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Aubrey's account.—"When he went to school, when he was very young, he studied very hard, and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock at night; and his father ordered the maid to sit up for him."
Wood's account.—“There (at Cambridge) as at school for three years before, 'twas usual with him to sit up till midnight at his book, which was the first thing that brought his eyes into danger of blindness. By this his indefatigable study he profited exceedingly."
Phillips' account.—(At Paul's School) "he was entered into the rudiments of learning, and advanced therein with * * admirable success, not more by the discipline of the school and the good instructions of his masters *
* than by his own happy genius, prompt wit and apprehension, and insuperable industry; for he generally sat up half the night, as well in voluntary improvements of his own choice, as the exact perfecting of his school-exercises; so that at the age of fifteen he was full ripe for academical training."
The boy's studies were not confined to the classic tongues. “When at your expense,” he says in a Latin poem addressed to his father in later years, "I had obtained access to the eloquence of the tongue of Romulus, and to the delights of Latium, and the great words, becoming the mouth of Jove, uttered by the magniloquent Greeks, you then advised me to add the flowers which are the pride of Gaul, and the speech which the new Italian, attesting the barbarian inroads by his diction, pours forth from his degenerate mouth, and the mysteries which are spoken by the prophet of Palestine." The application of these words extends beyond Milton's mere school-days; but it is probable that before they were over he had learnt to read French and Italian, and also something of Hebrew. In the letter to Young at Hamburg, already referred to, written in March, 1625, he acknowledges the gift of a Hebrew Bible which Young had sent him.
It is not to be supposed that the literature of his own country remained a closed field to a youth so fond of study, and who had already begun to have dreams for himself of literary excellence. Accordingly there is evidence that Milton in his boyhood was a diligent reader of English books, and that before the close of his school-time in 1624, he had formed some general acquaintance, at least, with the course of English literature from its beginnings to his own time.
MILTON AT CAMBRIDGE. Milton was admitted a Pensioner of Christ's College, Cambridge, on the 12th of February, 1624–5.* He was one of the fourteen students whose names appear in the entry-book of the College as having been admitted during the half-year between Michaelmas, 1624, and Lady-day, 1625. In the remaining half of the same academic year-namely, from Lady-day to Michaelmas, 1625— there were thirty fresh entries. Milton, therefore, was one of forty-three students who commenced their academic course at Christ's College, in the year 1624–5.
Eight of these fourteen students who were admitted before Lady-day, enter
* It may be well here to remind the reader of the reason for this double mode of dating. Prior to 1752, the year in England was considered to begin, not on the 1st of January, but on the 25th of March. All those days, therefore, intervening between the 31st of December and the 25th of March, which we should now date as belonging to a particular year, were then dated as belonging to the year preceding that. According to our dating, Milton's entry at Christ's College took place on the 12th of February, 1625 ; but in the old reckoning, that day was the 12th of February, 1624.
as "lesser pensioners," four as "sizars," and but one as a "greater pensioner." The distinction is one of rank. All the three grades pay for their board and education; and, in this respect, are distinct from the scholars, properly so called, who belong to the foundation. But the "greater pensioners," or "fellow-com. moners," pay most; they are usually the sons of wealthy families; and they have the privilege of dining at the upper table in the common hall along with the fellows. The "sizars," on the other hand, are poorer students; they pay least; and, though receiving the same education as the others, have a lower rank, and inferior accommodation. Intermediate between the greater pension. ers and the sizars, are the "lesser pensioners;" and it is to this class that the bulk of the students in all the Colleges at Cambridge belong. Milton, as the son of a London scrivener in good circumstances, took his natural place in becoming a "lesser pensioner." His school-fellow at St. Paul's, Robert Porey, who entered the College in the same year and month, and chose the same tutor, entered in the same rank. Milton's father and Porey's father must have made up their minds, in sending their sons to Cambridge, to pay, each about £50 a year, in the money of that day, for the expenses of their maintenance there.*
Christ's College, although not the first in point of numbers, was one of the most comfortable colleges in the University ; substantially built; with a spacious inner quadrangle, a handsome dining-hall and chapel, good rooms for the fellows and students, and an extensive garden behind, provided with a bowling-green, a pond, alcoves and shady walks, in true academic taste.
In the year 1624–5, when Milton went to Cambridge, the total population of the town may have been seven or eight thousand. Then, as now, the distinction between “town" and "gown" was one of the fixed ideas of the place. While the town was governed by its mayor and aldermen and common-council, and represented in Parliament by two burgesses, the University was governed by its own statutes as administered by the Academic authorities, and was rep. resented in Parliament by two members returned by itself.
