Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

Critical, historical, and miscellaneous essays online

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sliild in religion. She hears the preachers whom they prts*



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THE LONDON UNIVERSITY. 885

fcr, and reads the theoloojical works which they pat into her
hand:«. Who can deny that this is the case in innamerable
families? Who can point out any material difference be-
tween the situation in which this ^rl is placed, and that of a
pupil at the new University? Why then is so crying an
abuse suffered to exist without reprehension ? Is there no
Sacheverell to raise the old cry, — the Church is in dan<;er,
— that cry which was never uttered by any voice however
feeble, or for any end however base, without being instantly
caught up and repeated through all the dark and loathsome
nooks where bigotry nestles with corruption ? Where is the
charge of the Bishop and the sermon of the Chaplain, the
tear of the Chancellor and the oath of the Heir-apparent,
the speech of Mr. William Bankes and the pamphlet of Sir
Hai*court Lees? What means the silence of those filthy
and malignant baboons, whose favourite diversion is to grin
and sputter at innocence and beauty through the grates of
their spunging-houses ? Why not attempt to blast the rep-
utation of the poor ladies who are so irreligiously brought
up? Why not search into all the secrets of their fiimilies?
Why not enliven the Sunday breakfast-tables of priests and
placemen with elopements of their great*aunts and the bank-
ruptcies of their second cousins ?

Or, to make the parallel still clearer, take the case of a
young man, a student, we will suppose, of surgery, resident
in London. He wishes to become master of his profession,
without neglecting other us^efnl branches of knowledge. In
the morning he attends Mr. M*Culloch'8 lecture on Polit-
ical Economy. He then repairs to the Haspital, and hears
Sir Astley Cooper explain the mode of reducing fractures.
In the afltemoon he joins one of the classes which Mr. Ham-
ilton instructs in French or Qerman. With regtird to relig-
ious observances, he acts as he himself, or those under whose
care he is, may think most advisable. Is there any thing
objectionable in this ? Is it not the most common case in
the world ? And in what does it differ fix)ra that of a young
man at the London University? Our surgeon, it is true,
will have to run over half London in search of his instruc-
tors ; and the other will find all the lecture-rooms which he
attends standing conveniently together, at tlie end of Gower
Street Is it in the local situation that the mischief lies?
We have observed that, since Mr. Croker, in the last session



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836 THE LONDON UNIVERSITY.

of Parliament, declared himself ignorant of the site of Rus-
sell Square, the plan of forming an University in so inelepuu
a neighbourhood has excited much contempt amongst tha-^
estimable persons who think that the whole dignity of man coo*
pists in living within certain districts, wearing coats made by
certain tailors, and eschewing certain meats and drinks. We
should be sorry to think that the i*eports which any lying
Mandeville from Bond Street may have circuited respec-t-
iiig that Terra Incogniti^ could seriously prejudice (he new
College. The Secretary of the Admiralty, however, has the
remedy in his own hands. When Captain Franklin returD:i,
as we trust he soon will, from his American expedition, he
will, we hope, be sent to explore that other North- West pas-
sage which connects the city with the Regent's Park. It
would then be found, that, tlnnigh the natives generally be-
long to the same raoe with those Oriental barbarians whose
irruptions have long been the terror of Hamilton Place
aud Grosvenor Square, they ai-e, upon the whole, quiet and
inoffensive ; that, though they possess no architectural mon-
ument which can be compared to the Pavilion at Brighton,
their habhations are neat and commodious; and that their
language has mai»y ]X)ots in common with that which is
spoken in St. James's Street. One thing more we must
mention, which will astonish some of our readers, as much
as the discovery of the Syrian Christians of St. Thomas on
the coast of Malabar. Our religion has been introduced by
some Xavter or Augustin of former times into the.se tracts.
Churches, with all their appurtenances of hassocks and
organs, are to be found there ; and even the tithe, that great
articulum stanUs aut labarUia eceiesus, is by no means un-
known.

