John Henry Newman.

Historical sketches; Rise and progress of universities; Northmen and Normans in England and Ireland; Medieval Oxford; Convocation of Canterbury online

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HISTORICAL SKETCHES.



HISTORICAL SKETCHES



RISE AND PROGRESS OF UNIVERSITIES
NORTHMEN AND NORMANS IN ENGLAND AND IRELAND

MEDIEVAL OXFORD
CONVOCATION OF CANTERBURY



JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

OF THE ORATORY

SOMETIME FELLOW OF ORIEL COiLKGE




LONDON

BASIL MONTAGU PICKERING
196 PICCADILLY

1872



I.

RISE AND PROGRESS OF UNIVERSITIES.



TO

JAMES R. HOPE SCOTT, ESQ., Q.C,

ETC., ETC.

A NAME EVER TO BE HAD IN HONOUR,

WHEN UNIVERSITIES ARE MENTIONED,
FOR THE ZEAL OF HIS EARLY RESEARCHES,

AND THE MUNIFICENCE OF HIS LATER DEEDS,

THIS VOLUME IS INSCRIBED,
A TARDY AND UNWORTHY MEMORIAL,

ON THE PART OF ITS AUTHOR,

OF THE LOVE AND ADMIRATION

OF MANY EVENTFUL YEARS.

DUBLIN, Oct. 28, 1856.



ADVERTISEMENT.

THE following illustrations of the idea of a Univer-
sity originally appeared in 1854, in the columns of the
Dublin " Catholic University Gazette."

In 1 856 they were published in one volume, under the
title of " Office and Work of Universities."

Though the Author then put his name in the title-
page, he thought it best to retain both the profession of
incognito and the conversational tone in which he origi-
nally wrote ; for the obvious reason, that, to have
dropped either would have been to recast his work.
For such a task he could not promise himself leisure ;
and, had he effected it, he might after all only have
made himself more exact and solid at the price of be-
coming less readable, at least in the judgment of a day,
which keenly appreciates the proverb, that "a great book
is a great evil." In saying this, however, he has no in-
tention of implying that he has spared thought or pains
in his composition, or of apologising for its matter.

P.S. In the present edition (1872) he has exchanged
its original title for one which he considers more appro-
priate to its contents.



UNIVERSITIES.

CHAP. PAGE.

I. INTRODUCTORY . . . ... . . I

II. WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY? . 6

III. SITE OF A UNIVERSITY ig

IV. UNIVERSITY LIFE: ATHENS . ...'.... -33
V. FREE TRADE IN KNOWLEDGE: THE SOPHISTS . ' '.. . 47

VI. DISCIPLINE AND INFLUENCE . . . . 60

VII. INFLUENCE : ATHENIAN SCHOOLS , . . -77

VIII. DISCIPLINE : MACEDONIAN AND ROMAN SCHOOLS . . 90

IX. DOWNFALL AND REFUGE OF ANCIENT CIVILIZATION. THE

LOMBARDS . . ' IO5

X. THE TRADITION OF CIVILIZATION : THE ISLES OF THE

NORTH . - . . . . . . . .116

XI. A CHARACTERISTIC OF THE POPES : ST. GREGORY THE

GREAT ' -. . . . . . . . 130

XII. MORAL OF THAT CHARACTERISTIC OF THE POPES : PIUS

THE NINTH 143

XIII. SCHOOLS OF CHARLEMAGNE : PARIS 150

XIV. SUPPLY AND DEMAND : THE SCHOOLMEN .... 163
XV. PROFESSORS AND TUTORS 179

XVI. THE STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS OF UNIVERSITIES: ABELARD 192

XVII. THE ANCIENT UNIVERSITY OF DUBLIN .... 203

XVIII. COLLEGES THE CORRECTIVE OF UNIVERSITIES : OXFORD 213

XIX. ABUSES OF THE COLLEGES : OXFORD 228

XX. UNIVERSITIES AND SEMINARIES : I-'ECOLE DES HAUTES

ETUDES 240



UNIVERSITIES.

CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.

