Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

under the care of one of the fellows named May. These appear to have had nc kind of teaching except from the college prefects in turn, who attended at certain hours, and made a periodical report to the master as to how their little pupils conducted themselves, and what progress they were making in their studies, At eight years old this boy was admitted into college. Probably many boys were thus sent as commoners at a very early age, with a view to their subsequent election on the foundation; for, in 1660, one Thomas Middleton petitions King Charles, on his restoration, to grant his royal letters to the Winchester electors in favor of his son's admittance, “as a child in Winchester College, where he has now spent three years as fellow-commoner." of these fellowcommoners, or "commoners" as they are now termed, who have come to form a supplementary body of scholars doubling in number the college boys themselves, it will be necessary to give some account.

Provision bad been made in the original statutes for the reception and instruction of independent students to the number of ten, sons of noblemen or of "special friends ” of the college, who, though not claiming the other advantages of the foundation, might yet wish to avail themselves of its sound teaching; with a proviso that these should pot be in any way burdensome to the revenues. Some of these earlier "commoners” were lodged within the walls, and some in a separate establishment, the old College of St. Elizabeth of Huugary, standing in St. Stephen's Mead. This building, after serving for some years as a kind of hostel to Wykeham's college, was surrendered by the last of its provosts in 1544, and pulled down. The present boundary wall at the bottom of “Meads" was built partly out of the materials; and corbel-heads and carved stones have been worked in here and there, standing out from the rest of the stone-work in a fashion somewhat puzzling to a curious stranger.

On the suppression of St. Elizabeth's, and probably also before, some of these commoners were lodged with the warden, some in other parts of the college, probably under the immediate charge of one of the fellows, and some in houses in the city. Those who lodged with the warden were usually of higher rank; and during some years, in the rolls which have been preserved, there is a distinction between ordinary commensales or commoners, and generosi commensales, such as is still admitted between commoners and gentleman-commoners at Oxford. In the roll of 1688 the warden's boarders appear as “Nob: Com:" Lord Guildford, Hon. Nathanael Fiennes, Lord Ashley, Sir Thos. Putt, and Sir Thos. Wroth. But this distinction soon disappears, though some of the commoners still continue to be lodged within the walls. The last entry of a “commensalis in collegio" occurs in the roll for 1747, during Dr. Burton's head-mastership. In his time the college rose rapidly as a place of education for many of the young nobility, and the accommodations were found insufficient. He built what is now remembered by the Wykehamists of the past generation as " Old Commoners," a very much more picturesque-looking building, though probably not so convenient as the present, containing hall, dormitories, tutors' rooms, and prefects' studies. The number of commoners gradually increased, though with some fluctuations, until in 1820 they reached 135. "Old Commoners" was pulled down in 1839-41 to make way for the present building, which was the result of a general Wykehamist subscription; and of which, architecturally and esthetically, the less that is said the better, as also of certain other modern improvements which successive wardens have made in the college buildings themselves.

The commoners are, in point of fact, little more than the private boarders of the bead-master, attending the regular lessons of the school in company with the boys on the foundation, and amalgainated with them so far as school classification and school work are concerned. At other times they are necessarily a good deal separated, partly by locality, and partly also by a distinct esprit de corps. From the time that they began to rival the college boys in numbers, a certain amount of jealousy has always existed between the two bodies, though both proud of their common designation as Wykehamists. There is, of course, some little assumption of superiority in rank on the part of the commoners, who look upon “College" as in some sort an eleemosynary foundation. The college boys still wear the gown of black cloth, with a full sleeve looped up at the el. bow, and a sort of cassock waistcoat; but the square academic cap so much affected by provincial “colleges” has been discontinued. This costume, in older times, was worn by the commoners as well—at all events, by those who were lodged within the college walls; and the nobiles amongst Dr. Burton's old pupils appear to have consulted their own fancy as to the color; some of them, as represented in the series of half-length portraits which he left as a legacy to his successors, appearing in blue and others in red silk gowns. At present the commoners wear no gown at all. They have also somewhat more liberty with respect to bounds, have their own separate ground for football, and in some other respects are not closely associated with the college out of school hours. These things necessarily prevent, in some degree, that thorough amalgamatiou into one body which is so desirable in members of the same school; but the line of distinction is gradually wearing out, and the recent changes, which have made election into college entirely a matter of competitive scholarship, will do very much to dissipate any foolish notions of the foundationers' position being the inferior one.

The election of boys into college, however it might have been managed in Wykeham's own days, had, from time immemorial until the late reforms, been a mere matter of patronage on the part of the electors. These were, according to the statutes, the warden and two of the fellows of New College, Oxford, and the warden, sub-warden, and head-master of St. Mary's, Winchester. They were charged to elect, in the first place, those of the founder's kindred who should be eligible; and, after all such claims should have been satisfied, they were to fill the vacancies with such as were "poor and in need of help, of good character and condition, towardly in learning, of honest conversation, and com. petently instructed in reading, plain-song, and in Donatus "—the Eton Grammar of Wykeham's day.