The writer of the article on this subject in the last Num-
ber of the Quai'terly Review, sevei'ely censures the omission
of religious iastructioo, in a place styling itself an Univer-
sity, — never perceiving that, with the inconsistency which
belongs to error, he has alivady answered the objection. " A
place of education,** says he, ** is the least of all proper to be
made the arena of disputable and untried doctrine." He
severely cen^nirea those academies in which "a perpetual
vacillation of doctrine is observable, whether in morals, met-
aphysics, or religion, accoixling to the fix^quency of change
in the professional chair." Now, we venture to say, that



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THE LONDON DNIVERSTTY. 33t

jIio^o ron^idemtions, if they are worth any ihmfr at all, arc
^li^risive aorain-t any .-scheme of reh'jrious instruction in the
I^ndon University. That Univeri^ity was intended to admit
not only Christians of all persuasions, hut even Jews. But
suppose that it were to narrow its limits, to adopt the for-
mulnries of the Church of Enprland, to require subscription,
or the sacramental test, from every professor and from every
pupil ; still, we say, there would he more field for contro-
versy, more danorpr of that vacillation of doctrine which
seems to the Reviewer to he so ^eat an evil, on subjects
of theolo^ry, than on all other subjects topjether. Take a
science which is still younj2:, ^ science of considerable intri-
cacy, a science, we may add, which the passions and interests
of men have rendered more intricate than it is in its own
nature, the science of Political Economy. Who will deny,
that, for one schism which is to be found amonor those who
are enjraired in that study, there are twenty on points of
divinity, within the Church of England^

Is it not notorious that Arminians, who stand on the very
frontier of Pelajrianism, and Calvinistjs, whom a line scarcely
discernible sc|)arates from Antinomianism, are to be found
among those who eat the bread of the Establishment ? Ta
it not notorious that predestination, final perseverance, the
operation of jrrace, the efficacy of the sacraments, and a hun-
dred other subjects which we could name, have been themes
of violent disputes between eminent churchmen ? The ethics
of Christianity, as well as its theory, have been the theme
of dispute. One party calls the other latitudinarian and
worldly. The other retorts accu-ations of fanaticism and
asceticism. The curate has been set against the rector, the
dean against the bishop. There is scarcely a parish in Eng-
land into which the controversy has not found its way. There
is scarcely an action of human life so trivial and familiar as
not to be in some way or other affected by it. Whether it
is proper to take in a Sunday newspaper, to shoot a par-
tridge, to course a hare, to subscribe to a Bible Society, to
dance, to play at whist, to read Tom Jones, to see Othello, —
all these are questions on which the strongest difference of
opinion exi-ts between persons of high eminence in the hie-
rarchy. The Quarterly Reviewer thinks it a yery bad thing,
that *• the first object of a new professor should be to refute
the fundamental positions of his predecessors." What would

VOL. VI. 15



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888 THE LONDON UNIVERSITY.

ba the case if a Hi;^h Cliurchinan slioull ."iiocecil a Low
Churchman, or a Low Churchman a Hi«;h Churchman, in
the chair of relijpon ? And what pO'^ible jiecurity could the
London Univer«sity have against such an event ? What secu-
rity have Oxford or Cambridge now ? In fact, all that we
know of the state of religious parties at those places fullj
hears out our statement. One of the most fiimous divines
of our time. Dr. Marsh, Bishop of Peterborough, Mapo^aret
Profes.'^or of Theology at Cambridge, and author of eighty-
seven of the most unanswerable questions that ever raaa
|iix)pounded to his fellow-men, published a very sinjruhir
liypolhesis respecting the origin of the Gospels. With the
tiutli or falsehood of the hypothesis we have nothing to da
We have, however, heard another eminent Professor of the
same University, high in the Church, condemn the theory as
utterly unfounded, and of most dangerous consequence to
the orthodox faith. Nay, the very pulpit of Saint Mary's has
been *' the arena of disputable and untried doctnne," as much
as ever was the chair of any Scotch or German professor, —
a fact, of which any person may easily satisfy himself, who
will take the trouble to rescue from the hands of trunk-
makers and pastry-cooks, a few of the sermons which have
been preached there, and subsequently published. And if,
in the course of his researches, he should happen to light on
that which was preached by a very eminent scholar on a
very remarkable occasion, the installation of the Duke Glou-
cester, he will see, that not only dispute, but something very
like abuse, may take place between those whose office it is
to instruct our young collegians in the doctrines and duties
of Christianity.

