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Never let _them_ take up a stone to throw at Oxford, upon this element of a wise education; since in them, through that original vice in their constitution, the defect of all means for secluding and insulating their society, discipline is abolished by anticipation-- being, in fact, an impossible thing; for the walls of the college are subservient to no purpose of life, but only to a purpose of convenience; they converge the students for the hour or two of what is called lecture; which over, each undergraduate again becomes _sui juris_, is again absorbed into the crowds of the world, resorts to whatsoever haunts he chooses, and finally closes his day at----if, in any sense, at home--at a home which is not merely removed from the supervision and control, but altogether from the bare knowledge, of his academic superiors. How far this discipline is well administered in other points at Oxford, will appear from the rest of my account. But, thus far, at least, it must be conceded, that Oxford, by and through this one unexampled distinction--her vast disposable fund of accommodations for junior members within her own private cloisters-- possesses an advantage which she could not forfeit, if she would, towards an effectual knowledge of each man's daily habits, and a control over him which is all but absolute.
This knowledge and this control is much assisted and concentrated by the division of the university into separate colleges. Here comes another feature of the Oxford system. Elsewhere the university is a single college; and this college is the university. But in Oxford the university expresses, as it were, the army, and the colleges express the several brigades, or regiments.
To resume, therefore, my own thread of personal narration. On the next morning after my arrival in Oxford, I assembled a small council of friends to assist me in determining at which of the various separate societies I should enter, and whether as a "commoner," or as a "gentleman commoner." Under the first question was couched the following latitude of choice: I give the names of the colleges, and the numerical account of their numbers, as it stood in January, 1832; for this will express, as well as the list of that day, (which I do not accurately know), the _proportions_ of importance amongst them.
1. University College ................. 207 2. Balliol " ................. 257 3. Merton " ................. 124 4. Exeter " ................. 299 5. Oriel " ................. 293 6. Queen's " ................. 351 7. New " ................. 157 8. Lincoln " ................. 141 9. All Souls' " ................. 98 10. Magdalene " ................. 165 11. Brazennose " ................. 418 12. Corpus Christi " ................. 127 13. Christ Church " ................. 949 14. Trinity " ................. 259 15. St. John's " ................. 218 16. Jesus " ................. 167 17. Wadham " ................. 217 18. Pembroke " ................. 189 19. Worcester " ................. 231
Then, besides these colleges, five _Halls_, as they are technically called, (the term _Hall_ implying chiefly that they are societies not endowed, or not endowed with fellowships as the colleges are), namely:
1. St. Mary Hall. .............. 83 2. Magdalen " .............. 178 3. New Inn " .............. 10 4. St. Alban " .............. 41 5. St. Edmund " .............. 96
Such being the names, and general proportions on the scale of local importance, attached to the different communities, next comes the very natural question, What are the chief determining motives for guiding the selection amongst them? These I shall state. First of all, a man not otherwise interested in the several advantages of the colleges has, however, in all probability, some choice between a small society and a large one; and thus far a mere ocular inspection of the list will serve to fix his preference. For my part, supposing other things equal, I greatly preferred the most populous college, as being that in which any single member, who might have reasons for standing aloof from the general habits of expense, of intervisiting, etc., would have the best chance of escaping a jealous notice. However, amongst those "other things" which I presumed equal, one held a high place in my estimation, which a little inquiry showed to be very far from equal. All the colleges have chapels, but all have not organs; nor, amongst those which have, is the same large use made of the organ. Some preserve the full cathedral service; others do not. Christ Church, meantime, fulfilled _all_ conditions: for the chapel here happens to be the cathedral of the diocese; the service, therefore, is full and ceremonial; the college, also, is far the most splendid, both in numbers, rank, wealth, and influence. Hither I resolved to go; and immediately I prepared to call on the head.
The "head," as he is called generically, of an Oxford college (his _specific_ appellation varies almost with every college-- principal, provost, master, rector, warden, etc.), is a greater man than the uninitiated suppose. His situation is generally felt as conferring a degree of rank not much less than episcopal; and, in fact, the head of Brazennose at that time, who happened to be the Bishop of Bangor, was not held to rank much above his brothers in office. Such being the rank of heads generally, _a fortiori_, that of Christ Church was to be had in reverence; and this I knew. He is always, _ex officio_, dean of the diocese; and, in his quality of college head, he only, of all deans that ever were heard of, is uniformly considered a greater man than his own diocesan. But it happened that the present dean had even higher titles to consideration. Dr. Cyril Jackson had been tutor to the Prince of Wales (George IV.); he had repeatedly refused a bishopric; and _that_, perhaps, is entitled to place a man one degree above him who has accepted one. He was also supposed to have made a bishop, and afterwards, at least, it is certain that lie made his own brother a bishop. All things weighed, Dr. Cyril Jackson seemed so very great a personage that I now felt the value of my long intercourse with great Dons in giving me confidence to face a lion of this magnitude.
Those who know Oxford are aware of the peculiar feelings which have gathered about the name and pretensions of Christ Church; feelings of superiority and leadership in the members of that college, and often enough of defiance and jealousy on the part of other colleges. Hence it happens that you rarely find yourself in a shop, or other place of public resort, with a Christ-Church man, but he takes occasion, if young and frivolous, to talk loudly of the Dean, as an indirect expression of his own connection with this splendid college; the title of _Dean_ being exclusively attached to the headship of Christ Church. The Dean, as may be supposed, partakes in this superior dignity of his "House;" he is officially brought into connection with all orders of the British aristocracy--often with royal personages; and with the younger branches of the aristocracy his office places him in a relation of authority and guardianship--exercised, however, through inferior ministry, and seldom by direct personal interference. The reader must understand that, with rare exceptions, all the princes and nobles of Great Britain, who choose to benefit by an academic education, resort either to Christ Church College in Oxford, or to Trinity College in Cambridge; these are the alternatives. Naturally enough, my young friends were somewhat startled at my determination to call upon so great a man; a letter, they fancied, would be a better mode of application. I, however, who did not adopt the doctrine that no man is a hero to his valet, was of opinion that very few men indeed are heroes to themselves. The cloud of external pomp, which invests them to the eyes of the _attoniti_ cannot exist to their own; they do not, like Kehama, entering the eight gates of Padalon at once, meet and contemplate their own grandeurs; but, more or less, are conscious of acting a part. I did not, therefore, feel the tremor which was expected of a novice, on being ushered into so solemn a presence.
