Richard Claverhouse Jebb.

The work of the universities for the nation past and present. The inaugural lecture delivered at the Guildhall, Cambridge, on Saturday, July 29, 1893 online

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Online LibraryRichard Claverhouse JebbThe work of the universities for the nation past and present. The inaugural lecture delivered at the Guildhall, Cambridge, on Saturday, July 29, 1893 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.

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FOURTH SUMMER MEETING.



THE



WORK OF THE UNIVERSITIES
FOR THE NATION



PAST AND PRESENT



THE INAUGURAL LECTURE

DELIVERED AT THE GUILDHALL, CAMBRIDGE
ON SATURDAY JULY 29 1893



BY



R. C. JEBB, LITT.D. M.P.



REGIUS PROFESSOR OF CRF.R




ttT.T.OW OF TRINITY COLLEGE



CAMBRIDGE :
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.

1893
Price One Shilling.



THE

WORK OF THE UNIVERSITIES
FOR THE NATION

PAST AND PRESENT



EonDon : C. J. CLAY AND SONS,

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS WAREHOUSE,

AVE MARIA LANE.




CatnbrtUge : DEIGHTON, BELL AND CO.

F. A. BROCKHAUS.
fe: MACMILLAN AND CO.



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FOURTH SUMMER MEETING.



THE

WORK OF THE UNIVERSITIES
FOR THE NATION

PAST AND PRESENT



THE INAUGURAL LECTURE

DELIVERED AT THE GUILDHALL, CAMBRIDGE
ON SATURDAY JULY 29 1893



BY

R. C. JEBB, LITT.D. M.P.

REGIUS PROFESSOR OF GREEK AND FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE




CAMBRIDGE :
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.

1893



CambrtDgt :

PRINTED BY C. J. CLAY, M.A. & SONS,
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.



OFTHE

UNIVERSITY



THE WORK OF THE UNIVERSITIES
FOR THE NATION, PAST AND
PRESENT.

THIS meeting, to which the University
welcomes her visitors, not as strangers or
aliens, but as members of a body united to
her by common studies and sympathies, is
a visible expression of that change which,
during the last thirty years, has been
passing over the relations between the
ancient Universities of England and the
country. They are no longer content to
be only, in the strict sense of the phrase,
seats of learning ; they now desire to be
J- i



THE UNIVERSITIES



also mother-cities of intellectual colonies,
and to spread the influence of their teach-
ing throughout the land. It is indeed
instructive to contrast this impulse with
that feeling with which we meet in earlier
ages, that any addition to the number of
centres at which a higher education could
be obtained was a menace to academic
monopoly. In mediaeval times, when a
body of Cambridge students withdrew to
Northampton, Henry III., who had at
first regarded the movement as likely to
benefit the town to which they went, was
presently induced to condemn it, as an
infringement of privilege elsewhere ; and
when Oxford students migrated to Stam-
ford, they were peremptorily recalled by
Edward III. In the days of the Com-
monwealth, the Master of Caius College,
William Dell, proposed that the studies of



AND THE NATION.



Oxford and Cambridge should be estab-
lished also in the large towns of the west
and north : the scheme was rejected, how-
ever, for a reason which, though valid at
the time, was precisely opposite to that
which in our own day has recommended
University Extension ; it was held that such
a measure would tend to diminish the
influence of the Universities. The modern
developments of railway travelling were
necessary to render Extension, as we under-
stand it, even possible ; but, before the
opportunity could be used, something more
vital was required, the rise of a new
spirit.

And this suggests that it may be not
uninteresting to consider how far, and in
what sense, that spirit is new ; what, in
the past, has been the attitude of the

Universities towards the nation ; and how

i 2



THE UNIVERSITIES



far, at different periods, they have per-
formed a national work. This is the sub-
ject with which I shall attempt, however
slightly and imperfectly, to deal. It is
scarcely necessary to observe that the
sketch must be confined to salient points.
Rise of The Universities of Europe sprang

Universi-
ties in from a spontaneous and enthusiastic desire

Europe.

for knowledge. During the dark ages,
from the fall of the Western Empire to
the eleventh century, such education as
existed was given in the schools attached
to monasteries and cathedrals. Though
some outlines of pagan literature were
preserved, the subjects taught were mainly
such as formed a direct preparation for the
calling of the priest or the monk. Towards
the end of this period, new studies began
to press for recognition, partly through the
stimulus given to Europe by contact with