" But," it is said, "would it not be shocking to expose the
morals of young men to the contaminating influence of a
great city, to all the fascinations of the Fives* Court and tlie
gaming table, the tavern and the saloon ?" Shocking, indeed,
we grant, if it were possible to send them all to Oxford and
Cambridge, those blessed spots where, to use the imagery of
their own prize-poems, the Saturnian age still lingers, and
where white-robed Innocence has left the print of her de-
parting footsteps. There, we know, all the men ai-e philos-
ophers, and all the women vestals. There, simple and blood-
less repasts support the body without distressing the mind
There, while the sluggish world is still sleeping, the ingen



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THE LONDOX UNIVKRSITY. 839

uous youth hapten to pour forth their fervf»nt orisons in the
chapel ; and in the evening, elsewhere the .^ea-on of not and
license, indulf^e themselves with a aolitary walk lieneatb the
venerable avenues, musing on the vanity of sensual pursuits,
atid the eternity and sublimity of virtue. But, alas ! these
blissful abodes of the Seven Cardinal Virtues are neither
large enough nor cheap enough for those who stand in need
of instruction. Many thousands of young men will live in
LK)ndon, whether an University be established there or not, —
and that for this simple rea-^on, that they cannot afford to
live elsewhere. That they should be eonden>ned to one mis-
fortune because they labour under another, and debarred
from knowledge because they are surrounded with tempta-
tions to vice, seems to be not a very rational or humane
mode of proceeding.

To speak seriously, in comparing the dangers to which the
morals of young men, are exposed in London, with thoe*e
whicli exist at the Universities, there is something to be said
on both sides. The temptations of London may be greater.
But with the temptation there is a way to escape. U the
student live with his family, he will be under the influence
of rcjstraints more powerful, and, we will add, infinitely more
salutary and respectable, than those which the best disci-
|)lined colleges can impase. Even if he be left completely
to his own devices, he will still have within his reach two
inestimable advantages, from which the students of Oxford
and Cambridge are almost wholly excluded, the society of
men older than himself, and of modest women.

There are no intimacies more valuable than those which a
young man forms with one who is his senior by ten or twelve
years. Those years do not destroy the sympathy and the
sense of equality without which no cordiality can exist.
Yet they strengthen the principles, and form the judgment.
They make one of the parties a sensible adviser, and the
other a docile listener. Such friendships it is almost im^ios-
gible to form at College. Between the man of twenty and
the man of thirty there is a great gulf, a distinction which
cannot be mistaken, which is marked by the dress and by
the seat, at prayers and at table. We do not believe that,
of the young students at our ancient seats of learning, one in
ten lives in confidence and familiarity with any member of
the University who is a Master of Arts. When the members



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840 THE LONDON UNrVERSITY.

of the Univei'S'ty are deducted, the stocietj of Oxford and
Cambridj^e is no more than that of an ordinary county town.

This state of thin*^.*, it is clear, does more harm than all
the exertions of Proctors and Proproctors can do good. The
errors of younfr men are of a nature with which it is veiy
difficult to deal. 8lij;ht punishments are inefficient ; sevens
punishments generally and juj^tly odious. The best course
is to give them over to the arm of public opinion. To
restrain them, it is necessary to make them discreditable.
But how can they be made discreditable while the offenders
associate only with those who are of the same age, who are
exposed to the same temptations, and who are willing to
grant the indulgence which they themselves may need? It
is utterly impossible that a code of morality and honour,
enacted by the young only, can be so severe against juvenile
irregularities as that which is in force in general society,
where manhood and age have the deciding voice, and where
the partial inclinations of those whose passions are strong,
and whose reason is weak, are withstood by those whom
time and domestic life have sobered. The diflference resem-
bles that which would be found between laws passed by an
assembly consisting solely of farmers, or solely of weavers,
and th<»e of a senate fairly representing every interest of
the community.

