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Ash Wednesday, all the quæstionists from each College went up, headed by a Fellow of the College, to the public school, where, some question out of Aristotle's Prior Analytics having been proposed and answered by each of the quæstionists, (this process being called "entering their Priorums,"') they becamo what was called "determiners." From Ash Wednesday till the Thursday before Palm Sunday, the candidates were said to stand in quadragesimâ, and had a further course of exercises to go through; and on this latter day their probation ended, and they were pronounced by the Proctor to be full Bachelor of Arts.
Many students, of course, never advanced so far as the B. A. degree, but, after a year or two at the University, removed to study law at the London Inns of Court, or to begin other business. Oliver Cromwell, for example, had left Sidney Sussex College in 1617, after about a year's residence. Those who did take their B. A. degree, and meant to advance farther, were required by the original statutes to reside three years more, and during that time to go through certain higher courses of study and perform certain fresh Acts in the public schools and their Colleges. These regulations having been complied with, they were, after being examined in their Colleges and provided with supplicats, admitted by the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor ad incipiendum in artibus; and then, after certain other formalities, they were ceremoniously created Masters of Arts either at the greater Comitia or general “Commencement” at the close of the academic year, (the first Tuesday in July,) or on the day immediately preceding. These two days—the Vesperice Comitiorum, or day before Commencement-day, and the Comitia, or Commencement-day itself—were the galadays of the University. Besides the M. A. degrees, such higher degrees as LL. D., M. D., and D. D. were then conferred.
By the original statutes, the connection of the scholar with the University was not yet over. Every Master of Arts was sworn to continue his “regency" or active University functions for five years; which implied almost continual residence during that time, and a farther course of study in theology and Hebrew, and of Acts, disputations and preachings. Then, after seven full years from the date of commencing M. A., he might, after a fresh set of formą, become a Doctor of either Law or Medicine, or a Bachelor of Divinity; but for the Doctorate of Divinity, five additional years were necessary for the attainment of the rank of D. D.; and fourteen years for the attainment of the Doctorates of Law and Medicine.
Framed for a state of society which had passed away, and too stringent even for that state of society, these rules had fallen into modification or disuse. (1.) As respected the quadriennium, or the initiatory course of studies preparatory to the degree of B. A., there had been a slight relaxation, consisting in an abatement of one term of residence out of the twelve required by the Elizabethan statutes. This had been done in 1578, by a formal decree of the ViceChancellor and Heads. It was then ordered that every student should enroll his name in the University Register, and take his matriculation oath within a certain number of days after his first joining any College and coming to reside; and that, for the future, all persons who should have so enrolled and matricu. lated "before, at or upon the day when the ordinary sermon ad Clerum is or ought to be made in the beginning of Easter Term," and who should be proved by the Commons-books of their Colleges to have in the meantime resided regularly, should be considered to have "wholly and fully " discharged their quadı iEnnium in the fourth Lent following the said sermon. In other words, the Lent Term in which a student went through his exercises for his B. A. degree, was allowed to count as one of the necessary twelve. Since that time another of the required terms has been lopped off, so that now, ten real terms of residence are sufficient. This practice seems to have been introduced prior to 1681; but in Milton's time the interpretation of 1578 was in force. Even then, however, matriculation immediately after joining a College was not rigorously insisted on, and a student who matriculated any time during the Easter Term might graduate B. A. in the fourth Lent Term following. (2.) It was impossible, consistently with the demands of the public service for men of education, that all scholars who had taken their B. A. degree should thereafter continue to reside as punctually as before during the three additional years required for their M. A. degree, and should then farther bind themselves to seven years of active academic duty, if they aspired to the Doctorate in Laws or Medicine, and to still longer probation if they aspired to the Doctorate in Theology. Hence, despite of oaths, there had been gradual relaxations. The triennium of continued residence between the B. A. degree and the M. A. degree was still for a good while regarded as imperative; but after this second degree had been taken, the connection with the University was slackened. Those only remained in the University beyond this point who had obtained Fellowships, or who filled Univer. sity offices, or who were assiduously pursuing special branches of study; and the majority were allowed to distribute themselves in the Church and through society—there being devices for keeping up their nominal connection with the University, so as to advance to the higher degrees. (3.) Not even here had the process of relaxation stopped. The obligation of three years of continued residence between the B. A. degree and commencing M. A., had been found to be burdensome; and, after giving way in practice, it had been formally abrogated. The decree authorizing this important modification was passed March 25, 1608, so that the modification was in force in Milton's time, and for seventeen years before it. "Whereas," says this decree, "doubt hath lately risen whether actual Bachelors in Arts, before they can be admitted ad incipiendum, (the phrase for "commencing” M. A.,) must of necessity be continually commorant in the University nine whole terms, We, for the clearing of all controversies in that behalf, do declare, that those, who for their learning and manners are according to statute admitted Bachelors in Arts, are not so strictly tied to a local commorancy and study in the University and Town of Cambridge, but that, being at the end of nine terms able by their accustomed exercises and other examinations to approve themselves worthy to be Masters of Arts, they may justly be admitted to that degree.” Reasons, both academical and social, are assigned for the relaxation. At the same time, lest it should be abused, it is provided that the statutory Acts and exercises ad incipiendum shall still be punctually required, and also that every Bachelor who shall have been long absent, shall, on coming back to take his Master's degree, bring with him certificates of good conduct, signed by " three proaching ministers, Masters of Arts at least, living on their benefices,” near the place where he (the Bachelor) has been longest residing.