The Dean was sitting in a spacious library or study, elegantly, if not luxuriously furnished. Footmen, stationed as repeaters, as if at some fashionable rout, gave a momentary importance to my unimportant self, by the thundering tone of their annunciations. All the machinery of aristocratic life seemed indeed to intrench this great Don's approaches; and I was really surprised that so very great a man should condescend to rise on my entrance. But I soon found that, if the Dean's station and relation to the higher orders had made him lofty, those same relations had given a peculiar suavity to his manners. Here, indeed, as on other occasions, I noticed the essential misconception, as to the demeanor of men of rank, which prevails amongst those who have no personal access to their presence. In the fabulous pictures of novels (such novels as once abounded), and in newspaper reports of conversations, real or pretended, between the king and inferior persons, we often find the writer expressing _his_ sense of aristocratic assumption, by making the king address people without their titles. The Duke of Wellington, for instance, or Lord Liverpool, figures usually, in such scenes, as "Wellington," or "Arthur," and as "Liverpool." Now, as to the private talk of George IV. in such cases, I do not pretend to depose; but, speaking generally, I may say that the practice of the highest classes takes the very opposite course. Nowhere is a man so sure of his titles or official distinctions as amongst _them_; for, it is upon giving to every man the very extreme punctilio of his known or supposed claims, that they rely for the due observance of their own. Neglecting no form of courtesy suited to the case, they seek, in this way, to remind men unceasingly of what they expect; and the result is what I represent--that people in the highest stations, and such as bring them continually into contact with inferiors, are, of all people, the least addicted to insolence or defect of courtesy. Uniform suavity of manner is indeed rarely found, except in men of high rank. Doubtless this may arise upon a motive of self-interest, jealous of giving the least opening or invitation to the retorts of ill-temper or low breeding. But, whatever be its origin, such I believe to be the fact. In a very long conversation of a general nature upon the course of my studies, and the present direction of my reading, Dr. Cyril Jackson treated me just as he would have done his equal in station and in age. Coming, at length, to the particular purpose of my visit at this time to himself, he assumed a little more of his official stateliness. He condescended to say that it would have given him pleasure to reckon me amongst his flock; "But, sir," he said, in a tone of some sharpness, "your guardians have acted improperly. It was their duty to have given me at least one year's notice of their intention to place you at Christ Church. At present I have not a dog- kennel in my college untenanted." Upon this, I observed that nothing remained for me to do but to apologize for having occupied so much of his time; that, for myself, I now first heard of this preliminary application; and that, as to my guardians, I was bound to acquit them of all oversight in this instance, they being no parties to my present scheme. The Dean expressed his astonishment at this statement. I, on my part, was just then making my parting bows, and had reached the door, when a gesture of the Dean's, courteously waving me back to the sofa I had quitted, invited me to resume my explanations; and I had a conviction at the moment that the interview would have terminated in the Dean's suspending his standing rule in my favor. But, just at that moment, the thundering heralds of the Dean's hall announced some man of high rank: the sovereign of Christ Church seemed distressed for a moment; but then recollecting himself, bowed in a way to indicate that I was dismissed. And thus it happened that I did not become a member of Christ Church.
A few days passed in thoughtless indecision. At the end of that time, a trivial difficulty arose to settle my determination. I had brought about fifty guineas to Oxford; but the expenses of an Oxford inn, with almost daily entertainments to young friends, had made such inroads upon this sum, that, after allowing for the contingencies incident to a college initiation, enough would not remain to meet the usual demand for what is called "caution money." This is a small sum, properly enough demanded of every student, when matriculated, as a pledge for meeting any loss from unsettled arrears, such as his sudden death or his unannounced departure might else continually be inflicting upon his college. By releasing the college, therefore, from all necessity for degrading vigilance or persecution, this demand does, in effect, operate beneficially to the feelings of all parties. In most colleges it amounts to twenty-five pounds: in one only it was considerably less.
And this trifling consideration it was, concurring with a reputation _at that time_ for relaxed discipline, which finally determined me in preferring W--- College to all others. This college had the capital disadvantage, in my eyes, that its chapel possessed no organ, and no musical service. But any other choice would have driven me to an instant call for more money--a measure which, as too flagrantly in contradiction to the whole terms on which I had volunteered to undertake an Oxford life, I could not find nerves to face.
At W---- College, therefore, I entered: and here arises the proper occasion for stating the true costs of an Oxford education. First comes the question of _lodging_. This item varies, as may be supposed; but my own case will place on record the two extremes of cost in one particular college, nowadays differing, I believe, from the general standard. The first rooms assigned me, being small and ill-lighted, as part of an old Gothic building, were charged at four guineas a year.
These I soon exchanged for others a little better, and for them I paid six guineas. Finally, by privilege of seniority, I obtained a handsome set of well-proportioned rooms, in a modern section of the college, charged at ten guineas a year. This set was composed of three rooms; namely, an airy bedroom, a study, and a spacious room for receiving visitors. This range of accommodation is pretty general in Oxford, and, upon the whole, may be taken perhaps as representing the average amount of luxury in this respect, and at the average amount of cost. The furniture and the fittings up of these rooms cost me about twenty-five guineas; for the Oxford rule is, that if you take the rooms (which is at your own option), in that case, you _third_ the furniture and the embellishments--that is, you succeed to the total cost diminished by one third. You pay, therefore, two guineas out of each three to your _immediate_ predecessor. But, as he also may have succeeded to the furniture upon the same terms, whenever there happens to have been a rapid succession of occupants, the original cost to a remote predecessor is sometimes brought down, by this process of diminution, to a mere fraction of the true value; and yet no individual occupant can complain of any heavy loss. Whilst upon this subject, I may observe that, in the seventeenth century, in Milton's time, for example (about 1624), and for more than sixty years after that era, the practice of _chumship_ prevailed: every set of chambers was possessed by two cooccupants; they had generally the same bed-room, and a common study; and they were called _chums_. This practice, once all but universal, is now entirely extinct; and the extinction serves to mark the advance of the country, not so much in luxury as in refinement.