I HAVE it in purpose to commit to paper, time after
time, various thoughts of my own, seasonable, as I
conceive, when a Catholic University is under formation,
and apposite in a publication, which is to be the record
and organ of its proceedings. An anonymous person,
indeed, like myself, can claim no authority for anything
he advances ; nor have I any intention of introducing
or sheltering myself under the sanction of the Institution
which I wish to serve. My remarks will stand amid
weightier matters like the non-official portion of certain
government journals in foreign parts ; and I trust they
will have their use, though they are but individual in
their origin, and unmethodical in their execution.
When I say anything to the purpose, the gain is the
University's ; when I am mistaken or unsuccessful, the
failure is my own.

The Prelates of the Irish Church are at present en-
gaged in an anxious and momentous task, which has the
inconvenience of being strange to us, if it be not novel.
A University is not founded every day ; and seldom
indeed has it been founded under the peculiar circum-
stances which will now attend its establishment in

I



2 Introductory.

Catholic Ireland. Generally speaking, it has grown up
out of schools, or colleges, or seminaries, or monastic
bodies, which had already lasted for centuries ; and,
different as it is from them all, has been little else than
their natural result and completion. While then it has
been expanding into its peculiar and perfect form, it has
at the same time been by anticipation educating subjects
for its service, and has been creating and carrying along
with it the national sympathy. Here, however, as the
world is not slow to object, this great institution is to
take its place among us without antecedent or precedent,
whether to recommend or explain it. It receives, we
are told, neither illustration nor augury from the history
of the past, and requires to be brought into existence as
well as into shape. It has to force its way abruptly into
an existing state of society which has never duly felt
its absence ; and it finds its most formidable obsta-
cles, not in anything inherent in the undertaking itself,
but in the circumambient atmosphere of misapprehen-
sion and prejudice into which it is received. Neces-
sary as it really is, it has to be carried into effect in the
presence of a reluctant or perplexed public opinion, and
that, without any counterbalancing assistance whatever,
as has commonly been the case with Universities, from
royal favour or civil sanction.

This is what many a man will urge, who is favourable
to the project itself, viewed apart from the difficulties of
the time ; nor can the force of such representations be
denied. On the other hand, such difficulties must be
taken for what they are really worth ; they exist, not so
much in adverse facts, as in the opinion of the world
about the facts. That opinion is the adverse fact. It
would be absurd to deny, that grave and good men,
zealous for religion, and experienced in the state of the



Introductory. 3

country, have had serious misgivings on the subject, and
have thought the vision of a Catholic University too
noble, too desirable, to be possible. Still, making every
admission on this score which can be required of me,
I think it is true, after all, that our main adversary is to
be found, not in the unfavourable judgments of particu-
lar persons, though such there are, but in the vague and
diffusive influence of what is called Public Opinion.

I am not so irrational as to despise Public Opinion ; I
have no thought of making light of a tribunal estab-
lished in the conditions and necessities of human nature.
It has its place in the very constitution of society ; it
ever has existed, it ever will exist, whether in the com-
monwealth of nations, or in the humble and secluded
village. But wholesome as it is as a principle, it has, in
common with all things human, great imperfections, and
makes many mistakes. Too often it is nothing else
than what the whole world opines, and no one in parti-
cular. Your neighbour assures you that every one is
of one way of thinking ; that there is but one opinion
on the subject ; and while he claims not to be answer-
able for it, he does not hesitate to propound and spread
it. In such cases, every one is appealing to every one
else ; and the constituent members of a community one
by one think it their duty to defer and succumb to the
voice of that same community as a whole.

It would be extravagant to maintain that this is the
adequate account of the sentiments which have for some
time prevailed among us as to the establishment of our
University ; but, so far as it holds good, this follows, viz. ;
that the despondency, with which the project is regarded
by so many persons, is the offspring, not of their judg-
ment, but mainly (I say it, as will be seen directly, with-
out any disrespect) of their imagination. Public Opinion



