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The Bodleian-library at Oxford contains MSS. which relate to Cambridge : but the Harleian, Cottonian, and Sloanian libraries, in the British Museum, are very abundant. I am, indeed, disposed to believe, that those three libraries possess more concerning Cambridge than all the Cambridge MSS. in the public and private libraries put together. The principal of those that relate to the University at large are preserved in the public chest, and by the vice-chancellor and registrar; and of these the best known is the famous Liber Niger, or Black Book.'
The Liber Niger is elsewhere said to be the work of Nicholas Cantelupe, who was a prior of Carmelite friars in 1491. It is pronounced by Mr. Dyer to be a history unsubstantiated by authority, and its compiler is styled a fabulous writer.
The next MS. here mentioned is a register of all the charters, liberties, and provisions of the University and town, composed in 1587 by Robert Hare, Esq., who had been of Caius-college. This transcript, which is said to be faithful and correct, and worthy of the highest reliance, consists of four large volumes. Mr. Dyer also gives a particular account of very extensive collections of MSS. by Thomas Barker, who was many years a fellow of St. John's College, but who gave up his fellowship because he would not take the oaths to King William. His papers make forty-two volumes, and are said to be as conspicuous for worth as for number. Mr. Barker also left in MS. a history of his college, which a gentleman some time since was employed in preparing for the press; and some hope that it will see the light is here intimated. Mr. B. died in 1749.
Mention is also made of a series of MSS. by Mr. Cole, who was latterly a fellow-commoner of King's College, and is said by Mr. Dyer to have been a thorough-paced Tory and half a Papist. His papers comprise sixty volumes, and abound with collections and copies from public archives, but likewise contain a variety of original compositions. These documents, together with a list of all the graduates, their degrees, and dates, from 1500 to 1745, compiled by Dr. Richardson, formerly master of Emmanuel-college, compose the principal materials in MS. of which the author has availed himself. Next follows an account of works that have appeared in print relating to this topic. Among these are one of Dr. Caius, another of Stowe, another of Archbishop Parker, and another of Mr. Parker, fellow of Caius-college. A publication on the same subject by Fuller appeared in 1655, for whom, says Mr. Dyer, it is not claiming much to aver that he is the most agreeable of the Cambridge historians; who are in general very barren and dull. A-work intitled an account of many of the Oaths, Statutes, and Charters of the University, was also published by E. Miller, E 2
Serjeant Serjeant at Law; which, as the present historian laments, did not obtain adequate attention. Mr. Dyer specifies also a book by Carter, as the best outline for a history of the University which we possess; although he admits it to be full of blunders and inaccuracies. The account of eminent men which it contains is described as the only attempt of the kind in any history of this seat of learning.
In treating of the antiquity of Cambridge as an University, Mr. D. properly mentions the fabulous story of Cantaber; while he relates with more of detail, and with much more of countenance, than we should have expected, the equally unsupported tale which makes Sigebert, who was king of the AngloSaxons in 630, the founder of this celebrated seminary; for which he assigns no better reason than the following:
( As to the beginning, then, of our University-history, as both Leland and Sir Simon D’Ewes seem disposed to set out from Sigebert, we cannot do better than set out from him too. For thus we shall go hand in hand with both Oxford and Cambridge antiquaries; we shall begin with a king as our patron ; we shall have clerics as our guides; and what can a Cambridge man wish for more?' In this and other passages, we meet with instances of complaisance on the part of the author, which are not in his usual manner. Complaisance in the ordinary intercourse of society can hardly be carried too far, and is highly amiable, but can have no place in the relations of history.
At an early period, Cambridge appears to have been a considerable town among the Anglo-Saxons. The term University is found applied to it in very remote times: but no authentic instrument relating to it is preserved that is of an earlier date than the 13th of Henry III.; and it is observed that, although Henry I. bestowed a charter on the town, we find no mention that he conferred any on the University. In the reign of Henry III., this seminary appears to have been an object of attention with government; as, among others, the public instruments mentioned in the ensuing passage evince, which bear date in that reign, and which are still preserved : • The king's letters to the sheriff
, authorizing him, at the signifie cation of the Bishop of Ely, and the discretion of the chancellor and masters, to suppress the insolencies of clerks and scholars, and to imprison or banish them from the university - the king's letters to the Bishop of Ely, that clerks contumacious, and rebellious against the chancellor, should be imprisoned or banished from the town — the king's letters, that the Sheriff should imprison clerks, who were malefactors, at the command of the chancellor, in defect of the burgesses, and should cause them to be liberated, on the request of the chan.
cellor, and not before - other letters from the king, ordering the sheriff to abstain from apprehending scholars, notwithstanding his former letters - the king's letters for preserving the liberties of the university — the king's brief, to suppress discords, between the university and people of the town — and, that the king's justices should not introduce themselves, to settle offences and disputes between scholars and laics.'
