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bridge, and elsewhere, to increase the authority and influence of the Roman Catholic Church, and to provide, as they supposed, for their own benefit, a regular supply of studious persons, to pray for their welfare as long as they lived, and to pray also for the souls of their forefathers, and for their own souls, after they had departed from this life.
With these objects it is probable that King's College, Cambridge, was founded by Henry the Sixth, in 1441, and in the early statutes of that society, the Church of Rome was represented as severely wounded, both from the small numbers of the clerical body, owing to pestilence, war, and other worldly calamitics, while the King willingly devoted his royal labors to alleviate the general weakness of the Church militant, pitying so sad a desolation, though he could not really supply a complete remedy.
Eton College was founded by the same monarch, for similar reasons, at the same time, as a college of poor and indigent scholars and clerks, who were expected to learn the accidence in the royal town of Eton, near Windsor, in the diocese of Lincoln ; and both these ancient Roman Catholic colleges were dedicated “ to the praise, honour, and glory of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the most glorious Mary, his mother, who is always a virgin : for the maintenance and advancement of the Christian faith, for the advantage of the Holy Church, for the encouragement of divine worship, and for the promotion of the liberal arts, sciences, and faculties.”
King's College was ordained to be, for ever, a college of poor and indigent scholars in the studies of the University of Cambridge, in the diocese of Ely, and the members were required to study and attain proficiency in various sciences and faculties. This College was specially dedicated to “the honor of Almighty God, in whose hands are the hearts of kings; to the honor also of the most blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ; and of the most glorious confessor, Pope Nicholas, on whose festival the royal founder had been born into the light of day, to the extirpation of heresics and errors which disturb the peace of long settled kingdoms and universities, and which had injured the kingdom of England, in some of its subjects; to promote an increase of the clergy, and to advance the honor of holy mother Church, whose offices ought to be committed to fit persons, who, like stars, might give light, in their own watches, and who might instruct the people, alike by their doctrine and by their example.”
The college which was thus founded was to be governed according to the statutes which should afterwards be enacted by a majority of the following five cominissioners, or by a majority
of their survivors, namely, the Bishops of Lincoln and Salisbury, the Keeper of the Privy Seal, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, for the benefit of persons who should sojourn in the University of Cambridge, with a view to study, and to pray for the welfare of the founder as long as he lived, and for his soul, and for the souls of his illustrious father and mother, and of all his forefathers, and of all the faithful dead.
It is manifest, from these specimens of the ancient Roman Catholic foundation deeds of King's College, Cambridge, that ecclesiastical objects were then considered far more important for that college than the promotion of literature and science. King Henry the Sixth expressly declared his wish, in one of these documents, that “ Holy Scripture, or the sacred page, the mother and mistress of all other sciences, might extend her habitation more widely, that she might surpass all the other sciences, and that philosophy might not be wanting, but that she also might peaceably strive with the former pursuits,” (i. e. probably with Theology, Civil Law, Medicine, and Music, which were the great departments of ancient University Education.)
But Ecclesiastical persons were at that time frequently in the possession of the most responsible offices of the government: a priest might be the keeper of the privy seal, or the chancellor of the exchequer; and ecclesiastics were uniformly chosen as the chancellors of the University of Cambridge.
In the business of ancient University education, four years of philosophical study were first given to attain the degree of Bachelor of Arts; then three years of additional intellectual learning were required for the degree of Master of Arts; and at the termination of this literary and scientific apprenticeship of seven years, the divinity students were intended, generally, to commence the study of Theology. This order of succession may possibly have occasioned the arrangement, according to which the studies of Trinity College, Cambridge, are mentioned by its royal founder King Henry the Eighth, in the foundation charter of that society. Trinity College was founded as an institution for learning, for the sciences, for philosophy, for elegant accomplishments, and for sacred theology. But a period of nineteen years' duration was then required, by the statutes of the University of Cambridge, for the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and in this period fourteen years were ordained for the preliminary degree of Bachelor of Divinity; in which time seven years of study in the faculty of Arts were included as the introductory portion of Theological study. These long periods were, however, found, in the reign of Queen Elizabetli
, to be so burdensome, that the majority of the students were determined not to remain in the University during such a large portion of their lives; and, gradually, the lower degrees of Master of Arts and of Bachelor of Arts acquired new power and increased respect, while the Divinity degrees were seldom taken, and were not considered to be always essential.
The age of entrance into the University also increased from twelve or fourteen years to sixteen, eighteen, and even nineteen or twenty years, and the students could not afterwards be induced to remain even to take the degree of Master of Arts, at Cambridge. In the year 1608, an interpretation of the Elizabethan statutes was passed by the Heads of Houses, in the University of Cambridge, declaring, that those persons “ who for their learning and manners had been admitted Bachelors of Arts, were not so strictly tied to a local commorancy and study, in the University, but that being able, at the end of nine terms, by their accustomed exercises, and by other examinations, to approve themselves worthy to be Masters of Arts, they might justly be admitted to that degree.”