The next item which I shall notice is that which in college bills is expressed by the word _Tutorage_. This is the same in all colleges, I believe, namely, ten guineas per annum. And this head suggests an explanation which is most important to the reputation of Oxford, and fitted to clear up a very extensive delusion. Some years ago, a most elaborate statement was circulated of the number and costly endowment of the Oxford professorships. Some thirty or more there were, it was alleged, and five or six only which were not held as absolute sinecures. Now, this is a charge which I am not here meaning to discuss. Whether defensible or not, I do not now inquire. It is the practical interpretation and construction of this charge which I here wish to rectify. In most universities, except those of England, the professors are the body on whom devolves the whole duty and burthen of teaching; they compose the sole fountains of instruction; and if these fountains fail, the fair inference is, that the one great purpose of the institution is defeated. But this inference, valid for all other places, is not so for Oxford and Cambridge. And here, again, the difference arises out of the peculiar distribution of these bodies into separate and independent colleges. Each college takes upon itself the regular instruction of its separate inmates--of these and of no others; and for this office it appoints, after careful selection, trial, and probation, the best qualified amongst those of its senior members who choose to undertake a trust of such heavy responsibility. These officers are called Tutors; and they are connected by duties and by accountability, not with the university at all, but with their own private colleges. The professors, on the other hand, are _public_ functionaries, not connected (as respects the exercise of their duties) with any college whatsoever--not even with their own--but altogether and exclusively with the whole university. Besides the public tutors appointed in each college, on the scale of one to each dozen or score of students, there are also tutors strictly private, who attend any students in search of special and extraordinary aid, on terms settled privately by themselves. Of these persons, or their existence, the college takes no cognizance; but between the two classes of tutors, the most studious young men--those who would be most likely to avail themselves of the lectures read by the professors--have their whole time pretty severely occupied: and the inference from all this is, not only that the course of Oxford education would suffer little if no professors at all existed, but also that, if the existing professors were _ex abundanti_ to volunteer the most exemplary spirit of exertion, however much this spectacle of conscientious dealing might edify the university, it would contribute but little to the promotion of academic purposes. The establishment of professors is, in fact, a thing of ornament and pomp. Elsewhere, they are the working servants; but, in Oxford, the ministers corresponding to them bear another name,--they are called _Tutors_. These are the working agents in the Oxford system; and the professors, with salaries in many cases merely nominal, are persons sequestered, and properly sequestered, to the solitary cultivation and advancement of knowledge, which a different order of men is appointed to communicate.
Here let us pause for one moment, to notice another peculiarity in the Oxford system, upon the tendency of which I shall confidently make my appeal to the good sense of all unprejudiced readers. I have said that the _tutors_ of Oxford correspond to the _professors_ of other universities. But this correspondence, which is absolute and unquestionable as regards the point then at issue,--namely, where we are to look for that limb of the establishment on which rests the main teaching agency,--is liable to considerable qualification, when we examine the mode of their teaching. In both cases, this is conveyed by what is termed "lecturing;"--but what is the meaning of a lecture in Oxford and elsewhere? Elsewhere, it means a solemn dissertation, read, or sometimes histrionically declaimed, by the professor. In Oxford, it means an exercise performed orally by the students, occasionally assisted by the tutor, and subject, in its whole course, to his corrections, and what may be called his _scholia_, or collateral suggestions and improvements. Now, differ as men may as to other features of the Oxford, compared with the hostile system, here I conceive that there is no room for doubt or demur. An Oxford lecture imposes a real, _bona fide_ task upon the student; it will not suffer him to fall asleep, either literally or in the energies of his understanding; it is a real drill, under the excitement, perhaps, of personal competition, and under the review of a superior scholar. But, in Germany, under the declamations of the professor, the young men are often literally sleeping; nor is it easy to see how the attention can be kept from wandering, on this plan, which subjects the auditor to no risk of sudden question or personal appeal. As to the prizes given for essays, etc., by the professors, these have the effect of drawing forth latent talent, but they can yield no criterion of the attention paid to the professor; not to say that the competition for these prizes is a matter of choice. Sometimes it is true that examinations take place; but the Oxford lecture is a daily examination; and, waiving _that_, what chance is there (I would ask) for searching examinations, for examinations conducted with the requisite _auctoritas_ (or weight of influence derived from personal qualities), if--which may Heaven prevent!--the German tenure of professorships were substituted for our British one: that is, if for independent and liberal teachers were substituted poor mercenary haberdashers of knowledge--cap in hand to opulent students--servile to their caprices--and, at one blow, degrading the science they profess, the teacher, and the pupil? Yet I hear that such advice _was_ given to a Royal Commission, sent to investigate one or more of the Scottish universities. In the German universities, every professor holds his situation, not in his good behavior, but on the capricious pleasure of the young men who resort to his market. He opens a shop, in fact: others, without limit, generally men of no credit or known respectability, are allowed to open rival shops; and the result is, sometimes, that the whole kennel of scoundrel professors ruin one another; each standing with his mouth open, to leap at any bone thrown amongst them, from the table of the "Burschen;" all hating, fighting, calumniating each other, until the land is sick of its base knowledge-mongers, and would vomit the loathsome crew, were any natural channel open to their instincts of abhorrence. The most important of the Scottish professorships--those which are fundamentally morticed to the moral institutions of the land--are upon the footing of Oxford tutorships, as regards emoluments; that is, they are not suffered to keep up a precarious mendicant existence, upon the alms of the students, or upon their fickle admirations. It is made imperative upon a candidate for admission into the ministry of the Scottish Kirk, that he shall show a certificate of attendance through a given number of seasons at given lectures.
The next item in the quarterly (or, technically, the _term_) bills of Oxford is for servants. This, in my college, and, I believe, in all others, amounted, nominally, to two guineas a year. That sum, however, was paid to a principal servant, whom, perhaps, you seldom or never saw; the actual attendance upon yourself being performed by one of his deputies; and to this deputy--who is, in effect, a _factotum_, combining in his single person all the functions of chambermaid, valet, waiter at meals, and porter or errand-boy--by the custom of the place and your own sense of propriety, you cannot but give something or other in the shape of perquisites. I was told, on entering, that half a guinea a quarter was the customary allowance,--the same sum, in fact, as was levied by the college for his principal; but I gave mine a guinea a quarter, thinking that little enough for the many services he performed; and others, who were richer than myself, I dare say, often gave much more. Yet, sometimes, it struck me, from the gratitude which his looks testified, on my punctual payment of this guinea,--for it was the only bill with regard to which I troubled myself to practise any severe punctuality,--that perhaps some thoughtless young man might give him less, or might even forget to give anything; and, at all events, I have reason to believe that half that sum would have contented him.