[Masson thus treats of the famous tradition of Milton's having been the victim of corporal punishment during his second year's residence at Cambridge:]
The tradition of some incident in Milton's University life, of a kind which his enemies, by exaggerating and misrepresenting it, were able afterwards to use to his discredit, is very old. It was probably first presented in the definite shape in which we now have it, by Dr. Johnson in his memoir of the poet: “I am ashamed to relate what I fear is true, that Milton was one of the last students in either University that suffered the public indignity of corporal. correction."
Warton, Todd, and others have entered somewhat largely into the question of the possibility of the alleged punishment consistently with the College practice of the time. On this head there is no denying that the thing was possible enough. The "virgâ a suis corrigatur" of the old statutes certainly remained in force for young under-graduates both at Oxford and Cambridge. As late as 1649, Henry Stubbe, a writer of so much reputation in his day that Wood gives a longer memoir of him than of Milton, was publicly flogged in the refectory of Christ Church, Oxford, when eighteen years of age, for “insolent and pragmatical" conduct. Other instances might be produced to show that in any case Johnson's phrase, “one of the last at either University who," etc., would be historically wrong. There can be no doubt, however, that the practice was getting out of repute. In the new Oxford Statutes of 1635, corporal punishment was restricted (though Stubbe, it seems, did not benefit by the restriction) to boys under sixteen.
Johnson's authority for the statement, we now know, was Aubrey's MS. life of Milton. The original passage is as follows:
"And was a very hard student in the University, and performed all his exer. cises with very good applause. His first tutor there was Mr. Chappell, from
whipt him whom receiving some. unkindness, he was (though it seemed contrary to the rules of the College) transferred to the tuition of one Mr. Tovell, (miswritten for Tovey,) who died parson of Lutterworth."
This passage occurs in a paragraph of particulars expressly set down by Aubrey in his MS. as having been derived from the poet's brother Christopher. It seems impossible, therefore, to doubt that it is in the main authentic. Of the whole statement, however, precisely that which has the least look of authenticity is the pungent fact of the interlineation. That it is an interlineation, and not a part of the text, suggests that Aubrey did not get it from Christopher Milton, but picked it up from gossip afterwards; and it is exactly the kind of fact that gossip likes to invent. But take the passage fully as it stands, the interlineation included, and there are still two respects in which it fails to bear out Johnson's formidable phrase, “one of the last students in either University who," etc., especially in the circumstantial form which subsequent writers have given to the phrase by speaking of the punishment as a public one at the hands of Dr. Bainbrigge, the College Master. (1.) So far as Aubrey hints, the quarrel was originally but a private one between Milton and his tutor, Chappell—at most, a tussle between the tutor and the pupil in the tutor's rooms, with which Bainbrigge, in the first instance, might have had nothing to do. (2.) Let the incident have been as flagrant as might be, it appertains and can appertain only to one particular year, and that an early one, of Milton's undergraduateship. At no time in the history of the University had any except undergraduates been liable by statute to corporal punishment; and even undergraduates, if over the age of eighteen, had usually, if not invariably, been considered exempt.
Now Milton attained the age of eighteen complete on the 9th of December, 1626. Unless, therefore, he was made an exception to all rule, the incident must have taken place, if it took place at all, either in his first term of residence, or in the course of that year, 1625—6, with which we are now concerned:
That the quarrel, whatever was its form, did take place in this very year, is all but established by a reference which Milton has himself made to it. The reference occurs in the first of his Latin Elegies: which is a poetical epistle. to his friend Diodati, and the date of the composition of which may be fixed, with something like certainty, in April or May, 1626.
Diodati, it seems, had a fancy for writing his letters occasionally in Greek. After taking his degree in December, 1625, Diodati resided for a while in Cheshire, whence, in April or May, 1626, he directs a short but sprightly epistle in Greek to Milton, who was then in London.
“I have no fault to find,” he says, “with my present mode of life, except that I am deprived of any mind fit to converse with. In other respects all passes pleasantly here in the country; for what else is wanting, when the days are long, the scenery around blooming with flowers, and waving and teeming with leaves, on every branch a nightingale or goldfinch or other bird of song delighting with its warblings, most varied walks, a table neither scant nor overburdened, and sleep undisturbed ?" Then, wishing that Milton were with him, he adds, “But you, wondrous youth, why do you despise the gifts of nature; why do you persist inexcusably in tying yourself night and day to your books? Live, laugh, enjoy your youth and the present hour. I, in all things else your inferior, both think myself and am superior to you in this, that I know a moderation in my labors."