A student in London, even though he may not live >vith
his own relativcj^ will generally have it in his power to mix
with respectable female society. This is not only a ver^
pleasant thing, bul it is one which, tiiough it may not make
him moral, is likely to make him decorous, and to preserve
him from that brainless and heartless Yahooism, that disdain
of the character of women, and that brutal indifference to
their misery, which is the worst offence, and the severest
punishment of the finished libertine. Many of the pupibi
will, in all probability, continue to reside with their parents
or friends. We own that we can conceive no situation
more agreeable or more salutary. One of the worst effects
of College habits is that distaste for domestic life which they
almost inevitably generate. The system is monastic; and it
tends to produce the monastic selfishness, inattention to the
convenience of others, and impatience of petty privations.
We mean no reproach. It is utterly impossible that the
most amiable man in the world can be accustomed to live



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THK LONDON UNIVERSITY. 841

for years independent of his neiglibour-*, and to lay all hU
plans with a view only to himself, without becoming, in some
degree, unfitted for a family. A course of education whicli
should combine the enjoyments of a home with the excite-
ments of a University, would be more likely than any other
to form characters at once affectionare and manly. Home-
bred boys, it is often said, are idle. The cause, we suspect,
IS the want "of comjH'titors. We no more believe that a
young man at the London University would be made idle
by the society of his mothers and sisters, than that the old
German warriors, or the combatants in the tournaments of
tlie middle ages, were made cowards by the presence of
female 8))ectators. On the contrary, we are convinced that
his ambition would be at once animated and consecrated by
daily intercourse with those who would be dearest to him,
and most inclined to rejoice in his success.

The eulogists of the old Universities are fond of dwelling
on the gkwious associations connected with them. It has
often been said that the young scholar is likely to catch a
generous enthusiasm from looking upon spots ennobled by so
many great names — that he can scarcely see the chair in
which Bentley sat, the' tree which Milton planted, the walls
within which Wickliffe presided, the books illustrated by the
autographs of famous men, the halls hung with their pictures,
the chapels hallowed by their tombs, without aspiring to
imitate those whom he admires. Far l>e it from us to speak
with disrespect of such feelings. It is possible that the me-
morials of those who have asserted the freedom, and extended
the empire of the mind, may produce a strong impression on
a sensitive and ardent disposition. But these instances arc
i-are. " Coram Lepidis male vivitur." Young academicians
venture to get drunk within a few yards of the grave of
Newton, and to commit solecisms, though the awful eye of
Erasmus frowns upon them from the canvas. Some more
homely sentiment, some more obvious aH^ociation is neces-
sary. For our part, when a young man is to be urged to
)>ersevering industry, and fortified against the seductions of
pleasure, we would rather send him to the fireside of his own
family, tlian to the abodes of philosophers who died centuries
ago, — and to those kind familiar faces which are always
anxious in his anxiety, and joyful in his success, than to the
|)ortrait of any writer tliat ever wore cap and gown*



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312 THE LONDON UNIVERSITY.*

The cry againdt the London University has been swelled
by the voices of mjiny really conscientious persons. M^iny
have joined in it from the mei'e wanton love of mischief.
But we believe that it has principally originated in the jeal-
ousy of those who are attached to Cambridge and Oxford,
either by their interests, or by tiio*e feelings which men nat-
urally entertain towards the place of their education, and
which, when they do not inteifere with schemes of public
advantage, are entitled to respect. Many of these persons,
we suspect, entertain a vague appreliension. scarcely avowed
even to themselves, that some defects in the constitution of
their favourite Academies will be rendered more glaring by
the contrast which the system of this new College will ex-
hibit.

That there are such defects, great and radical defects in
the structure of the two Universities, we are strongly inclined
to believe : and the jealousy which many of llieir members
have expressed of the new Institution greatly strengthens
our opinion. What those defects appear to us to be, we
shall attempt to state with frankness, but, at the same time,
we trust, with candour.

We are sensible that we have undertaken a dangerous
task. There is perhaps no subject on which more people
have made up their minds without knowing why. When-
ever this is the case, discussion ends in scurrility, the last
re^urce of the disputant who cannot answer, and who wilj
not submit. The scurrility of those who are scurrilous on
all occasions, and against all opponents, by nature and by
habit, by taste and by trade, cran excite only the mirth or the
pity of a well regulated mind. But we neither possess, nor
affect to possess, that degree of philosophy, w»hich wouhl
render us indifferent to the pain and resentment of sincere
and respectable persons, whose prejudices we ai-e compelled
to assail. It is not in the bitterness of party spirit, it is not
in the wantonness of paradox and declamation, that we would
put to hazard the good will of learned and estimable men.
Such a sacrifice must be powerful, and nothing but a sense
of public duty would lead us to make it. We would ear-
nestly entreat the admii'ers of the two Universities to reflect
on the importance of this subject, the advantages of calm
inve^-^tigation, and the folly of trusting, in an age like tlie
present, to mere dogmatism and invective. If the system