These minutiae I record purposely; my immediate object being to give a rigorous statement of the real expenses incident to an English university education, partly as a guide to the calculations of parents, and partly as an answer to the somewhat libellous exaggerations which are current on this subject, in times like these, when even the truth itself, and received in a spirit of candor the most indulgent, may be all too little to defend these venerable seats of learning from the ruin which seems brooding over them. Yet, no! Abominable is the language of despair even in a desperate situation. And, therefore, Oxford, ancient mother! and thou, Cambridge, twin-light of England! be vigilant and erect, for the enemy stands at all your gates! Two centuries almost have passed since the boar was within your vineyards, laying waste and desolating your heritage. Yet that storm was not final, nor that eclipse total. May this also prove but a trial and a shadow of affliction! which affliction, may it prove to you, mighty incorporations, what, sometimes, it is to us, poor, frail _homunculi_--a process of purification, a solemn and oracular warning! And, when that cloud is overpast, then, rise, ancient powers, wiser and better--ready, like the _lampudaephoroi_ of old, to enter upon a second _stadium_, and to transmit the sacred torch through a second period of twice [Footnote: Oxford may confessedly claim a duration of that extent; and the pretensions of Cambridge, in that respect, if less aspiring, are, however, as I believe, less accurately determined.] five hundred years. So prays a loyal _alumnus_, whose presumption, if any be, in taking upon himself a monitory tone, is privileged by zeal and filial anxiety.
To return, however, into the track from which I have digressed. The reader will understand that any student is at liberty to have private servants of his own, as many and of what denomination he pleases. This point, as many others of a merely personal bearing, when they happen to stand in no relation to public discipline, neither the university nor the particular college of the student feels summoned or even authorized to deal with. Neither, in fact, does any other university in Europe; and why, then, notice the case? Simply thus: if the Oxford discipline, in this particular chapter, has nothing special or peculiar about it, yet the case to which it applies _has_, and is almost exclusively found in our universities. On the continent it happens most rarely that a student has any funds disposable for luxuries so eminently such as grooms or footmen; but at Oxford and Cambridge the case occurs often enough to attract notice from the least vigilant eye. And thus we find set down to the credit account of other universities the non-existence of luxury in this or other modes, whilst, meantime, it is well known to the fair inquirer that each or all are indulgences, not at all or so much as in idea proscribed by the sumptuary edicts of those universities; but, simply, by the lower scale of their general revenues. And this lower scale, it will be said--how do you account for that? I answer, not so much by the general inferiority of continental Europe to Great Britain in _diffusive_ wealth (though that argument goes for something, it being notorious that, whilst immoderate wealth, concentrated in a small number of hands, exists in various continental states upon a larger scale than with us, moderately large estates, on the other hand, are, with them, as one to two hundred, or even two hundred and fifty, in comparison of ours), but chiefly upon this fact, which is too much overlooked, that the foreign universities are not peopled from the wealthiest classes, which are the class either already noble, or wishing to become such. And why is that? Purely from the vicious constitution of society on the continent, where all the fountains of honor lie in the military profession or in the diplomatic.
We English, haters and revilers of ourselves beyond all precedent, disparagers of our own eminent advantages beyond all sufferance of honor or good sense, and daily playing into the hands of foreign enemies, who hate us out of mere envy or shame, have amongst us some hundreds of writers who will die or suffer martyrdom upon this proposition--that aristocracy, and the spirit and prejudices of aristocracy, are more operative (more effectually and more extensively operative) amongst ourselves, than in any other known society of men.
Now, I, who believe all errors to arise in some narrow, partial, or angular view of truth, am seldom disposed to meet any sincere affirmation by a blank, unmodified denial. Knowing, therefore, that some acute observers do really believe this doctrine as to the aristocratic forces, and the way in which they mould English society, I cannot but suppose that some symptoms do really exist of such a phenomenon; and the only remark I shall here make on the case is this, that, very often, where any force or influence reposes upon deep realities, and upon undisturbed foundations, _there_ will be the least heard of loquacious and noisy expressions of its power; which expressions arise most, not where the current is most violent, but where (being possibly the weakest) it is most fretted with resistance.
In England, the very reason why the aristocratic feeling makes itself so sensibly felt and so distinctly an object of notice to the censorious observer is, because it maintains a troubled existence amongst counter and adverse influences, so many and so potent. This might be illustrated abundantly. But, as respects the particular question before me, it will be sufficient to say this: With us the profession and exercise of knowledge, as a means of livelihood, is honorable; on the continent it is not so. The knowledge, for instance, which is embodied in the three learned professions, does, with us, lead to distinction and civil importance; no man can pretend to deny this; nor, by consequence, that the professors personally take rank with the highest order of gentlemen. Are they not, I demand, everywhere with us on the same footing, in point of rank and consideration, as those who bear the king's commission in the army and navy? Can this be affirmed of the continent, either generally, or, indeed, partially? I say, _no_. Let us take Germany, as an illustration. Many towns (for anything I know, all) present us with a regular bisection of the resident _notables_, or wealthier class, into two distinct (often hostile) coteries: one being composed of those who are "_noble_;"
the other, of families equally well educated and accomplished, but _not_, in the continental sense, "noble." The meaning and value of the word is so entirely misapprehended by the best English writers, being, in fact, derived from our own way of applying it, that it becomes important to ascertain its true value. A "nobility," which is numerous enough to fill a separate ball-room in every sixth-rate town, it needs no argument to show, cannot be a nobility in any English sense. In fact, an _edelmann_ or nobleman, in the German sense, is strictly what we mean by a _born gentleman_; with this one only difference, that, whereas, with us, the rank which denominates a man such passes off by shades so insensible, and almost infinite, into the ranks below, that it becomes impossible to assign it any strict demarkation or lines of separation; on the contrary, the continental noble points to certain fixed barriers, in the shape of privileges, which divide him, _per saltum_, from those who are below his own order. But were it not for this one legal benefit of accurate circumscription and slight favor, the continental noble, whether Baron of Germany, Count of France, or Prince of Sicily and of Russia, is simply on a level with the common landed _esquire_ of Britain, and _not_ on a level in very numerous cases.