AND THE NATION.



the more civilised East, a result to which
the Crusades contributed. The practical
studies of Medicine and of Law became
more extended. The rudiments of physical
science, and some branches of Mathematics,
came more clearly into view. At the be-
ginning of the twelfth century, the study
of Dialectic, based on parts of the Aristo-
telian Logic, received a notable impulse.
Its claim rested not only on its intrinsic
value as a mental discipline, but upon its
assumed relation to Theology. A belief
was diffused, which some famous contro-
versies of the time had strengthened, that
spiritual truth could not be rightly appre-
hended except through certain forms of
reasoning. This conception was the basis
of what was afterwards known as the
scholastic philosophy. Scholasticism began The scho-

7 lastic phi-

by dealing with certain problems of the los P h y-



THE UNIVERSITIES



Aristotelian Logic (or what passed for
such), and then applied its processes to
Theology. The task which it ultimately
undertook was that of reconciling the
doctrines of the Church with human reason.
This explains why, in the middle age,
Dialectic was regarded as the paramount
science, the highest which could engage
man's intellect ; since it was not only the
handmaid of Theology, but in a certain
sense the key to it.

The question now was, where could
these new subjects be adequately studied ?
The ordinary range of instruction in the
monastic and cathedral schools was too
narrow to admit them. A few religious
houses there were, doubtless, in which
churchmen of exceptional gifts and attain-
ments responded in some measure to the
new desire ; but these were inadequate to



AND THE NATION.



satisfy the wants of the age. Associations
began to be formed, specially devoted to
purposes of study. Such an association
was commonly designated by one of two
names ; Studium Generate, meaning a place studium

Generate

of study not merely local, but open to all and Uni -

versitas.

comers ; or Universitas, a corporation or
guild, implying that teachers and learners
formed a definitely incorporated body.
The term Universitas being a general one,
this special sense of it was defined by some
addition ; we find such phrases as Univer-
sitas Magistrorum et scholarium, a corpora-
tion of masters and scholars ; or Universi-
tas literaria. It was not probably till the
close of the fourteenth century that the
word Universitas came to be commonly
used alone, in the sense of ' University/
The earliest example of such a body

dates from a time antecedent to the ^

&EUD

OF THE

VERSITTj




THE UNIVERSITIES



awakening of the European mind, and is
associated with the most indispensable of
the practical sciences. The school of
Medicine at Salerno in Southern Italy can
be traced to the ninth century. But the
twelfth century is that in which the first
great Universities of Europe take their
rise. Two of these are respectively typical
of different tendencies in the higher teach-

Paris. ing of the age. The University of Paris
became the great school of Dialectic and
Theology : it represents especially the
desire for a general mental training, with

Bologna, a speculative bent. The University of
Bologna, famous for the study of the civil
and canon law, gave the foremost place to
the idea of a professional training, with a
definite practical aim.

The Eng- Paris was the model upon which the

lish Uni-
versities. English Universities were founded. Be-



AND THE NATION.



fore the end of the twelfth century,
Giraldus Cambrensis could describe Ox-
ford as the place ' where the clergy in
England chiefly flourished, and excelled
in clerkly lore/ The earliest history
of our own University is more obscure ;
but it, too, probably had its origin
in the twelfth century, in connection with
teaching carried on by the canons of the
Church of St Giles ; and in 1 209 we
hear of some students migrating from
Oxford to Cambridge. But it is not until
we come to the era of the earliest
Cambridge Colleges that there is any full
or clear light. Throughout the middle
age, Oxford was the representative Uni-
versity of England ; and not only that, but
at one time the rival, and in some respects
the superior, of Paris. There are, how-
ever, indications enough to show 7 that the



THE UNIVERSITIES



development of mediaeval Cambridge was
following the same general course.
First pe- . The first period which we may take in

riod : from

about 1216 the history of the English Universities

to 1350

starts from the time when they begin to
have a distinct influence on the national
life, viz., from the early part of the thir-
teenth century, and goes down to about
the middle of the fourteenth. It answers
roughly to the reigns of Henry III. and the
first two Edwards, with the first half or so
of Edward 1 1 I.'s. This was the golden age
Oxford, of the scholastic philosophy. At this period
Oxford produced a series of famous school-
men, among whom Roger Bacon, Duns
Scotus, and William of Occam are only
some of the most prominent, doctors
celebrated throughout Christendom. Nor
were the studies confined to scholasticism,
though that was in the foreground ; all