4 Introductory.

especially acts upon the imagination ; it does not con-
vince, but it impresses ; it has the force of authority,
rather than of reason ; and concurrence in it is, not an
intelligent decision, but a submission or belief. This
circumstance at once suggests to us how we are to pro-
ceed in the case under consideration. Arguments are
the fit weapons with which to assail an erroneous judg-
ment, but assertions and actions must be brought to
bear upon a false imagination. The mind in that case
has been misled by representations ; it must be set right
by representations. What it asks of us is, not reasoning,
but discussion. In works on Logic, we meet with a so-
phistical argument, the object of which is to prove that
motion is impossible ; and it is not uncommon, before
scientifically handling it, to submit it to a practical refu-
tation ; Solvitur ambulando. Such is the sort of reply
which I think it may be useful just now to make to
public opinion, which is so indisposed to allow that a
Catholic University of the English tongue can be set in
motion. I will neither directly prove that it is possible,
nor answer the allegations in behalf of its impossibility ;
I shall attempt a humbler, but perhaps a not less effica-
cious service, in employing myself to the best of my
ability, and according to the patience of the reader, in
setting forth what a University is. I will leave the con-
troversy to others ; I will confine myself to description
and statement, concerning the nature, the character, the
work, the peculiarities of a University, the aims with
which it is established, the wants it may supply, the
methods it adopts, what it involves and requires, what
are its relations to other institutions, and what has been
its history. I am sanguine that my labour will not be
thrown away, though it aims at nothing very learned,
nothing very systematic ; though it should wander from



Introductory. 5

one subject to another, as each happens to arise, and
gives no promise whatever of terminating in the produc-
tion of a treatise.

And in attempting as much as this, while I hope I
shall gain instruction from criticisms of whatever sort, I
do not mean to be put out by them, whether they come
from those who know more, or those who know less than
myself; from those who take exacter, broader, more
erudite, more sagacious, more philosophical views than
my own ; or those who have yet to attain such measure
of truth and of judgment as I may myself claim. I must
not be disturbed at the animadversions of those who
have a right to feel superior to me, nor at the complaints
of others who think I do not enter into or satisfy their
difficulties. If I am charged with being shallow on the
one part, or off-hand on the other, if I myself feel that
fastidiousness at my own attempts, which grows upon an
author as he multiplies his compositions, I shall console
myself with the reflection, that life is not long enough to
do more than our best, whatever that may be ; that they
who are ever taking aim, make no hits ; that they who
never venture, never gain ; that to be ever safe, is to be
ever feeble ; and that to do some substantial good, is
the compensation for much incidental imperfection.

With thoughts like these, which, such as they are,
have been the companions and the food of my life
hitherto, I address myself to my undertaking.



CHAPTER II.

WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY ?

IF I were asked to describe as briefly and popularly as
I could, what a University was, I should draw my
answer from its ancient designation of a Studium Gene-
rale, or " School of Universal Learning." This descrip-
tion implies the assemblage of strangers from all parts
in one spot ; from all parts ; else, how will you find
professors and students for every department of know-
ledge ? and in one spot; else, how can there be any
school at all ? Accordingly, in its simple and rudimental
form, it is a school of knowledge of every kind, con-
sisting of teachers and learners from every quarter. Many
things are requisite to complete and satisfy the idea em-
bodied in this description ; but such as this a University
seems to be in its essence, a place for the communication
and circulation of thought, by means of personal inter-
course, through a wide extent of country.

There is nothing far-fetched or unreasonable in the
idea thus presented to us ; and if this be a University,
then a University does but contemplate a necessity of
our nature, and is but one specimen in a particular
medium, out of many which might be adduced in others,
of a provision for that necessity. Mutual education, in
a large sense of the word, is one of the great and inces-
sant occupations of human society, carried on partly with
set purpose, and partly not. One generation forms



What is a University? 7

another ; and the existing generation is ever acting and
reacting upon itself in the persons of its individual mem-
bers. Now, in this process, books, I need scarcely say,
that is, the litera scripta, are one special instrument. It
is true ; and emphatically so in this age. Considering
the prodigious powers of the press, and how they are
developed at this time in the never-intermitting issue of
periodicals, tracts, pamphlets, works in series, and light
literature, we must allow there never was a time which
promised fairer for dispensing with every other means of
information and instruction. What can we want more,
you will say, for the intellectual education of the whole
man, and for every man, than so exuberant and diversi-
fied and persistent a promulgation of all kinds of
knowledge ? Why, you will ask, need we go up to
knowledge, when knowledge comes down to us ? The
Sibyl wrote her prophecies upon the leaves of the forest,
and wasted them ; but here such careless profusion might
be prudently indulged, for it can be afforded without
loss, in consequence of the almost fabulous fecundity of
the instrument which these latter ages have invented.
We have sermons in stones, and books in the running
brooks ; works larger and more comprehensive than
those which have gained for ancients an immortality,
issue forth every morning, and are projected onwards to
the ends of the earth at the rate of hundreds of miles a
day. Our seats are strewed, our pavements are pow-
dered, with swarms of little tracts ; and the very bricks
of our city walls preach wisdom, by informing us by
their placards where we can at once cheaply purchase it.
I allow all this, and much more ; such certainly is
our popular education, and its effects are remarkable.
Nevertheless, after all, even in this age, whenever men
are really serious about getting what, in the language of