Such being the case, how paramount must be the spirit of aristocracy in continental society! Our _haute noblesse_--our genuine nobility, who are such in the general feeling of their compatriots--will do _that_ which the phantom of nobility of the continent will not: the spurious nobles of Germany will not mix, on equal terms, with their untitled fellow-citizens, living in the same city and in the same style as themselves; they will not meet them in the same ball or concert- room. Our great territorial nobility, though sometimes forming exclusive circles (but not, however, upon any principle of high birth), do so daily. They mix as equal partakers in the same amusements of races, balls, musical assemblies, with the baronets (or _elite_ of the gentry); with the landed esquires (or middle gentry); with the superior order of tradesmen (who, in Germany, are absolute ciphers, for political weight, or social consideration, but, with us, constitute the lower and broader stratum of the nobilitas, [Footnote: It may be necessary to inform some readers that the word _noble_, by which so large a system of imposition and fraud, as to the composition of foreign society, has long been practised upon the credulity of the British, corresponds to our word _gentlemanly_ (or, rather, to the vulgar word _genteel_, if that word were ever used legally, or _extra gradum_), not merely upon the argument of its _virtual_ and operative value in the general estimate of men (that is, upon the argument that a count, baron, &c., does not, _qua_ such, command any deeper feeling of respect or homage than a British esquire), but also upon the fact, that, originally, in all English registers, as, for instance, in the Oxford matriculation registers, all the upper gentry (knights, esquires, &c.) are technically designated by the word _nobiles_.--_See Chambeilayuc_, &c.] or gentry). The obscure baronage of Germany, it is undeniable, insist upon having "an atmosphere of their own;" whilst the Howards, the Stanleys, the Talbots, of England; the Hamiltons, the Douglases, the Gordons, of Scotland, are content to acknowledge a sympathy with the liberal part of their untitled countrymen, in that point which most searchingly tries the principle of aristocratic pride, namely, in their pleasures.
To have the same pursuits of business with another, may be a result of accident or position; to have the same pleasures, being a matter of choice, argues a community of nature in the _moral_ sensibilities, in that part of our constitution which differences one man from another in the capacities of greatness and elevation. As with their amusements, so with their graver employments; the same mutual repulsion continues to divide the two orders through life.
The nobles either live in gloomy seclusion upon their private funds, wherever the privilege of primogeniture has enabled them to do so; or, having no funds at all (the case of ninety-nine in one hundred), they go into the army; that profession, the profession of arms, being regarded as the only one compatible with an _edelmann's_ pretensions.
Such was once the feeling in England; such is still the feeling on the continent. It is a prejudice naturally clinging to a semi-barbarous (because growing out of a barbarous) state, and, in its degree, clinging to every stage of imperfect civilization; and, were there no other argument, this would be a sufficient one, that England, under free institutions, has outrun the continent, in real civilization, by a century; a fact which is concealed by the forms of luxurious refinement in a few exclusive classes, too often usurping the name and honors of radical civilization.
From the super-appreciation of the military profession arises a corresponding contempt of all other professions whatsoever _paid by fellow-citizens_, and not by the king or the state. The clerical profession is in the most abject degradation throughout Southern Germany; and the reason why this forces itself less imperiously upon the public notice is, that, in rural situations, from the absence of a resident gentry (speaking generally), the pastor is brought into rare collision with those who style themselves _noble_; whilst, in towns, the clergy find people enough to countenance those who, being in the same circumstances as to comfort and liberal education, are also under the same ban of rejection from the "nobility," or born gentry.
The legal profession is equally degraded; even a barrister or advocate holds a place in the public esteem little differing from that of an Old Bailey attorney of the worst class. And this result is the less liable to modification from personal qualities, inasmuch as there is no great theatre (as with us) for individual display. Forensic eloquence is unknown in Germany, as it is too generally on the continent, from the defect of all popular or open judicatures. A similar defect of deliberative assemblies--such, at least, as represent any popular influences and debate with open doors--intercepts the very possibility of senatorial eloquence. [Footnote: The subject is amusingly illustrated by an anecdote of Goethe, recorded by himself in his autobiography. Some physiognomist, or phrenologist, had found out, in Goethe's structure of head, the sure promise of a great orator.
"Strange infatuation of nature!" observes Goethe, on this assurance, "to endow me so richly and liberally for that particular destination which only the institutions of my country render impossible. Music for the deaf! Eloquence without an audience!"] That of the pulpit only remains. But even of this--whether it be from want of the excitement and contagious emulation from the other fields of oratory, or from the peculiar genius of Lutheranism--no models have yet arisen that could, for one moment, sustain a comparison with those of England or France.
The highest names in this department would not, to a foreign ear, carry with them any of that significance or promise which surrounds the names of Jeremy Taylor or Barrow, Bossuet or Bourdaloue, to those even who have no personal acquaintance with their works. This absence of all fields for gathering public distinctions cooperates, in a very powerful way, with the contempt of the born gentry, to degrade these professions; and this double agency is, a third time, reinforced by those political arrangements which deny every form of state honor or conspicuous promotion to the very highest description of excellence, whether of the bar, the pulpit, or the civic council. Not "the fluent Murray," or the accomplished Erskine, from the English bar--not Pericles or Demosthenes, from the fierce democracies of Greece--not Paul preaching at Athens--could snatch a wreath from public homage, nor a distinction from the state, nor found an influence, nor leave behind them an operative model, in Germany, as now constituted. Other walks of emolument are still more despised. Alfieri, a continental "noble," that is, a born gentleman, speaks of bankers as we in England should of a Jewish usurer, or tricking money-changer. The liberal trades, such as those which minister to literature or the fine arts, which, with us, confer the station of gentleman upon those who exercise them, are, in the estimate of a continental "noble," fitted to assign a certain rank or place in the train and equipage of a gentleman, but not to entitle their most eminent professors to sit down, except by sufferance, in his presence. And, upon this point, let not the reader derive his notions from the German books: the vast majority of German authors are not "noble;" and, of those who are, nine tenths are liberal in this respect, and speak the language of liberality, not by sympathy with their own order, or as representing _their_ feelings, but in virtue of democratic or revolutionary politics.