AND THE NATION.



other knowledge that the age possessed
was pursued with ardour. Never since,
perhaps, has any seat of learning given
proofs of a more eager or varied activity
than is attested by this long succession of
brilliant Oxonians, many of whom were

Franciscans. At this time the English The Uni-
versities

Universities represented the best intellect j
and the highest knowledge that existed in
the country. All men who cared for
mental cultivation at all looked to them as
the centres of education. Their attractive
power was the more widely felt because
the Church then offered the most varied
avenues to advancement in life ; indeed,
there was no other road to it, except a
military career. Many of us, perhaps,
when we look back upon the mediaeval
University, might be apt to think that
after all it had little but the name in



12 THE UNIVERSITIES

common with the University of to-day.
In one sense, of course, this is true. An
impassable gulf divides them in respect to
material surroundings, to aims and methods
of study, to the whole fabric of government
and society. ( But, if we revert to the idea
in which Universities had their origin, we
find that the English University of the
thirteenth century fulfilled the essence of it ;
it possessed the highest culture of the age ;
and it was recognised by the nation as the
exponent of that culture.

This position rested primarily on the
dominance of the scholastic philosophy,
which, in turn, presupposed the unity of
Christendom. It is no paradox to say
that, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,
it was necessary for a University to be inter-
national before it could be worthily national.
Its rank depended on the eminence of its



AND THE NATION. 13

teachers in studies which were acknow-
ledged as paramount throughout Europe,
and which were pursued in the common
language of learning, the Latin. At Paris
this cosmopolitan character appears in the
four 'nations' of that University, the
French, the Norman, the Picard, and the
English. At Oxford and Cambridge there
were only two nations, representing re-
spectively the North and the South of
England ; but we hear of students from
Paris migrating to both our Universities ;
and the number of foreign students, especi-
ally at Oxford, must at one time have been
considerable.

With the second half of the fourteenth From 1350

to 1500

century, however, we enter upon a new A.D.
period of our academic annals, in the
course of which the attitude of the Uni-
versities towards the nation was gradually



cism.



14 7 HE UNIVERSITIES

but profoundly changed. This stage may

be roughly defined as extending from
about 1350 to 1500.

Decay of The first great fact which meets us

Scholasti-

here is the incipient decay of the scholastic
philosophy. It declined, not because any
formidable rival had appeared in the field
of intellectual interests, but because the
age was slowly coming to perceive that
scholasticism had failed in the sublime task
which had inspired the dreams of its youth-
ful ambition. It had not succeeded in
reconciling the doctrines of the Church
with human reason. The extraordinary
enthusiasm and devotion which it had so
long commanded sprang from the belief
that, in the domain of knowledge, this
philosophy was a sort of counterpart to
the Holy Roman Empire in the sphere of
government, and that, as the Emperor



AND THE NATION. 15

was in the old phrase the ' advocate ' of the
Church, so the cultivation of the intellect
reached its climax in those studies where
the Dialectic bequeathed by Greece be-
came the secular arm of Theology. But
theologians from one point of view, and
logicians from another, came to see that
the alliance had broken down ; semi- mysti-
cism on the one part, inchoate scepticism
on the other, became the refuge of dis-
appointment. And, when the scholastic
philosophy was once separated from its
loftiest purpose, what was it ? An armoury
of slowly rusting weapons, which could no
more do service in the greatest of the
causes for which they had been elaborated.
The weary guardians of the armoury might
shift the places of those weapons on the
dusty walls, and make some show of
keeping them decently keen and bright ;



1 6 THE UNIVERSITIES

but they could not feel the joyous energy
of the soldier who had sharpened and bur-
nished them for battle. Long afterwards,
Erasmus expressed what the fourteenth
century had already begun to feel, when,
asking how Christendom was to set about
converting Turks, he said ' Shall we put
into their hands an Occam, a Durandus, a
Scotus, a Gabriel, or an Alvarus ? What
will they think of us, when they hear of
our perplexed subtleties about Instants,
Formalities, Quiddities, and Relations ? '
\ Considered merely as an instrument of
mental discipline, the scholastic philosophy
had done good work for the age in which
it arose ; it has left, indeed, an abiding
mark on the language and the thought of
Europe ; but it was now passing into a
system of lifeless formulas and mechanical
exercises. Thus the Universities were