8 What is a University ?

trade, is called "a good article," when they aim at some-
thing precise, something refined, something really lumi-
nous, something really large, something choice, they go
to another market ; they avail themselves, in some shape
or other, of the rival method, the ancient method, of oral
instruction, of present communication between man and
man, of teachers instead of learning, of the personal
influence of a master, and the humble initiation of a
disciple, and, in consequence, of great centres of pil-
grimage and throng, which such a method of education
necessarily involves. This, I think, will be found to hold
good in all those departments or aspects of society, which
possess an interest sufficient to bind men together, or to
constitute what is called "a world." It holds in the
political world, and in the high world, and in the reli-
gious world ; and it holds also in the literary and
scientific world.

If the actions of men may be taken as any test of
their convictions, then we have reason for saying this,
viz. : that the province and the inestimable benefit of
the litera scripta is that of being a record of truth, and
an authority of appeal, and an instrument of teaching in
the hands of a teacher ; but that, if we wish to become
exact and fully furnished in any branch of knowledge
which is diversified and complicated, we must consult
the living man and listen to his living voice. I am not
bound to investigate the cause of this, and anything I
may say will, I am conscious, be short of its full analy-
sis ; perhaps we may suggest, that no books can get
through the number of minute questions which it is
possible to ask on any extended subject, or can hit upon
the very difficulties which are severally felt by each
reader in succession. Or again, that no book can con-
vey the special spirit and delicate peculiarities of its



What is a University ? 9

subject with that rapidity and certainty which attend on
the sympathy of mind with mind, through the eyes, the
look, the accent, and the manner, in casual expressions
thrown off at the moment, and the unstudied turns of
familiar conversation. But I am already dwelling too
long on what is but an incidental portion of my main
subject. Whatever be the cause, the fact is undeniable.
The general principles of any study you may learn by
books at home ; but the detail, the colour, the tone, the
air, the life which makes it live in us, you must catch all
these from those in whom it lives already. You must
imitate the student in French or German, who is not
content with his grammar, but goes to Paris or Dresden:
you must take example from the young artist, who
aspires to visit the great Masters in Florence and in
Rome. Till we have discovered some intellectual da-
guerreotype, which takes off the course of thought, and
the form, lineaments, and features of truth, as completely
and minutely, as the optical instrument reproduces the
sensible object, we must come to the teachers of wisdom
to learn wisdom, we must repair to the fountain, and
drink there. Portions of it may go from thence to the
ends of the earth by means of books ; but the fulness is
in one place alone. It is in such assemblages and con-
gregations of intellect that books themselves, the master- -
pieces of human genius, are written, or at least originated.

The principle on which I have been insisting is so
obvious, and instances in point are so ready, that I should
think it tiresome to proceed with the subject, except
that one or two illustrations may serve to explain my
own language about it, which may not have done justice
to the doctrine which it has been intended to enforce.

For instance, the polished manners and high-bred
bearing which are so difficult of attainment, and so



IO What is a University?

strictly personal when attained, which are so much
admired in society, from society are acquired. All that
goes to constitute a gentleman, the carriage, gait,
address, gestures, voice ; the ease, the self-possession,
the courtesy, the power of conversing, the talent of not
offending"; the lofty principle, the delicacy of thought,
the happiness of expression, the taste and propriety, the
generosity and forbearance, the candour and considera-
tion, the openness of hand ; these qualities, some of
them come by nature, some of them may be found
in any rank, some of them are a direct precept of
Christianity ; but the full assemblage of them, bound
up in the unity of an individual character, do we expect
they can be learned from books? are they not necessarily
acquired, where they are to be found, in high society ?
The very nature of the case leads us to say so ; you
cannot fence without an antagonist, nor challenge all
comers in disputation before you have supported a the-
sis ; and in like manner, it stands to reason, you cannot
learn to converse till you have the world to converse
with; you cannot unlearn your natural bashfulness, or
awkwardness, or stiffness, or other besetting deformity,
till you serve your time in some school of manners.
Well, and is it not so in matter of fact ? The metropolis,
the court, the great houses of the land, are the centres
to which at stated times the country comes up, as to
shrines of refinement and good taste ; and then in due
time the country goes back again home, enriched with a
portion of the social accomplishments, which those very
visits serve to call out and heighten in the gracious dis-
pensers of them. We are unable to conceive how the
" gentlemanlike " can otherwise be maintained ; and
maintained in this way it is.