Much stress has been laid in past days upon the diversion of Wykeham's provision for "poor" scholars to the benefit of the rich. But the best and fairest reading of any man's intentions is what can be gathered from his own practice; and the next best, perhaps, is that in which they were understood and carried out by his immediate successors. Chichele (the Archbishop) was one of Wykeham's earliest "poor" scholars on St. Giles' Hill; and he was the son of a Lord Mayor of London, certainly not poor in the common acceptation of the word. William of Wayneflete, again, was nominated into the college during the founder's life; and he came of a good family whatever his pecuniary resources might be. Archbishop Warham-"a gentleman of an ancient house in Hampshire "-was a scholar some fifty years after. But it is plain that the kind

[ocr errors]

of education which Wykeham contemplated was unsuitable for any boj's except those intended for liberal callings, and to such it seems always to have been very properly confined.

The preference assigned to "founder's kin” in the election soon brought into the field, as may be supposed, young Wykehams and Williamses from all quarters, with others who proved more or less satisfactorily their connection with the founder's family, and gradually the custom obtained of electing two only of these favored candidates at the head of the roll for admission, and filling up the remaining vacancies by a process of successive nomination by each of the six electors, the warden of New College having the first turn, until the number of vacancies was supplied. In Warton's time, the candidates were merely required to repeat a few lines from some author suited to their age and capacity;" and the examination under the system which has just passed away continued to the last of much the same character. The successive royal patrons of Winchester were not above asking occasionally, on behalf of some of their dependents, for a “child's" place in college, or a fellowship at Oxford. The Stuart kings, as may be seen from the state papers of those reigns, were very much given to this kind of patronage. James I, on the strength of his somewhat pedantic reputation, interferes so far as to recommend Richard Fitzherbert as schoolmaster; but one is glad to find that he was never appointed. To be sure there was no vacancy at the time, nor for years afterwards; but possibly the King expected the college to make one. Charles II, in one of these royal letters of request, has the coolness to plead the loftiest motives, recommending one Master Matt. Preston solely as "being wishful to supply that happy nursery with deserving youths." Secretary Windebank got a son elected there by royal favor; and one of the boy's letters home has the honor of accidental preservation among the state papers. It is a very stiff and formal little production, becoming a young Secretary of State. He is sorry that "he can not write a letter worthy of his father's perusal," but "sends him hearty wishes for his welfare," with six lines of Latin verse. The verse is but indifferent; but there are less creditable documents amongst the Secretary's correspondence. Queen Elizabeth herself once endeavors to get a Mr. Cotton elected fellow, with an immediate view to the wardenship then vacant; but the house successfully stood ont against so very palpable å job.

In the year 1579, under the mastership of Thomas Bilson, (Bishop of Worcester,) there was something like an insurrection on the part of the boys. They must have had, or thought they had, grave causes of complaint, for they carried their petition before the Queen, and two of the fellows bad to journey to court to answer it. Some of them ran away, and it cost Mr. Booles and Mr. Budd some hard riding (and 108. 10d. horse-hire) to catch them and bring them back. How the matter was settled does not appear; but it might have had something to do with Bilson's resignation in that year or the following.

A school-bill of 1620, for a son of Archbishop Hutton, gives some notion of the Winchester of the Stuarts' days. Master Hutton cost his father " for his dyet at Mr. Philips'" (the fellow with whom he lodged as commoner) £1 108., from August 16th to September 31st, when he seems to have been elected into college. His “scob, to hold his books," cost 38. 6d. The boys went once to the royal hunt in the New Forest, in a wagon, (hired for 4s.,) under charge of one “ Willes" and two other college servants; they took their dinner and wine

witn them into the Forest, and had cæcubum (mulled wine of some sort) with their supper when they came home. This picnic party cost Master Hutton 6d. extra. But his studies were not neglected; there is a wholesome item in the bill of 4d. "for birche."

The civil wars came, and the city of Winchester was held alternately for the King and the Commons. Sir William Waller, unable to reduce the castle, vented his rage upon the cathedral, where his troopers hewed down carved work and images with pious ferocity. The college would have suffered equally, but that it chanced to have a friend amongst the rebel authorities. Nathanael Fiennes, fellow of New College and colonel of horse, was a sour Independent, but a good Wykehamist. He occupied his school quarters with his men, putting in a sort of friendly execution, and thus saved it from wreck and pillago. The college authorities did not grudge the £29 59. 6d. which (as appears from their accounts) they distributed among the guard, though it was a large sum in those days. Another Wykehamist-Nicholas Love, son of a former warden , is said also to have had a share in protecting the college from outrage. Cromwell afterwards appeared before the castle in person, and planted his guns on a bill to the south-west, near St. Cross Hospital, still bearing the name of "Oliver's Battery." The great oak doors of “Non-licet" gate, standing at the corner of "Meads," still bear marks which are shown as the traces of the rebel grape shot. How the college carried on its work in these troubled times, and whether any temporary suspension took place, are points of great interest, but on which ao information seems now recoverable, further than that John Potenger, the head-master, resigned in 1653, in disgust at certain Puritanical innovations; whilst Warden Harris appears to have held on through all changes, political and religious, for eight-and-twenty of the darkest years of England's history, dying only the month before the Protector, in 1658. One of his eulogists calls him, for his eloquence, the "modern Chrysostom;" but one would think he must also have had a capacity for silence, lo have offended none of the various powers that then were.