Into the little world of Christ's College-forming a community by itself, when all the members were assembled, of some two hundred and fifty persons, and surrounded again by that larger world of the total University to which it was related as a part—we are to fancy Milton introduced in the month of February, 1624–5, when he was precisely sixteen years and two months old. He was a little older, perhaps, than most youths then were on being sent to the University. Still it was the first time of his leaving home, and all must have seemed strange to him. To put on for the first time the gown and cap, and to move for the first time through unfamiliar streets, observing college after college, each different from the others in style and appearance, with the majestic Kings's conspicuous in the midst; to see for the first time the famous Cam, and to walk by its banks,-these would be powerful sensations to a youth like Milton.
A matter of some importance to the young Freshman at College, after his choice of a tutor, is his choice of chambers. Tradition still points out at Christ's College the rooms which Milton occupied. They are in the older part of the building, on the left side of the court, as you enter through the street
* In the antobiography of Sir Simonds D'Ewes, he tells us that, when he went as a fellow. commoner to St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1618, his father would not make him a larger allowance than £50 a year, which, with the utmost economy, he could barely make sufficient. If this was a stingy sum for a "fellow.commoner," it was probably about the proper som for a " lesser pensioner."
gate the first floor rooms on the first stair on that side. The rooms consist at present of a small study with two windows looking into the court, and a very small bed-room adjoining. They do not seem to have been altered at all since Milton's time. When we hear of "Milton's rooms” at College, however, the imagination is apt to go wrong in one point. It was very rare in those days for any member of a College, even a Fellow, to have a chamber wholly to himself. Two or three generally occupied the same chamber; and, in full Colleges, there were all kinds of devices of truckle-beds and the like to multiply accommodation. In the original statutes of Christ's College, there is a chapter specially providing for the manner in which the chambers of the College should be allocated; "in which chambers," says the founder, "our wish is that the Fellows sleep two and two, but the scholars four and four, and that no one have alone a single chamber for his proper use, unless perchance it be some Doctor, to whom, on account of the dignity of his degree, we grant the possession of a separate chamber.” In the course of a century, doubtless, custom had become somewhat more dainty. Still, in all the Colleges, the practice was for the stadents to occupy rooms at least two together; and in all College biographies of the time, we hear of the chum or chamber-fellow of the hero as either assisting or retarding his studies. Milton's chamber-fellow, or one of his chamber-fellows, would naturally be Porey. But, in the course of seven years, there must have been changes.
The Terms of the University, then as now, were those fixed by the statutes of Elizabeth. The academic year began on the 10th of October, and the first, or Michaelmas or October Term, extended from that day to the 16th of December. Then followed the Christmas Vacation. The second, or Lent or January Term, began on the 13th of January, and extended to the second Friday before Easter. There then intervened the Easter vacation of three weeks. Finally, the third, or Easter or Midsummer Term, began on the eleventh day (second Wednesday) after Easter-day, and extended to the Friday after “ Commencement Day,"—that is, after the great terminating Assembly of the University, at which candidates for the higher degrees of the year were said to "commence" in those degrees; which “Commencement Day" was always the first Tuesday in July. The University then broke up for the “long vacation" of three months.
The daily routine of college-life in term-time, two hundred and thirty years ago, was as follows:- In the morning, at five o'clock, the students were assembled, by the ringing of the bell, in the College-chapel, to hear the morning service of the Church, followed on some days by short homilies by the Fellows. These services occupied about an hour; after which the students had breakfast. Then followed the regular work of the day. It consisted of two parts—the College-studies, or the attendance of the students on the lectures and examinations of the College-tutors or lecturers in Latin, Greek, Logic, Mathematics, Philosophy, etc.; and the University-exercises, or the attendance of the students, together with the students of other Colleges, in the "public schools" of the University, either to hear the lectures of the University-professors of Greek, Logic, etc., (which, however, was not incumbent on all students,) or to hear, and take part in the public disputations of those students of all the Colleges who were preparing for their degrees * After four hours or more so spent, the
* The distinction between College-studies and University-erercises must be kept in mind. Gradually, as all know, the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, originally mere places of res.
students dined together at twelve o'clock in the halls of their respective Colleges. After dinner, there was generally again an hour or two of attendance on the declamations and disputations of contending graduates, either in college or in the "public schools." During the remainder of the day, with the exception of attendance at the evening-service in chapel, and at supper in the hall at seven o'clock, the students were free to dispose of their own time. It was provided by the statutes of Christ's that no one should be out of college after nine o'clock from Michaelmas to Easter, or after ten o'clock from Easter to Michaelmas.
