation to his case, that so the
King's thoughts might be in a measure diverted from the impression
that had been made upon them. But, lo! it fell out that the place he
stumbled upon was yet more suited to his destiny than that other had
been to the King. 'Twas in the eleventh book of the Æneid where the
old King Evander speaks of the death of Pallas his son. This was
Englished by Master Thomas Twynam, who finished the work of Master
Phaer aforesaid.

"Didst not, O Pallas, thou to me, thy sire, this promise make:
That charily thou wouldst thyself to cruel war betake?
I knew right well the novel pride, and glory first in fight,
And pleasant honour won in arms how much prevail it might.
O hard beginnings to a lad and woeful martial train!"

So much then for the Library of Sir Thomas Bodley.



Of the surrendering the city there is no need for me to write. Let it
suffice to say that, after parleys held for certain days, the articles
of agreement were signed on the twenty-third day of June, and on the
day following the city was delivered over to Sir Thomas Fairfax. I
remember it by this token, that it was the feast of St. John the
Baptist, and that Master Blagrove, of whom more hereafter, preached
before the University on that day in the Chapel of St. John's College,
as the custom is. The garrison went forth with their flags flying, and
all the honours of war, and many others went with them.

Of these, some had nought to do with the University, having been
brought to Oxford by the war, and now leaving it in due course when
they thought they might serve the King elsewhere (though, indeed, his
cause was now past help, save from the hand of God, and this was for
the time present stayed). Others left place and preferment, or the
prospect of such, in their several colleges, either because from the
long use of arms to which they had been accustomed, by the siege the
pursuits of peace had become flat and unprofitable, or because they
were so well known as enemies to the cause of the Parliament that they
did not venture to stay behind; or, finally, as was the case with not
a few, as conceiving that their duty to the King was best done
elsewhere than in Oxford. As for myself, though not yielding to any in
loyalty to his sacred Majesty, I remained where I was. To this I
conceived myself bound, not only by promise to the Lord General
Fairfax, but also by my father's instructions, who had laid it upon me
as a command that I should follow my studies so long as it should be
possible. Also I had a duty to my mother and sister which I could
scarce have paid had I departed from Oxford, to which place they were,
so to speak, necessarily bound. Their chief means of living came from
the land that had been my father's at Eynsham, and was now by law
descended to me. That most worthy man, John Vickers, paid them his
rent (which he might easily have withheld) most honourably, not
waiting indeed for set seasons, but coming into the city on market
days, or during the siege, whenever occasion offered, and paying, as
he thought they might have need. God reward him for his truth and
kindness! There were those that called him trimmer and turn-coat and
such ill-names, because he was friendly with them that were in power.
But I say that if all men of England had been as true to what they saw
of right and duty, of which, indeed, some perceive more and some less,
surely things had gone better with this realm than they did.

I therefore, and many others with me, for like reason, or others that
had no less constraining power, tarried in Oxford, following our usual
manner of life, and waiting for what might ensue. And, indeed, it
mattered but little to me. My Scholarship was at the best but of small
value, something less than three pounds by the year, and now was
fallen to about thirty shillings from defect in the revenues of the
College, of whose tenants some lacked the ability to pay (having had
their farms wasted by the war), and some the will. Nor was I like to
exchange it for any better preferment, being well known in my College
and elsewhere as a zealous King's man. Having therefore so little to
lose that the very scurviest and most beggarly knave under the sun
would scarce have perjured himself to gain or to save it, I could
abide the end with a calm mind; though, indeed, I do trust I had been
no less constant had I had the best preferment in the University, the
Deanery of Christ Church, to wit, or the President's place at Magdalen
College. And I was further confirmed in this temper by the marriage of
my sister Dorothy with Master William Blagrove, Bachelor of Divinity
of St. John's College, that had lately succeeded to the vicarage of
Enstone. 'Twas an old contract between Dorothy and Master Blagrove,
being first entered into in the year 1641, and now completed about the
space of a year after my father's death. Yet they thought themselves
fortunate that the end was no longer delayed. (And indeed I could name
a couple of lovers that were contracted for forty and three years,
expecting all the while till a certain rectory should fall vacant.)
Nevertheless it may be doubted whether delay had not served them
better. 'Tis certain that they had no small share of that trouble in
the flesh which St. Paul does prophesy to all them that were not
content to abide single as he was. I doubt whether these prophecies,
even in the mouth of an apostle, deterred many whose hearts were set
on matrimony, and indeed it must be remembered there was gain as well
as loss. But of Dorothy and her husband I shall have occasion to speak
again. Meanwhile I may say so much, that she being happily married, if
it be happiness to have a learned and virtuous husband but poor in
this world's goods withal, and my mother going to live with her, I was
left master of myself and free to act as might seem most expedient.