[To this Greek letter Milton replies in a pastoral epistle, which he has preserved among his Latin Elegies. From this we give in translation a few lines evidently bearing on his college troubles.]
“Me at present that city contains which the Thames washes with its ebbing wave; and me, not unwilling, my father's house now possesses. At present it is not my care to revisit the reedy Cam; nor does the love of my forbidden rooms yet cause me grief (nec dudum vetiti me laris angit amor.) Nor do naked fields please me, where soft shades are not to be had. How ill that place suits the votaries of Apollo! Nor am I in the humor still to bear the threats of a harsh master (duri minas perferre magistri,) and other things not to be submitted to by my genius (cæteraque ingenio non subeunda meo.) If this be exile (si sit hoc exilium,) to have gone to my father's house, and, free from cares, to be pursuing agreeable relaxations, then certainly I refuse neither the name nor the lot of a fugitive (non ego vel profugi nomen sortemque recuso,) and gladly I enjoy the condition of exile (lætus et exilii conditione fruor.) O that that poet, the tearful exile in the Pontic territory, [i. e. Ovid,] had never endured worso things!” [The poet then dwells on his theater-going, etc.—upon which his biographer thus comments:]
This epistle so far tells its own story. It shows that some time in the course of the spring of 1626, Milton was in London, amusing himself as during a holiday, and occasionally visiting the theaters iu Bankside. The question, however, remains, what was the occasion of this temporary absence from Cambridge, and how long it lasted. Was it merely that Milton, as any other student might have done, spent the Easter vacation of that year with his family in townquitting Cambridge on the 31st of March, when the Lent Term ended, and returning by the 19th of April, when the Easter Term began? The languago and tone of various parts of the epistle seem to render this explanation insuffi. cient. In short, taking all that seems positive in the statements of the elegy, along with all that seems authentic in the passage from Aubrey, the facts assume this form: Towards the close of the Lent Term of 1625—6, Milton and his tutor, Chappell, had a disagreement; the disagreement was of such a kind that Bainbrigge, as Master of the College, had to interfere; the consequence was that Milton withdrew or was sent from Collego in circumstances equivalent to "rustication;" his absence extended probably over the whole of the Easter vacation and part of the Easter Term; but at length an arrangement was made which permitted him to return in time to save that term, and to exchange the tutorship of Chappell for that of Tovey.
The system of study at Cambridge in Milton's time was very different from what it is at present. The avatar of Mathematics had not beguu. Newton was not born till ten years after Milton had left Cambridge; nor was there then, nor for thirty years afterwards, any public chair of Mathematics in the Univer. sity. Milton's connection with Cambridge, therefore, belongs to the closing age of an older system of education, the aim of which was to turn out scholars, according to the meaning of that term once general over Europe. This system had been founded very much on the mediæval notion of what constituted the totum scibile. According to this notion there were “Seven Liberal Arts,” apart from and subordinate to Philosophy proper and Theology—to wit, Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, forming together what was called the Trivium; and Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music, forming together what was called the Quadrivium. Assuming some rudiments of these arts as having been acquired .n school, the Universities undertook the rest; paying most attention, however, to the studies of the Trivium, and to Philosophy as their sequel.
By the Elizabethan Statutes of 1561, the following was the seven years' course of study prescribed at Cambridge prior to the degree of Master of Arts:
"1. The Quadriennium of the Undergraduateship: First year, Rhetoric; second and third, Logic; fourth, Philosophy ;-these studies to be carried on both in College and by attendance on the University lectures (domi forisque); and the proficiency of the student to be tested by two disputations in the public schools and two respondents in his own College.
"2. The Triennium of Bachelorship: Attendance during the whole time on the public lectures in Philosophy as before, and also on those in Astronomy, Per. spective, and Greek; together with a continuance of the private or College studies, so as to complete what had been begun;-moreover, a regular attendance at all the disputations of the Masters of Arts for the purpose of general improvement; three personal responsions in the public schools to a Master of Arts opposing, two College exercises of the same kind, and one College declamation."
In Trinity College, the arrangements for the collegiate education of the pupils seem to have been very complete. Under one head lecturer, or general superintendent, there were eight special lecturers or teachers, each of whom taught and examined an hour or an hour and a half daily—the lector Humanitatis, sive linguæ Latina, who also gave weekly lectures on Rhetoric; the lector Græcæ grammaticæ ; the lector linguæ Græcæ; the lector mathematicus; and four sublectores, under whom the students advanced gradually from elementary Logic to the higher parts of Logic and to Metaphysics.