Such as the rank is, and the public estimation of the leading professions, such is the natural condition of the universities which rear them. The "nobles" going generally into the army, or leading lives of indolence, the majority by far of those who resort to universities do so as a means of future livelihood. Few seek an academic life in Germany who have either money to throw away on superfluities and external show, or who have such a rank to support as might stimulate their pride to expenses beyond their means. Parsimony is, therefore, in these places, the governing law; and pleasure, not less fervently wooed than at Oxford or at Cambridge, putting off her robes of elegance and ceremony, descends to grossness, and not seldom to abject brutality.
The sum of my argument is--that, because, in comparison of the army, no other civil profession is, in itself, held of sufficient dignity; and not less, perhaps, because, under governments essentially unpopular, none of these professions has been so dignified artificially by the state, or so attached to any ulterior promotion, either through the state or in the state, as to meet the demands of aristocratic pride-- none of them is cultivated as a means of distinction, but originally as a means of livelihood; that the universities, as the nurseries of these unhonored professions, share naturally in _their_ degradation; and that, from this double depreciation of the place and its final objects, few or none resort thither who can be supposed to bring any extra funds for supporting a system of luxury; that the general temperance, or sobriety of demeanor, is far enough, however, from keeping pace with the absence of costly show; and that, for this absence even, we are to thank their poverty rather than their will. It is to the great honor, in my opinion, of our own country, that those often resort to her fountains who have no motive but that of disinterested reverence for knowledge; seeking, as all men perceive, neither emolument directly from university funds, nor knowledge as the means of emolument.
Doubtless, it is neither dishonorable, nor, on a large scale, possible to be otherwise, that students should pursue their academic career chiefly as ministerial to their capital object of a future livelihood.
But still I contend that it is for the interest of science and good letters that a considerable body of volunteers should gather about their banners, without pay or hopes of preferment. This takes place on a larger scale at Oxford and Cambridge than elsewhere; and it is but a trivial concession in return, on the part of the university, that she should allow, even if she had the right to withhold, the privilege of living within her walls as they would have lived at their fathers'
seats; with one only reserve, applied to all modes of expense that are, in themselves, immoral excesses, or occasions of scandal, or of a nature to interfere too much with the natural hours of study, or specially fitted to tempt others of narrower means to ruinous emulation.
Upon these principles, as it seems to me, the discipline of the university is founded. The keeping of hunters, for example, is unstatutable. Yet, on the other hand, it is felt to be inevitable that young men of high spirit, familiar with this amusement, will find means to pursue it in defiance of all the powers, however exerted, that can properly be lodged in the hands of academic officers. The range of the proctor's jurisdiction is limited by positive law; and what should hinder a young man, bent upon his pleasure, from fixing the station of his hunter a few miles out of Oxford, and riding to cover on a hack, unamenable to any censure? For, surely, in this age, no man could propose so absurd a thing as a general interdiction of riding. How, in fact, does the university proceed? She discountenances the practice; and, if forced upon her notice, she visits it with censure, and that sort of punishment which lies within her means. But she takes no pains to search out a trespass, which, by the mere act of seeking to evade public display in the streets of the university, already tends to limit itself; and which, besides, from its costliness, can never become a prominent nuisance. This I mention as illustrating the spirit of her legislation; and, even in this case, the reader must carry along with him the peculiar distinction which I have pressed with regard to English universities, in the existence of a large volunteer order of students seeking only the liberalization, and not the profits, of academic life. In arguing upon their case, it is not the fair logic to say: These pursuits taint the decorum of the studious character; it is not fair to calculate how much is lost to the man of letters by such addiction to fox-hunting; but, on the contrary, what is gained to the fox-hunter, who would, at any rate, be such, by so considerable a homage paid to letters, and so inevitable a commerce with men of learning. Anything whatsoever attained in this direction, is probably so much more than would have been attained under a system of less toleration. _Lucro ponamus_, we say, of the very least success in such a case. But, in speaking of toleration as applied to acts or habits positively against the statutes, I limit my meaning to those which, in their own nature, are morally indifferent, and are discountenanced simply as indirectly injurious, or as peculiarly open to excess. Because, on graver offences (as gambling, &c.), the malicious impeachers of Oxford must well have known that no toleration whatsoever is practised or thought of. Once brought under the eye of the university in a clear case and on clear evidence, it would be punished in the most exemplary way open to a limited authority; by _rustication_, at least--that is, banishment for a certain number of terms, and consequent loss of these terms--supposing the utmost palliation of circumstances; and, in an aggravated case, or in a second offence, most certainly by final expulsion.
But it is no part of duty to serve the cause even of good morals by impure means; and it is as difficult beforehand to prevent the existence of vicious practices so long as men have, and ought to have, the means of seclusion liable to no violation, as it is afterwards difficult, without breach of honor, to obtain proof of their existence.