In 1687, on the eve of another great revolution, the present school-room was finished and opened, which must have been an immense relief to the crowded numbers of college and commoners. From that time Seventh Chamber was con verted into what it still remains-the principal dormitory. The new school is lofty and spacious, but the Jacobean architecture is sadly out of keeping with Wykeham's original buildings. It cost £2,600; of which Dr. John Nicholas, then warden, contributed no less than £1,477. Ninety feet long and thirty-six in breadth, it is sufficiently spacious to allow all the “ books" to be assembled there without more confusion than is inseparable from the system of teaching so many distinct classes in a single room—an arrangement peculiar to Winchester alone amongst our large public schools. Three tiers of fixed seats rise against the wainscoted walls on the east and west, where the boys are arranged when "up to books," the chairs of the different masters being in front of each. The middle of the room is occupied by blocks of oak benches, with gangways between, upon which are fixed the college boys' boxes (called in the peculiar school tongue scobs—"box" spelt backwards) where the lessons are prepared; each scob having an outer lid, which, when raised, forms a kind of screen, while the inner lid serves as a desk; the books and writing materials being kept below. Against the west wall is fixed a large wooden tablet, on which is painted the well-known Wykehamist device a mitre and a crosier at the top--as the prizes of diligence, it must be remembered that all Wykeham's scholars were originally intended for the Church, and all above the age of sixteen were to receive the first tonsure;) next, a sword and an inkhorn, pointing to civil and military service for less hopeful students; and the quadripartite rod below, as the last alternative. Under each emblem successively stand, in bold capitals, the warning words, "AUT DISCE-AUT DISCEDE-MANET SORS TERTIA, CÆDI." Underneath is the place of execution, where delinquents are "bibled;" and near it is a socket for a candle-sconce, known as the "nail," under which any boy who has been detected in any disgraceful fault-lying, &c.--is placed as in a sort of pillory to wait his punishment; a piece of ancient discipline for which happily there is seldom occasion. On the opposite wall is a similar tablet, containing a code of school regulations in Latin. This school-room is almost the only addition to Wykeham's original plan, with the exception of the present warden's house, built by Warden Harmar in 1579 on the site of some old storehouses and other offices, and refronted in 1832 in very questionable style.

The Revolution of 1688 brought into prominence the names of at least two Wykehamists, whose steadfastness to the allegiance they had sworn, “though to their own hindrance," has won them praise from all honest men of both parties. Two of the nonjuring bishops, Ken and Turner, had been schoolmates in the college before they were fellow-prisoners in the Tower (with a third Win. chester scholar of almost a generation earlier-Lloyd of St. Asaph) and fellowsufferers in their deprivation under William. The youngest Wykehamist will point out with a reverent pride the letters Tho: KEN carved on one of the pil. lars in cloisters; and underneath R. T., with the date 1656 above, which tradition says connects Turner's name with that of his school-fellow. No profane knife has encroached upon the sacred characters; and though Ken lies buried far from the scenes which he loved with an enduring affection, those few rude letters are memorial enough; and no saint who was ever canonized better deserved the title than he who wrote his “Manual of Prayers for the Winchester Scholars."

The head-masters who followed were Drs. Harris, Cheyney, and Burton. The latter, as has been said, gave to "commoners" a permanent establishment, owing to which their numbers increased, and the school bade fair at one time to rival Eton in aristocratic pupils, especially from the young Scottish nobility. To him succeeded Dr. Joseph Warton, the best known of all who have borne rule at Winchester, though by no means the most able or successful of head. masters. He was a man of elegant tastes and accomplishments, of amiable character, dignified, and courteous manners; but he was an inefficient disciplinarian, and an inaccurate scholar. He is said to have been deficient in moral courage; which could hardly have been true if what is told of his collision with Dr. Johnson be correct. Warton had ventured on some occasion to express an opinion differing from that of the conversational autocrat. “Sir," said Johnson, “I am not accustomed to be contradicted.” “Better for you, sir, if you were; our respect for you could not be increased, but our love might." It need hardly be said that the love between the two doctors was never very cordial afterwards. It might have been supposed that a man wbo could so rebuke Johnson could at least govern school-boys. Probably it was his defective scholarship, which boys are sharp at detecting in a master, which first weakened his

« AnteriorContinua »