And now a second instance : and here too I am going



What is a University ? 1 1

to speak without personal experience of the subject I am
introducing. I admit I have not been in Parliament,
any more than I have figured in the beau monde ; yet I
cannot but think that statesmanship, as well as high
breeding, is learned, not by books, but in certain cen-
tres of education. If it be not presumption to say so,
Parliament puts a clever man au courant with politics
and affairs of state in a way surprising to himself. A
member of the Legislature, if tolerably observant, be-
gins to see things with new eyes, even though his views
undergo no change. Words have a meaning now, and
ideas a reality, such as they had not before. He hears
a vast deal in public speeches and private conversation,
which is never put into print. The bearings of measures
and events, the action of parties, and the persons of
friends and enemies, are brought out to the man who is
in the midst of them with a distinctness, which the most
diligent perusal of newspapers will fail to impart to
them. It is access to the fountain-heads of political
wisdom and experience, it is daily intercourse, of one
kind or another, with the multitude who go up to
them, it is familiarity with business, it is access to the
contributions of fact and opinion thrown together by
many witnesses from many quarters, which does this for
him. However, I need not account for a fact, to which
it is sufficient to appeal ; that the Houses of Parliament
and the atmosphere around them are a sort of Univer-
sity of politics.

As regards the world of science, we find a remark-
able instance of the principle which I am illustrating, in
the periodical meetings for its advance, which have
arisen in the course of the last twenty years, such as
the British Association. Such gatherings would to many
persons appear at first sight simply preposterous.



1 2 What is a University ?

Above all subjects of study, Science is conveyed, is
propagated, by books, or by private teaching ; experi-
ments and investigations are conducted in silence ; dis-
coveries are made in solitude. What have philosophers
to do with festive celebrities, and panegyrical solemni-
ties with mathematical and physical truth ? Yet on a
closer attention to the subject, it is found that not even
scientific thought can dispense with the suggestions, the
instruction, the stimulus, the sympathy, the intercourse
with mankind on a large scale, which such meetings
secure. A fine time of year is chosen, when days are
long, skies are bright, the earth smiles, and all
nature rejoices ; a city or town is taken by turns, of
ancient name or modern opulence, where buildings are
spacious and hospitality hearty. The novelty of place
and circumstance, the excitement of strange, or the re-
freshment of well-known faces, the majesty of rank or
of genius, the amiable charities of men pleased both
with themselves and with each other; the elevated
spirits, the circulation of thought, the curiosity ; the
morning sections, the outdoor exercise, the well-fur-
nished, well-earned board, the not ungraceful hilarity,
the evening circle ; the brilliant lecture, the discussions
or collisions or guesses of great men one with another,
the narratives of scientific processes, of hopes, disap-
pointments, conflicts, and successes, the splendid eulo-
gistic orations ; these and the like constituents of the
annual celebration, are considered to do something real
and substantial for the advance of knowledge which can
be done in no other way. Of course they can but be
occasional ; they answer to the annual Act, or Com-
mencement, or Commemoration of a University, not to
its ordinary condition ; but they are of a University
nature ; and I can well believe in their utility. They



What is a University ? 13

issue in the promotion of a certain living and, as it were,
bodily communication of knowledge from one to an-
other, of a general interchange of ideas, and a comparison
and adjustment of science with science, of an enlarge-
ment of mind, intellectual and social, of an ardent love
of the particular study, which may be chosen by each
individual, and a noble devotion to its interests.

Such meetings, I repeat, are but periodical, and only
partially represent the idea of a University. The bustle
and whirl which are their usual concomitants, are in ill



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanHistorical sketches; Rise and progress of universities; Northmen and Normans in England and Ireland; Medieval Oxford; Convocation of Canterbury → online text (page 1 of 30)