Gambling has been known to exist in some dissenting institutions; and, in my opinion, with no blame to the presiding authorities. As to Oxford in particular, no such habit was generally prevalent in my time; it is not an English vice; nor did I ever hear of any great losses sustained in this way. But, were it otherwise, I must hold, that, considering the numbers, rank, and great opulence, of the students, such a habit would impeach the spirit and temper of the age rather than the vigilance or magisterial fidelity of the Oxford authorities. They are limited, like other magistrates, by honor and circumstances, in a thousand ways; and if a knot of students will choose to meet for purposes of gaming, they must always have it in their power to baffle every honorable or becoming attempt at detecting them. But upon this subject I shall make two statements, which may have some effect in moderating the uncharitable judgments upon Oxford discipline. The first respects the age of those who are the objects of this discipline; on which point a very grave error prevails. In the last Parliament, not once, but many times over, Lord Brougham and others assumed that the students of Oxford were chiefly _boys_; and this, not idly or casually, but pointedly, and with a view to an ulterior argument; for instance, by way of proving how little they were entitled to judge of those thirty- nine articles to which their assent was demanded. Now, this argued a very extraordinary ignorance; and the origin of the error showed the levity in which their legislation was conducted. These noble lords had drawn their ideas of a university exclusively from Glasgow. Here, it is well known, and I mention it neither for praise nor blame, that students are in the habit of coming at the early age of fourteen. These may allowably be styled _boys_. But, with regard to Oxford, eighteen is about the _earliest_ age at which young men begin their residence: twenty and upwards is, therefore, the age of the majority; that is, twenty is the _minimum_ of age for the vast majority; as there must always be more men of three years' standing, than of two or of one. Apply this fact to the question of discipline: young men beyond twenty, generally,--that is to say, of the age which qualifies men for seats in the national council,--can hardly, with decency, either be called or treated as boys; and many things become impossible as applied to _them_, which might be of easy imposition upon an assemblage _really_ childish. In mere justice, therefore, when speculating upon this whole subject of Oxford discipline, the reader must carry along with him, at every step, the recollection of that signal difference as to age, which I have now stated, between Oxonians and those students whom the hostile party contemplate in their arguments. [Footnote: Whilst I am writing, a debate of the present Parliament, reported on Saturday, March 7, 1835, presents us with a determinate repetition of the error which I have been exposing; and, again, as in the last Parliament, this error is not _inert_, but is used for a hostile (apparently a malicious) purpose; nay, which is remarkable, it is the _sole_ basis upon which the following argument reposes. Lord Radnor again assumes that the students of Oxford are "boys;" he is again supported in this misrepresentation by Lord Brougham; and again the misrepresentation is applied to a purpose of assault upon the English universities, but especially upon Oxford. And the nature of the assault does not allow any latitude in construing the word _boys_, nor any room for evasion as respects the total charge, except what goes the length of a total retraction. The charge is, that, in a requisition made at the very threshold of academic life, upon the under standing and the honor of the students, the university burdens their consciences to an extent, which, in after life, when reflection has enlightened them to the meaning of their engagements, proves either a snare to those who trifle with their engagements, or an insupportable burden to those who do not. For the inculpation of the party imposing such oaths, it is essential that the party taking them should be in a childish condition of the moral sense, and the sense of responsibility; whereas, amongst the Oxonian _under_-graduates, I will venture to say that the number is larger of those who rise above than of those who fall below twenty; and, as to sixteen (assumed as the representative age by Lord Radnor), in my time, I heard of only one student, amongst, perhaps, sixteen hundred, who was so young. I grieve to see that the learned prelate, who replied to the assailants, was so much taken by surprise; the defence might have been made triumphant.
With regard to oaths incompatible with the spirit of modern manners, and yet formally unrepealed--_that_ is a case of neglect and indolent oversight. But the _gravamen_ of that reproach does not press exclusively upon Oxford; all the ancient institutions of Europe are tainted in the same way, more especially the monastic orders of the Romish church.] Meantime, to show that, even under every obstacle presented by this difference of age, the Oxford authorities do, nevertheless, administer their discipline with fidelity, with intrepidity, and with indifference as respects the high and the low, I shall select from a crowd of similar recollections two anecdotes, which are but trifles in themselves, and yet are not such to him who recognizes them as expressions of a uniform system of dealing.
A great whig lord (Earl C----) happened (it may be ten years ago) to present himself one day at Trinity (the leading college of Cambridge), for the purpose of introducing Lord F----ch, his son, as a future member of that splendid society. Possibly it mortified his aristocratic feelings to hear the head of the college, even whilst welcoming the young nobleman in courteous terms, yet suggesting, with some solemnity, that, before taking any final resolution in the matter, his lordship would do well to consider whether he were fully prepared to submit himself to college discipline; for that, otherwise, it became his own duty frankly to declare that the college would not look upon his accession to their society as any advantage. This language arose out of some recent experience of refractory and turbulent conduct upon the part of various young men of rank; but it is very possible that the noble earl, in his surprise at a salutation so uncourtly, might regard it, in a tory mouth, as having some lurking reference to his own whig politics. If so, he must have been still more surprised to hear of another case, which would meet him before he left Cambridge, and which involved some frank dealing as well as frank speaking, when a privilege of exception might have been presumed, if tory politics, or services the most memorable, could ever create such a privilege. The Duke of W-- --had two sons at Oxford. The affair is now long past; and it cannot injure either of them to say, that one of the brothers trespassed against the college discipline, in some way, which compelled (or was thought to compel) the presiding authorities into a solemn notice of his conduct. Expulsion appeared to be the appropriate penalty of his offences: but, at this point, a just hesitation arose. Not in any servile spirit, but under a proper feeling of consideration for so eminent a public benefactor as this young nobleman's father, the rulers paused--and at length signified to him that he was at liberty to withdraw himself privately from the college, but also, and at the same time, from the university. He did so; and his brother, conceiving him to have been harshly treated, withdrew also; and both transferred themselves to Cambridge. That could not be prevented: but there they were received with marked reserve. One was _not_ received, I believe, in a technical sense; and the other was received conditionally; and such restrictions were imposed upon his future conduct as served most amply, and in a case of great notoriety, to vindicate the claims of discipline, and, in an extreme case, a case so eminently an extreme one that none like it is ever likely to recur, to proclaim the footing upon which the very highest rank is received at the English universities. Is that footing peculiar _to them_? I willingly believe that it is not; and, with respect to Edinburgh and Glasgow, I am persuaded that their weight of dignity is quite sufficient, and would be exerted to secure the same subordination from men of rank, if circumstances should ever bring as large a number of that class within their gates, and if their discipline were equally applicable to the habits of students not domiciled within their walls.
But, as to the smaller institutions for education within the pale of dissent, I feel warranted in asserting, from the spirit of the anecdotes which have reached me, that they have not the _auctoritas_ requisite for adequately maintaining their dignity.
So much for the aristocracy of our English universities: their glory is, and the happiest application of their vast influence, that they have the power to be republican, as respects their internal condition.
Literature, by substituting a different standard of rank, tends to republican equality; and, as one instance of this, properly belonging to the chapter of _servants_, which originally led to this discussion, it ought to be known that the class of "servitors," once a large body in Oxford, have gradually become practically extinct under the growing liberality of the age. They carried in their academic dress a mark of their inferiority; they waited at dinner on those of higher rank, and performed other menial services, humiliating to themselves, and latterly felt as no less humiliating to the general name and interests of learning. The better taste, or rather the relaxing pressure of aristocratic prejudice, arising from the vast diffusion of trade and the higher branches of mechanic art, have gradually caused these functions of the order (even where the law would not permit the extinction of the order) to become obsolete. In my time, I was acquainted with two servitors: but one of them was rapidly pushed forward into a higher station; and the other complained of no degradation, beyond the grievous one of exposing himself to the notice of young women in the streets, with an untasselled cap; but this he contrived to evade, by generally going abroad without his academic dress. The _servitors_ of Oxford are the _sizars_ of Cambridge; and I believe the same changes [Footnote: These changes have been accomplished, according to my imperfect knowledge of the case, in two ways: first, by dispensing with the services whenever that could be done; and, secondly, by a wise discontinuance of the order itself in those colleges which were left to their own choice in this matter.]
have taken place in both.