In the history of England, frequent mention is made of violent dissentions between the gownsmen and the inhabitants of the town, for which we might be at a loss to account, but some insight into the causes of them is here afforded us:
• The principal evil under which Cambridge groaned was the swarms of students and monks. The Scotch historian, Major, tells us there were 4, or 5,000 scholars in his time. Caius says there had been twenty hostles, of which seventeen remained in his time. To some of these hostles the monks were accustomed to retire, to study literature : and various other religious houses, exclusively for monastic purposes. Many of these were mere swarms of drones, who had nothing to do but read masses, pray for the dead, and invent legends, and dreams, and lies. They were independent too of the townsmen. The monastery of St. Giles was supported by tithes, strained out of twenty-three villages in the county. Add, too, these people had ecclesiastical liberties, and were exempted from the civil courts. These people were the great weight, and no doubt the townsmen groaned under the burden. And yet our Cambridge historians, who allude to this circumstance, do not mention it, though indeed it was the principal cause of the tumults of the place, but rather as matter of glory,' –
The domineering insolence of the clerks and monks, together with the disturbances between the scholars and townsmen, which had existed in different forms, and in different periods, for a course of years, opened the door for those great privileges, granted to the University from the time of Henry III.; for here the current of our academical history begins to run regular and clear. These privileges were obtained under the plea of more ancient ones, and, whether founded on forged or genuine charters, and bulls, carried their weight with succeeding potentates; for, as all power has a tendency to spread, these privileges were still further increased under the same plea.'
The account of the rise and progress of the civil privileges and legal jurisdiction, of which the University is now possessed, is here traced much in detail, and stated with great distinctness. It commences with the reign of Henry III., and ends with that of Charles II. Mr. Dyer observes that the statutes given to the University by Queen Elizabeth, and by which it is principally regulated at this day, never had the sanction of parliament. James the First pretended to cherish the English Universities : though he had been educated a Presbyterian, he became a
zealous Episcopalian; and on every occasion he displayed the zeal of a new convert. It was this monarch who • first introduced in our University subscriptions to theological opinions, which were for a long time proposed to every youth as the term of admission into college, though now not required, at Cambridge, of under-graduates; but which are still enjoined on every one previously to his taking a degree in the university.' It is singular that Mr. Dyer, who is himself an A.B., should in this passage have committed so great a mistake. Bachelors are only required to sign a declaration that they are bonâ fide members of the Church of England: no other subscription is required of them.-- To the English Universities, King James gave the memorable privilege of being represented in parliament. To say nothing, however, of the interruption in the studies of the scholars which is occasioned by the canvass and bustle that accompany an election, this privilege opens roads to preferment with which letters and science have little just connection. We could mention those who now loll on stalls, who are well housed in lodges, and whom even the mitre decks, who attained their present elevation by treading in this
It seems as if the seat of learning, of which we are speaking, could not discover the qualifications of a representative in
other than a minister of state. Mr. Pitt, when not in office, in vain offered his services to alma mater : but, when he was in possession of place, she graciously met his wishes; and, although he was afterward frequently rechosen, he was at each time in power. On his death, a promising young nobleman became a candidate for the same honour; and it happened that, a few days before the election, he was presented with the seals of office :-- he was in course elected by a great majority. On the next occasion of offering himself, the appendages which had insured his former success had been taken from him; and his voters were outnumbered by those of a candidate who was a stranger to the University, but who had been sent there as the friend of the minister of the day. One of its present members is also a minister, who when not in office was rejected, but whose merits had not long been rewarded with place, before alma mater conferred on him the honour of representing her. Should fortune eject him from his
present official situation, we will not answer for the constancy of his constituents. — The sister-University obstinately retains its preposterous matriculation, so unworthy of this advanced period of the world, and of so enlightened an age and country:—Salamanca is chargeable with nothing more objectionable ; and the Inquisition itself is scarcely more monstrous. Yet we cannot deny that at Oxford election-matters are ma
naged with greater decorum. There, the candidate is not suffered to appear during the time of canvass; and when once elected, unless some extraordinary cause intervenes, he is seated for life. While our Universities continue to refuse education to those who are not of the established religion, and to require tests before they confer degrees, they grievously diminish their claims to the support and countenance of enlightened men.
Having had occasion to mention subscription, we must express our surprize that Mr. Dyer has passed it over without animadversion. In an historian of the University, we conceive this censure to have been an indispensable duty; and, though silence may have been strictly enjoined on him by his employers, we wonder at his 'submission. - It is somewhat remarkable that the present family on the throne have furnished no materials for the history before us.
In a chapter which the author devotes to · Dissentients,' we expected to find accounts somewhat detailed of the sects into which the schoolmen were divided, as also of the Lollards and first Reformers, but in this hope we were disappointed; since, in the rapid flight which he here takes, Mr. D. scarcely allows himself time to breathe, till he lights on the famous Wolston, who is placed at the head of this inauspicious class. — The account of the literature of the University also falls far short of our expectations. It is too much confined to modern times, while the topics are not happily selected, and do not unite well together. — In a work like the present, we look for particulars that are curious in themselves, and which go back to remote times: but Mr. Dyer, for the most part, treats only of matters which may be found in other histories, and principally dwells on such as are of later date. Relations like the following too seldom occur in his pages: speaking of the times immediately subsequent to the Conquest, he states that
• The library of Egbert, Archbishop of York, many years before, contained only fourteen fathers and ecclesiastical works, ten ancient classics, including two or three modern Latin writers, and more modern grammarians and scholiasts, and six more modern Latin poets ;
nor does there appear to have been any thing of mathematics, except what might be found in a few of the writings of Aristotle, in Latin. And all this was made little more than the handmaid to scholastic divinity. It embraced, now, little or nothing of the Greek language, as a matter of instruction, though, as already has been seen, the Greek language was certainly known, and taught a few centuries before : for, in a glossary on the Pandects, by Accursius, written after this period, we find it avowed, “ Hæc Græca sunt, quæ nec legi, nec intelligi, possunt.” This is Greek which