AND THE NA



losing slowly but surely that which had
once been their sovereign attraction. And
at the same time they were denied an out-
let for new activities. Wyclifs gallant
struggle at Oxford was defeated. His
death in 1384 marks a turning-point.
Religious freedom was suppressed, but at
the cost of intellectual life. The crusade
against Lollardism introduced an age of
torpor and sterility at the Universities.
Indeed, the Latin philosophy was gradually
silencing itself. And a decided divorce
between the Universities and the nation
was now setting in. The laity felt less
interest in the paralysed studies of the
academic schools, which were tending to
become little more than clerical seminaries.
The numbers of the students were dwind-
ling. Already the study of Medicine was
withdrawing to the large towns ; the study
J- 2



1 8 THE UNIVERSITIES

of Law was dropping off to the Inns of
Court. It is also a significant circumstance
that the second half of the I4th century
coincides with an advance in the literary
use of the English language, as represented
by Chaucer and Gower, and by Wyclif
himself. This fact does not in itself imply
any antagonism to the Universities, but it
reminds us that a national literature was
now growing which was independent of
their influence. \
Rise of the Thus far we have contemplated what

Colleges.

may be called the negative side of the
period from 1350 to 1500. The Univer-
sities were beginning to lose their hold
upon the nation ; their old mental life
was failing. But there is another side
to this period, and one which gives it a
strong claim upon our interest. This
was the era at which the power of the



AND THE NATION. 19

Colleges was slowly rising. Of our seven-
teen Cambridge Colleges, only one was
founded before 1300, and only three were
founded after 1550. At Oxford, three
Colleges arose before 1300; and though
a larger number of foundations than here
came after 1550, still we may say that,
at both Universities, the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries form the period during
which the power of the Colleges was
chiefly consolidated. The general inten-
tion of the earliest Colleges was that
they should be boarding-houses, with a
discipline so organised that the inmates
should lead a studious and decorous
life, special provision being made for
those who required pecuniary aid.
Many Colleges were designed more
especially for the secular clergy, as the

monastic and mendicant orders were

2 2



20 THE UNIVERSITIES

already so amply endowed. We must
remember that the multitude of students
at a mediaeval university was a fluctuating
and often turbulent mass. The great
value of the Collegiate system, when it
first came in, lay not so much in the
pecuniary assistance which it gave, as in
the security which it afforded for discipline
and good order. It was an element of
permanence and cohesion for the whole
academic body. The teaching function,
it may be added, did not belong to the
original idea of a College, except in so
far as the older residents might be expected
to aid or guide the studies of the younger ;
a College teaching-staff was a later de-
velopment, due to the altered status of
the University schools.
The new While the Universities, as such, long

classical

learning: continued to be identified with the mori-



AND THE NATION. 21

bund scholasticism, the Colleges, from the
fifteenth century onwards, were more es-
pecially identified with the new learning,
with the classical revival. At the
time of Wyclif s death, that . revival was
passing, in Italy, through its earliest
phase, under the immediate followers of
Petrarch, who felt the new delight of
discovery. In the first half of the fif-
teenth century, the groups gathered
around Cosmo de' Medici at Florence,
or Nicholas V. at Rome, were busied
in arranging the discovered materials ;
and before 1500 criticism had been
carried further, chiefly by Italian societies
and academies. In due time this new its advent,

compared

humanism spread to England. But we ^ f lt
observe a striking difference between
the conditions under which this move-
ment reached us, and those which had



22 THE UNIVERSITIES

surrounded the advent of its great pre-
decessor, the scholastic philosophy, in
the twelfth century. That philosophy
had hardly begun its course when, owing
to the intervention of the Dominicans
and Franciscans, it was enabled to advance
under the banners of the Church. No
equivalent patronage protected or en-
couraged the first endeavours of our
English humanists. It was not until the
middle of Henry VIII/s reign that the
humanities began to enjoy the doubtful
advantage of official favour ; and then
the classical muse might already have
responded if only she had dared in the
tone of Dr Johnson's reply to the tardy
civilities of Lord Chesterfield. The re-
stored classical learning was planted in
England by the enterprise and zeal of
a few individuals, such as that series of



AND THE NATION. 23

Hellenists whom Oxford can show at the Oxford

and Cam-
close of the fifteenth century, Selling-, J^ge.

J ' &J Hellenists.