One only account with the college remains to be noticed; but this is the main one. It is expressed in the bills by the word _battels_, derived from the old monkish word _patella_ (or batella), a plate; and it comprehends whatsoever is furnished for dinner and for supper, including malt liquor, but not wine, as well as the materials for breakfast, or for any casual refreshment to country visitors, excepting only groceries. These, together with coals and fagots, candles, wine, fruit, and other more trifling _extras_, which are matters of personal choice, form so many private accounts against your name, and are usually furnished by tradesmen living near to the college, and sending their servants daily to receive orders. Supper, as a meal not universally taken, in many colleges is served privately in the student's own room; though some colleges still retain the ancient custom of a public supper. But dinner is, in all colleges, a public meal, taken in the refectory or "hall" of the society; which, with the chapel and library, compose the essential public _suite_ belonging to every college alike. No absence is allowed, except to the sick, or to those who have formally applied for permission to give a dinner- party. A fine is imposed on all other cases of absence. Wine is not generally allowed in the public hall, except to the "high table," that is, the table at which the fellows and some other privileged persons are entitled to dine. The head of the college rarely dines in public.
The other tables, and, after dinner, the high table, usually adjourn to their wine, either upon invitations to private parties, or to what are called the "common rooms" of the several orders--graduates and undergraduates, &c. The dinners are always plain, and without pretensions--those, I mean, in the public hall; indeed, nothing _can_ be plainer in most colleges--a simple choice between two or three sorts of animal food, and the common vegetables. No fish, even as a regular part of the fare; no soups, no game; nor, except on some very rare festivity, did I ever see a variation from this plain fare at Oxford. This, indeed, is proved sufficiently by the average amount of the _battels_. Many men "battel" at the rate of a guinea a week: I did so for years: that is, at the rate of three shillings a day for everything connected with meals, excepting only tea, sugar, milk, and wine. It is true that wealthier men, more expensive men, and more careless men, often "battelled" much higher; but, if they persisted in this excess, they incurred censures, more and more urgent, from the head of the college.
Now, let us sum up; premising that the extreme duration of residence in any college at Oxford amounts to something under thirty weeks. It is possible to keep "short terms," as the phrase is, by a residence of thirteen weeks, or ninety-one days; but, as this abridged residence is not allowed, except in here and there a college, I shall assume--as something beyond the strict _maximum_ of residence--thirty weeks as my basis. The account will then stand thus:
1. Rooms,......................................... 10 10 0 2. Tutorage,................ ..................... 10 10 0 3. Servants (subject to the explanations made above), say........................................... 5 5 0 4. Battels (allowing one shilling a day beyond what I and others spent in much dearer times; that is, allowing twenty-eight shillings weekly), for thirty weeks,.................................. 40 4 0 -------- 66 9 0
This will be a liberal calculation for the college bill. What remains?
1. Candles, which the reader will best calculate upon the standard of his own general usage in this particular. 2. Coals, which are remarkably dear at Oxford--dearer, perhaps, than anywhere else in the island; say, three times as dear as at Edinburgh. 3. Groceries. 4.
Wine. 5. Washing. This last article was, in my time, regulated by the college, as there were certain privileged washer-women, between whom and the students it was but fair that some proper authority should interfere to prevent extortion, in return for the monopoly granted. Six guineas was the regulated sum; but this paid for everything,--table- linen, &c., as well as for wearing apparel; and it was understood to cover the whole twenty-eight or thirty weeks. However, it was open to every man to make his own arrangements, by insisting on a separate charge for each separate article. All other expenses of a merely personal nature, such as postage, public amusements, books, clothes, &c., as they have no special connection with Oxford, but would, probably, be balanced by corresponding, if not the very same, expenses in any other place or situation, I do not calculate. What I have specified are the expenses which would accrue to a student in consequence of leaving his father's house. The rest would, in these days, be the same, perhaps, everywhere. How much, then, shall we assume as the total charge on account of Oxford? Candles, considering the quantity of long days amongst the thirty weeks, may be had for one shilling and sixpence a week; for few students--unless they have lived in India, after which a physical change occurs in the sensibility of the nostrils--are finical enough to burn wax-lights. This will amount to two pounds, five shillings. Coals, say sixpence a day; for threepence a day will amply feed one grate in Edinburgh; and there are many weeks in the thirty which will demand no fire at all. Groceries and wine, which are all that remain, I cannot calculate. But suppose we allow for the first a shilling a day, which will be exactly ten guineas for thirty weeks; and for the second, nothing at all. Then the extras, in addition to the college bills, will stand thus:
Washing for thirty weeks, at the privileged rate, .. 6 6 0 Candles, ........................................... 2 5 0 Fire, .............................................. 5 5 0 Groceries, ......................................... 10 10 0 --------- Total, ..... 24 6 0
The college bills, therefore, will be sixty-six pounds, nine shillings; the extras, not furnished by the college, will be about twenty-four pounds, six shillings,--making a total amount of ninety pounds, fifteen shillings. And for this sum, annually, a man may defray _every_ expense incident to an Oxford life, through a period of weeks (namely, thirty) something more than he will be permitted to reside. It is true, that, for the _first_ year, there will be, in addition to this, his outfit: and for _every_ year there will be his journeys. There will also be twenty-two weeks uncovered by this estimate; but for these it is not my business to provide, who deal only with Oxford.
That this estimate is true, I know too feelingly. Would that it were _not_! would that it were false! Were it so, I might the better justify to myself that commerce with fraudulent Jews which led me so early to commence the dilapidation of my small fortune. It _is_ true; and true for a period (1804-8) far dearer than this. And to any man who questions its accuracy I address this particular request--that he will lay his hand upon the special item which he disputes. I anticipate that he will answer thus: "I dispute none: it is not by positive things that your estimate errs, but by negations. It is the absence of all allowance for