Originally, the rules governing the daily conduct of the students at Cambridge had been excessively strict. Residence extended over nearly the whole year; and absence was permitted only for very definite reasons. While in residence, the students were confined closely within the walls of their respective colleges, leaving them only to attend in the public schools. At other times they could only go into the town by special permission; on which occasions, no student below the standing of a B. A. in his second year was suffered to go unaccompanied by his tutor or by a Master of Arts. In their conversation with each other, except during the hours of relaxation in their chambers, the students were required to use either Latin, or Greek, or Hebrew. When permitted to walk into the town, they were forbidden to go into taverns, or into the sessions; or to be present at boxing-matches, skittle-playings, dancings, bear-fights, cockfights, and the like; or to frequent Sturbridge fair; or even to loiter in the market or about the streets. In their rooms they were not to read irreligious books; nor to keep dogs or "fierce birds;" nor to play at cards or dice, except for about twelve days at Christmas, and then openly and in moderation. To these and other rules, obedience was enforced by penalties. There were penalties both by the College and by the University, according as the offense concerned the one or the other. The penalties consisted of fines according to the degree of the offense; of imprisonment for grave and repeated offenses; of rustication, with the loss of one or more terms, for still more flagrant misbehavior; and of expulsion from College and University for heinous criminality. The Tutor could punish for negligence in the studies of his class, or inattention to the lectures; College offenses of a more general character came under the cognizance of the Master or his substitute; and for non-attendance in the public schools, and other such violations of the University statutes, the penalties were exacted by the Vice-Chancellor. All the three-the Tutor and the Master as College authorities, and the Vice-Chancellor as resident head of the University-might in the case of the younger students, resort to corporal punishment. “Si tamen adultus fueril," say the statutes of Christ's, referring to the punishment of fine, etc., which the Tutor might inflict on a pupil; "alioquin virgâ corrigatur." The Master might punish in the same way and more publicly. In Trinity College there was a regular service of corporal punishment in the hall every Thursday evening at seven o'clock, in the presence of all the undergraduates, on such junior delinquents as had been reserved for the ceremony during the week. The University statutes also recognize the corporal punish
idence for those attending the University, have, in matters of teaching, absorbed or superseded the University. Even in Milton's time, this process was far advanced. The Unirer. sily, however, was still represented in the public disputations in the schools," attendance on which was obligatory.
ment of non-adult students offending in the public schools. At what age a student was to be considered adult is not positively defined; but the understanding seems to have been that after the age of eighteen corporal punishment should cease, and that even younger students, if above the rank of undergraduates, should be exempt from it.
In spite of old decrees to the contrary, bathing in the Cam was a daily practice. The amusements of the collegians included many of the forbidden games. Smoking was an all but universal habit in the University.* The academic costume was sadly neglected. At many Colleges the undergraduates wore “newfashioned gowns of any color whatsoever, blue or green, or red or mixt, without any uniformity but in hanging sleeves; and their other garments light and gay, some with boots and spurs, others with stockings of diverse colors reversed one upon another, and round rusty caps.” Among graduates and priests also, as well as the younger students, "we have fair roses upon the shoe, long frize zled hair upon the head, broad spread bands upon the shoulders, and long large merchants' ruffs about the neck, with fair feminine cuffs at the wrist.” To these irregularities arising from the mere frolic and vanity of congregated youth, add others of a graver nature, arising from different causes. While, on the one hand, all the serious alike complained that "nicknaming and scoffing at religion and the power of godliness," nay, that "debauched and atheistical" principles prevailed to an extent that seemed "strange in a University of the Reformed Church,” the more zealous Churchmen about the University found special matter for complaint in the increase of puritanical opinions and practices, more particularly in certain colleges where the heads and seniors were puritanically inclined. It had become the habit of many masters of arts and fellow-commoners in all colleges to absent themselves from public prayers. Upon Fridays and all fasting days the victualling houses prepared flesh, "good store for all scholars that will come or send unto them.” In the churches, both on Sundays and at other times, there was little decency of behavior; and the regular forms of prayer were in many cases avoided. "Instead whereof,” it was complained, "we have such private fancies and several prayers of every man's own making, (and sometimes suddenly conceiving, too,) vented among us, that, besides the absurdity of the language directed to God himself, our young scholars are thereby taught to prefer the private spirit before the public, and their own invented and unapproved prayers before the Liturgy of the Church." In Trinity College, "they lean or sit or kneel at prayers, every man in a several posture as he pleases; at the name of Jesus few will bow; and when the Creed is repeated, many of the boys, by some men's directions, turn to the west door." In other colleges it was as bad or worse. In Christ's College there was very good order on the whole; but “hard by this House there is a Town Inn (they call it the ‘Brazen George') wherein many of their scholars live, lodge, and study, and yet the statutes of the University require that none lodge out of the college."
It yet remains to describe the order of the curriculum, which students at Cambridge in-Milton's time went through during the whole period of their Uni
* When the tobacco-hating King James visited Cambridge for the first time, in 1615, one of the orders issued to graduates and students was that they should not, during his Majesty's stay, visit tobacco-shops, nor smoke in St. Mary's Chapel or Trinity Hall, on pain of expulsion from the University.