For a while it seemed as if nothing would be done, and some even began
to hope that all things would be suffered to continue as they were. I
indeed was not one of these, nor did I think that it would be well if
it should be so. For, indeed, the University had almost ceased to be;
there were few or none that lectured, and very few to hear, had
teachers been ever so many; such as remained were much debauched by
the loose companionship which they had taken up during the war; the
colleges were half empty or rented out to laics lest they should
altogether fall into ruin. It cannot be doubted therefore but that
there was need of some visitation; nor was that which followed of a
harsher sort than was to be looked for. 'Tis ever the rule in this
world that it goes ill with the conquered, and the conquerors divide
the spoil. I say not that there was no harshness used, nor none driven
out that might have been kept, not only with advantage to the
University, but without loss to the new rulers; but this only, that
the victors bore themselves less haughtily and cruelly than might have
been looked for, especially when it is considered what some of them
had themselves suffered.

[Illustration: _The Porch of St. Mary's Church, Oxford._]

And now to speak of what was done. In the month of May, in the year
1647, came the visitors to Oxford, twenty-four in number, though of
these not a few were content from the beginning to stand aloof from
the business, leaving it to the management of the clerics. They made
but an ill beginning of their work. First, they delayed their coming
over long after their appointment, and this they did because the
Parliament soldiers in Oxford, vexed at certain grievances they had in
respect of their pay and other matters, made a mutiny, so that they
feared to show themselves. And next, on the day which they had
appointed for the University to appear before them, which was the
fourth day of June, they themselves failed of their time. Their
citation to the Vice-Chancellor, Doctors and Masters was, "You shall
appear before us between nine and eleven of the clock in the forenoon
of the day aforesaid." So the Vice-Chancellor with the others
assembled duly in the Convocation House. But the visitors went to St.
Mary's Church, where, after prayers, there was a sermon preached by
Master Robert Harris, of Magdalen Hall, who was one of them. But
Master Harris, being full of his office, and having much to say
concerning the iniquities of the prelatical party and the like things,
was more than ordinary long in his discourse. When, therefore, the
clock struck eleven and the visitors were not yet come, Master
Vice-Chancellor leaves the house, the bedels with their staves, as the
custom is, walking before. And it so chanced that at this very time
the visitors were about to enter. Then cries the bedel, a bold fellow
that was afterwards resolute not to give up his staff, "Room for
Master Vice-Chancellor;" to whom the visitors, being thus taken
unawares, gave place. As they passed, Master Vice-Chancellor very
civilly moved his cap to them, saying, "Good-morrow, gentlemen, 'tis
past eleven of the clock," and so passed on, nor took any further heed
of them.

[Illustration: _The Vice-Chancellor preceded by the Esquire

'Twould be tedious to relate all the hindrances that after this were
put in their way, how their notices and citations were torn down so
soon as they were put up, and the books which they called for were not
delivered up, so that, what with opposition from without, and
divisions within (the Independents now having the great power and
being minded to thrust down the Presbyterians from the first place),
nothing was done. Nay, though my Lord Pembroke, that was Chancellor of
the University, came down in his own person, and stormed at the
Vice-Chancellor, telling him with many oaths (in which he was said to
be proficient beyond all men of his time), that the devil had raised
him to that office, and that it was fit that he should be whipped,
nay, hanged; even so they made no progress. Nor could they gain
possession of the keys of the University, for these the clerks
obstinately kept (as for the register they took it by force from the
Registrar's room) and the gold and silver staves were, as I have said,
denied them, so that they were sadly shorn of the dignity which should
have belonged to them. And this, I understand, vexed them as much as

But at last, in the month of March, 1648 - that is to say, nigh upon
two years after the surrender of the city - the visitors did set to
their work in earnest, and beginning with Magdalen College, demanded
of every one whether he submitted to the authority of Parliament in
this present visitation. And to this demand a plain answer was
required. Truly it was piteous to see the straits to which honest men
were reduced, that were loath to offend their conscience and yet would
willingly have kept their means of livelihood. Some, especially among
the cooks, butlers, porters, and other servants of the College,
pleaded that they were ignorant and unlearned, and did not rightly
understand how to answer that which was demanded of them. And some of
the younger sort pleaded their tender age why they should not answer
so hard a question. Others, again, hedged themselves in with sundry

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchWith the King at Oxford → online text (page 9 of 14)