Lilly, Grocyn, Latimer, Linacre ; such as
Cambridge, again, produced in the im-
mediately subsequent period, Richard
Croke, Thomas Smith, and that able
scholar, whom Ascham and Milton com-
memorate, Sir John Cheke. The Col-
leges sheltered most of those who brought
the new learning into England. These
foundations afforded opportunities for pri-
vate study, and it must be recollected
that the new learning, Greek especially,
carried the suspicion of heresy ; they
also facilitated foreign travel, which was
then almost indispensable for the purpose.
But the classics, though the circle of those
interested in them became continually
larger, could not exercise such a wide-
spread or popular influence as once belonged



24 THE UNIVERSITIES

~~T~

to the old mediaeval studies. / The strong-
The Col- holds of humanism, again, the Colleges,

leges.

as their permanent character, their
wealth, and the ability of their adminis-
trators gradually made them predominant,
represented an aristocratic or at least
oligarchic agency, engrafted upon the once
democratic existence of the mediaeval uni-
versityj Thus, in the second half of
the fifteenth century, internal causes were
tending to detach the Universities from
the general life of the nation, while at
the same time the number of other interests
and careers was expanding.

Erasmus. The early years of the sixteenth cen-
tury are made memorable for Cambridge
by the residence here of Erasmus, from
the end of 1510 to the end of 1513. In
his earlier stay at Oxford, he had enjoyed
most congenial and instructive friendships ;



AND THE NATION. 25

but here, at least, he did some of his ripest
and hardest work,- kindling the minds of
disciples, too, who carried on the tradition.
It was in the old tower of Queens' College
that he completed a collation of the Greek
text of the New Testament ; and four
years later his edition the first ever pub-
lished appeared at Basle. It was in this
University, and in the years just after the

visit of Erasmus, that the Reformation had The Refor-
mation.

its English birth. It was a time, too,
when Cambridge men were zealously con-
tinuing those classical studies in which
the Hellenists of Oxford had been
pioneers. It is interesting to recall what
Erasmus wrote in 1520 to Everard, the Cambridge

in 1520

Stadtholder of Holland : ' Theology is A ' D *
flourishing at Paris and at Cambridge as
nowhere else ; and why ? Because they
are adapting themselves to the tendencies



26 THE UNIVERSITIES

of the age ; because the new studies, which
are ready, if need be, to storm an entrance,
are not repelled by them as foes, but re-
ceived as welcome guests.' John Skelton
was even moved to satirise the zeal for
Greek which prevailed at Cambridge in
1521.

But this fair promise was too soon
overclouded. A time of unrest and anxiety
was at hand. Poverty and discontent,
legacies from the past century, were wide-
spread in the land ; the Church was
wealthy, and powerless to defend its wealth ;
Danger of the Universities were identified, in the

the Uni-
versities, public eye, with the Church, and, like it,

were in danger of spoliation. Oxford and
Cambridge were glad to have Wolsey's
protection ; and after his fall, it was of
vital moment to them to win the favour of
the king, The king did indeed stand



AND THE NATION. 27

their friend : when courtiers urged that
the Universities should be plundered, he
declared that he judged no land in England
better bestowed than that which was de-
voted to the uses of learning. But in
return he exacted submission to his will.
The visitation of the Universities by

Thomas Cromwell's Commissioners took Royal in-
junctions
place in 1535, when the Royal Injunctions ofl 535-

were issued. They imposed the acceptance
of the royal supremacy, abolishing the
lectures and degrees in the canon law.
They prescribed the study of Latin and
Greek, and of the Old and New Testa-
ments, to the exclusion of the old scholastic
text-books. These Injunctions may indeed
be regarded as formally marking the fall
of scholasticism. They constitute an offi-
cial boundary-line between the mediaeval
learning and the new.



28 THE UNIVERSITIES

The years But the reform failed to bear good

1535

J 559- fruit. During the years from 1535 to

Mary's death in 1559 the Universities were
at a low ebb. At first, no doubt, the level
of their work seemed to be rising. But
Henry had narrowly circumscribed their
intellectual freedom ; they were suffering
from poverty ; and they were distracted by
all the fierce controversies of the time. A
mischief of a new kind had also crept in.
After the expulsion of the religious orders,
youths of the richer classes began once
more to frequent the Universities, as their
parents had no longer to fear the influence
of monk or friar. Thus in 1549 Latimer


1

Online LibraryRichard Claverhouse JebbThe work of the universities for the nation past and present. The inaugural lecture delivered at the Guildhall, Cambridge, on Saturday, July 29, 1893 → online text (page 1 of 2)