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' TlIK LONDON UNIVERSITY. 343

which they love and vencnite i-ost upon just principhis the
examination which we pn»pose to institute, into the state of
its foundations, can only serve to prove their solidit}'. If
they be unsound, we wi!l not permit ourselves to think, that
intellig3nt and honourable men can wish to disgnise a fact
which, for the sake of this counti*y, and of the whole human
race, ou<»ht to be widely known. Let them, instead of re-
iterating assertions which leave the question exactly where
they found it ; instead of turning away from all argument,
Hs if the subject were one on wliich doubt partook of the
nature of sin ; instead of attributing to selfishness or malev-
olence, that which may at worst be harmless error, join us in
coolly studying so interesting and momentous a fwint. — As
to this, however, they will please themselves. We speak to
the English people. The public mind, if we are not de-
ceived, is approachmg to manhood. It has outgrown its swad-
dKng-bands, and thrown away its play-things. It can no
longer be amused by a rattle, or laid asleep by a song, or
awed by a fairy tale. At such a time, we cannot doubt that
we shall obtain an impartial hearing.

Our objections to Oxford and Cambridge may be summed
up in two words, their Wealth and their Privileges. Their
prosperity does not depend on the public approbation. It
would therefore be strange if they deserved the public ap-
probation. Their revenues are immense. Their degrees
are, in some professions, indispensable. Like manufacturers
who enjoy a monopoly, they work at such an advantage, that
they can venture to work ill.

Every person, we presume, will acknowledge that, to estab-
lish an academic system on immutable principles, would be
Jhc height of absurdity. Every year sees the empire of
science enlarged by the acquisition of some new province, or
improved by the construction of some easier road. Sui*ely
the change which daily takes place in the state of knowVdg(S
ought to be accompanied by a corresponding change in th*;
method of instruction. In many cases the rude and imperfect
works of early speculators ought to give place to the more
complete and luminous performances of those who succeed
iliem. Even the comparative value of languages is subject
to great fluctuations. The same tongue which at one pericx!
may be richer than any other in valuable works, may, some
wnturies after, l)e poorer than any. That, while such rev-



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844 THE LONDON UNIVKRSITY. '

olutions take place, education on^ht to remain unchanged, h
a proposition too absurd to be maintained for a moment.

If it be desirable that education should, by a gradual and
constant change, adapt itself to the circumstances of evcrj
[generation, how is tliis object to be secured? We answer —
only by perfect freedom of competition. Under such a sys-
tem, every possible exigence would be met. Whatever lan-
guage, whatever art, whatever science, it might at any time
be useful to know, thcU men would surely learn, and would
as surely Und instructors to teach. The professor who should
persist in devoting his attention to branches of knowledge
which had become useless, would soon be deserted by his
pupils. There would be as much of every sort of informa-
tion as wouM afford profit and pleasure to the possessor —
and no more.

But the riches and the franchises of our Universities pre-
vent this salutary rivaliy from taking place. In its stead is
introduced an unnatural system of premiums, prohibitions, and
apprenticeships. Enormous bounties are lavished on partic-
ular acquirements ; and, in consequence, there is among our
youth a glut of Greek, Latin, and Mathematics, and a lamen-
table scarcity of every thing else.

We are by no means inclined to depreciate the studies
which are encouraged at Oxford and Cambridge. We should
reprobate with the same severity a system under which a
like exclusive pi-otection should be extended to French or
Spanish, Chemistry or Mineralogy, Metaphysics or Political
Economy. Some of these branches of knowledge are very
important. But they may not always be equally important.
Five hundred years hence, the Burmese language may con-
tain the most valuable books in the world. Sciences, for
which there is now no name, and of which the first rudiments
are still undiscovered, may then be in the greatest demand*
Our objection is to the principle. We abhor intellectual per*



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 66 of 84)