One of the reasons assigned for this serious departure from the ancient statutes, was worded in the following manner by the Heads of Houses :
“ That a man once grounded so far in learning as to deserve a Bachelorship in Arts, is sufficiently furnished to proceed in study, by himself, and with such conference as he may easily have elsewhere, to attain perfection enough, not only for a Mastership, but for higher degrees also, as experience daily teacheth."
But before the close of the seventeenth century, some difficulty occurred in compelling the students to reside for the first degree of Bachelor of Arts. Laymen were then mingled, in considerable numbers, with the students, who were intended for the ministry, and in the eighteenth century the ancient system of disputations was succeeded by the modern plan of examinations, and the lowest degree in the University, the Bachelorship in the faculty of Arts, rose far above all the other University degrees, in real importance, owing to the successful establishment of a voluntary examination in the Mathematical sciences, as a new method of qualification for that degree.
Non-residence, after the degree of Bachelor of Arts had already rendered the professional instruction in Divinity insignificant for University degrees, and the great care which was bestowed on the examination for the Mathematical Tripos, added materially to the popularity of scientific studies, and secularized the system of education to a considerable extent.
A second voluntary examination, purely classical, and termed the Classical Tripos, was afterwards introduced, to succeed the Mathematical Tripos, and it is probable that, before long, this classical examination may be allowed to take its stand by its scientific sister, as equally efficient, in its intellectual requirements, to qualify students for the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
So completely has the ancient Theological character of the colleges now disappeared at Cambridge, that when the Bishop of St. David's (Dr. Thirlwall) wrote a pamphlet, in 1834, on the admission of dissenters to Academical Degrees, he observes, in that publication, that he was almost ashamed of stating so evident and notorious a fact, that the colleges of the University of Cambridge are not theological seminaries; that they are so far from being dedicated exclusively or principally to the study of theology at the present day, that among all the branches of learning cultivated in them, there is none which occupies a smaller portion of the time and attention of the students than theology.
The colleges of Cambridge have been, in fact, secularized, by the increased value of the literary and scientific degree of Bachelor of Arts, by the general desire of the students not to continue a residence in the University in order to take strictly Theological degrees, and, more than all, by the spirit of the times, which renders a good education a silent token of a gentleman, and which induces hundreds of laymen, totally unconnected with the ecclesiastical profession, to submit to the usual course of instruction at Cambridge, in order to gain the credit of their literary or scientific exertions, by graduating in that University.
No examination exists, at the present day, for the degree of Master of Arts, at Cambridge; and this second degree in Arts may be taken, at the proper time, as a matter of course, about three years subsequent to the Bachelor's degree. It is right, also, to observe, that scholarships and fellowships are intimately associated with the system of degrees at Cambridge. No Bachelor of Arts can be elected a scholar of any college; and in Trinity College, any scholar who does not take his degree of Bachelor of Arts, at the proper time, may be deprived of his scholarship on that account.
Fellowships are in general only open to Bachelors of Arts at Cambridge, and for this reason the admission of dissenters to Academical degrees was naturally regarded as the first step which would afterwards lead dissenters to become candidates for the vacant fellowships in the various colleges of the University.
The degree of Master of Arts is of much importance in de
termining the emoluments of a fellow; and in the case of a lay fellow of Trinity College, the term of fellowship is usually limited to seven years from the degree of Master of Arts, unless he chooses to enter into Priest's orders, when he is allowed to retain his fellowship, as long as he remains unmarried, and does not obtain any valuable ecclesiastical preferment.
The examinations for scholarships and fellowships are purely literary and scientific, consisting principally of Mathematics, Greek and Latin, but without any Theological questions. Indeed, the period of the undergraduateship, when scholarships are given, was always devoted to the studies of literature and science, and, in like manner, the three years of the possession of the degree of Bachelorship of Arts, when fellowships are bestowed, were considered as belonging to the faculty of Arts, and therefore the occupations were literary and scientific. The period of professional education then succeeded after the degree of Master of Arts, and in ancient times, the business of a teacher only commenced with the Master's degree.
At the present day, Bachelors of Arts, who are fellows, frequently reside at Cambridge as private tutors, and are sometimes even appointed assistant college tutors in Trinity College.
In the smaller colleges of the University of Cambridge, the Mathematical honors, obtained in the voluntary examination for the degree of Bachelor of Arts, form the principal guides to the college authorities, for the succession to the vacant fellowships. At St. John's College, the Mathematical honors are duly considered in the election of the fellows, although a separate fellowship examination is also instituted in that college; and at Trinity College, very few fellows are elected who have not previously distinguished themselves in the Mathematical Tripos, and who do not manifest afterwards in the fellowship examination decided proofs of an intimate acquaintance with Greek and Latin literature, Moral Philosophy, and Mathematical science.
Sir John Herschel, who was formerly a fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, was also Senior Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos of 1813. The Dean of Ely (Dr. Peacock) was the Second Wrangler in the same year, and was afterwards elected a fellow and tutor of Trinity College: and in like manner, the Rev. Charles Perry obtained the Senior Wranglership in 1827, and subsequently became a fellow and tutor of Trinity College, Cambridge; thus showing the intimate relationship between the Mathematical Tripos and the fellowships.
Private tutors constitute, at the present day, another remarkable feature of University education at Cambridge, and they